As Jason’s lawyer Marty Arbus passed on the details about Mewes’ latest dash from rehab – the dash I was sure was gonna land him in jail – I recalled a conversation Jen and I had once engaged in on the subject of the nature of Jason Mewes.
“Did you ever read ‘Flowers for Algernon’?” I’d asked her.
“I went to high school too,” she replied.
“Well did you ever see the flick they made of the book? It was called ‘Charly’? Cliff Robertson played Charly?”
“I think I only ever saw, like, five movies before we met.”
“It was pretty good. They didn’t deviate that far from the short story: Charly Gordon’s this retarded janitor, and these scientists experiment on him and suddenly, he gets smarter, turning into a sort-of genius. But his condition starts to deteriorate, at which time the intelligent Charly has to deal with the knowledge that he’s going to be retarded again soon. And there’s this image from the film that’s always really haunted me: at the end of the movie, this woman who’s fallen in love with the smart Charly finds him with this childlike, beatific smile on his face, and she realizes the intelligent Charly’s completely gone forever. He’s lapsed back into the retarded Charly.”
“Is this your way of telling me that you’re becoming retarded?”
“That shot from the flick always comes to mind when Mewes gets clean. Because, when he turns his life around – either for a couple of weeks or a couple of months – it’s like he’s the intelligent Charly. And I get used to him and figure that’s the way he’s gonna be from then on. But, sooner or later, he lapses back into the retarded Mewes – the one who shoots up and stops being himself, y’know?”
“But maybe that’s where you’ve got your analogy wrong. Maybe the junkie Mewes IS the real Mewes, and the few moments of sobriety are the manufactured, unreal Jason. Maybe being a drug addict is his natural state.”
It was a sobering notion, to say the least – and one that was still bouncing around in my head when Marty capped the Jason escape story with “But he’s here with me now, and…”
“What?!” I barked. “You’ve got Jason?!”
“Yeah, he’s here in my office. Do you want to talk to him?”
“God, yes! Put him on!”
I steeled myself to hear Jason’s voice, all drug-addled and dope-dimmed. If he was out of rehab, surely he was back on drugs.
“‘Sup, Moves?” he said, sounding… lucid.
“You fucking asshole,” I snapped. “Why the fuck would you make a run for it?”
“I couldn’t take it anymore, man. People were picking fights with me, and the counselors were all nasty too. I just had to get out of there. I’ll go back to rehab, I promise; just not to that one.”
“Have you shot up?”
“Have you used anything at all?”
“Nothing, I swear. I’ll even take a piss test.”
“You know you’re going to jail, right?”
“Marty doesn’t think so. He says he’s going to plead my case with the judge and see if they’ll just move me to another rehab. He says that if I take a piss test and pass, the judge might understand that I didn’t leave to get high; I left because I was getting harassed. And then maybe he’ll just put me in another rehab. I’ll probably have to start the six months over again, but I don’t care. It’ll be worth it to get out of that place.”
And thanks to the genius of Marty Arbus pleading Mewes’ case to the judge, that’s pretty much what came to pass, with one major exception: Jason didn’t even have to restart his sentence. When he entered the replacement rehab in Keyport, NJ, he only had four months left to complete the court-mandated program.
Over the course of the next four months, I grew close with the director of the Keyport rehab, checking in with her on a regular basis for updates on Jason’s progress. She was a tough cookie, but fair too – dressing the boy down only when he was wrong, and giving him props when he was on the right track. That’s not to say Mewes had become the ideal patient; not by any stretch of the imagination. He’d logged some demerits for house disruption, after vehemently bitching about not being able to smoke as often as he wanted to, and had his privileges revoked for a week after disappearing from a group outing to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. When he turned up twenty minutes later, he confessed to taking off with a girl he’d met in the meeting for some parking lot sex in her van (with the dope out of his system, his libido was back to its normal, randy level). But by and large, for the next four months, Mewes got – for lack of a more clinical term – better.
I was allowed frequent phone contact with the boy, and with a month to go before his release, he asked that I come back to Jersey to visit him. When I got to the rehab, I had a long sit-down with the program director, who stressed that, while he was still very much a pain-in-the-ass spoiled child of sorts, Mewes had improved 100% from the attitude he showed up with.
“He’s a hard guy to hate,” I offered, to which the director nodded, getting up to lead me to the sun porch where I’d meet with Jason – this time, with no half hour restriction.
(Mewes, that day on the porch at the Keyport rehab.)
The first thing I’d noticed was how buff he looked. Not only had he shed some pounds, but he’d also used his time in the program to exercise and build his upper body. The hair was still short, but unlike the butchering he’d received at the Marlboro rehab, his current ‘do was more stylized. We sat on the porch for hours, talking about his progress, and what was in store for him once he hit the six month mark and was free to leave.
“I’ll have to talk to Jen and see if she’s cool with you staying at the house,” I offered. “You’re gonna have to walk on eggshells for awhile around her – you know that, right?”
“I get it,” he responded. “I’ve got a lot of making up to do to her. But Moves, I was thinking: remember you said that, if I cleaned up, you’d make another Jay and Silent Bob movie?”
“I remember saying that before one of the many times you fucked up, yeah.”
“Well now I’m clean, and I’m gonna stay that way,” he said. “So, I was wondering…”
“No, I’m not making another Jay and Silent Bob movie.”
Disappointed, the boy nodded “Oh. Y’know, I understand.”
“I’m gonna make another ‘Clerks’ instead, in which Jay and Silent Bob’ll have small roles.”
Mewes processed this then smiled. “You were fucking with me just now, weren’t you?”
“I deserve that, I guess.”
“That and so much more,” I added.
Mewes successfully completed the Keyport rehab program in October 2003. The week he was checked out, we threw a shindig for him at Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, the comic book store in Red Bank. Billed as “Stash Bash 2: Welcome Home Jay”, the dual day event saw six hundred fans and well-wishers – hand-picked from thousands of entry essays – come through the store to offer the boy their congratulatory, supportive “ups”.
(Stash Bash pin image.)
(Me and Mewes signing for a fan at the Stash Bash in Red Bank.)
(On a dare, Mewes greeted one group of well-wishers in his skivvies.)
Following the Stash Bash, we were on a plane to Los Angeles, where Jason arrived just in time to stay at the Sierra rental for a few days, before we packed up and headed back to our newly-repaired, post-flood home. There, after much soul-searching by Jen, he inherited the small, first floor guest room. Slowly, Jen warmed up to the boy again, and by his one year sober birthday – the day before Jen’s actual birthday – she threw a big party at the Spider Club, celebrating both milestones in conjunction.
(Mewes and Jen at the Spider Club, celebrating her 32nd/his one year sober birthdays.)
The Spider Club (located above the Avalon on Vine in Hollywood) became Mewes’ new haunt. For the first few post-rehab weeks in Los Angeles, Mewes could be found at the club every night, hanging with his sober-living crew of Jack Osborne, Mike McGuiness, and Brian Milo. In place of heroin and Oxycontin, their new poison was Red Bull – the energy drink that sells itself professing “It gives you wings” but could move boatloads more product if they sold it as “Red Bull: If You’ve Just Given Up Smack, This Is The Beverage For You!” One evening, I watched Jason pound ten cans of Red Bull in the span of twenty minutes and felt compelled to remark, amazed “How the fuck didn’t that explode your heart?”
“Sir,” my sober friend offered, with no small amount of irony. “I used to shoot dope three times a day. If that didn’t kill me, what the fuck harm can Red Bull do?”
During the day, Mewes would sporadically attend AA meetings, but every night, he went out with his boys. I’d initially expressed concern, suggesting that being around drinkers and druggers might not be the best environment for him, but Mewes assured me that the scene didn’t faze him; in fact, it only strengthened his resolve to stay sober.
“Watching people act like assholes when they’re shit-faced doesn’t make me want to get high, sir,” he’d say. “It makes me never want to get high again. I just like to be around people, dance, act a fool, and mack on chicks. That’s what Project Falcon is all about.”
“What’s Project Falcon?” I asked, puzzled.
“That’s what me, Jack, McGins and Milo call ourselves. It’s a little gay, I know.”
“As long as it keeps a needle out of your arm, you can call your posse ‘Project Dick-Eater’ for all I care.”
Every morning around six or seven, I’d get up to let the dogs out. A light sleeper on his best days, Mewes would join me on the library deck, and we’d talk about his adventures from the previous night. I saw it as an opportunity to take the boy’s pulse, to see where his head was from day to day.
“You use any drugs?” I’d ask.
“No, sir,” he’d reply.
“Were you tempted?”
“Anyone offer you drugs?”
His answer to the third question would vary from morn to morn. Mostly, he revealed, people respected his sobriety. Once or twice, folks who were looking for the character of Jay would get insulted when Jason would decline to do rails with them. If they tried to force the issue, the club’s bouncers – always looking out for the easy-to-love Mewes – would explain things to the offended parties with a degree of force. The only relapse he came close to while hanging at the Spider Club was an unintentional one, when a new bartender mistook Jason’s order of a Red Bull as a mixed drink version that contained Red Bull and vodka. One sip in, Mewes spat it out and got the order corrected, forever after requesting an unopened can of Bull from that moment forward.
“You gonna use drugs tonight?” I’d round out my queries with.
“Not tonight,” the boy would say. “I don’t gotta live like that no more.”
It was a slight variation on the old AA theme of “One Day at a Time”, but “I don’t gotta live like that no more” had become the Mewes mantra, and has kept him strong for over three years of complete sobriety now. There’s a maturity in the boy these days that’d been missing all those years he spent spiking his veins and living fix to fix. And for all my pushing and pulling, my threats, my good intentions and angrily desperate actions, what eventually cleaned him up wasn’t any external force or pressure. Like every addict before him and the millions who’ll follow, Jason had to make the choice to clean up for himself – not for someone else; not even me. And whether it was because he was tired of living that empty lifestyle of waking every morning and immediately setting about to the task of finding more pills or scoring some dope; or whether it was because, with his thirtieth birthday approaching, he realized he’d either have to fulfill his promise to kill himself if he was still a junkie or beat that monkey off his back and start a somewhat normal life, something about that last rehab sojourn clicked with Mewes. There was no cathartic, cinematic moment in which all was suddenly made clear, the music swelled, and everyone knew a happy ending was in store. Indeed, after all that’d gone down since Jason succumbed to a life of addiction, we were all waiting for the other shoe to drop in that first week out of rehab; and that first month out of rehab; and that first year. Until, finally, it became clear that something had shifted in Jay, ever so slightly, and the landscape had changed permanently.
Many folks have given me a bunch of credit for hanging in there with Mewes through all the bullshit, and even tossed me the hosannas for getting the boy clean, but it was never me. The real hero of Jason’s story is Jason himself.
(Jay and Harley, his first Halloween back in the house.)
(Me, the wife, and my two kids, at the “Cat in the Hat” premiere.)
More often than not, a hero’s most epic battle is the one you never see; it’s the battle that goes on within him or herself. And for whatever reason, the boy triumphed over his darker instincts, quietly laying to rest years of heartbreak and anguish. He entered sobriety in a similar fashion to his entrance into drug abuse: with little fanfare. After what felt like a lifetime of perils and pitfalls experienced side-by-side with – and sometimes at the hands of – Jason, I couldn’t have been happier with the lack of drama that marked the end of Mewes’ drug abuse era.
That first Christmas he spent with us post-rehab, the boy asked what gift he could get me for the holiday. I told him I didn’t want anything beyond his promise that he’d never use dope again – at least ’til he was eighty. That morning, he handed me a tape.
His raw honesty was on full display, but it was his newfound maturity that was so staggering. Many times in the past, the boy had made me countless empty promises about getting off smack that he could and would never keep. In acknowledging his unwillingness to offer up another such pact that was beyond his ability to pledge, Jason had finally revealed the grown-up I’d always been hoping he’d become. And in not being able to give me what I asked for, he wound up giving me something so much better…
He gave me Hope.
So on that mid-December early morn, circa 2003, on the balcony of my house in the Hollywood Hills, when Jason Mewes, my friend of seventeen years and co-star in five films at that point, dropped a bomb that should’ve repulsed the shit out of me, or at the very least, made me vomit a little in my mouth, I didn’t retch, or smack him upside the head, hollering “Don’t fuck the vapid, dammit!” Instead, I asked a question.
“Who is Nicole Richie?” I was blithely unaware, at that point, of “The Simple Life”.
“Lionel Richie’s daughter,” Mewes offered.
“And you fucked her?”
“She fucked ME, sir. She just pulled me into a bathroom stall and fucked me. It was weird.”
“Had you ever even met her before?”
“Once or twice. Through Kim Stewart.”
“Rod Stewart’s daughter.”
“What’s with all the kids of 80′s pop icons digging on you?”
“Because they know The Mewes is long, and he’s strong, and he’s down to get the friction on.”
“See? There ARE benefits to staying clean.”
“Oh, Hell’s yeah. I was thinking about it yesterday: I been living here a month now, since I got out of rehab. And in one month, I’ve had sex with twenty eight different girls.”
“GOOD FUCKING GOD!!!”
“That’s a lot, right?”
“A better advertisement for the joys of sobriety I can’t imagine.”
Mewes smiled. “I can. Being here, with my family? That beats fucking any day.”
“That’s a really sweet sentiment, sir. But let’s not go nuts.”
“It’s true, sir. You know I don’t lie now.”
“You don’t gotta live like that no more?”
Looking out at the quiet morning landscape of the Hollywood Hills, Mewes took a draw on his cigarette and uttered six simple words: “Not today, sir. Probably not tomorrow.”
That observation contained more power and magic than any method of forced rehabilitation I’d crammed down his throat over the years. The man had paved his own path to Hell, and with those six words, he’d paved his path OUT as well. It was the closest thing to a display of heroism I’d ever personally bore witness to.
And with his journey not quite complete but certainly out of the darkest woods, the hero then asked “Can I borrow twenty bucks? I want to go to breakfast with McGins at the Griddle.”
I handed over the green, gave him a hug, and watched him go, satisfied that, for the first time in eons, the bucks were going into his belly instead of his arm. It was the best money I’d ever spent.