Ms. Donaldson is currently residing in the Glass Home in Greensboro, where she has been elevated to House Master General, and will appear on Clean Time South: Glass Home in Your Home!, set to air next fall.
By the time Ms. Donaldson conducted the following interviews she had become so emotionally entwined with the project that she chose to further immerse herself in the world of Ronald Reagan to better serve her research. This research became the basis of her own work of nonfiction, titled, Finding Ronald Reagan Middleton. However, the publication of her book was delayed indefinitely due to a defamation of character lawsuit filed on behalf of Philson and Jackson.
Traci’s unfinished interviews have not been seen in their entirety. She sent them to us with the hope of helping further her quest for the truth.
Ronald Reagan Middleton: A Profile in Three Parts
Sitting in the Infinity Diner, waiting for America’s fourth-favorite reality television star of all time to arrive, it is apparent something is wrong in Booth, North Carolina. It’s a bad time to be an addict. There is a tangible sense of fear about the town and outlaying rural countryside. The Infinity’s patrons all look tired and distracted, many don silver ribbons on their shirts and hats in support of the victim’s families. The waitresses all wear tight black shirts and short skirts and silver ribbons in their hair with matching wristbands.
The door swings open. Ronald Reagan Middleton enters wearing gym shorts and a sleevelss blazer. His head swivels, he grabs a large handful of peppermint candy from an ornate bowl by the register and takes a seat in front of me, wipes his face with a paper napkin.
Ronald Regan Middleton’s drug habit has been well documented. His childhood is mysterious, if not pastoral, certainly privileged, given his father’s position with Philson and Jackson Pharmaceuticals. Certainly, he did not suffer from material longing growing up in Hope, NJ.
As far as most of the public knows, you were floating around in Booth, struggling with various addictions. Now you have paparazzi following you. How has that affected your daily life?
If the public is enthralled with my person, I guess to some extent the people at Philson and Jackson have the right to give it to them. I signed a contract stating that I agreed to let them film me upon my release. I was pretty out of it when I signed, though. Sometimes it’s a bit much, all the attention.
Well, I mean the clause in the contract states they have the rights to record anything “pertaining to the progress of my addiction” That is sort of all encompassing, don’t you think?
I suppose, but they’re paying you, right?
I need to have my lawyer look into it. Actually, I’m surprised I’ll be compensated for this interview. Thank you. I think all the attention from Clean Time will help promote the memoir I’m writing when I finally finish it. So I’m trying to turn a negative into a positive, as they say.
A memoir! How exciting.
Yeah, I mean, I still haven’t got an agent or a publisher or anything. I’m not 100% sure how one gets a book published, but I’m confident I will. Overcoming addiction is something that echoes, really resonates with a wide audience. Based on the response from the viewers of Clean Time, my story can connect to a broad truth—to something greater. I started it in jail, but I need to for continuity’s sake, also to show my writing teacher I’ve kept at it. I want to make her proud for believing in me, to show that she wasn’t wrong in giving me her support.
Do you keep up with the show?
I’m really enjoying recovery, but it’s hard sometimes without that controlled environment. I guess now there are a bunch of spinoffs and web shows or whatever.
Most of the original cast is dead. You must be concerned or worried. Sad.
Just Gasman, Althea and me are left. (He drinks his coffee, and looks away.) I don’t really want to talk about that.
Can you talk about your childhood? What do you think led to your addiction?
The folks at Rose-Thorn made me aware of how important it is to be conscious of my triggers. That’s been helpful. But I don’t want to make excuses for why I chose drugs. (He unwraps a piece of candy and crunches it between his teeth. While he chews he flips through the jukebox attached to the wall under the window.) And I don’t want to expose too much of my childhood in this forum, if you don’t mind, really, that’s the part of my memoir I need to track down. I spent a lot of time on it, and I want the public to learn about my childhood via my complete memoir as I wrote it initially.
In a more organic manner.
Has your writing lead to self-discovery? From what I understand, that’s a big part of getting to the root of your addiction.
Sure, it’s been cathartic and helpful, but I just hope it’s a good story.
Are you clean and sober now?
I haven’t been using narcotics. (He twists the candy wrapper into a ball and sets it on his saucer.) Really, who’s to say I have to give up all mood or mind-altering substance? Look at this candy, or this coffee. They make us feel better when we eat or drink them, right? So does beer, so do the prescription drugs I take. (He kicks his backpack.) Do I give them up, too? The important thing is I raise my standard of living and I’m OK with where I’m at. Once I get my affairs in order in Booth, I’ll get clean completely, but to be perfectly honest, I’m OK with my occasional recreational social use, as long as it’s not narcotics. Twelve-Step culture can be very rigid in this regard, but I’m an individual.
It seems like you’re comfortable here, despite the past problems you’ve had. I read somewhere that addicts often choose familiar pain because they revel in the familiarity of it, the hectic nature of the world they create for themselves. Could this be a factor?
I think it’s time to go. I’ll get the tip. (He leaves two dollars and a handful of change on the table and gets up) Same time tomorrow?
It’s six in the evening and Ronald Reagan is late. For close to an hour, I’ve been picking at the limp pieces of lettuce that pass for a salad at the Infinity, eagerly awaiting RR’s entrance. I’m about to pay my bill and leave when the bell above the door chimes open, and RR grabs a handful of mints and several toothpicks, and heads towards his seat across from me. Before I can ask him anything, he drinks the cold coffee that’s been waiting for him and motions for the waitress to refill it. His arms disappears into his backpack and he eats several green pills.
(He slides five pills across the table. Triangles with a big “N” on each side, 50 mg tablets of Nedvedol, which has yet to be approved by the FDA.) My medicine. Want one? They help me not take speed.
I’m glad you made it. What would you like to discuss?
You’re the reporter. But, again, my childhood is off the table. Go find my cocksucker parents if you want to learn about it. Sorry, I didn’t mean that. Regardless. Why do all these people all of the sudden think I’m so important just because I’ve been on TV? I’m just a regular guy with regular problems.
I think that’s the appeal. You’re a regular guy with problems that got out of hand. Plus your performance in rehab was phenomenal.
You studied Classics at Guilford State, what’s your favorite myth?
I’m a fan of Prometheus – how he just keeps dying over and over again, and… Hey I’m really sorry I was short earlier about my folks. They did their best. And that I was late. The cameras are everywhere, and while I appreciate the public and their desire to learn about me and about addiction through me, lately, it’s been overwhelming. It was manageable when it was just The Recovery Channel filming, but now there’s a million outlets following me and it’s hard to lose them when I want privacy. (RR uses a toothpick to clean under his nails.) Anyway, another myth I’ve been into lately is the story of Eurydice and Orpheus.[i] But the Odyssey is my favorite. I’ve been making notes of all the Odyssey parallels in my life. There are so many.
So, in a way, you’re in your own epic poem.
Exactly. In school, I spent so much time studying how the Odyssey relates to contemporary society—I’ve practically memorized the text, it’s hard to not see all the correlations. Like a lens I can’t clean. But I enjoy it.
Do you feel exploited?
I don’t think the motives of the TV stations are pure. I don’t think they’d care if they were exploiting me, but I have a story to tell. Maybe I can exploit them. (He nods at the front door. There’s a camera crew, a van, and a circle of reporters outside.) Look, I’m going go sneak out the back. Next time, meet me here. (He slides a piece of paper across the table.)
I’m waiting for Ronald Regan in the lobby of the Layover Motel. Five miles outside of Booth proper, I’ve heard three planes land since I sat down. It’s just after 10 PM. I’m about to give up and call it a night, when I recognize Althea, Ronald Reagan’s love interest from Clean Time. Presently, she finds herself in the midst of an argument with a young man in bright red sunglasses and a girl with hair that falls past her waist. The hotel manager looks disinterested, as if this happens on a regular basis. A lovers’ quarrel. I interject, asking if any of them know where Ronald Reagan is.
Althea responds: “Fuck him. Do you know what it’s like to be led on for months by a man who has another girl on his mind?”
Actually, I do.
“Well then you know what a fucker he is. If you find him, tell Ronald Reagan I’m done waiting and Kevin and I are going to live in his dorm room and I’m going back to school so I can do something with my life. Georgia is a fairytale.”
Thank you. I’m sorry.
The young man in the red sunglasses speaks: “If you want to find Ronald Reagan, find Jacky.”
Althea leaves with the young man. The other girl waits, exasperated. It seems she took the emotional brunt of the interaction. The night manager asks her if she wants to keep her room for another week. She pays him. Before she walks away, she scowls at me. Another plane takes off. I’m alone in a moldy hotel lobby, waiting for Ronald Reagan Middleton, and he has no intentions of showing himself.
[i] Orpheus was the son of Apollo and Calliope. Given his lineage, Orpheus was a profound musician. When he played the lyre, as his father had taught him, his songs could cast spells and soothe savage beasts. Orpheus loved his wife, Eurydice. When she died, he traveled into the Underworld. He begged his great uncle Hades to allow his wife to come back to earth as herself, not reborn as someone else. Hades agreed on one condition: he would allow Eurydice to follow her husband back to earth and life, but, during the trip, Orpheus had to promise not to look back until both he and his wife were safe, back on earth. Orpheus worried. He was afraid that perhaps his wife might need his help returning to the surface. He worried Hades would not send her after all. To reassure himself that all was fine, he risked a quick look behind him, and lost his wife forever.