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    Meeting The Junkie Who Robbed  Me


    NEPR interview by Karen Brown "Unlikely Friendship"

    click  Here  for the transcript of Karen's interview. The audio version includes snippets of Lance in his apartment before going to rehab last year, and the sound of birds as he walks along to my Nook, and then him knocking on the door and calling my name as he enters. Wow that brings me back, and the feelings are the same, of intense caring and concern. I love the picture she took of us, too, in my kitchen.


    It sounds like he will be hooking up with GCC for real, getting some tutoring soon  to get him ready for the placement examinations.  That MASS REHAB outfit sounds like an incredible resource. They are helping with so much for him. GCC is interested in helping him also, there was a response from them after the show aired, offering specific guidance for him when he starts.



    State of Grace, May 2014

    I haven't updated for a while. April passed by, with a few highlights in our unusual friendship and the limelight that has shone on us recently. We went to the Hungry Heart documentary screening at GCC --Lance found it so inspiring that he is working on doing his own documentary with local subjects in recovery from heroin addiction. The film was very moving, very well done. It is being shown in every high school in Vermont. Unfortunately, the hall was not even filled to capacity, less people than the other forums. THe film centers on the efforts of a local doctor to treat addicts with suboxone, to varying degrees of success, and illuminates the stories of these mostly younger people. THe stories are very sad, of emptiness, lack of opportunity, lack of caring loving parents..and even when the care and love is there, sometimes just seeking a thrill turns into addicition. I am very very grateful my sons did not run across the pill snorting crowd and get into the inevitable problem with heroin. 

    Lance attempts to work with the local cable tv station in order to complete his project. It will be a perfect segue into his GCC career, since he has decided he wants to do videography there. Great to see him impassioned to a purpose that is within his reach. 

    We also met Anthony Bourdain, of "Parts Unknown" tv show fame and celebrity chef. We were invited to a clambake in GIll held in his honor by the Heroin Abuse Task Force. He was in town for a week with a film crew from CNN, working on a piece about heroin abuse in this a former addict himself, he had personal connection to the issue. Seemed like a very cool guy, we got to chat with him a bit.  Although we had been told there would be others from the recovery community at the clambake, it looked like more a slice of local notables from business, entertainment, and politics. An interesting opportunity. I had not heard of this guy before but now want to read his Kitchen COnfiidential book (don't have cable anymore so can't watch his show).

    Later that week I spied a cameraman from CNN wandering the street as I was closing up. He was looking for a way to get up on a rooftop, so I boosted him up onto mine from back in the cranny,where he could climb to the top of the pizza house. I also showed him the heroin wrappers I had collected from in back of my store when I opened the back door after the long winter. Dropped from the upstairs apartment, I am assuming. He wanted them for a possible shoot so I gave him my bag of two dozen or more little wax paper packets with stamps on them. 

    Lance continues to tutor for the GCC entrance placement exams, and live in his studio apartment on 5th street. He seems to have established a fairly stable arrangement and has been on suboxone as well as an antidepressent. He still helps me with the blocks every week and has supper with us. He has a pet snake. (Oh, to mention this incident--he received 600 dollars from an inmate at the jail to whom he and Terrance were nice to when they were lockedup together, apparantly an older man that others were bullying, but who has some money. Good deeds pay off in the long run..) He is using my son's old PC now, got it set up there instead of shoving it in the attic.


    Back in the Slam: Detachment

    It wasn't the heroin again: he remained on Suboxone despite the drug court attempt to pull him off against the treatment center's recommendation. It was the danger inherent in being in a relationship with someone you were using with who is also in recovery...WHat happens when one of you relapses? Even knowing the immediate consequences were going to be jail time...the boyfriend began using drugs again. Coke. THis wasn't something Lance shared with me at the time, though, the truth only seeping out through conversations with his family and my upstairs neighbor at the Nook who knows them. I did not know until the boyfriend had a dirty urine test and was locked up.

     It was the weekend after Lance's 25th birthday, and at least from the outside things were looking up for the pair. They'd just moved into a larger apartment in the same building and had adopted a kitten. T. gave Lance a piece of diamond jewelry for his birthday according to Lance's FB page. It had been difficult to schedule Lance's work hours for a few weeks and he hadn't taken me up on my offer to sit and eat with us as he usually did, but I interpreted that as a sign that he was getting busier in a good way, taking care if himself better perhaps and less hungry. Looking back I can see that since he was hiding what was going on, and withdrawing made it easier to do so without having to out and out lie if asked a question during the meal, for instance. Inside the locked main door of the building, his apartment was impossible to reach if I couldn't get him on the phone.

    It had been a rollercoaster of a relationship with two breakups in which T destroyed Lance's phone. Once  I gave Lance a ride to Greenfield at night where he was given another one by someone who saw his post on FB asking if anyone had an extra one. Neither had the resources to live by himself, or the desire to return to their mother's care. T was very quiet and rarely joined Lance when he visited me. When things were good they seemed very very good but disintgrated easily into petty heartbreaking fighting. WHen I voiced concern about their status and the dangers it might pose to both of their sobriety Lance always justified by the fact that they could also better support one another because they knew what it was like and could help each other get through it...

    then of course the dirty piss, and Lance tries to go in with a bottle of clean stuff taped to his leg but it opens up on him before he can get in the bathroom and they find out he tried to cheat it as well. I couldn't see him during the interim though I tried to get together and bring him to work with me or somthing becuase he was despondent over T's lockup.

    I am sure he didn't want to have to lie to me and then have me know after. Always not wanting to disappoint me, but not getting the fact that I would only respect the truthful way, not the mistake but the truthfulness of admitting it. If only he had been truthful! we could have mourned together over this stupidity before he went in jail.

    Yes, immediate lock up. Now the thing that really concerns me is the attitude he has shown ever since T got locked up, because I was quite sure that he realised he was already on his very last chance with the system. I know he knew this, becaue I wouldnot have paid for taxi cabs to get him to appoontments unless the penalty had been jail for missing them.

    I am positive that he was living with this sword over his head and knew it. The attiude of being a victim, instead of someoen who made a serious and stupid slip up and has to pay the price--which was well known beofre hand--has done a lot of create my detachment. The immediate resonse to T's getting lockedup was "I can't believe THEY would do this to him for one stupid mistake" etc though the whole point of the drug court program is just that. L is still railing about the lousey system that sent him to jail with no mention of being sorry to have made such a huge fuck up.

    Knowing he did not reach out for help when there was a chance of helping him--when T startedusing again, for instance--well, there isn't anything I can do for him now. I understood when he bolted from the bad halfway house and turnedhimself in for an alternative sentence and felt sympathetic. For various reasons I am less sympathetic and must detach until whenever the time comes when he gets truthful and becomes engaged in recovery again.

    I can't help anyone who isn't being honest...Lance's trials, for a time, were serious enough that they shook him out of a web of deceitfulness and he was freshly honest and vulnerable. Then life built up its complications and compromises and...the usual coping mechanisms came back. Honesty is the harder choice initially, the threshold to honesty has some scarey gaurdians to pass by, however on the other side is freedom and opportunity.




    Around but not squared

    I am afraid I have lost touch with Lance after discontinuing the piece work job I was giving him once a week. I had several huge car repairs and a wedding to pay for, and needed to scale back on expenses. One time when I couldn't get ahold of him to know when the blocks were going to be done, I had to do them myself and when I heard from hima nd told him that I'd already done them for the week, he was angry: "What did you do that for?? That's MY job!" etc etc. This turned me off.

    I created the position as a favor for him, (as well as to give my hands a break...).Certainly I have given him more than just the pay for the work he did--I also wrote a check to his landlord to help with his rent one month, as well as other small cash grants along the way when he seemed needy.  Without the work connection, he did not keep in contact.

    At one point I heard a rumor that he was back in jail but that turned out to be false, I found out later on. At any rate, the lack of gratitude was stunning. Never did he attempt to make up for the rent check by doing extra work or working to pay it back.

    Although he has been unemployed while I have known him, he has mentioned going to tanning sessions, buying pets and clothes, jewelry and other things as well as cigarettes, there seems to always be money for those things.  He put up a rather vain video of himself talking to his "fans" about different hair care products he uses. Despite this, I had continued to help out until the car repairs forced my hand. The fact that he dropped out of sight when I discontinued the work arrangement made me feel used, of course.  When I cut off the taxi rides I got an angry meesage from him.

    "Hi... Why did u cancel the taxi cab account? And with out even telling me or talking to me, I had to call to find out?? Ok... So umm anyways I don't know WHAT I DID TO YOU, but u definitely changed out of no where, first cutting me off from doing blocks, now this, just erasing me completely. I mean that's cool, but u acted like my friend and made me believe u were a really good person and a support and most of all a friend. But I'm seeing another side. And that's fine, u can go your separate way, but I haven't done anything I've been myself from day one, never acted any way or tried to be something else. So I can feel good knowing I was myself from the beginning of our "friendship". I'm all set with people in my life doing that.mgood bye good riddens Nina"


    To which I replied

    I am glad to help someone who communicates, responds, is empathetic friend in my life. When we were just writing letters, this was possible. But I think the money stuff fucked things up somehow. I just wanted to help you and it seemed what you needed most was money, so I guess it's my fault for giving you that kind of assistance. But it seemed to become the only thing that is important to you. I haven't seen or heard from you in a very long time. It doesn't really feel like we have a connection anymore, and my financial situation is not in great shape still. I have been very generous to you, remember…don't see that you have anything to complain about. Be thankful for all I was able to give you. I wish you well always!


    Reply "It wasn't about money at all.. Ofcourse someone like you would take it there. I'm all set I don't need friends who are there one day and disappear the next, best luck to you. I do appreciate what u have helped me with, always, I've made that very known and clear. Money didn't fuck anything up, people fuck things up."

    Then "I heard this would happen from some other people that know you I just didn't believe it, they were right."


    A complicated relationship comes to an end, I guess. Whatever way we two appear to the outside eye, that's the way it happened. I might be an asshole in the end, I don't know. I am sympathetic up to a point, and we reached that point finally. I don't think I am an asshole, but obviously he feels that way.

    My husband believes I have taken my social justice blinkers off and am finally seeing the "truth" of the situation. I always give others the benefit of the doubt, and try to help them shine in their best light.  I believed he could change, and think he still can, if he will do the work he needs to do. Unfortunely, just getting the basic needs covered in his situation and staying straight, doesn't  seem to allow for personal development. He had been studying for GCC this fall, but when the time came he was still in such an unstable situation they thought it best to hold off on enrollment.