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Adam crossed the street to walk in the sun so he could avoid the bitter afternoon chill. He bundled into his jacket and reluctantly picked up the pace, eager to escape the cold but dreading the destination. He was still wrestling with himself about whether or not it was worth turning around and walking all the way home, but Lana wanted him to attend the meetings and given that she was the only thing standing between him and sleeping on the sidewalk, there was a certain obligation to make the effort. Still, he wasn't a fan of the meetings. They made him sad. It seemed ironic considering why he was there. He had gone once a week for the last five weeks. Spent eight weeks sober, and ten weeks on Lana's couch. And while he thought about the pills daily, he wouldn't give his mother the satisfaction. Or give Lana the heartache.
He looked up from his old tattered shoes as he walked through the threshold of the city building that hosted the group. "Hey Adam", smiled Arthur, the most senior member of the group. "Good to see you".
Adam kept walking. "Hey, Arthur".
"Go 'head and take a seat, there's coffee on the table."
Adam nodded, making his way toward the awkward lone table next to the gathering of chairs to pour himself a cup. No cream, extra sugar. He took his seat, clutching his cup for warmth, and waited in his chair embarrassed, as the rest of the members filed in and sat down. Arthur was the last to sit, obviously waiting for any last minute arrivals but, it was mostly familiar faces tonight.
"Uh. Hello everyone, thank you guys for coming. This is Spectrum recovery. Let's, uh, start by introducing ourselves and then we can talk and I'll stick around after the end to hand out any information or assistance any of you might need. So, my name is Arthur and I was addicted to Reds for five years." He gestured to the older man to his left, Derek, addicted to Pinks, six years sober. The woman to his left, Maggie addicted to Blues three years sober. The skinny woman named Sam, currently addicted to Reds. Adam sighed, "My name is Adam, and I used to do Pinks". Two more men addicted to Pinks and one more woman addicted Blues. After a few nods across the room and a short moment of silence, Arthur spoke up. "Alright... Who would like to go first?"
A single hand rose half way up. Derek adjusted himself in his seat before clearing his throat loudly. "Well. Most of y'all know me." He spoke in a low raspy tone. "I was 17 when I popped my first Pink. Parents had just divorced, my oldest brother, Clay, had just passed. I was down. I was looking for a distraction. Figured couple of happy pills can't hurt." Adam had heard this story before.
"But there's no running from it. The way you feel on the Pinks? It's artificial. It's fake sugar. Just..." he paused for a moment, searching for the word, "Off". Nods and low hums of agreement permeated the room as Derek adjusted in his chair again. "After a while I couldn't function without em. I couldn't even get out of bed. Ya just feel so fuckin' heavy... My wife left with my son not long after that. Took me a long time to realize you can't run from that shit. You can't just pop a pill to avoid it." Derek looked as if he had more to say, but relaxed in his chair. Gesturing with a frown that he was done speaking.
Adam sat stone-faced for the rest of the meeting. Listening to the stories, anecdotes, and warnings of the other members. Popping pills casually and socially with friends, or before the simplest of tasks like eating or seeing a movie. There were certain universal themes, like missing important dates and obvious details, a cold numbness and a generally poor memory. Adam and Sam were the only two who declined their opportunity to speak. The meeting concluded with a series of goodbyes and hugs as Adam plodded out onto the street, making his way toward the passenger side of the familiar grey coupe.
"How did it go?" Lana smiled.
"It was good," Adam said nodding. Lana kept her eyes fixed on him as he looked away. "Hey, I'm really proud of you."
Adam smirked coyly, "Thanks". He felt good about the meetings like he was making progress for the two of them, but without realizing it his mind had wandered back to the pills. He thought about how moronic the other members must've been to actually want to do Blues. Pinks made sense, who doesn't want to be happy? And he could see the appeal of Reds, they just wanted to feel something, but blues? Nobody wakes up wanting to be sad. Adam couldn't make sense of it.
"I saw Mom today," Lana said, derailing Adam's train of thought.
"And?" he asked after a moment.
"She asked about you. I told her you were staying with me."
Adam shook his head. "Why?" He had no interest in keeping her up to date with his life. She didn't care. She just wanted to know so that she could smugly have her You need me/I told you brand of satisfaction. If anyone could use a Pink once in a while it was her. "You should have just told her you hadn't heard from me."
Lana shrugged her shoulders, eyes fixed on the road, "It's too late now. Besides, I think you should call her. She's worried about you." Lana's tone conveyed the same mixture of concern and Do what I say attitude that she had when they were kids and Adam would ride his bike without his helmet.
"I don't want to see her. She threw me out because she wanted me to come back begging for her to let me stay, and just cause I didn't she's upset".
"She threw you out because you were doing drugs Adam. What did you expect?" Lana replied keeping her hands on the wheel, shooting him a quick look. "She has a right to know if you're okay".
Adam looked away. "Yeah, well. Agree to disagree."
The rest of the night was uneventful. Adam agreed to get groceries over the weekend for the two of them while Lana began to share a story about, "Daisy from work. You know, the short one with an attitude, and the cartilage piercing?", but his head was somewhere else. He missed having his own bed. He hated feeling like some sort of burden on his sister. He hated sleeping on her couch and keeping all of his possessions in plastic bags because that's all he could afford. He hated the stress, the feeling of shame, walking to the meetings, the drivers speeding recklessly by him as he did. He hated constantly thinking about the Pinks.
"Hey? Are you listening?" Lana asked from her door frame. Adam hadn't realized she had gotten up.
"Yeah yeah. Sorry, I was daydreaming."
Lana took a step forward. "You okay?"
"Yeah yeah. Fine. It's fine. Go to bed."
Adam forced a smile. "Positive".
Lana nodded, reluctantly leaving Adam alone in the main room of the apartment. He sat there in silence for a long while, doing nothing, before walking to Lana's door and lightly pressing his ear up against it to listen and see if she had actually gone to sleep. He stayed there a minute before walking across the room to reach into the bottom of the bag filled with his clothes, pulling out a small orange bottle. He poured the contents into his hand and counted. Two. Four. Six. Eight. Ten. Twelve. Twelve little pink pills. He sat with the pills in his hand as time crept by. He took a deep breath, and carefully placed each pill back into the bottle. He buried the bottle at the bottom of the bag and moved it across the room before collapsing onto the couch.
Adam felt ashamed. He thought about how disappointed Lana would be if she knew he had them. "Nine weeks sober", he thought. "Eleven weeks on this fuckin' couch."
Lana woke with her body aching. She lazily reached for her phone as 10:26 AM lit up across the screen. She labored out of bed and made her way to the shower, quickly going through her morning routine before heading out into the main room to see that Adam was gone. After a brief moment of panic, she realized that he must have gone out to get the groceries, and trusted that he'd be back before long. While she had a moment, she walked across the room and reached into Adam's trash bag full of clothes, pulling out a small orange bottle, and pouring the contents into her hand, counting. Two. Four. Six. Eight. Ten. Twelve. Twelve little pink pills. No more and no less than the day before. "I'm proud of you kid." she said out-loud, deliberately placing the pills back inside the bottle and burying it at the bottom of the bag.
Lana had always been Adam's best support system, even when he didn't deserve it. She knew the kind of person Adam was, and while he had his demons, she always believed that he had the potential to be so much more than their mother made it seem. It broke her heart the first time he came home covered in sweat and tears running from older boys from school. Their mother offered little help. "That's life. You just gotta find a way to be happy about it." Lana never agreed with that sentiment. She wanted to teach Adam that it was okay to be sad sometimes and to just stay strong, but how do you convince a miserable, short-sighted child of anything?
She made her way out the door and down the stairs before checking her phone to see Adam's message. Getting groceries. Be back soon. A small smile formed on Lana's face, a cocktail of pride and optimism mixed in her stomach as she thought about the progress that Adam was making, not just for her, which she knew he would try to do, but for himself. Lana knew it was unrealistic to expect him to change the way he lived his life just because she asked him to, but she hoped getting thrown out, and the time he spent staying with her would offer him some encouragement. Today though, she thought it appropriate to go out in search of some extra incentive. "Nine weeks sober", she thought. "Something to celebrate".
Adam wandered down the isles, searching for the most food for the least amount of money. With a pocket full of coupons and a wallet feeling light, he went directly to the essentials: eggs, bread, lunch meats, boxes of instant noodles, rice, and pasta littered the shopping cart as he looked up and down the shelves grabbing off brand and discount items.
"Plan on paying for that?", asked a daunting voice. He turned around to see a tall slender woman with a cart full of name brand products eyeing his groceries. "What are you doing here?"
She gestured toward her cart, "Just buying groceries", the woman said with a smile. "Yeah well, good to see you", Adam said stepping away.
"Lana told me you were staying with her." she objected.
He turned around slowly. "And?"
"You feel good about taking advantage of your sister?", she asked coldly. "Cause I know you're still on the drugs."
Adam felt his ears get hot and rage begin to bubble in his stomach. "I'm clean. I have been for two months". The woman scoffed and rolled her eyes dramatically. "Please. You're clean? You've been fucking around on those little pills since you were fifteen. You're not clean."
"What do you want? You been shopping across town just so you might run into me to talk some shit?"
"I've been shopping here so I could talk some sense into you. Just cause you fucked up your life it doesn't mean you can drag your sister into it." she was in his face now, every word she spat she did so with venom.
Rage filled Adam's head. Ditching the cart he began to make his way out of the store. "Good to see you mom".