Monday, August 31, 2015

The Brick

There have been a few major loves in my life. My husband. My children, of course. And heroin.

"Why did you do it?" she asks me.
It is hard to answer that question. I started out this world as an innocent wide eyed girl. I had a question for everything. I had a great sense of curiosity. Why was the sky blue? Why doesn't the water stay warm? Why is it that the birds all leave when the snow comes. I wanted to know a little bit of everything.

As I got a little bit older, my questions started to change. I saw the world through the same lenses, my things seemed to get murkier. Why do those boys pick on me? Why did Jesus have to die? Why is it that Daddy made you cry. There were things I wanted to know, there were things that required an answer. The world, I learned was just the magical place where everything synced together in harmony. Some things were cruel. Some of the edges were jagged. If I played with the stove, I was going to get burned.

Heroin. Why did it seem so appealing. This isn't a question. It is more of a statement, an affirmative. Why did it seem so appealing? If you could go back to that moment when you thought maybe you would try heroin, what would you tell yourself? What were you thinking? Was it just that weed was not enough or you were just tired of paying all that money for a few little pills. Heroin. Even the name sounds exciting. Like you are going to be transported to an exotic land where people feed you figs and fuck you all while rubbing your feet at the same time.

The first time I did heroin, I injected it. I am going to tell you a secret, I was fucking TERRIFIED. I was so god damned scared. I was too afraid to tell the other people that I was with that I didn't want to do it. Before we could even get to me, my friend ODed. He was dragged into the shower, the whole inexperienced routine. Do you still want to do it? Yes?! I said meekly. Of course, I want to do it. Of course, I want to let people I barely trust poke a needle into my arm and inject a deadly substance to my heart. Because, why wouldn't I, right? I bought the shit! I was so hard. I didn't even know what hard was at that moment. Hard came much later.

Hard came when I saw 15 year old girls turning tricks. Hard came when I saw 13 year old boys getting picked up by 45 year old married lawyers so they could have the boy shit on a glass table while they jacked off underneath (true story). Hard was when I had a broken nose and two black eyes because my boyfriend hit me then held me down and asked me to whisper that I loved him. Am I losing my mind? I saw my body above me. I laid there in my white nightgown. I had stopped screaming because no one was coming to help. When he let me go, I wanted drugs. Of course I did. Of course we all do. There was this overwhelming sense of curiosity once. Remember it? Remember when the world was a good place. Children used to smile in your direction.

One night my girlfriend had hit the street to try to make some money. Her boyfriend was gone. He was out somewhere, probably getting drunk. One of the last times I had seen him we were staying in an abandoned museum drinking 40s and heating dope with the only candle we had for light. I asked him why he had a silk shirt on in such a dirty place. He told me pimping ain't easy. He took the shirt off. he hung it up for the morning. Homeless kids would try to keep a few items of clothing nice. That way, they could catch dates or get a job or steal from stores.

She told me she would give me a ride back to my hotel. She also had this youngster in tow. She called him her son. She was 22, he was 15 or 16 at the time. As we started to get in the car, the boyfriend arrived on the scene WHERE THE FUCK HAVE YOU BEEN? and BITCH this and BITCH that. He grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her life a ragdoll. I went over to a pile or cement and rubble on the other side of the car. As he pulled back to hit her, he saw I was going to hit him in the head with a brick. I have never, in my life, hit anyone in the head with a brick. Why I thought to grab the brick, I just don't know. I was going to bash his fucking head in with a brick as she covered her face for the impending slap.

He stopped. He looked at me. I am not sure what I looked like- I just knew for certain I was going to hit that man, with this fucking brick right now. He backed away. He made some type of joke. WE'RE cool or some other bullshit excuse.

Why did I do it? I still don't know myself. I thought heroin addicts were all selfish assholes that could not care about another person. Somewhere, deep inside of me, I was still human. Some things just ain't right.

Why did you do it? Why did you use for the first time? Were you afraid? Are you afraid now? You are still human. You are still loved. You are still capable of getting yourself out of the swirling sucking downward spiral we know as the life of a using addict. Be safe my friends.

I survived enough terrible things for many lifetimes so you don't have to go down this road.

 I love you. XOXO Tracey

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

'Dem Jugs

"How long are you going to keep diggin' in them feet sis?" he asks me in a exaggerated drawl.
God- I hate being called sis or being referred to as some one's "street sister". It isn't that I don't care for people. I absolutely do. I even think of a few as being like my extended. That isn't this context. However, "sis" is always followed by a freakin' request.
Can I get a cigarette sis? NO
Can you spare some change sis? NO
Can I get a sip of your forty sis? NO NO NO.
I am not your sister. I have a family. I have a family I left a few years ago. I traded them in for a bag of dope. I rarely call them. I haven't seen them since my mom had to drive me for my HIV test. They thought I was positive for a few weeks. I had caught a case of thrush. That is one of nine conditions that makes up the ARC or AIDS related conditions. I did a huge hit of speed before I left San Francisco. I didn't come down until a few days after i got to my parents house. I was the fucking asshole that showed up a few days after my brother's wedding. I suppose it was a blessing in disguise. I wouldn't have known how to behave anyway. My mother had to drive her daughter to get an AIDS test. the last time she saw me, I was in college and had a job. I am a rotten fucking person. This life is my punishment.
I am tweaking again. Digging around in my fucking legs with a needle. I zone out as I try to get a hit. It is dangerous. It is a disgusting habit. Some people pick at themselves. I dig at myself with a syringe and 20 units for hours at a time.
"Let me help you out there sis." he persists.
As he gets closer, I scan him. First of all, his eyes are crystal blue and pinned. That always makes my heart stop. That and those collarbones. He possesses a great set of deliciously thin collar bones. He is no novice junkie. He is all in this bitch. He has a series of bad tattoos. I can excuse those. He is tall and thin and almost delicious. I rate this man downright fuckable, my future ex right here.
He bends down to make sure I know he is serious.
"I've been watching you for a minute here sis. Why don't you let me help you out?" He asks.
Help yourself to my drugs, I think as I roll my eyes. He wants some of my drugs. No one is nice in the Tenderloin. Nice doesn't exist here. When a person is nice, it is simply put in the bank for a future favor. Remember that time when... that kind of nice. The YOU OWE me nice. Whatever. I go back to digging.
He points to my leg "Why are you sitting digging around in there?"
Reality slowly creeps in- my reality. It is two o'clock in the afternoon. I am sitting in a parking lot between two cars on some crumpled newspaper with my cooker, my lighter, my water, and a pile of bloody alcohol wipes. My jeans are pulled down around my ankles. My t-shirt is tucked down, around, and under my pussy to cover up my underwear. This doesn't seem odd to me. I have been going up and down my leg trying to find a vein. I need to come down from the speed I did last night. Why, why why did I do speed when I was dopesick. The result is always the same- momentary relief and extended misery. I really need this hit.
"I can't find a vein," I told him sharply.
He gets even closer, which should make me uneasy considering I don't have my pants off. I am too sick to care.
"My name is Jay," he tells me as he looks me over "I see some perfectly good veins from here."
I roll my eyes at him. He really is getting on my nerves now. "what the fuck?" I tell him.
He reaches down in a way that is unassuming, almost sensual. He pulls my softly to the side of my neck.
"dem jugs" he tells me "look at them jugs."
There are two kinds of junkies. There are those that use heroin until they hit a wall of consequences and eventually stop. Then there are those that hit in the jugular vein. By the time you start hitting in the jugular vein, you have no fucks left to give. You have abandoned all hope of every really quitting. You are tired of covering up. This drug, this substance, has got a grip on your tighter that the balls. In fact, you would hit in there if you could find a good vein.
I have known many jugular vein horror stories. I have seen on collapse. I have seen my ex break off a needle in there. I even had a friend hit someone there only to have the person die afterwards from an anerysm. This was bad, bad, fucking bad. I was doing it.
I don't know why I let him do it. There is no logical reason why, I just did. I let a stranger stick a needle in my neck that day on the corner of Eddy and Hyde in a dirty corner parking lot. It is now covered with a fence to keep people like me out. He instructed me to blow. I blew the air into my cheeks as I held my head to the side. He dug in there with my old syringe. It hurt. It burned. It was scary and I did it. I only had twenty units of heroin, plus I had accumulated some extra blood. He pushed that needle in. I knew at that moment, I had broken every single rule I had for my addiction. I just didn't fucking care.
"See what I told you girl," he smiled "dem fucking jugs!"
He looked happy, so proud of himself. He took my neck virginity. In the blink of an eye, I hit an all time low. I didn't want to share it. I gathered up all my stuff and shoved it in my purse. As I stood up, I felt a little rush. Straight to the head, motherfucker.
"Hey you want to..." Hang out I thought to myself. No. I don't want to hang out. I want to get away.
I started walking out of the parking lot as I caught a glimpse of myself in the car window. There was a bruise already starting to form on my neck. This was the junkie equivalent of a one night stand. I just wanted to get away from him.
I brushed past Jay. It wasn't you, it was me, bro.
Another day, another horror story. All about them jugs. 

The pic above is proof I enjoyed my longest vacation in 15 years ;). 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Tales from the Crypt

Some one sent me a message in the past few weeks asking me "how important is it to have safe supplies?" In other words, really Tracey, what is the worst that can happen. These are responses I received on social media. Real stories on what happens when you don't practice harm reduction or get a bad batch. Please feel free to add yours. 

I was in a coma from heroin laced with fentanyl, during which had 5 strokes. Have hearing loss (wear hearing aids now) and neuropathy down entire right side of body.
One stroke was a brainstem stroke, put me in a "locked-in syndrome" state until I broke out of it.

II've got really bad cellulitus and have a big open wound on my right forearm and on my left I had the same but it healed and is a huge scar
Like people thought I got a hold of that krokidille (however you spell it) stuff BC of how my arms looked...kinda like a nasty zombie bite or something

A friend of mine had to have open heart surgery from an infection caused by the filter of a cigarette.
Let me tell you about the 24 year old kid named Cody who died from endocarditis, AIDS related complications and a type of fungus that you find in Kansas called histoplasmosis. I found his mom and paid for her out of pocket to come see her baby die in my ICU from Texas. He had lesions on his lungs. His mom sobbed at his bedside and I held her. What's sad is that it was his addiction that killed him. Heartbreaking. I wish people could walk a day in my shoes, Trainspotting is a cakewalk compared to what I see. He lived on life support for 8 weeks and we did everything we could to keep him alive. He pooped blood out daily and could not clot and we put enough blood product in him that if took from another person they would be dead. The night he died, a doctor friend held his hand and told him it was ok and that he could go, at age 24...24. The kid shed a tear I heard and he died. He died because he wouldn't get help for his disease. At 24. His name was Cody. Don't be Cody. There is always help.

I had MRSA in my face, scar now. The next part might not need to be shared.... While I was quarantined in a private room, big sign on the door with warnings and rules. I was having a friend bring me dope and injecting it in to my IV.
I've had regular cellulitis 2 other times on my face, and once on my breast.....that was extremely nasty and extremely painful, could have lost my breast. That scar is really funky!
I was diabetic before I used and always had clean needles. Obviously I didn't have the greatest hygiene then and had a habit of picking at my skin. Insanity.

I shot up with water from the cat bowl because i was lazy and had an anaphylactic reaction because i neglected to think of cat backwash and the fact that i'm allergic to cat spit. almost died in my dorm 


Dirty works and no hygiene lead to Cellulitis infection to the point of sepsis. My body was so infected SFGH doctors had to perform emergency surgery to clean the wounds and cut abscess from my neck wrists and hands. When they had me in triage the nurse could not find a vain for an IV, I became so violent they restrained me, then tilted me so my head was down legs up and forced the IV into my femoral artery. I was so sick they called a surgeon and a priest. This was a level of pain I could not have imagined. My lower legs look like I was severely burned (18 years later the scars are still there) and my neck around my collar bone looks like someone tried to stab me to death. I am missing knuckles in two fingers from the surgery. 3 weeks in the hospital, mostly in the burn recovery unit. I was lucky that I ended up in SFGH, where the trauma care is the best. I still get aches in my joints and can't totally close all my fingers. Hygiene is no joke and the consequences for me are lifelong. I thought I was indestructible.

How about gangrene in my fingers? I'll never have full use of them
That's as straight as my ring and pinky fingers on my right hand will ever get.
I was just looking through my "this day in the past" thing and it was five years ago today I was sitting in the hospital with the gangrene, waiting to find out if i would lose my fingers, go home, or be transferred to a nursing home because they refused to send a junkie home with a central line, and I needed antibiotics every six hours through it. It's my story, it's my past. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

When All the Tears Are On The Inside

I hear the cat pacing on the hardwood floor in the next room. He walks slowly, deliberately over to my bed as he leaps near my toes. As I glance at him, I see the piles of dirty clothes that have accumulated around the door way. I see the layers of dust mingled with ancient cobwebs along the crown molding. I see the objects of my previous life: some faded pictures of me smiling, a crumpled ticket from a baseball game, an empty box of perfume I thought I would save for my treasures, and a plastic heart that one held flowers.

The waves of depression roll over me. They cover my body like the tide, they are synced to the many cycles of my moons. The depression goes and and out of my lungs. It feels like my breathing. It is as shallow as my desires. I haven't washed these blankets in six months? Eight months? I change the sheets to pretend that I am not dirty. I carefully select the outfits with the least stains. No one sees me. No one knows me. I spend my life in this room. All I can hear is the clicking of the keys on my computer as I stare at the screen with my pirate eye. All I can hear is the ringing in my ears. The ocean rolls over me again.

Ever since I was a child, I have had a dream. In the dream, I am lying somewhere. I can't tell where I am. The things I see in my peripheral  vision are obscured by darkness. I am surrounded on all sides by an all encompassing darkness. I see a light above me. Then, slowly, I see the faces. I see the faces of people. They are concerned faces. They are all looking down at me. One by one, they file past me, a few feet above where the darkness ends. One by one, they release the hand fulls of soil. They drop in the soil until I can no longer see and the light goes dim. I remember that one face. That look of concern. I hear a sound, like a marching. I hear the sound of marching in my ears.

I wake up, I am in my bed. The bed were I slept when I was a child. There is purple comforter with lace trim my mother placed with a sewing machine. My bed is broken in my middle from me jumping on it. I broke the frame with my youthful exuberance. I am in my Snoopy nightgown, cuddling my stuffed Panda. I suppose I am too old for stuffed animals. I sleep with my tube socks pulled to the top. The kind with the three red lines. It never gets hot or cold in my room. The windows are sealed in double pane perfection to keep out the sound of the angry Cicadas and the frost that warps the sticker on my window "IN CASE OF FIRE CHILD INSIDE". They gave it to us at the school assembly with the firefighters. I see the pile of Highlights magazines in the corner. I see the flashlight that I used to read my books when I was supposed to be asleep.

All of that is gone now. All of that is history. I move the posters aside to hide my weed. I stick my syringes deep under the music box with the ballerina that doesn't turn anymore.

Some people will ask what happened to me. WHAT happened to your little girl Bob? What happened to the youngest, the one in glasses Kathy? What happened to the girl we knew who wandered off at picnics to play with tadpoles at the creek? They will say I went to college. Or on a trip somewhere. Or moved. I am doing fine, they will say. What else would they tell them. My child is a heroin addict? No. Then it might be true. They can't even say the words HEROIN.

As I pull the tourniquet off my arm, I fall back against my crusty bed. I can hear the sound of the ocean in my ears again. I reach over and draw up the water into my syringe and squirt it in my mouth. There might be one more drop in there. I can't waste it. I cap the rig and throw it into the pile. The waves of depression will start again soon. I close my eyes to wait to see if I this is the one that finally kills me. I will wake up disappointed, yet again.

People ask me where I live now. I live down the hill from here. This is a picture taken at the top of my street. The blue in the horizon is the ocean. The water is cold and the days are generally foggy. I love it here. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Heroin- that bitch ain't loyal.

There comes a moment in the life of every heroin addict when they have to take stock of their current situation. Track marks? Check. Victim of violence? Check. Estrangement from my family? Check. Lack of overall functioning in my nether regions? Check. Poor health? Absolutely. Ability to change my situation? None.

I thought being a heroin addict would be the worst thing that happened to me in my life. As a direct result of my use, I was raped. I was so fucked up, I walked right into a dangerous situation. I had a man try to kill me over sex he thought he was entitled too because as a female user, apparently I had no right to say no. I have had my eye split open as I tried to break into a car. I had a knife put to my throat as I was robbed. I had infections raging through my body to the point I had to be rushed into surgery so I wouldn't lose my limbs. Certainly, when I kicked heroin, these were the worst things that could ever possibly happen to me?

Getting off heroin is brutally painful. The pain is relatively temporary. The emotional things creep in. "How did I let this happen to me?" "Why did I do x,y,z?" "Why did I spent all my time finding happiness in the bottom of bag?" Dwelling on the reasons why you do opiates is can be an exercise in futility. Why? Heroin. That is all you need to know. Fucking heroin. I WAS USING FUCKING HEROIN.

Heroin, as I like to explain it, is like having the most beautiful man/woman/partner fall in love with you instantly. The two of you go home and have mind blowing sex then cuddle then they make you the most delicious breakfast you have ever tasted. They are really fucking into you. First, you see them a few times a week, then more and more. Slowly, you realize they are a clingy psycho but the sex! the cuddles! the breakfast! Then, they start to hit you. But they apologize! they send flowers! They don't really mean it. GODDAMN I LOVE YOU SO MUCH. Every day the ups the downs until one day you have had enough! Being without them is fucking horrible, you lay in your bed in a ball and sob and then- they text you again. ONE MORE TIME. FINALLY, you break free from them. You move. You change all your numbers. You realize how fucked your life has been. 3, or 6, or 9 months from now you will start checking their social media to see what they are up to because it is fucking heroin. JUST LEAVE THAT BITCH ALONE. She/He ain't loyal.

August is a terrible month for me personally. It is both the anniversary of the death of my mother and the anniversary of the death of the loss of my first pregnancy. The pregnancy came first. It was almost as if one horrible event prepared me for the other. I really wanted that baby. It was more than just the baby. It was also what it represented to me. I had been coasting along believing there was this loving force in the universe taking care of me. Then one day, I had to wonder, if there is a loving force why did it kill my baby? A simple question- why? I know, from a rational perspective, what happened. Genetically, there must have been something wrong with the pregnancy therefore it ended. But after I saw the heart beat then saw it was gone, there was no telling me anything rational. WHY? Just tell me why? Did I suck too many dicks? Was a such a shitty person, you had to kill my Innocent baby? Just tell me why. I would go through all of the violence I experienced in addiction a thousand times over to have my baby live. It was a very very dark period for me. I seriously contemplated suicide when they handed me that bottle of Vicodin when I discharged from the hospital. Luckily, my friends and my animals gathered around me to show me there was still love in the world.

My time off drugs has not be painless. There has been lots of pain. I can't promise things would be any different for you if you get off drugs. I can only tell you my ability to handle life is different. I see hope. I see love around me. No matter how low you may feel, there is someone that loves you. No matter how many fucked up things you have done behind drugs, there is someone that wants you around. Underneath the chemicals, you are a beautiful person capable of amazing things.

I write this post today because I want you to know that you are loved. I get out of my funk by connecting with others. I can't change the past. I just have to find a way to enjoy each day. Love, Tracey.