Excerpt from: Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead: The Frank Meeink Story as Told to Jody M.
By Frank Meeink
January 15, 2011
I watched a tear roll down Valerie’s face. She said nothing for the longest time, then she stepped in close and whispered, “I lost my husband to drugs.”
I didn’t respond.
“My parents are in Iowa now,” she reminded me. She hesitated a long time before she said, “I have no reason to stay here.”
She pulled an enormous wad of cash out of her purse.
“This is your half of what we had.” She shoved the money into the pocket of my coat, then she walked away.
I shot every dime of that nest egg into my veins within a month. It wasn’t enough to dull the pain of losing Valerie.
Nothing short of death could dull that pain. But I tried. I was shooting up in the bathroom one afternoon when the resident crackheads called me downstairs.
“Frankie! We need you.”
“Later,” I slurred as the heroin surged through me.
They had to wait a few minutes, until the first wave of the high passed over me, until I could manage to hold myself up against the wall and teeter down the stairs.
“What?” I asked, only it sounded more like “Whaaaaa?”
“You’re outta control, dude. We love you, but you’re losing it.”
“Dude, we’re sorry, but you can’t stay here no more.”
You have to be fucked up to have crackheads pull an intervention on you. They were smoking crack the whole time they were telling me how messed up I was and how they couldn’t handle watching me kill myself. I would’ve told them to go fuck themselves, but it would’ve come out sounding like gibberish.
I crawled up the stairs to get my stash out of the bathroom.
I looked at myself in the cracked mirror over the sink. If only I’d had a needle hanging out of my dick, I would’ve been a dead ringer for the corpse man.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” Tears poured down my face. “This ain’t who I am. This ain’t who I want to be. I swear to God I don’t want to live like this no more. I don’t want to fucking die like this.”
There was dead silence on the other end of the phone.
“I’m checking myself back into rehab. All I’m asking is one more chance. Just one. Wait for me. Please.”
“We’ll see,” Valerie said.
When I showed up at the Eagleville rehab center for the third time in less than two years, the staff skipped over most of the normal admission rigmarole. They waltzed me past potted plants and game tables in the common room, not bothering to give me the tour spiel again. They marched me straight to the Dual
Diagnosis Unit, which deals with alcoholic-addicts suffering from depression, and hooked me up with methadone.
I always entered rehab sincerely wanting to get clean. Then after a week or so, I’d pretty much get clean, clean enough to realize I couldn’t handle the idea of staying clean. Staying clean meant dealing with me, the me who disappeared when I was high or drunk. Staying clean meant living with the memories, con-
fronting the monsters, wallowing in the fucking misery. Staying clean meant being me, unprotected, forever.
During my third stay at Eagleville, I didn’t even manage to stay clean while I was still there. When the nurses weren’t looking,
I stole medications issued for other patients. Some of the dudes in the dualie unit were whacked out for real, regardless of booze and drugs. I didn’t know what they had wrong with them or what pills the docs prescribed for them, but anytime I could get my hands on one of those little plastic cups the nurses passed
out, I swallowed everything in it.
Of course, Valerie had no clue I was using inside the rehab center. That was the one place she thought she could trust me to stay clean, or at least trust the staff to keep me clean. For thirty days, she let her guard down. For thirty days, she stopped worrying. For thirty days, she tasted what it must feel like to be
married to someone who wasn’t an alcoholic-addict. Those thirty days gave her hope. False hope, but still hope. Valerie decided to wait for me. She decided not to leave our marriage so long as I would agree to leave Philadelphia with her. She thought if she could just get me away from the dealers in the Badlands
and the dealers on Second and Porter and the dealers in my family, I’d make it. We’d make it.
BARRY MORRISON CALLED TO ASK IF I’D BE WILLING to talk to some people on behalf of the ADL. “I don’t know,” I hesitated. “I ain’t ever given, like, a speech. I just talked to youse guys that one day.”
“And that’s all you need to do this time: just talk. Just share your story so others can learn from it. Will you do it?”
I thought about it for a few minutes and ﬁgured, how bad can it be? So I committed with, “Okay,” then after the fact asked, “So who am I talking to?”
“My daughter’s seventh-grade class.”
Barry drove me to the suburban school himself. The whole ride, I kept coaching myself, “They’re just little kids. Don’t cuss. Don’t cuss. Don’t cuss.” We walked into the classroom. The teacher had all the kids arranged in a circle. One little chair at the front was empty and waiting for me. “Oh, fuck!” I thought, as I wedged myself into the seat, “What in holy hell have I gotten myself into?” Then I reminded myself one more time, “Just don’t cuss.” It was my only goal for my ﬁrst public speech. Just don’t fucking cuss!
Cussing, as it turned out, wasn’t the challenge; crying was. I broke down sobbing minutes after I started, before I even got to the part where I joined up with the skinheads. I spilled my guts to those little kids for nearly an hour, and I bawled like a baby the whole damn time. They just stared at me. No one said a word; no one so much as coughed or squirmed around in their chairs. Not the kids. Not the teacher. Not even Barry Morrison.
I was a basket case the whole ride back to Philly. Barry kept trying to console me, saying I’d done a good job and it was his daughter’s class and the teacher knew it was going to be rough and the kids and their parents had all been warned about that beforehand, but nothing he said mattered. I’d blown it, and I knew I’d blown it, big-time blown it. It wasn’t just that I didn’t think I’d made my point, or even made any sense. I was worried I’d actually scarred those kids for life. Two dozen twelve year-olds just spent an hour locked up in a classroom watching my nut job Nazi ass have a complete mental breakdown. Getting my point across was the least of my worries; I was worried about getting bills in the mail for all their therapy sessions.
I stayed high for days trying to forget that God-awful experience. Not even Second and Porter had a drug that could block it out. So when Barry called me about a week later and asked me to stop by his oﬃce, I ﬁgured he wanted to tell me in person that I would never, ever again be speaking on behalf of the ADL, ever, under any circumstances, about any subject, ever.
“A package came here for you.” Barry handed me a large manilla envelope addressed, “Frank Meeink, c/o ADL.” I just stared at it. “It’s from the school you spoke at last week.”
I kept staring. The ﬁrst round of therapy bills? Grievances from the school board and the PTA? Hate mail from twelve year-olds?
“Open it,” Barry said.
The ﬁrst letter on the stack sounded like the kind of letter a teacher would make a kid write to a guest speaker who’d had a breakdown in front of a bunch of seventh-graders.
“Mr. Meeink, Thank you for talking to our class. You were brave to share your story.”
The second letter was about the same: “Mr. Meeink, Thank you for visiting us and talking about what happened to you.”
A few letters farther in, a few of the students wrote, “I’m going to try to be nicer to people from now on” and “I promise I won’t ever hate anybody.”
I remember thinking it was nice of the teacher to have at least some of the kids pretend they got my point.
Then I hit this one letter that changed everything: “Mr. Meeink, I bet you had a long, boring ride back to Philly.” That’s all it said. That’s exactly the kind of letter I would’ve chicken-scratched in seventh grade. That was the real deal. And if that was real, so were the others. Some of those kids had actually heard me through all the crying. My words had made a diﬀerence.
When I looked up from the stack of notes, I was crying again. Barry was beaming like a proud papa.
“I told you your story could help people,” he said. “A lot of people want to hear you speak, Frank. I just need you to tell me if you want to keep going.”
I did. Within just a couple of months, Barry and other members of the ADL team were driving me to speaking engagements all around Southeastern Pennsylvania. It was like therapy for me, only instead of lying on a couch, I stood on a stage.