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My mother’s sacrifice and the part she played in my kicking heroin and getting sober was in her death.

While sitting at my spot panhandling, I would entertain the idea of sobering up, but I couldn’t find one reason to do it. Unlike my last run, my mother spoke to me when I called. My sister had lost her dominance over her. As long as I didn’t beg for money while on the phone, everything was fine. I know she appreciated that I called. It took some of the worries away and put her mind at ease. I’ve never been a parent. I can’t say this with certainty, but I don’t believe a mother’s mind is ever at ease, especially when she knows her only son wants to live the life he is living.  


Yeah, my mom wasn’t what got me sober. But her death kept me sober.

When I started getting high again I almost lost the relationship, I was building with my mother. We were friends. We were growing closer. Talking to one another. It was good. It was nice to go visit with her over lunch. Talk over a cup of coffee. And I was there for her. The first time in my life. But it wasn’t enough to keep me sober or get me sober once I stuck that needle back into my vein.


She knew what I was up too when I told her I was heading back to NYC.


All she said was please call and her infamous behave. My mom was cute. I’m not sure she ever understood that behave was one word. When I called she would ask me if I was “being have?”

“It’s – Behaving, mom.”

“You know what I mean-I worry.”

“Yeah mom, I’m okay.” I would lie to her to put her mind at ease. I was in school,(learning new ways to con)  had a room (in an abandoned warehouse in Brooklyn), and found work whenever I could (pretty myself up and turn a trick, boost, or made money panhandling).

 When someone would ask me why I did what heroin or what heroin did for me that I couldn’t get from life?

I’d reply-

“It’s all I got.”


It felt like I didn’t know anything else. No longer able to see anything but the needle and spoon as it dangled in front of me. Heroin is the mightiest puppeteer. I couldn’t see myself waking up in the morning and getting dressed for work, I never did that in my life. (Even when I was sober for 10 years I didn’t punch a clock. Some of us are just not willing to give-up our time so that others can may live much more happily. I worked for myself my whole life. Legally or illegally it didn’t matter. I never punched a clock.

I couldn’t figure out a way to stop doing dope and start working for myself. Going back to school for a third time to work on another useless Master’s degree seemed pointless, but it was always a choice.  So using the I’m going back to school excuse, sort of interested me.

Would it be enough to get me off the streets and initiate a desire for change?

I would have to be able to keep from nodding and read. Reading wasn’t a problem. I loved ireading. Grateful for all the time I had to read.

(Thought: Is this why tons of homeless people lug bag after bag of newspapers through the city each day?)

Being able to stay awake and focus while I plowed through countless pages of abstracts and journal entries seemed improbable if not fuckng impossible. A few years prior while working on a Master’s Degree in TeSOL at The New School I never made it to classes in the morning because the methadone clinic I attended didn’t start medicating clients until 9:45 AM. Classes before this time were never attended because I had to panhandle during the morning rush hour. And classes any time after being medicated were futile because I could never keep my head from nodding.

But honestly this was all I had to fall back on.

Heroin never stops taking


I had no money safely stowed away. My dope habit pushed the only person who could’ve helped me start-up again outta of my life years ago. He was a man of his word and when he hung up the phone telling me to fuck off,  I knew that our friendship was done.


My brother-in-law was dead and my sister was vicious. There was no help or reason to sober up. I talked many kids into getting off the streets and going home and getting sober. Using my life as an example to hammer the facts that the longer you put it off the more opportunity fades away then one day you wake up and you’re Johnny homeless, alone, hungry, and cold and the only reason you have a cell phone is to call your dealer because you don’t know one sober person’s phone number.


I felt hopeless.

Waiting for my mother to die, so I could die. You see even though I loved my life I hated it. I made the best out of it because it was all I knew. Quitting living like I was meant nothing to me because I had nothing to look forward to if I stopped getting high. Continuing to live the way was living gave me purpose. My reward for making it through the day was to numb myself from the night.


I had no reason to get sober. No happy ending waiting for me. No family. No open arms welcoming me back to the world. I lived in the world I created And everything I desired was here.


When my mother died, I was sober. But her death was supposed to give me the green light to live my life how ever I chose too. At this moment in time I was leaning towards death. I was tired and getting sober didn’t excite me. My mother dying signaled that I could get high without regret. I hated hurting my mother and lying to her, so in death my regret died with her.


Or did it?


6-months before my mother passed, I finished the 350 hours of classroom study to receive certification as a Certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Clinician (CASAC) in NYS. I had about 28 months sober and had just finally found a room I could afford to pay for in the Bronx. All of these events were huge milestones. I chose to get sober while I was homeless. 

I was worried that it would all be in vain once my mother passed. For years, I told myself once this day had come I would retire in the biggest dope habit of my life. The habit that would eventually kill me. The overdose I dreamed of would be fixed on the shores of the Pacific in Baja California.


I had such big goals for my life.


What about you- what do you wish to achieve in life? What is keeping you from kicking heroin or better yet, what can make you decide to finally kick dope and arise from the ashes of your burned-out life?