The day started like any other day previous. I woke up dope-sick and immediately started scheming for ways to find money to cure my daily sickness. For a few days prior, there was this girl named Carmen contacting me to look through a tote of jeans I had listed online. I had been putting her off because I was finding other ways to fulfill my habit, but when I woke up on this chilly October morning, nothing else was proving fruitful. Meeting her became the quickest way I was going to be able to not be sick all day, so I started to make arrangements.
“How would 4:00 work for you?” I messaged her.
She quickly responded, “That would be great! How about meeting at the Speedway on Secor and Laskey?” to which I confirmed.
I jumped in my car, dripping with sweat but freezing, nauseated from every smell that crossed my nose, beyond restless, thoughts racing a mile a minute.
“I hope she finds something she wants,” I thought to myself. “Hopefully she brought enough cash with her so I can at least get through the next few hours,” I mumbled to myself as I sped down the street.
I reached Speedway, pulled into a parking spot, and messaged her, “I’m in a black Hummer.” No longer than five minutes later, as I waited profusely sweating, she pulls up next to me and parks in the spot to my right. Before I can get out to greet her a truck pulls in behind and blocks me in while another vehicle races into the parking spot on the other side of me. A tall, muscular man gets out of the vehicle to my left and opens my driver’s side door.
“Miss Kowalski?” he asks.
“Yes?” I say in confusion.
“You are under arrest for jumping bail, please step out and place your arms behind your back,” he states matter-of-factly.
Reluctantly I complied, and they placed me into the back of one of their cars. As if my mind wasn’t racing enough already, I began rationalizing in my mind how to talk myself out of this situation. I wasn’t going to be able to get my drugs today, and I knew what this meant for me. I pondered on the impending doom I would soon be facing. The macho man and the girl that had deceived me started to explain to me the circumstances I was in.
“Ms. Kowalski, according to my paperwork you have several warrants from almost every court in Northwest Ohio,” the officer explained, “after you are booked in you will have no bail.”
“Which means you won’t be getting out any time soon. One of your warrants actually specifies a mandatory 30-day sentence,” the deceitful girl added.
After hearing these details, my drug addled mind went into overdrive. For the first time since the commencement of my arrest record, I would not be able to get out of sitting in jail. I begged and pleaded with the two to let me go to no avail. Within a half-hour, I was sitting in the Lucas County Correctional Center with five different cases and no way out.
Many years previous, I was prescribed pain killers for an autoimmune disease I was diagnosed with and eventually my tolerance grew far out of control. For the last two years, I was heavily using several different kinds of street drugs to escape my pain as well as self-medicate. Never in a million years did I foresee my life ending up in the ruins that it was now in. When I was a young girl, I never thought I would be able to say, “I have been to jail,” let alone, “I was a drug addict.” But here I was, in an environment I never wanted to experience for longer than a day. Each time I had been in this situation in the past, I was quickly on the phone calling everyone I could think of to manipulate my way into having my bail posted. I was now sitting in a tiny five-by-eight cell. Cold concrete and steel were my only surroundings… and I was stuck. My eyes kept skimming the walls as there wasn’t much to look at except some encouraging words others had written such as “keep your chin up” scribbled in toothpaste. Within hours my body realized what my mind had already, I wasn’t getting out. I wouldn’t be finding relief. I wouldn’t be able to feed my body the substance it had become so greatly dependent on to function. Not only did my environment make me feel completely out of my element, but now I was heading into withdrawal which only grew more severe by the minute. Eventually, I was throwing up every fifteen minutes regardless of if my stomach had anything to expel. My tongue was constantly coated with the sourness of my stomach bile.
There wasn’t a moment’s rest during those first sixteen days. My body was detoxifying itself from all the poison I had been supplying it. Constant noise surrounded me. There were keys jingling through the corridors every half hour or more, doors slamming, people moaning, yelling, and banging on their cell doors. It never stopped.
Luckily, I found some solace with the prisoner in the cell next to me, Jennifer. Standing around five foot tall, with waist-length black hair, she intrigued me with her spunky, carefree personality. While we were locked in our cells, we would sing songs to each other back and forth. It was a welcome distraction from the excruciating symptoms my body was experiencing. “Boy don’t you know you can’t escape me, Ooh darling cause you’ll always be my baby,” we would sing. I would talk to her about my withdrawal process and how I had been so scared to endure such a struggle.
She assured me, “You will get through this.”
Jennifer would talk about her addiction frequently, but her unwillingness to try to overcome it resounded.
“I can already taste it,” she would say, referring to the drugs.
I, too, could taste the drugs every time I thought of them. It would be the easy way out. I fought with myself so much throughout this time, however, I had been dreaming of this day for so long. My fear of physical withdrawal had always been so great that my desire to be clean and sober never surpassed it. Sitting in front of me now was my opportunity. I had finally faced withdrawal and now the fear of what a “clean” life would entail started to sink into my mind. How would I ever begin to rebuild all that I had lost? Would I ever be able to function like a “normal” human being again? It was all too easy to demolish the successful life that I once led, but it would be a hundred times harder to attempt to reconstruct a life worth living now.
When I was first booked into the county jail I made a few phone calls. One of them was to my mother. I hadn’t spoken to her in a while, and it was an awkward conversation.
“Your dad has been keeping an eye on you through court records online. He saw that you had several warrants out, and we were wondering when we were going to get this call,” she told me.
It wasn’t like I was unaware that I was wanted by the law, but at that point, the drugs were driving my behavior, and I wasn’t willing to go without them. I knew that if I were to turn myself in I would subject myself to the very situation I was currently sitting in. Now it was time to call her again, let her know how I was doing, and discuss with her a possible game plan to stay clean once I was released. I still wasn’t sure if I was fully committed to the process, but I knew in my heart if I gained the support of my mother and father I would stand a chance at sobriety.
“How serious are you about this, Kali?” my mother asked sympathetically.
“I don’t expect you to believe anything I say, but for the first time in my life, I want nothing more than a real-life,” I tried to communicate as genuinely as possible.
I was in a desperate situation and knew that if I returned to the same environment I was existing in, I may be tempted to return to my previous routine. There was nothing healthy about the way I was living prior to my arrest. The fight inside my head was absolutely torturous. The basis of what I was thinking was, “Should I stay or should I go?” I knew that my mother and the rest of my family were hesitant to let me back into their lives, let alone their home. I had begun a habit of calling my mother every day. Not to ask for anything but to speak to her about my state of mind. I wanted to refrain from asking her in each call if I could come home, give her some time to consider what all that would entail. At the end of every call, we would pray together. This brought my soul so much peace.
Distraction was my only way to get through the withdrawal. If I didn’t keep myself distracted the symptoms grew worse. The near-artic cold, steel toilet in my cell had become my best friend. Not only would I hug him every ten minutes or so, but I would also sit on his “lap” nearly just as often. Luckily there was a sink attached to this steel contraption of a friend. This proved especially useful when the poison I once fed myself was expelling from both ends of my body. After just a few days my bodily functions were adding to the strange smells that once filled my tiny jail cell. Now, not only did it smell like the artificial dog food they were feeding us, it smelled like vomit and bowel movements. This surely didn’t help my nausea situation. Restlessness abounded as well. I would pace my cell during the short moments I had between showing affection for my steel toilet of a friend. There were a few books that were laid in the small common area of our detox pod. I read all of them during this time. However, as hard as I tried, I couldn’t lay still on the thin mat they supplied to us for our bunk. So, I paced the small area of my cell, book in hand, so often I thought I was wearing a pattern on the floor. I couldn’t sleep while the process of detoxing was occurring, so I paced the floor so terribly often. One evening, as everyone was sleeping, I was pacing with my book in my hand. Having not slept for many days my body decided to shut down while standing. I had fallen asleep with a book in my hand, eyes open, near the small window of my cell door. I was awakened to a correctional officer at the door, doing her nightly rounds with a flashlight. Her gasp startled me.
“Are you alright?” she asked.
To which I replied, “I think so.” I had to add a laugh at the end to lighten the awkward situation.
I can’t imagine how strange it must have been to see a prisoner standing at the cell door, eyes wide open, motionless, as she shines the flashlight in the room expecting me to be asleep in my bunk like all the other prisoners at such a time of the night.
My withdrawals eventually started to get better. For someone who hasn’t experienced such a thing, it would be hard to describe the immense relief which this brought. Sixteen days. Sixteen whole days is what it took for my body to even start to feel normal again. I still wasn’t able to sleep through the night, but I would force myself to drift off for small twenty-minute “cat naps” throughout the day. I could see an analog clock on the wall if I angled myself correctly near the small window in my cell door. If I fell asleep, when I awoke, I would get so incredibly excited thinking that I had slept for at least an hour or two. To my dismay, every time, the clock hands wouldn’t move as much as I had hoped. Dreaming while going through withdrawal felt almost like an acid trip. My dreams were so incredibly vivid that when I awakened from them my heart would be pounding out of my chest. Who would think that you could have such vivid dreams within such a small window of time? Twenty minutes, that’s it. At least I was getting some rest those last couple weeks of my sentence, even if it was only a quarter of an hour each time. In my mind, it added up to something substantial.
It was now getting close to my release date and decisions needed to be made about my chances of maintaining the productive state I was in with my recovery. The uncertainty hung over my head like a dark cloud. Somehow, I still held some determination to keep myself clean and make some serious changes in my life. So, I made up my mind to make that difficult phone call to my mother.
She answers and hears, “You are receiving a collect call from an inmate of a correctional institution. Your call will be monitored and recorded. Thank you for using GTL.”
I am sure every time she heard this recording certain strong emotions flooded through her veins.
I swallowed my pride and just started speaking, “I know we’ve briefly discussed this before, but I strongly believe that living with my family again is my best chance at keeping myself clean and out of trouble.”
There was a pause in the conversation. One that felt like a lifetime; a pause that caused an immediate physical reaction. My heart was pounding, my hands were sweating so much that the phone started to slip in my hand. My stomach was doing backflips and I wasn’t able to inhale the proper amount of oxygen at this point.
“Mom?” I asked.
I had to make the first verbal offering after proposing such a perceived crazy notion.
“Kali, me and your dad have talked many times about you coming back home with us,” she said and slowly continued, “we aren’t sure where this is going to go, but I’ve started making a room for you in our home. You are welcome here if you keep doing the right thing.”
I gasped in disbelief and replied, “It may not be very valuable, but I give you my word that I won’t let you down this time, mom. I love you so much. Thank you.”
As much as I knew their support was my greatest chance of success, I didn’t believe I would be given the opportunity. The hopelessness of my addiction had taken over not only my body but the thoughts in my mind as well. I didn’t think I was worth saving, so I wasn’t willing to save myself… until now.
My last few days in jail seemed like they were the longest. The anticipation of returning to society was overwhelming. Not only was I going to be joining the “free world,” I was going to be starting a new life. A new life in a new environment with expectations I wasn’t sure I could meet, but new opportunities I became passionate about. I was excited and frightened all in the same breath. Each one of those breaths within those last days I was more than grateful for. Before I was released, I had to appear in court in front of the judge. During the hearing, the judge determined, among other requirements, I was to attend substance abuse treatment, and much to my surprise, I was looking forward to exploring this. I was more than ready to dive into recovery and all it entailed head-first.
I made a final call to my mother.
“We went and picked up Pedro, Kali. He was so happy to see us. He immediately jumped in the car,” my mother told me.
So much joy rushed over me when I realized this was truly happening and she had picked up my dog. He was finally out of that toxic environment as well.
“Are you going to let us know what time you’re going to be released so we can pick you up?” she asked.
“Absolutely. But I don’t have any clothes or anything, mom,” I told her concerned about how I was going to gather my belongings.
“We already went over there, Kali. We had Brooke point everything out to us, packed it up, and hauled it home,” she told me much to my relief.
I began to cry. “Home,” she had said. Everything was falling into place. I would be going home when I walked out the doors. Such a sense of calm and peace rushed over my body. This wasn’t the first time that I realized it, but I knew at this moment that all that had happened, as uncomfortable and traumatic as it had been, happened for a reason. Grateful doesn’t even begin to cover my attitude toward this entire experience. I know that I would never have gotten clean unless it had been for this arrest and the unavoidable sentence to serve time in jail. This experience is one I will never forget. It remains close to my heart and I will continue to look upon it with gratitude for the rest of my life. The strength I exhibited throughout this time helped me to believe in myself and my ability. I believed I was worthy for the first time in a long time, and I knew in my heart that if I was resilient enough to overcome this that I could make it through anything life decided to throw at me.