Tom Pitts & Hepatitis Heights
Regular readers of this blog have heard about my friend, fellow ex-junkie, writer, and soldier of mutherfucking righteousness, Tom Pitts. I just put up a story of his yesterday, about our time together at Hepatitis Heights. It's a house I go back to often, not necessarily literally, though I do drive by from time to time, and it still looks the same from the outside, crumbling, dilapidated, peeling paint and broken steps and broken windows, and it still feels...evil, so high on the hill, cast against the backdrop of San Francisco's "angry European sky." That's how Tom described the city once. Reading Tom's story about me and that house has got me waxing...nostalgic.
Although "nostalgic" is anything but the right word. For a long time after I got sober, I could look back on those days with some fondness, even romanticism, because a part of me, a sick part, still wanted to be there, fucking up and dying, because dying is the easy part. Those things inside that can cause a man to opt for the path Tom and I took don't go away just because you stop getting high, and the pull to stop trying, which is all you do when you clean up--try, really really really hard--is fucking strong. Then a day comes when that seed of sickness, if not entirely buried is far enough out of the light, stomped down good and hard, and you don't water it with romance, don't even crack the blinds of nostalgia, because you can't let that fucker sprout, not ever again. You look at these things with a cold, cynical eye. The days I spent at Hepatitis Heights were about as bad as a life can get. Turning what happened there into "stories" may be the only way guys like Tom and I can exorcise what happened, not just there, but with our lives. Because as Tom once sang, "I don't want the money back; I want the time." (Forgive me for butchering the line, Tom.)
I am not an optimist. Anyone who knows me can vouch for that. I am a bitter, jaded, and angry man. Or cynic, and every cynic is just a wounded romantic. And romance is born from optimism, so there is still that part of me. What I'm trying to get at is you can't waste that much time, even if you now view those decisions and actions as deplorable as they were. Something good needs to come from even the darkest days, however small, and you use it to carry you forward, to do something good.
All this is a long way of saying that, although I am fucking glad I don't live like that anymore, I am glad I was able to extract some truly positive things. One of those "things" is Tom Pitts.
You get older and it's harder to make new friends. At least it has been for me. Most of my falling out with friends takes place with new friends. The guys I've known for ten, twenty years we don't fight, ever. Don't even really make fun of each other. I need that in my life, that stability. I have a handful of guys I am close to these days, mostly because I am a new father, and I am mentally ill, and I have a difficult time with relationships, romantic or otherwise. I isolate. It's safer that way.
One of the exceptions I make is for Tom. It's not all that different than guys who served together (and, yes, I know, one is patriotic, awesome, and defending America and freedom; the other is being a lowlife junkie [I don't want to see any nasty letters, Was Not Waz]). I just mean, in terms of the irreversible psychological damage it did. Sometimes I wonder if it was even real. I am such a different person these days; it seems like someone else's life.
Stories like the one Tom let me put up yesterday don't just remind me that it was real, and that I did get out; it's proof it wasn't all for naught. I made some good friends during that time. That is one of the misnomers about addiction, how "those people aren't your 'real' friends." Yes, there are a lot of useless scammers, but some of my best friends today, the guys I still talk to and care about, were junkies/addicts just like I, who also got sober, and knowing them now confirms what I suspected then: that at heart we were good people. We were just messed up, caught in something too deep that we couldn't get out of.
The other day I asked Tom if he'd be in my wedding party. It's going to be pretty awesome having him stand up there with me, on one of the biggest days of my life, after all we've been through together. I am proud to know him, still. And he is one righteous mutherfucker, as well as a helluva writer.