Tuesday, November 13, 2018

2018- the Year In Harm Reduction

2018 is slowly coming to a close.

Let's start with the positives. Overdose deaths have fallen for six months in a row. I know the Trump Administration wants to take credit for this number but I suspect the record will show this is linked to a combination of factors: The rise of fentanyl test strips, the expansion of MAT, the diligent efforts of outreach workers, overall awareness of overdose, and the expansion of access to naloxone. Regardless of any short term decreases, these numbers are still in the tens of thousands. In addition, deaths related to stimulants are creeping up to 10,000 people per year. In other words, much more work needs to be done. Work we can all do together.

Secondly, mail based Harm reduction services have officially been approved in New York State with more on the way. Please visit my partner project Next Distro here. In 2019, I am going to pour all my personal and professional resources into expanding mail based Harm Reduction.

Naloxone access has expanded all over the US. There are programs springing up in unexpected locations such as Iowa and Arkansas and Florida and any place radical folks decide to set up shop. In 2016, I predicted that Harm Reduction efforts would have to expand both above ground and below ground. I am extremely pleased with the results.

There is a ground swell of support for Harm Reduction. I recently was in New Orleans where 2000 folks came together to share best practices. It was rad to see how far we have come as a community.

in 2018, we lost Dan Bigg, one of my personal heroes. Too many of us are still dying.

In 2018, sex workers continue to suffer as a result of SESTA/FOSTA.

In 2018, the 12 step community continues to stigmatize people on MAT.

In 2018, methadone continues to be treated as if it is not "recovery".

In 2018, people are being sent to shitty rehabs where they detox, leave, OD and die.

In 2018, there is still limited accountability in both the sober living and rehab industry.

Personally, I saw a stark difference in the crowds at my presentations across the US. The messages I promote have been well received from even very conservative audiences. Everyone seems to be in agreement that SOMETHING has to change. The details of what and how are in dispute. I also have personally enjoyed some of the protests of https://www.sacklerpain.org/ I absolutely think pain patients have been fucked in this whole national opioid strategy AND I believe fuck the system that created many of these issues for those not in chronic pain.

I have been spending a bunch of time with my children lately. They are rad little people.

I love you. XOXO Tracey.

California Dreaming 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Little hands

"Mommy- have you ever shoplifted?"
This was an unexpected question coming through the darkness from the direction of my sleepy son. We recently had started a series of question and answer time before we fall asleep. Due to an unforeseen series of events, sleep has been evasive for me. The fan in his room provides me with just enough white noise to drift off into dreamland (until I wake up at 1am, 3am, then finally 5:30am for work).

"Why are you asking me that sweetheart?" I don't want to be evasive but I am certainly curious where a seven year old heard this term. "and yes, I have shoplifted before..."

The truth is, I was already shoplifting when I was his age. I had already tried weed. I had already drank. I am not looking for sympathy. These are simply facts. My upbringing was a complicated one. On the outside, things might have looked relatively normal. But the foundation had many cracks in it, just beyond what was visible. Stealing wasn't what I called that behavior. It was just the rush of taking an object I wanted and getting away with it. Later in life, I did some minor theft but that was related to things I couldn't afford like tampons, lice medication, socks, and food. I explained these realities to him but he appears to be growing disinterested.

I get a lot of questions about what I will tell my children about my addiction to drugs and homelessness. The truth is that I have already clued them in to these things. I feel like there is no point in hiding it. They would find out, they would be angry that I hid the truth. Instead, I am trying to integrate them into my life and into my advocacy work. They are a shiny example of how families need to be kept together, that the system needs to be overhauled, and that ex offenders need treatment.

So I answer uncomfortable questions.

Dear readers- Please educate your friends about overdose. Get naloxone. Contact me if you need it. I love you and hope you are enjoying your day.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Flavored Coffee and a side of remorse

I got up at 6:45 am this morning to head to the lab at my HMO. They said I had to fast 12 hours so of course I woke up every 30 minutes imagining myself withering from hunger. By 7:14, I took a number. I took my place on the hard plastic seats, a favorite furniture choice of medical clinics and waiting rooms outside county jails. I was holding labels for six tubes of blood. One to see if my food choices is clogging up my heart, one to see if my fatness is actually a medical issue, one to see if I have early markers for the cancer that killed my mother, one to reassure me that I did, in fact, clear the Hep C virus, and one to see if I have any signs of the DIABEETUS,

My name is called. I have to explain to Ben the handsome Asian tech that I used to use IV drugs, I have no veins, and other sordid details. Mercifully, he agrees to stick the needle where I recommend. The blood starts to register, uh I mean rush, uh I mean pour in. I thank Ben for his kindness. I have a snack in the pocket of my hoodie. I pull it out like a security blanket. I drop by the cafeteria for a quick cup of coffee. It's close to 8:00 am now. I'm two full hours past my normal coffee o'clock. I pick the hazelnut flavored one.

As I go to put the lid on, this remind me of the coffee shop next to the methadone clinic. I'd mix 1/4 cream, 1/4 sugar and the rest a thin brown liquid. It tasted sweet as candy and helped to boost me up. A cup of coffee meant I could sit at the table for an hour. I had paid the price of admittance. I sit and stare out the big windows that face the clinic. All my belongings are in bags beside me. I hoping to be seen. If I can sell two more bags, I have enough money left over to reup and get a room for the night. I take the balloons out of my mouth and put them in the palm of my hand. The coffee feels warm as it drips down the back of my throat. I haven't eaten today but I have done a 1/2 a gram plus a bag of coke. If I rest my eyes here for a second I can almost feel my dose.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"The Normal"

When I was strung out like a lab monkey, I would pull up a piece of concrete and watch the "normies" go by. I was always horrified by myself when I would imagine how I must appear to the mother holding her toddler's hand as the scoot of to daycare. I was in a world of my own to a certain extent. My world consisted of getting money, getting drugs, using drugs, maybe hanging with people, eating once a day, finding more money. If I was lucky, I could cop a nod in between point A and point B. Those occasions became fewer and farther between though.

In 2018, I'm a married mother of three kids. I have a career. I have pets. I have responsibilities. It isn't that I never think of shooting dope, smoking crack, taking klonopins, or tweaking balls like I used to for many years. I just have collected a bunch of things I like to do more. Drugs played a role in my life, a pretty sizable one. It just wasn't sustainable. During the last month of my drug use, I used to mix speed, heroin, and powder cocaine in the same shot. I used to call it "the normal". I would inject it then for a few minutes I would feel similar to how I feel now. Then, the chemicals would spin me off in different directions until the next time.

I don't know what normal is but this is the best I have ever felt. I hope what ever you have going on, you are safe and healthy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

where the fuck have you been?

Well "where the fuck have you been?' used to be a phrase I would hear a lot if you were to hand me any money. I was notorious for losing track of time ie trying to use your money to make more money. The same sort of applies here.

I have been taking a break from writing to focus on the expansion of the mail based Harm Reduction program. What I have been trying to construct is a distribution network that can get supplies out to the pubic quicker and more accurately. My closet based thing is great but I put the PRO in procrastination. I just don't have as much time as requests expand. I am happy to say, we have steady distribution networks building in multiple states. If you want to get on board, let a bitch now. I can use all the help I can get. The main efforts also involve seeding clusters of people who use drugs with NARCAN so there is some available to communities of folks using together.

In personal news, there really isn't any. I haven't been depressed in around two months. I tend to write when I am depressed. I am working on providing some technical assistance for a very special project with some high powered folks around overdose education. I had a NARCAN pop up at the REMIO art show. That was RAD. Mostly, I have been spending time with my kids.

I have a survey going, trying to assess the needs of community. Please fill one out. It is anonymous

I will be back with new stories but probably more like 1-2 a month. XOXO Tracey

Graffiti from outside my job 

Monday, July 30, 2018

My future is in my hands.

I took the syringe firmly in my hand as I attempted to draw up my life through a cotton. My nose is dripping into the cooker, the smell of vinegar and instant coffee is overpowering. Whatever this is cut with, it ain't dope. My streak of broken luck continues. My eyes are watering with what I can only describe as involuntary tears. It had been a sunrise and a sunset since my last hit. I have no concept of what the rest of the world could describe as time. The Earth revolves around the sun the way my life revolves around this drug. Every hour, every minute exists for the moment I will spend engaged with this syringe and the blue lines that lead me to where I need to be.

I take my broken cockring and make it tight around my wrist. I don't have time for shoelaces or a condom for a tie. I got this "bracelet" from the last person I fucked- a lil souvenir. Looking for that space between my fingers where I found that last spot. I marked it with a sharpie for future use. The pain is my existence while stabbing myself in search of the pathway to salvation. with the sweet release of the tie, I feel the hot pink swelling travel over my hand. Not only did I miss, the tar was so hot it feels like it is searing my nerve endings. I lick the blood off my fingers and pray for a feeling that never comes. The histamine reaction runs down my arm like a scene from Dante's Inferno. It is worse than the two lovers that see each other and never touch. It is the junkie that misses her hit on her last $20. I put my head against the brick wall, secretly hoping that this shit will kill me. It never does.

art by MIKE

Saturday, June 30, 2018

When You Only Have One Syringe

From 1990-1991, I had one syringe. One.

What do you do when you only have one syringe?

I started using opioids IV in 1990. The first thing ever put in my veins was some kind of vicodin or perc shit show my friend had cold water extracted. He had one syringe. That he had inherited after a cocaine binge involving three other people. This was now mine/ours/the community syringe. He bleached it, a process that frequently dries out the runner plunger. That instrument was suspect from the day it first went in my arm. I used that same syringe for the next YEAR, unable to obtain a new one.

There was my first time trying heroin, a three day binge on morphine sulphate (involving friends), a few coke binges, more heroin. Same syringe. We would sharpen in on a match book. We would use lube from a condom. There were times we would bleach it. There were times we just cleaned it with water. It was essentially a fish hook that left me bruised and damaged. Yet it was so valuable, years later when I went home to visit, I found that same syringe hidden inside my belongings. I was THAT SURE I might never get another one. It was precious. It probably passed along the Hep C to me but I loved you gal.

It's 2018 now. In Cincinnati Ohio, where I am from, there is a very small syringe exchange program that began in the last few years. The rest of the state has limited access. BUT ISN'T IT LEGAL IN MY STATE? It might be but that doesn't mean the pharmacist is required to sell them. Hep C rates are rising all over the country. There are clusters of new HIV cases. I've been contacted by people paying $5 for a new one or more.

There is more work to do.

In the meantime, I strongly suggest buying a prepaid credit card and ordering a box online then dividing among friends if nothing else is available.

I love you. XOXO Tracey

I'm teaming up with Remio to do an overdose prevention event July 13 at Art Primo in SF