Many, many, moons ago, when I was in my 20s, I was working in a hotel cafe in Washington, DC, when early one evening a woman sat down at the bar. As it wasn't busy we got to talking, and long story short, she offered to read my palm.
After inspecting my creases and lines, she quickly said to me 'I wouldn't want to walk in your shoes.’ There was more that I don't remember, but I will never forget those exact words. It's uncanny how right she turned out to be. Coincidence or not, it's like she could foresee the misery drug addiction would eventually bring me.
After school specials like “Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!” and “Sara T - Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic” taught my generation all we needed to know about the ravages caused by alcohol and drugs. Today, the popular culture landscape is littered with sad and tragic stories of those who succumb; the Phillips, the Lindsays, the Corys, and countless others.
There is really nothing original that I can add, and I seriously doubt these columns will give any potential addicts out there pause. It goes without saying that addicts and alkies are caution adverse; danger and misadventure just come with the territory.
However, being in prison is a constant reminder of my crime, and thinking about my crime is a constant reminder of my addiction, therefore I am never really more than two thoughts away from drugs.
After nearly a year in these lousy gated communities, I still think about getting high on a daily basis. Often, I find myself absentmindedly using a finger to trace the veins on the backs of my hands looking for that sweet spot, since the veins in my arms have all collapsed.
Now, I realize that I have been accused by some of shirking responsibility for my crime, placing all the blame on my drug use, but I would respectfully disagree. I did what I did, but the simple fact is that I wouldn't have gone anywhere near child pornography without drugs and their personality altering effects, period.
You could say that it was my fault for becoming an addict in the first place, but at this point I'm really not sure how productive that argument is. I'm an addict AND I also committed an awful crime. I own that. I am in prison for it, and not once did I ever fight to not come here.
That doesn't mean that my addiction wasn't at the root of this whole sad affair. Sure, getting involved with child porn isn't the norm for the vast majority of addicts out there, but no one has really ever accused me of being terribly normal. Color me exceptional.
This is what I can tell you about drugs: They are perfectly wonderful and SUPER fun. Until they're not. For us addicts, that's a when, not an if. Throughout the journey from, ahem, point A (weee!) to point B (wah!), the life of an addict will be sprinkled with all manner of self-inflicted humiliations, large and small.
Those who care about you will be hurt beyond measure, though still not as much as you yourself will be. If you're a low-bottom addict like me, drugs will rob you of: your health, your financial security, your job(s), your stuff, the things you love (RIP, Radar, I wish I could have been there for you), your freedom, your friends and family, your ability to love others, and most injurious, your capacity to love yourself.
That is why I am willing to do the prison drug program, regardless of receiving time off for it. My fear is that prison is the easy part. My fear is that when I am released, I will be a jobless, homeless, friendless, scarlet-lettered pariah. My fear is that my fears will drive me to turn to drugs again.
That is while I want some foundation of sobriety under me. I know what it takes to stay clean. I did it for five years. True, I suppose life was more boring then. Ah... quiet, drama-free boredom. After prison, boredom ain't no thang. It's what we do best here.
Beaumont Low FCI
P.O. Box 26020
Beaumont, TX 77720
Christopher Reina is doing a five-year sentence in federal prison. In his writing he shares how he is surviving prison life as a gay inmate. Chris is paying it forward by donating his compensation for this column to a charity near and dear to his heart.