Friday, February 26, 2016

18 Years Clean.


I saw this on the floor of the train station and it reminded me of myself years ago.


Disclaimer- I can't actually remember if the last day I used was the 25th or the 26th, so I generally use Feb 27th in print as a clean date to be on the safe side. 
It is a foggy night here in the San Francisco Bay Area, one very much like the last time I injected myself with drugs for the very last time. To give a bit of background about my situation, the end of 1997 was a horrible time for me. As a homeless drug user, I hit many bottoms. I have had someone rape me. I have had someone try to rape and murder me. I have been robbed. I have been beaten until my eyes were nearly swollen shut. I was held hostage at knifepoint. I was even hit by a car while I was jaywalking (the car then almost backed over my head trying to get away before the police arrived). Despite these events, I could keep pushing the pain just below the surface. I could find that critical point of numbness where the only thing that mattered was that next hit. There was no love, no family, no brush with reality that could distract me from the substances. The more I used, the more fucked up things happened to me, the more I used.

What happened late in 1997 to change the trajectory of my life? The drugs slowly had stopped working. I was no longer able to "get high". I could ingest massive amounts of chemicals for, at best, only marginal results. Heroin isn't working? Let's add benzos. Benzos aren't working? Let's try speed. Speed isn't working? More heroin. Heroin doesn't work? Let's smoke some crack. Towards the winter of 1997, I became a garbage can full of drugs. Nothing could help my depression. There is a scene at the end of "Black Tar Heroin" where I am alone in a one of the most disgusting hotels in the Tenderloin in my dirty pajamas. I am looking at my feet because I could barely stand to lift up my head. Heroin in particular had come along in a time in my life when I was experiencing near suicidal depression. It had played an important role in my life once. Now, it was truly killing me. There seemed to be no solution in sight...until there was.

A few months later I was pulled out of my addiction in handcuffs. I wish it could have happened any other way but regardless, I am grateful for the results. I have been clean long enough to see the birth of my children, my college graduation, I was able to buy a house, find a great husband, and be present in the life of people that love me. I have also lived long enough to see overdose become the number one cause of injury death in this country. I plan to continue to use my second chance at life to make the world a better places for others by working tirelessly for harm reduction. I know our efforts are making a difference but things are not happening fast enough. Before I am even done typing this post, someone is going to die needlessly of an overdose that could have been prevented with naloxone. Some one is going to get a life threatening infection from a dirty syringe. I quit 18 years ago and in many ways, we have gone backwards with our national strategy. It is groundhog day all over again.

I hope that these blogs, my work, and my friendship will help you somehow. I love you all. XOXO Tracey


I thanked my Reddit friends in my book

The book is on sale at Barnes and Noble
The book is on sale at Amazon

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Chasing heroin On PBS


I knew this topic would interest you all so I shot some questions to one of the producers Marcela Gaviria.

1. How does this program differ from other shows on the topic?

There is some terrific reporting on the epidemic.  I think in two hours we cover not just the origins of the epidemic, we report on why the epidemic has not been abated and we examine what needs to be changed in order to contain the worst drug epidemic in our history.  It's all told through intimate and deeply revelatory stories of three addicts, a suburban mom, a 21 year old female from a middle class background, a musician who is now homeless.

2. With so many different opinions on what is needed, was there anything that stood out as solutions or themes?

The Obama administration is reviewing the restrictions on prescribing for medication assisted treatment, and from the experts we spoke with, it seems relaxing those rules could be a good start. We could also require insurance plans to include coverage for more than 30 days of inpatient treatment. That’s clearly not enough time to get someone clean. 

3. How did you recruit users?

I spent a lot of time interviewing possible participants, listening to their life stories.  Sometimes I met them at drug court.  Others I met through the LEAD program in Seattle.   I was introduced to many people in the course of making this film.  I settled for participants that really touched me with their candidness, intelligence and ultimately their struggle.

4. How did you recruit family members?

That was a lot tougher.  Once I had settled on my participants, I wanted to talk to their extended family about how addiction had impacted their lives, but many didn't want to participate.  The stigma of addiction is still so great.  I was very pleased that I managed to include Kristina's father in this film.  The portrait of a father struggling through his daughter's addiction was very powerful to witness.

 

5. What do you feel are the take away messages from the program?

I think the big takeaway is that this epidemic is not unlike the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. Back then, we rallied to come up with solutions. We aren’t doing enough now.  Access to treatment is inadequate. Services stink. Relapse rates are way too high. There aren’t enough studies to tell us what works and what doesn’t work. Over half a million people have died from opiate overdoses in the last 15 years. We clearly can do better.  

Guest Post- Civilized Insanity

Days of Darkness

It's 235am and all I can seem to think about is the countdown to when I can cop more dope, my mind wanders listlessly thinking about my next high, my next escape  back to the world my imagination has created but my body as yet to manifest into reality. When I'm high I'm able to remove all doubt and worry about life...and it feels as though I'm able to simply live in peace for a price.

As I toss and turn, the clock seems to stuck in suspended animation because minutes now feels like hours...and sleep is something that continues to elude me (likely due to all those endless nights spent smoking meth from one sunrise to the next in a previous chapter of my life)

I've lost count of the hours of my life I've sacrificed to the never 
ending game of "Waiting to Inhale"...in other words,waiting for the dopeman. At time it feels more like Im waiting for the devil to take my call and sell me back a small chunk of my blackened soul. Once I have purchased my body weight in heroin is when I'll be free. So....can you put a physical weight on how much dope you've done in your lifetime?..think about that one....scary ain't it?

Dealing with this shit was much worse before, I've been through this scenario countless times and am able to deal with it with it better..not like with crack. See, smoking crack was hell and heaven combined. There were days when I refused to even get out of bed unless there was a deal already set up...there just wasn't any point of getting out of bed unless I knew I was getting high.

There was no point in showering..and life without a fuckin hit of dope wasn't shit.  Life just didn't seem like it was worth dealing with if I couldn't get high, so I'd disconnect from everyone and everything I could. This became a vicious cycle of loneliness because I'd only get high by myself. So, with or without dope I preferred to just be alone. After awhile, every hit of dope left me with a freakishly high level of paranoia...I'd be tweaking out with binoculars in the windows...thinking people were watching me get high. Driving while high on crack...SHIT..that was intense, because I'd think every car behind me was an undercover cop following me. I've freaked out and tossed dope or swallowed it because I was soooo sure I was being watched. Looking back on it now,it almost sounds like complete madness, but cocaine is a hell of a drug and at that time it was all too real.

(3:15 am)
...my mind still revolving around the same thoughts...five to seven more hours and I'll have a few grams of black tar ready to find its way into my nose and on its way into my bloodstream..yet time moves as fast as frozen molasses when you're waiting for dope. 

And waiting on the devil....
He should be up and ready for action around 10am, so I just have to make it until then...which seems like an eternity. A few shots of Brandy mellow the beast for the moment, and I manage to somehow fall back asleep..I wake up surprised that I drifted off. I glance at my phone and see a sign of hope 

"1 Missed Call" 

I swipe the screen and see "Lucifer" on the call log..looks like he's up early for once...let's get this show on the road.

(2 hours later)

It's amazing how dope can improve my day and make life feel just that much better. As Im crossing the Bay Bridge, I can taste the dope with every Iinhale and it brings a smile to my face....I've managed to score some temporary happiness in the form of black tar heroin and oxy. A bit of black and a few blues (roxies 30's) are enough to keep the gorilla happy for the weekend. It's a 40 minutes drive in each direction but worth every second at this moment in time. I try and think back to a time when dope didn't bring me happiness and the memory becomes more and more distant...How was I able to find happiness without heroin?  

Years have passed like nothing and I try to recall life, even before drugs...happiness without a high attached to it seems almost like a dream, one that I can no longer fathom. It's been what...15...20 years of getting high consistently, I can remember my middle school locker combination but can't tell you what I did last Tuesda. Drugs have been a crutch that I've been hobbling along with for most of my life, and I'd like to think they have helped keep me sane at some of the roughest of times.  

(1245pm)

It's all for the escape, just to get away from the voices inside my mind that create an endless orchestra of anxiety throughout the day..and even at night. All of the mental "what if ...?" scenarios that come into my mind get me going on a path of self-doubt and internal criticism, nothing ever feels like it's enough. At the age of 36, I begin to question if I will ever have my shit together enough to have a child of my own...or will I continue repeating this cycle.

I pray that I'm able to put my child's needs before my own and give the unconditional love and patience that is deserved. I've seen addicts that have been able to become extremely successful parents and its inspiring to say the least. As I feel my eyelids getting heavier and another nod coming on, my mind begins to wander. I picture a pair of tiny brown eyes making contact with my own and I crave to feel that connection with my child one day. 
Can heroin ever take a backseat and allow me to navigate through life on a different path? 

I look back into the solid white pill bottle and see I have enough dope to get me through this day...enough brown powder to keep the beast at bay for another day. There's no sunshine expected today, but that's OK because this bottle contains all I need to be alright. I dump some into the bottles cap and catch a whiff of vinegar, and this surprises me because I haven't been able to smell anything at all lately. I'm beginning to think I might need a new nose, this one might be shot to shit.

(226pm)

They say money is filthy, yet I still find myself using the cleanest bill I can find to snort some dirty ass dope.
This logic is useless since any of the serious bacteria that would harm me wouldn't even be visible...or would it?  I take a quick bump and then another, and slowly catch a taste of heaven. The bitterness of the benadryl combined with the heroin is an acquired taste...but one I've grown to love, just like the dirty martinis I can be found swigging down. Everybody hates gin, either due to its taste, or from bad experiences in the past. (Gin'll make ya sin) 

Snorting had always been my ROA, and I've never taken the big plunge mostly due to a severe fear of needles. I'd be a liar if I said  the IV high doesn't tempt me, but my lack of self control would be my downfall. I'm sure a ton of people that IV have said the same thing, but I've been snorting for 5 years now and never took the leap...

The tar heroin I've been buying for the last few years has been consistently decent...but my tolerance has shot up quite a bit. I can remember thinking back to when half a gram would get me high...and now that wouldn't even make me blink. Now I start with 3 grams, which will last about a day and a half or so...all up my nose. 

(423pm)

The inside of my nose remains lined with heroin.....my kleenex give away signs of my addiction that only some will recognize...those brown boogers. In the office I'm known for my never ending allergies, I've had the same runy or stuffy nose for about 14 months...I wonder if they have any clue that all of those bathroom breaks are spent snorting dope on the toilet casually.
I'm sure most of the company is snorting something in these stalls as well. They're junkies too, they just are in different tax brackets. I used to love getting one of these plus office jobs..and after a few after work functions I'd be supplying half the office. Need a front.?...no problem. Coworkers usually get Carte Blanche credit line especially if they were in higher positions, it's not like they would be able to racket up enough debt with me to fuck up a $50k+ annual salary.  

Having 3 coworkers owe me a few hundred each makes for a pretty sweet payday, and at times I wouldn't even have to cash my check. At my peak,I had 2 or 3 paychecks just sitting in my safe for in case of emergency. I'd be living off the dope money and would only have to recop to keep things in motion..those were the good old days. I've quit the game but miss the ease of living off the addiction of others...it was guaranteed income. Nobody ever jumped in the dopegame for a challenge..with the right situation, the shit is plain and simply easy money.

To be continued.....?

/rant

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A junkie goes to New York

I was sitting in my hotel room Saturday morning. I was alone. I could hear the honking of the angry motorists. The whirl of the heater. There was a tiny bit of frost in the corner of the window. It was bitterly cold outside, at least to a person who has been living in California for the past 24 years. I laid on the tightly made sheets and let out a sigh. Today was going to be a difficult day for me. Not because I was going to be taping a segment for television. Not because I was going to have to retell gory elements of my life in front of a studio audience. Because I felt the weight of all the young people who are dying across this country of overdoses that are sitting at home on their couch, hoping to find some kind of connection with anyone they felt might understand them. I am hoping that person will be me, even if they accidentally see this show. I suppose they won't be watching it on purpose. It certainly hits a slightly older demographic. But maybe, just maybe, it can happen.

The insecurities start to roll in. What if I have nothing important to say? who wants to listen to me anyway. I am a haggard old junkie lady. I have scars all over my body. Scars because I used water off of the hood of a car in the rain, because I mixed up heroin with grape crush, because I used alcohol wipes to clean off my dirty face because I was sleeping outside and ignored my arm. I had to have my teeth redone from "meth mouth", grinding my teeth down until I broke the filings. I am fat now. I put down the spoon and I picked up the fork as they say. I am no longer a 115 pound 25 year old from "Black Tar Heroin". I have had four pregnancies and three live children. I have changed. In many ways, I have evolved into a stronger person.

As I feel the tears falling out of my eyes, I decide to myself "Fuck this". I didn't come as far as I have to let this shit get me down. I am here to do good in the world, to defend myself against anyone that would try to make me feel bad. In the end, I went from a cardboard box to a comfy place with cats and kids and love. If I sucked dick for drugs or did horrible shit to myself, who fucking cares. Maybe someone can learn from my mistakes. Maybe someone will use a little less or love their kid a little more because they will know a bit more of what they are going through. I spent Friday night In the City  talking about naloxone, foot care for the homeless, and the expansion of online syringe exchange services. THIS is the stuff that matters. My history isn't a mystery- it is the past.

I hope you all had a good work without me. I have to catch up with my messages etc. XOXO Tracey.
 photo courtesy of Lynn Johnston

Saturday, February 20, 2016

I'm back.

I did a whirlwind tour of New York. Taped a segment of Dr Oz, caught up with some old friends. I will let y'all know when it is on. 
The books are coming in!! Exciting to know you readers are getting my book. I am going to raffle off some copies so stay tuned. I will get a story out to you this week. 
Xoxo Tracey 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Stress and anxiety reduction workshop

A few years ago, I did a workshop on reducing stress and anxiety at a mental health conference. It is a 20 minute segment here. This is not hosted on my youtube so you can't leave comments but you might enjoy watching it for a few tips.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Train Station

After a mind numbing day of dealing with crisis after crisis at my job, I pull myself into a seat on the train that will eventually lead me a few blocks from my house. The sky is clear in the outside world. The blue ceiling of the curve of the Earth is dotted with ethereal clouds. I get lost in them for a moment. I forget about the problems of the day, the crunch of the dirty floor below me. The train ride home provides me with the promise that anything can happen. My anxiety builds from that last square of dark chocolate I ingested for the rush of dopamine, straight to the head motherfucker. My pleasures are simple. Food, fucking, furry creatures, and full faced children that call me mother. I feel someone acknowledging my existence when I deflect my attention to my electronic escape device. I stare at my my iPhone, silently cursing the fact that my screen is foggy and my case is cracked.
My first world problems are interrupted by a young woman who shuffles past me. She pull on the door leading to the next car of the train to no avail. The door is locked. She flops down in her seat. A young man walks through. He stops to spit on the floor before he takes the seats across from her.

My junkie spidey senses tell me that something is not right here. In addition, years of homelessness have made be adept at people watching. I catch something out of place like a drug addict version of a search and find puzzle. The young woman has a pleasant face. There is a softness that is missing though, that bit round flesh around the chin left over from youth. She stands up to reveal yoga pants that once must have gripped muscular legs. Now they sag over what is left of her vanishing backside. Her UGGS are worn nearly to the tag and fully out of place on a warm day. Her pullover covers what must be arms with tiny scars, the tell tale sign of her affliction. As I exit the train, her boyfriend grabs her arm and leads her down the stairs to the bathroom of the train station. I see myself in the reflection of the polished metal door. It is almost as if the ghost of myself was left behind. 

There was a time when I would take a long train ride out to Richmond California. It was 45 minutes but it seemed like ten hours away from the streets of the Tenderloin. My dealer(s) lived there. I suppose technically I was a dealer. Mostly I was a fall guy. The dealers asked me one day if I would be willing to help them sell there products. I would need to stand out on a busy street corner in day light. The drugs would be pre packed in the tiniest balloons I had ever seen. There would be what they called 1/2 grams which where actually .3 and what they called called dimes which were actually barely enough to see. The balloons were used because it made the drugs easier to retrieve if I was choked by the police. I could easily swallow the dope and throw it back up. I know this because I did this many times, sucking down a liter or two of water then sticking my fingers as far back in my throat as necessary to induce vomiting. I had to dismantle the sink once to retrieve a lost bag. A rat later crawled out of that pipe but that is a whole other story. 

The young dealers trusted me. They had no choice really. Their business relied on volume. They had to sell as many paquetes as possible in a short period of time. Staying out meant drawing unnecessary attention. The goal was simple- make money. My goal was simple as well- get drugs. They provided me with a few bags at first to see if I would return. It felt scary and exhilarating the same time to be standing on a street corner, doling out transactions. For once, I wasn't the one begging for crumbs. I wasn't the one who was pleading for mercy with my short money. I felt like god and a child at the same time. Then someone stuck a knife to my throat and I knew things would never be the same again. I had crossed to a different side of the curtain and the wizard was a 5'5" Mexican teenager who shared an apartment with five other dudes in Richmond California. Eventually, I was muling $500 in singles, fives, tens, and twenties rolled up in a condom in my pussy to get half ounces to sell the the lowest of the low bottom user- people exactly like myself. This happened twice per day. I would be so sick on the return trips back to the city, my boyfriend and I would cook up the dope and shoot it on the train. He was just along for the ride anyway. The dealers never trusted him and neither did I. I never trusted anyone.

My using did not end because of an absence of drugs. It ended because the vast quantities  of it. More than i could have ever imagined. The shots got larger and larger and larger. I was poking myself so many times in a desperate attempt to find a vein, i would often got through a ten pack of syringes for one fix. I wold be covered in blood and my own tears. "If only" was my thought. If I could only get the right combination, the right vein, the right amount everything would be fine. It never was. I was supposed to be clearing $250 a paquete. That all went up my arm. I was lucky if I had enough left for train fare. I rarely did. 

I was once the girl in the train station. Today, I took a different route. I walked out the gates and to the walkway that would lead me to my home. I share this home with people that love me. My yoga shorts are tight, My sleeves are short, and my heart is full of love today. 

XOXO Tracey

I am leaving next week for the taping of Dr Oz. I will let everyone know when it is going to be on TV and take pictures.

Monday, February 8, 2016

I can't quit you baby

Loneliness is a hunger that can not be quenched with anything but that feeling of connection that comes when the universe makes you feel secure in your surroundings. This can come from the caress of a caring mother. A lover who kisses you gently on the small of your back. A fuzzy friend who nuzzles against you at the end of a hard day of being out in the cold world. This can also come in the from of pills, powders, and rocks of opioids. From the moment they enter you longing body, they tell you that THIS is the only love you will ever truly feel. The security they provide with make a 120 pound man stand half naked out on a cold street corner waiting for someone that said they will be there "in ten minutes" almost two hours ago.

I am not sure if I need heroin or if I want heroin. Maybe it doesn't matter anymore. I have turned my ability over to a power greater than myself. This isn't the power they talk about in the musty rooms of 12 step meetings. This is the power that comes from the insatiable need to be fulfilled through my relationship with substance. I love you. I hate you. Most of all, I can't quit you baby. Without you, my life would be one endless question mark. After a month or two or six or a year with heroin, what am I supposed to do if I stop? Go back to being a "regular" person? What does that even mean now?

I want to feel like a cat does in a ray of sun. I want to absorb every bit of joy from the simple things around me. My life is absorbed in dusty bag and dragged through an angry cotton. What would it feel like to be myself again. And who would I be? The myself I know today or the myself I drowned so long ago beneath the waves of my chemical expanse, breathing slowly in and out with the pain of yesterday.



Sometimes I make videos here is one

Sunday, February 7, 2016

I made a new video instead of a Saturday blog post

One of my reddit friends died recently so I am not exactly in the mood to write as of yet. I made a shirt video instead here. I am working on another story and it will be up soon.