You asked me if I wanted to keep myself anonymous, and for a minute I was tempted to say 'yes'. There are still people who don't know I was a heroin addict, or maybe just people I like to believe don't know I was a heroin addict - I was, after all, so very subtle when I begged them for money or fell asleep in the middle of lunch!
Actually, though, I not only don't want to remain anonymous, I don't think I can. These are the things I did. These are the people I fucked over. These are the places I wasted my time. It is frightening but it seems to me that there cannot be a way forward if I continue to deny or hide my past - because to hide things from others is also a way of evading consequences, and hence ultimately another way of hiding from oneself.
I want to say here that I am still afraid of the fallout from my addiction. I hesitate to take an AIDS test. I know this is stupid, even possibly wrong. I have the referral for testing from my substitution doctor on my desk. I don't think that I caught HIV. I was always careful with needles, spoons, filters but - you know? There were times…I shudder to think…there were times when I was sick and did whatever I had to do. There was no thought about tomorrow. Only about being well. And despite being now in a treatment centre, and being off heroin for 6 months, I am still too frightened fully to know the wreckage I am going to have to deal with in the future.
It is only really now that I am realising how addiction is a disease. While I was on heroin I would tell myself that I used because I didn't want to get sick. It was as simple as that - begging the question why millions of people never touch heroin in the first place, much less end up sticking needles in their private areas. Now I struggle with boredom and depression, and it tempts me to do everything excessively - anything with a quick release, like shooting smack. Drinking, eating, gambling - never did I think that some twirling lights on a slot machine could be interesting in any way.
All of this makes me wonder what addiction really is and how it works. For me it is a short-cut to some form of satisfaction. I am a lazy man. This is not to say that I cannot work hard, but rather that I look for quick pleasures, fast responses, extremes that happen now rather than take time to work towards. This is the opposite of my actual interests. I love reading, writing, taking my time to learn. The conflict between impulse and interest drove me to using drugs, and now I am trying not to use drugs, it drives me to other places far darker and more difficult than the shittiest shooting gallery I ever wasted my time buttering up a dealer in exchange for a fix.
And this is where I am. Methadone helps but defers problems and I know that. But it is not like heroin. There are no highs and lows. Being in treatment gives support psychologically which in the past I would have rejected but which I now think I need. The days, though, stretch out in front of me and I don't know how to fill them. I have gotten in contact with old friends who avoided me and I am scared they won't understand or care about everything I am going through.
Maybe it is not entirely true to say there are no highs and lows. Just not the artificial ones created by shooting dope. There are times when I feel as if I am waking up emotionally. Last weekend I went to a Psychic TV concert, and the beauty of the music, the performance, the atmosphere, was so intense that it made me start crying. Then there are the frequent times when I panic looking into the future. Often I am manic, irrational, prone to fits of rage or raging sadness. 6 months into treatment and I am still learning how to deal with an emotional life I have spent so many years suppressing.
I would like to say something positive, Tracey, because I know that other people may read this who are suffering similar or worse things. But what can I say? Solidarity is a wonderful thing and it can change the way you see things. To not be alone - isn't that what everyone wants, always? I'm nowhere near clean - dependent on a doctor's prescription, going 3 times a week to a clinic where I have to pee in a cup so that they can believe me when I tell them I'm not using. I sometimes wake up and my first thought is 'Shit, another fucking day'. The alternative, though, is to go back and get high and watch another year stick its ravages in my body and mind. No alternative. So I am keeping going because there isn't any choice. And I wanted to write this so that other people know how hard it is, and that you're not alone