Here is an excerpt from the new novel, Detroit Muscle, author Jeff Vande Zande. He tells the story of Robby Cooper, an OxyContin addict in early recovery. His ex-girlfriend is carrying his child, but wants nothing to do with him. He has no job and no prospects for finding one.
As Robby struggles to jump-start his life on the crumbling streets of Detroit, his grandfather Otto asks Robby to drive him to northern Michigan under the guise of a brief fly-fishing trip. However, the stops that Otto asks Robby to make along the way begin to span across decades, shedding light on the darker parts of his family’s history and the demons they’ve each battled. The further north they travel, the closer Robby and Otto get to their interwoven, intangible truths.
For this blog post, Addicaid tracked down fictional Robby Cooper and asked him a question that is often asked: How did you get clean?
Robby offered this as a response:
First of all, let me tell you, I don’t really like to write, so this isn’t easy for me. I like writing lyrics or whatever, but this kind of stuff isn’t my thing. When I was in rehab and later working with a counselor, everyone was always trying to get me to write. Like keep a journal or whatever, but that really didn’t do much for me. My counselor did have me write a list of daily accomplishments, and that did help, but that was just a list. Like I might write, “Fought through a tough craving,” or “Got moved up to painter’s wages,” but I didn’t write anything long like this.
And, it doesn’t help that Van (that’s what Vande Zande calls himself. Van. Probably a mid-life crisis thing. Like that long hair of his. Come on. I mean, doesn’t help, dude. Everybody can see you’re losing your hair. Time to go Bruce Willis on that sh…stuff.) See, that’s another thing, Van told me to keep it clean. Says I swear too much and that might be off putting to people, might keep them from buying the book. That guy. I mean, it’s all about his book. He said not to say anything that would give away the ending, so here I am trying to write and yet I gotta watch everything I say. This is really bullsh … bull crap.
So, I’m not really able to say much of what’s going on in my life right now. Van says some people have asked about a sequel. He says he’s thinking about it, and he has to keep his options open. He says he’s not really writing anything right now. He’s got no ideas, so he says it’s all about marketing the book. Whatever. I don’t even get it. I’m not much of a reader, either, so this fiction stuff is all lost on me.
But, so yeah, I got clean. I got off the Cotton. When everything went down, it was really bad. I was a mess. I was still living with my mom, and somehow I was able to hide it from her. I mean, she must have suspected something. She was always trying to talk to me. Wanted me to see a counselor about depression. I could usually keep her off my back by bringing home application stuff from the local community college.
I had her believing that I had a plan to go to school. I was saving up, I told her. That’s why I kept selling all of my stuff. That’s why I couldn’t go to a therapist, because I was putting in as much overtime as I could with Ty. Ty is this guy I worked for who owned an exterior painting company. Mainly we worked on townhouse complexes. It’s got a limited season, especially in Michigan, so we worked long hours. I told my mom that’s why I looked like hell. Too much overtime.
Even with the overtime and selling off my stuff, I couldn’t keep up with my habit. Cotton ain’t cheap, especially not the way I was going through it. So I got in over my head. Really over my head. I can’t really go into it because it’s all in the book, and baldy would have my ass if I go into too much. Let’s just say I needed money in a hurry. So, one night I went to Ty’s business. I mean, the guy had given me keys. Keys! Me. He must have had no clue. I’d get up early most mornings. Hell, I didn’t sleep most nights. I was trying everything to make the nod last.
Parachuting didn’t really drag things out for me like it does some people, like the time release was still in play with me or whatever. I felt nothing with parachuting. So, I’d snort and feel pretty good and then sleep… but then I’d be up by three or four. So, around six, I’d go in and open up the storage garage and get all the equipment together.
Ty didn’t like leaving the equipment on work sites because he worried people would steal it. So, we lugged it back to storage at the end of every day. What was that word? Ironic. Van called it ironic because with me having those keys and then getting really desperate, I went and stole all of Ty’s stuff. I guess I’m not much of a thief because before I could even come close to unloading it, I was nailed by the cops.
My record up until then was really clean, and then during all of it my habit came out, and the judge ordered rehab. Rehab or jail, so I went for rehab. In my head, my plan was simple. Get through the rehab, get out, and get back to getting high. I really didn’t know what I was in for. Detoxing from the Cotton? I’d say it was hell, but that’s not big enough. Hell should be a longer word. Most of the hell was in jail.
They didn’t really do anything for me except have me by myself for a few days. I had it all. Vomiting. My guts felt like Mike Tyson had been working my body like a heavy bag. I was sweating. Anxious as a mother fu… just super anxious. I evened out a bit for the trial and sat through that as best I could.
I don’t really remember much. It got better when they got me down to Florida. I was a wreck still. Started having convulsions, but they got me on Clonadine and eased me down. Thank God for my mom. There were some free options in Michigan, some sober living homes, but Mom wanted to spring for the best. Her insurance didn’t cover everything, and I know she forked out a lot of dough. I didn’t even thank her. I gotta do that. I do.
Detroit Muscle journeys the maps that are those we love while navigating addiction, recovery, forgiveness, and, finally, redemption. With precise dialogue and unflinching honesty, this novel places the reader alongside Robby as he treks between the regrets of his past and the dreams for his future.
A story of hope, humanity, flawed characters and the people that love them despite their mistakes, Vande Zande reminds us that maps can only be charted after the path has first been journeyed. Any person that has ever felt lost, or as though they are on the wrong road, will find strength in the powerful message that Detroit Muscle delivers.
[by Jeff Vande Zande]