31. He Thoroughly Lost His Mind

He Thoroughly Lost His Mind

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. ‭‭

Proverbs‬ ‭13:20‬ ‭

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When Christmas time rolled around I took leave. Rather than fly home, I decided to spend my holiday season in California visiting my extended family. The many fond memories of Christmas Eve parties spent at Peggy’s house seemed to be a fitting relief at this time in my life, as I wanted to detach once again from my rocky start to second platoon. 

I also looked forward to visiting Austin. He too was still in California. I hadn’t seen him since the funeral. Austin though wasn’t at Nani and Pops’ house, any cousin’s place or out on his own. He was locked up in LA county jail. 

Austin’s high flying hopes of starting afresh in California never got off the ground. Originally driving down to help Jess and then join the Marine Corps, after neither of these two plans panned out, in 2006 he moved in with Peggy. Shortly thereafter he began work as a member of one of Best Buy’s Geek Squad. 

Once again though, he quickly found his way into a bad crowd. His new friend Jacob introduced him to a not-so-great guy named Tony, who introduced Austin to more weed, alcohol, and a new friend, cocaine.  At one point, Austin’s payday brought home only enough cash to bring his account to zero. Having spent all his money on the more exciting yet expensive white powder, Austin, along with Jacob and Tony devised a plan to obtain more.

They decided to swipe credit card numbers and run false transactions to pull cash. Jacob acquired the numbers while delivering pizzas to nice neighborhoods, Austin ran the fraudulent transactions behind the desk and Tony was the “customer.” Using his manager’s register code to misdirect authorities to him, the three of them performed around five thousand dollars in fraudulent transactions over several days. However, they neglected to account for one obvious factor: security cameras. When the footage revealed Austin, rather than Pete was using his code, Best Buy took swift action. 

For his crimes, Austin was sent to LA county jail over the month of November in 2006. He was given work release after that, where he stayed with aunt Jenny and uncle John. Austin couldn’t return to live with aunt Peggy and her husband at the time, Bob, because Bob worked as an LAPD officer and a rule forbade policemen from sharing the same roof with a convicted felon. With Jenny and Steve also unable to accommodate Austin’s stay long term, he decided to move in with Nani and Pops, about eight hours north to a small, peaceful, wooded town called Paradise.

When Nani and Pops graciously took their grandson in they connected him with their neighbor’s granddaughter, Whitney. Austin didn’t manage to fit in with Whitney and her friends. Whitney’s crew were hollow in his eyes, causing depression and loneliness to set in while in their midst. Longing for something more, he broke off from them and went fishing for friends on Craigslist.

“Seeking a friend who smokes weed,” he wrote in his ad. Through this blunt request he met someone who rolled and smoked many. His name was Cameron. 

Austin and Cameron developed a rapid bond. Cameron’s personality and history jived with Austin on a level he’d never experienced before. They both had wandered their way through a world that rejected them. At least now they could accept each other in their rejection. Things started looking up for Austin as he hung out with Cameron and the roughly five other hippies living in the house they rented. 

A few years prior to their meeting, Cameron suffered from an injury leading to chronic, radiating pain descending from his low back through his lower extremities. Though it came in waves, his medical marijuana couldn’t cut the agony of the sciatic bolts when it surged to its peak. After Austin witnessed his new best friend endure an episode of intense, intractable pain, he gave Cameron a suggestion.

“My god Cam, that looks terrible.”

“Yeah…” he hissed in pain as he used his arms to scoot himself upright on the couch once the pain subsided. 

“Have you ever heard of oxycontin?”
“I’ve heard of it, what’s it for?”

“Exactly what you’re going through man. It’s for people with intense, chronic pain. I’m sure you could score a prescription from your doctor. Just pop a few when the pain comes on. Guarantee it would help.”

Shortly thereafter, Cameron received a prescription from his physician. The following day, Austin received a phone call notifying him Cameron died while overdosing on oxy. Cameron’s death shattered what little relief Austin pieced together from his broken life. A few weeks later, he thoroughly lost his mind.

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