It is a foggy night here in the San Francisco Bay Area, one very much like the last time I injected myself with drugs for the very last time. To give a bit of background about my situation, the end of 1997 was a horrible time for me. As a homeless drug user, I hit many bottoms. I have had someone rape me. I have had someone try to rape and murder me. I have been robbed. I have been beaten until my eyes were nearly swollen shut. I was held hostage at knifepoint. I was even hit by a car while I was jaywalking (the car then almost backed over my head trying to get away before the police arrived). Despite these events, I could keep pushing the pain just below the surface. I could find that critical point of numbness where the only thing that mattered was that next hit. There was no love, no family, no brush with reality that could distract me from the substances. The more I used, the more fucked up things happened to me, the more I used.
What happened late in 1997 to change the trajectory of my life? The drugs slowly had stopped working. I was no longer able to "get high". I could ingest massive amounts of chemicals for, at best, only marginal results. Heroin isn't working? Let's add benzos. Benzos aren't working? Let's try speed. Speed isn't working? More heroin. Heroin doesn't work? Let's smoke some crack. Towards the winter of 1997, I became a garbage can full of drugs. Nothing could help my depression. There is a scene at the end of "Black Tar Heroin" where I am alone in a one of the most disgusting hotels in the Tenderloin in my dirty pajamas. I am looking at my feet because I could barely stand to lift up my head. Heroin in particular had come along in a time in my life when I was experiencing near suicidal depression. It had played an important role in my life once. Now, it was truly killing me. There seemed to be no solution in sight...until there was.
A few months later I was pulled out of my addiction in handcuffs. I wish it could have happened any other way but regardless, I am grateful for the results. I have been clean long enough to see the birth of my children, my college graduation, I was able to buy a house, find a great husband, and be present in the life of people that love me. I have also lived long enough to see overdose become the number one cause of injury death in this country. I plan to continue to use my second chance at life to make the world a better places for others by working tirelessly for harm reduction. I know our efforts are making a difference but things are not happening fast enough. Before I am even done typing this post, someone is going to die needlessly of an overdose that could have been prevented with naloxone. Some one is going to get a life threatening infection from a dirty syringe. I quit 18 years ago and in many ways, we have gone backwards with our national strategy. It is groundhog day all over again.
I hope that these blogs, my work, and my friendship will help you somehow. I love you all. XOXO Tracey
I thanked my Reddit friends in my book
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