In February or March of 1995, I bounced a check for $14.95 to Hampton Pizza for 3 dozen buffalo wings. This included the delivery fee, which was essential, because I had lost my license the previous year.
Someone from the place called me up and told me the check bounced and asked me to pay. I can’t remember all the details of what happened next, but I think I said “no” and he said “why” and at some point one or both of us cursed and then he said “I’ll take you to court” and I said “great I have a rock solid case.”
This happened in the last year of my drinking. I’d love to tell you that I was under the influence when that conversation happened, but alas, I was not. It was just a time that I was abjectly stupid and distorted from reality.
I went to municipal court a few months later. I told the judge I was offended by the plaintiff’s foul language (I know). The judge laughed me out of the room and fined me $250. There was a guy who admitted to hitting his wife whose case had gone right before me, and he had also been fined $250.
Aggrieved at the fact that we got the same fine, I said to myself, “I’m not paying that. I’m going to school in Long Island next month and I won’t be coming back to this fucking state.”
I went away to CW Post that fall. Failed all my classes. Came home on December 17th and went to rehab (the Madonna rehab).
I completed the program and returned to my Dad’s house in Jutland on January 11, 1996. He told me that the State Police in Perryville, just down the road, had called a few times. I called up the barracks and told them that I had been away in rehab but I was returning their call.
They were glad to hear from me and asked me to come down to the station. I said sure, I’ll be right there. Now that I was sober, I knew I had to handle things in a different way. I had to own up for my bad actions; I could no longer lie or run away from shit. So I walked down the road (1.2 miles or so) and entered the State Police barracks.
They asked me if I had $464.95. I said no. They let me call my Dad. And then they threw me in a holding cell.
It was small. 4×4 or 5×5. There was a cold medal bench. It had a shackle attached to it, but the cops didn’t cuff me. There were some slight streaks of dried blood on the wall and floor, and I noticed what I was pretty sure was a whole finger nail on the ground.
Every 10 minutes or so, a cop would look in the window to see how I was doing. I remember singing a bunch of songs (mostly Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, and Green Day). Not loudly or in protest, just as a way to keep myself busy. I also did a lot of thinking.
I thought about how my actions led me here. My drinking, my foolishness, my lack of money (that was wholly a me problem). I had been sober 25 days and was struggling with the concept of the third step in AA. In the holding cell, it became clear: I didn’t have a fucking clue and needed to follow another path. So I made a decision to do the rest of the steps and take a lot of guidance from those that had gone before me and were willing to freely and joyfully help me.
The cops kept looking in the window. I guessed that they had to check, to make sure that I wasn’t suicidal. I was at a peace. I knew I was going to be ok. In both the short and the long run.
My sister showed up, paid the money, and gave the cops a bunch of shit for having me come down without telling me to bring money in the first place (those are, by far, the two nicest things my sister ever did for me). $14.95 for three dozen wings cost me an additional $450 and three hours in jail.
(laughing). It wasn’t jail. It was a holding cell and not stressful at all. Years later, when I started counseling men and women in jails and prisons, I would joke, “yeah, I did my share of hard time” and they’d look at me and ask me where and I’d say, with a smile and some laughter, “for three hours in a holding cell at the Perryville State Trooper Barracks. Actually, I have no idea what you are going through.” And they’d understand that I had once been a fuck up and was a real human being and that I wasn’t looking down on them and they would open up to me.
I’ll have 25 years clean and sober in a little over three weeks. I haven’t been arrested or detained in all that time. A minor miracle. I still really like Buffalo wings too.
- I posted this on Facebook on November 27, 2020. I was telling stories about my addiction and recovery leading up to my 25th year anniversary.