It’s maybe 12:30 at night. I am high on OxyContin. My husband, Clay, and I are in our coldly decorated luxury condo, fighting viciously after a particularly tense and overpriced Christmas dinner with my mother at the Peninsula Hotel.
The marriage has been crumbling for a while. Clay has retreated into his work and I into my opiate addiction, but tonight, all of our hatred comes out of hiding to duke it out. I go out onto the balcony to smoke and try to calm down. Next thing I know, he’s right there, and we’re going at it mean and loud. I feel woozy, like I’m about to lose my balance. I can see the valet guys scuttling around below me, and I think, This is what a Jew gets for celebrating Christmas.
The fight moves back inside. More screaming. I shove him. We wrestle. He’s a big guy. Almost three hundred pounds. And I’m maybe 115 with premenstrual bloat, holding a fifth of scotch. Then something inside me snaps. I don’t have the best impulse control to begin with. The OxyContin took away what was left of it as well as making me unusually agitated. The marriage had become desolate and painful, and maybe on some level I just wanted to put it out of its fucking misery. I break away and stomp into the kitchen, grab a knife out of the knife block, and stomp back into the bedroom.
“I will gut you like a fish, you fat fuck,” I hear myself say.
“I’m calling the police,” he says. “You’re done.”
It was a game we’d played for a while now—me pushing him to extremes, him fighting back—and we were good at it. But tonight felt different. The ante was higher, the rage was deeper, and nobody was backing down.
“Yes, hello. My wife just pulled a knife on me,” he says into the phone. “She’s mentally ill and a drug addict.”
I don’t wait to hear any more. I snatch a bottle of Valium off the bedside table, grab my purse, and lock myself in the bathroom. I begin to panic. I pour out four pills and then shake out two more for good measure. If the police are coming for me, I need to be relaxed. Really fucking relaxed. I crush the pills with the handle of my electric toothbrush and cut thick lines with my credit card. I snort them quickly. My eyes water. Within minutes, that narcotic veil between me and reality will come down, and I’ll feel safe. Safer, anyway. “Okay,” I say. I run my finger under the running tap and stick it in my nostrils, wiping away any evidence. I catch my eyes in the mirror. They look glassy, feral, empty.
I bolt out of the bathroom, grab my car keys, and head for the elevator. Four cops come barreling around the corner of the hallway. I freeze.
The female officer among them approaches me and asks clinically for my version of the night’s events.
“He kneed me in the ribs,” I begin, trying to sound innocent, but my already deep voice is thick with anger and opioids, not the best quality for a wannabe damsel in distress. Also, I don’t feel very high, and I’m pissed about it.
The officer isn’t really listening, and it’s soon obvious to me that it doesn’t matter what I say; I am going to jail. I turn my head and see the other three officers down the hall talking with my husband. They are taking pictures of his neck and hands and writing things down. He holds up the knife I pulled. It is a large bread knife with a serrated blade and snubbed point. Whatever. It wouldn’t have done the job anyway.
Moments later, I am handcuffed. The handcuffs are tight and cold around my wrists.
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against—”
“Yeah, yeah. Law & Order is my favorite show. I know the fucking drill,” I say. The Valium is starting to kick in, and it’s making me mouthy.
I am put in the back of a cop car. The seat is hard plastic. They make them like that for easy cleanup in case arrestees puke, bleed, or shit themselves. I have never been in the back of a cop car. My bony ass is chafing on the rigid seat. My hands are cuffed so tightly that I can’t lean back so I am pitched forward. I stare into the glass divider. And then I start crying hysterically.
“This is bullshit!” I scream to the cops, tears streaming.
“Tell my partner,” the cop in the front says mechanically. I go silent and then decide to change my approach.
“Perhaps I was just jousting?” I say, trying to break him with humor. I am a professional comedian, after all. Maybe if I can get a laugh out of this guy, we can all forget about this and go home.
“Hello?” I tap on the glass with my forehead. He ignores me.
I switch tactics yet again.
“Fucking shit! I can’t believe this is happening. I am a nice Jewish girl from Beverly Hills. I graduated magna cum laude…” I shake my head violently. “I’m not a bad wife, I swear! I’m not crazy. I’m not a fucking criminal. I…” And then my words are just swallowed up by sobbing.
They take me to jail. It’s all a bit fuzzy because of the Oxy and Valium. It is surprisingly quiet in the West Hollywood police station that night. It’s Christmas, and it looks like only assholes like me get arrested on Christmas.
They take away my purse and shoes and give me some dirty tube socks with orange stripes to put on. My mug shot is taken, and I am fingerprinted. Maybe it’s shock; maybe it’s the drugs; but it all feels surreal. Like I’m just watching, anesthetized, as it all happens to somebody else.
I am given a wool blanket and thrown in a holding cell. I pace around the small, cold cell in my jail socks. Numb. There is a pay phone on the wall. It mocks me. Inside that pay phone is the answer to the ominous question: Who are your real friends? I am about to find out.
I take a deep breath and call a woman I know from AA, Trina. In fact, I had been Trina’s sponsor years ago. Back then, I’d been her guide, and she had been the newbie in the program. I’d been like her Sherpa, her priest, and her therapist all rolled up into one. I had just tried to offer her laughter, stability, unconditional love, things she’d been hard pressed to find in her own upbringing. And even though we’d kept in touch, casually, it felt like a lifetime ago.
Trina was fiercely independent, sensitive, loyal. She was also a bail bondswoman. And I needed both her empathy and her expertise right about now.
“Hi, Amy. Merry Christmas!” she answers cheerily. “How are you?”
“I’m in jail.”
Trina gets in touch with my mother and organizes my bail (10 percent of $50,000, which is a hefty $5,000) and springs me from the clink herself. Trina is a pretty, busty, forty-something ex–hard-core drug addict gangster girl who’s remade herself into a respectable businesswoman. She holds her cards close to her chest but her big, brown, doelike eyes reveal a lifetime of sadness and disappointment.
She takes me to the posh hotel in Beverly Hills where my mother is staying. My mom is visiting from Santa Fe, in town for the holiday festivities. I don’t think having her only child arrested for felony domestic assault with a deadly weapon was exactly what she wanted from Santa. Despite my mother’s feeble protests, I raid the mini bar, get shithoused on tiny bottles of vodka and sneak out to smoke cigarettes. Then I pass out for the next two days.
From My Fair Junkie: A Memoir of Getting Dirty and Staying Clean by Amy Dresner, published by Hachette. Copyright (c) 2018 by Amy Dresner