Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Long Night of 1971

 it crawled out of her mouth and into mine. it was 1:43 according to the clock. i hadn’t slept in weeks and couldn’t be sure i had seen it correctly until i felt it over my teeth. in my throat. my stomach. through my ruined bowels. past my rotting guts. looking for my heart and settling for what it found. i thought of her and him and the long nights of no sleep and the pain of heart and the abyss that is life and being born dying and waiting for some breath stealing act of clemency by a god that doesn’t favor the kind and it knew. it knew i was soft inside. “you can’t hide from us” it cackled to my ribs. the worm tumors fed on the seeds of doubt in the pits of my tummy and grew large enough to caress my cancerous soul softly singing  seductively in my ear. my fathers voice telling my mother he loved her. and my atrophied love snickered “we’ve seen you and we reject what you are”. i looked at you sleeping so peacefully next to me and heard you whisper “it’s hopeless” and i knew it was true

This is a piece about sharing space with another junkie by my bff K. Sabatini a San Francisco native as well as a person who has struggled with mental health and substance abuse issues for fifteen years. I have written about him in several of my stories. (yes he has read them).

He has currently logged seven weeks clean. 


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Two heroin addicts went out for lobster rolls and a movie

Yesterday two heroin addicts went out for lobster rolls and to a movie. No one dies in this story.

There was a point in my life when every cent went to dope. Every fucking cent. I would sit on the sidewalk when my hustle was weak. I would beg for change (fuck some food) to scrape up enough money for a bag that I knew would do nothing but barely get the sick off. Then I would have to do it all over again. Work was completely out of the question when your habit is THIS BIG. It also would take me 1-2 hour on occasion to find a usable vein. Using was an all encompassing endeavor. This isn't every one's story. This is just my story.

Enter into my life a friend. Now, dear readers, we all know how isolated your average opioid user is, even if they are sober. I am not sure what it is about our taste for the opioids but we are an intelligent bunch that tends to run on the sensitive loner side. How many of us like to read books more than go out or watch a good movie over deal with people. We struggle with the outside world. For many of us, opioids are the initial lubricant for socialization that spirals into never leaving our rooms. At many years "clean" or whatever the term you want to use it, I did not think I would meet a new friend. My friends have died/left/moved relapsed. I thought that game was over. I was wrong.

I made a friend ( a few in fact) at 46 years old when I took the plunge, left my insulated over scheduled world last year. I went on book events for "The Big Fix". I spoke about harm reduction. I got out of my shell. It was scary as fuck but I did it. I got to meet some of y'all around the country. It was lovely. It was inspiring. It changed me. I did not want to be caught in the social isolation bubble again.

Fast forward to yesterday. I went with my best friend to get lobster rolls and see a movie. Seems simple but to be in a place in my life where I can not only do whatever the fuck I want (within reason) because I am not using and have the money AND be able to do that with another human is pretty monumental. For him as well. It was kind of magical really. What was more magical was walking through the city we both love without having to cop anything beside a slurpee.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Trip to The City

Yesterday, I decided to take my son to an art gallery opening in the city. I am interested in the aesthetics of graffiti handstyles. I thought this would be a fun thing for the two of us to enjoy together. My son is eight. He is very sensitive in the ways that I was sensitive when I was his age. He looks just like me. He likes many of the same things. The big difference is that by the time I was his age, eight years old, I had already tried drugs. I never want my son to go through the things I went through in my first thirty years on this planet. I let my kids know about my drug history. I also keep them sheltered. I can count on one hand the amount of nights my son has spent away from me- three of those involve the birth of his younger brother. I have sacrificed nights out, vacations, friendships, and job opportunities to be with my kids. My primary concern in life has been keeping them safe.

When I realized the gallery opening was in the city, I didn't even think about the fact that my son and I would be walking through the Tenderloin. Maybe I am immune to it. My son certainly was not. A confusing jumble of homeless folk, people asking for change, and individuals selling drugs on the corners. "I am glad we don't live here mommy". I had to explain to my sweet sweet son that I did live here. All the corners had ghosts. All the places reminded me of my past. The overwhelming smell of piss on a warm day was something he could not understand.

 As we tried to get to the "better" blocks to walk on, we passed by a young man shooting up on the stairs to a doorway. He quickly turned to hide himself a bit. I quickly placed my hands over my son's eyes. "Don't look," I asked him. My son kept asking curiously what was going on. At that moment, I was completely disgusted. Not at the person shooting up necessary. I was disgusted with myself. I was disgusted that I was the person who used to shoot up absolutely any fucking where. I don't remember turning to hide myself if anyone (except the police) came by. I did not give a single fuck. I was selfish in that way. All I cared about (in life) was what that syringe could do for me in that moment. I would pull my pants down to get a hit. Puff my neck up in a car mirror. I just could not care. I did not even try. Here I am, at 7:30 on a warm San Francisco night confronting my past with an eight year old in tow. What have I done? 

The show was a blur. The walk was a blur. We got some ice cream and talked and walked back to the train station. We went through some different blocks. I would point to different things to get his attention. He was fascinated by all the playgrounds in the areas where I used to sleep outside. I don't know what I could do differently. I just know that I can't change the past. I live with it, like the scars I carry around on my body. I had a good night with my son. But we both got a look at too many painful things for one trip to the city. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Promise me

I bit my nails to the beds,
Thinking about the last time I saw your face.
I start a text. It says "I love you".
I quickly fumble for the backspace.
I can see you when I close my eyes.
I can feel you deliberately brush my arm.
"Try it" you said. "Trust me" you said.
You're so beautiful to me. What's the harm.
I smell you in my t-shirt when I'm sick,
I taste the salt from your cheek on my lips.
I breathe you in as all my "reasons" slip away,
Here's my last crumpled twenty spot,
Get us another shot,
Promise me you'll stay.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Burning Away

I smelled the alcohol on your breath before I felt the whiskers that brushed my check as you said goodbye. I wanted to wave to you. These occasions don't require me to do anything but stare straight ahead and pretend my heart isn't breaking. Are you stopping at the next station, getting off to buy some (more) dope? Will you make it home tonight, using vodka and grape juice to stave off the last bit of sick left from five days of twitching and turning on sheets soaked with sweat. A week ago, when I unconsciously smelled your neck, it smelled like vinegar must taste when it runs through your veins and out through your pores. I loved you that day, the day you chose drugs over me. Not with any subtle motion, just the daily actions of a junkie propelled forward by the depleted emotional battery searching for a charge of life in the form of a hit. I still love you- with the slight hesitation of being attached to a shinning star that is quickly burning away.

As I head in the opposite direction, my heart briefly sinks into my Sambas wondering if I can find the strength to hold back the tears that claw at the back of my eyes. I slide down the wall until I smell the piss before I see it. A pool underneath the railing telling me this is no place for me to wait for prince charming to appear. There are no princes. There are no heroes in this life. There are only moments when I know I am doing what I need to do and emotions that boil in my insides telling me to get out. There is a breeze in the tunnel telling me that I can get away from this place. You were already gone before you even got here- a shadow of the person I once knew.

Friday, June 23, 2017


I'm lying on my bed under three different types of blankets. The window is slightly open so the sea breeze can creep across my exposed ankles. I feel nothing. I feel everything. At the same time. I am not sure why my life feels so empty when you arent around. There is a whole, as large as my imagination, picturing you here with me. There is a burning in my brain. It stings with the memory of what it would feel like to have you inside of me. You aren't a lover. You are my drug. I love you despite your abuse. I can't quit you. 

I can't go on with you. 

I can't go on without you. 

Taste the blood. 

I bite my tongue in desperation. 

Switching from side to side to side. 

I cry inside my pillow.

Kicking you one more time. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Responsible Junkie and Other Minor Irritations

Shooting heroin sucks. Not shooting heroin sucks.
There is this huge myth that getting off drugs is the solution to all of your problems. HAHA. Not even fucking close. Getting off drugs is a solution to a subset of your problems. When you quit opioids, it might fix your orgasm issues. You might be able to poop daily. You might not go to jail, get abscesses, overdose, a heart infection, or spend all over your money on little powders and pills. Getting off drugs does not make that girl/boy love you. It will not make people forgive you. It will not fix the fact that people are still peopley and somewhat scary. It won't fix your social anxiety. Don't hate me for telling the truth. It takes some work on your end.

You know what else is work? Sucking dick while you are dopesick. Working a nine to five while supporting a habit. Remembering all the lies you have told. Missing family functions while you wait for the dealer who is eight hours late. Stealing from stores. Middlemanning for people who truly hate you. Going to the pawn shop. Breaking all your "nevers". Being sick for twelve hours, then buying baking soda bunk dope, then having to hustle all over again. THAT IS A TON OF FUCKING WORK.

My children had their own version of fight club this morning. While I was getting dressed for work, they started beating the living crap out of each other. While I packed the lunches, this started up again. "BUT HEY KIDS- I'M NOT SHOOTING DOPE". They do not give two fucks about this (well they do but not in this case). They needed me to get in there, break them up, figure out what the issue was, and get them on their way. Just like you do. You need to stop beating yourself up, sort a few things out, and get on your way.

I love all you friends. I understand the struggle. I understand your fears. I honestly, truly want you to be happy. I want you to have the whole picture. My life is not perfect but it is pretty fucking okay. Be safe.

    I was hiding in the kids' room earlier. They found me.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

It isn't a party until...

Is Kelan crying? It's not a kids' event 'til somebody cries. 
No. Not this time. That isn't one of my children. The cries of my children are generally followed up with a second set of cries indicating one child has decided to violently charge the other to avenge whatever caused the first set of tears.

My friend and I have dragged our lawn chairs closer to the field. We are pretending to watch the nine year old compete in this game of chance known as youth athletics. Mostly, we are happy to spend some time together. With jobs(mine) and relationships (his), we don't get to see each other that often. There is a certain comfort in having a friend that understands what it is like to shoot dope then try to transition into a "normal" life. His recent relapse has reminded me how fragile the line between sobriety and insanity is on a daily basis. The last time I saw him, he was high as fuck. I had to admit I was more than a little jealous at the time. It had been a long long time since I had been so close to that eyes rolling back in your head feeling. Now, newly detoxed, we are trying to spend a few hours to catch up on the months that were squeezed into a couple weeks of using.

"Have you ever been sick enough to shit your pants?" I asked in between watching pitches.

He looks at me as if I asked him if he has ever killed a pet. "NOOOOOOOOOO" he blurts out, grabbing his neck in a semi pearl clutching gesture. He rolls his eyes "Have you?"

"No," I tell him as I wave to my daughter " but I have thrown my shit out the window".
He starts waving his hands with the c'mon with the story motion. I look around to make sure none of the other parents are close by. Okay, I'm game let's go.

One day in particular, I was sick so a friend convinced me to do some coke. I hated coke- but do you have some? You know how we are. Anyway-  I was selling the Chivah, the shitty stuff all up with coffee etc that the low level Mexican cartel guys would front me. ANYWAY- I was all nestled in my room so I took the balloons out of my mouth. If all sold all the dope, the would throw me free coke. I thought hey, what a gift. I realize now it was so I would sell dope all day and all night for them. I invited some fuckwit up to my room 'cause I did want to do my shit alone. But there was a problem, when  I did my uptown, I was so sure I was going to fucking die but I was paranoid, too"
"DUDE", my friend injects.
Exactly, dude is right.

"Dude you have to leave!" I said as I practically pushed him out the door 
"What the fuck?!" He looked at me. Suddenly I was dripping sweat. I was having a heart attack. I knew it! This motherfucker is trying to kill me! He is trying to kill me and get my dope. "Get out!" I scream. PARANOID AS A MOTHERFUCKER. I throw a free bag at him "get the fuck out!" 
I stick my head out the window and gasp for air. Ugh get out. I hear the door click.

My friend nods at me. "I like where this story is headed", he tells me. We giggle like two school girls with lots of tattoos. 

Then the feeling comes over me. The turtle head begins to forces it's way out of my even weakening sphincter. I feel my ass being ripped apart. After a week (maybe two?) of not taking a crap, I am geezed. but I am too fucking paranoid to open the door. 

Stop me if this story is too gross for you look. Silence. I continue

I get my narrow junkie ass on top of that sink. I do what we do. Except that mfing thing is the entire length of the colon. I have now delivered a five pound chinga babe. A dry grey stool without a single drop of moisture. I felt liberated from the cement oppressor that had been weighing me down. I shit in the sink and threw it out the window. Then I wiped my hands with alcohol pads cause yeah that is sterile. And fuckity fuck, that's my story. I'm sticking to it."

There is an awkward pause then we both laugh hysterically. We are laughing at us, who we are, the life we lead, the things we do. I pass him my Gatorade as we both shake our heads in recognition. My son asks to sit on my lap. I happily oblige him. As I sit at the game with my kids, my past, and my best friend in the world, my life feels complete again. I am content in the recognition that I am not in that place today. The only hits I have today came from my daughter in the third inning. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Few Thoughts on the American Opioid Crisis

Normally, I use this space to post my stirring tales of addiction and recovery. Today's post is slightly different readers. I have been contacted by two different federal agencies in the past month about my opinions on what needs to be done to address the opioid crisis. This SHOULD be a good thing. But there is a catch. These clandestine contacts with me are indicative of a much larger problem. Policies and programs are currently being crafted at the national level with little to no input from former or current consumers of opioids. This is completely unacceptable. If leaders in the field want to know what we need, we should be leading some of these conversations. Instead, advocates/former users like myself are essentially the side piece of policy leaders. You want me around in private. You just don't want to take the risk of being in public with us.

When I make these posts on reddit or my personal blog, decision makers are reading them. They want to know what we are thinking. They just don't ask us directly. If you have ideas, please feel free to post them. I will continue to pass them on.

We need our voices to be heard, not just just read.

I love you. Be safe.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A lifeline

This is some long form material I am working on for a new book in a very raw form...
Also thank you for all the birthday wishes!

There is a moment in every day when we chose to succumb to the incredible mystery that is life without drugs or inflict self injury in the form resistance against our truths. I don’t know if I was born with the desire to use drugs. I don’t know if I evolved into an individual that needed solace in the chemical expression of happiness. I just know that once I began ingesting them, my life changed forever. I can never put the cork back in the bottle. I can never unsee the horrors unveiled in the life of drug user living on the streets of any major city. I can only strive to find a way to balance the past, the present, and plan for a future I want to live in.
“Why didn’t you meet me for lunch that day?” I asked.  I push my food around on the plate. There is always an awkward moment when I first meet people when I am not sure who they think I am. Am I an addict to them? A mom? An aging woman stuck with many of the same interests as a twenty year old. Despite many years of recovery, I still find a slow emergence of the true nature of who I am. It is as if I was born with a mask on. When one face is revealed to me, I peel it away only to find another. I am never settled, always a restless individual in search of the next thing that can heal my broken spirit.
He takes a drink of his soda. “I was too embarrassed then.” He starts pushing his food around, too. We are both feeling anxious for different reasons. He is casually dressed in a crisp t-shirt and jeans with just a tiny bit of sag in them. The tattoo across his throat is colorful and well done. There are no noticeable scars on his arms, thanks to the good sense to quit before he got too far behind in the game. His hat hides overgrown brown locks. The first thing I noticed about him was his crystal clear blue eyes. They reminded me of my own. The type that easily gives away the presence of opioids with the distinctive pinned pupils. I can tell he is not really hungry. He is dying for a cigarette as I force myself to finish my food. That routine smoke is a powerful draw to the space just outside the restaurant. He adjusts his watch in a nervous tic to signal he is paying attention.
“I was working a few blocks from you at the time,” he explains “I was using up to $300 dollars worth of pills some days. I had a great job that I fucked up. I switched to heroin because it was so much cheaper. Not sure what else there is to say…”
He has lots more to say. He is just feeling me out, unsure if he can trust me. It isn’t every day you meet someone off the internet that you stood up two years ago. The big difference is that he quit that drug after overdosing on the city bus. The driver was forced to call for an ambulance to revive him. I could tell within a few sentences we would become friends. There is just that Ohioan way of telling a story that I appreciated. We grow up restrained. We neither beg nor extole our accomplishments. We have a polite way of telling someone we think they are stupid. We like our chili sweet. We like our nights filled with fireflies. We like solitude instead of explaining our feelings. We also like to downplay a crisis.
“How does it feel to not use drugs for so long?” he drops an innocent enough question that sticks with me for the rest of the afternoon. How does it feel? Feelings are not reality. Feelings are just an expression of my current mental state. Today, I feel angry at myself. Despite a multitude of things I should be doing to improve my situation, I have spent the past eight months muddled in the stagnation that comes when a person completely disconnects from their support system. It wasn’t a drastic change. It happened incrementally over a period of years. “I am just too busy to…” and “I don’t really like” put bricks into the walls that surround me. There are problems with these walks. While they may keep me safe, I am also terribly alone. Socialization becomes a burden. I hate it. I miss it. I am confused by my own choices in the matter.
Where does one find a new friend? The idea is laughable. I am not a toddler on the playground. I am a woman of a certain age. I will do a google search on my break to find a solution. In between strange rashes and unusual animal friends, there should be some insightful dialogue on the friend making process. Yet I have read information on selecting a ripe cantaloupe with no success. A friend seems much more serious of a process. The unfortunate truth is that in the long stretch of what I call my recovery, my friends have either moved away from the costly area in which I live, died of both natural and unnatural causes, or relapsed never to be seen again. This is part of the reason why I don’t find the rooms of 12 step to be a reliable source of new friends. There is an  increased likelihood that I will just be bringing that next person into my life that will eventually leave me. Despite working the steps, seven years of therapy, and the ability to at least construct a halfway decent relationship foundation, I fear a person leaving more than I fear being alone.
I turn the bathwater to the only setting I enjoy- scalding hot. If the water doesn’t leave me looking like a lobster on a hot stove, I am not having it. I would throw in a few bath bombs however the risk of a urinary tract infection overrules the happiness caused by fizzy pink bubbles. I can never forget that weekend I was laid up with some 100% cranberry juice with no sugar added and a pillow between my knees after a long soak. I am cool off that, I tell myself as I sink just far enough in the water not to get my hair wet. I started using henna based dye when I noticed my hair might actually be thinning after age forty. In addition, those greys are slowly creeping into the unmanageable phase. It won’t be long now before I have to make the decision. Do I continue to rage against the dyeing of the light or let this mane go into salt and pepper. Maintaining to MILF status I desperate cling to in the presence of obvious marker of aging.
I remain relieved to be in the generation where sending nudes involved postage stamps and discreet photo options. I cringe at the thought that I will soon be advising my daughter and sons on the finer points of both sexuality and impulse control. Being naked of requires a level of trust for me now. Long gone are the days when I could rip my clothes off at any time under the right set of circumstances. I have accumulated enough life experience to understand that “privacy” is a luxury most of us will never experience. Nothing in our world is truly private. Yet the mystery of the mystery of the human body holds a few lasting secrets. Underneath whatever garments I use to sign my individual preferences, lies the precious vessel I have endlessly abused.  
There is a certain vulnerability when taking your clothes off as an adult. A vulnerability that I am hyper aware of because my clothes were once an imaginary barrier between the flesh and violence. When I would get a place to clean up, it was generally a “bird bath”, when the head is stuck under the sick and body parts get brief seconds to touch the water. I did not want to leave any part exposed for more than a few seconds. A bath was only taken when I was entrenched in a safe location.

I close my eyes to drown out the sounds from the next room, I feel myself slipping back into another time. Dissociation is what my therapist called it. A symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A subtle reminder can shift me into another place, another time. I hear each individual drop of as it slowly joins the pool that I hope will swallow me up. My freshly painted toes peak out at the end of the bathtub. The veins are popping out from the heat of the water. I feel myself sinking deeper and deeper into a cloud of my own making. If I only had the courage to slip underneath the smooth to hide my screams.

How long have I been in this place? An hour? A day? Time has completely escaped me. He said he had a clawfoot tub. He promised me I could seclude myself in here. A wounded little girl now has adult problems. As I slid the deadbolt, I felt a slight sigh get caught in my throat. Maybe I can rest. I gently strip off the top layer of clothing, the layer that I want the world to see. The next layer reveals my secret. The fabric of my shirt is crusted against the weeping sore that scabbed in unison with the undergarment that doubles as a bra. When I bend over to pull of my socks, I notice the shoulder that once supported my ample chest is giving way at the lack of womanly assets. I have nothing in the space that surrounds my heart with the exception of the memory hurried kisses once given by young men who called me baby.

I sit down on the toilet in an effort to balance myself. I feel myself spinning with regrets. It isn’t often I get to inventory the physical damage I have caused to myself. As I pull off my other crusty sock, I wonder when will this finally end. I place my ear against the door. I want to know FOR SURE that he isn’t going to be coming in. I can hear the rattling noise of a sleeping tiger, waiting on the futon for me to return. He couldn’t stay awake long enough to collect on his end of the bargain. That’s okay. I slipped him a xanax so he should be out for awhile. I look up at the florescent lights on the ceiling as I have the pleasure of releasing my belt in peace. My jeans are as tight as the shoelace I had wrapped around my arm. I wiggle out of them in the hope that I can feel human again. I move the condensation aside on the mirror hanging on the back of the door to reveal what remains of me. The body of a tired of woman and eyes that have seen far too many things. I dislodge my panties as I prepare myself for the baptism that can wash away my frequent sins.  

I feel everything and nothing at the same time. I'm too tired for the five different kinds of body wash he left for me. It was almost human. A gesture of manufactured affection. Really, he just wanted to  make sure I was “clean”. As I lie back, contemplating my next hit, I think about home. I think about a time when I was wanted for something besides the feeble body resting below my neck. I think about Saturday morning cartoons in footed pajamas, flannel sheets, and my special towel. No one made me a junkie. Yet, here I am. I am going to fall asleep here, pretend for a second that my life is normal. Until it is time to put back on my dirty shell and start all over again.
There is no such place as this concept of rock bottom. There is always much, much lower. I can assure you of this because I have visited this place many times. Waking up in a pool of self loathing. Curling up in a ball of fear. This is the spiritual death that comes when we turn our life over to the desperation that is the life of active drug use. That slow walk to the pawn shop as that thing we “never” would part with become visualize in terms of a half grams. The deep breath we take as we fumble with the crisp bills inside our mother’s wallet. The slight nod we give ourself as we step off the curb in the direction of that trick waiting on the corner. The slow realization that the “NEVER” has now become the reality of the every day.

There is a new kind of never that comes when survival is based around the world of those we always called normal. These creatures are fucked up too.

“Hey, I was wondering if you had a minute…” a woman’s voice trails off as she gently taps my arm. I can clearly see she has been crying. The moisture still clings to her eyelashes. The redness in her face is unmistakable.
Without her even finishing her statement, I already know what she is going to tell me. I have heard it a hundred times before. Women and men in their 40’s or 50’s meekly pulling me aside to discuss the addiction issues of their adult children. The parents are always extremely apologetic. They don’t want to “bother me”. They just want five minutes with someone they think could understand them. They want someone to feel their frustration, to look into their eyes. They want someone to tell them that there is still hope. They want to believe that the son or daughter that has stolen from them won’t die somewhere with a needle hanging out of their arm. That the child they sent to rehab four times will miraculously get it on the fifth trip. That the three month chip their son showed them will mean sleep will be easier now, that things will “get better”. I can’t promise these things. I can only listen. I can only dull my own struggles by helping others. Throwing them a lifeline saves me from the water's edge.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

To be better

Being involved in harm reduction for 19 years, I have had a long ride of highs and lows. I have seen individuals get their children back, only to relapse and leave them at daycare. I have seen the mostly hopeless of drug user get their life together. I have seen someone hit in their neck and die of a brain aneurysm. I have seen multiple people emerge from prison to later obtain nursing degrees. I have seen two friends die on dialysis at 34 years old. They both used to shoot in their ports. I have seen people leave the streets to find love and happiness. I could go on and on with pairs of the agony and the joys of working with active users. It is the kind of stuff that nourishes the soul. Alternatively, I have spent many sleepless nights worrying about thing cannot change.

Death doesn't come this close to me very often. Both my parents have passed on. The vast majority of people I used with have passed on. There just isn't much of an inner circle left. My friend of 25 years was a father, a counselor, and also very caught up in the relief that substances brought him. The body can only take so much abuse. By the time he was able to pull together some self care, the damage was far too severe. My mind is struggling to reconcile the person in the hospital bed with the strong man I knew for all my adult life.

At the same time as this has been going on, the roller coaster turned upward.
 I received this message:

"I wanted to tell you that following your example, I've begun personally funding a pseudo "needle exchange" by ordering hundreds at a time and making sure that the people who I can't convince to reduce their usage are at least equipped properly with alcohol pads and tourniquets and clean rigs.... I'm able to acquire Narcan discretely and for those who know what I do, I'm often used as a knowledge resource for them for harm reduction.

Last night I saved a couple who OD'd in junkie Romeo and Juliette style. Those people are alive in great part because you pushed me to be a better and more care minded user myself..."

Despite the horrors of this world, there is still great beauty. We, drug users, are fundamentally good people who want make a difference in the world. We just don't know how. We are frequently excluded, told that our talents and abilities are secondary to our self medication. 

This post is not about death. It is about the resilience of our community. We push forward. We push past loss. We push past stigma. We push past our own inclination towards self destruction. We want to do better, to be better, we don't always have the tools. 

I love you. Always. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Discarded Flower

The junkie girl, "sleeping" in the sun
Stretching out her legs
Blocking the sidewalk (ever so slightly)
Choking on the sympathy of strangers.
Her hair is a bit knotted
Her skin is a little bit gray
You will never speak to her
There is nothing you can say.
She is the discarded flower
With her beauty quickly fading
No longer the object of desire
Out in the rain- waiting.
Burnt out- like ash from a cigarette
Used up- like a cotton.
Out of sight.
Out of mind.
Out of money.
Out of time.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Thing Right in Front of me

There is a pain that creeps through my body. A jolt like electricity has let me know I pushed this in a little too far. I pull back my hand in agony. There is a fire burning, like stepping on raw sand on a thousand hot days. Searing the flesh in between my fingers where I dared to sew myself to the bed with a barbed needle. Why is this happening to me dear Jesus. I gave myself just enough time for this joy to reach my receptive brain. I want to feel the rapture that comes when you embrace me and forgive me for all the sins I am about to commit. There is no past. There is no present. There is no future. There is only the moment when I push the needle in. All my bills that are past due can wait until I see you.

But this isn't me. Isn't me anymore- right? I'm not laying on the bed with my headphones on, dreaming about the drugs. Skating the line between life and death ended long ago. Now, I worry about spreadsheets, Easter baskets, and wonder if they have the full size lipstick at Sephora since I have a coupon. As I put on my eyeliner, I wonder if it will run down my face tonight. The chances are awfully good. My foundation covers my ever present wrinkles, not my track marks.

When you get a craving, does it make your whole body shake? Like an endless loop of want. I am trying to watch this movie on netflix when I feel that pull, like a rip current, sucking me back to all the places I just left. How much for________ wait, I haven't even gotten to the second season! I thought we were binge watching this bitch. Tell me how it ends. I know this plot line very well. Can I learn to be the heroine in my own story?

I think this movie is almost over. "I love drugs" he tells me as he rests with half pinned eyes. the trash can is close by in case he throws up again. It is hot in here from on old floor heater, the type that won't allow you to adjust the temperature. There is a ring of sweat all around the top of his t-shirt. I had never really seen him high. I wasn't sure what to expect. Certainly not this. "You want some orange juice? It has ice..."

"No thanks," I reply with a polite smile.

No, I don't want any fucking orange juice. I want some of what you had. I want to be able to lean back, close my eyes, and completely ignore that this uncomfortable feeling makes me completely at ease. I want to be in that haze that tells me those open sores did not leave a bloodstain on your sheets. I want to ease into a place where everything and nothing mix for six more hours as my legs twitch in recognition that I've gone to that place that only opioids take you. I want to scratch myself until I bleed. I want to not fucking care. 

Do you realize how much I love you I think to myself as I hug my friend goodbye. The words may come out of my mouth. When I see a reflection of how I used to be, it shocks me to my core. This is me. I am them. This is who we are. The savage junkie is just beneath the surface of a "normal" life. If we are realized back into the wild, the feral animal within us takes shape. We are not so far removed.

As I step out into the open air, I take a deep breath of reality. It feels good, the night air. Like that breath you take after you have overdosed. Life is rushing back into me. I feel my limbs again. Have you ever been out to dinner where you are struggling to pretend that you aren't high. They are looking directly into your eyes. You are projecting, with ever fiber of self will, I AM NOT HIGH despite the fact that you know they can see it. But they don't. They don't want to see. Another opportunity lost. Another memory made. It isn't that they did not notice. That person just loves you so god damned much they just want to have a few precious words. Am I talking about myself or you? You don't have to hide who you are from me. I completely understand.

There are seconds, there are moments, when the all the things I thought were real, reveal themselves as a fantasy. Are the drugs the illusion or it is the life we struggle to avoid? It is time for me to go home now. I am returning vaguely satisfied yet sober.

Staying off drugs is critical to who I am today but I don't forget where I came from. It is not that I judge users in any way. I absolutely do not. I just know for me drugs stopped working. Heroin saved me from committing suicide. That is the flip side of opioids. In the early days, they will suck that depression away and it turn it until the most magnificent crystallization of I DON"T GIVE A FUCK about my problems for a few hours a day. It really is ingenious the way those chemicals invade the body, take over, and sit in the drivers seat. Eventually, I realized the car was being driven off into a brick wall every single time. "Partying" turned into "more" turned into "maybe possibly hooked" turned into "so what I'm a dope fiend". I didn't need to justify my use to anyone if there was no one around. Just me, my dealers, and the occasional using buddy in my life. 

I struggle with depression. I struggle with self image. I struggle with connection. I never struggle knowing I am better off today than I was when I had to stick a needle in my arm (leg, foot, neck) 6-8 times a day. I miss heroin sometimes. It is 100% okay to miss it. I don't dwell on it though. Instead of focusing on the past, I focus on the thing right in front on me. This life I have built that makes me content if I can't always be happy. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

An itch

“I don’t really want to talk about what is going on with me…” 

I reach for a glass of water. I need a prop to keep going. Something to hold on to that is going to keep me grounded. My mind loves to find the chaos in the silver lining. I like to find the one frayed string on a beautiful dress. I pull on it until the fabric falls apart. Then, I blame myself for trying. 
Why do I even care what is going on outside of my nuclear family? I would not dare say this outloud. This would be far too healthy of a declaration. That is the kind of thing I need to keep to myself. I mean we all should care about the world around us but I can’t let go of “the things I cannot change”. Many days I feel like a little child at the foot of my father’s lazy boy recliner wondering what I can do to get this man to stop drinking. A child feeling responsible for the actions of a grown man! Isn’t that a fucking sad statement. 
“Are you done here?” the waitress is trying to clear our table. “Yes,” he tells them “you want this to go?” I take it but I know I will never eat it. I just don’t want to let anyone know how I really feel. 
    Foooooooooooood glorious food. When I arrive home, the munching begins. A handful of pita chips, a few yogurts. Maybe a couple pieces of dark chocolate to reward myself. “But you just ate” those words never cross my mind. Those are words foreign to my language of dysfunction. Yes I just ate at the restaurant but I am home now. That is an entirely different slate of eating. Plus, everything is relatively healthy. I mean, not all of it at one time, but if I was just snacking on one thing, it is all perfectly fine. 
    The kids are done eating? Let me finish that last few bites. I don’t want that food to go to waste. Here I am again, my face in the pantry. It is almost time for bed. Popcorn? Sure why not. No butter so it should be fine. I did accidentally make enough for 3-4 adults but it wasn’t even cooked in oil. It won’t hurt anything. 
    The first place I feel my emotions is always in my stomach. That tight feeling tells me that something is wrong long before my brain tells me. I can hear my parents arguing down the hall. The same thing over and over. Will he put his check in the bank? I will come to know this later as financial abuse. Why is my mother crying in the hallway? Why is she so worried “Go be nice to your father” she tells me. I don’t want to. I am afraid of him. But his mood, I’m told. He will be in a better mood. My life revolves around his moods. As I approach him, he smiles. He is so different from the person I saw just a moment ago. The ever turbulent world of living with a Daddy. 
            Heroin is a poison that has slowly killed my brain. Alcohol is just a means to the mysterious end. Once I put the dope in my receptive body, it left me in the grips of endless insanity. It cured my depression as it infected my life with a greater affliction- the hedonistic pursuit of numb. I was raised to be a user, conditioned to believe my feelings don't really matter. I was told by the adults in my life that children are to be seen and not heard. Can you hear me screaming on the inside? Can you see I can never settle? I bounce from one thing to the next like the tight coil inside a ball, waiting to unravel.
     This isn't even about me. It is about YOU. I was thinking about you.. I don't know where you are but I know why you did it. Like a dog that found a special patch, you will scratch this itch until I find you bleeding again. 


Saturday, April 29, 2017


There are reasons that many individuals chose drugs. Not only do they feel good, the alternative can be a blend of emotions that swirl into a potent cocktail of misery. I am not shy about my mental health issues. While many days are fucking fabulous, there are also many days like the one I recount below. I am attempting to give a broader picture of whys of drug use.

I make myself a second cup of tea. The first is for the dose of caffeine. The second is combat dehydration. This is the height of self care for today.  I check my phone for the twentieth time this hour. No texts. No calls. No social media likes telling me that I am a likeable. I feel myself leaning into that spiral that only ends at an emotional bottom worthy of suicidal ideation and dark chocolate. The self loathing has started again. I am forty six years old, I tell myself. Why do I give a flying fuck about the opinions of others. Yet I do. I absolutely do. If it isn’t a comment under my picture then I am wondering why my article didn’t get a hundred shares. Why didn’t the person on the train acknowledge my attempt to squeeze by them. Why didn’t my co-worker see my name on that project. I am taken aback by my what I feel is my own shallow need for approval. Aren’t I above this?  Despite all my efforts fuck it level of independence, I am filled with the gripping feeling that tells me I only exist if I am seen through your eyes.My curves and track marks and imperfections can only be relieved by a few gentle words from a random stranger. I am not waiting on the connection this time. I am waiting to CONNECT.
They told me I needed to work a “program of recovery”. They not being one person, but the collective “they”, the voices that started to replace my own in what they called my “diseased mind”. I would lay in bed at night for hours wondering how I was going to make it through the rest of my very very long life without another drink or dose of that sweet misery wrapped in the form of intoxication. This life, the sober life, I was finding is part miracle and part prison.  I had been naive. I thought taking away substances would be the solution to the problem I knew was myself. However, when the chemical veil is completely pulled away, I am left with an overwhelming dread known frequently as my mere existence. My feeling self loves kittens, rainbows, and the joy that comes from not stabbing the soles of my feet with syringes. My brain has different ideas. The world inside my mind spins on an axis of criticism. It is working against my best efforts at acceptance by chiming a chorus of my mistakes whenever I stop long enough to give it a listen.
I catch myself feeling alone.  If only I looked like her. If only I had what he has.  If only I would have stopped, stopped before I was willing to suck a dick with my knees on wet newspaper between two cars as the sunlight barely trickled over the horizon. The collective “they” is incapable of understanding me. Even worse, why do I care what anyone else thinks? As I twist myself into a familiar miserable cycle, I hold my coffee cup a little tighter willing it to make me disappear into a pool of fuck you. I trail off into my unconscious, I remember what “they” tell me over and over. “You belong here”. I belong in a fucked up set of diseased individuals- addicts?  That doesn’t seem comforting.  As I walk out of the 12 step meeting, one of the men in the program graciously offers me his embrace. I feel the back of his hand quickly and deliberately brush against my breasts as he reaches for my neck. I guess I should feel grateful someone gives me the kind of attention I secretly know I deserve.
I shuffle through my life with crippling doubts. “They” say that I feel “terminally unique”. Is it all jargon, more drinking of the kool aid. All these catch-phrases designed to make me feel included have a tendency to make me feel more isolated. In 12 step, to become part of the collective “they”, we give up surrender some of our individuality for the sake of belonging. As a woman with a shadowy past, my history avails itself on a daily basis. The brief smell of vinegar as I pass by the fish and chips place reminds me of the dope I pumped into my veins. The cheap cologne that permeates the air at the bus stop reminds me of the man who tried to murder me. The darkness that trickles into my dirty window reminds me of the streets that used to call my name. In the early stages, my sanity hangs by a weak thread of hope. Can I force myself out the door when ever fiber or my being tells me happiness is an illusion? I do and I did. Incrementally, I find I hate myself less and like my life more.
The days become weeks, the weeks become months, and the months become years. The consistency in my narrative is the uneasy relationship I have with myself. Drugs and alcohol are no longer the stones strapped around my neck pulling me to the bottom of a lake of self delusion. The issues I face are not ones of food, shelter, and the weak determination to live. The main issue I face  involves a fundamental belief I hold that makes me ill equipped to deal with a planet full of humans. I seemed to have been born with a section of DNA that codes me as less than every other person around me. While all evidence points to the contrary, no amount of positive affirmations or mindfulness can sway me in the direction of truth when I am in that space. In that moment, in that spiral,  I am utterly convinced that I am not enough.
That pain is real. That pain is dangerous. That pain can make the difference between participating in my life or becoming a passenger. I get driven around by unhealthy behaviors. Scratch offs, over eating, over texting, too much porn, too much isolation, it is just too much.  I can allow myself to be pulled in so many directions it eventually tears at the fabric of whatever joy a drug free life is supposed to provide. Despite having the tools to turn down the stereo of self hated, I can sheepishly admit a portion of my life in search of validation, like a cure for the emotional hangover. I define addiction as the constant state of longing for something you have never had. For all my achievements, what I have never achieved is inner peace.

This is where I turned my first trick

Monday, April 24, 2017

Natural Habitat

"Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken"....

"Is that from the Bible?" I ask "Are you quoting the fucking Bible to me right now while I am in the bowels of hell?"

He takes a drag from his cigarette "yeah, it's from the Bible. How did YOU know?" He leans back against the brick wall, pushing his long bangs back into his hat. He is a handsome man. At 5'9" or so, just a tiny bit taller than me. He has that untamed muscular body that comes with an angry energy. His blue eyes peep out from underneath unkept bangs. In another life, In another place, he would be riding a skateboard not chasing a bag. The skateboard and the guitar and the xbox are long gone, just the Thrasher shirt and the Van remain. He doesn't have those blood stains yet. He isn't quite that seasoned.  

"Um, that would be from four years of Catholic School..." I throw down my blankets next to him. "Are you seriously trying to impress me with some Bible shit when I am dopesick? What kind of perverted motherfucker are you? " The kind I like I think to myself. 

He reaches out for my shoulder "...I am trying to make you feel better darling..." he leans in for a kiss. Between the sores on his lip and the sickness on mine, it is an awkward moment in infectious disease history. Hopefully, it isn't herpes. I've already the Hep A<B<C. 

The prospects for the morning are dismal. He doesn't care, I think to myself. He is a tweaker, a completely different type of user. When he doesn't get his fix, he might turn grouchy. He might fall asleep. He might go steal something. I am not really sure. We are just trying to feel each other out in the game. I have sworn off tweak since my last four day run ended up in a suicide attempt. Those voices swirling around my ears, telling me the things I already know- YOU ARE WORTHLESS, NO ONE LOVES YOU, WHY TRY. These are the same things I have heard replayed since I was twelve years old. 

"You do realize I am sick," I tell him. I feel the heaviness start to creep up in my legs. If I don't get moving soon. I never will. Just for once, I would like to sit here. I would like to not be controlled by the magnets in my brain that are pulling me to find more drugs. I like the man sitting next to me. I don't really know him, but I would like to. He has a pleasant face, a hard shoulder to lean on. He gingerly rubs my back the way I would like him to rub my front if dope hadn't made me a sexless creature. I could see myself with him , I can see it would be easy to succumb to a wave of emotions, drowning out all reason. 

I feel the dry heaves coming on, telling me it is time to move. He grabs my hand "wait here" he tells me as he hands me the last of his cold coke. The ice in the cup feels good against my head. I feel hot all over. I wish I could crawl into this cup of ice. The sweetness of the coke is soothing for a moment as it makes the short trip to my empty stomach. I think he might like me, this one. As I was walking down the street, he was looking back at me. Looking so hard, in fact, he ran into the back of the bus stop *whack*. It was a bit of levity in a long week of broken luck. We had been hanging together for a few days. The literally ups and downs of street life. 

In less that five mins, he has returned red faced. He quickly pulls me up "let's go". Uh ok. 

He nearly pushes me up the hill, passed the parked cars, and back into an alley. He grabs my hand and pushes a bag into it. "here" he tells me "But you can't shoot it". 

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. That is funny. Wait, is this dope?

I don't even finish my sentence before I am ripping that shit open, pulling out my rigs, cooker. I AM SERIOUS, he tries tells me as he hands me foil. What the fuck am I suppose to do with this. Oh my GOD he really expects me to smoke dope that he just gave me. Things quickly escalate to the junkie red zone which quickly escalates in him trying to snatch the dope he gave me back which quickly escalates into the death of a relationship. As he sees me push the burning tar into the veins in my stomach, I see the blood run away from his face. It is one thing to be attracted to a junkie. It is another thing to see me in my natural habitat. As he runs his bit of crumbs on his foil, I see all the actual drugs go to waste. Thank Goodness. I don't want to share my affliction with him. I don't want to share my affection with anyone. As the sickness disintegrates, I wish he could rub my shoulders again. But he hates me. And I hate what I have become. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

The present sufferings

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us..."

The pink of the sky reveals the last bit of night that will save me from seeing myself in the last bit of sun. I caught a glimpse of who I used to be when I walked by the store front. The distortion was as infectious as the bacteria that creeps up my legs. I am an amalgam of chemicals, fear, sugar, and good intentions. I see the mother pull her child in closer as I walk by. I don't need to see myself to know how I appear to them. 

I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a woman. I am capable of love. These drugs that course through my veins provide me from a brief respite from the voices that announce on a daily basis that I am not worthy to walk along side the mortals shun me. I am godlike in that I have chosen suffering as the path to righteousness. I see a few minutes of joy in the waves of chemical satisfaction that stole me away from you. 

If I hold out my hand, would you take me somewhere? Can I sit with you despite my dipping, my slurring, or twitching? Remember when I was human once. We threw the ball on the playground. You patted my head. You told me to be careful. I am careful. I am careful not to reveal myself to you for that knowledge would make me utterly alone. I am careful not to let my pinned eyes look in your direction. You don't see me anymore. I only exist in terms of your judgement-an addict, a junkie, no longer your best friend. 

What would happen if you held me a little tighter? 
What if the world loved me a little more? 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Promises Made and Promises Broken

I am obsessed with losing you. I am obsessed with your using.
I am obsessed by all the signs and flags and flares that were thrown up that I ignored in my almost selfish pursuit of happiness. It was too much to think that I could find another person that made me laugh that could be “normal”. I misread all the cues. I am now thinking about heroin again. Not thinking about using it. There were silent promises made and broken on a daily basis.

I dismissed myself in this process. As I received a steady diet of half truths, I settled into the idea that there must be something wrong- me of course. I thought it was me! How unsettling that is in retrospect. I blamed myself for your problems. I have become truly sick again. I have become immersed in the language and the mannerisms of a using addict believing them when I should be strong enough to recognize.

Do I enjoy the familiarity this scenario brings? The cryptic messages my brain feeds me screening out moments of truth? I have skated in this direction for many years. I have just never dove headfirst into the pool without checking the depth of the water. That water is all the tears I have cried over the past few weeks trying to figure out how I could get in this place.

Why in the fuck do I even care. Why the fuck do I keep going over this over and over again? I am so fucking mad at myself for getting caught in this fucking bear trap. Do I keep pulling at myself until I get ripped apart or do I try to strategize my great escape. These feelings are totally out of place in the fabric of my life. Who fucking cares right. Just let this go.

Like a tragic comedy, I hear the chorus inside my head telling me that something was amiss. You went back to it. While I raised my hand at the meeting, you pushed the plunger deeper into my heart. While I tried to be well, you wanted to get well. I am no better than you. We are absolutely the same person. We are both dying. The exception is that I am dying on the inside and you are waiting for the day you don't wake up.

Down, down, down. Waiting for the phone to light up. A text that tells me what to feel. I'll be there in thirty minutes. It is over, all over, again.