Smacked Hard in Ukiah

What in the name of all that is Ukiah, has happened to Ukiah? I’m stunned at its transformation, since being gone for the past 33 months.

At first I was surprised, but as each day progresses, I find myself sickened by its deterioration and obvious disregard for its cleanliness, as well as the absence of any pride, whatsoever. The homeless population has grown by exorbitant numbers, which I’m sorry for those that are suffering this fate, but really? However, the uncleanliness and disrepair that I continue to see on a daily basis, reaches beyond that of the homeless. If someone would have told me that this was the situation, I would never have believed them, ever.

It looks like skid row. The more I travel throughout Ukiah, the more I become aware of its complete loss of integrity. It’s actually unbelievable to me. Has Ukiah allowed itself to feel defeated and thrown in the towel? Because, it appears that they have. This is how I see it, every single day, from one end of town to the other. Trash everywhere. Burned out buildings. Empty stores, left in ruin. It’s heartbreaking.

The number of homeless, or I should say, the number of those choosing to live on the streets, which seems to have taken on a greater overall number than those that are actually “homeless,” is hard to believe. A lot are living on the streets because drugs have taken them there. They aren’t actually homeless, they just can’t, or they choose not to, “go home.” Drugs are their priority, over and above their families and the life they once knew. Heroin is running deep in the veins of those who could no longer afford the high cost of (opiates) pills. It’s cheaper, and apparently, more available. The strength of the addiction taking on a more evil face every day. It’s out of control and growing.

It’s not that it’s something “new” to this area, I’ve just never been “smacked” in the face with its presence, as I’ve been, since my return. I feel as though the city and county have given in to this migration, and are unable to fight the fight that is upon our town. I have never felt, in 40 years of living in Mendocino County, the pain and sadness that I feel since being back, and continue to feel, each time I drive through town. 

I stopped for gas this evening, and as I finished pumping my gas, a young man approached and said, “Can you help me out, I need to get some drugs, I’m sick.” 

It saddened me deeply, but I told him I couldn’t and got in my car, and watched him wander aimlessly hoping to find someone, anyone, who could “help him out.” No longer was it, I need gas, or, I’m broke down or hungry. 

Really? Is this the future of our home? Is this what we want to live with and in? Is this what we want our children to see and be frightened of on a daily basis? Or quite possibly get caught up in? Or God forbid, stolen and sold for drugs? At the rate this addicted population is growing and the need for their multiple fixes each day increases, it is no longer a matter of if, it most definitely is a matter of when.

This devil’s advocate is staring us in the face on a daily basis. Those stares at times, by those you would never suspect or believe would ever get caught up in the life of a heroin user. Along with their addiction comes the inevitable need to do whatever one needs to do in order to get well. And when panhandling for money becomes to difficult in fulfilling their needs, and recycling is no longer a convenient option, they will do whatever it takes to get that next fix, and I mean *whatever it takes*. With no thought at all as to the consequences of their actions, no matter how severe they could quite possibly be, they will get that next fix. All in the name of getting well enough in order to be able to successfully get the next one. 

The routine continues day after day, as the need increases and the will to fulfill that need becomes even stronger, the absence of (sincere) compassion and respect for life continues to diminish faster than the need to get well increases. It’s a vicious, vicious world of survival. 

I’ve had the unfortunate experience of seeing two individuals that Ive known since they were very young, that are now lost in this world. One that I would have never recognized, if I hadn’t been told who they were, after the fact. The other, that I still can’t believe has gotten lost on this road, or for that matter, even knew where this road was. Both with the ability to go home, but the pull of the addiction is far greater than the love and need of their children and the security they once knew. 

Now multiply these two scenarios by just the number of those that you “see” on the streets each day, and there are many more than that. The railroad tracks, the culverts, the dumpsters, empty buildings, places you would never believe that anyone would take up residency, are occupied. It’s a world in and of itself. This world breeds nothing positive. 

The best of people end up there, and are caught up in the web of deceit and self destruction, that they justify and accept as their way of life. They will look you in the eye and lie, with no concern for you or yours. They will laugh with you, spend time with you, do whatever they have to do to get what they want or to be able to take what they want in the end. And they will succeed, without you even being aware of their game, if you’re not aware of “the game.” That person that you may decide to hire for a few hours of much needed help at your ranch or business, or maybe to clean up your yard at home, that nice young man or woman that is “down on their luck.” and that you want to help out, unfortunately has taken on a whole deeper dimension today. Deeper than I ever would have thought would have taken hold in Ukiah. 

I know that we as human beings only do what we are allowed to do. We can blame this one or that one for what another may do to us, or what we may do to another, but the fact of the matter still remains, they only do to us, right, wrong, or indifferent, what we allow them to do, and we will do to another, right wrong or indifferent, only what they allow us to do. Are we allowing this to be our new normal? 

Are we prepared for the severe consequences that I guarantee will be the result of this normal? Are we ok with no longer feeling safe while running to the store at night? Are we feeling good about no longer having compassion for that person who claims to be “down on their luck”, knowing they have an option? Are we ok with watching a vast amount of our young people stumble around searching for “help” in order to score their next fix? 

The people I speak about, speak to, and speak with, are good people. They’ve gotten themselves caught up in a game that they cannot win. They will all say, they’ve “got it under control.” that there’s “nothing to worry about.” 

The fact of the matter is, there is no way to keep it under control, and there’s a lot to worry about. The heroin availability, addiction and eventual death that it leaves in its trail, is ruining first and foremost our children, and our brothers and sisters of the world. It use to be a closet, so to speak, drug. Now it’s an in your face, gotta have it, this is what I do, drug. It’s an addiction that grabs hold of people quicker and holds on tighter, and comes with a guarantee, that all that purchase once, will be back, again and again and again.

This is an epidemic that has spread faster in this area than most would believe. As hard as it may be for some to recognize or acknowledge, it’s happening within their own family. Please don’t ever say to yourself, and allow yourself to believe, “it would never happen in our family,” because it does. At the rate it has spread in the last 33 months, it’s coming to a theater near you, and I promise you it won’t be a movie you’ll like. 

I’m not sure what the answer is. Hell, I’m not even sure what the right question is half the time. What I do know, is what I know, and my greatest mantra in my continued sobriety from this devil’s grasp for the last 40 plus years is, “It’s easier to stay straight, than get straight.” This has been and continues to be my Godly advocate. I will never give up, and I will never throw in the towel, please don’t allow yourself or the leaders in this community to do so either.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with opiate addiction, always remember that pills (used and abused), like shopping for the best price, do and will eventually lead to heroin hell. If something doesn’t seem right, it most likely isn’t. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Seek professional help.

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