Sunday, January 21, 2018

Mood swings

Question of the Moment: How do I deal with the mood swings that come when you stop opioids.

Answer: I wish I knew.

Opioids act as a mild anti-depressant from most of us. I would also argue that a good chunk of us had mental health issues to start with: depression, anxiety, PTSD, and the like. Op
ioids feel fucking good. Why else would we take them, right? Well, I think the answer is more nuanced. Opioids have diminishing returns. At a certain point, the don't feel THAT good. Continuing to take them is more of a stop gap measure to avoid the mental (and physical) hell that comes from getting off of them. The higher the dosage ie the more you are taking, the less you are generally getting out of them. I strongly recommend any of my active user friends out there try remedies to reduce tolerance. It is a few days of bullshit but it will mentally benefit and financially benefit you. Baby rhino tolerance = baby rhino spending and the potentially criminal bullshit that comes with keeping that beast fed.

My mental state is a series of ups and downs. I notice recently that social media is making this worse. Everyone is younger, prettier, happier, and more social than me according to these pictures. Also- fuck your flat stomach. Just kidding, sort of. I was skinny once too, it just took starvation and a metric fuckton of stimulants to get there. I've been on a diet for 18 months so excuse my bitterness. I'll take another sip of coffee to wash that down. Black of course. Cream and sugar have delicious calories. Anyway, find some things you like. I have my support animals. I try to walk 3 to 5 miles 5 days a week. I have a few close friends that seem reasonably okay with my levels of sanity. I periodically have fits and block people. I don't know why I am an asshole at times. Isolation tells me I don't need people then reason slowly creeps in.

I personally have avoided psych meds. This is my own internal fears and stigma. Don't listen to me, do your own thing. Mostly, I have been terrified of the potential side effects. I can honestly say I will take them if my cycles of depression get much lower. I'm not afraid- I'm just cautious. Not that "I don't want to be dependent on anything" bullshit that anti medication people spew. That is not it. It is more- I am afraid of weight gain, sexual side effects, and not feeling myself. But, as I said, I'm open to anything that might help me in the future. If things change, you'll be the first person to know because I have no filter.

I went on a hike yesterday. I don't know how I went from a country girl to the Tenderloin to a suburban mom type but I did recognize how to find rabbits. Seven year old me was excited that I still recognize tracks that don't involve removing a syringe.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Small Lesson In Harm Reduction

In January 2000, I attended a conference focused on heroin in Seattle, Washington. 

Here's a description:
Heroin overdoses and overdose fatalities are steadily increasing in North America and around the world. Many overdoses are preventable, often with simple and inexpensive interventions based upon scientific research, epidemiological and ethnographic insights, and common sense.
More then 400 participants attended the two day conference, which featured presentations by leading experts from around the world -- scholars, service providers, outreach workers and others who deal with and are affected by heroin overdoses, to discuss:
    • Risk factors and epidemiology of heroin overdose
    • Treatment modalities
    • Outreach and education
    • Naloxone distribution
    • The roles of researchers, emergency medical services, law enforcement, and families and friends of overdose victims
You read that correctly. This is what we were talking about in January of 2000. 

It is now 18 years later. I am hear talking about the same things on a much larger scale. 29 year old me would find it hard to understand how 198 people could die of overdose deaths in one year. One of those was a woman I dated a few times. She was one of the most beautiful people I ever knew in my entire life. Such a warm and wonderful person gone far too soon. I didn't fully understand or even completely embrace harm reduction until I realized that 1. it had saved my life and 2. it wasn't in conflict with the idea of getting "clean" or "sober". A person could not get "clean" if they were dead. My ideas evolved over time. Here I am today. 

I am not sure what the next 18 years are going to be like. While we have made strides in many states (North Carolina has 29 syringe exchanges yay) we are completely fucking up in other places. Rates of Hep C, HIV, and overdose deaths are going up in my own tri county Ohio/KY hometown and many other places. So fucking frustrating. 

I really need something from you, readers. I need information. I need to know what you think would work for you to keep you safe. I need feedback on what goes on in your area. We need to build networks and those networks need information. I also want to strongly suggest seeding your own syringe exchanges. If you can "exchange" them, dispose of them properly. Get a prepaid card, buy a box of syringes from a diabetic supply site, sell a few to friends for a buck a piece to seed a new box, get a new box with that money and keep it going. Before you say "this should be free", it should be but if it can't be, you gotta start somewhere. 

Get naloxone. Period. Stop fucking around and thinking it won't be you or your friends that OD. 

Educate yourself on Hep C. Project Inform in SF has a great informational hotline here:
877-HELP-4-HEP (877-435-7443), Monday–Friday, 9am–7pm EST


I love you and I want you to be safe. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Not today

I used to firmly believe that drugs were not my problem.
I believed the lack of drugs was my problem.
If I only had an endless supply of drugs, I would be fine.

It was a scorching summer morning, a rarity for San Francisco. It had been impossible to sleep the night before. The heat of the approaching midday made me feel as if my eyeballs were going to explode. I felt as if I was going to have a seizure. My legs were twitching so hard, they felt as if they were going to rip off my body. Speed will help, he said. Just try this, he said. Complete and utter misery was what I was calling it.

My friend and camp mate had given me an ultimatum. I needed to kick heroin or else. Everyone was "sick of my shit" or whatever that meant. We camped in a perfect spot between an empty lot and a restaurant that was closed. The only cars that were parked up here were the occasional guy jacking off before he went home to the wife. You would see the bundle of tissues stuck to the sidewalk after he left. He had pulled them out of the tissue dispenser shaped like a Chihuahua his old lady had mounted to the dashboard. I felt sorry for these guys. Their women had them so pussy whipped they couldn't even keep their dirty magazines at home. They would dump them next to their pile of dna and occasionally we would find a half used bottle of vaseline.

Sick of MY shit, I thought to myself. It was so hot out, I was sticking to my blankets. It was day two now. I wasn't able to go anywhere, do anything. If the cops came to ask us to move, I would be unable to pack up my gear. My friend and I had an agreement. He would give me a hit of speed every eight hours until I was done kicking. There was one, small, painful catch. Fuck speed. Seriously. Fuck this shit. Plus, he wanted me to smoke it with him. This means I had to sit and listen to him talk and talk and talk and talk. My friend had been to rehab before so he was the fucking expert on being clean.

"What you need to do," he told me as he puffed on the glass dick "is go to some meetings after you quit."

I laughed to myself. "Meeeetings. yeah right," I told him "I went to a meeting when I was 17. My friend and I went to a meeting. Then we got the beers out of the trunk and drank in the parking lot. Fuck meetings."

I was laying here with fucking leg cramps that felt like I was kicking myself in circle. I was twitching like a fish out of water. I leaned over and dry heaved into the street. I didn't have the energy to get up. My eyes were starting to water when I heard a voice. It was the voice of HOPE. Not a person named hope. This was the voice of an angel. I heard the voice of someone who I know does heroin. He was asking for a syringe a few shopping carts down.

"TOM!" I screamed. I didn't hear any movement.

"TOMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!" I screamed even louder. That made him move.

I heard footsteps then I heard someone moving my tarp. I saw him there. In the hot morning sun, he looked like the angel of mercy. There was a light behind him. He was illuminated like the patron saint of junkies. He was delivered here to save me.
I rolled over to my side.
"Tom," pleading with him "Please help me. Dude, I am so sick."
"Buttt," he stuttered "You are supposed to be kicking."

I gave him the stink eye. I curled myself in a ball. "Tom," I told him "please fucking help me."

He plopped himself down. "Okay, Okay." he assured me. "I don't have much." He was fucking lying of course. I knew him. Plus, he owed me one. When he got out of prison, I fucked him, just because. It was a welcome home present of sorts. He owed me and I was collecting.

He ripped the plastic off the top of a ten pack and started getting busy. Tom was a fucking tight ass with his drugs. Seriously. He irritated the fuck out of me but I needed him. We were both in deep shit if my friend came back. I needed someone to blame. It would be all Tom's fault. He tempted me.

Tom gave me the medicine which I took in record haste. I felt human again for a split second. Tom was fiddling around next to me. I could see he had lost most of the muscle tone he had gained in his 16 months in prison. He still had the semi skater boy six pack and a tan. He wasn't even old enough to grow a real moustache but he was old enough to go to prison for breaking into too many cars. Isn't that a bitch?

"TOOOOOOMMMMMM," I heard a voice call "What the fuck dude?!"

There goes the neighborhood. My camp mate ripped off the sheets. Tom was exposed mid-register for God and everyone to see. There it was. That look of fucking disappointment. My camp mate was pissed.

"Fuck you Tracey. Fuck you, fuck you, FUCK YOU!" he yelled.

"It was only a rinse," Tom told him as he threw the dirty needle over the adjacent fence. "I'm out of here."

That cheap bastard had only given me a rinse. Dick. My camp mate started throwing some of my shit over the fence. It wasn't long before he started crying and yelling at the same time.

"Fuck y,y,.." he couldn't get the words out. He flopped down next to me with two tall cans wrapped in a brown paper bag.

"Is that for me?" I asked. I perked up immediately. Saint Ides. My favorite. A nice cold beer on a hot fucking day. Yes!

My camp mate wiped the tears and sweat from his face. He smelled like a combination of nail polish remover crossed with stale beer. He had been up a few days. The heat was getting to him. He was too tired to watch over me. He was too tired to worry about my drug problem. He had one of his own to feed. He cracked open the beer. He put it against his forehead. He smiled at me.

"You are such a fucking bitch Tracey," he told me. "I love you but you are a total bitch." He crushed his beer in one long gulp then curled up next to me. It was going to be a long ass day. I cracked open my beer. I leaned back against him. I was fiending now. I needed more drugs. I needed to fill this empty tank. There would be other times for me to quit heroin. Not this time. Not today.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Two Chicken Soft Tacos and a Gram of Dope

A few days ago, I was get off the train station at the Civic Center train station in the center of the city I love so much. As I walked down the hallway on my way to the escalator that would lead me towards my office, I passed by homeless folks that lines either side of the corridor. A few were laying on their sides, sleeping soundly. I could see open sores on the legs of a dusty older man. A young brother in a peacoat had passed out, his crack pipe still in his hand. A woman slept on tops of her bag, which appeared to be filled mainly with other bags. A few half eaten chips were next to her hair. The two centuries who appeared to be watching over their companies stood on opposite ends of the hallway, one with a bloody uncapped syringe in his hand, the other with a full register in his arm. I held my hand up to signal "whoa- please don't stick me". I knew the transit police would be along soon to sweep the lot of them out of some of the only dry space available on a rainy weekday morning. My stomach started to turn as I saw the "Hondos" serving someone some delicious nuggets of tar as I walked towards the job site. I decided to catch a tag there-LOST. If they can sell drugs without consequences, I can mark my territory. Or so I told myself.

Long gone are the days of two chicken soft tacos and a gram of dope. Sixty dollars passed in a napkin yielded something extra on my tray. There are no more beepers. No more waiting in the rain next to a payphone for two hours hoping my dboy is going to call me back. My abscesses have healed. My old street sister, the hooker with the colostomy bag that turned tricks for a few pints of vodka is dead. My homey died of liver failure a few months back. The places where I used to sleep in abandoned buildings are being torn down in favor of condos. I haven't had lice in awhile (although my kids had it eek. How did I ever live with that shit). The players are gone yet the narrative stays the same. People are dying from overdose. I lost a colleague this week. Hep C is on the rise. People are still getting HIV, people I know in fact. What the fuck am I doing wrong? Am I not doing enough? The cycle repeats itself. The dog chasing it's tail until it dies from exhaustion. 

I feel like we have to keep trying. I am more like the kids in the hallway then I will ever be like the people who say we don't matter because we have drug problems. I sit around with cats. I regroup. I go back to work. 

I got some extra spicy prawns with tortillas yesterday. There wasn't any dope in my napkin but I was surrounded by people who love me. I saw my friend pick up his six month chip, a friend who was dying alone in his room this time last year. Maybe I can't save everyone but I can start by saving myself then being kind to others. 

I love you. I wish you loved yourself a little more. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

New Year? Yes New Me? Not So Much

2017 is about to be over. The American life expectancy is down for yet another year as a direct result in the rise in opioid deaths. Rates of Hep C are up. In terms of Harm Reduction, it's not too far off from what I was dealing with as a new IV drug user in 1990. Lack of clean syringes, deaths, and the government sitting on their fucking hands instead of acting.

Last year, under the Obama Administration, I got uninvited to a White House committee because there were some concerns that some of my views were controversial. A year later, under a new Administration, Harm Reduction is vilified as enabling. They are seriously considering bring back JUST SAY NO. This makes me nauseous. There is scientific evidence of interventions that work in opioid use and abuse. We have a mountain of evidence on the efficacy of syringe exchange. Yet, we have science deniers pushing the idea that abstinence is next to Godliness. I can't even listen to this rhetoric anymore. It's wrong. It's tired. It's killing people.

In 2018, I'm going to be even MORE radical. I am making a commitment to call these people out ever chance I get. I hope to help seed some underground programs. I believe radical harm reduction and civil disobedience is our only hope in some locations.

If you are reading this and you have no access to syringes, I strongly suggest you get a prepaid credit card and purchase a box online. If you need the money, sell a few to friends or a ten pack to your dealer for a few buck to help fund the next box. New syringes, using alcohol to clean your skin, and sterile water are so important. Also, don't share your stuff be it dollar bills or straws or cookers.

On a personal level, my 2017 had lots of twists and turns. I have lost a lot of weight by not fixing my feelings with food but this has turned me into an emotional basket case. I had a close friend relapse then we had to work to get him back on track. This dragged up a ton of unresolved feelings from all the friends I could not help that later died in active addiction. I went back to 12 step meetings after being pretty fucking angry at them for 4-5 years. I went back to therapy. I haven't been writing as much as my words are kind of tied up in my emotional lethargy. The paperback of "The Big Fix" came out. I started a free podcast here. I started doing some elements of graffiti again. I also started a project trying to bring Harm Reduction to graffiti writers. I spent a lot of time petting cats. I sent out a lot of naloxone. I got back into my love of movies again.

I hope this year treated you right. If it didn't life is a marathon. Keep on moving. Don't worry if you stumble. I love you readers.

Here is a pic of my new look. I lost 44 pounds.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Fuck the Holidays 2017 Edition

I've sold my holiday gifts for dope.
I got arrested for prostitution of Christmas Eve.
I've spent New Year's Eve in Jail kicking dope.
(all true)

For those of us with substance use and depression issues, the darkest days of winter are not always filled with Holiday cheer. It is important to remember our fellows struggling just to make it through the day. I cannot even describe to another human how tough it was for me to make it though many winter months. The cold combined with both a dope habit and my living conditions made me contemplate suicide many days. Plus, there are just logistical issues- not being able to find veins in the cold, drug dealers who want to be with their families on holidays, and separation from family on my never ending bag chase.

In 2017, fortunately enough, my mental health has been in a fairly decent place. I'm not spending the weekend in bed curled in a fetal position. I consider myself pretty lucky because I actually have been in that place more times than I can count. No amount of binging movies, or masturbation, or retail therapy, or needles in the neck can cure that place within yourself when you just feel like fucking garbage. Now, at the same time, we are encouraged to don holiday apparel and go forth and be jolly. Da fuk? Anyway, my kids really force me out of the death spiral but I assure you I know what it is like to be there sober or not sober. I've experienced both.

I just want to make a few points:

1. You are fucking awesome. This is the most important thing. The greatest gift you can give anyone this holiday season is to tend to yourself and your health. People love you. You may not always FEEL that way. Feelings are not facts. There are people out there who love you and want the best for you.

2. Caffeine is not a food group. Eat something besides sugar. Whether overeating or under eating is your stress go to, at least make an attempt to get some water and real food in your system.

3. Showering and Getting out of the house may be the only thing you can accomplish. You know what, that a big fucking deal. That is a good thing. That is like winning the Olympics of depression events. Do what you have to do.

4. Call a hotline, find a support group, get on reddit, talk it out.

5. This dark period is just a short period in the long journey known as your life. Find some shit that makes you happy. Grab some cereal, pour it in a big bowl and watch the Grinch if that makes you feel better. Let the dog sleep in the bed tonight. Pick the cat up and get extra snuggles. Draw a picture. Pick up some crayons. Write something. Use some glitter. Drink hot chocolate WITH marshmallows. Do your own special memory. Using, sober, or in between. This is YOUR LIFE. Find a thing that brings you a little bit of comfort. You deserve to be happy.

Be safe. Love XOXO

Monday, December 18, 2017

I am personally grateful for harm reduction

My best friend relapsed on heroin this year. It wasn't something I ever could have planned for, it was wasn't something I was expecting, it wasn't a thing I wanted in my life. I haven't told the full story. I am not sure I want to at this point. I do want to make a few comments.

I chose to stay with this person through the process. That was MY choice. They decided they wanted to get help. That was THEIR choice. I provided love and encouragement while I cried myself to sleep a few different nights.  It was a turbulent few months, mostly because I truly was expecting the unanswered text messages and RIP on his social media that let me know he was gone. I'm new to the friend circle so no one would have gone out of their way to notify me. He and I met on instagram. The old friends probably didn't know I existed.

It was in an insulated world for many months. I didn't want to tell anyone close to me. I didn't want to hear judgment. I didn't want to answer questions. Most of all, I didn't want to be talked to about cutting him off. I wasn't providing him with resources outside of a sympathetic ear and the occasional lunch. There was nothing to cut off. I got a small taste of how my mother must have felt- the isolation was palpable. I knew it wasn't me that had relapsed. However, it hurt to see a person I cared about in that condition. I felt tired and I felt angry at the whole situation.

What did I learn from this? I had to practice everything I've been preaching to everyone else for so many years. I had to love him while practicing my own self care. I had to discuss harm reduction. I had to pull, not push. I had to support not punish. I say this to say this post isn't really about me. It is to say that a person will never find recovery if they are dead. He did find recovery. I am grateful for harm reduction.