Saturday, November 18, 2017

A lesson in gratitude for this writer

Last night was the holiday party for the clients from my job. One of the programs is designed for Trans Women of Color, many of whom are HIV positive. On Friday nights, the group assembles in the conference room of agency located on a strip where I spent much of my time as an actively using addict. We had a special holiday dinner for the ladies- turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, stuffing, gravy, rolls, and peach cobbler.The ladies really enjoyed themselves, we had gifts and leftovers available. It was a brief respite from whatever goes on in the outside world. 

 On my break, my coworker and I decided to get some air. Out front of the building, we heard some noise coming from the corner. In true former street people style, we decided to investigate. There was a cluster of people getting high half way down the block in the alley. While that wasn't my alley, the alley where I lived, this whole area was fairly familiar territory. The coworker and I decided we would deliver whatever excess food was available out to the alley so they could make plates. I had been on the receiving end of many meals like this. If I had to chose between money for food or money for dope, food lost out every single time. If it was for little debbie, I am not sure I would have survived my early twenties. That and home run fruit pies.

When we rolled our cart out, it was very clear we had interrupted folks doing what they do. I could see a woman poking with her uncapped syringe in light of the street light. Another two people had the flame of the pipe going. One of pretty much laid the fuck out. A decent mix of what the drug life has to offer.  I was stepping out of my current reality, back into a land that time forgot. I think we were feeling good about being able to feed a few people. That moment was pretty brief.  A few minutes after we walked away, the same folks  are now fighting over their share of the food. I didn't expect that, mostly because I have been living indoors for too too long to understand the realities of that life.

I do remember arguing for twenty minutes over two dollars. I walked up on a person trying to cook up their dope outside when they had owed me two dollars. "The cops are going to come- you are fronting me off" MOTHERFUCKER I DON'T CARE. You owe me two dollars. You need to give me two dollars RIGHT NOW or that hefty cotton. "Okay Okay" (mumble fucking bitch mumble).

What kind of existence is this when human beings are fighting over food? Drugs, poverty, violence, humiliation are the daily staples there. Do I cry, get angry, pull the covers over my head when I get home. I think I remember what the life was like. When I see it completely in my face, I realize I have forgotten so much of it.  While I made it out, that same bear trap is currently holding , or for the escaped, ripping legs off victims over single day.

As I was walking back to the train station, my friend thought it would be cute to sneak up behind me, touching my hand. In a past life, I might have tried to stab him. Last night, I was just happy to have someone walk me towards home.

My son and I were eating out on the sidewalk last weekend cause streets are for the people.




Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Day I tried to Kill Myself

The day I tried to kill myself was like any other day. I didn't wake up thinking this is the day I want to die. I didn't put my affairs in order. I didn't have a special meal. I said no special goodbyes. The day I tried to kill myself was like any other ordinary day in the 365 days of that year.

There is a certain finality about knowing you are dependent on a substance. Be it heroin or coke or alcohol or speed or benzos. Or in my case, all of the above. When it finally sinks in that you will never escape the grip of addiction, it is a sad fucking day. My brain truly betrayed me. It lied to me saying this would never COULD never happen to me. Yet it did. When I looked at the decaying state of what used to be my young body, I did not feel a thing. I could not feel a thing. I just knew I would never escape.

The day I tried to kill myself, I did not cry. I did not falter in any way. I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to do. I did not want to feel that psychic pain any longer. If the right eye offends thee, pluck it out. I could not pull myself out of the stew of sorrow, my mind would drift off hoping I would never come back to this place. There was no one to help me, no one to stop me. I tried to kill myself. I survived. I clawed my way back from death. In dying, I realized I wanted to live.

The holiday season is a complete nightmare for current and former drug users. There are doing to be many moments in the coming weeks where you are going to think to yourself "fuck this". You know what- that is 100%. Your feelings are valid. Pace yourself. The shame train is a long ride from now until new years day. You are not alone.

I have to tell you this- as bad as this feels and it is going to SUCK- it will pass. For most you, active drug addiction is going to pass. You are going to move to something different. Please realize that there are folks out there that care for you. It might not be your family. There is some one. Be gentle with yourself. I spent a few different holiday seasons sleeping on top of a cardboard box in the rain. Yet here I am clicking away on my keyboard next to my snoring dog. I just want you to know that I see you. I am thinking of you. Don't die- I need the company.

xoxo Tracey

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The drug using sex worker and "me too"

I was a sex worker. When I say “Me too” does that count? Am I a good enough victim in that narrative. When you are a sex worker, the vast majority of people don’t believe you can be raped. When you are a sex worker, the people you are supposed to turn to for support are the same people pushing their badge to the side trying to get freebies. I got dropped off on the side of the road in the middle of the warehouse district because I said “take me to jail” rather than providing “something as a public service”

When you are a drug dependent sex worker, the landscape is even more bleak. Taken to jail on a friday for a misdeameanor case when there is no court until Monday as a form of punishment. Sitting in a pool of your own vomit with no medical care available since you have not been processed. No regular bed, just a bench in a holding tank for two days. Just anyone can come up and grab my pussy because you “can’t rape the willing”. Watching the connection scurry everyone away because he EXPECTS he is going to get his dick sucked despite the fact I clearly came with my money. Being brought to the dopeman by male “friends”, not realizing I had been sold out. At least he had the decency to wait down stairs to see if I had a clean rig when “it” was done.

None of these stories matter though. Or do they? No one wants to talk to us about them. But I do. No one wants to care about a dope fiend who nearly got murdered when she fought off her rapists. We aren't disposable. Because I am not them, she is not me, I am not that addicted. I am a “me too”. I am a good victim. Sex workers are us. People on tinder, fucking for a free dinner.


Hate mail in 3, 2, 1...


Thursday, November 2, 2017

The time I almost lost my leg

"Shooting up dope with grape crush wasn't all that cool..." I told the doctor in matter of fact tone  "in fact, it was downright foolish" I don't know why I was trying to let the doctor know I wasn't completely unaware of the situation I got myself in.

Before he pulled back the makeshift bandage, I began to brace myself for the smell. I pulled up my leggings which were currently sticking to the gauze by means of dried puss that had formed an organic bacterial glue. I knew it was all bad underneath there, I just could not gauge how bad. My lower leg was no longer swollen. I had been smart enough to trade a cotton for a bottle of antibiotics. That wound- the wound was not healing.

The doctor started to examine the area "Can I cut this off?" He waved over his assistant, a person I assumed was a nurse. He was pointing to my sock which was equally encrusted to my skin. There was no way to extricate it without pulling off scabs. As he poured cold saline on my leg to loosen the fabric from the gaping hole, I leaned all the way back.

I had to be high to come here. Not Just high. REALLY fucking high. The pain was excruciating. I felt the throbbing before I even opened my eyes in the morning. My leg, twice it's size, red and swollen last week contained a two inch by four inch sized gaping hole that looked like a cross between a cheese pizza and snot. I casually stuck a clean syringe in there to draw out the puss. I gave up at five full trips to the abscess of sorrow. I could gently stick my fingers between the bones, afraid of what would happen if I went even further.

My daydreaming ended as he pulled the sock away from my receptive flesh. I felt a painful yet satisfying pop. Instantly, the room smelled like rotten garbage on a hot day "Basin please", he requested a place for my liquids to drain besides for the floor. As I looked up a the ceiling, I felt a sense of relief wash over me, I knew I was finally safe. I didn't have a place to stay tonight. I didn't have a fucking dollar to my name. I didn't have a sense of where my next fix was coming from. I just knew I was  going to not die. Right now, that was enough. The pain of knowing the truth had kept me from getting help. This would be a metaphor for my entire life.

When I left the clinic a few hours later, I had some saline, gauze, two types of antibiotics, 30 Tylenol #3 with codeine (sorry liver), and a tiny bit of hope. I curled in a ball and took a much needed nap.



Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Junkie Rockstar I've Been Striving to Be- Guest Post by Anee

How did i get here? How did this happen to ME? How did i end up walking down market street with all of my belongings in my high school varsity swim bag essentially homeless? well, i’m a junkie who couldn’t stay sober.
i kept getting high in my sober living and they kicked me out when all the spoons went missing. then i kept nodding out during the house meeting to discuss said missing spoons. apparently i don’t have a very good poker face.... i needed to find that residential hotel i had heard about. i think i saw it on craigslist. i knew this was coming for a while now so i’ve been prepared....it feels like everyone is looking at me. do they all know? i’m torn, a part of me is excited. i’m finally free. no one to answer to. i can do what i want when i want. i can use in the open. leave my shit out if i want. no more hiding and faking this sobriety bullshit. and let’s be clear, it IS bullshit. i am finally the junkie rockstar i’ve been striving to be. then the other part, the part that was on the varsity swim team. the part that asked her parents for help 5 weeks ago. the part that would never have believed this could happen to her. that part is scared. scared shitless and wants her fucking mom.
so i find the SRO. i pay the $140 for the week. i’m safe for now. free. the guy shows me to my room. we walk in and i set all my stuff on the bed. the blankets look gross. i don’t care. i’m not out walking up and down market street anymore. that’s all that matters. i’ve never done this and i don’t know how it works? is it ok to sleep on them? this is a hotel after all. he gives me a key to the women showers too. i’m not going there now. it’s late. i know enough to stay in my room and not fucking come out. there's a bed and a sink in this room. that's it. it smells like cigarettes and pee. the sink actually looks like it has pee in it. i guess they don’t call them piss in the sink hotels for nothing. jesus christ i’m so fucking scared.
Obviously the next step is to get high. i leave my stuff in my new room and call my connect. a short bart ride later and i’m well again. i’m desperate not to be so lonely and scared so i call one of my new friends that i had met in rehab who i know has relapsed. we meet up outside. he asks if they can puncture in my room. at first i don’t understand what he’s talking about. i’m a solo user. i’m so full of shame. i don’t know much but i know enough to be embarrassed and hide everything.... puncture? OOOOHHHH. i get it. no one has taught me the lingo. so after a quick hesitation i figure it out and we all go upstairs. they do their thing and i do mine. it’s weird. it’s like the quintessential junkie moment. the one you see in all the movies. me and my two junkie friends picking at our faces, fighting over stolen drugs, nodding out. everything you assume it looks like, it does. down to me secretly taking an extra OC and then helping them look for it and accusing them of stealing from me. classic junkie move. and to be honest, THEY’RE the junkies. not me. i’m not the one shooting up in some random hotel room. this is MY hotel room.... goddamn i’m fucking delusional. i’m not THAT bad off yet. i’ve still got this under control.
After a few hours of that they leave. i have to go to bed. i still have a job to go to in the morning and i can’t be too fucked. so they leave and it’s just me. i’m so lonely and so scared and so broke. there’s not much i can do. i walk to walgreens just to be around some other humans. i figure i will buy some candy or something. i see a tiny black and white TV for $10. i buy that so i’ll have some company. i go upstairs and look around. it’s getting a little loud and scary out in the halls. i’m pretty sure i hear some fighting. maybe it’s fucking. who knows. either way it doesn’t sound happy. how the fuck did i end up here?

i push the bed in front of the door. no one is getting in here. i turn on my sad tv. i wash my face in the pissy sink and climb into the bed with the blankets that have god knows what on them and cry. this is what my life has become. what the fuck? i lay there for hours scared and bored and lonely. just listening to the chaos outside. i put a pillow over my head and the blankets over that. do you think this room is haunted? it must be. GREAT. now i have to worry about that too. it's too late to walk the streets and I’m sick enough to have to leave. i made a mistake. this isn’t how my life is supposed to turn out. this isn’t supposed to be me. I’m supposed to be filming educational hair videos in fucking london right now. but instead i’m in a crack hotel cut off from everyone i love. thanks heroin. i can’t call my dad or stepmom. they made it quite clear they were done. my get out of jail free card was used 5 weeks ago. it's now 2am. i can’t take this anymore. my mom always said i could call her anytime no matter what. i know that she’ll let me come home. she always does. i do it. i call my mom at 2am. she answers immediately.
“hello?” she says in a sleepy voice.

i’m silent for a minute. i can’t believe i actually called her. “hi mom. it’s me.”
i can hear her wake up. this is the call she’s feared. “honey are you ok?”
“no. no mom. no i am not ok. i’m scared and i’m alone. can i come home?” i start sobbing. “please mommy just let me come home.”
silence. she sighs.
“i can’t let you come home honey. i can’t let you come into this house until you are sober. i love you so much and i’m so sorry but i can’t” i know this is breaking her heart to say to me. i know she wishes more than thousand wishes she could let me come home and fix me.
“WHY? MOM I AM SCARED AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO ANYMORE PLEASE”
silence
“i can’t. but i can stay on the phone with you. what are you doing?”
i’m crying so hard i can barely get the words out. it’s not working. she’s not going to let me. doesn’t she know what’s going on? doesn’t she fucking care? HOW IS THIS NOT WORKING THIS TIME WHAT THE FUCK? i’m crying so hard i have hiccups i choke out “i’m watching tv. will and grace”
“hold on. i’ll put that on too and it will be like we’re watching it together, ok?’
she puts it on. we stay on the phone for about an hour just watching the show together. we don’t really talk. it’s the first time she’s ever told me no. after i’ve calmed down we get off the phone. we say our i love yous and what not. i fall asleep. when i wake up in the morning i know that i’m on my own. it’s just me. no one is going to help me anymore. i’m the only one who can do this. i want to do this. but not today. probably not tomorrow either. but soon. i know what to do. i know there’s people out there that are happy. there’s people out there who don’t hate themselves. hate the way their skin feels on their body. shit, i just spent 5 weeks with some of them. they came into the program bringing meetings to spread the message. i’ve even got some of their numbers. i’m gonna call them. not today though. not yet.



Anee did get sober.
She is living out her rockstar dreams as a stay at home mother in the desert.
She looks stunning in a caftan.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Chill.

 I see my breath. I'm surrounded by the chill in air. The frost clings to the blades of grass like the memory of the last day I touched your hand. I was distracted by your dirty fingernails, bitten down to the beds. I wore your sweater yesterday. It smelled faintly of flowers. It reminds me of you. The wool irritates me, just like our petty arguments. The forty pounds you lost and gained and lost the last time you relapsed made just enough room.

 There is a gnawing inside my chest. My heart is pounding to get outside. The ribs spread to form a bony prison, keeping me from you. My lungs fill without my consent. I don't want to spend another day wondering where you are- this ache known our separation. I'll hate myself for another sleepless night.

There is a chill in the air. I am spending another night sweating. Sticking to the sheets like unwrapped  candy to the sidewalk on a hot summer day. I am sweet and easily discarded. Two users in love.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Fall

I have been traveling a lot, trying to use my personal story to help others. I'm typing this on my phone so forgive me in advance . 


It's fall now. My kids need me to be home. I need to catch up on carepackages, apply for funding, and just focus on keeping my mind right. I'm not going to lie to kick it, for whatever reason, the winter months give me a wave of depression. My mother really loved the holidays. She would do the whole house with decorations. She had decorative sweaters, decorative jewelry and pins. I have never embraced anything as much as she embraced the holiday season.  


Winter as a homeless junkie sucked beyond measure. The SF Bay Area in my specific corridor doesn't really get "seasons" per se. It's more 10 days of heat, dry, cold/foggy, and rain. The rain when you live outside is inescapable. There are only so many sheltered spots in my general area. Those are highly coveted and physically defended. The average person might stay awake on rocks or tweak to avoid laying in a puddle at night. Remember- it isn't JUST a puddle. It's a combo of the oil and piss runoff that has accumulated in the dry season. The shelters were whack- curfew by sevenish only to be kicked out in the early early morning. That's if they aren't full. 


I'm old now. I'm an old retired junkie. But I can clearly remember shivering in the cold rain, unable to accumulate enough money for a fix. No place to sit, no place to stay, no prospects. Those memories keep me sober but they also make me insane. I left that life and three people took my place. The water wheel of addiction flows like the dope on the streets. 


You are probably alone reading this. I'm alone too. Alone in my hotel at a conference. I'm trying to learn about new ways to help people that use drugs, people like us. We deserve help. We deserve to be safe. We deserve love. 


Be safe my friends. I'll get a story to you when I return. 



Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Walking with my Co Worker

I was walking through the Tenderloin today with one of my co-workers, another person who used to use drugs. I try to run my thoughts through the "is this appropriate filter" but that filter fails when I traverse certain blocks. Here is where I used to sleep outside. This is where the male hustlers used to pick up dates. This is the door well where I sat frozen for few hours after I shot up MDMA mixed with LSD. This is where my ex boyfriend carved A + T in a heart. That boyfriend died of AIDS. This is where I had someone overdose me on meth to try to rape me. I later pressed charges but the statute of limitations on sexual assault was two years at the time. Here is where I turned a trick for twenty dollars then lied to my boyfriend about it (so he wouldn't have to turn a trick). Here is where I used to sell drugs. This is were I used to beg for them when I was dope sick. These were the hotels that kicked me out when my boyfriend used to beat me up. This is the last place I used drugs.  Ok, I didn't actualy tell him all that. Some of it though, for sure.

The Tenderloin tour was nothing but tender. I am how ever strange, grateful it all happened. I appreciate every thing I have today. From clean sheets, to use of the limb they said I might need amputated, to people that love me. People ACTUALLY love me. Not because I have the bag but because I am a good person. I like to pet all the animals. Eat curry. Drink tea that is hot. I have THREE sets of sheets because I can. I like to wear whimsical socks because it makes me smile. I survived all that shit I mentioned. I am happy to have made it out alive.

I love you ppl. I was traveling, not ignoring you. I was eating way too many sea creatures in Boston.

Recent articles about me/harm reduction

Glamour

CNN

Friday, September 22, 2017

When You Overdose...

When you overdose...There will be nothing left for US. I promise I will hug your mother. I'll check on her too or at least I think I will. Your friends are all going to tell stories- good ones and not so good ones. They're angry. We don't understand. We're sad. My sweater won't smell like you for long. It will fade- like the memory of the last time i saw your face. Don't worry, someone will adopt your dog. Did you think about them? When your boyfriend/girlfriend starts fucking someone new, I'll assure them that enough time has passed. What was filled with love is now just there passing time- until the grief subsides.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Best You Can Hope For

"I want him to crawl inside my skin..." I reach for my Arizona Ice Tea. I feel like I swallowed sand paper or razor blades. I went to the free clinic yesterday. They told me I had a two for one infection- strep throat and an abscess. Trying to wash down these horse pills known as antibiotics on an empty stomach is just too fucking much.

My girl is nodding next to me. She looks pretty tonight. Her hair is pulled back into a pony tail, a scarf covers up her exposed skin. Her dress is a sort of black crushed velvet, tight at the waist. Her sugar daddy liked to show her off. She wipes her makeup and lipstick off with some alcohol pads. Our dealer met her in the lobby of the hotel. He knew EXACTLY what time she was going to return. I think he still had hopes she would date him again. She promised me she would never be that desperate. A one time thing is what she told me. I almost believed her.

We put all of our money together on a gram and a hotel room for the night, leaving nothing but a healthy rinse for the morning. She promised me if I went to the doctor she would "take care of me" for the day. I didn't have much to contribute but I could hit her in the neck. That made me valuable. "Blow Blow" I insisted. I wiped away the trickle of blood before it reached the scarf. She needed that for the next date.  I can feel the fever breaking as I sweat underneath my thermal, hoodie, and a wife beater to tuck in my non existent lady bits. We have the window up, the door barricaded shut. Neither one of feels safe in  this place so we pushed the dresser against the door. A couple of xanax later, it will be night night time.

She passes me her other Little Debbie swiss roll she grabbed from the corner store. "dude," she tells me "what the fuck are you even saying?" I am semi delirious from the fever I've had from two days. That plus finally getting well has made the dope hit me hard. I snuggle up even tighter against her. I know she isn't into chicks really but I know she doesn't mind either. We both did that double awhile back. The guy just wanted to watch us kiss while he jacked off, or so he said. I closed my eyes. I didn't want to see it. I just could not that day. She handled everything.

The chocolate is like paste in my sore mouth and throat. "I want some one to crawl inside my skin," I repeated "I want a man to touch my face when he kisses me. I want someone to kiss my scars. I want someone to tell me I'm okay." I halfway laughed at the benzos were kicking in. What I was saying was completely ridiculous. I kicked my shoes off the bed. As the thumped on the floor, I heard the TINK of my empty beer bottle hitting the floor. "I want a him to pull me next to him. Kiss my shoulders, you know, romantic shit."

She started laughing "Kiss your shoulders?" She shook her head. I could feel the motion making my head gently knock against the wall. It was getting heavy now. The pills, all of them, were making their way through my bloodstream. "Bitch you want shoulder kisses? Of all the things- shoulder kisses?" She actually giggled like we were normal for a moment.

I cut her off "YEAH" I said defensively "shoulder fucking kisses." SOME PRETTY WOMAN SHIT she said under her breath.

Her voice starts to trail off "the best you can hope for..." She never answers.

When I open my eyes in the morning, there is 20 units waiting for me. I never saw her again.

I saw them give up on life support and wrap a sheet around this person on Wednesday. No one should ever die alone like this. 


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Social Isolation and Overdose.

I got a message this week from someone who I've never met. That isn't unusual. I get lots of messages and I try to answer all of them. What was unusual was more the content of the message. Essentially the person said I was the only person outside of his dealer that knew he was using heroin. They knew nothing about me really except they thought I might be a person who would care.

That fucked me up family. NO ONE KNOWS you are using heroin except your dealer? That person is at SUCH high risk of dying alone from a fentanyl overdose. It made my heart hurt. Also, thinking about the feeling of keeping a secret like that from everyone in your life. So much stigma attached to heroin use. You can go to any club on any weekend and see people freely blowing lines of coke. Heroin makes a person a social outcast where people feel it is necessary to hide the valuables. This person works, is attractive (from what I can see in pics. I'm not trying to look too hard), has so many "things going for them". Oh, and they use heroin.

I thought about you, dear readers. How many of you have no one to talk to except folk you chat with on the internets (yes I said internets)? We are socially isolated and afraid. In that situation, drugs are a logical conclusion. The drugs are a solution of sorts that create a whole new set of problems. In looking at what we can do to reduce overdoses and increase the health of people who use drugs, it is becoming clearly to me that addressing social isolation needs to be a part of that strategy. I don't know the answers but I know we desperately need connection besides for the connection.

I love you friends.

I won an award this week for my public service. 
This is a pic from my flight with my bff. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Fuck Love

"Fuck love," I told him "I don't need love when I have drugs." I rolled back over.

I could feel his leg shaking on the bed, a combination of anger and betrayal.
"Why did you do that Tracey," he gently turned me towards him "why would you let someone take my check?" I turned my back to him again. I don't feel like talking anymore. My sugar daddy came through with the $200 I begged/borrowed/lied for. I was celebrating- can't you tell?

I was high. High as fuck. The type of high where there really was no point in asking me anything that involved reality. The truth was not going to come out of my mouth. I didn't take his check, I reasoned to myself. I didn't profit in any way. Someone else took it so what did it matter to me...

He started getting louder "why didn't it matter to you?" He asked as if I cared "Because it wasn't YOURS. Because I thought we still meant something to each other?" That was his first mistake. Caring about me. Thinking I had the capacity to get beyond my pettiness.

He was the most beautiful man I had ever dated. I don't mean handsome. I mean he was fucking beautiful as in even the most homophobic of men would concede "that's a handsome man." Heroin had brought us together, a relationship forged in desperation. We would stay the night in seedy hotels, where the floor would move from bugs at night. We clung to each other for some sort of security. Eventually, that security turned romantic, as romantic as I had ever experienced. He bought me a gift once and would save me a wake up. I don't know if it gets more romantic than that.

It's over now. Over the day we sipped that first dose of methadone at the clinic. It was if we both woke up only to say "not you". Except I was regretting that decision. Except I was still in love with him. Except I was chipping again and he was fucking other women. When he didn't come back to the room we shared, I did care if someone took his check. I didn't care about anything. Not caring was my escape. He didn't see the eyeliner that was running into the pillow case from the tears in my eyes. I just wanted him to leave me her to die in dramatic strung out fashion. I proved myself to be the junkie I knew I was right? let me wallow in this a little deeper.

As the door slammed, my heart closed too. Fuck love, I told myself, as I mixed myself another shot- just because.

Recent things I have been in or written:
Bustle

The dopeypodcast

An article for work it health







Sunday, August 27, 2017

"What's the worst thing you've ever done for drugs?"

"What's the worst thing you've ever done for drugs?" he asked me.
 He took another bite of his food. I feel like I am being interviewed for a job I'll never get. If I tell the truth, he is sure to reject me. If I lie, I suppose he will know. I'm not sure how a casual late lunch/pre dinner with a person I met through Instagram has turned into an interrogation of sorts. It's not a date, more of an initiation. Can I meet the standard qualifications to fit into role. It's as if I wouldn't want to be in any club that would have me as a member but social isolation is also a mother fucker.

The truth is flexible. You don't have to lie. You can simply chose to omit the truth. Did you quit using? The correct answer is yes I did (but I started back again). Did you rip me off? The correct answer is no (but my boy did and we split the difference). Do you love me? The answer is always yes. I just happen to love/d drugs more.

He presses me again, not satisfied to hear my opinions on the decor, the neighbor, or the passersby we watch from our window seat. "What do you think is THE worst thing you have ever done for drugs?" When he reaches across the table for the salt, I notice a bump on his hand. It is the type of angry bump one gets from shooting tar into a vein  that is completely unreceptive. The infection has taken off part of the ink from his tattoo. Is this old? Is it new? I can't tell exactly.  He is overdressed for this occasion. San Francisco doesn't require a t-shirt and a flannel and a jacket and a beanie. Despite the fan twirling overhead, I can see the sweat starting to accumulate on his forehead. I can tell he wants to brush it away with our extra napkins.

I take a bite of my increasingly cold food. I hate eating in front of anyone. I feel like eating is an embarrassing private habit. I pull down my shirt to make sure no flesh is poking out on the side above my skirt. I keep pressing my hair behind my ear. I am becoming increasingly anxious from the copious amount of caffeine I ingested earlier. "Um, I would suppose it would be sex for drugs or money."

He laughs out loud, as if I have made a fart joke or something outrageously hilarious. "That's it? I thought coming from you there would be something more original" he quickly salts his food "I mean women give that shit up for a dinner on tinder these days."

I can't decide if I am supposed to be offended by his lack of empathy or laugh. "Well, that is something I don't really like to talk about..." I take a bite of my food, spilling the contents of my taco back on my plate. It sounded like an addiction related dick measuring contest was about to pop off. Instead, we are both trying to feel each other out with small talk about music and why coke tastes better in a bottle.

What IS the worst thing I've ever done for drugs, I think to myself. What does WORST even mean? Have I begged for drugs? Yes. I used to pan handle. I used to go the open air drug market to beg for "uno por gratis". I've spent hundreds of dollars with you. Can you help me out? I'm sick. That falls on deaf ears more times then not. Hundreds? Thousands? I've put a whole life of dreams up my arm. The cost? PRICELESS. Have I scammed for drugs? My whole life is an elaborate con I've played on myself. Of course I have scammed people for drugs. In fact, I've even worked for drugs. Imagine that. I worked a retail job getting yelled at by customers while I saved my pennies up to cop a few Percs when they were available. Who knew it would lead to begging people for their rinse. Do I want to explain these things to another person? Not really, not ever if I can help it.

As I choke down the rest of my food, I notice a restlessness. There is general sense of urgency on his part to end our lunch. As he takes a swig of his "apple juice" from his bag, I get the sense that it wasn't a test to see if he could understand me. It was a test to see if I could understand him. Did I completely miss something here? He throws his napkin down and stands up. It is time to go. NOW.

As we step out in the approaching night air, I turn my head to him. "I didn't get a chance to ask you the same question. What's the worst thing you've done for drugs..." he quickly hugs me as if to say this interaction is over.

He tilts his head to me "I'm not sure yet..."  he half smiles "have a good evening." As he pulls his backpack over his shoulder, I can't help but catch a glimpse of his reflection as he walks away.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Friends and Cats and Other Alternatives to Dope

THERE IS NO MAGIC FORMULA.

Ok, thanks for letting me get that out of the way. So- you want to quit dope? Or maybe you don't. You want to cut back? Or maybe you just want to be safer? (fuck I hope so). I don't know what your goals are dear reader. I just know you have to have something positive going on in your life outside of powders or brown sticky substances.

There is a scene in the movie "Black Tar Heroin" when I was doing laundry. I asked the filmmaker when I got sober, why am I doing laundry. Pretty much anyone who knew me knew I would pick up clothes from the street, a thrift store, or just wear the same damn outfit for a month before I would bother to do laundry. He told me "all you ever did was get high- we needed footage of you doing something else". I cringed for a minute. Then I realized what he was saying was true. My whole life revolved around the obsession and compulsion to use drugs. The obsession in that drugs were pretty much all I ever thought about 24/7. Getting drugs, using drugs, and getting money for drugs were my top three. The compulsion in that I would use drugs even when I didn't want to use them. It was like I had these plans to do other things I would still end up alone with a needle in my arm.

I don't know the magic formula. Maybe you will stop on your own. Maybe rehab. Maybe you will start smoking weed and forget opioids. Maybe Subs or methadone or whatever will do the trick. I just don't know what works for each person. What I do know is that having positive things in your life is going to help you. For me, it is hanging out with my cats/dog. I like to walk around and look at graffiti. I hang out with my best friend at least once a week. I go to a job I like. I go to meetings periodically, mostly for the social aspect of them. I volunteer to help other. I get tattooed by friends. I just try to be in the moment.

Do your thing friends. Don't let your thing do you.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Heroin Saved My Life.

Heroin Saved My Life.
Story time. Pull up a warm fuzzy blanket and some sour patch kids.
Young Tracey was not the Tracey you know today. I was full of insecurity.
I had gotten involved in a relationship with a man I barely knew.
He swept me off my feet with his constant attention.
He was also kinda sort of homeless.
He had nothing else to do.
He told me he loved me and fucked me ten different ways.
He then told me I was fat, stupid, lazy.
Kept me alone in the house for days.

When that relationship ended, I was just on the border of suicidal. Perhaps you have experienced this type of suicidal. It isn't the post strung out suicidal when you low key wish you would die but maybe this hit will fix me suicidal. It was the type of suicidal when I actively went through the A,B,Cs of killing myself. Alcohol wasn't helping. Alcohol always seemed to amplify the worst parts of my personality. I am *almost* joking when I say a night of drinking would end in either 1. crying in a bathroom somewhere 2. trying to stab my friends 3. a combination of both. When heroin came along, I was beyond depressed. I was frequently contemplating the merits of running my car into a brick wall when those delicious powders came into my life.

Heroin probably saved my life. It gave me a purpose. An incredibly dysfunctional one, true, but a purpose. What would have REALLY saved me was some adequate mental health treatment to deal with both my depression and PTSD. These options were not available to me. I found something that seemed to work until the solution became a much larger problem. In dealing with the broader issue of opioid use, it seems like our policy makers are completely out of touch with the fact that drugs play an important role in the daily life of users. Not only do they feel good, they replace what is missing- love, food, security, and at times even health. In any attempt to prevent drug use or discontinue it, we have to be providing some kind of solutions.

I eventually got the care I needed many years later. I am proud to say I survived eight years of active heavy drug use. I am not embarrased by it. I get sad around some of the extremely poor choices I made but getting sad can't actually change a mother fucking thing. I have to put in some work around amending my behavior to not go down those roads again.

I love you friends.
I don't know why you are using.
I just want you to be safe.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Possessed by something outside of myself

Guest Post by Ickymack

Look in the mirror and here I am again 
Abandon sense to bandages to sample where the tragic is
Self knowledge isn't self control,  I sit with sticky swollen skin and candles lit 
Like 
I can't fathom how I got back here 
Rather save face than save ass 
In a soft chair 
Sinking slowly,  remote control me
Rewind and maybe,  just maybe we could've stopped there. 
I try to tell myself that it's not fair 
But deep down this beat up bruised and confused spirit believes its exactly what the fuck I deserve, 
Suffer the world
Stutter for words 
Covered in cuts in a puddle of isopropyl night terrors 
Shudder and curse. 
Because I said I was never going back there 
Said I was never coming back here 
But here I am again,  Broken and beat 
Licking dots of warm blood from my elbow crease 
A Marlboro pleads me to seek its relief 
I concede, no reason to stop there. 
But what happens when it stops working? 
I'm no surgeon 
This is a game of hand grenades and plans I've made have long since pulled curtains 
Bolted doors
Boarded up windows
Grown weeds and graffiti 
And I get the feeling the demolition crew is closing in soon 
(Probably gonna be some more fuckin condos) 
But what the fuck do I know? 
Little to none
Sick of the shit 
Sick of the sun
Sick of the switch gettin flipped quick and makin a run 
Sick of taking every bit of will I got to not fuck up,  to not go out, to stop myself 
I could break out of a straight jacket, leg shackles, chastity belt,  bolt from class without a hall pass,  the man in the iron mask gonna get a breath of fresh air I swear to god! 
But god doesn't live here 
Not in this addiction 
This is prison 
A silhouette sits in the window wishing for redemption 
But I hurt a lot of people 
Made a lot of justifications 
Once an occasion 
Turns to a habit
Turns to a matchstick 
Burning to blackness
The curse if an addict
Hurt with black magic
Possessed by something outside of myself? 
Or maybe it's been in me since the beginning 
Maybe I was meant to numb this broken brain like Novocaine I know it's crazy 
But maybe I never had a chance at winning. 

Look in the mirror and here I am again
And for the first time I realize I'm not alone,  and I never have been 
Whatever happened happened 
And I'm glad it happened 
Self knowledge isn't self control but at least it's half the battle 





Saturday, August 12, 2017

The City I Love

Chicken and a 40 from the corner store
Glass pipes with a rose in it for my gal
Graffiti on the sidewalk from a Pentel
The smell of rotten food on a hot summer day

Homeboy playing Parliament in his 49ers gear
The pigeons all gather for a piece of my tortilla
The ocean so cold, the train is so warm
The dealers ask me "que pasa mammi"

Fog rolls over the hills
I'm nodding in my friends(?) car
Cotton fever givin me chills
Antibiotics and a Nestle quik chaser

I tried to call home but you didn't answer
I tried to fall in love but I have nothing to offer
I have this room and you have a clean outfit
Tap on my shoulder while I pick at my skin

I read a book by William S Burroughs.
I'm the authority on vices and sins.
Let's go record shopping while it's still ironic.
I'll be RIGHT back with your money. 3,2,1,...

A pack of Newports and a dream please
A Mountain Dew to swallow my lies
My blue eyes pinned to the wall behind me
An alcohol wipe to scrub you out of my life

The City I Love


RIP TO THE ONE AND ONLY STAK. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Cassie

my wife loved blackberries.
i had never noticed how they grow everywhere here.
on the side of the road, under bridges, in the cracks in the sidewalk.
you can’t avoid them and i try not to.
they say it gets better. 
that the passage of time erases the loss.
i pray that that is not true. 
i can no longer remember her laugh, or the sound of it.
i can no longer remember the sound her chest made when she inhaled.
wrinkles around her eyes that grinned in unison when she was surprised
the feeling of cold sweat on her nervous palms when we hadn’t seen each other in a few days
her feet shuffling to the hallway in the morning and it’s perfect cadence are all also gone.
they say that everyday it hurts less but this pain in my chest
the feeling that i still can’t completely catch my breath
my terror that this may all be true and the horror that it is indeed
my empty rib cage where she fit so perfectly even on the most sleepless of nights 
are all but the very last reminders that she was real
here with me
not a school boys dream crush dreamt and shaped to perfection on the backs of eyelids
not the beautiful lead character in a story made up to impress my childhood friends
not the product of an overactive underfed tender little love starved ache that lived in my soul until the day that we met
she was real.
beautiful and kind.
slightly flawed in all the best ways.
she had never shot drugs when i met her and i was her first.
i didn’t fight it and she didn’t fight.
it seemed to make sense that she would be with me in that way.
like some weird ritualistic bloodletting wedding ceremony
the blood is the life
her parents say, still say that i killed her
and i agree.
i did kill Cassie.
i killed someones child,
i killed someones love,
i killed my future and i killed my happiness
they say it gets better
and i pray that that isn’t true.
   The writer's father 


This is a guest piece by my bff K Sabatini, seen here. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

No Shelter From the Coming Storm

I can hear breath go in and out or is that the sound of a lost cause? I feel my lungs expand with the ever present doubt that they will fill to the brim with the oxygen I need to survive. I can hear the blood rushing through my ears. Pulsing like an electric shock through to my teeth. My heart beats inside my head like the faint tapping of the police at the door. Yes I can hear all that banging. I barely see the people walking by, gazing down at me. They provide me with a passing glance as they pour a handful of soil into my grave. Walking by, judging my position in life- six feet under, five bags deep.

I feel them slip the oxygen into my nose. Into? Out? I'm confused now. I feel the cold stainless steel against my air as the push me into the back of the ambulance. I see the scrubbed white walls as the wheel me down the hall. I try to reach up but I am shackled to the gurney. "We are taking you into surgery now. Count backwards from 10, 9, 8..."I feel the prick in my arm. I wake up to blood soaked bandages. I feel a tightness in my arm. "Can I call my mother?" I start to tremble from the anesthesia. 

I was laying on the ground, dreaming of him/her/them. Not the ground, like looking at the cloud on your grandmother's porch in the summertime. I was laying on the concrete, dreaming of the afternoon you pushed my hair gently behind my ear. You promised me everything was going to be okay as you squeezed my shoulders. I was sick that morning/day/night/decade. I didn't have the motion to go another step. You gestured that you would come back for me. Did you ever? I didn't leave that spot for hours upon hours, thinking I didn't want to miss you. Believing you would come back with my dope or my money. I believe you never did.

I was trying to find a vein. Here a poke, there a poke, everywhere a poke. Is it worse to have money and no way to get drugs or drugs and no way to find a vein? Blood trickles into my new socks. When I stand up, I see the future. No rest for the weary, no shelter from the coming storm. 

     I took my depression jammies off just for you. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Encounter


The blonde hooker with the black eye reaches for her bear claw while the man in the piss stained clothes shuffles by, headed for the sugar. It's that period of the twenty four hours that make up a day when the brutal realities of life are hidden away from the pedestrians known by normal folk. The darkness veils the stark truth of life on the fringes of the city. The florescent lights of the donut shop are a magnifying glass, revealing what the naked eye generally avoids. As the man fills the coffee cup he pulled off one of the tables with what seems like an endless supply of sugar, I focus on my apple turnover.

"Dude," my friend yells as she tries to fan the smell away from his nose "how can a person live like that?" He takes a sip of his coffee, a watered down hazelnut blend. It is hot, steaming up his broken glasses. The arm no longer exists on the right side. His ego has given way to a utilitarian desire to see.

I point to the clock "that dude is waiting until the liquor store opens at six am. He probably passed out before he could hit the store before they stopped selling..." I try not to look at the man and his predicament. It can't avert my eyes from the wet stain on the back of his pants.

He continues "that dude...that dude is fucked..."

I chuckle to myself. THAT dude is fucked. We are sitting in this donut shop because neither one of us have a place to stay tonight. We are pooling our money to split a gram from the only connect who will come out this late. This mfer has an abscess so ripe, I can smell it across the table. I haven't had a period or a phone call to my family in over six months. Both of us are so sick, we can't finish a pastry, which would be the only thing we ate today if we could actually eat. I touched a dick for my money, he stole from a mom and pop store while they followed him out into the street screaming. Yeah. THAT dude is fucked. Not us.

As the old drunk walks past me to hit the door, we briefly lock eyes. How did he get to this place? How did I get to this place? "You got a cigarette?" he asks me. I honestly don't smoke. As he shuffles out, killing time, I push my food into another circle waiting for my own sweet relief to arrive.



    I am kind of a crazy cat lady. I have a dog too. She is great, just 13 1/2 so she sleeps all day. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

I wasn't born a junkie.

The dog licks the salt of my skin as I feel myself frying in the heat of the midday sun. I would move except I am inside and this isn't really happening. It is just a memory of a day when I stuck to the mattress with my hair matted against the back of my neck with the sweat that only come from a speedball stuffed between two little debbie pies and a flat beer I found from last night. The traveling kid told me his dog was friendly, friendly enough to steal my last piece of fried chicken before I could get the words out to not chew on the bones. I thought I said something but the xanax was talking for me. A lil something about "dkjtyfkuyflui;i" in between wondering if I had lost my ID so I could get my western union in the morning. I had to pee behind two cars. I almost missed my sock this time but I was a bit wobbly. I would change them if it wasn't for the fact that I am four bags deep. The only goal I can reach is scratching my skin to the exposed core of my loneliness.

OH HOW I WISH YOU WERE HERE. There was a time when we promised each other that our love would last- forever? Forever wasn't really that long ago baby, was it? As soon as I pulled that needle out of my skin, all the hellos in the world could not feel as good as this. You kissed me on my dry lips. I swore that I would never do it again (again and again and again). I am better off without you, I tell myself as I think about you walking away with someone else.

I wasn't born a junkie. What made me this way? Was it the vampire that made me- another lost soul that didn't want to experience death alone. They turned me out into the cold cruel reality of love in thirty units. It manifested into fifty now, eighty on a good day. Add the water, draw up the universe and pray this gets me. We are all interconnected through the brotherhood of the traveling spoon, of the constipation, the tiny pupils, the friendly discourse that comes as we wait on the same dealer. Of the artists without a canvas, the musicians with their equipment in pawn, and the frail kid in long sleeves serving cocktails so he can get a fix with his hard earned tips.

I wasn't born a junkie.
I don't need to die as one, either.
As long as the breath goes in and out, I have the capacity to change.

I am sitting here drinking a soy latte next to my cat in the house that I own, on the computer I just bought, and I'm sober. Things can change.



Below is me getting my mic for a feature on CNN on naloxone care packages. 


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. 

FOREVER GLOOM