Jaison R., May 12, 1983–March 26, 2013

I wrote this about my friend Jaison four years ago when he was in rehab and doing well, beating the drug addiction. I gave it to him for his birthday.  With just a bit of literary freedom, this is a true story.

“You really did it this time…” Tom said, shaking his head.  “What were you thinking?”

I looked down on my tattooed forearm. How could this probation officer even come close to understand?  Thinking doesn’t come into the picture when the body is screaming, and you know that absolutely nothing will help but maybe another rock to take the edge off for a while… But then the body wakes up again, screaming louder than before.  The endless cycle continues hour after hour, and no one on earth can stop it.

“Are you listening to me, JR?” Tom yelled, hitting the table with his fist to get my attention.  I looked up, making my face hard as a stone.  I purposefully moved my sticky blond hair away from my eyes and met his gaze straight on.

“I get it,” I said.

“I don’t think you do, Buddy!  Do you know what’s coming?  You’ll be in jail for a long time, then rehab, then a halfway house, and maybe house arrest.  You’re looking at a year on the inside at least.”

“How’s the food in there?”

Tom shrugged his shoulders and got up.  “You’re pitiful, JR.  I’m done with you.”

They strip-search you and take your stuff.  You get clean clothes and a bunk.  A toothbrush too.  The food comes regularly.  The other guys are a pain, but you learn to tune them out.

I’m a master manipulator—the best liar on earth.  Even fooled my mom many times.  I am as hard as I need to be, and I don’t let anybody in; it’s easier that way.

So I do the withdrawal thing.  Have done it all my life.  I’m good at putting up a front.  But I just can’t get rid of the ache deep inside my gut.

At night in my cell, it gets really quiet.  I heard God the other day.  He spoke in my head, or maybe it was  my heart.  It wasn’t the drugs talking—I’ve been clean a while; besides, they don’t say the things He said.  It wasn’t my imagination—I would never speak those things to me.  I know it was God; I remember His voice from when I was a kid.

I am the oldest of three.  Whitney and Adam, they turned out great; me, I’m the reject.  My folks tried to do right by us, taking us to church all the time.  My mom is the most remarkable person on planet earth.  She showed me what it’s like to know God, and I gave my life to Jesus when I was about five years old.  But after that, I hung out with the wrong crowd and did some stupid stuff, and the lousy ache inside my gut started.

Drugs helped some.  But the pain always came back.  I moved to harder drugs, and the roller coaster turned into a spiral down that sped faster and faster.  I could not stop it.  And the horrible ache in my gut grew violent at times, like a sadness with an attitude.  I needed more drugs, so I started to deal.  That’s when I knew there was no turning back.  That was fine by me; I didn’t care.  But the pain wouldn’t leave anymore; it just lived on the inside of me, eating me up, bit by bit.

I keep hearing God at night in my cell, and He tells me that He loves me still.  I like how He sounds.  When His voice hits my heart, the sadness in my gut loses its power, like it’s scared of Him or something.   He fills my head with songs from when I was a kid, and then I fall asleep.   When I wake up in the morning, sometimes I still hear the music, and the ache in my stomach isn’t there.  So I really try to remember His voice and how He makes me feel as I go through my day.  I sing the songs in my mind to keep the sadness away, and it works sometimes.

I go through the motions every day.  It’s like I live in two worlds at the same time: the one is on Charlie Block at the Indiana County Jail, and the other’s in my head.  You’ve got loads of time to think when you’re on the inside, and the voices in your head fight with each other.  I get so tired of the battle that I often just lay on my bunk and try to sleep to run away from myself.

I was just dozing off one day when I heard God’s voice again, but He sounded like my Sunday School teacher when I was a kid, and He was talking about Jesus’ blood taking my sins away and giving me a new life. He was talking about taking Him at His Word and being free. Really free. It gave me the shivers.  Wouldn’t it be nice if I could believe it?  Could I really be free, walk in a new life?   I turned over on my bunk and wrapped the blanket around me.  And then I had a dream:  Jesus was on the cross, and He kept looking at me.  I could tell He was suffering, but His eyes were soft, and they spoke to me with a very loud voice, saying, “Time for you to live, JR!  Remember the truth, believe me and walk out of your prison.”

My eyes opened wide… walk out of your prison?  Who are you kidding?  How am I supposed to do that?  They have bars on the windows and the heavy doors slam shut behind you, you know!  I snickered and changed my position on the skinny bunk.  Closed my eyes again.  I saw and heard His eyes again:  “Time for you to live, JR!  Remember the truth, believe me and walk out of your prison.”   No question in my mind that it was the Big Man Upstairs talking, and I knew I was supposed to answer, but what?  It’s one thing when He speaks and makes the pain in your gut go away, it’s a completely different thing when you’ve got to answer Him…   I got up and went into the day room to watch some junk on TV and make His eyes go away.  It didn’t work.  I walked back into my cell.  Sat on my bunk and stared at the floor.    I saw His eyes speak for the third time, “Time for you to live, JR!  Remember the truth, believe me and walk out of your prison.”

“Well, how?” I said in my head.
They sent me to a rehab center halfway across the state.  It’s an old house, and I sleep in a little room in the attic with three roommates.  The only time I’ve got for myself is 15 minutes at night just before the lights go out.   I am not even allowed to lie on my bunk during the day.  Meetings from morning to night, mixed with some chores.

They make me start every day by saying, “Good morning; my name is JR and I am a drug addict.”

All day long, we talk about drugs, and how they ruined me, and how I hurt people and I am evil, evil, evil.  We chant how much we still want drugs, and how we are always going to want them, and we’ll never be free.  At night we watch movies about drugs.  Of course I still want the stuff—and the more we talk about it, the more I want it.  It’s in my blood after all these years of shooting up!  Can’t they tell me about animals, and kids and hope for my future?

I am such a loser…  The more you tell me, the more I see it.  I get it, people, I get it. I am evil, evil, evil.  What do you want me to do about it?  I’m stuck being me.  The longer I’m here, the more horrible the pain in my gut gets to be.  You’re right, I am a lost cause.  Maybe I’m just going to die.

I like the chores because they keep me busy, and I can stop thinking.

God spoke to me again when I was sweeping the other day.  I loved how it made me feel. And then I thought about the Bible, the book God wrote, so I went to the library and got one of those.  I carried it back to the tiny room in the attic.  I felt like a little kid with a big secret.  Now I read during my 15 minutes chill-time at night before the lights go out.  I am starting to remember songs from when I was a kid.  I sing them to myself when that aching in my gut gets too big.  The words are like a shower for my brain.  Maybe I won’t die after all.

Yesterday, I remembered His eyes speaking to me when I was on Charlie Block. And I remembered what they said: “Time for you to live, JR!  Remember the truth, believe me and walk out of your prison.”  And I remember that I said, “Well, how?”

And I don’t know how it happened, but all of a sudden, I knew the answer.  Maybe it’s reading in the Book, or maybe it’s the singing, or maybe it’s just God being God, but now I know that what the people here tell me, it’s just not true.  I am not going to be evil all my life, because God says it’s time to live and not die.  He can take the pain in my gut away.  I know that I can walk out of the prison in my head, because I can sing and I can read and I can hear the Big Man Upstairs.  I get that I am evil, but I also get that God digs me and He wants to make me free.  I am not a drug addict.  I think I am becoming a free man.

“Good morning; my name is John, and I am a drug addict.”

“Good morning; my name is Evan, and I am a drug addict.”

“Good morning; my name is Chris, and I am a drug addict.”

“Good morning; my name is JR, and I live in the attic.”

I said it real fast; they didn’t even notice.

My name is Jaison R. , and I am a free man.

Indeed, you are, Jaison.