The Story Of Igor: Daddy Issues, Addiction, & How Artie Stole His Pills

This isn’t much of a story. It doesn’t have much of a beginning or much of an end. The protagonists aren’t all that sympathetic. And I can’t think of some grand take-away. Maybe you can. But I did have a dream about this guy last night. We haven’t spoken in probably 13 years. I’m up an hour early and my inbox is empty, so let’s talk some shit.

I was four when my mom brought us over to the States. My dad, her second husband and father of her second child, stayed back in Ukraine to do mob shit and kick it with his backup fam or whatever. She’s still married to him on paper back there. She met this dude after one of her programming night classes, Igor. The details are uncompelling. She was never all that into him, but she was broke and had two kids to support, so they were married within like a year. He was a nice enough guy. He’d come over to our apartment and bring a toy and some candy. The only toy I remember was this stuffed ferret thing attached by the nose to an electronic ball that rolled around in random directions and made the ferret look like it’s running around. I’m sure there were others.

We would go over to his apartment too. He had a pool. I decided I was going to learn to swim in that pool when I was five. I assumed swimming was just like walking, but in water. My plan was to start walking, hit water, and not stop. The swimming would take care of itself. I got a ten-meter head start on land, hit water, and descended rapidly at a 45-degree angle. But I did it vertically and with arms pumping in a sort of power-walking motion. Igor saw this shit and pulled my coughing little ass up out by the hair.

All I remember of his apartment is that it was cluttered and had a fully-inflated, dark-green rubber boat in it. Not in like a cool “We can use this as a table” sort of way. He would take it out on the water. I do not know to do what. He was not into fishing or boating. He was one of those guys who had fishing rods, but didn’t fish. If you asked him, he’d say he did. But he didn’t. He’d like toss the bait in on a bobber in a bullshit lake near the house and maybe something would bite. He would never initiate these activities. A fisherman, he was not. He’d have a bike pump and no bike. If you asked him if he rode a bike, he’d tell you he did. There was nothing you could ask him that he didn’t have some sort of knowledge or experience in. It was mostly bullshit knowledge and experience. It was like he went out of his way to buy starter kits for all kinds of common activities so he could say he did them, but then never treated any of them with any degree of commitment. Had a drill. Didn’t know how to use it. Would become angry and defensive if you pointed this out. That kind of shit.

They never moved in together. They just bought a house in the suburbs and we all moved in. I was like seven now. He was a computer programmer and my mom was one too now, so they could afford to buy a house. I don’t have a lot of childhood memories and it would take forever, so let’s cut to the chase. Dude was weird. His dad had died of cancer when he was in his early 20s and he never really got over it. We would go over to his mom’s house (StepGrandma?) and she’d have all kinds of DeadStepGrandpa memorabilia up. Supposedly, everyone loved this guy. It was instilled in Igor that he was to be daddy’s boy. He never really lived up to any of his dad’s shit. His dad was supposedly some physics genius back in Ukraine and finished some prestigious schools. But that’s honestly like a third of Slav immigrants. Either they were all really into math and shit or their accolades weren’t that tough to get. My great grandpa was a regular ass artillery officer in WW2 and my grandpa has a box full of medals. Like a big shoe box. You speak to any fucking Russian and they’ll tell you how they have some triple doctorate from some polytechnic. Like alright, where’s your books at? You must love knowledge and learning then? Oh, that’s all in the past and now you test code and watch TV? A nation that can’t give you shit loves to give out titles. Anyway.

So I never did figure out what, if anything, of significance this guy had accomplished. He was like some mid-level athlete back in Ukraine and had a decent education. Like every other fucking Ukrainian immigrant. So what? He worked as a mid-level engineer at Boeing. And they had a photoshop vanity print of him on the cover of Runner’s World in a white sweatband hanging on the wall. He had a big record collection. That’s all I know about this guy. Igor wouldn’t shut up, as a grown-ass man in his late 30s, about how dope his daddy was. Igor got on psych meds when his dad died and he never got off. He did medical billing for doctors on the side, so he always had all the drugs he wanted. He’d carry with him everywhere he went a big, black nylon laptop bag with like three layers of compartments. He might have a laptop in there. He might not. It was mostly pill bottles though.

Let me tell you about Russian immigrant doctors in America and then let me tell you about benzodiazepines. Russian immigrant doctors in America are all engaged in systematic insurance fraud. I started having chronic back problems when I was 16 and saw a chiropractor. The visits never cost us anything. No copay, nothing. And at the start of every year, we’d go as a family to a few massage sessions that he’d bill high enough to knock out our entire deductible for the year. This is standard procedure. His office was raided by the FBI like six years ago and he’s in jail now. He was doing it on a big scale. He had multiple offices and each office was a whole floor of a large office building. You know those generic-looking glass office buildings they have in suburban corporate campuses? Those shits. Each floor had like a dozen rooms going with massages and various other low-liability treatments of various levels of effectiveness going on. He’d sell you some bullshit supps on the way out. He might order some custom orthopedics. I was getting into bodybuilding and nutrition toward the end of my seeing him and started seeing through his bullshit.

This man told me muscle can convert to fat. He said it off-handedly like it’s some shit he’s told a bunch of people. I was like, ‘Wait, you’re telling me that a muscle cell has the ability in a human being to convert into a fat fell under any circumstances at all?’ He wouldn’t back down and I stopped seeing him. I had a growing suspicion his “adjustments” and “electroconvulsive therapies” where I would lay there for an hour with electrodes making my back muscles twitch were bullshit. This guy didn’t know dick. He’d go on Russian radio and talk a bunch of nonsense. Everybody knew you could go in so long as you had insurance and not pay anything. So they did. A lot of people just used it like a free massage parlor. He must have averaged a grand plus per visit with probably 12+ patients rotating per hour. You just looked into this guy’s eyes and you saw a snake. I don’t know how nobody else saw it. They must have. They probably didn’t care. Shit like this has happened over and over and as a result, I’m super comfortable having nothing to do with you if I simply don’t like how your face looks. I’m allowed. Sue me.

So that’s that guy. But that’s generally how all Russian doctors operate. They’ll give you the best treatment they can, which isn’t saying much. But their priority is to milk your insurance. And they are absolutely not keeping up on medical literature or any shit like that. My sister, who started as a pharma sales rep and is now high up at that same company she started at like 15 years ago, has horror stories and will not deal with a Russian doctor no matter what.

Another small aside – You’ll notice I’ve been using “Russian”/”Slav”/”Ukrainian” somewhat interchangeably. Immigrant kids my age from that part of the world have an identity crisis of sorts. I was born in Ukraine, which was a part of the USSR until 1991. I was born in ’92. Everybody spoke Russian. I was raised speaking Russian. People would refer to themselves as the “Russian people”. There’s actually a word in Russian, “narod”, that translates to “people” in English, but it’s a shit translation. Because “people” is “lyoodee”. “Narod” has a more grandiose and elegant sort of implication. It implies strength, unity, cohesion. It has almost an ethnic connotation. Very socialist shit but it does have a ring to it. “Populace” is the closest thing I can think of in English, but that’s a cold, clinical word. There’s no true translation. That’s the case for many Russian words.

So let me speed this up. You go to America (which, by the way, is two whole continents, but the youngest country of the bunch has decided to commandeer the entire word because the words they decided to name their own country are too long for them to bother to pronounce)… and you meet all these other Russian-speaking kids whose families have similar culture and values. Some of them are from Moldova, some Ukraine, some Russia, Latvia, Lithuania. You get the picture. The USSR had a massive empire. Over 100 native tongues, but everyone spoke Russian. We were just the Russian kids. But then you get older and Russia starts acting cunty toward the rest of the world and you want to sort of separate from that. And then Russia goes to war with the country you’re actually from. The city you were born in is on literal fire. You go back to visit and they give you dirty looks for speaking Russian. But guys… would you prefer I speak English to you? Spanish? My Ukrainian is shit. Your very pro-Putin grandparents who believe the fall of the USSR was a great tragedy watch nothing but Russian propaganda television. Relations between them and your mom get contentious. You instinctively side with the Ukrainian side from the jump but sort of start to see where Putin is coming from as you study history. That’s for another day. I hold some very unpopular opinions on the matter.

So anyway, I refer to this whole former-USSR category as Slavs – short for Slavic. Which is also not synonymous with USSR. It’s a geographic reference. Look it up. This shit’s running too long already. But they ran enough of that shit for it to be an appropriate adequation. And then go check out the squatting slavs subreddit for a giggle. And then, you find out about Birthright and as an opportunist immigrant, you’re not turning down a free, all-expense-paid trip to Israel with a group of your peers. You run a 23andme and turns out you’re half Ashkenazi. And they tell you Jews are a race for two weeks on Birthright. But you were raised with zero religion. And that’s before mushrooms entered the picture. Can’t you see how this all confuses a person?

Back to Igor and his idiosyncrasies. Idiosyncratic Igor, they call him. Nah just kidding, I just made that up and his name’s not even Igor. But it’s close enough. I was a bit of an amateur pharmaceutical enthusiast back in the day, so I can speak moderately intelligently on the matter. I knew all the brands, all the generics, I would be up at 3am doing cold water extractions of codeine from Tylenol 3s in the kitchen at age 16, I’d do research, go on Erowid, I knew some mechanisms of action, I would keep logs of things tried and effects induced. Shit like that. Escapism was a hobby. I was into drugs, World of Warcraft, and later lifting weights. But still always drugs. And liquor too after like 16. A lot of that. So I can tell you what Igor was on and what that does to a person. His laptop bag was always on him and it had probably a dozen pill bottles at any given time. Most of them weren’t in his name. He was on several SSRIs and SNRIs as a baseline. That’s just your typical antidepressants. You don’t get high off that, but it does sap your motivation and vigor.

People on antidepressants are gonna shit on me for saying that, but it’s the truth. I’ve been on them. I went to the psych when I was like 20 and told him what he needed to hear to give me a Xanax XR script. He put me on some antidepressants too and I said, fuck it, let’s give it a shot. Life wasn’t going so hot at the time. Why not. Life became so bland. I had no interest in anything. And I didn’t get a hard-on the entire course. Which lasted like 6 weeks. By the way, scientists and doctors have no clue how these shits work. Chemists literally just throw shit together, they try it on rats, if those don’t die, they give it to humans. Like hey, let’s see what happens with this person when we block reuptake of norepinephrine in their brain. Let’s inhibit monoamine oxidase and see how this guy feels. Come back in 2 weeks bro. Try not to kill yourself in the meantime.

I’m not saying not to use them. I could talk extensively about depression. I won’t here because that’s a post for another day. And one I’ll probably never make. What I am saying is that us humans do not understand how or why these molecules do what they do, we do not understand how our own brains work, we do not understand the range of functions of the neurochemicals these drugs modulate, and we are throwing darts at a board when we take these drugs. It’s a personal choice. Go for it. For me, it made me not myself. I’d rather be depressed than not myself. I had my first bipolar depressive episode at seventeen. I thought I was going through Xanax withdrawal. It had to be that, right? I sat for a few weeks curled up in a computer chair staring at a blank monitor. I lean heavy manic, for the record.

I only filled the Xanax script once. I got a thirty-day supply and it lasted me two. I knew that would be the end of me if I went back. I knew I was a fuck-up and there was much fucking-up left to do. Years and years of it. But I knew if I could walk into a pharmacy and get Xanax at will, I would be dead in no time. Not from an overdose. It’s really hard to overdose and die from Xanax alone. It’s not that strong of a respiratory depressant. I’d die from getting shot or crashing my car into some shit or some other retarded shit I’d do in a blackout. I’ll talk about blackouts later.

So Igor was on antidepressants – a few of them. He was on a decent amount of hydrocodone (Vicodin) – this is a mild/moderate strength opiate mixed with acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Tylenol 3s (acetaminophen & codeine, a really super mild opiate). That won’t fuck you up too much. It’ll fuck up your liver though. They put the Tylenol (acetaminophen) in there to stop people from getting high on them. It doesn’t work if you know what you’re doing, but they try. And they try by inducing liver failure if you take too much, which is an interesting strategy. If you’re smart and you wanna get high on opiates, you get oxycodone, which is straight up strong-ass opiate and nothing else. If you can’t get that, you get heroin. Or I guess fentanyl these days. I missed that train thankfully.

People think heroin is the “worst drug”. I disagree vehemently. It is the fucking best drug. I mean, don’t do heroin. But it’s the best drug in the sense that it is phenomenally easy on the organism. I’ll talk about heroin, but understand that all opiates do, more or less, the same shit. You just need to take more of some to get the desired effect. Codeine, for instance, can not be absorbed by the liver in more than about 400mg at a time. Once it hits the liver, you have a short window to try to get 400mg in. Absorption shuts off for ~4 hours after that. So all these rappers “sipping on syrup” are doing it dead ass wrong. They’re dying from promethazine overdoses, essentially, which potentiates the codeine. But they could have just popped a little sliver of an oxy and gone about their days.

So heroin is a very powerful central nervous system and respiratory depressant. If you go too deep, you can nod out and stop breathing. That’s what kills you. Taking it with benzos potentiates it and alcohol and benzos potentiate one another tremendously. When I overdosed on heroin, I was also taking Xanax and drinking. I got aspiratory pneumonia from a collapsed lung from that one. So in that sense, sure, heroin is terrible. But it’s really not breathing and having a chest cavity full of fluid that’s terrible. Heroin itself is tremendously non-toxic in the brain and body for the effect it has. Alcohol is phenomenally more detrimental to the body and mind in a pretty much linear dosage progression. The funny thing is that nodding out is the goal. That sliver of existence between consciousness and unconsciousness is the sweetest bliss you’ll experience as a human being from a strictly hedonistic standpoint.

So Igor was on that. You won’t nod out from hydrocodones and Tylenol 3s. You’ll just be a little high and slowly trash your liver. And then you’ll develop a tolerance pretty quickly and you’ll need it just to not have withdrawals, which amount to aches & pains, irritability, and flu-like symptoms. Opiate withdrawals ain’t shit if we’re being honest. I know a lot of people think they’re a big deal. A lot of people are weak as shit. A lot of people can’t handle anything. Such is life. You can file a grievance if that upsets you and you wanna tell me about how your dipshit cousin can’t quit popping the painkillers they prescribed for his knee replacement surgery he needed from eating himself into a coma on the daily and the doctors and pharmaceutical companies and pharma lobby should be held accountable and wah wah wah. What is personal responsibility, Regis?

Igor’s main fucking shit though, what he hung his hat, his cap, and his motherfucking beret on, was benzodiazepines – benzos for short. This is a wide class of drugs generally used for anti-anxiety and a subclass for sleeping pills. Xanax (alprazolam) and Klonipin (clonazepam) are the main ones. Lorazepam (Ativan) is also dope. Valium (diazepam) is the one everyone knows as a sleeping pill. What a lot of people don’t know is that if you take a good dosage and you just don’t go to sleep, but you stay up, you enter a sort of waking dream world where you’re in a relaxed body-high, your thoughts get very strange, and you begin to visually hallucinate. I remember sitting in our garage one night at like 3am chain smoking Igor’s Marlboro Lights that he kept in there by the door and watching the lawnchairs and shovels and shit we had hanging on the walls slowly detach themselves from the walls and start to rotate around the room. That’s the shit that did Eminem in. By the way, relying on them to fall asleep is a wonderful way to get early-onset alzheimer’s and gradual cognitive decline.

Benzos will melt your brain in the long-term. In the short-term, they’ll make you do a bunch of retarded shit and forget about all of it. They also happen to induce hypomania in bipolar people, so I always found them particularly enjoyable. They would get rid of my tremendous anxiety and they would make me feel incredible. In a smaller dose, I would become incredibly friendly, full of energy, and productive. I didn’t have a lot going on at the time to apply that productivity to, so I’d often meticulously organize my entire bedroom and then farm gold in World of Warcraft. I’d fall asleep and wake up with no memory of any of it, but a super clean room and a lot of gold on my mage or whatever.

Benzos will literally gradually dissolve neural connections in your brain as you regress mentally. Your memory gets worse and worse. Your cognitive function declines precipitously in all directions. Your short-term memory becomes nothing. You walk into rooms and forget why you’re there. You gradually become a mental retard with effective alzheimer’s. In high school, we used to call kids who were really into benzos bartards. “Bars” is slang for Xanax bars. The 2mg Xanax pills come bar-shaped with 1mg divider break-off lines. The best part is you forget who you used to be. Your brain has a harder and harder time retaining memories as you increase dosage and as you spend more time on benzos, so your life goes by and you have only a tertiary memory of what’s transpired. And you forget what it used to feel like to be inside your own head. This all becomes normal. And you don’t care. You don’t give a shit about a single thing. So I guess it’s less tragic than if you felt yourself regressing.

Benzo withdrawals are the worst withdrawals there are. I’ve quit heroin cold turkey and I’ve quit cigarettes cold turkey. Benzo withdrawal is torture. So very few people ever bother. And it’s so easy to get and so socially acceptable. A lot of these housewives are low-key, low-grade bartards. If you have a personality where you overdo everything and you apply that to drugs and alcohol, you either end up dead or in jail quickly, or you’re forced to turn your life around because you hit such a profound bottom, it’s evident you can’t go on like that. And those people usually become pretty successful because the personality doesn’t change when you take the substances away. But if you’re a cowardly human who’s always conformed to norms and done everything in moderation, you end up driving your mediocre children to soccer in your black Range and coming home to drink wine, popping a steady, moderate dose of benzos, not moving forward in any area of life, having no motivation, no drive, no passion. You started on the pills initially to help with anxiety. You were supposed to listen to that anxiety. It was telling you that everything you were doing in life was wrong. You were capable of so much more. But you stuffed it in the corner and now you’re a slave for life. You don’t even know it. Oh well.

I’ve had various sources for benzos. I sold weed through a lot of high school and sold benzos too. I got the purple footballs. They’re 1.5mg purple oval pills. I was forced to spend 30 days in rehab when I was 17 after a couple weeks in the psych ward, into which I was tricked into while on a DXM trip. Rehab was actually a blast. The people were mostly cool as hell, I’ve never spent so much time laughing, and I met some good drug connects. It made me interested in trying heroin and I later did try it at 19 when I walked in on our lab tech at VisionWorks snorting white powder in the back closet of the optics lab. I was soon taking trips to the West Side of Chicago with Jack to cop dope. But that’s later on. When I got out of rehab, I had to do some court-ordered drug classes for a couple DWIs I had gotten. There, I met a dude who would take trips to Florida and come back loaded with benzos and hydrocodones. I’d cop some hydros now and again for shits & gigs, but you can’t really get high off those without killing yourself and I always loved benzos. And now it was so easy to get them. So benzos I got. A lot. All the time.

Benzos made me do a lot of dumb shit I don’t remember doing. I somehow managed to graduate high school a semester early. That semester of time between starting community college and finishing high school was heavy with drugs. I flew back from Costa Rica with a suitcase full of Oxa Forte, some shit they got that has codeine in it. Codeine alone is weak as shit, so I’d always be potentiating it with everything there is to potentiate it with – DXM and DPH being the best, which also make you hallucinate in combination. So I’d be high on potentiated codeine, hallucinating, on benzos, and obviously smoking a lot of weed and cigarettes all day every single day. I crashed 3 cars in that time. I once woke up with a machete under my bed and no knowledge how it got there. Lots of shit like that. I crashed my white ’98 Altima with the duct tape detail kit into a snow bank turning into my high school to take an AP test for the only AP credit I was eligible for on an AP history test I’d studied zero studies for. I was on that benzo confidence. I just assumed I’d pass. Turns out, the test wasn’t even that day. I never did take it for the record. Not that I’d pass sober either. Not that you’d catch me sober in those days.

Back to Igor. He was my main benzo supplier. He didn’t know it for a long time. I was usually very careful. I knew he kept the pills in his laptop bag. Igor has very rigorous and very peculiar patterns. I learned them and used them to steal his drugs for myself. He never slept in the master bedroom with my mom. He slept in the basement on the couch in his office. He never wanted to get married and have a kid, my brother who was born when I was eight. He was content in his bachelor life. He’s an only child and a manchild. His mother wanted grandkids. He was a mama’s boy. Big time. This little old lady who came off so nice and was later revealed to be quite conniving ran his life. She set him up with my mom in the first place. He would drive out daily to visit her townhome where she lived with a Russian dude she met in NYC whose daughter was a painter who died of an overdose and with, at first, a black cat that was a wild cat her deceased husband had brought back from safari or some shit; it was very much an outdoor cat and very much not a friendly one. I received many bites from its wild cat mouth over the years. Well that cat left one day and never came back. So they got one of those stupid little dogs you want to toss in the bin when you see it.

So he would emerge from his basement lair every morning in his grown man tightie whities and one of his five T-shirts and make himself a bowl of cereal. No milk. Always the same cereal: raisin bran. He had boxes of it in the cupboard. He would add in supplemental raisins as well as other dried fruits – usually dried mango. He would eat it with a tea spoon from the bowl. Like I said, no milk. While scrolling through various Russian message boards on his laptop, which lived at the kitchen table and which he would get very upset if anyone moved off of said kitchen table. He would also be reading the Chicago Tribune simultaneously and drinking a cup of instant Folgers coffee with white sugar from the ceramic sugar pot thing with black pieces clumped together where coffee had dripped. This went on for 90 minutes. He would then shave, go back to the basement to get dressed, and leave for work. He used to keep the laptop bag by his laptop and I was able to open it when nobody was around and pinch a few Klonipins (K-pins, we called them) and a few Xannies. The first time I got too fucked up and bold and took a whole bottle though, that stopped. Klonipin were always my favorite benzo.

I never felt all that bad because I knew he got them on demand and I couldn’t. I also had genuine anxiety of various sorts. My anxiety would sometimes be so bad, I had to hold onto something in public in order to avoid shaking. I tried not to leave the house whenever possible. I had a little hustle going on at the time selling eyeglass frames and sunglasses on Ebay and I dreaded the long wait in line to drop off my weekly sales. I’d try to stand casually while leaning on something because I would shake if I didn’t. I never hated Igor. I felt bad for him. But I chose to stop talking with him when I was like 13 and we haven’t spoken since. Even when I’d lie at night weighing the pros and cons of killing him in his sleep, I never hated him. I just thought we’d be better off without this guy. We’d get along for a while and then we’d have a big fight and not talk for a while. The time spans of not talking kept increasing until it was just permanent one day. It wasn’t a conscious decision to stop talking with him forever, but it was a continuous decision to keep doing it. At some point, I understood it was for the best. He wasn’t going to change and neither was I. Talking would just make us have fights again.

He was very docile for the most part, but would erupt with rage on occasion. He threw a vacuum cleaner through a wall once. He would yell at my mom at the top of his lungs. I never saw him hit her, but he would get in her face. Maybe that’s why I started working out. By age 17, I was confident I would kick his ass if I had to. I remember one time, he got in a yelling match with my mom on the staircase and he came at her and was angry as shit. I got between them, chest-to-chest with him. I didn’t hit him or push him. And he got startled, then even angrier, but I didn’t back down and he slinked off to his lair while screaming shit. It wasn’t the same after that. He never gave me an excuse to beat his ass. I badly wanted him to. I really resented him for making me feel I had to sleep with a barricaded door and a hunting knife under my pillow my whole childhood. It was his hunting knife. He was no hunter. He was just into mall ninja shit. Had a bunch of swords, knives, fucking boomerangs and nunchucks. I think he was under the impression he could use any of that shit because he watched a lot of movies. Fucking teenage boy shit. Total bartard.

So he’d leave for work. He was always an independent contractor, so his hours were whatever he wanted them to be. He was kind of overweight for the first 5 years or so of me knowing him. He lost a good bit of weight and kept it off. Didn’t get lean or in shape or anything. Just not fat. He had a weird way of still looking fat while objectively not being fat. Like his cheeks were too big for his face and his eyes drooped so much it just accentuated it. My poor mom had to fuck that guy at least once to have made my brother. What he did to lose the weight was jog around the neighborhood in a sauna suit. Which I think people might still be under the impression helps them lose body fat. So he never stopped doing that. He was incapable of diet and lifestyle modification, but he was capable of adding this one activity to his lifestyle.

He’d come home at noon, go down to the basement, emerge in his black sweatsuit, and jog around the neighborhood for 45 minutes. Jog is a powerful word for what he did. It was more of a shuffle. Same route every time. He’d listen to sports radio on these yellow battery-powered headphones with an antenna and dials on them as he jogged. If these headphones ever malfunctioned, he wouldn’t know what to do with himself. He’d get mad at anyone and anything in the vicinity. After his jog, he’d go downstairs and take a nap for 30 minutes. I don’t know when or if he showered, but he certainly didn’t shower after his sweatsuit jog. Consequently, the basement reeked of stale sweat. Cigarette smoker stale sweat, at that. After the nap, he’d come back upstairs, grab a handful of deli meat ends which had to be kept in stock at all times, wrap them in a paper towel, put them in his jacket pocket, and head out. He was big on always wearing the same jacket. In any weather, he’d always wear a jacket. It was a baggy leather jacket for many years. He eventually swapped it out with a silver Members Only one of equal bagginess when the pockets of the old one got so hole-y he started losing shit.

So I had several windows in which I could grab some pills there. I could also scrounge his jacket pockets while he jogged. Those were usually good for at least one 0.5mg K-pin. Shit, I’d settle for a beta blocker. I could comb through and under the couch he slept on. I had gone through every pocket of every item of clothes of his in the house, shit he hadn’t worn in years, looking for pills so old they had gotten mushy and had lint stuck to them. He came home from work at 5:30pm and immediately went to the basement for a 45-minute nap. After that, the kitchen had to be cleared because he was going to eat his daily boiled turkey with his hands. If there was anybody using the TV, he’d act incredibly huffy and annoyed and make it very clear, in the most passive-aggressive of manners, that it was his turn. Ideally, nobody should be in the vicinity. So you had to time your own meals around that.

After his nap, he’d go visit his mom and come home around 10pm. Everyone had to leave the living room at that point because it was his time again. For many years, he’d stay up until 2am watching Family Guy reruns and sports, smoking cigarettes, eating cereal, and drinking vodka. He got prostate cancer and had his prostate removed and he stopped staying up and drinking vodka then. As you can see, there were many opportunities to get to the pills. He knew I was taking them. We were engaged in a silent arms race. He would move where he hid the bag and I would find it, pinch pills from it in that spot until he realized, then he’d find a new hiding spot and I’d have to search again. He had a little wooden treasure chest with a lock. He started keeping them in for some time. I’d take it to the yard, pop the hinges off, pinch pills, put the hinges back on, and put it back exactly how I found it.

The last car I saw him drive was a leased black Acura SUV. He had this weird complex where he had to have the best of everything. He didn’t. His life was schlubby as hell. Our house needed 15 years of deferred maintenance. He wore pleather square-toe loafers. But in his eyes, his Acura was the greatest luxury car on the market. And we had the best house on the block. He’d come home for lunch, lock the pills in there, and hide the key. So the mission was to find the key, get in there, pinch pills, and leave everything how I found it before either his jog ended or he woke from his nap. I don’t know why he didn’t keep the key on him from the jump. I knew that would be his next step and I had to take preventative measures. I got really bold. I knew where the key would be hidden and as soon as he left for his jog, I grabbed it, sped to Home Depot, and had them make a copy. I had to take a circuitous route so as to avoid his jogging path. Next time he moved the key hiding spot, I was excited to use my copy. This would be so easy. I waited until he left for his jog again, opened the door, and the alarm goes off. Shit. I’m trying the ignition to make the alarm stop and it doesn’t work. I guess there was some security shit that makes the alarm sound if the key fob’s not nearby. I pinched a few pills, ran in the house, grabbed my own keys, hopped in the ’98 Altima, and drove off. I don’t know whether the alarm was still going off when he got home. Sorry you got burglared, dude. I wasn’t even home.

With benzos, you don’t feel high or fucked-up after a certain point. It’s not like with alcohol where you know you’re drunk but you don’t care and you feel like you’ll probably be fine and you drive careful and hope you don’t get pulled over. On benzos, you can genuinely forget you took anything and be super confident in your own abilities to do anything. The reality is very different. They fuck up your coordination and reaction time like no other. You might take a pill, forgot you took it, take another, forgot you took it. You only remember that first pill and you think you’re totally fine. At times, I’d go through an entire bottle of his or my own like that. One time I did that, and I guess it was some rare occasion because he didn’t have any more. My mom called me and told me I fucked up and dude is going through withdrawals. I had fallen out of touch with that benzo dealer I met at this point. I wasn’t selling them either. Igor was my only supply. I felt bad and had to hit up everyone I knew just to find some benzos to give him.

There was a weird day on which we spoke. I almost forgot it happened. I barely remember the circumstances. I had been in a car accident. It actually wasn’t my fault this time for the first time ever. I forgot where I needed to go, but it was urgent for whatever reason. Uber wasn’t around yet and nobody I knew could drive me. My mom was at work and called Igor to pick me up. I don’t remember what was said. I do remember it was strictly logistics. But words had to be and were exchanged. There was a weird tension after like, ‘So do we talk now?’ Neither one of us initiated another conversation.

My mom lived with that guy until my kid brother went off to college at eighteen. She was going to stay, but my wife and I set out on a mission. She was not wasting 20 more years of life with this guy. Long story short, I sold her house, found and bought her a great new one that she loves now. She’s so much happier; she’s glowing. It’s really great. I’m gonna get her dating next. But that’s not the point. Here’s the kicker: She went on vacation with this guy just last month. I’m like, ‘I swear to god mom, if you come back together with this guy again, I’m never helping you with anything ever again.’ She’s like, ‘Look, we’re going to Croatia with a couple we’ve been friends with for 20 years. I want to keep being friends with the wife and I can’t go on a trip as a single lady.’ How she talked about the trip, sounds like he just bummed them out the entire time. Constantly asking to stop at random places to fuck around on his laptop. “Just give me 5 minutes” turning into 45 routinely. Carrying a duffle bag around with his instant Folgers coffee he brought from home, cereal he brought from home, and all his pill bottles, wearing his baggy jacket with more pill bottles in the pockets and sometimes a half-eaten apple. He always has some sort of unseen injuries. Always complaining of some ache or pain or talking about how he just stubbed his toe back there or hit his head on that. Not a dinner goes by he’s not clutching his head and complaining of a migraine, playing on his laptop, and rummaging through his bag.

From the sound of it, they sort of just made fun of him the whole time – behind his back and to his face. Why bother? I asked her, ‘Doesn’t this bother him? Does he realized you guys are making fun of him?’ She says he liked it. He just wants attention and for someone to listen to him talk. Well, she came back still single. Whatever floats your boat, mom.

I told you the story was anticlimactic and the characters unsympathetic.

The end.

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