This post is part of a series of guest posts on GPS by the graduate students in my Psychopathology course. As part of their work for the course, each student had to demonstrate mastery of the skill of “Educating the Public about Mental Health.” To that end, each student has to prepare two 1,000ish word posts on a particular class of mental disorders.
A Sad but Understandable Journey by Josh McDowell
Desom Orphine is a twice-convicted drug dealer who is now facing first-degree murder charges for reportedly killing a rival dealer and two other members of his gang. Facing three counts of first-degree murder and a third conviction, Desom is looking at a life-sentence if the death penalty is taken off the table. A news reporter became interested in how a person could become a murderer and spend years in the drug trade even after being convicted twice previously, in addition to going through a substance abuse treatment center at the age of 17. The story told by the inmate was filled with chilling detail and sounds unbelievable to some, but is all too familiar to others.
Exact details about Desom’s infancy are largely shrouded in unknowns. Thanks to a close friend of Desom’s grandmother, whom was a neighbor within the same apartment complex Desom lived in during infancy, some history of early development was told to Desom later in life. The neighbor recalls going to Desom’s apartment to visit and hearing his cries from the crib in the other room. Neither parent got up to check on the baby and showed little concern. The neighbor went to check and noticed a full diaper and went to change the baby, at that time she also saw a terrible rash indicating the baby hadn’t been changed regularly. When she asked if the baby had been fed anytime recently, the parents responded that once they came down off their high they will. They did not want to mess with the baby when they were stoned.
The possibility of an insecure-avoidant attachment style seems highly likely based off how often the neighbor reported such occurrences. The parents were neglectful most of the time and seemed not to care much about the baby crying in the other room. Even picking the child up did not seem to help when the crying was occurring. Eventually, when she went over to visit, the baby was no longer crying constantly but would just lay there most of the time almost unresponsive.
Desom recalls being around the age of five and seeing a tremendous amount of marijuana and pipes around the house. One day, he made the mistake of throwing the weed out of the window, saying the grass needed to go back out with it’s friends. Desom could not recall all of what happened when his father found out, but he does recall the beating being severe enough he could not go to school for the next few days, since the teachers would ask too many questions.
Desom remembered being hungry constantly while young, having to avoid his father passed out in the living room and mother strung out on drugs in the bedroom. Walking on eggshells does not quite do justice for those early years around five to eight, because most of the time reality was more like walking on glass. Everyway he turned if he woke dad up there would be a beating, mom would come out high and yelling at the top of her lungs at Desom and his dad, and the worst was going to school and having to keep all the secrets about home to himself; dad would give him a “real beating” if he told and the “bad” policemen would come and take mom and dad to jail, leaving Desom all alone.
Middle Childhood and Adolescence
By the age of 10, Desom’s dad had died in a vehicle accident. Quickly his mother began taking more drugs and there was no way to keep up with a child, drug habit, and rent simultaneously. They were kicked out of the apartment and began the process of moving back and forth constantly between various boyfriends’ homes and apartment evictions. None of the boyfriends were interested in taking care of a child, so Desom was seen as a burden to most households and treated as such. By the age of thirteen, he was extremely malnourished and had broken three bones, none by accident but all reported as accidents to the hospital staff. The mother finally gained stability at a job as a waitress at a place where she was sleeping with the already married manager. Each day coming home from school, Desom would often find his mother passed out on the couch with empty bottles and a half smoked joint on the table.
The first day Desom tried weed was on one such occasion. He remembered a time when D.A.R.E. came to the school and talked about drugs, but all that day did was make the drugs look cool. All he remembered was how there was a cool dog and a cop talked about all of these different drugs and what they could do to you. With little regard to what they said in D.A.R.E. about the negative impact of drugs, he took one puff and coughed tremendously afterwards, enough to wake his mother. She slapped him for waking her, and when he showed her the B he made on the test that day she said who cares and went to the bedroom to take a nap.
As time went on, school became unimportant to Desom, so he dropped out, along with some other friends he would hang out with. He would get high with them and go to parties with a lot of alcohol on occasions. To make money to pay for the marijuana, he started selling for one of his friends who was a dealer, not a lot just enough to get a few grams worth each week to smoke himself. At a party, one of his friends introduced him to Percocet, which was not a huge leap from weed and alcohol, and gave him a nice euphoric feel.
At the age of sixteen, Desom made the mistake of getting in the wrong car with a friend, and when those red and blue lights were behind him he knew he was going to jail. The judge was understanding of his situation and gave him the option to go to juvenile detention center or to a substance abuse center for teens. Desom chose the rehab center. Unforunately, the twelve-step program they had at the center did not work for him though, and he ended up spending time in juvie. That’s where he met some guys that taught him all about the drug trade and had him start as a small time dealer in his neighborhood when he got out. To get started he would take the money from others or steal and turn the money into drugs. After that, there was just a lot of selling and some jail time when he would get caught by the cops. After that first felony, he knew he was not going to find a job somewhere, especially one that paid better than selling drugs, so he stuck to what he knew. The next thing he knew he was with some friends taking care of some guys on his turf and ended up where he is today.
The Journey to Substance Use
During his time awaiting trial, Desom decided to write about his life. He wrote the below poem one day to help others understand how he made it to where he is now.
Life wasn’t always filled with this abuse,
I wish it was, maybe than it would be my excuse.
In the beginning it wasn’t good or easy,
But now it’s led to this bone shuttering misery.
It all started when daddy had to go and die,
I remember hearing mommy cry,
Day after day, night after night.
Then one night mommy cried no more,
She dove into the bottle and fell face to the floor.
At first there was one guy, then two, then three,
Mommy was too plastered to keep them away from me.
The first was nice and said he’d be the new daddy,
Only two days of him, and the next only called me fatty,
When the next came along, he wasn’t chatty.
Instead he would reach and backslap mommy.
It didn’t take long before he was hitting me.
This life I’ve had isn’t my excuse,
It’s simply the cycle of my abuse.
As time went on, so did the abuse.
I told my mom, but they all had an excuse.
So I joined a friend and took a hit,
Looking back that was it.
Do you know what it was like?
To feel my lips against that pipe,
You know how it is to be set free?
To let your mind at ease as you smoke that weed.
That’s not quite all, not just yet.
I feel the fall, from that Percocet.
I feel the warmth come over my skin
That feeling was cozy, until it ends.
Once again, reality sets in.
The high I get is my excuse,
It’s simply the cycle of abuse.
Now with every hit and every use,
My body calms and I feel loose.
What happens now that it doesn’t feel the same?
I need something more to take away the pain.
I get the phone and call a friend.
He’s got nothing but what about heroin?
It’s not like me to go this hard,
But I take the syringe with disregard.
Serenity sets in as the world feels beautiful.
Who knew life could be this wonderful?
So let’s heat the spoon and start again,
It’s almost noon, my come down began.
Why was it easy to start this quick?
Every time I stop, sickness comes quick.
I’m chasing that dope, and I can’t quit.
I steal and kill to get my excuse,
It’s simply the cycle of abuse.