Today, April 23rd, is my sobriety date. Twelve years ago yesterday, I got loaded for the last time. Here is that story.
I’d decided that there was no sense in trying to quit getting loaded. It just wasn’t going to happen, at least not by my own volition. In my head echoed the words of those folks in the Twelve Step meetings about needing a higher power to get sober. I didn’t have a higher power, I didn’t want one, and I wasn’t going to believe in one.
My meth use had gotten the best of me. When I slept, which wasn’t all that often, I usually awoke with a sense of dread and the subtle, yet persistent, desire to kill myself. I just can’t take this anymore, I told myself, and got loaded one more time to make the pain stop. Too much shame. Too much loneliness. Too much of everything.
I was no longer employable and relied entirely on theft to make the sure the bills were paid. It wasn’t as simple as stealing to support my habit, rather, I was stealing to support my lifestyle. And I was prolific.
Nobody can get away with being a criminal forever, and I knew that I was no exception to that rule. Even the most successful thief couldn’t do better than getting away with his crimes 99.9% of the time. I did a quick calculation. If I was, in fact, a good thief, how long would it take me before I was arrested and, because of my prior convictions, be facing a third strike? About 120 days. Within that time frame, I conjectured, I would be facing life in prison. That was February of 2005.
For the next couple of months I stopped pretending like I could control myself. I stopped trying to stop. I no longer limited the size of the bag I bought because I thought that maybe it would be my last one. I ceased giving myself “days off” from criminal activity in the vain hope that I would suddenly make a pattern of it. It was liberating. It was devastating. It was a form of surrender, I suppose, but not in the usual sense of the word. I waved the white flag and joined the losing side.
Just past midnight on the morning of April 8th, I hopped in my truck and made a trip to Safeway in order to buy an Odwalla carrot juice. Odwalla carrot juice had become my new obsession, my new way to avoid eating meals when I was tweaking. Immediately after turning away from my house, I passed a squad car parked on the opposite side of the street. I knew he was there, watching me.
I continued towards Safeway and, in my rearview mirror, watched the cop turn on his headlights and pop a u-turn. I kept driving and pulled into the Safeway parking lot, going about my business despite knowing that the cops were on my tail. I parked in a stall and the cop stopped his car directly behind my truck. This was it.
I was booked into the Main Jail on four counts of possession of stolen property. Four counts, no matter how petty they seemed, which would end up making me eligible for a 3rd strike in California. It would take time for the system to realize this and, for the time being, I was being held in jail on a lowly $20,000 bail. I had to get out fast.
With the help of my mother, I was released on bond later that afternoon. My court date was scheduled for Friday, April 22nd. I had some thinking to do.
I hired an attorney even though I was still undecided about whether I would actually go to court. I knew they would remand me into custody because there was no way in hell they were going to let a guy facing life in prison remain free on bail. At least not $20,000 bail. Steve, my lawyer, tried to convince me that they weren’t going to take me in because the charges weren’t all that serious but I knew better than that. I knew what the cops had found in my house when they performed the search warrant while I had been in jail on that morning of April 8th. I knew what they had found in my storage unit. I knew that they had records of everything I had sold on eBay for the six months prior. This was not going to end well.
It was a very depressing two weeks, waiting for my court date. I stopped using meth, but continued to drink heavily and smoke pot profusely. Getting loaded kept me from having to decide what I was going to do.
On the morning of April 22nd, I woke up with more dread than I had felt in my entire life. I knew I was going to go to court. I knew I was going to go to jail. I knew I was quite possibly never going to come home.
Most of the morning’s events remain in a bit of a blur. I know that I took a shower, I know that I smoked some pot, I know that I drank, and I know that I swept the driveway. At some point, I went to the ATM to withdraw $300 but I cannot for the life of me remember how I managed to fit it in during those couple of hours before going to court. Perhaps it was the day before.
I became overwhelmed with the desire to run. I paced my bedroom. Could I make it to Mexico? What would I do there? Would they end up finding me? How long would a warrant last? How long would I even be able to survive there? Would I end up coming back here, many years from now, only to get arrested again and then, finally, face life in prison?
But I did not run.
In the courtroom, my name was called by the judge and I approached the podium. The district attorney spoke. “Your honor, Mr. Hahn is currently facing four counts of possession of stolen property. As it is, he is facing 100 years to life under the three strikes law and we expect more charges to follow as there is an ongoing investigation. As Mr. Hahn is currently out on a $20,000 bond, we believe he presents a significant flight risk and recommend that he be remanded into custody.”
The judge concurred. The bailiff approached me and I stuck my hands out in front of me. Handcuffs were placed. I was taken to the jury box where I would wait for a Sheriff to escort me to booking. In the meantime, the bailiff performed the routine remand paperwork.
“Okay,” he said. “Let’s go through your property. Khaki pants… collared shirt… do you have a belt?”
He made some marks on his clipboard and looked back at me. “Okay. Black dress shoes… underwear and socks I’m guessing?”
“Yes.” From my seat in the jury box I looked into the courtroom’s audience where my mother was sitting, watching me, and crying. My heart broke. “Go,” I said to her. “Please go.”
The bailiff interjected, “No talking to them.”
I watched my Mom grab her things and leave as the bailiff continued with his inventory. “Do you have any jewelry?”
“No necklaces, piercings, nothing like that?”
“How about keys, car keys, house keys?”
“Do you have a wallet?”
“Three hundred dollars.”
The bailiff looked at me, concerned. “Wait, did you know this was going to happen today?”
I looked him in the eyes. “Yes.”
“You knew you were facing life?”
He paused to think about this. “Then, why did you come?”
I took a deep breath, exhaled everything I’d been holding onto and said, “Because I’m done. I’m done fighting. I don’t have anything left.”