Monday, March 13, 2017

An Angry Sky

The sky opened up. It started to rain, raining buckets. I thought I would drown if I played my cards right. All I was playing was broken hearts. I looked for the connection. Even Mexican drug dealers have limitations. He wore a garbage bag poncho, unprepared for the Northern California weather.

"Uno", I told him. I really wanted two. I NEEDED two. One wasn't going to do shit.

He looked around before he spit the dope into his hand. In his confusion, he gave me a half instead of a quarter. I wasn't going to complain. I've seen junkies try to get brownie points by mentioning errors in the transaction. Oh look- you gave me x.y,z. Fuck all that. It is me verses everyone.

I look into his brown eyes. How old is he? Where did he come from. The last one told me he was 15, brought up her from Mexico specifically to sell dope with his cousin. The one before him was 14. They are all disposable- just like me. They grow fuzzy patches of facial hair to try to make themselves look older. When I was 14, I was still sleeping with a stuffed animal. I still would be if I wouldn't have lost my innocence somewhere on this street.

I look for a corner dry enough to sustain my activities. I look for a vein strong enough to carry away my burdens. I was hoping the rain would drown me. I was hoping I would die but I woke up today. I know this hit won't kill me. Maybe, just maybe, it can make me feel  again.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Last Day I Used Drugs 2017 edition.

This week marked 19 years since I quit using drugs. I had planned this elaborate post outlining all the horrors that drug use brought me that I was going to share with you. Then, the strangest thing happened. I went out on a long walk around the city I love with a new friend. When I got home, I was simply too happy to take myself back into that place.

Depression is a comfortable sweater for me. Only there are times when I really want to change my clothes. I took off all those layers of anxiety and that veil of sadness a few times this week. I have to say, it felt REALLY fucking good. There are many days over the past 19 years when I have wondered if my brain will ever recover from the damage I did to it. Between the heroin, the crack, the 4-6+ days up on amphetamines, to the copious amounts of benzos, I have feared for my long term sanity. Getting together and talking to another person who has the same issues made me feel like I am not so isolated. In fact, there ARE people who want to be around me. I just shut them out because I am afraid of being hurt or somehow unworthy of affection. It is a vicious cycle of self doubt. For whatever reason, I really spent some quality time with quality people this week. I realized my world is a small as I allow it to be.

I get asked alot- why don't you just put all this behind you? The truth is that I can't forget it. The reminders are there every single day. First of all, I have abscess that are on all my limbs. Between that and the collapsed veins, their is more than enough physical evidence that using was huge part of my left. Second of all, I am a convicted felon. This impacts my freedoms. Third, there are no pictures of me from my senior year of high school to my first year clean with the exception of police booking photos and the movie "Black Tar Heroin: The Dark End of the Street". Finally, the vast majority of my friends are dead. Writing and talking about them keeps them alive.

I don't have a gory tale this year. Don't worry, I have plenty stored for next time!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

More Questions than Answers

“I had the dream last night…” I thought he was listening but he had already turned his back to me.
I had the dream last night. I have this reoccurring dream where I am walking in the doorway of my parents’ house. It is cold outside. It is cold enough to see my breath. I open up the door with the key that is on a chain around my neck. I am eleven years old. Old enough to be home alone. I walk into the empty house. I can hear the echoes of the constant screams. The arguments that trail from one room into the next as my mother follows my father from room to room. I KNOW YOU HAVE BEEN DRINKING. We all know. How could you miss it? This man with the large hands staggering through the door. He attempts to make himself something to eat before there is a confrontation. I sink into the couch, wondering if I can disappear into the fabric. I want to be invisible. I want to run away. He didn’t put his check in the bank again. Are we going to have money for food? I will sneak upstairs later. I will crawl across the floor, army style. I will select a crisp twenty from his wallet. He always has money for booze. He always makes her beg. The voices are ringing in the hallway yet no one is here.
I am alone. I am in my twenties now. I have one backpack full of all my belongings. The house is empty. I am strung the fuck out. Returning home with my tail tucked between my legs like the broken animal that I am. I need a place to stretch out like a cat in the window as I shiver as the fear leaves my body. Detoxing in my parents bed. Sleeping and dreaming of heroin. Sweating and freezing and praying that I emerge from this shell as a butterfly not a tick, sucking the life from anyone that gets close to me.

I had the dream again. I was strung out, searching frantically for a syringe in my blankets. This time I was in jail. I was kicking so hard. Searching frantically for that last hit. Except I am awake. This isn’t a dream, this is a memory. This is how my drug use ended. I was hallucinating that day. Day 2? Day 3? All the days blur together.
I am alive now. I am aware of all the things that have passed in my life, all my “reasons” for using. I keep having the dreams. People ask me- do you crave heroin? Do you ever think about getting high? Um yeah. Of course I do! I think about eating a whole cake, or cutting myself, or jumping in front of a train too. I just don’t do it. Not today at least. I can’t control my thoughts. I can only control my actions. Heroin saved me. It saved me from killing myself. Then, it strangled me near death. I don’t blame heroin. I don’t blame my past. Blame, shame, guilt are all useless in daily living. I just push forward. I just focus on the NEXT thing that will keep me sane. It might be my cats. It could be my work. My family helps. I made a new friend recently that actually likes to spend time with me. That certainly helps. Addiction, the feeling of missing something I never had, makes me realize I have to be okay with what I am. Someone loves me. Someone loves you, too. Believe this. Sticking needles in my neck left me with more questions than answers but I am okay with just living my life as it comes.

I roasted a chicken. Who says you can't turn a ho into a housewife?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Maybe I Never Deserved This

Maybe, I deserved to get raped. 
I mean, I was so fucked up I shouldn't have been outside, right?!
Why did I think that I could kick heroin anyway. Does anyone really stop? Don't they just die or get on methadone for the rest of their lives. I mean- do you know anyone like me that has ever stopped?

I turn to look at my therapist. She gives me that warm look of interest without the sense of true understanding that I am going for at this moment. I am laying down on her couch. This isn't how she generally handles her sessions. This is by my special request. I can't stand to look at her. I can't stand to look at anyone. I can't stand to look at the truth. 

Rape is a type of spiritual pain that rips into your psyche as your flesh gives way to the hate of another human being. Despite the anesthetizing benefits of klonopin, my lower extremities were still present enough to wonder if I was actually going to bleed. The delicate walls of the honey hole I had used to seduce the last $20 out of a wallet was now being stung with the reality of how little my life was worth. 

I feel myself being pulled back into that moment. I remind myself I am in the room. I am on the couch. I am staring out the window now. I am trying to stay in my body. Remember how I left my body that night? Remember how I got back and my boyfriend told me it was my fault. I saw him at a meeting. He wanted a hug. He wanted a hug from me. All I needed that night was a fucking hug. 

"Why did you go out there?" he asked me. 

I get it. It is MY fault that I was walking long  when someone decided to rape me on the stairwell. It was MY fault that I didn't fight him off. It was MY fault that we needed money , that I left the room, that I wasn't satisfied drinking beer and fighting with you all night. 

Quitting heroin left a void in my life. When I took that last drink of methadone at the clinic, I already knew I would somehow make it back on dope. I just didn't know WHEN. I tried jogging- the idea was ridiculous. I went jogging through the Tenderloin and Civic Center. The clinic swore that exercise would help. 21 days on detox was not enough, they told me. Then why am I paying for this shit- I asked myself. I tried to stop. I really fucking tried to stop. 

"I really fucking tried, " I told the therapist. 
My best was never good enough. 
When you pull the needle out of your arm, when you feel the burn in your nose, when you lay back on the bed and blow out your last pull of those delicious drugs do you ever wonder if you will ever stop. Can I ever stop? Or do I want this feeling to last forever. If I die RIGHT NOW, will my life have mattered? It did, it does, it will (I never told myself that I mattered). 

They day that he raped me was the day I believed I would never stop using drugs. Why should I? 23 years old. Now I am soiled. I am the scorched earth. I am the bridge I burned to the ground. I am never the same again. Chalk it up to the game, they told me. I didn't. 

I am clean now. Or sober. Or off drugs. Or whatever I chose to call it. I tried, I really fucking tried. I did this. I am beating this thing called my past that enjoys swallowing me whole. I can walk past my fears. I can enjoy my life. I didn't die on that day, although many time I wished that I had. That night is just a speck in the landscape that is my (mostly happy) life. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

This Afternoon.

I was so excited to get done with work a few minutes early today. The sun has been shining for the past few days. As I stepped out of the building and into the alley, I caught a little chill in the air. I decided to throw my hoodie on. I looked around first. The alley is a popular tourist destination. In the morning, the sides of the buildings are supported by the bodies of those souls hoping to get a spot in treatment for the day. When the gate gets flung open promptly at 8:00am, there is never a shortage of folk hoping today will be the first day they spend searching for a hit. There are limited spots for detox, bupe, and even rehab for a lucky few that arrived at JUST the right moment when the universe aligned to provide a rare opening. Mostly, people are told to return, shuffling back to the streets with less urgency and more hopelessness. At night, the alley becomes a beacon for crack smokers and youngsters needing to find a "safe" place to piss as they stumble to the train after pounding fifteen dollar cocktails.

I pull my backpack on. With a quick adjustment to my attire, the addition of my hoodie has pushed me back into a different era. There was a time when everything I owned fit in a backpack just like this one. The layers were meant to keep me warm all night. My pockets were filled with matches, a few syringes, and perhaps money that left as soon as it got there. As I make it to the corner, I see a crowd across the street. A group of the usual suspects is gathered in front of the liquor store. I recognize one face from my time, long ago, at the methadone clinic. A few are stone cold alcoholics plotting their next bottle of poison. I see one dude firmly on the dip and scratch from the blessed combo of uppers and downers. As I plan in my mind where exactly I am going to walk to avoid being straight in the middle, a woman tells me "excuse me" as she pushes through.

I missed the reason for the assault. I missed the reasons that the old man was now lying on the ground in front of me. "No one gives a fuck about what you..." I heard him sobbing, waiting to see if someone is now going to kick him in the head. I review the odds in my mind. The odds that I will now get ratpacked if I decide to help him up. The odds are just too great. I can hear the other man is trying to teach him some kind of lesson that only is solidified at the end of a fist. Should I call the cops? Never. That is what I was told so many years ago. Should I call the ambulance? I do neither. By the time the ambulance gets there, the man will be gone. The man who hit him will be gone. The people on the corner will be gone. The only thing left will be the image in my mind. The only thing left will be the questions about humanity. The reality is that I was afraid, afraid for myself in that moment. I haven't felt that fear in a long time. Someone helped him up as I walked away from my past.

I used to stand on a street corner and sell heroin. I used to carry money in my pussy with out a care in the world. All I wanted was that dope to fuck me from the inside. All I wanted was to feel numb enough to no longer be afraid. I went from being a nerdy kid to a whirlwind of violence, all because I was too afraid to let the drugs go. Would I have ended up laid out on that street corner? Probably. I have more than once. My fear was not dying with a needle in my arm. It was having to live in that life for many years to come. What a horror show.

I caught my train. My three kids gave me hugs. We talk about the Valentines they need for school. I am grateful.

I paid dude to take this picture. Don't take pics of random people on the street without asking. Rude. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

I was here.

The rain reminds me of being homeless. I would scramble or even fight, if necessary, for a dry place to sleep.

The rain reminds me of a time when I was dopesick. It was dark outside, but the dealers were still out of the corner. I tried to make it back to my encampment. I knew I could not. I felt the puke hit the back of my throat when I realized I needed to conduct my dirty business right there. I had a cooker- no water. I pulled my rig out of my back pocket. It was raining outside. I saw the rain pooling on the hood of the car in front of me. It has been raining for awhile- how dirty can it really be? I thought to myself. I used that water. That water almost cost me my leg. I got a raging infection, an infection so rancid that you could smell the rotten tissue from half a block away. If I would not have gotten arrested, maybe I would be one of those people you see panhandling in a wheelchair in the median of any busy street.

The rain reminds me of getting in cars with strangers. Dealers, tricks, new "friends". Waiting outside in front of some business, hoping some civilian doesn't ask me to move along. Wondering if my life has any meaning. Wondering where I will go next.

The rain reminds me of curling up next to friends of boyfriends in parking garages. We would huddle for warmth in there. Two bodies under a trash bag or a blanket. There might be a fleeting kiss. Most of those people are dead now. Most of the people who knew them are also dead. I am the vessel left with the collective memory of those that have passed on. If I didn't write about them, would they even exist. Would I have existed if I died then? Faded pictures in a hallway collecting dust in the sunlight.

When you are gone, and your family is gone, who will remember you? Who will remember any of us? Are we washed away like the filth on the street made clean after a rainy day.Or do we cling to the concrete. We leave little pieces of us saying "I was here". I left that life. I left those streets behind. I have little faces that make me cards saying "we love you mommy". They don't know the person I was back then. They will never understand the pain I felt inside. I don't want them to know. I want them to think than a rainy day means coloring, xbox, or making blanket forts. I want them to know rain brings flowers. When I see the dripping trees, I still remember. I still know I was there.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Rotten bandages

Which came first- Crippling self doubt or the magnetic desire to numb myself? As far back as I can remember, these have been the tracks playing in my mind. Tip toeing around the house, trying not to wake up my father as he sleeps off the booze. The smell of mixed drinks and his violent snores fill the middle of the room as I quietly retrieve my toy from under his feet. If I wake him, there will be a series of arguments. Or he will walk out with no indication of when or if he will return. I slink up to my room to play alone, grabbing some Doritos and soda to drown my feelings. 

I pull my pants down to my knees, searching fruitlessly for that perfect spot of blue that hasn't disappeared beneath the goosebumps that cover my bruised flesh. It's cold out. I don't feel anything. I don't see anything. I don't hear the sound of children nearby as their parents walk them to school. He left me again. Left me days ago saying “I'll be right back…” I should have known the truth. My $40 and his pretty face are gone. I gave up believing in happily ever after a lifetime ago. If he doesn't show up with a jail wristband, it's over. Sticking myself with poison, hoping I can spread my ribs to massage my aching heart back to life one day. 

I got your text message. I read it again and again. I want to believe in someone. I want to believe in something. When you told me you “adore me”, I want to believe I am the person that you see. I want to believe you aren't the ten other men that hurt me. I want to believe you aren't my father, looking for any reason to leave. I want to believe in a friend that elevates me above my fears. I want to believe I am better than this. I dissect happiness into the smallest pieces. I inspect it for the tiniest flaw. Which came first- Crippling self doubt or the magnetic desire to numb myself? I am not sure. I need you to shake me loose from these rotten bandages so I can finally heal.