The road to recovery

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(Editor’s note: This is the second of a year-long monthly series about how alcohol and drug addiction effects the community and how those affected work to achieve a better life.)

(Editor’s note: This is the second of a year-long monthly series about how alcohol and drug addiction effects the community and how those affected work to achieve a better life.)

The woman on the phone from the child support enforcement division said he was behind on his payments. The amount owed started at $3,000, another $5,000 was added and somehow the total jumped up to $11,000.

Julia M. Dendinger-News-Bulletin photo: University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus instructor Nanci Nielson talks to her First Year Experience class about having the communications skills necessary to make sure they stay in control of their emotional lives. Edward Davis, center, is working on his associate degree and living a clean, sober life.

And it was all due at the end of the month.

Edward Davis argued. He had talked with the mother of his fourth child. They had an agreement. The payments weren’t late.

Hanging up, Davis smoked one more cigarette to stave off the frustration and panic. Then he walked into his next class at the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus.

As the professor returned graded assignments, she told Davis he hadn’t turned in four of the last six pieces of homework. At that point, Davis said he was done.

“I was like, ‘Screw it.’ I was just going to shove my books in my bag and walk out; go back to what I was best at,” Davis said.

What he was “best at” was being an addict. Using and dealing methamphetamine was what Davis succeeded at for nearly a decade of his 29 years.

But he knew going back wasn’t an option. Moving forward was the only course of action, so Davis took a deep breath and stayed in his seat.

Then he remembered turning in an assignment early. He asked the professor to check if the missing assignments were attached. They were.

And in between classes he called his “baby mamma,” who called the child support office and straightened out the payment situation.

Davis kept his cool and maintained his sobriety.

“Some days are so hard. But I know what I need to do,” he said.

The father of four needs to live a clean, stable life while he works to rebuild his relationships with his children. With three different mothers, Davis’ children are a central part of his life after addiction and prison.

Pictures of them take pride of place on the walls of his one-bedroom apartment in Los Lunas. He has recently begun rebuilding a relationship with his youngest son and is working on custody terms with the mother of his oldest two.

But one child he will most likely see grow up only from a distance, through pictures.

“And that’s OK. I turned it all over to God. I know He will restore my relationships with my kids,” Davis says. “I just have to wait.”

As he talks about the waiting, the past, the future, Davis shifts from sitting to lounging to sitting on his black and turquoise couch.

He stands and smokes, gets a drink from the refrigerator, opening the door to reveal row upon row of Sobe bottled drinks, arranged by flavor, standing at perfect attention like soldiers.

“Oh, wait,” he exclaims and walks quickly to the bedroom. He returns with a New Balance shoe box.

In the box are pictures from his childhood. Faded colors, with a yellow patina, show young Edward standing on a concrete stoop in a cowboy hat, holding a toy guitar. Another depicts him bent over a non-functioning swamp cooler, a hose in one hand, ready to “fix” it.

“I was always wanting to fix things,” he said.

When he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in middle school, Ritalin was supposed to fix him.

He sold the pills to his classmates instead.

At 12, Davis began using marijuana.

Just where does a 12-year-old get pot?

“I bought it from my friends at school,” he says, grinning like a bad kid.

He shrugs, indicating that it was a silly question in the first place. And an obvious answer.

After running the gamut of Ritalin, Wellbutrin, Zoloft and their contemporaries, Davis said he found only one thing helped control his ADHD — marijuana.

He would smoke as he got ready for school and made it through the day able to concentrate.

Through high school, the Peralta native had a few brushes with the law, ending up on probation. But because he was still a minor, Davis never got in serious trouble.

After graduation, he started using meth and, as a legally culpable adult, when he was arrested with $1,000 in cash and just enough meth in his pocket, Davis was looking at trafficking charges. He was put on probation again.

He tried cocaine for a while, but admits that the habit became too expensive.

“I was going through a quarter gram to an eight ball a day,” he said. “So …”

Meth was cheaper and easy to come by.

“Addiction took a lot of years from me,” Davis said.

During those years, in 2005, his first child was born. Since she was born addicted to the meth her mother was using, the baby was given to Davis.

“I was using, but they couldn’t tell,” he said, not proud, just stating a fact.

Another fact was that even though his baby was born addicted, neither Davis nor his girlfriend stopped using. They had another baby, a boy, the following year.

“I don’t know. We had this little family, you know? Things were … OK,” he says, trying to describe the contradiction.

Things were “OK” until late in 2009. Davis was doing 90 days in jail for a probation violation and his girlfriend had dropped the kids off at her mother’s home. She promptly took them to the nearest Children, Youth and Families Department office.

As soon as he was released, he petitioned the courts for custody and got it. Davis hustled to make connections with various agencies to get help securing a three bedroom house for him and the kids in Albuquerque.

“I was two weeks away from moving in when the judge reversed the decision,” he said.

Sitting alone in an empty house, staring at a picture of his children on the wall, with two bedrooms ready and waiting for them, Davis went over the edge.

“I just lost it,” he said. He started shooting meth. “I had nothing.”

For the next year, Davis was on the move — living in the open, sleeping under bridges, his whole life in two back packs.

He walked around Albuquerque and Los Lunas, taking the train back and forth between the two.

By the time December 2010 rolled around, he knew he couldn’t keep going. He got high one last time on a speedball of meth and heroine.

“I was walking across the bridge in Belen, nodding out. I was so tired of it all. I was going to go to the bondsman’s office and show him my arm and say, ‘Look I violated my probation. Put me away,’” Davis said.

He got on the train headed for Los Lunas, but nodded off. Davis woke up in Albuquerque and decided to walk to his cousin’s house.

“I got there, but she wasn’t around, so I went in and laid down on the floor,” he said. “A friend of hers was there and I could kind of hear him talking. He called her and I could hear him say, ‘Hey, I think your cousin’s dead on your floor.’”

Davis wasn’t dead, but he was done with the drugs. He stopped using cold turkey.

Due to go to prison the next month, Davis said he spent the next 30 days having fun with his cousin, drinking and going to clubs.

When he stood in front of the judge on Jan. 19, 2011, Davis was mostly sober. He spent his first two days incarcerated hungover. Eventually, he was transferred to the men’s prison in Roswell. It was there he learned to push all his emotions down and put on a tough facade.

Davis has pictures of that part of his past as well — the pictures show him standing between hard men dressed in prison orange. His head is shaved and his eyes are flat.

“To show emotion there was to be weak. If you were weak, you got hurt,” he said. “I was locked down emotionally.”

But not all the emotions could be contained. Dreaming of that time in his life when things were “OK,” Davis woke up on his top bunk, clutching a blanket to him — a surrogate for his imagined daughter — sobbing.

Remembering that breaking point, Davis sits still for the first time, tears rolling down his face. The memory of realizing that things had to change, that his children had to be a part of his life, seem to press him down, holding him against the sofa.

“I don’t know if it was God or what, but I said to myself, ‘That’s it.’”

He earned his GED while in prison and after his release, entered the New Mexico Men’s Recovery Academy in Los Lunas. He completed the six-month program last month.

“I didn’t think I needed that kind of thing, but I know now, I couldn’t have gone right back onto the streets,” he says.

Davis says he decided to enroll in college so he can show his kids the importance of being educated and to be of some help to them in the future.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t have much of a future left,” he said. “But I can help them.”

One of his professors at UNM-VC might disagree with Davis’ assessment that he has nothing left to give.

“He wants this so much. He shows up for class early — so early, I have to tell him to leave sometimes,” said Nanci Nielson with a laugh.

Nielson is part of the campus’ TRIO program that helps first-generation college students get a handle on the college experience. She also teaches a course called First Year Experience, which Davis is taking this semester.

“Edward is such a motivator,” she said. “He has such a story and people really identify with that.”

Looking back at the time in his life that can euphemistically be described as troubled, Davis says he could see himself leading the life he did.

“I don’t know, yeah, I kind of expected this,” he said.

Wondering how his family thought he would turn out, he calls his grandmother, his Nana.

“Hey Nana. When I was a kid, did you think I’d grow up to be in so much trouble?”

Without a pause she says, “No, oh no.”

“But I sold drugs out of your yard for who knows how many years,” Davis responds incredulously, grinning that bad kid smile.

The response is one of love and hope that can only come from a grandmother.

“Yeah, but you stopped.”


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.