As told to Shoshana Schwartz
I don’t know what I was expecting, exactly. Jail, maybe. Or an antiseptic, sterile, hospital kind of smell.
But that’s not what I encountered when I pulled up at the gate. The wall before me was overflowing with bougainvillea, and the word “Retorno” was spelled out in Hebrew, carved out from varnished wood.
Truth is, on the way up here, I had a feeling I was in for a surprise. Vineyards sprawled out to my left, orchards and ponds and… green! I haven’t seen so much green in one place since a trip out West two years ago. And now that I think about it, I was so out of my head on that trip that I barely noticed the scenery. All I could think about was the party waiting for me that night. But it’s all a blank now.
A blank. So much of my life is a blank. Years of erasing my feelings, erasing the things I went through. It didn’t matter much what means I used to erase it all — drugs, alcohol, dangerous relationships — the main thing was to forget.
I was good at blotting out all the horrible stuff. But I started to blot out myself, too. I started to lose who I am. I kept getting fired, kept losing friends, and my family… well, they’d pretty much had enough. So just getting wasted and pretending that it all goes away… well, it just wasn’t working anymore. And things finally got so bad that I knew I had to try something new.
So here I am, standing on the top of a mountain, looking out at the scenery. Green. So much green. And lavender and burgundy and buttercup yellow. I take a deep breath and fill my lungs with freshness. I take another breath, waiting for that clean feeling to seep all over my body. It’s not as quick as some of the other stuff I filled my body with. But it won’t betray me, either.
I’m working hard here. I’m figuring things out, starting to understand myself in a way I never did before. And, for the first time, I actually have hope. Hope that things can change — that I can change. That I can heal and live a normal life. And I have dreams now! I want to go back to school and get a degree and support myself. I want to be able to look myself in the mirror and like what I see inside.
I still have a long road ahead of me. But I know, finally, that it’s the right road.