Finding a vein the first time.
Isn't that the sweetest thing?
I don't want to look at your face because I know what you are thinking. You are thinking you are so much better than me. Better as in well. Better as in you have the strength to resist all of life's more primal urges. You want me to understand that you excel in the art of "NO". You can hold back when my whole life revolves around GO. My heart is just a frozen sacrifice. I threw it in the dumpster next to the blood wipes. I passed by the smell of rotten air. I knew I belonged to this. I belong in this place, altered and alone. My confusion is only temporary. My focus is clear. Everything I need in life exists in little bags spit out by fragile men on street corners or hidden underneath the nut sack of some man I would never want to ask me for a favor.
Life is funny that way. It has the sickest sense of humor. As sick as me on a cold morning waiting for my man. Not a lover. The only really man in my life. The dopeman lies to me yet I say thank you every time. I am grateful to see the person I hate the most. I swallow all those curses I was about to deliver to him for being late. I walk hurriedly to my next destination, leaving behind the crumbs of my self esteem.
Where did I get that money? Does it really matter? Does it really matter that I lied to my job, lied to myself. Told my mother about some trip I needed to take. Told my trick I would see them soon, Told my friend I would pay them back next week. Told myself I would never do this again- until I did.
Finding a vein the first time.
Isn't that the sweetest thing.
It's the best thing that will happen today.
I will have to be okay with that.
What is the sweetest thing about NOT being strung out? I woke up this morning sandwiched between two sheets next to my dog without worrying about if I was going to have to suck a dick today to get my next fix. Yes- I think that is pretty much it.
There certainly are other things that are good. I enjoy having hot meals without being in county jail to receive them. I enjoy having a whole entire day without crippling stomach cramps. I enjoy having a day (relatively) free of lies such as "I'll be right there" "I'll be right back" and the popular "I'll be there in fifteen minutes". I enjoy having tits. I never have them when I am strung out. They are the first thing to go, after my self esteem, of course. I like having the ability to look down at my arms and legs for other reasons besides finding that one last spot that *might* work if I try to inject there. I enjoy spending time with my cats (probably too much 😉) and they seem at least moderately enthusiastic about spending time with me.
Sunday, December 25, 2016
Monday, December 12, 2016
This is a work in progress.
You are drug free- you are supposed to be happy- right?!” The man seems to get more angry the more he talks. He is a well dressed man in his mid-forties. I can tell right away that if he gave me a hug, I would pull away with the slight scent of some hair care product or perhaps some kind of fancy deodorant, anything to signify an upgrade from his prior circumstances. His well manicured fade and crisp flannel drew my eyes to him right away. Underneath his collar, I see the poorly chosen tattoos peeking out from a strategic location on his neck. He is a mixture of post addiction swagger and relatable social acceptability. It isn’t how he looks though that catches my attention. It is what he says, vocalizing all my doubts outloud. His words are like a chorus of angels singing in my ears. Finally, someone is saying all the things I have been thinking all this time.
“Well I am not fucking happy…” he takes a pause to take a sip of his coffee. I can tell he is getting heated with the release of all this pent up negative energy. “I am not happy at all. I have all these clean months and I am not fucking happy. Sometimes, I feel like I was lied to.” I can feel people shift in their seats with the uncomfortable realization that what he is saying might be true. There is a common sort of brainwashing in these rooms. We all trade our doubts for the suspension of disbelief. It is as if the group leader is some sort of magician here to infuse us with hope against the daily evidence that all is not perfect in this protective bubble. This man is penetrating into my deepest thoughts. He is confirming my belief that maybe this has all been a sham.
He continues “but I am grateful now- grateful not to be living that life anymore”. He lost me right there. Everyone claps as dictated by a combination of group think and common courtesy. Negative “shares” get their obligatory meeting of the hands in slightly less enthusiastic manner. Gratitude is rewarded. Discontent is generally frowned up. Or at least this is how I feel in the moment.
“My name is Tracey and I am a recovering person”, I say to the jury of my peers. “This is the first meeting I have been to this year (November)...” I pause “I have been traveling a lot because of my work with advocacy.” The rest is just meaningless filler. I can’t really tell what is going on with me here. I can’t tell them about how I fix my feelings with pita chips. I can’t tell them how I lay out my traps my social media on a daily basis, hoping I can reel in some attention from admiring strangers. I can’t tell them how I am dealing with cellulite, varicose veins, and the subtle droop of my face that comes when you managed to make it past 30, a feat I never desired until I reached 29 years old. I spent way too many years listening to the Velvet Underground talking about “I am tired. I am weary.” They didn’t know what tired is- tired is chasing three kids. Tired is going to work every god damned day. Tired is learning how to pay bills on time, to wash dishes, and learn to communicate my emotions in terms that don’t start with “fuck this”. A user just FEELS tired. I am tired.
I can already feel the crush of judgement. I have broken from the standard protocol of “addict” or “alcoholic”. The chorus of disapproval will come later. I have seen this in meetings before. One person with a negative experience with recovery brings forward the white knights that feel compelled to defend it. It isn’t long before a stern looking man in an oversized sweatshirt and crisp tan pants decides to go on a tirade about how he needs to go to a meeting every single week with great emphasis since he relapsed six years ago after surgery. There is supposed to be no cross talk in the meeting yet I know he is speaking directly to me. As if a person with eighteen years clean knows nothing, I tell myself. In addition, as a woman, I feel an additional sting. Why is it he feels the need to mansplain recovery to me? I have taken pain medicine four different times. One time was a miscarriage and three times I had c-sections where I was prescribed opioids. Yet, I did not relapse. The casual dismissal of the experience of others make me shift in my seat. Instead of welcoming the prodigal child who returned to the rooms of recovery after wandering aimlessly in a desert of self loathing, I am chastised for not being a perfect member. Fuck that. Now I understand why people drink coffee in the meetings- to choke down their bitterness.
I suddenly laugh to myself. Why have I allowed this person to get so deep underneath my skin? I shake my head in silent recognition while I struggle to keep from looking at my phone. I feel the magnetic pull of the smartphone forcing me to glance. Look at me, it calls. Like the sirens singing, it attempts to pull me towards the rocks. Being a woman over forty makes me essentially invisible to everyone with the exception of feral cats, of which I have rescued two in the past year. My fuckable years long gone, my posts fall into a few categories. They are 1. Food I will never make 2. Can you believe what an asshole this person is by doing ____ 3. Look at how much weight I have lost despite the fact it is the same ten pounds every six months or so 4. Political outrage 5. Me holding a cat or a book or anything that will make you notice me. Maybe not me, the person I really am, but the well curated me I want you to see.
What if I did a social media site of just pictures of the reality of my daily life. Here I am cleaning up the mess the dog made at 12:37 am when she shit on the floor on the rug because I was two minutes too late ie trying to find glasses. Check this pic out. This is me dealing with the natural type crisp rice cereal that is stuck to the side of the sink like glue. Here I am again trying to select a few types of undershirts that adequately cover my muffin top ie the roll of fat left over from carrying these semi ungrateful children. Here I am again. Don’t I look cute bending over to wipe the butt of a five year old who still hasn’t mastered the difference between a fart of having to poop. I must look sex-y with my legs that haven’t been shaven in a month. There is a reason I have leggings on 27 days of the month. The other days I am dealing with a rash. I could also capture my one eyebrow that is over plucked, my nails that are splintering. Maybe I can even give my followers a glimpse into my life of semi lactose intolerance. Here I am regretting that fat free greek yogurt I had for lunch! See me doubled over with abdominal cramps!
I have zoned out for far too long. The meeting is almost over. The goal here was to, perhaps, meet my future BFF. Instead, another social opportunity goes down in flames. The years I spent trying to raise children from the screaming “wiggly worm with no neck stage” to just beyond “I’m a toddler so I will throw myself on the ground” has left me high and dry in the support squad area. My first wave of friends died while I was in active addiction. Some died of overdoses. Some died of AIDS or other medical conditions directly tied to injection drug use. A few of my friends were murdered. A few more committed suicide. I stayed clean long enjoy to see people start to die of natural causes. I have seen them get clean, find the perfect partner, have kids, and move far far away. A few have been reduced to slightly batshit messages and reposts about the illuminati. I guess that was bound to happen in any social circle that involved large amounts of chemicals that are known to kill brain cells. I need to find a way to find new friends.
Friends? What are those? Ok, it isn’t as if I have NO friends at all. I just have no accessible ones. Having a permanent resting bitch face doesn’t help my cause, either. There have been many times where I was quite sure I was moderately friendly only to be asked later “um, such and such thinks that you hate them. Is that true?” Hate them, I barely even talked to them! I think to myself. Oh wait, maybe that is the problem. I want the instant gratification friends. I want them just to magically appear. I want them to be available when I need them with minimal effort on my part. In fact, I want to acquire them without leaving the house if humanly possible. I quickly learned it isn’t.
Over the years, my meeting attendance has dwindled to a trickle. Not because I believe 12 step has no merit. I believe it does. Mostly I haven’t attended because of a combination of luxury problems mixed with general dissatisfaction with the way some new people seeking recovery are treated. Instead of changing this system, I have simply withdrawn from it over time. You are a member when you say you are, it says in the readings. I am still a member in my mind. Yet, I have left the hen house with some random foxes. I have left the fold, pocketed my all my knowledge, took what I needed, it the escape button. Maybe I am a recovery thief. Maybe I have preserved my precious reserves by exiting this system. Yet, it is calling me back.
In some ways, those chairs are the first place I was welcome after years spent out in active addiction. I attended my first 12 step meeting when I was 17 years old. A friend of mine had recently been released from a 28 day rehab program for young people. She asked another friend and I would “support” her ie attend the meeting with her. I remember being intrigued by the subject matter yet I in no way identified with the people in the room. I was, in fact, just getting started. There were warm beers in the trunk of her car waiting for me when the meeting was over. When we were done holding hands, I was truly ready to go.
The next meeting I attended was mandated by the court. I had recently been released from jail. My probation officer decided I should attend a weekly meeting called “Facts on Crack” at a local church run program. The idea of attending was ridiculous to me. I was NOT a crack user, I was a heroin and speed user. These are totally different things. What could these people possible say that could help me, I asked myself as I wrapped the tourniquet around my arm. I mean, I certainly wasn’t going to go to this group without a little shot, right?! It would make all these crackheads a little more tolerable.
As I finished up my dime, I forgot all about the fact that this six months in jail had essentially saved me from myself. When I was arrested, I was sent straight to the hospital. I had not one, not, two, not three, but FOUR abscesses. I liked my fuck ups to be epic. These certainly met that criteria. When I could stick my finger in between the bone section on my leg, it still was not enough to motivate me into getting any type of medical attention. I simply didn’t have the time. Living on the street made me incapable of seeing anything beyond that next bag. The only thing I need, I told myself, was a constant supply of dope. Then, I would be entirely fine. As I started climbing the hill to the mandated group, I had that same exact feeling. No one could tell me shit, as they say. I was still young and encumbered by the blindness of my youth. As I walked towards the doorway, a steady sense of nausea creeped up into my throat. The dope was still working for me since I was so newly returned to the game. It wouldn’t take long before that feeling was gone, replaced by “getting well” as the standard.
The room was situated with chairs in a circle. The vast majority of the seats were filled with older black men, many of which clearly had seen some better days. I locked eyes with one of the only women in the room as if to let her know we were in this boys club together. The man sitting next to her was a wiry white dude with some faded devil horns peeking out underneath his newly grown hair. He had that unmistakable look of someone who had just spent the last decade or so in the joint before his parole agent suggested he come here as a last ditch effort to keep him on the outside. I hated being lumped in with crazy but I suppose he and I stand out as the lightest people in the room.
As everyone starts to sip on their watered down coffee with ten sugars at minimum, a pattern emerges among the participants. There is a one upmanship here, a way of telling a story where one person wants to be better than the last. It seems as if everyone “used to be” something. A loving mother is now separated from her children. A former baseball player full of promise is now collecting cans to get his next hit. The bus driver has been reduced to three months off on disability as he grasps at one last opportunity to get his life back. And here I am the junkie, formerly of West Chester Ohio. I was born and bred to “be something”. I was told I was a special snowflake until one day that snow got grimey. Here I was 26 years old, attempting to listen intently while I continuously nod off the end of your chair.
“What brings you here young lady”, the man asks me. He is an African American man in his mid forties. Well dressed but not overly showy with one simple gold chain, a sports jersey, and freshly pressed jeans. He has that New York casual look. He is slightly wall eyed, with his eye slowly drifting to the side. I would learn later that was from someone nearly knocking it out.
I push myself up in my seat “probation” I say. “Probation sent me here”.
He smiled with the kind of smile a person gives you when they see completely through you. “Hmm,” he said, slightly turning towards me to provide some back up to his words “And you don’t see ANY relationship between what they are saying and why you are dipping in that chair?”
This was a rhetorical question. He didn’t expect me to answer. He expected me to listen. To find out why I needed to come here. But truthfully- they couldn’t tell me anything I did not already know. I knew I was strung out. My body made this perfectly clear every six hours or so. It made it clear when I couldn’t poop when I needed to, have anything close to an orgasm unless I was in withdrawal, when I couldn’t cry unless the dope man didn’t answer my calls. I was hooked alright. I just wasn’t ready to do anything about it. Not him, not the group, not any fucking story was going to change my mind in that moment. Catch me the next time I run out. For now, the only thing on my mind was a chocolate milk and my next hustle. It’s MY life. I’m supposed to be happy, right?
Saturday, December 3, 2016
There are recovering folk, treatment facilities, detoxes, and families struggling with addiction that would love a copy of my book. Here is the amazon link https://www.amazon.com/The-Big-Fix-After-Heroin/dp/1580056032 The book is also at Barnes and Noble, Indy bookstores, and I have a few author copies for sale.
Let me start out by saying, this blog is my therapy. I let whatever comes to my mind go through the keys and out into the universe. In my ten years of active addiction, I experienced horrors beyond the average imagination. I am not being dramatic- just stating facts. I am not sure if the streets of San Francisco are unique in that the lengths of human depravity on display here are enough to provide a lifetime of nightmares. I suppose my experience of a user in active addiction could have been very different if I would have stayed in Ohio but it was headed down that trajectory. I am a person of extremes. I use hard, I love hard, I am loyal as fuck. When I get involved in something, I do it until the wheels fall off. I'm up in the projects buying crack, I am turning tricks if necessary, I am walking the city with one shoe on and one shoe off out of my mind on meth. That is the essence of my brand.
That being said, I embraced recovery in the same way. I jumped into it 100% with the determination that I was fucking DONE. Period. I don't believe in a bottom. I have seen it proven over and over there is much lower a person can go. The "bottom" was when I said fuck this shit. I can't, I won't do this anymore. I have never used illicit drugs or alcohol since then over this eighteen years. I stopped at 27, almost 28 years old. That is close to the age of most of you avid readers. It is a good age, an age when you have PLENTY of life left to live. You can rebuild your life, salvage some relationships. The time may be later or earlier for you. The reality is if you are using drugs, the vast MAJORITY of you will stop at some point if you don't die. That isn't my speculation, it is held out by facts. You probably won't bang or rail dope. Some of you may bang the bible, some of you will be 12 steppers, some of you will be smoking weed or drinking ie punk rock clean. The daily grind of an active user just isn't sustainable. Your body, your funds, your spirit will fail eventually. Trust me when I say there is no one who loved drugs more than me (until I didn't). I loved shooting up in public places. I loved licking the blood off my arm, I loved the grind of middle manning, shoving big wads of dope or money or both in condoms up my pussy in the cat and mouse of the life. I also hated no veins, no friends, no stability, being sick every 6 hours, and the way my life was 100% consumed by a few chemicals. I'm off that shit now. I am grateful.
I got off dope.
I went back to school. Got two degrees and a credential.
I own a home.
I have a career.
I have a healthy relationship.
I have three great kids.
I had a good relationship with my mom before she passed. RIP.
I am well respected.
I show up for my life today.
I am snuggling next to my cat. (I have three).
I am snuggling next to my dog.
I am under the warm covers.
I have love in my life.
I have my self respect.
I have you.
Maybe I deal with the ups and downs of depression but overall, my life is pretty damn good.
I love you readers. Thanks for being there for me.
Friday, December 2, 2016
There are echoes inside my head
Telling me I am alone
There are ghosts from my past
They follow me where ever I go
I have memories like spiderwebs
They trap me every time
I breath out my insecurities
I try to still my spinning mind
Though bruised, this life can't break me
Though angry, your words won't choke me
I will stay up, find a come up
I will find a way to fucking shine.