HIGH SCHOOL NORMALITY contains strong language and some themes not suitable for audiences under 17. Viewer discretion is advised.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Square One

"What happened?"
"You were in a car accident. Remember?"

"Don't go yet!"
"What was that?"
"I'm sorry, it's just that my accident happened when I was at a green arrow."
"David, that was some stupid drunk driver."
"What, people don't drive drunk during the day?"

"Aren't you supposed to be weaning yourself off of those?"
"Well, I'm only taking them once a day now, where as I was taking them three or four times a day last week."

"You're still taking pills?"
"I'm still in pain."

"David, I think you have a problem."
"That's ridiculous! I'm not addicted to pain pills."

"What are you doing?"
"Getting the pills. I NEED THE PILLS!"
"No you don't! Give me the plunger, David."

"My reccomendation is that you go to rehab for a few weeks in order to remove yourself from any possible X-factor that may have led you to abuse. This will not be easy, but if you want to get clean, it is neccessary."
"I'm David, and I'm a narcotics addict."

I had seen this same situation in movies and on television shows. The addict stands up in front of a large crowd and says his name and his addiction, to which the group replies:

"Hi, David."

The addict then says:

"I have been clean for about 8 weeks now, and as hard as it is, I feel much better about myself."

And the group cheers, saying things like:

"Swell job, David! What a great guy! An inspiration to us all!"

The addict then sits down and the next person in the circle speaks of their addiction.

"Hi, I'm Callie, and I'm a narcotics addict."
"Hi, Callie."
"I've been clean for 9 months, but I still like to come here now and again just to remind myself how lucky I am to have kicked my addiction."

She was white, brunette, and very attractive. She, like me, had gone through substance abuse. And she also looked like she was my age. It would have been stupid for me to NOT talk to her.

My name is David, and I'm a normal high school student.
And as a normal high school student, it was perfectly normal for me to want to talk to her, right?


I called Michael Florence when I got home from N.A.

"Why shouldn't I?"
"Because, not only did you just get out of rehab two weeks ago, you recently went through a very tough break-up, followed by a horrific car accident, followed by the pain medication that got you into rehab in the first place."

If Michael doesn't become a shrink, I will be very surprised.

"Michael, I'm not going to date this girl. I just want to talk to her."
"Which leads to dating."
"Not always. Can't I just be friends with the girl?"
"You have enough friends."
"Yeah, because you can totally have too many friends."
"David, listen. Getting yourself into what could turn into a relationship is not a good idea for someone who has just kicked a very bad addiction."

I glanced at my watch.

"Hey, Michael, I gotta get to work. Talk to you later."
"See ya. Don't do anything stupid."
"I'm going to work, not Stiffler's graduation party."

"I told you a million times! You put the big envelopes on this side, and the small envelopes on this side--"
My boss, Jim, was in particular spirits today.

"I just--David, can you please help--um--"
"Yeah, David, help Steve. At least there are some intelligent people on the staff. Go get into uniform Adler. And hurry up with it."
"Yes, sir."

Steve Weiss
was one of the new guys Jim had hired in order to have a full staff at the store. I had seen Steve around school. He was one of those free spirits, in that he did what he wanted when he wanted and cared nothing about authority. Once, he wrapped about six belts around his torso instead of wearing a shirt. The next day he was wearing Hollister. He was about the most unpredictable person, but I didn't really know him, so I couldn't really judge.

When I joined Steve out on the floor, he looked distraught.

"Is he always like that?"
"Unfortunately, yeah. You'll get used to him, though. I'm David."
"Yeah, I know. I read your column in the school newspaper every month."
"Really? I thought everyone made hats out of The Sentinal."
"Oh, they do. But they read your column first. I'm Steve."

We shook hands.

"So, David, why haven't you been here since May?"
"You know my work schedule?"
"No, I just heard Jim talking about how he was so excited to have someone who actually knew what he was doing back here, and he mentioned that no one like that has been here since May."
"I see. Well then, I guess I'd better help you out."


"UPS Store, this is David, how may I help you?"

I really missed that.

"Will that be a standard or overnight delivery, ma'am? Standard? Alright, we will make sure your package is picked up. Will that be debit or credit? Credit card number, please. Thank you very much, ma'am, and have a nice day. Bye."
"You are REALLY good at that!"
"Um, thanks."


"Why don't you try this time?"
"UPS Store, this is Steve, how may I help you? What? Excuse me? What are you trying to--I can't understand--ma'am--ma'am--MA'AM WILL YOU PLEASE STOP SHOUTING? I'M SHOUTING? YOU STARTED IT, WOMAN! Have a nice day."

Bewilderment. That is the only word I have to describe my feeling after Steve hung up the phone.


"I'll get it this time."

My mom picked me up after my shift. I felt like a kid again, having my mom pick me up. But it beat having to drive there myself.

"How was work?"
"Fine. There's a new guy working there."
"Yeah. He's--interesting."
It was quiet. I actually enjoyed the quiet that was brought when my mom drove me places. It gave me time to think, something that I had been doing a lot of while I was at rehab. I thought about my friends, my mom, my sister Libby, my brother Jake. I thought about my deadbeat dad, Cal, who was about to become a rabbi for some reason. I even thought about Joy, my ex-girlfriend who kissed her asshole best friend, Jamie. I thought a lot about prom night, the accident, and of course I thought about the addiction. But I had never thought about how anyone felt about any of it. It had to be painful for my family to watch me spiral into rehab. It had to be awful for my friends to see me in denial about my addiction. It had to be hard for Aaron Stanwick to finally get me to kick the addiction during the freak-out that led me to seek help. It was all hard for me, but it was probably ten times harder for everyone else.

"I'm sorry for everything that's happened this summer."
"No. It wasn't my fault that the accident happened, but it is my fault that I got addicted to the painkillers. I should have listened to everyone telling me to stop taking them. I should have trusted that my pain was gone."
"Don't beat yourself up over this, David. The important thing is that you got help, and now you're better. Right?"
"Of course! I have no reason to take any kinds of pills."

The next day, Aaron, Michael, and Mark Adams came over to my house. Since we no longer went to the Coffee Plantation, we had our weekly meetings at my house.

"So, are we EVER going back to the Coffee Plantation?"
"I'm not."
"Fair enough. So how's work?"
"You know, it's really good to be back. I never realized how much I missed the store until I went back to working there. But I have to ask you guys, do you know anything about Steve Weiss?"

Blank stares.

"Is that a no?"
"No, it's a 'Steve Weiss is a very bad person' look."
"What, did he have sex before marriage?"
"Aaron's actually right, David. Steve Weiss is bad news."
"What's so bad about him? He seems really nice. Odd--very, very odd--but nice."
"Well, he probably forgot to mention that he sells drugs."

That was unexpected.

"But if he sells drugs, why does he work at the UPS Store?"
"Maybe he's covering up his drug deals by having another job."
"I would hate to have two jobs."
"But think of all the money he makes!"

We all stared at Mark for a second.

"Just saying."
"Look, he probably knows that you're an addict. Make sure to keep a safe distance from him."
"Aaron, I'm not gonna buy drugs. I don't get paid that well."
"Like I said, keep a safe distance."

Steve was working again on Monday, as was I.

"Hey, David."
"Hi Steve."


"I'd better get that."

As the day went on, I kept hoping that the phone would ring so I wouldn't have to talk to Steve. It was awkward knowing that he might try to trap me into buying drugs.

"Hey Steve, go to the back room and get some more envelopes."
"Yes sir. Hey David, can you come with? I'm not exactly sure where they are."
"They're on the second shelf next to the box of keys."
"Well can you show me the exact spot? I'm not exactly good with directions."

What could it really hurt? I was just going to show him where the envelopes were. He wasn't going to ask me to buy drugs. The guys were crazy. There was no possible way--

"So I have a stash of vicodin that I'm trying to get rid of. You want in?"


"No thanks, I'm not into that."
"That's not what I heard."
"Look Steve, I don't know what you heard, but I don't do that stuff."
"Why? Afraid you'll end up in rehab again?"
"Um, I think that's a pretty legitimate fear."
"David, just take one pill. I'm sure you're feeling some pain right now."

Now that he mentioned it, I was feeling a little tension in my upper back. In fact, it wasn't a little tension--it was pain. LOTS of pain. Agonizing pain. Maybe it would make me feel better to have a pill.

"That'll be $9."

I gave him the money and took the one pill. No big deal.
I woke up shaking, sweating, and feeling the need for more. Except that there was no one to help me this time. I went into the kitchen looking for Tylenol, Advil, Benadryl; anything that came in the form of a pill. But there was nothing. That was when I leaned over the sink and started to cry. How could I have been so stupid? Why would I spend my money to land right back into the same situation I was in before rehab. I was so upset with myself.

The next day at work, I approached Steve.

"I want my money back."
"Excuse me?"
"I want my money back for the pill."
"Because all it did was cause me to be right back where I started. I woke up last night and all I wanted was one of those fucking pills!"
"Then why don't you just buy some more?"
"Because I have spent the last two months trying to get clean and I'm not going to let that be ruined by one fucking pill!"
Steve looked at me. There was resentment in his eyes. Disappointment, too.

"You still bought the pill, so I can't give you your money back."
"Fine. But don't ever try to sell drugs to me again, because if you do, I'm going to kick your ass."
"Okay. But do you know anyone that would wanna buy some pot?"
"Jim, I'm not feeling so good. Is it okay if I clock out?"
"Fine by me. More money to pay other people."

"I'm David, and I'm a narcotics addict."
"Hi, David."
"I was doing really well, but then I relapsed on Monday. I haven't taken a pill since, but I can't get over the fact that I actually relapsed."
"It's okay, David. It happens to the best of us. You'll get through it."

While I waited for Libby to pick me up from N.A., I was approached by the last person I expected.

"I relapsed not long after I came home from rehab."

I was a little shocked that she was willing to be so open.

"You will keep on fighting every day. I've been clean for 9 months and I still have to fight the urge to take Tylenol whenever I feel like I might have a headache."
I looked at Callie's face. She was breathtaking, and she knew exactly what I was going through.
Michael had told me not to get involved in something that could turn into a relationship, but he didn't tell me not to get involved in something that WOULDN'T turn into a relationship.

"Would you like to go out for Coffee sometime?"
"Sure. When would you want to meet?"
"Do you have anything going on right now?"
"I think I can squeeze you in. My car is parked over there. Let's go to the Coffee Plantation. They have the BEST coffee."

I thought for a moment. The Coffee Plantation had great coffee, and an even better atmosphere. But Joy also worked there, and I really didn't want to face her. On the otherhand, life isn't about running from your past. It's about using the past to define your future.

"Sounds good. I love the Coffee Plantation."

So Callie and I drove to the Coffee Plantation to have what was NOT a date.

But things don't always turn out as you plan them.

David Adler
Normal High School Student

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