Study Guide

The Orange Houses Drugs and Alcohol

By Paul Griffin

Drugs and Alcohol

The VA set him up with a spot at the halfway house, a part-time sweep job at the hospital, benefit checks he forgot to cash and all the happy drugs he could stand. Added the occasional hit of crack cocaine. But now, eight months later, he was tired of being either jazzed or numb. (4.7)

We start out learning the truth about Jimmi's past and believing he wants to change; right away, we root for him. We want him to give up cocaine, too, especially because of the numbing effect it has on him. 

He dumped his many antipsychotic meds into the toilet, grabbed his oversized skateboard and poetry slam notebooks and did a swan dive out the second-story window. A forward flip later he landed in a Dumpster soupy with wet cardboard and kitchen garbage. (4.9) 

When Jimmi flushes his drugs in the toilet, we believe him that he wants to quit. The only problem? We're not sure he believes himself. He gets rid of the goods, but then he doesn't do anything else to help himself out. 

Jimmi weaved in and out of the trackside trash. He wanted to rip away his skin. Was this physical withdrawal or his spirit's hunger? A knock of crack would help him get through to tomorrow— (8.2) 

It's rough seeing Jimmi go through withdrawal, and the book doesn't sugarcoat thing when it comes to what it's like to be addicted to drugs. Jimmi goes through a tough time dealing with the aftermath of flushing his stash. 

He was low on money, but he wasn't going back to the house to pick up his VA check before he beat the pill habit. If he could outlast the gnawing another week or so, he could go back fresh and tell the doctors he was done with the drugs, the therapy, the halfway situation. (8.4) 

Jimmi knows he can't hold down a job with a dug problem, yet this doesn't stop him from taking drugs sometimes. We feel for the guy—he's seen a <em>lot</em> of dark stuff in his life, and he's only eighteen years old. Still, the drugs impair his decision-making skills. 

He regretted he'd dumped all those antipsychotic drugs down the halfway house toilet. (11.5) 

We've come full circle from the beginning of the book, and here, Jimmi straight-up tells us he wishes he still had drugs to take. We can't help but wonder whether his downward spiral is connected to the fact that he won't let the girls help him—it doesn't seem like he can get better alone. 

"Jimmi, you're MIA how long, no call, no nothing, and now you come in looking like you slept in a Dumpster. Seriously, what's your problem, kid? You on drugs?"

"My problem is I'm not on drugs," Jimmi said. (17.5-6) 

We don't blame Jimmi's boss: He can't rely on someone who is addicted to drugs and always missing from the scene. This is yet another example of how Jimmi's life is erratic and a downer for him. Notice how he blames the fact that he's <em>not </em>on drugs? Even with these consequences, he'd rather the drugs in his life. 

The cabinet had no stash tonight. He was about to jet when something in the back of the cabinet caught his eye—a dim glint. The microwave clock light reflected off something peeking out from behind a fat bag of sugar. Jimmi shoved the sugar aside and found a Colt .45, old-school silver. (23.9) 

Jimmi's search for drugs leads him to find a gun and contemplate his suicide. We see the connection between drugs and depression firsthand, but Jimmi doesn't seem to get it. We are left wondering what kind of guy Jimmi would be with no drugs at all. 

"Let us take you to the hospital, Jimmi," Mik said.

"So they can drug me back into the great big lie?"

"What lie?" Mik said.

"That everything's okay." He kissed NaNa's cheek as he left.

"Shouldn't we stop him?" Mik said.

"Only he can stop him," NaNa said. (29.11-16) 

NaNa teaches Mik and Fatima a tough lesson about Jimmi: It's sweet that they want to help him so much, but ultimately, he's the only one who can help himself. Drugs are powerful, and Jimmi has to be the one to decide to quit them or he'll just relapse again. 

The field wasn't as he'd remembered. Here were boosted cars now. Stripped and torched they would ugly the meadow for ages. Methamphetamine vials crackled under his soles like bubble pack. (31.12) 

When Jimmi tries to give Joe a proper send-off, it backfires, and the peaceful field where Jimmi planned to lay his friend to rest is actually littered with drug paraphernalia and trash. Jimmi's not the only one who can't get his act together.

"Sorry, Mik." He was pale, sweaty. He held up the morphine stick. "Forgot I had it. Needed just a little bit to take the edge… off." He pushed himself to his feet, tucked the gun into his belt. (35.10) 

In the end, Jimmi is still on drugs. He apologizes to Mik because he's clearly ashamed of himself. Do you think he ever stops using and get the help he needs, or does he just keep doing drugs and regretting it? 

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