Kimberly Smith

Kimberly Smith
KIDS of Bergen County. Hackensack New Jersey
February 25, 1988- August 3, 1990

Before I went into KIDS I had done Pot & alcohol. According to KIDS terms, my drug list was something like this: Alcohol, pot, hash, nyquil, ether, scotch-guard, and I abused tylenol. The hash I THINK I did once. Not sure. Nyquil I used to drink a swig to go to sleep quicker once in a while. The ether and the scotch guard are really the same thing, and I think I did them twice. And the tylenol, I pulled an attention stunt and took a whole bottle “trying to kill myself” and it gave me a stomach ache.

So, I was on a set-back from 3rd phase (back on 1st) for a few weeks. I was already there for 2 years at this point and had only made 2nd phase once after 18 months and 3rd phase a few months after that. I “spoke to” a druggie friend in school, told her I was late for class and couldn’t talk to her. I was proud of that move and bragged about it in 3-5 Rap. I got told my program was fucked up because I didn’t tell this druggie friend that I was straight and I must not be proud of it and I needed to THINK about that! 

 I was at a point where I just figured this was my life and I had to accept that I was a lifer 1st phaser. I couldn’t do anything right, I never had some crazy spiritual awakening or life changing realization that was going to make me “staff pet” and move me up on my phases. I was going to be here for years. I was exhausted mentally emotionally and physically and decided to sit back in my chair and not participate. I needed a nap…lol. I sat this way for a few weeks. 

It was an open meeting night and I obviously wasn’t earning anything so I kicked back pretty comfy in my blue chair just waiting for this shit to be over so we could go the fuck home and sleep. Someone on the guys’ side was graduating that night. Newton and the boy stood in between us and the parents. Their backs towards us.  Same as always.  Newton gave his usual graduation speech (that I used to know by heart) as everyone sat in awe. I don’t remember the graduation speech verbatim, but I’m sure if I heard it start, it would come back to me. It was something about completing the first step into the journey ahead…and with the help of their group, and working their 8 steps, they would stay clean and sober…and how the group will always be there if they ever need help in the future…etc etc etc. ugh. Chills.

Tonight’s speech sounded different to me. Maybe because I wasn’t participating? It sounded different. It sounded like God giving a sermon and letting one of his sheep go into the world!!! This guy thinks he’s God!!!  This graduation speech that I hear regularly sounded so creepy. We are all his followers. We are doing whatever this man says. This one man rules our every move or we’re ostracized and never talked about again. Dead. We were all robots. Parents and all. Something is NOT right here.

This scared the living shit out of me. I want to live a LIFE! I don’t want to be under this guy’s thumb for the rest of my life!! He’s CRAZY! He thinks he is going to conquer the world!! He’s like Hitler! He’s an abusive, power hungry freak and I need to get the fuck out of here. Quickly. Before my brain turns to mush again.

So, I planned. And planned. And planned. All while motivating, participating, talking about my past, sharing realizations I had made of things I did wrong on my first phases that I won’t do again, working my program and earning things and making them believe that I believe it. Lying the whole time. Planning a cop-out the whole time. Scared shitless that these LIES might start to show on my face. What if I get bags? Dark circles? What if my face breaks out?? They’ll KNOW I’m lying and planning this and I’ll have to own it up. I’ll be on 1st phase again for another fucking year or two. But I have to give it a shot. Other people have done it. Maybe I can too. The dark circles, bags and breakouts never came. My face was the clearest it had been the whole time I was in there.

Night Rap. I had put thru COC to go home. Staff calls on me in the Now Part of Rap. I have to state my case as to why I should be allowed and trusted to go back home tonight. I speak. Confidently. At the end of my speech I ask if I can go home. (Heart in my fucking throat right now). **longest pause in my life** And Staff says, “We’ll see”…. And I sit. (Heart now at the pit of my stomach) I was caught. They knew something. I slipped up somewhere. Did I talk in my sleep? What the fuck could they know? Going over EVERYTHING in my head up until and while we were in line for Home Situations. An oldcomer holding onto my belt loop, a smelly newcomer ponytail in my face. Staff comes out of the office and reads Home Situations. My name was announced as going HOME with 2 newcomers!!!  THANK GOD! But don’t show TOO much excitement! They’ll catch on. Be excited and proud and confident. Go get these two newcomers and their stuff and get back in line. Home.

I desperately wanted to go that night. I wanted to run so fast to the end of the earth. I couldn’t. I was so scared. I DO NOT want to come back up center aisle!!! And the Newcomers. I had heard kids in group talk about their Oldcomer copping out on them. Some Newcomers were devastated and had to share about it in group over and over! It was a traumatic experience to some of them and I honestly didn’t want to put anyone through that. I’m not going to be responsible for anyone having to deal with or share any feelings. I’ll just disappear. 

There were some graduates on refreshers with newcomers that had to host out with other phasers because their houses weren’t Newcomer Proofed anymore. I put through COC to have a host sister. It’ll prove I’m not lying about stuff and I’m not being a kiss-ass anymore. Those were my main character defects I worked on my entire program. I get my host sister.

Somehow, I stole someone’s Gap jeans I liked and got them along with a shirt and shoes into the MI Bag before it got locked in the closet. It was a Monday or a Friday. The next morning as the Newcomers and my host sister were getting dressed, I stuffed the MI Bag into a hamper of dirty clothes and asked my host sister to watch the newcomers so I could go help my parents and do some laundry. She agreed. Ok. Newcomers are safe and occupied.

 I go through the kitchen and am greeted by my parents and tell them I’m going downstairs to do some laundry to help them out. Ironically, this was the same exact way I would get out of my house and runaway in my past, but they didn’t seem to put that together.  I go to the basement, start the washing machine to make some noise, open the basement window, throw out the MI Bag with the clothes in it, look around outside of the window, climb out of the window faster than I ever had, and RUN!  

In my pajamas, barefoot, with a purple back pack at 6:30 or 7am….running. Down my street to the dead end, jump a fence, run through someone’s yard, cross that street, run through another two yards, (not looking back once…I didn’t want to see if anyone was about to grab me)…I run up and down side streets to get to the next town. Maybe I’ll run into someone I know there. I ran almost 4 miles. Crossing streets was scary. I HAD to look. I HAD to make sure certain cars weren’t around. I had memorized the cars of many of the parents in the program. Crazy what we are observant of when we have nothing else to do. 

I stop at a newsstand/bodega type place to catch my breath and someone I know from middle school walks out!! I stopped him immediately, said I had just gotten back into town and was trying to find Lisa (my best druggie friend). He said they moved down the shore. (Heart in the pit of my stomach again) What do I do now? Where do I go? Who can I call? HOW can I call? I walk. Hiding behind people’s trees and cars and shrubs the whole way, watching every single car that goes by, READY to run my ass off if I see ANYTHING familiar to the program.

I get to another town, stop in a gas station bathroom and change my clothes into the ones I had stolen. I still look like a freak though. Fluorescent tan. Scars. No makeup. Crazy fucked up bangs. Insane. I go into the luncheonette next door and walk around for a minute. There’s a dollar on the floor. I need this dollar. I can make PHONE CALLS if I have this dollar. But wait. I’m a cop-out. This will be stealing and lying. This will be my first step back into being a druggie. The first unmanageable. No its not. I step on it, slide it over and bend down to get it. I asked the cashier for change and found a pay phone. I remembered a bunch of numbers surprisingly, but had to figure out who I could call that MIGHT NOT send me back. Numbers are disconnected. Changed. Nobody’s answering. This can’t be happening. 

I walk. Around 4 towns in Bergen County, NJ on a beautiful, end of summer day. August 3rd 1990. I was 18. I had no food. Nothing to drink. For 10 hours. Stopping at pay phones along the way and trying numbers. Still nothing. How is this possible? I GOT OUT! I got out and can’t find ANYONE to help me?  Maybe this IS my life. Maybe my life IS those unmanageables we write in our MI’s. Maybe I AM going to go back to drugs, have nobody, live on the streets, become a prostitute, get AIDS and die. 

I’m walking down a main road in my hometown at this point. Washington Ave. in Bergenfield. And the Baskin Robbins was in Foster Village…a shopping center in Bergenfield.Taking a serious risk. My step-dad’s car pulls up next to me. He rolls down the window and asks me to get in. No. He says mommy wants to talk to me. No way. He says, “I’m not going to take you back there.”  Yes you will. “Kim, I wouldn’t lie to you.”  You lied to me to get me in that place; you would lie to me to get me BACK THERE! If Mommy wants to talk to me, you can go get her and meet me in this Baskin Robbins. 

With that he drove away. I walked over to the Baskin Robbins which was in a strip mall setting. I scoped it out. Made sure there was a back door I had access to from the inside and where it led. Planned my escape route if I felt it was a trap. I crouched down outside in some bushes watching every single car enter and exit the parking lot. I had a clear view of the door to the Baskin Robbins and watched every single person enter and exit that door. 

My parent’s car pulled in. I watched as they walked inside. I stayed outside in the bushes for another minute or so making sure no other familiar cars or people were coming in. Like some sort of spy movie. I took the risk and went inside. I sat down at a table with them. Eyes on the front door behind them and nothing behind me but the back door and the bathroom. We talked.

I explained I wasn’t leaving to do drugs. I wanted to stay sober. I wanted to do SOMETHING for my life besides graduating a drug rehab by the time I was 20 years old! I want to accomplish things! I want a job! I want to drive a car! Is being sober all that bad? NO! I’ll stay sober! I just can’t go back there anymore. It’s crazy in there. And not THAT far into the conversation then a set of program parents walk in. I scream something, grab my back pack and I’m heading out the back door. They’re yelling back at me that it was a coincidence and they were out for a walk and decided to get ice cream. So, my parents agreed to meet me at the Hot Dog Restaurant across the street and get me some food. 

We talked about rules. They said they’d be willing to take me back, but there were going to be rules. HA! I’ll take ‘em.  They have only a small idea of the rules we had in there. 

The other parents walked in again. My heart is racing. I could easily be grabbed by the 4 of them. My step-dad used to be one of the dads that snatched kids up that copped out. He gave a kid a black eye in the process once. I would totally be outnumbered. These other parents have a daughter on staff. They begged me to talk to her. I said I would on the phone. They used the pay phone and called the building. They talked for a few minutes and came back to me and said their daughter really wants to talk to me, and help me through this, but I’d have to go down to the building. No way. Not happening. At this point, I think my parents actually got them to leave so we could continue our conversation. THIS is really happening.

The next thing I recall getting back to my house. Without newcomers. Without anyone. Holy shit.

I went up to my room as my mom made the call to the building telling them we wouldn’t be coming back. I was stunned. I was relieved. I was exhausted. I was so happy. But, without fail, I look out the window and there’s 2 familiar cars pulling up with 3 parents getting out. I was trapped. I was in my room. The windows are fucking locked. I have nothing to even defend myself with. The room is empty except for mattresses. Two of the parents are downstairs trying to talk some sense into my parents and I hear the footsteps of the third coming up the stairs. 

I sat on my mattress leaned up against my wall very calmly. “Dad” came in and sat down next to me. “What are you going to do?” I explained to him the same thing as I explained to my parents. I wasn’t leaving to do drugs. I wanted to stay sober. I wanted to do SOMETHING for my life besides graduating a drug rehab by the time I was 20 years old!  “You going to stay straight?” Yes! I have no intention of getting high! He hugged me, and said, “You can do this.” And walked out of my room, downstairs, and they all left. Was it over? Was it really over? Am I really going to have a normal life? Am I dreaming? Please don’t let me wake up if I am.

Life was WEIRD the first month out! I was a baby in society. My step-dad brought me to an AA meeting that night. It was a men’s meeting. He was pretty well-known and most men there already knew the story about KIDS. I was welcomed with open arms. I felt like a fish in a fish bowl though. People coming up, “How are you?” and “Are you ok?”. It was frightening almost. That night I wrote out goals for the next day. While I wasn’t going to do a full MI, I needed things to accomplish tomorrow. Then I went to bed on my mattress on the floor in the empty room. It was so quiet. I walked downtown to Motor Vehicles the next day to find out about getting my license. I left and ran into my “druggie boyfriend” I was scared to death. Thought if I spoke to him, I was going back to drugs. But I’m a normal person in society now…I have to act normal, so he acknowledged me and I responded. He walked me home, we talked, I found out HE was in AA!! He introduced me to a whole new crowd of friends and I had a very awesome “roll out” into the real world. I got a job waiting tables and a local diner, I got my license, I got my GED. Boom. Normalcy.