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[ Personal Narratives ]

Getting Sober in South Florida, My Trip to The “Mecca” of Recovery

“White Lines, Pretty Baby, Tattoos.”

You see, the thing with a person like me is that everywhere I go, I take myself with me. I like to blame my hometown for a lot of my personal problems but when I sit back and reflect on the situations and scenarios in my life it brings me to me mother. 

My mother was born and raised in the same exact town as me, ‘the burg’. She experienced addiction all around her. She grew up with an older brother who was an addict, and would later marry another drug addict, my father. 

My mom was surrounded by all the same things I was, but yet she never made that decision to cross over to the ‘dark side’. 

I admire that in her and it reminds me to take responsibility for my actions instead of blaming my living situation on why I use. Let’s face it, I used because I wanted to, I used because I got away with it, and I used because I was fucking good at it. I’ve never been anymore than 5 feet and 110 pounds soaking wet. Oddly enough I always think I’m taller than everyone (ego at its finest), but in reality I’m rarely taller than anyone. 

One particular run I went on was consumed with drinking and cocaine. I was working on the boats in Manhattan at the time and surrounded by the glitz and glamour of the Wall Street men. Interesting people to say the least. In the morning you watch them all come onto the ferry with their suits and newspapers and they all sit in silence, sipping their coffee and reading their papers or replying to emails. 

By the time we are departing Mahattan for the ride back home, the ties are off, the drinks are flowing, the music is bumping, the cash is everywhere and those noses are caked in cocaine. Those men, they know how to party, and since they never have a lack of cash, things can get out of control rather quickly. This is what became of my life.

As an addict I can conform to just about any situation, and let’s face it, every stuffy office man loves to have an attractive lesbian covered in tattoos as their new ‘bff’ to make them feel a little more ‘down to earth’. My drinking at this time was at its worse, I was bartending, in and out of Manhattan, and making a ridiculous amount of money, at least for me anyway.

When you start hanging out in bars for hours on end, you start to see the parts that most people dont, like the bartender who is also hustling bags of Coke. The guy that sits in the corner that everyone goes up to all night, he’s the Coke man too. The girls that go to the bathroom in groups, they are snorting lines off the toilet. An addict like me can pin point when someone is using, and  and I rather quickly made friends with them too. 

One night my partying got a little too out of control and I didn’t wake up for work. My phone finally woke me up, it was my captain calling, telling me to get to Midtown Mahattan immediately because we are short handed. The only thing that could save me at this moment would be a Bloody Mary (extra olives, of course) to steady my hands, and a huge shot of Coke to wake me up enough to get through another 16 hour work day. 

Working hand and hand with the coast guard doesn’t go too well when you are geeked out of your mind and clearly drunk. This is a sure way to ruin your career and ruin it quickly. In a moment of desperation on my way to work I called an old friend and said ‘get me the fuck outta here!’ Which she did immediately. I had a flight the next day and a place to live in “recovery central” South Florida.

Cha Ching, now this is my excuse to not show up at work. I walk right pass my boat on the dock in Manhattan and I was straight down the street to the whiskey bar.

 ‘Two shots of Jameson please.’ 

That was it, I was off for my ‘one last night’. Calls were made immediately to get the party started because God forbid I get clean without basically killing myself the night before. 

While I was busy celebrating my move to Florida, the coast guard is looking for me because my company was sure I fell in the water (No fucks given). I end up heading to the airport in a complete black out, so I’d explain to you what I was doing, but I have no idea what I was doing. I remember coming to and they were loading my plane. Fuck! I’m not ready yet. I ran to the bar ‘two shots of Jameson please’. Stumbled (I’m sure) onto the plane and to sleep I went. 

When I got to Florida, this is when I realized what the fuck I actually just did. I walked away from the best job I have ever had, my family, my home, and some sorry excuse of a girlfriend that I had at the moment.

I had really pulled one off, a black out induced move to Florida. Side note, I hate Florida. But there I was, laying in a recovery house and detoxing off alcohol and cocaine. I kicked my detox while literally in the rooms of AA. Realizing what I did in this black out scared me enough to attend 3 meetings a day. I immediately got a sponsor and started my step work.

It’s become a pretty cool story to tell when people ask me how I got to West Palm, Florida. 

“By Way of black out of course, duh”

There’s one more thing. You see, it’s hard to love an addict, because you never know how things are going to turn out. Just as it is in real life, this story didn’t come to a happy ending.

I just wasn’t ready to get clean at the time, so I basically ended up right back in Jersey.  When I made it back home, it was off to the races again. Right back to that local bar and right back to ‘white lines, pretty baby tattoos’.

Written by: Tara Bowers