Crouched forward in his seat, shoulders slumped toward the table, Doug Borges rubs calloused hands against one another.
He takes a deep breath and then casts a sad gaze on the words that tumble out of his mouth – a mouth with noticeable vacancies in the forward jaw.
Remember this face.
His past is dark and sorted, and there are enough run-ins with the law, jail cells and courtrooms to fill a season of Cops and Judge Joe Brown.
Once the heir to a multi-million dollar company, Doug Borges’ life has landed at its rock bottom with a THUD!
Here’s a fair assessment of Borges’ adult life: Everything he once called his own – from the toys to the marriages, the money to the moments – has gone up in smoke.
For years, Borges abused methamphetamines. He snorted it, smoked it, slammed it and sold it. He stowed it away – pounds at a time – in places he’d eventually forget. “I once found a pound of meth in my tool box,” he said, “and had no clue it was there.”
He was so sneaky with his use that one of his ex-wives thought Borges’ sky-high mentality was his true demeanor. That charade went on for years, he said.
Borges is clean now. Has been for the last six months. He’s begun to put together the shattered pieces of his life, and looks toward the future with a newfound hope and optimism.
He sees a rekindled relationship with his ex-wife and adult children, and maybe a job somewhere doing something of importance again. “But I’m not ready for that just yet,” he says.
Borges, who has gone two rounds with meth and wears the look of a punched-out boxer, is playing this hand with a greater sense of purpose.
You see, he hasn’t drawn back the curtains of his life, revealing all the horrors and the demons, to earn your trust or friendship. He isn’t looking to recruit supporters to stand in his corner and cheer on his recovery.
The 50-year-old wants you to understand there is a grave misnomer when it comes to meth use. The misconception is that every meth addict wanders the streets, scraping together money, cans or items to barter for the next hit.
The easy generalization is to point toward Manteca’s Library Park, to the crowd of dusty, leather-skinned souls collecting in the shade and on the park benches, and with a broad stroke say all meth users are 1) homeless, 2) poor, 3) born into addiction or 4) all of the above.
Borges’ story doesn’t contain any of those qualifiers; proof that no one on the social ladder is safe from meth’s reach. Not even those living on proverbial Park Avenue.
• • •
A real-life soap opera
He looks like a man who hasn’t slept in weeks. Caterpillar brows sit atop blood-shot brown eyes. He is missing a number of teeth, but he swears his dental concerns aren’t from years of doping and drinking.
Borges says he was born with a condition that has caused many of his teeth to literally fall out. “Dentists said I wouldn’t have any teeth by the time I was 20,” he scoffs.
Teeth have been the least of his worries.
Meth has turned his adult life into a real-life soap opera. He’s let two marriages slip away, been arrested more times than he can remember (crimes range from driving under the influence to assault with a deadly weapon to grand larceny), and spent his dying stepdaughter’s final moments not in the hospital with her mother but getting high at home.
“It’s horrible. It’s something I can’t take back. I can only apologize for not being there to support her,” he said of his stepdaughter’s death in 2012. “It’s a horrible feeling knowing I chose drugs over being with my wife.”
Borges has been fired from almost every job he’s had in the last 20-plus years and was forced out of his position as co-president of Borges Auto and Tow Services.
During his run atop the family business, Borges found peace. He severed all ties with dealers and found strength in his faith. Borges embarked on 14 years of sobriety and the universe showered him with gifts.
He said he was making $8,000 a week as president of the company his father, Dave, started in 1960. He had a boat and standing fishing trips with his buddies every other week. He had a home, a $50,000 truck and a camper trailer.
Today, he owns a bicycle and nothing more – not even the trust of a mother.
“I keep it in today. Today, he’s very good. It’s an ugly, ugly lion that roars. I can’t say that he’s (changed),” Shirley Borges said. “Today, he’s good. Today, I’m proud of him. He’s come a long way in a year, but I can’t say.
“I would never have dreamed in a million years that he would start all over again, but he did. It was devastating to me and to his wife … to our family and friends.”
• • •
Part II of the meth saga
Most recovering addicts will tell you, meth never lets go.
With therapy, time and distance, it might loosen its grip, but the triggers remain. The temptation bubbles beneath the surface, waiting to erupt like a geyser.
Or a fish stalking a fly.
That’s how quickly Borges gutted 14 years of sobriety. He was fishing on the Delta with a friend when the still of the afternoon was disrupted by a call. While his friend tended to the call, Borges listened in, trying his best to connect the conversation.
“No, I don’t do that anymore,” his friend told the stranger on the other end.
“Don’t do what?” Borges asked after the call.
When his friend responded with “ripper crap” – slang, he says, for good meth – something overcame Borges. Suddenly, he craved a hit ... and wouldn’t settle for no.
The two spent the rest of the fishing trip smoking meth in between casts. One phone call knocked Borges, a fragile soul who yearns for companionship, off the straight and narrow.
So began Part II of his meth saga.
So began his descent from Park Avenue to park bench.
For the next three years, Borges says he bounced around society’s underbelly, spending thousands of dollars on drugs, booze and prostitutes. His sex drive was “unbelievable,” he said, as he fell back into the party lifestyle.
He was ousted from a lucrative job. Absent when his ex-wife needed him most. Disowned by his family, even his 30-year-old daughter and her son. And he burned through mounds of money and meth.
He was eventually arrested for domestic violence after squirting soda on a 26-year-old woman he was shacked up with. There was another altercation with a driver at the towing yard, a business his addiction nearly crippled.
“I’m struggling to keep it going. He sold equipment and kept the money. There are businesses that have turned away from us because of his addiction. Cars would come clear on the liens and he’d sell them and keep the money,” Shirley said. “It was a multi-million dollar business and now we’re trying to keep the fingers in the dykes.”
The death knell was a charge of grand larceny for his alleged role in boosting a truck from the towing yard. Though he says he is innocent of all charges, Borges saw a chance to escape meth’s cold grip once and for all.
He took a plea deal – admitting guilt – and enrolled in the His Way recovery program, setting his life down a new path. He graduated from the program in April but continues to live with nine other men in a recovery home surrounded by temptation and danger.
“Oh, this is dope central,” he said, pawing at the sun-scorched earth in front of him.
The back porch to this recovery home is littered with society’s misfits and cast-offs, from the men sitting in silence smoking cigarettes to the dilapidated bench press and barbecue.
Borges pauses to reflect on his unbelievable fall from grace.
Meth swallows up everything and everyone.
“I don’t have anything – not a pot to piss in,” he said. “No boat. No camper trailer. No home. All of the things, all of that stuff, I have zero now.
“I have only a bicycle.”