Sunday, March 11, 2018

Taking Advocacy On The Road

This week, I will be taking the Harm Reduction show on the road. I am headed to Washington DC to meet with some policy makers and criminal justice folks. Then I have back to back presentations in Boston Mass. The first is to students in medical residency and the second is to students at a University. It will be a brutal couple of days for me travel wise but I have a few days of vacation on the backend. I am pretty burnt out, behind on care packages, the usual. A few days away will be good for me though I am going to really miss my kids. 

My presentations are really going to focus around YOU and what you need. Please feel free to send me comments etc. through my email or reddit. 

I realized the other day I have spent the past six years being the confidant for a group of people who use drugs. I know more about some of you than people I see in my daily life. I appreciate you and your level on honesty. 

Below is something I wrote recently about relapse which you may or may not have seen. I have been writing articles lately to earn some extra money. I am including it in case you didn't see it:

Recovery is a Marathon, Not a Sprint.
When I started my process of recovery, my life was focused around the absence of pain. If only I could stop feeling this way...but how? I knew I wanted to stop using drugs and alcohol, I had no idea how to make this happen. I tried ten other times until on time number eleven, things started to fall into place. That was nearly twenty years ago. There were many relapses that I turned into learning experiences. That accumulated knowledge of what worked and what did not work for me was eventually translated into a program of long lasting recovery. Recovery is a marathon not a sprint. While not welcomed, relapses shouldn’t be treated as a dead end. They are an opportunity for self examination and course correction.
Statistically, we are at highest risk for overdose death when we have had periods of abstinence. This includes periods of incarceration, trips to rehab, after an extended hospital stay, or voluntary attempts to curb use. When we have had a period where we have been “clean” or “sober”, the expectations around us reach new levels. Our loved ones embrace us tightly. The pressure slowly mounts to regain responsibilities. Suddenly, our fragile grasp seems to slip- we are ashamed to admit to cravings. It doesn’t matter if it is a good bad or a bad day. Our relationship to drugs has become so complicated, a simple memory can set our mental wheels turning. We are told we should be feeling “grateful” when,in fact, we may be feeling isolated. It is easy to fall back into that groove of self medication. Relapse can be a sole event or an extended incident. No matter what the circumstances of a relapse, the most important thing we can do is protect our health and safety by practicing harm reduction.
Leaving a relationship with drugs and alcohol is like leaving any abusive relationship- it may take multiple tries until we finally leave the. It is okay to admit that for awhile, these substances feel good. Until they don’t. When we finally decide to get into the process known as recovery, one of the most challenging hurdles may be rebounding after a relapse. If we have spent months, years, or even decades using drugs and alcohol to solve our problems, it is entirely rational that in times of emotional upheaval, we would return to our old solutions. We used when we were sad, happy, angry, lonely, and every place in between. Health behavior changes are hard. Like the diabetic who may have issues resisting sweets or the asthmatic who craves a cigarette, a person with addiction issues deals with significant temptation on a daily basis.
Your first thought after a relapse might be to think “I’ve thrown it all away!” Don’t get stuck in this trap. You still have retained all the accumulated knowledge, you just need to create a new situation in which to apply it.  Don’t let yourself get pulled into the cycle of guilt and shame. First of all, guilt and shame are useless emotions in this situation. Shame is fuel for the process of cutting off your support system. Guilt breeds the desire to keep drinking or using drugs. You had 98 days sober and relapsed? That means in 99 days, you used one day? You have 98 days worth of experience to draw on. You can start from today.Ask yourself- What can you do differently? What worked for you? What are my goals? What are the things that really make you want to change? Make a list. This is a time for action.Whatever your program of recovery, the tools are inside you. Tap into those.
A relapse does not have have to end the journey. This can be a new beginning. Learn from this experience and move forward.

Friday, March 2, 2018

I Was Raised By the Television

I was raised by the television.
In 1976 my mother had to return to work when my father lost his business in the great recession. He got tired of selling furniture and pool tales and whatever other menial jobs he acquired when he left the Navy. He had joined to get out of poverty. He had no running water until he was 17. When his mother died, he was left nothing but two quilts and a Bible. He was a Hillbilly that crawled all the way into a bottle after his wife was forced out of the kitchen and into the office.
The TV raised me. Both my parents worked. I came home with a key on a chain around my neck. I stuck things in the microwave to heat them up while my brother listened to Led Zeppelin upstairs. I’d spin myself in circles trying to feel outside of myself. I’d sit on the stairs, listening to my parents argue, taking me and my footy pajamas back into my room. I saw my future in the bottom of the glass of whiskey one of my “uncles” asked me to hand him while he subtly grabbed my shoulder. Men are gross, I told myself without knowing it was just him.
I watched BET. I listened to Kool Moe Dee. I learned the way Big Daddy Kane went to work. I knew that Alexander O’Neil was innocent and want to ride the white horse. I watched “Lady Sings the Blues”. Diana Ross was my hero. I brought a tray of food to my grandmother in the basement. She is hearing those voices again. She’s speaking her Spanish while her husband sneaks me drinks of his beer. I like his tattoos. I don’t understand why there are times she calls me by another name or why she needs him to take care of her. I just know that she scares me. I lock her in the basement. She smacked my face when I let her out. That was the first time but wouldn’t be the last.
I saw Night Flight. There was punk rocks. I was from a rural place with a dead end street. The punk was rocks until I didn’t realize it was plural. I went to school with people that would eventually know each other their whole lives. I would find out on facebook that they all think I’m still a prostitute when I actually have been clean five years. I used to smoke weed all day long. I wished for a drug that was a bit stronger. My whole paycheck spent drinking shots at the bar. An eighth of weed lasting me one afternoon. Heroin, my heroin, where could you be? I am standing on my porch. I’m suicidal from two vicodins and two bottles of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill.
Then I crawled into the television. I became my own show. Three days up on meth or cocaine. My hands are so swollen, I can’t put them down. I’m cross eyed trying to fix with a barbed syringe. Sticking myself over and over until I finally put the shit up my nose. I just wish you could love me. I just wish I could love myself. My socks haven’t dried out in a week. Part of my foot came off with my shoe. There are no holidays here. There are no special occasions. A boy gave me an ice cream bar. I guess that means we are in love. I give him my dirty needles to take to the exchange. We’ll share everything- including Hepatitis C.
The pimp Larry promises me that if I join him I will make no less than $100 a date, even if I have to stay out all night. I tell him I can do two dates for $50. I can be home in half the time. Why would I give you my money. Heroin is my pimp. It keeps me working 24/7. The crazy white boy with the blue eyes and the terrible prison tattoos wants me to come to his “place” tonight. His shopping cart is parked two alleys over. I can’t have sex anyway. I have a bladder infection right now. I’m crying in the lobby of my hotel because I spilled my antibiotics. The counselor from the program tells me fake it until you make it. I’ll try.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Twenty Years of Recovery

I took my last hit(s) over twenty years ago. It is strange typing this out because there are times when it seems like yesterday. There should be no question in your mind- I was 100% dedicated to getting high until I wasn't. From 1998-1990, I started my career as a blackout drunk. I spent from 1990-1998 deep in the grips of addiction. After a failed relationship, my self esteem and prospects in life were so low, I gave in to the spiral. I wanted to feel different. I wanted to be someone that wasn't me.

Using in the 1990s was risky. Needle exchanges were rare. HIV/AIDS was killing off IV drug users. We knew nothing about prevention of overdose. Hep C was known as non A, non B. We were giving each other shitty kitchen tattoos and sharing needles because we had no access to new ones. Heroin was expensive and not very potent. The cost of living was fairly cheap. Drug users built little communities. We had "shooting galleries" and dope houses were usually a room you paid $5 to smoke crack in at someones grandma's house.

If I would not run out of veins, maybe I'd still be using. I can't really say for sure. I wanted to stop. I had tried to stop. No place to put my beloved medicine made me despair over my life's choices. The bottom of my feet, my stomach, my tits. I hit in the jugs (jugular) a few times but I had actually had a friend die from an aneurysm from that so I avoided it as much as possible. I was alone in the world. I had isolated myself from everything and everyone I ever cared about. But whatever the reason, I made the choice to try recovery "for real". Luckily for me, it worked out.

I have made lots of friends, lost lots of friends. I have had career highs and emotional bottoms. I am still a work in progress. I just want to say don't give up on yourself. There are folks just like myself, caring humans, who want to see you get better (whatever that means for you). I believe everyone deserve a healthy happy life. I am flawed and I am a work in progress. I am grateful to be your advocate.

XOXO Tracey H 415.

This is me in my booking photo 2/27/1998

Sunday, February 18, 2018

When People Said I Should Have Died

As a junkie in active addiction, I was told more than once that the world would be better off if I died. I see these hurtful comments at the bottom of articles about naloxone but this was stated directly to my face. As a person who was under the grips of a full blown heroin addiction, I have to admit a part of me agreed with the statement. I was tired of living the life of an active user- wake up sick, look for a vein for an hour, hustle all day for a few bags- the cycle of life. There was no "bottom" for me- I could have easily leaned deeper into the spiral. How much lower could I go? Isolated from my family, having engaged in sex work, willing to absolutely beg for drugs, allowing my limbs to rot from unsafe injection technique. They call that suicide on the installment plan. I called that another day at the office.

If I would have died, there would not be three beautiful children in the world. There would not be the 300+ people saved through the little program I run. Some folks would surely have Hep C. There would be a voice missing for drug users. Most of all, I think I am a pretty rad person. I am relatively entertaining. I am a loyal friend. I am a decent cook. I also enjoy memes. This is starting to sound like a Tinder profile.

I don't want you to die. Don't give in to the stigma. I want you to be safe. There are so many things you have left to do! There are so many people that love you. Please take care of yourself. The world needs you.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Harm Reduction Goes to DC

I am making an East Coast Trip next month to Washington DC and to Boston. I plan on meeting with policy makers and a judge. If there are any points you feel need to be covered, let me know here or via email.

I started a go fund me to cover the costs of my harm reduction and the travel expenses here. It costs anywhere from $3.50-$10 per care packages. I am putting money aside for the future.

Love Tracey

When you corner a dog

"I could lie my way out of anything..."

I sat on the steps in front of the coffee shop, eating half of a cheese sandwich. I washed it down with a chocolate beverage. It's lunch time. The business men and women stream by me. They are in search of instant gratification in the form of a quick bite. As the sun reaches the highest point in the sky, I adjust my fishnets so no passerby get a free look up my skirt. I haven't shaved my legs since winter time, if you can call what we have here winter. I see a man with a blanket running, breaking the glass from the drink he stole. Maybe he was thirsty.

My life has been one lie after the other. There are the lies I tell myself. These are desires enveloped in fiction. There are the lies I tell you. These are facts that simply aren't true. Then, there are the lies in live in. The lies that exist in daily living. The lies of comparison. I don't want to live in a space where everyone is superior to me. More money, thinner, prettier, smarter, they are just MORE which makes me much less. Yet these are lies too.

If my heart was scarred from the life I lived, you certainly pried away at it. There was a moment when I achieved the feeling that anything was possible. Nodding on a street corner is a fantasy. While my ice cream melts in my lap, the clock is ticking until I have to get up to make money again. The lies you tell me make perfect sense to me. They are everything I ever wanted: you are safe. You are loved. Everything is going to be okay as long as we are together. Six hours or eight hours later, I realize these things aren't possible. I come to my senses then realize I'd rather bask in my delusions.

When you corner a dog, you might get bitten. When you corner a junkie, you might not get the truth. We are on the defense, supporting the thing that makes us whole, even if that love is a lie.

As I walk back to my office, I carefully dodged the broken crack pipe but I almost stepped in the human poo. (THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED. SF is an interesting place).

As a side note, I saw a man in a wheelchair light a crack pipe with a magnifying glass this week. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Body Issues

Last Monday was a self care day. On a recommendation of a friend, I decided to go a reasonably priced Spa. I should probably have done more investigation but I did not. It was a last minute decision to take some time to myself with no animals needing me to pick up their poo, no kids fighting on the couch, and no staff people asking my opinion on one issue or another.

When I arrived at the Spa, severely over caffeinated at that, the bells went off. AH- this is a nude Spa. The kind where the genders are divided. I was handed a robe and a towel that would barely cover one of my thighs. As I entered the locker room, I quickly saw what I have rarely seen- naked bodies. Not in a lecherous way or a scientific way. I was seeing naked bodies in their natural habitat. Women of all ages were inside the place.

I was very nervous at first. I was raised in an almost puritanical setting. My parents NEVER discussed sex with me. In fact, I rarely saw my parents kiss. If it wasn’t for the fact my sister and I accidentally found condoms searching for spare change, I would assume they never had sex after we were born. My father nor my mother commented on the looks of anyone. The few random celebrities my mother would describe as attractive all turned out to be gay. She seemed to be attracted to an asexuality in her screen men. If my father ever commented on women, it was out of my presence.

Nudity was an entirely private matter. Changing clothes was done behind closed doors in your room. Growing up fat meant I wore clothes under my clothes so I wouldn’t have to change in front of anyone in gym class. There was also the matter of my outdated underwear my mother would select. I also received no guidance in the finer elements of shaving my legs or lady bits. I learned about sex from R rated movies on cable TV.

The only time in my adult life I was ever a “normal” weight was when I was hitting the stimulants and the heroin hard. It is hard to explain how eating issues and drug use went hand in hand for me. I had tried sobering up before and the bottomless pit of hunger would freak me out. I enjoyed boys with exposed collar bones. I liked being completely flat chested and slim. It became a sickness really. Although I wore multiple layers of clothes to hide it, showing myself that I could resist food and get thinner and thinner was my jam.

Then came jail. Jail is a fucking marathon of weight gain. Food is one of the only hobbies. Food means status. Food is the only thing that can fill that void that drugs used to fill. I would eat and eat until I could enjoy a good depression nap on my bunk. By the time I went to rehab, I had already gotten quiet chunky.

At first, this weight gain was validated by others. I finally had some “ass” Eventually, that wears off. I am having trouble fitting in my clothes. I hate the way I look. I feel like crap. It is the tail eating the dog.

The rest of this time off drugs has been cycles of feast and famine. I have never been able to say I feel comfortable in my own skin. I’m trying. There is nothing wrong with my body. There is nothing wrong with me. All bodies are different. If I would have seen a few, I would have realized that mine was normal and entirely ok. Why have I been forced to be so insecure for so long? I am not sure. I am glad I finally got the chance to SEE that I’m just fucking fine.

I’m kind of rambling but y’all are used to it.