Clean — From My Archives

I’ve been clean for 90 days. No needles putting pleasure into my veins. No white powder up my nose and to my brain to make me see and hear and feel what isn’t there. No bottle to help me sleep walk through the days and nights.

No more stealing and selling off my body for just one more. Just one more. Because that one more always leads to another and another and another. Chase that high, chase that low, chase that crazy. Chase it down. But know this –  it will never be what it was the first time.

Everyday, every minute, I had to get me something so I could forget. Forget all I had to do to get that speedball or that dope. Forget my grandma’s wedding ring traded for a rock to shoot into my arm. Forget about that man who I let do those nasty things to me just so I could get a bottle of Jack. Forget the baby I gave up because you can’t have a family and the drugs at the same time.

But them memories always come back. They come in dreams. More terrifying than real life. With more colors and sharp edges and screams. In the daytime and the nighttime and they won’t leave.

I haven’t seen my family since the day they told me that I had to change. It was the worst-best day of my life.

I was living under a bridge. Had me a tarp and a knife and a needle. That’s it.

“It’s no way to live, Mona,” my mother cried. “You don’t deserve that.”

I sat in the living room of my childhood home. A circle of my family was all around me. They cried and begged and loved. And they all knew how far gone I was. I had no idea.

Detox. Rehab. Sober living.

Horror. Pain. Unknown.

“What am I going to do?” I asked. “How can I live without it all?”

“You won’t live with it,” my big brother said. “And neither will we.”

They put me in a taxi with my mom.

“Just pull over. Please, mom. I need one more.” I was antsy. It wasn’t time, I was sure, to say good-bye to that world.

“No.” My mom held my hand. My shaky, sweaty, scabbed up hand.

That was 90 days ago.

I look in the mirror. Extra padding fills in my cheeks. That’s what happens when you start to eat again. To live again. To love that living.

Brush my hair, put it in a braid. Make-up on my face. Pretty new dress hanging on my body. My family’s coming today.

“Mona, you ready?” Divine asks. She’s the one held me down when I thrashed in detox. The one held me close when I remembered my baby – really remembered him. The one handed me my tokens for 30 days, 60 days, 90 days. “They all walking up to the door.”

“Oh, Lord,” I say. “Keep this heart from beating out my chest.”

I hear their chatter. The excitement in their voices, their laughs. It reaches right into my soul and heals a little of the leftover hurt. It ain’t all gone, that pain. But it sure is getting kicked out little by little.

“You stay right here till I call you,” Divine says. Her smile is kindness and peace. “It’ll be like a fashion show. Gotta show you off, girl.”

She goes in the room with my family. She sees them. She knows what they mean in my heart. And now she sees them.

“Ladies and gentlemen. My name is Divine. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know your beautiful Miss Mona.” Her voice is warm. Like a song. “And I know you’re all dying to see her. Are you ready?”

“Bring her out!” It’s a man’s voice. My brother’s.

“Well, okay. Come on out, Mona!”

My bare feet hit the floor with a slap. I couldn’t get myself moving in them high-heeled-shoes. Didn’t want to stumble in like a drunk. They need to see me solid and in control. I need to be that woman.

And there they are. All of them. Brother and sisters. Nieces, nephews, cousins. My parents. All sitting, waiting for me. Wanting to see my dead body back to life.

I never had no one cheer for me, clap for me, cry for joy over me. Not never before. But today, they do. Today they jump up and down, hanging on my neck, kissing my face.

And for the very first time, I know that I’m forgiven.

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