The pathway from severe criminal addiction to flourishing clinical practice for me is something I’m frequently asked to articulate. Dark Horse: A Heroin Memoir is my long-delayed written response.
I drove to my sister’s house, checking the rearview mirror and listening for sirens the whole way.
She lived in a rental on the North side of Austin in the 4500 block of Avenue A — 45 blocks from downtown Austin, a one-story rancher with two bedrooms like pretty much any other house in the suburban 1970s.
I’d been staying with her while I was in Austin on a family business trip.
My sister had just finished nursing school and had been working as a psychiatric nurse at an Austin hospital.
We’d shared a couple of meals together recently, but I was really kind of a ghost.
It was certainly a safe enough place for me to stash the car and not wonder if I was going to be discovered.
When I got there, the place was empty all but for Buster, a dopey German Shepard puppy my sister had picked up at the pound.
I spent a little time with him while I caught my breath and calmed down.
Then I sat, and I contemplated, and I went through the ruminations that all addicts who find themselves in the position that I was in — the position that all addicts eventually find themselves in if they don’t OD first — trying figure out if the mess I now found myself in was a big enough mess to make me stop getting high while trying to figuring out the next best step to get high.
This was at a point when there was no caller ID.
There were no caller ID reports on phones.
The phones were all dial-up, or non-digital.
The phones were all analog phones.
And I got the phone book out and found the phone number to that gas station.
The gas station I’d just tried to hold up.
And I picked up the phone.
And I called because at that moment one part of me — the part of me that considered myself polite above all else — wanted thank that little redneck in the pointy-toed boots and the Wrangler shirt with the snaps who’d stopped me for stopping me.
It couldn’t have been that long since I’d tried to rob him.
I think I’d only been there at my sister’s house for half an hour, 45 minutes on the outside.
Just catching my breath, getting my composure.
My finger in the holes of that rotary phone like some kind of slow-dial redemption.