Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It Is Over--A Free Man

4:00 AM. So silent. The energy is peaceful. No cars are driving by the window. I am sitting with the shutters open in the dark. A green traffic light never changes in the background of my peripheral vision. Every few minutes a jet quietly floats overhead as it begins its descent into LAX while the heater whispers in warm air behind me.
I am not sleepy. Just very reflective. At the same time I am planning. I can plan now. My life is once again my own.
On March 18, I walked into the Criminal Courts Building (CCB for those who are more familiar with it than they would like to be). The hearing had been postponed on three occasions but this time all parties were present.
My Attorney spoke and he recited the team effort of private attorneys, public officials and police officers that assisted me along the way. It was a verbal parade of un sung heroes for whom I owe a debt that can never be repaid. Two motions were on the table—reduce the felony to a misdemeanor and end probation early.
The DA spoke. I received accolades that I could not believe were used to describe me. A little less than three years ago, the same person wanted me behind bars, fighting vigorously to keep me away from my family. She recounted the complete timeline of my Skid Row experience and as she did so I felt each stage of time, and the texture of my emotions that corresponded to that time. Sometimes I felt the pain. At other moments I merely remembered it. The DA was asked by the judge whether or not she agreed that the motion by my attorney that the felony be reduced to a misdemeanor be granted. She agreed.
The judge looked at me. He had heard the various versions of the success stories that were shared and he added to it. We had gotten to know each other during each delay as the previous commissioner had been appointed to a judgeship in another courtroom. He told me to come back and visit him and let him know how my life was coming along. Both motions were granted. I was no longer a felon in the eyes of the legal system. Probation was lifted. My attorney will file for expungement shortly. When he finished there was an eruption of applause from the courtroom. I turned to face the roar and saw that every seat was filled with smiling faces. It was a very special moment. I was a free man.
I walked out of the building in a blissful, dreamy state. Suddenly it hit me that I did not have to go in there again. It also hit me that I was free for the first time in my life. Sure it was not until three years ago that I had any record but I lost my freedom when I made the decision to experiment with drugs and embarked on a lifestyle of recreational consumption, or so I thought. I was dependent on those drugs. I was not guilty of the crime charged but I was guilty of making bad decisions and exercising a behavior that was destructive and put me in the position for Murphy’s Law to happen.
Since January 1 I have been back in the family house taking care of my mother and enjoying every bit of it. I have thought of this phase of my life that has ended. The lessons learned from it will be nothing compared to what I will learn from it as each day comes and goes.
For years I missed out on much of life smoking the time away in one room or another , alone or with others who chose the same form of self destruction. Now, I try to live it like there is no tomorrow and attempt to do something different and new every day.
This weekend, after the burden was lifted, I relaxed for the first time in years. I drove to Venice Beach, had lunch,breathed the fresh air and felt the crisp wind beating against my face. It was wonderful. I was alive and living life.