Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Some Days I don't want to get out of Bed

This is the time of year when depression normal rolls in. Then, I get this face telling me to get up. 

When Your Life Fits in a Plastic Bag

The streets of San Francisco are particularly ripe right now. It hasn't rained in a month of more. No amount of sporadic power washing can peel away the layers of urine that permeate the air. The trees that line the busy sidewalks have brown gravel covering their roots. Brown from a hurried piss of thousands urban dogs moving quickly as their owners rush from one place to the next. The urban planners never imagined a density of a few hundred dogs per tree and only seven of those per block. The pit bulls and the yap yap dogs share the same space, only connecting through scent. 

The same could be true of the downtown area. There is an unmistakable odor, the smell of an unhealthy body known as a city. Everywhere you walk their are bodily fluids to remind you of the person who once was there. There is blood and bandages on the sidewalk. From the home bum who left a pool of blood when he cracked his head on the curb to the junkie that squirted his used rigs on the storefront, DNA evidence is abound here. There is feces going round and round on the belts of the escalator. There is fragrance of hot piss from building to staircase. Finally, there I catch a glimpse of the occasional used condom sticking solemnly to a tire. The soliders have made their last march. I suppose the most surprising part id that someone is actually using them. 

As I briskly move across the plane of biohazardous material, I spot a man in front of me. He has three items that divert my attention from Pokemon Go- A black backpack, a black gym bag, and a black grocery bag. It is clear that these three vessels contain all his worldly belongings. As I see him approach the stop sign, I feel the weight of his burdens on my own shoulders. Not knowing where I was going, holding on to whatever material goods made me feel connected to some sense of normalcy. There were no tampons, no socks, or underwear. Just a blanket in my backpack, a few changes of clothes in the gym bag (with syringes stuffed inside the pockets), a bottle of water,a tie, and an empty can in the grocery bags. Maybe I was carrying HIS stuff- you know him- Mr. Right now. He would tell me he would be right back. I would see him a day or two later when the dope ran out. I would feel like a fool for carrying his stuff until my feet blistered, walking all over to find him. Next time, I will be the one to disappear. It is part of the struggle when your life can all fit in a few bags and all your money goes up your arm. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Don't Leave People to Die

The title here might seem self- explanatory but I want to give more information. 

When I was 20 years old, I was visiting with friends in an apartment in downtown Cincinnati. My homeboy and I had been saving a few precious bags of dope to do when we were alone. Dope wasn't cheap, it wasn't easy to come by, and it was going to be a good night. While the friends went out to the state liquor store to get booze, we thought we would be sneaky and do our issue. The point of doing it then was 1. we didn't want to share 2. fuck you. Just kidding, sort of. Anyway, since we had to share the syringe (with no way of cleaning it), he decided I would go first since I was a lower health risk. I was a few steps away from a virgin and had barely done drugs so my blood was safer. This was how we made decisions since we might have one syringe between four people for months at a time. He had been turning tricks since he was 12?13? and had a long drug history so he was willing to share my blood. 

Once the process started, death wasn't what I expected. I was dreaming about football. The I formation, as if a game was in process. I felt someone smacking the shit out of me as I was coming up from the dream. 

"Why are you smacking me?" I asked.
Then I realized I was on the floor under a table. I had fallen off the futon, smacked a glass table, and went down for the count. So much for the peaceful exit people had described. I had heard of people waking up from ODs with their legs twisted under them to the point they damaged everything. They would walk with what we called "a gangster lean" or the "stroke shuffle". Some older junkies would blaze rocks, only to get mini crack induced strokes that made one side of their face sag and have them drag the opposite leg. They would keep on stepping though. 

My friend was crying. It was touching really. The last girl who had ODed on drugs he had seen was at a anonymous dope house. In some cities, there would be a shooting gallery or cheap apartment sealed off from the rest of the house where you could pay $5 to go in an use drugs off the street. People inside may or may not know each other. The general rule was no talking. Do your business and leave.  In unison, after a girl had fallen on the floor, the patrons started moving a coffee table then rolling her up in a rug. As she was being hauled off to a frozen dumpster, she started screaming "I'm alive!" Well, fuck it. Unroll the bitch then, he told me. I, at least, got slaps and tears. 

This was my first experience with overdose but certainly not the last. I am certain I saved five different people from overdose. One person had open sores around his mouth. He was HIV positive. I was to afraid to give him rescue breathing. So I called the paramedics from the corner and talked them through until they found him. He was drunk, did some dope, he didn't even remember what had gone on that day. I will always remember. I could have left him. I was just walking by, really. Chalked it up to the game. But I didn't. I know some people who would have gone through his pockets, called it a day. I am not that person. 

If you don't have naloxone, don't leave a person to die. Someone loves them liked someone loved me. If you don't know what to do, breathe in their mouth, put them in rescue position, and call 911. Slapping, ice, coke, all the shit they told us don't work. My friend breathed life into me in between slaps. It worked. The person needs oxygen. If nothing else, call 911 with the door open so the paramedics can get to them. Care. The next time, it could be you. 

My kids need me. I love them. I thank all the Gods every day I get to be in their lives. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Uneasy Truce With the Past

I am 46 years old, a fossil by junkie standards. The links I have to the past, they are in my memories. They are in the faces of people I see pass me by. That person *almost* looks like...but I know that person has passed on. In the nearly 30 years since I started dabbling with drugs, I have lost more people that I can remember. An army of dead lovers and friends marching across my dreams. 

Maybe I should forget the past, someone told me. Maybe I should only write about positive things, they said. That person died recently under mysterious circumstances. We all know what the social media post means when no one says why you are dead. It isn't a car crash or cancer or an act of God. Those deaths require details. When a user like us dies, we are simply left with questions. 

Why did they use again? They were certainly no worse than I was in my day. Why go back to sticking that spike in your vein when you have so much to lose? Why? Because that is what we do when we try to bury the past. The muscle memory takes over. The arms that reach for just one more. The legs that carry us that extra mile to the dealer. The ears that tune out everything except for the calls of heroin. 

It's a sweet song. Like the sirens driving us back into the rocks again? Can we survive the journey. He didn't, she didn't. Two dead friends in two months. People like me, in our 40s. Children left alone. The call of the siren was too strong to resist. 

People ask me why I still talk about dope. Because I am not immune to it. Because some times I crave it with every fiber of my miserable being despite knowing the consequences. Talking about it helps me resist just one more day, one more month, one more year, one moment at a time. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Hitting the Road

I am going to be doing lots of traveling in the next six weeks. Come see me or let's do lunch. 

August 20-23 KCMO
Sept 10 Michigan Recovery Walk 
Sept 12- Seattle Recovery Cafe @7pm
Sept 19-20 Washington DC
Sept 26-28 New Brunswick NJ

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Cutting off Your Nose

"You are cutting your throat to spite your face," he told me in a muffled voice.

We had been sick most of the evening so I wasn't expecting much in terms of conversation. After a long day of shivering and treking around with a snotty nose, there wasn't much to say.  It was creeping up to two am. I knew this because I had seriously considered chugging a bottle of vodka to get the sick off. It was 1:30 before we had made the decision to go in on the smallest piece of dope we could afford without dipping into the money I owed to my regular connection. I had been in a typical junkie paradox. I had money, $497 to be exact, but no access until the morning. He had turned off his phone, god damn him. I assume all my money was paying for him to live a normal life somewhere. The Christmas presents for his kids were paid for with $20 bills covered in the tears and sweat of prostitutes sucking dirty dicks with our condoms just to get well. As a small time dealer, these were my customers.

"What the fuck are you saying," I asked. We had shared a twenty, which was more like a ten but it was going to have to work until dawn. I had taken a phenergan and a Klonopin to stave off the chills. It was barely working. In situations like this, my man enjoyed buying crack. I heartily disagreed. Crack was a funny drug. I remember saying many times "I don't smoke crack" as if it made me superior to everyone in this environment. Then slowly, as my boundaries lowered, it was "I don't smoke crack," but "do you have some?" Now, I had simply come to terms with the fact that I was smoking crack here and there. But not the way I felt now. Fuck to the no.

He rolled over to me. I could see by the moisture around his eyes he had been crying. I hope not crying over me, not again. He was probably crying from the sickness. Dope sickness did crazy things to a person. Nutting without ever touching your dick. Crying for the life you left behind. Most of all, it made you consider slitting your wrists. Or it did for me. I had never tried it but I had seen in more than once. I knew a person who literally cut their own throat from dope sickness after they had been refused pain meds in the ER. They cut it with a razor blade, just enough to get their attention. I was crazy but not THAT crazy.

"You are cutting your throat to spite your face." He told me again. "I don't know exactly what it means, but it seems to fit you".

He was a beautiful man. Not a handsome man. Not an attractive man. He was a beautiful man. Not what you would describe as being "the sharpest tool" when it came to things that required common sense. The type of sense he had was uncommon. He could see right through me, through all my bullshit. I loved him for it. I respected him for it. I didn't want to spend the rest of my life with him but I wanted to be with him now. Now was all I knew. When I looked into those eyes of his, I truly wished for a second that we were two normal people. I wish we had normal lives where we both went to work in the morning, kissed each other goodnight, and made love because we were capable of emotions. Instead, we were two junkies. I sucked money away from my mother.  I sold heroin, he sold his ass whenever we had money issues which was often. I could never tell him about the guy I blew in the back of a parking lot for dope money. He could never tell me about fucking some old troll. We told each other a series of intricate lies to spare the feelings of the person we claimed to love. 
"What does that even mean?" I asked. "Why am I mad at my face?" 

He shook his head in frustration. The klonopin I had taken an hour ago when I was dopesick was now pushing me into a state of being incoherent. The twenty piece we had gotten off of some stripper was more potent then I had first thought. It wasn't much but it was doing the trick for the next hour or so. I was trying to enjoy the respite from pain.  I could feel my words slowly starting to taper off as I caught myself sliding down the wall. Exhaustion coupled with a comfortable place was finally taking over. 

He grabbed my fingers. He squeezed "my fucking hand!!" I screamed "let go!" He wanted me to hear him, to feel his emotions. YOU are killing yourself was all I heard, yet I felt nothing.  He turned back over in disgust. I'M KILLING MYSELF, I wanted to argue. What about you? What was it like for him being the child of two junkies. His mother stole the money out of his birthday card on his 14th birthday to buy dope. His father would constantly follow us around asking for crumbs. It was repulsive in a way, the father begging his son for drugs. EXPECTING his son to give him drugs. Yet, he always would because he loved him. Love meant something different in this life.

"Wa Wait a minute," I tapped him "it is cutting off your NOSE to spite your face."

I could hear him sobbing into the pillow. Crying out from anger, or depression, and hopelessness. Spending all our money on dope, hotels, crack, and rarely food has left us in this impossible place where we were alive but barely living. I slept in his boxer shorts, my legs were crusty with the recent scabs of needle sticks and abscess drainage. I had become so emaciated, I no longer needed anything to hold up non existent of my womanhood. I wore a sports bra more as a universal stuff holder than a place for breasts. The same could be said of my crotch. I was stuffing condoms full of drugs and/or money inside me. I think in the past six months I had sex twice? Three times? It seemed like going through the motions of a relationship. The up and down, the crack and dope taking over whatever humanity was left.

Maybe I had cut off my nose. I no longer could smell the pissy alleys. I could ignore the rancid infections I seemed to get every few weeks from the tar. But if I had cut off my nose, I had also ripped my eyes out. I was unable to see the world around me. I was only focused on two things: the rush and the absence of pain. Everything else was ancillary. Truth be told, I was blind to the person laying next to me. I know one thing. I know that he loved me. But I also know we both love dope a little more. It shouldn't have been that way, it just WAS. As I rolled off into a restless slumber, I pretended not to notice him weeping. The only thing that could save us now was that next fix.

In case you haven't noticed by now, I don't have ads on my blog. This is something I have done on purpose. I don't want people to think I am endorsing any product or service. The loss of income isn't as important to me as my reputation. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

I need YOUR help

I am going to meeting with policy leaders in Washington DC to talk about the heroin crisis in the US. I would love to get your input on what you feel is going on, what needs to be a priority, and what you feel is working. You can leave comments here or I can give you my email.

XOXO Tracey