Saturday, May 28, 2016

Past My Expiration Date

I am 46 years old today. Hard to believe.
I never thought I would make it past 30.
I survived:
One suicide attempt
8 years as an active addict
A few overdoses
An attempt on my life
Being held violently against my will
My emotions.
Against my best attempts to self destruct, here I am.
You are a big part of that.
Yes, I mean YOU.
If it wasn't for helping others,
I might not have made it this far.
Recovery has Ups and Downs.
You encourage me when I am down.
You tell me to keep going.
I tell you recovery is possible.
I ask you to be safe.
The world is a series of interwoven stories.
I am glad you are part of mine.
46 years on this earth.
Love to you all. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Old Ho

"Who picks up a hooker with a fucking oxygen tank?" I ask. I shake my head in both disbelief and disgust.
"Like how is that even possible? What are the logistics of it? Does she take a breath alternating with sucking a dick? Are they just like paying $10 to fuck her..." I take another sip of my coffee. I never drank coffee until I got off drugs. I always hated that jumpy feeling so, of course, I started using meth. I also remember the time 3 different hospital staff people used to hold me down to give me vaccinations yet a decade later I was giving them to myself.

Working at an agency that deals with sex workers and people who use drugs leaves little room in my head space for self care. Everything around here is URGENT. This is URGENT. Lives are at stake, we are told. This is at the same time our paychecks are late or we are told to wait to cash them. Taking a lunch outside the facility is frowned upon. You are somehow seen as not serious enough about the "mission" of the agency. I double fist caffeine while I suck down my cold lunch. Charts are strewn all over my desk. There is always something left undone at the end of the day. I try not to let it gnaw at me, like the stories that haunt my dreams. These are not the stories of the clients, these are the stories of the sex workers who are long gone. Taken my the virus, murdered, or just plain disappeared.

"So, you mean to tell me her grandfather is her pimp?!" The clients ask me if I will try to find this person in the jail. They tell me she needs my help. I never find her but I find ten young women that are just like her. My brother/uncle/cousin is my baby's father is a common theme. Or I was sold to ten pimps by the time I was 14 years old. I worked in a brothel with my grandmother or my mother helped me turn my first trick. For many of these people, the drugs came much later. The drugs were a way of numbing the pain, one small consolation prize in a world full of hurt. I tried to understand, though my frame of reference was limited by my own ignorance.

I remember back to when I walked the street at night on the way to the dealer, I wondered about the sixty year old woman who shuffled back and forth between the two corners. There was a newspaper stand on one, a fire hydrant on the other. She would shift her hair from side to side, depending on the direction of the traffic. She would point to one place or the other, directing them to stop if they wanted to sample her wares. As I drank from my 40 oz, waiting for Pablo or Flacco or Pedro to arrive, I thought to myself "look at that disgusting old ho there. Who the fuck would want to buy that pussy?" My 22 year old lens saw the world in narrow parameters. As a 28 year old caseworker, I imaged that same woman as a 15 year old child tossed around from man to man. All those years had worn away her spirit until she knew nothing else. She became a distillation of what everyone else say- just a person known for what they can take from her. Colostomy bags, prosthetic legs, and oxygen tanks. Nothing stops the flow. Nothing. I don't know why these things even shock me anymore.

As I take another sip of my increasingly bitter coffee, I think back to where I was a few years ago. Every chart on my desk is a person with a story, a story not unlike my own. Heroin for some people may be a form of recreation. For others, it is their only means of escape. I don't know the type of pain each individual carries around with them but it isn't my place to judge what pain pushed them into their choices. I am simply lucky I made it out alive.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

My Animal Companion

There was a time in my life I could not care about anyone, including myself. I did not call my family. I did not have any true friends to speak of. I was surrounded by people yet always alone in my thoughts. I had many goals when I thought about quitting drugs. One of the main ones was to finally have a place where I could have a cat. Four years almost to the day, that cat became Smokey.

Smokey was a just that- a smokey tabby with some brown patches and greenish brown eyes. He started out as a rambunctious kitten that liked to play fetch or attack any toe that snuck out from under the covers. He quickly turned into something else. He became an extension of myself. He loved those in his inner circle. He hated outsiders. He would hiss at visitors to the point we mounted an "Attack Cat" warning sign for those entering our residence. He would climb up in the cabinets to surprise strangers trying to get a plate with a startling hiss. Was he feral at one point? No, we would answer. We even went so far as to go to a cat behavior class. The kind older woman in her caftan told us we had ruined him. Great, we thought. An unfriendly dude. He always made up for it in snuggles. 

When I quit heroin, I did not know if I would ever love anyone again. I just didn't. That feeling of numbness prevailed over any desire I had to be with another human being most of the time. Getting together with my husband was a happy accident. I didn't realize how much love I had to give until I met Smokey. He opened up parts of my heart that had been closed since childhood, when I believed people could be good hearted and love was real. He was there during all the major milestones of my life- a miscarriage, the death of both my parents, the difficult birth of my daughter. He just wanted to sit on my lap, to use what limited warmth he had as a heating pad. He licked my face, told me it was going to be alright, and as Eddie Griffin said best put "food in his motherfucking bowl". That was him. 

My room seems empty without him on the bed. There won't be any more brown and grey hairs on my black slacks I notice when I get to work. He won't be vomiting in my shoe anymore. I won't be getting any 5am licks for wet food. I am not going to use drugs over this. I'm not. I must acknowledge my life got a little bit duller. I have other fur babies, sure, but there will never be another Smokey. He taught this junkie to love again. I miss him.

Smokey in better times with his best friend Snowball

Monday, May 9, 2016

Love Kills

I feel this relationship crushing me like a wine glass underneath his boot. Can I salvage what little life I have left? The bruises are unmistakable. I was "lucky' that he didn't "kill me this time". I look at my face in the mirror, my pupils beam like eight balls in my eyes. It is time, I tell myself. Time to leave? Oh no, I don't have the self esteem to do that. Time to blast off again into the world of fuck it.

I sit back down on the toilet seat searching for the perfect spot. The breeze is blowing through the bars of the bathroom window, sending a chill up my exposed spine. It won't be long my heart will be pounding like the sound of someone slamming on this door to come in. Fear rings in my ears. The fear of getting caught in here, dirty rig in hand. The game now is to get these drugs into me faster than he can kick in the door.

"I KNOW YOU ARE IN THERE" he screams. He sounds like the police. "If you don't come out," he projects his voice through the lock of the door "I WILL kick this mother fucker in."

The blood is rushing through my body at the speed of sound. A few minutes ago, I had to use my shirt to stop my nose from bleeding. it was almost as if YOUFUCKINGBITCH was my name. The girls in jail tried to tell me, it wasn't what I am called, it was what I answered to...yeah. I know all that. Except this man has stalked me from one end of the block to the other. You cannot stay here, the hotel managers would tell me, too many problems was my name and my life. As I feel the heroin start to slowly creep up from ankle, I push my foot against the door to keep him out just a few minutes more. I flush my rig down the toilet. Sorry fish.

"Open this fucking door," I hear him pounding again, like the pounding in my ears. My eye is swelling now. I can feel the tightness as the pain slowly dissipates. "I'm taking a shit" I tell him. He knows better. When was the last time I ate anything.

I search for a shirt in my back pack. He ripped this one off of me, ripped it as I tried to get away. I pull the other one over me. There is no escaping my fate. I saw myself in the mirror in the bathroom, I was a shadow of my former self. I slip on my sunglasses, turning the lock with a sigh I let out into the universe. I heard it said that love kills. This one just beats me.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mother's Day

I know many of my readers are mothers. Happy Mother's Day to You. To all of my readers who have lost their mothers like myself, I hope you are practicing self care. XOXO Tracey

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Other

In a room full of people, I often feel alone.
When a person is sleeping next to me, I am a world away.
When the bus gets full, I get off at the next stop.
It isn't that I don't want to be around people.
I just don't know how.
I always have a nagging feeling.
I am a broken piece.
I am a shard of shattered glass.
I am the other.

There is this nagging feeling inside me.
It makes no sense.
No one told me I was wrong.
No one forced me to the side.
The words are choking me.
I have a knot in my throat.
All the things I would say to you.
If I only spoke your language.
Communicating with swollen fingers.
Seeing the world through blood shot eyes.

No one made me feel this way.
I was born feeling like the other.
No one made me an addict.
I was born feeling unsatisfied.
If only I could feel like a "normal" person.
Spinning in my own mind.
Watching the world pass me by.