Saturday, June 27, 2015
I pull up my shorts. "I am going to drain it." I tell him.
He gives me a look of feigned disgust. This isn't his first time at the junkie rodeo. "Right here?" he asks.
I start looking for a good spot to poke. "yes," I tell him "right here."
The question was pretty ridiculous. Where else am I going to go to get my leg sliced open on a Sunday. There is no way in hell I am traveling all the way out to San Francisco General to get this cut open. After waiting dopeless for 6-8 hours for them to clear gunshot victims, they would finally get some medical resident to hack away at me while they generously provided me with MAYBE 10mg of methadone to tie me over. I can't do it. I couldn't hop the Muni to make it there even if I tried.
Overnight, my knee and began to swell to the point that my appendage looks like a hot, red tree trunk. I no longer have a knee. I just have a single swollen area that blends in. The cellulitis is starting to spread in angry ferocity. This all started a few days ago. I was digging in the vein in my leg when I thought I had found a sweet spot. I felt the burnt and knew right away I was fucking my future self. I just didn't care. All I wanted was that hot, sweet vaccination of tar to create some relief. After searching for a vein fruitlessly for twenty minutes, it seemed so much easier to succuum to the reality that a muscle shot would have to do the trick. There were some days it just wasn't worth it anymore. It wasn't worth carrying about myself, my body, my life. The dark railroad tracks that circle around my legs show my road to nowhere.
"Well, if you are going to do it, hurry the fuck up" he told me. Junkies can be such unpleasant traveling companions. This dude thinks because he has occasional access to my pussy that he is running the show. The only time we have sex is when we have expended all other options. Is there coke? no. Is there speed? no. Is there benzos? no. Is there tv? no. Is there food? no. Well, I guess we can have sex. Whatever. He has sex for money. So why waste his precious tools on affection. The only way I know he loves me is that he gives me half of his cinnamon roll. He saves it for me. He leaves it on the desk. "here babe, I know you are hungry" he says. Love is a hot cinnamon roll when I am curled up beside you on a dirty sheets and a scratchy mattress, pulled from the dumpster.
The real reason he is rushing me is he is tired of waiting for me. My leg is so swollen, I am dragging it. I look like an extra from Thriller. Dragging my leg past the other creatures of the night. I pull out my alcohol wipes an rub the area. Safety first. As I cut the soft center with a razor blade, the results are strangely satisfying. The green and yellow puss captures my attention as the tourists walk past me. They don't see me. They don't feel my pain. This wound might make me a few dollars. When I get it bleeding, I can ask for change. People generally give to a wounded woman- only if the scars are on the outside. I will ask him to sit across the street until I am finished.
"That is fucking disgusting" he tells me. I shrug my shoulders. What else can I do? There isn't enough heroin to hold the pain back now. My leg hurts, my mind hurts. How many more hours until I need more? How many more days can I live like this? How many more grams can I shove into this hole where my heart was until I feel something again. I take some napkins I got from Taco Bell out of my purse and wipe my leg. When I stand up, more blood gushes down my leg into my sock. I won't be going anywhere for awhile. As I throw my napkins into the trash can, I see a mother turn her child's head to the side. That's right. Please don't feed the animals. Nothing to see here, move along.
I am clean now. Clean 17 long years. Sometimes I wonder to myself- how in the hell did I do these things to myself? How did I stick needles in myself all day long for years at a time? How did I trade my life for drugs? How did I get to the point where I completely gave myself over to heroin. I lost my my family, my job, my place to live, my schooling, my friends, my health, and nearly my life for drugs. I am not sure that addiction is a disease. A disease is caused by a pathogen. I do believe that addiction is a disorder, a brain disorder that takes over when you seek relief from reality. This disorder causes cognitive dissoance. You are completely falling apart, yet you think just this one more ____ won't hurt me. No one notices, no one cares about me. I am now the mother that shields their children's eyes from people on the street, people like myself. I cannot change the past. It is what it is. But I refuse to forget it. I refuse to ignore the suffering of others.
Are you suffering today? Are you enjoying your life? Either way, you matter. You are important. All I can tell you is that you, my friend, are fucking awesome. I love your stories, your insight. You are smart. You are funny. You are capable. You can do anything. I am telling you all the things I wish someone had told me. Be safe my friends.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Friday, June 19, 2015
When I was young, I remember the feeling of never feeling like I belonged anywhere. I grew up with the same set of kids from K-8. It should have created some sense of normalcy to know things were going to be the same from year to year. Instead it made me feel trapped. I always had the sense that I was smaller than everyone, that I was somehow insignificant. Being fat and wearing glasses certainly didn't help. I was the last kid picked on the team, of course. The last person anyone wanted to spend time with in any way shape or form. I felt powerless until I found drugs.
Drugs made me feel powerful. Drugs made me feel important. I felt a smug sense of satisfaction when I ran into one of the most popular kids from my elementary school when I was in my 20's. He was fiending for more cocaine. Here you are bitch boy- in my world trying to trade your watch for an overpriced bump. Remember when you wouldn't talk to me? Look at you now. Drugs created a level playing field. Finally, something I could EXCEL at. I may not be the prettiest but I was frequently the smartest and I could get drugs.
I should backtrack- when I say drugs, I mean your social type drugs. Opiates are entirely different to me. Opiates are not the type of drugs you want to share. When you give away opiates, it is like letting your best friend feel up your girlfriend or some equally fucked up feeling. Like damn. I wanted to keep this stuff to myself type of drug. When you smoke crack, the first thing on your mind is WHEN IS THAT PIPE COMING BACK TO ME WITH MORE CRACK. When you do opiates, you think to yourself HOW CAN I FEEL LIKE THIS FOREVER. It is all consuming joy followed by the let down of a lifetime. The opiate let down is like finding out your partner has been faking it for all this time combined with finding out you were adopted and your real parents fucking hated you feeling. Yes, emotionally, it is that bad.
I started doing heroin because I was depressed and lonely.
It made me more and more and more isolated until my world was a little cardboard box where I lived. I lived in a fucking cardboard box. I kept all my belongings in a backpack or a shopping cart. I ended up in a place I hope you never go. I see you readers. I see you on social media, I see your posts. You are thoughtful, compassionate, and intelligent. We share the same condition- a crippling fear of reality. We are so sensitive. We feel crushed by the world around us. I just want you to know that someone understands.
Monday, June 15, 2015
It was nearly 8,640 minutes ago that I got that phone call. Ashort 144 hours ago in which our life drastically changed. The past 6 days blew by quicker than I can even explain. I am having a hard time putting into words about the amount of feelings that has spewed out of every family member around me over this time. I can only begin to imagine what the next few days will bring. The so-called personal “cocktail” of our own complications was served up well; mixed with 1 part anger, 2 parts confusion, and 3 parts sadness. We all downed our very own remedy; a drink that was more than bittersweet. For some, it made us stronger and for others this self-medication made them worse. Even when death is expected, no one can prepare you for how your mind, body, and spirit will react to it; not exactly anyways.
As I entered the hospital, I watched my father lose grasp of his own reality as he blurted out under his own drunken stupor “I watched my own mother die on our kitchen floor right there in front of me!” His eyes were filled with tears and his face wasstricken with sheer panic. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the pain that he was feeling. To feel completely lost and uncertain about what the future would hold. As he bounced back and forth between laughter, tears, and a nervous twitch here and there, I started to wonder how he was going to make it out of this one. Throughout the past 20 years, as his son, I have been watching him on his very own downward spiral; now laying wounded on the losing side of the battle against his own addictions. His blood shot eyes, stumbling steps, slurred speech, and fist full ofexcuses; I started to feel sick to my stomach knowing that the end of my grandmother’s life could very well be the demise of my own father. But in this moment there was also a brief minuteof hope.
As I looked around the hospital’s intensive care unit I saw my family; some of them that I have just recently spent time with and other’s that I haven’t seen for quite a while. As all of us held back those harder to deal with emotions, most of us tried to make a small attempt to smile, walk across the room, and hug one another to bring some sense of comfort to what was happening; it was nice seeing us all together for once. I quickly found out, along with the others, that my grandmother went into cardiac arrest early Friday morning.
At the time, the paramedics nor the doctors where too sure how long she had gone without proper blood pressure. Was it 10, 15, 20, or 30 minutes without oxygen to the brain? As every minute passed, so did the possibility of recovery. My grandmother was resuscitated, brought to the ICU, and placed on life support. For the next 72 hours she would lay in the coma; twitching as themyoclonic seizures worsened over time. Throughout these past few days our family dreaded going in and out of the hospital waiting rooms. Everyone desperately searched for answers. Everyone hung onto idea that she may live. Deep down inside though I believe everyone knew what was about to happen.
She wasn’t moving voluntarily. The doctor told us that no voluntary function was a sign of significant brain damage to the cerebral cortex; the housing unit where conscious decision making takes place. The only time she would open her eyes is when the seizures would happen. This forced the eyelids to open as the jerking movements took place; still a sight I would rather erase from my memory. Throughout those first 24 hours her condition worsened. There was still no spontaneous eye motion, pupils weren’t dilating, and no cognitive function. These were all poor prognostic indicators. It was then, upon this knowledge from the doctor, that our family concluded to place my grandmother on as a ‘do not resuscitate.’ As heavy as this was, we didn’t want to allow things to get worse for her. We loved her and we were trying to do our best with the situation at hand.
After a long 24 hours, we all traveled home wondering how much more she would have to suffer. The chatter of the doctor’s voices, the constant flow of the ventilator, the more silent moments that filled with distant sobs, the cussing, the swearing, and even some of the yelling, rang clear in my head that night.My mind slowly wandered alongside thoughts that were filled with fear. As much as I wanted to give my respects to my grandmother, the constant worry of my father, and even some other close family members, kept on repeating in my head.Would he kill himself tonight? Would he drink himself into his own coma? Would he hurt somebody else? How much longer will he last? I wasn’t the only who had these questions. These concerns where held by many that were close. I am not sure if that made it easier to deal with or worse because we all recognized the reality that this too could be the end of my father.
Moving into the first 48 hours I woke to discover that my father got into a domestic dispute and was taken to jail; I am sure the bottle of Kessler’s didn’t help that night. It was frustrating to think that my father would now not be alongside his dying mother as he should be. There is much more I have to say about this but I will leave that for a different time. More importantlythough, the family learned that my grandmother was given an EEG. After the neurology consult, we learned that under further examination the doctor’s found no spontaneous motion within the brain or any significant signs of recovery; identifying a deeper brain stem problem. The family had to be brought together again to make all final decisions. We had to face that our loved one was getting worse and not any better. We unanimously agreed, with the doctor’s recommendation, to remove her off of life support on Sunday. Tears filled the room throughout that time as we slowly watched her slip away. She passed away Sunday night; June 7th, 2015.
Sure my grandmother was known to drink like a fish, be a heavier smoker, and a past long-term abuser of prescription pain killers, which all for surely contributed to the health concerns she had, I still saw her as much more than that. Over the 78 years of her existence she truly was a special person. She loved unconditionally. In fact, she was known as one of those ladies that would have given anyone the world if she had it. Over the past few days, as traumatic as they were, there was also a breath of fresh air as family traded memories of who she really was. It was in those moments, within those stories, that are family started to heal. Stories of her as child were brought to the table from siblings. Caring moments were rediscovered from her children and we all shared those funny times that we could remember. We remembered her for the not so recent past but instead for her ability to make anyone laugh, her long conversations, her wicked good cooking skills, her artistic talents, her knowledge on life, her loving marriage, and even her funny stories she often shared with us grandchildren. As the laughter healed our souls, our smiles grew bigger knowing that we were all in this together. That everything was going to be ok even if it was going to take some time.
They say a loss can either tear a family apart or bring them closer together. For us, I believe there is a little bit of bothgoing. For me personally, it’s a great time to completely clean and sober for once. I am actually coherent and know what is going on. I can now be there for my family as I should be; to help out wherever it is needed. It has been a great joy for me to see the support from my uncle, my cousins, my brothers, other family, my children, and all my great friends. Together, they have all made these harder times easier to deal with. Like I said in the beginning, even when you expect death nothing can truly prepare you for how you are actually going to feel about it all when it is happening.
As for my father, and some of my other family members, I guess only time will tell. Not really sure where everything will end up for them; I am an optimist though. Knowing that recovery is possible for anyone I know I can at least offer guidance, listen, and support, to some extent, for those in my family that are struggling. I would want them to do the same for me. It’s the one commendable attribute that we all can offer; treat othershow you would like to be treated.
I wrote this article for me; to help me reflect on the past few days and prepare me for what is about to come. I am actually looking forward to having our family come together and pay respects to her. In love and passion I know we will be able to find hope. As we pray together I know we will find our own internal peace; I smile knowing that my grandmother has found hers. In part, I also truly hope this helps someone else out there that may be going through a similar situation. Remember to never give up, ask for help, and lean on others for support. You’ll get through this. I promise.
President & Co-founder
"If there is no struggle, there is not progress"
Saturday, June 13, 2015
I have a brief reprieve from the outdoors. My new "friend" got their social security disability check and was willing to have me over for a few days. I guess they felt sorry for me. His apartment is on the sixth floor of a building full of studio apartments that overlooks an area where I sometimes sleep. I suppose he saw me laying there for a few days in the rain before they finally decided it was safe enough to let me in. I am grateful for the company.
He is a tall man, round in a few places. He wears the type of glasses that make it clear he is nearly blind without them. The thickness of the lenses causes them to fog up as he sweats frequently. He seems to have en endless supply of bandannas that he uses to cover the growing bald spot on the top of his head. The shortly cropped hair shows no signs of aging but I would estimate his age to be early 40's. I never ask. He told me he worked at a bank before he sick with some unspecified illness. Family and friends have long disappeared from his life. Drugs- which he used daily but not in large quantities- make his loneliness more bearable. He swears he can take them or leave them.
It doesn't take long for me to earn my keep once I have a base of operations. I middle man for a wide range of activities. If you want drugs or women or rent boys or stolen goods, I can find whatever your dirty heart desires. With a place comes a phone number, a connection to the world. Within a few days, I have some money in my pocket and some to contribute to the "house".
As I walk towards the drug market, my host calls for me to buzz him when I need to be let back in. He is also going out. OK. No problem bye. I am off to work my traps, run my hustles for the day. I am feeling fresh. I have on my Levis, a button down flannel shirt, green clam shell Adidas, and my baseball hat. I suppose you really couldn't tell that I am a female unless you caught me in the eyes. I wear sun glasses to cover them up when possible but on this dark morning, I could be anyone and everyone at the same time.
It is a few block to the open air drunk market. I stop by the liquor store on my way. I got $2 crumpled up in my pocket for a bottle of taca vodka. I don't need a wallet. Money doesn't stay with me very long. I pass by the home bums begging on the corner.
"hey sis can you spare some change?" Henry asks me. He doesn't remember my face.
I take a swig from the bottle and chase it with a V8. I got my two major food groups right here- alcohol and vegetables. Add some heroin and some chocolate, this will become a well balanced meal.
I pass him the bottle after one last pull "here," I tell him as I toss him the bottle. The last time I saw Henry he was turning blue between two cars by Eddy and Hyde. Normally, I would give a person CPR except Henry has that shit. He had open sores around his mouth from burning himself with crack pipes and a raging case of HIV. All of his friends ditched him. I went to the corner and called 911. I waited until they found him. It was the least that I could do. Here he was, back at it again. Such is life.
I tip past Henry full of the warmth the vodka has provided me on the drizzly morning. I guess some people have coffee to wake them up. I don't need it. I have a 500 pound monkey on my back that wakes me up every morning. Plus, there is enough coffee and brown sugar in this tar. 2 drugs for the price of one.
It takes a second for me to catch the eye of one of the boys slinging on the corner. I say boys because that is what they are- boys. 16 and 17 year old boys from Mexico. They come up here work a few months to send home as much as they can before they get deported then live like kings back home. A few of them find jobs here and stick around, but not many. They don't get to learn much English selling dope on the corner. It is a revolving door of Flacco or Gordo or Jaime or Jose. This one has a baby face. The crackhead hooker I know that dates him says he is 14. The truth is uncertain.
I walk toward babyface when a new dopeboy cuts him off as he tells me "you find me five and I give you one". He uses his fingers for emphasis. I nod my head "okay". What he means is for every five people I bring him, he gives me one free bag. This is not as easy as it sounds. There are cops and junkies and civilians everywhere. Plus, these boys are in a hurry to get home. You have to act fast. Baby face must have what people think the best dope. His cousin over here, Mr "I know some English" is trying to keep up. The customers don't realize it is all the same. They are all the same. We are all the same. We are just dollar signs and it is just a business to them.
I start working my morning magic. The first two of the morning take less than five minutes. They are a couple, copping separately. It is clear that they are both sick and neither one of them trusts the other. She is a beautiful girl with hazel eyes and one of those hemp necklaces. He has a scraggly beard and an army jacket with hand sewn patches. It is clear that they are both so afraid of buying bunk dope, they are not sure where to go. This is where I step in.
"Are you looking?" I ask as I try to keep pace with them.
She stops to get sick in the gutter. He pulls her hair back dutifully like a good boyfriend should. "Yeah," he says. "We are both really sick. Our connection is answering"
I whistle and wave. Within a second, help has arrived in the form of a 5'6" dealers in dark clothes. "TWO. TWO!" I use my fingers for emphasis. He nods and serves them. I want credit for both. DONE.
Three more...three more I think to myself when someone walks briskly behind me to catch up to my boy.
"I want a gram..." the man says loudly. He is sweaty and pasty and no ready to take no for answer.
The boy starts fishing around in his mouth.
"Hurry up!!!" the man tells him as he pushes the money in his face.
I was just about to yell "THREE" to try to get some credit when I see the boy push the man to the ground.
"Get the fuck outta here!" He tells him as he pulls off his belt whips the man with the heavy buckle. Another boy comes over and starts kicking the man on the ground.
I am not sure what I am supposed to do next but I snatch the cash that has fallen on the ground. NOW, I understand. This was an okie doke. I see a $1 with pieces of a twenty photocopied in the corner. In the darkness, this usually works. Not today, not this guy. He must have tried this before.
In broken English my boy asks me "you know heem (him)? Do you know this fucking guy?" I shake my head no. Now, suddenly, we are best friends. yay. He walks a few blocks with me, cursing in Spanish along the way. I shake my head as if I understand. I find him a few more customers as we are walking. The commotion has caused the beggars, thieves, and junkies to scatter like roaches. My boy is angry now. I like him angry. Angry makes him generous. After a we circle the block and hit a few more customers, he spits me bags.
"gratis and para mañana" he tells me. Little did I know they were cut to all hell. I think he is doing me a favor.
When I get back to the apartment, my friend has a surprise waiting as well. He greets me at the door wearing a dress, a blonde wig, some terrible heels, and a smile. He directs me into the kitchen area where I see he has company. There was a handsome young man sitting there, no more than in his mid twenties. The young Latin man was smiling like the cat that had eaten the canary. I shook my head for a second when my friend pulled me into the bathroom.
"Do you have any condoms?" he asked me in a sugary sweet voice just above a whisper.
I point to the other room "yeah in my bag." I tell him. I show him my bounty. He shakes his head.
"No girl," he tells me "I things to do. Just leave me some on the counter. He wants to buy some speed. You got to go somewhere for a few hours. Do your thing and go."
"Does he know you are a..." the words trail off before he shushes me. I don't know what the fuck is going on here but I need to get out, NOW.
As I finish up, I feel the warmth of the vodka, the heroin, and a perfect hustle. I walk into the street just as the sun starts to break through the veil of darkness. I find Henry and slide next to him on the concrete while I plan my next move. The day is just getting started.
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Sunday, June 7, 2015
I remember one time he took me to the office on a Saturday. He left me alone and bored in some one's cubicle. I began pulling open drawers when I discovered a treasure trove of Playboy magazines. I wondered why there were pictures of naked women in the desk in a place where I would have stashed some candy. I quickly closed the drawer when my father came back in the room. I never told anyone what I had seen.
Such was the case when the man put his hand down my shirt. The whole thing seemed so casual. My father had some business with this man that was being solved over a few beers. To keep me busy, the man had asked me to clean up his condominium a little. He was a confirmed bachelor, he told me. The place needed a woman's touch. I was eager to make a little bit of extra money I could use to augment my stuffed animal collection. I guess I was a little old for stuffed animals. I didn't have many friends so they were a great substitute. It was hard to make friends when I was fat and awkward. No one was ever allowed over our house. I was never sure why that was but my mother rarely accepted company. I wanted a new Snoopy or Woodstock or whatever I was collecting at the time. I tried my best to do a good job.
When it was time to leave, the man was very impressed by what I had to offer. I am not sure why a grown man would want to stick money down the shirt of a chubby freckle faced girl with stars in her eyes. I felt confused "aren't my boobs in there?" Why wouldn't he just hand me the money? Did my father see? I guess this isn't a big deal because the man didn't think it was an issue. Plus, I got my money. I felt strange about it later. I think he might have looked down my shirt and why did he stick his hand down there.
I never told anyone. It was perfectly okay, right? I was high on speed one high talking about everything and nothing at the same time. For whatever reason, I told my male friend about it. He put his arms around me. he told me I was safe. He told me that things like that were never going to happen to me again. He was wrong, of course. So many other things happened to me. I never connected this to anything. But when I thought about it, I always felt ashamed.
I don't know what I bought with the money. What was it- $10? Whatever it was, it ended a part of my childhood. I felt like men wanted to look at my boobs. I wanted to cover them up. I have slept with a bra on since then. All my life. I wanted to take a hot bath and rub my skin off. I never knew why- I just did.
I don't know why I chose heroin. Maybe heroin chose me. Heroin was the delicious blend of FUCK IT ALL that I needed to live. It set me free. It allowed me to forget all the things I wanted to get out of my fucking head for years. THANK YOU HEROIN. It gave me some peace. Heroin lied to me though. Heroin was a hungry monster. It wanted more and more and more of me. I gave it everything. I gave it everything for that feeling of love and fuck it and feeling like I was the best looking asexual creature in the universe. I have to give it to you heroin, you had me at hello.
I don't know why some people use drugs. I don't know why some people can use heroin or other opiates here and there and not get addicted (assholes. I hate you. Just kidding. So jealous. kisses.). Seriously though, long before there was the drugs, we were all just little kids trying to scrape enough money together to buy our toys. We are all the same. Our experiences seemed to point us off in a different trajectory
We are not the sum of our past. We are capable of loving and being loved. We deserve happiness. Find it my friends. Find your joy. WE deserve it.
I love you my friends. Tracey