Journey To Myself
By Marissa R., Tuscon, AZ
Author's note: I wrote this for my english class, and I hope to let people know they are not alone.
Then.Looking at me now, you’d think I have it all figured out. Varsity soccer star, honor roll, leader, lots of friends. I do love my life, but it wasn’t always this way. I have come a long way from what I was a year and a half ago. I’ve overcome many obstacles and changed tremendously. My story is one of courage and a story of second chances. I came from a rough past; divorced parents, an alcoholic mother, and a sense of confusion because I couldn’t figure out who I was. This time of uncertainty led me down a twisted, long path; a path that immersed me in partying, drugs, and alcohol. I was so far gone, and it took me almost losing my life and the loss of a friend to bring me where I am now.
It all started on February 14, 1994. Marissa Ann Ramirez was brought into this world and the party started. I was 6lbs 7oz and I was born two weeks early. When I was born, my father and mother were already married and lived together. Things were very rocky and I believe the only reason they remained together was for the sake of me. I can remember as early as 2 years old their fights. My parents yelled loud enough to be heard in the next complex. There were sounds of glass shattering and the collapsing of dry wall as my father put his fist through the wall. The first 3 years of my life I don’t have any fond memories. The only things I can recall is my dad and mom fighting and chopping the left side of my hair off. I remember my grandma rushing over to my house to pick me up and take me away from all the drama that was happening. She would barge in the door and I’d have my hands wrapped around my knees, staring at the floor with a blank expression on my face.
“Are you ok, mija?” She’d ask me. It always took me awhile to talk after my parent’s fights. My grandma was my mother for all intensive purposes.
After my third birthday, my parents got a divorce. It wasn’t a surprise to anyone; the whole family saw this coming and wanted it. Being only 3, it was easy for me to notice the bigger picture, but hard to see what exactly was going on in detail. I knew there were problems in my life, but I had no idea the problems that would come.
My mother is 42 and an alcoholic. I cannot remember the last time she was sober. As far as I’m concerned she has been this way for many years. When I became older, my dad informed me that she had been this way for a long while.
“She passed out on our wedding night,” he told me. “She was too drunk and missed her own party.” I saw the bitterness in his face. I can’t think of one person who hates my mother’s drunkenness more than I, but my dad comes close. I can remember how much time he would spend pleading with my mom to sober up and recognize that I was in her life. “Carla, your daughter loves you, and she doesn’t even know you. Come back in her life. She needs you.” All the words in the world could not make her change her ways. All the tears in the world could not convince her to open her eyes. In her world, I was a fantasy. The only reality she knew was a spinning room that condoned the bottle of vodka she drank every night. Popov is what it’s called. I lived in Colorado Springs for two years and moved back to Tucson for my sixth grade year. When I came back, I decided to make an effort to be in my mother’s life since she wouldn’t
make the effort to be in mine. I told my dad that I wanted this, and he was uneasy. “Are you sure?” I nodded to him, not aware of what situation I was putting myself in.
I began going with my mother two days out of every week. My mother lived on Ft.Lowell and Stone next to Amphitheatre high school, which could quite possibly be the most ghetto part of the northside of Tucson. There were at least 50 known child molesters and rapists in this area, and across the street there were at least 2 shootings every month. My mother lived with my step dad Larry, in his “house”. They lived in a one bedroom building that housed 7 dogs, my step brother Lance, and the two of them. Larry ran a car business and there was a shop in the back that put out so many harmful chemicals into the atmosphere that I’m pretty positive I’m going to die due to some disease I contracted over there. My dad was always hesitant to let me go over there because it was such a terrible environment, but I insisted. My mother was the biggest push over that walks the face of the earth. I could do literally ANYTHING I wanted. When I was younger, the only thing I ever wanted to do was hang out with my step brother Lance and his friends playing football in the parking lot of my mom’s work next door or play some basketball. I stayed out of trouble for the most part, but when I hit 8th grade, I started spiraling downhill.
I began hanging out with two girls named Lauren and Shawna. Shawna lived in a hotel on miracle mile and Lauren lived with her mother who was a stripper. I became incredibly close to them and they gradually inducted me into their ways. They introduced me to partying with older guys. These two were not the first to introduce alcohol to me, because my mother had awhile ago, and neither were they first to introduce marijuana to me. My father was a huge pothead when I was younger. I could remember the bus dropping me off in front of my house during my kindergarten years and I would come inside to a circle of my dad and his friends hot boxing the house. I never looked down at my dad because he did these things, but he took care of me unlike my mother who chose her alcohol over me. I never used either of these substances because I had seen what it had done to my parents, but when Shawna and Lauren exemplified it as such a great time, I became interested.
Back at Larry’s, it was always a fight. There was always something I did that would piss him off and cause him to scream in my face. He hated me, more than an average step-daughter and step-father relationship is. I quickly became impatient with the situation at my mother’s house as I matured and saw what was going on. That is when I decided to confide in these substances that Lauren and Shawna glorified as life savers. I began smoking marijuana at the beginning of my eighth grade year. I woke up early every morning at my mom’s at smoked a bowl. I didn’t have to hide it like at my father’s; I just woke up and did it. There were no windows in my room, so no ventilation for the smoke. I sat on my bed and swayed to the music in a foggy dream. This was the only time I could endure anything at my mom’s house. I smoked every single day at least three times: When I woke up, in the middle of the day when my high went down, and before I went to sleep.
My mom would walk into my room, “Jesus Christ, we need to get you a window in here, girl. I’m going to catch a contact high!” During this time, I thought my mom was so cool because she didn’t care. She was so chill with me smoking in her house and didn’t think twice about my health. I did not start drinking until my freshman year. I was no longer hanging out with Shawna and Lauren, but a different couple of people. I started drinking as I began to party. I hated it at first, because I refused to do the same as my mom, but it became easier with every party as I saw it brought a good time to everyone. I was going out every weekend, partying with my friends and having a great time.
It was winter formal of freshman year when I went to an after party that I was introduced to ecstasy. I was with Lance, so I wasn’t drinking because he would not let me do any of that when I was with him. I saw my friend from dance Sabrina, sitting on the couch staring off into space. I went and sat next to her because she was the only person besides my step brother that I knew at the party.
“Hey girl, what’s up?” She turned and looked at me and my jaw hit the floor. Her pupils were the size of quarters. Her whole eye was black because her pupils were so dialated. “What the hell is wrong with your eyes?!”
She smiled at me and said, “Baby girl calm down, I’m rollin’.”
“Rolling?” I was completely confused.
“Yeah, you know, ex.”
“What is ex?” She acted as if I had asked the dumbest question in the world.
“Ecstasy, Mari. You seriously don’t know what it is?” I shook my head. “It’s heaven in a pill. It’s the greatest invention ever made.” For a good twenty minutes she explained to me what ecstasy was, how it affected you, and stories about when she had rolled in the past. I didn’t try it that night because I knew my step brother would be furious, but boy did I want to. I went back to school on Monday, and when third hour came around I was eager to ask Sabrina many questions. As we stretched in dance, I began bombarding her with questions. Was it safe? Could I die? How much did it cost? She was amused at how interested I was in it. I became adamant about trying it until she started to mention the fact that people had died from this pill.
“Wait, what do you mean? How did they die?”
“You’re body’s temperature jumps too quickly,” Sabrina explained, “and people’s brains over heat.” Right away the urge to try ecstasy disappeared. From that point on, I dropped it.
I began going to my mother’s more often so that I could party. My dad became suspicious and one Friday before school he sat down to talk to me.
“Marissa, why do you want to go to your mom’s house more?” I was surprised at his concern.
“Dad, we are becoming closer.” His face remained the same and had the “I’m not buying it” look.
“You’re sure there’s nothing you need to tell me?” My heart began to accelerate. He knew I was spiraling downhill, he just didn’t know how very bad it was. This was my chance to reach out for help. I knew he could help me and pull me out of the rut I was stuck in, but I didn’t say a word.
“Dad, don’t worry. I’m not doing anything bad. We just finally clicked.” I got up quickly to avoid eye contact because my Dad could always tell when I was lying.
I walked to my room and sat on my bed. I was spacing out as I put on my shoes. How did my dad know I was up to no good? It gave me the ch8ills because I didn’t want to get caught and have to stop doing what I was doing.
I went to school and told my dad mom would be picking me up after. My mom knew the routine; Take me home and leave me in my room for half an hour to do what I had to do, but on this day something was wrong. I arrived at my mother’s and my step-dad was in the worst mood ever. He began yelling derogatory names at me like he did every day. I have a very high self esteem, so I knew all the things he told me weren’t true and I let them go. On this day, he would not leave me alone. It was “b****” this and “whore” that, and I was becoming very impatient. As I was trying to go in my room he blocked the doorway and put his finger in my face.
“You’ll never get anywhere. You go out and whore around and you’re going to get pregnant and no one is going to care what happens to you!” My mom stood there and listened to the things he was saying to me and just sipped on her “soda” that was over half vodka.
“Aren’t you going to say anything? Don’t you care that your husband is calling me a whore?”
“Just ignore him, Mari. You know how he is.” It was the same answer every time.
I dressed myself quickly and called my friends up to come get me. I wanted nothing more to drink away everything that had just happened. It was something I dealt with everyday when I was over there, but for some reason this day just threw me over the edge. I arrived at the house which the party was at and saw Sabrina. She was rolling again and the blackness of her eyes scared me just as much as before.
“Hey Sabrina, what’s up? Rolling again?” What a stupid question.
“Yeah, want to join me?” She pulled a little baggie out of her pocket that had 3 different pills in it. I stared at it; confused. I had no clue what to do. “C’mon it’ll be a great time.”
“Oh what the hell,” I said and held my hand out. She dropped a yellow pill in my hand and I took it right away. For the first twenty minutes or so I felt the exact same. “What the hell Sabrina this pill is wack.” She smiled at me and shook her head.
“Just wait,” She said. As if on cue an overwhelming sensation came over my body that is unexplainable. Everything felt so….good. I clamped my teeth down and grinded them back and forth. I drank water and it felt amazing in my mouth. Everything I did felt as if it was the best thing in the world. I sat on the couch rubbing my arms up and down staring at the floor. All the colors were sharper, and I could see everything clearer. It was the greatest feeling I had ever felt in my life and everything that had happened earlier in the night was forgotten. My friends took me home at 4:30 in the morning and I was wide awake.
“Look at Mari. She looks all coked out.” They laughed at me as I watched the scenery pass by through the window. I lay in bed with the lights off, and despite the time could not close my eyes. Sabrina didn’t mention that ecstasy kept you up. I was awake until 12pm the next day. When I finally came down from the trip, I had the worst head ache I had ever experienced. Even though I hated coming down, I had fallen in love with ecstasy. Reality was so boring and lifeless without it. My mother’s house was intolerable without it. I needed it. I immediately called Sabrina asking who I could buy from and how much I’d need. I began buying it at least twice a week and doing it every weekend. It started as just doing it on the weekend, but that soon was not enough.
I attempted taking it at school once and it was a disaster. I sat in first hour biting my pencil and staring at the floor, trying to keep attention away from me. Mr. Burgueno was a very lenient teacher and the class always talked more than they should have. On this day, the class was taking advantage of his kindness and talking over him the entire period. I was becoming highly irritated as I listened to him plead with the class to stop talking. My heart rate was rising quickly and I began to shake.
"SHUT THE HELL UP!!!" The whole class, including Mr.Burgueno, stopped at turned towards me. I had put both of my fists into balls and slammed them on the corner of my desks, hard enough to almost break them, but I couldn't feel a thing.
"Marissa, do you need a moment to yourself outside?" Mr. Burgueno's face looked extremely worried. I assured him that I was fine and went back to biting my pencil.
During second period, I was beginning to hit the peak of the trip. I couldn't stop biting my hand or grinding my teeth. My eyes refused to focus on one spot, attempting to take in too many things at once. I knew a teacher would notice my eyes at any moment. They were completely filled with black, leaving only a slight ring of hazel barely visible. I had to get out of here. I asked Mrs.Bartlett if I could use the restroom and as soon as I was out of the room I called my mother.
"Mom, come get me," I told her, "Get me out of here NOW."
"Why? What's wrong with you?" I had woke her up and she was irritated.
"I'm rolling so hard right now and they're going to catch me. Please come." I was speaking at a pace that was hardly understandable.
"Wow," she whispered. "You are such a dumbass. I'll be there in ten." She came and picked me up and didn't say a word in the car. She was still drunk from the night before and she could have cared less.
I started ditching school to stay at my mom's and roll. I was spiraling downward; throwing my life away one pill at a time while my sat and drank herself to sleep every night. I was frying my brain cells and no one cared enough to try and stop me.
One weekend everything came to a head for me. I went home from school to my moms like usual and called up my bestfriend Chuy to see if he was down to roll with me. Of course he was and I went and met up with him to get the pills. We bought more than usual and I still don't remember why to this day. When we came back to my mothers Chuy pulled out a quart size ziplock baggie filled with pills.
"Holy cow Chuy, why do you have so many pills??" We both popped our first quad stack, which is four doses of ex in one pill, and sat back and started talking to kill the time. I felt the pill starting to kick in and took another. I had never taken two before, and I knew that it was very dangerous. Chuy looked at me as if I was crazy but let me carry on. We went to the kitchen and grabbed the gallon of Orange juice. I started chugging it right then and there. (Vitamin c increases the intensity of the trip). We went back into my room and put on music. Whenever I was rolling, I loved to dance. I felt like I was underwater and it felt amazing. I was dancing for a long time when all of a sudden I became ridiculously dizzy. "Something is wrong." I pumped down on the bed and stared at the floor. The room was spinning as if I was super drunk and my head was pounding. I stood up to head to the bathroom and I felt as if the room flipped upside down. I couldn't keep my balance any longer and my knees were starting to give out. I looked for Chuy but he was not paying any attention to me, he was too involved in his trip. I flung myself towards the bathroom. The bathroom door was closed and right as I reached it my knees buckled. I flew forward into the door and my body slid down to the floor. I could no longer feel my toes or fingers and all of my body started tingling. I felt my stomach gurgle and I reached for the handle to open the door. I twisted it and pushed with the palm of my hand to make enough space for me to crawl in. I was on my stomach and I crawled inside the bathroom now crying out in pain because my stomach was killing me. I rolled from my stomach to my side to my back as waves of pain sent my body into different tortured positions. I was crying out for my mom and step-dad now: "Help me, please! Mom! Larry! Help me!" Tears were rolling down my face as I lay on the floor. I opened my mouth to yell out for help again and vomit came instead. I knew the toilet was right above me and I attempted to reach for something to grab to pull me up and I couldn't see any longer. The room was turning black as I struggled to keep consciousness. My body went limp and everything stopped. I don't know how long I was unconscious on the bathroom floor laying in my own vomit. I remember coming to and wondering how long I had been there. I still could not move. Every muscle in my body felt as if it had died and everything continued to spin. I heard my mom saying something, but I could not make out what she was saying. "Mommy, help me, please. I can't-" My words were interrupted with the vomit coming up my throat. I tried to move and I could only turn on my side. I opened my eyes to my mom staring at me with a completely blank expression on my face.
"Get your ass up off the floor. You're throwing up all over my rug. "She turned and left me on the bathroom floor. I lost consciousness again and woke up in my bedroom. Chuy was wiping me down with a wet wash cloth and his face was pale. His eyes were red and puffy from crying.
"I had to hold your hair." He said to me. "I think I pulled a muscle trying to get your face to the toilet so that you wouldn't throw up all over yourself. That was pointless so I just turned you on your side so that you wouldn't drown in your own vomit." I blinked my eyes a couple of times and tried to recall what had happened to me. When I closed my eyes I became dizzy again so I quickly reopened them not wanting to throw up again.
“Chuy, thank you.” He just nodded his head at me, understanding how grateful I was for him to be there. I fell asleep again.
I woke up, and I came outside my bedroom to find my step-dad sitting on the couch watching television.
“Can’t hold your alcohol, then don’t drink! Have you throwing up all over my bathroom floor…” I just walked away from him into the kitchen because I honestly didn’t care anymore. I knew it was late in the afternoon because of how hot it was in the house. I looked at the clock;
“Jesus Christ.” It was 5:30 in the afternoon. I had slept all day. This was the worst I had ever felt in my life. My head was pounding and I was so dizzy. It was like a terrible hangover. I sat down on the couch with my head in my hands. I couldn’t take in what had happened the night before…It was too crazy, unreal. Did my mom really leave me there? Was I really left on my own when I needed it most? I couldn’t handle all the thoughts that were in my head. It was too much at once and I could feel my anger building up inside of me at a ridiculous rate. I needed to get out of there before I did something stupid. I called my grandma right away.
“Grandma, come get me please.”
“What’s wrong mija?”
“I need to leave right now; Larry is getting on my nerves.” I was making up lies on the spot. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her what had happened.
My grandma picked me up and kept trying to get me to tell her what was wrong with me, but I refused to tell her the truth. I knew my grandma could not handle it. I knew she’d being crying on the spot thinking about what I had gone through and wishing she could have been there for me.
She took me home to my dad’s. I didn’t say a word when I walked in the door as I headed towards my room. About an hour later my dad came into my room and asked me why I had not said hi. I told him that Larry had made mad and that I was in a bad mood. Things like this were a normal occurrence, so he didn’t ask any questions. I sat and thought about what had happened that night. I was confused as to what to think. Did I stay mad at my mom? I came to the conclusion that I could not blame her for being drunk and not taking care of me, she didn’t know.
I continued to live my life as I was before: popping pills, smoking weed, drinking, and partying. I was just a lot smarter with my ecstasy. It was the middle of my sophomore year and I woke up in one of the best moods I had ever been in. It was December 1, 2010. I walked off my bus stop and started walking towards the sophomore lockers when I saw my friend Aline sitting ahead. I yelled her name and when she didn’t yell back I just shrugged my shoulders and thought to myself, “what’s her problem?” I arrived at my locker and was unlocking when I turned to see Aline standing with her books in her hand.
“Dario is dead.” I stared at her.
“Shut the hell up, that’s not even funny.” I was laughing nervously, thinking this was some kind of sick joke.
“He was shot by his dad. I’m not lying to you.” She turned and walked away. I stood in front of my locker with my mouth wide open, not having any thoughts running through my mind at all for a few seconds.
I laughed to myself, “She’s so full of s***. There’s no way he’s dead, I hugged him yesterday.” I walked toward the freshman lockers and there were many more people there now then there were before. I saw people hugging each other and crying. What was going on? I walked toward the spot that all my friends sat in front of the ILS building. Francisco, Chris, and the others were staring at the floor, dead silent. I looked over toward Josh, one of Dario’s close friends and he was sitting with his head in his hands. I kept walking just because it felt right, and I saw Jonika and Andrea together. Jonika had her arm around Andrea and was pulling her toward the front office.
“Mari, come on.” Jonika waved her hand at me and I followed. We made our way into the Career Center and there was no one in there at the moment. I sat down in a chair as the counselors pulled out tissue boxes and set them throughout the room. There had to be a 100 tissue boxes spread out everywhere. Jonika and Andrea sat and cried and a couple more people walked in. I sat staring at the carpet with my mouth open still and was speechless. The bell rang for first period and then a couple more people walked in. I saw Karina’s face and my stomach flipped.
Karina had had a crush on Dario for the longest time. I introduced them in eighth grade when Dario was new and the rest was history. Her eyes were as red as her hair, with bags underneath them and she looked…lifeless. I could not bring myself to get up and hug her, because I could not take in what was happening. Out of nowhere, dozens of people started coming in at once. Everyone that was walking in I knew. They either looked like Karina, or like me. Everyone sat in a circle and all you could here was crying. People were hanging on each other, sobbing loudly, not caring that everyone was seeing them at their most vulnerable moment. People continued to pour in and people still cried. There had to be at least a hundred people in there now. The counselors stood in the middle of the circle now.
“If anyone would like to say anything, you may. If you’d like to just remain silent that’s ok, too. It’s ok to cry.”
People kept crying and then people started pulling out their phones. I had no idea what they were doing, until they started passing them around. A phone was passed to me and I looked down on the screen to see a picture of Dario’s smiling face. It was at this moment that it finally hit me. When I looked at his beautiful smile that had always made my day and realized that I would never see it again, I broke down.
My shoulders began to shake and the tears started rolling down my face. The familiar noises of crying coming from everyone else in the room were now coming from me, as well. I cried and cried, to the point that I could not see anymore. My eyes were permanently filled with water and I could not stop them from coming. I was crying so hard that it was hurting my side and had me curled down over my knees. I felt a hand on my back and looked up to see Cesar, a friend of mine who I had to gone to school with since elementary and was also very close to Dario, was rubbing my back. I stood up and hugged him the hardest I had ever hugged anyone before. I cried even harder during the embrace and he cried, too. I looked around the room and saw so many people doing the same as I. I had never seen so many guys cry in my life. They had no shame. They let the tears flow freely down their face and didn’t wipe them away. They made the same noises I made and weren’t embarrassed at all. It was indescribable what I was seeing; unreal.
Eventually everyone calmed down a little but everyone still cried, just not as hard. People began sharing stories of how they had met Dario, and how they became friends. People talked about the good times they had had with him, and some of the funny things he had said that they remembered.
Dozens of us spent the entire day in the career center, crying and talking. We wrote letters do either Dario or the family and read them aloud. This brought on a whole new round of crying.
When I went home to my Dad I cried for a very long time. My grandma came home and I cried the most with her. I laid across the couch on her lap just sobbing as she rubbed my back. I was at my most vulnerable moment with her because I knew I could be with her. I trusted her more than anyone in this world and it just felt right to let it all go with her.
As night time came around, I was exhausted physically, but could not sleep. I lay there in the darkness crying and taking in the whole day. It was too much to take in at once. I saw my life before my eyes; the events that had taken place during the day had me thinking about how lucky I was to be alive. I wanted to slap myself because I had a great life and I was wasting it away by doing all those drugs and partying. I was throwing my life away and it wasn’t fair that I was living my life poorly while Dario lived his ife to the fullest and his life was taken. I knew I owed it to Dario, I knew I owed to my Dad and my grandma, and most of all I knew I owed it myself. I needed to flip my life around. I needed to start living up to my potential and embracing life instead of focusing on all the negatives and turning to drugs to ease my pain.
My teachers quickly saw a change in my effort at school. I went from sitting, not saying a word, and copying all my work to being openly active in my studies and earning great grades. I was still going to my mother’s but I wasn’t smoking or popping pills anymore. I went out and partied occasionally, and hardly ever drank. I had been used to going to my mother’s three days out of the week, but now I was only going once, or maybe every other week. My dad had asked me what had changed and I told him what had happened.
“I overdosed, Dad.” His mouth remained open.
“Ecstasy.” We went into full detail about what happened. I expected him to flip out on me and ground me. I was not expecting him to just hold me and tell me that he was glad I was ok now and that he was very proud that I made the decision to stay away from my mom on my own.
I had felt better that I had finally told my dad what had happened to me. There was such a weight lifted off my shoulders. I told my grandmother after, and just like I had predicted she cried and said she was sorry she wasn’t there for me. Everything was making me feel better little by little, but there was still an aching in my heart. I knew what I had to do, and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
I called my mother and told her that I would be coming over for a little while later.
“Oh, ok baby. I’ll see you then!” She was extremely excited to see me, and I immediately felt guilty. I told my grandma to take me over there and the whole car ride my heart was beating quickly. I was sweating and I could not talk. My grandma reached over and rubbed my hand to console me, but nothing was making me feel better. I sat and replayed the night I was on the bathroom floor in my head. I remembered the pain and chills came over my entire body. It had taken me this long to realize that my mother could care less if I was dead or alive. I knew what I had to do.
When I arrived at my mom’s she was on the couch watching television like usual. I sat down next to her.
“What’s up babygirl?” Her breath was heavy with vodka as she embraced me. I stayed quiet, my heart rate accelerating.
“I can’t be here anymore.” I looked at her, knowing she wouldn’t understand right away.
“Larry, he’s bothering you. Go smoke or something.” I shook my head, and closed my eyes. Count to ten I told myself. I thought of all the things that had brought me to this point: The overdose, the pot, the alcohol, the partying. I thought of the lack of care.
“Not away from Larry, away from you.” Her face fell. “I’m done dealing with a mother who loves a bottle of vodka more than her own daughter. I’m done trying to be here with you and bond, just so you can ignore me and sit here on the couch wasting away. I’m done trying. My grandma is outside.” I didn’t look back to see her face, because I knew her face would tear me apart. I was walking out the door and tears were gathering up in my eyes. I can’t cry, this is right. It’s what has to be done.
When I got inside of the car my grandma hugged me with all of the love she had.
“I am so proud of you.” My body felt different. I felt lighter and I felt more free. A weight had been lifted off of my shoulders and I felt brand new.