I used to look down on people who were addicted to crack or heroin. I remember someone telling me that if a person tried crack just once, they’d get hooked. I thought to myself, “well then, who the hell would try it?” Apparently a great many people. I always felt superior to the people who were addicted to crack, heroin or pain medication because I thought of myself as above all of that. I didn’t put myself in their shoes, try and understand what drove them to even ‘do’ those drugs and why others became addicted to pain medication. It soon dawned on me that they were living in despair, hopelessness, anger, pain, frustration, helplessness and the only way to cope was through mind altering drugs. What this says about the society that we have created is that we are forcing people into trying to escape reality by any means necessary. Their pain is so great, that some will sell their bodies to obtain a way out, if only for a little while. People who normally would have never committed a crime are now shoplifters, prostitutes who have rap sheets and who are most likely eaten up with STDs.
I’ll never forget, I was living in Baltimore, MD at the time and I was going through some rough spots myself. I had just left an abusive marriage with only the money in hand and the clothes on my back and had relocated myself to another state to get away from him. I had just found an apartment and recently got a job. I remember that my first electric bill was a turn-off notice. I was overwhelmed and in a big city. Now coming from a rural area, I was more green than spinach and I looked it and in many ways, I was. I was so broke, I had to walk to work in $2.00 tennis shoes. I had no coat, but luckily when it turned cold, I searched through closets and found a coat left by a previous tenant. A guy in the next building took pity on me and let me borrow a warmer coat and when I was walking to work one day, I started getting catcalls and guys were pulling up beside me and yelling out their telephone numbers. I just shook my head and said to myself, “girl, you’re in the big city now!” When I got to work, I turned around to take the coat off and the girls in the office burst out laughing. Okay, now I’m fed up. When they could take a breath, I was told to look at the back of my jacket. The jacket was from a ‘strip club’. Sigh!! This would happen to me! I had no choice, but to wear it back home and got pretty much the same thing. I’ll get to the point in a minute. When I got home, there was some ladies standing outside my apartment building. They were extremely nice. One of them came up to me and said, “here, honey…I want you to practice safe sex.” She handed me a handful of condoms. I thought to myself, “oh dear, she thinks that I’m a prostitute.” I was touched by her wanting to help me. I had never met a prostitute before. I thanked her for the condoms and explained to her that I was working an office job and that I wasn’t a prostitute. She told me that it didn’t matter, keep the condoms because I was sure to have a boyfriend and if he wouldn’t do the right thing, I’d have protection. Bless her heart!
The next time I was on my way to get some take-out, one of the ladies came up to me and asked me how I was doing. She looked as though I should be asking about her and I did the only thing I could think of to do. I asked her to walk with me down to the store and when I came out, I handed her some money and begged her to stay off the streets that night and to be safe. I didn’t know that I was inadvertently feeding her drug habit. I didn’t know that it mattered not what little I could give, she’d have to be out there. The horrors they must face. Their bodies, used and abused, their minds trying to escape the reality of what is happening to them. The need for more money, the pimp who takes his cut, the beatings they take. If I was a praying person, they would most definitely be in my prayers, but what would prayers do? What can I do? What difference in their lives can I make? I am just as helpless to do anything to relieve their plight as they are. I now realize that I have my own way of dealing with reality and no, it is not just writing about it. What would I do without that glass of wine with dinner? Without a flute of champagne to dull the suffering I see each and everyday. Just because what I indulge in is legal does not give me any moral high ground. I cannot judge anyone else for what they use to get through another day when I, myself have a wine cellar and make good damn use of it. What hypocritical thinking to believe that I’m better than a crack addicted person or one who is hooked on heroin or pain medication. I can be just as easily jailed if they decide to once again, make my ‘pain reliever’ an illegal substance. And so I ‘judge not, lest I be judged’!