Twice, Naked on the Roof
Today is one of those dreary, drizzly days that make me all introspective and poetic. Days like this, I want to rip my heart out and let it bleed all over the page. Or crawl into a corner and sob as I listen to soulful tunes of loss and longing. I was not attempting to do either today. However, we put these vibes out into the world and somehow the universe picks up on them. Just like some sort of psychic magnet, my soul drew in the sounds of one of my newest favorites, Birdy. The girl is just a child and the only songs of hers I know are covers, but Oh, Lord! The girl sings my heart! The one which devastated me today was “The A Team.”
Everything takes on a different meaning when you’re sober – or when you slip into that underworld of addiction. Trainspotting was one of my favorite movies when it came out, long before I became an addict, myself. It was this funny look into the lives of heroin addicts in Scotland – dark comedy, definitely, but I dig dark comedy. After I was sober for a while, I was thinking of how I hadn’t watched it in years and how much I loved it. I threw it in and it was NOT funny anymore! It was REAL! I was looking through different eyes now and I could relate to the torturous pain behind the humor.
So this song comes on and I sense some pull, some connection in my little addict self. I looked up the lyrics and the songfacts, thinking I’m probably just reading too much into it like I do with her version of “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” (which I always swear is about visiting her lover in rehab, but is really just about him moving to D.C.). This one, though, really is about the life of a woman addicted to a “Class A” drug (thus the “Class A Team”).
[Mom, if you’re reading, now would be a good time to stop. Otherwise, we’re going to end up with another one of those awkward moments where you know too much about your little girl.]
Originally written by Ed Sheeran, the song tells the story of a woman named Angel who he met in a homeless shelter. Just like some (not all) of the boys in Trainspotting, Angel is a little worse off than I ever got. I can so relate to her story, though, especially when it’s sung in that slow, mournful tone. The line which triggered the connection today was “And in a pipe she flies to the Motherland/Or sells love to another man.”
Men and women handle addiction differently. Even the Big Book talks about how women often hit their bottom faster and harder than men do. When men find themselves on that “Class A Team,” they’ll often turn to dealing in order to fund their addiction. Women generally prostitute themselves in one way or another. I used to score down on a side of town where I stood out like a sore thumb. Down there, folks who looked like me were cops, more often than not, so buying was sometimes difficult. I befriended a working girl who would handle the transactions for me in exchange for a hit. Her story was so sad to me and I couldn’t imagine what that life was like. The very last night I used cocaine, I got a little taste of her life. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve dated or slept with plenty of guys primarily because of their readily available supply of fun little powders and potions and herbs. This night was different, though. My addiction had become so overwhelming at this point that I traded a sex act with a dude I couldn’t stand for a line of coke I didn’t even want. I had been shooting for so long that I knew that stupid little line wouldn’t even do anything for me. I didn’t care, though, because I had to have it!
Early in sobriety, I met the sweetest girl named Dana*. Like me, she was new to the program, and also a drug addict in a room of drunks. We hit it off like gangbusters. We were just beginning to learn how to open up and expose the guilt and shame inside. My head had finally cleared enough to recognize just how low I had sunk and I recalled that last night with the coke. I told her that I realized by doing that, that I had truly prostituted myself for drugs. I was appalled at myself. She paused for a moment and said, “I prostituted myself.” “For drugs?” I asked. “At first. But then I realized if I could do it for drugs, then I could do it for money.” She went on to tell me even darker things, but that’s her story and not for me to tell.
Also, around that time, I came to know a woman named Janice*. Janice was HILARIOUS! She had double digit sobriety and had just this amazing way of saying things where she would get us all laughing ’til we cried and then hit us with some profound truth. One thing she always used to say was “Whatever you have done, someone else has done it twice, naked on the roof.” We all come in with so much guilt and shame for what we’ve done, thinking we’re horrible people. No matter where we’ve been, though, someone else has been there and even worse. We are not alone.
That moment when Dana told me about turning into a full-on prostitute, I did not love her any less. Rather, I loved her all the more. This poor thing did not recognize her own worth, so she sold her body and, with it, bits of her soul. I just wanted to wrap my arms around her and tell her how beautiful and loved she was; that she would never have to live like that anymore. And if I could love her, this girl who had more than “twice, naked on the roof”ed me, why couldn’t I feel the same compassion toward myself? Why did I feel the need to sit in judgment over the things I had done?
There is a connection in recovery that is far and away closer than any relationship outside the program. When we strip away the lies and the masks and get real with one another, we touch each other on a much deeper level. More than that, though, we see ourselves in each other. It’s like we all came together on one of these dreary, drizzly days and ripped the broken pieces of our hearts out of our chests. While Birdy plays in the background, we all sit in a circle and put the pieces back together to form one big, shared heart – scarred, but full and whole.
Come on, Skinny Love… Who will love you?
*Yes, of course I’ve changed everyone’s names. This is an anonymous blog about an anonymous program!