Saturday, May 27, 2017

To be better

Being involved in harm reduction for 19 years, I have had a long ride of highs and lows. I have seen individuals get their children back, only to relapse and leave them at daycare. I have seen the mostly hopeless of drug user get their life together. I have seen someone hit in their neck and die of a brain aneurysm. I have seen multiple people emerge from prison to later obtain nursing degrees. I have seen two friends die on dialysis at 34 years old. They both used to shoot in their ports. I have seen people leave the streets to find love and happiness. I could go on and on with pairs of the agony and the joys of working with active users. It is the kind of stuff that nourishes the soul. Alternatively, I have spent many sleepless nights worrying about thing cannot change.

Death doesn't come this close to me very often. Both my parents have passed on. The vast majority of people I used with have passed on. There just isn't much of an inner circle left. My friend of 25 years was a father, a counselor, and also very caught up in the relief that substances brought him. The body can only take so much abuse. By the time he was able to pull together some self care, the damage was far too severe. My mind is struggling to reconcile the person in the hospital bed with the strong man I knew for all my adult life.

At the same time as this has been going on, the roller coaster turned upward.
 I received this message:

"I wanted to tell you that following your example, I've begun personally funding a pseudo "needle exchange" by ordering hundreds at a time and making sure that the people who I can't convince to reduce their usage are at least equipped properly with alcohol pads and tourniquets and clean rigs.... I'm able to acquire Narcan discretely and for those who know what I do, I'm often used as a knowledge resource for them for harm reduction.

Last night I saved a couple who OD'd in junkie Romeo and Juliette style. Those people are alive in great part because you pushed me to be a better and more care minded user myself..."

Despite the horrors of this world, there is still great beauty. We, drug users, are fundamentally good people who want make a difference in the world. We just don't know how. We are frequently excluded, told that our talents and abilities are secondary to our self medication. 

This post is not about death. It is about the resilience of our community. We push forward. We push past loss. We push past stigma. We push past our own inclination towards self destruction. We want to do better, to be better, we don't always have the tools. 

I love you. Always. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Discarded Flower

The junkie girl, "sleeping" in the sun
Stretching out her legs
Blocking the sidewalk (ever so slightly)
Choking on the sympathy of strangers.
Her hair is a bit knotted
Her skin is a little bit gray
You will never speak to her
There is nothing you can say.
She is the discarded flower
With her beauty quickly fading
No longer the object of desire
Out in the rain- waiting.
Burnt out- like ash from a cigarette
Used up- like a cotton.
Out of sight.
Out of mind.
Out of money.
Out of time.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Thing Right in Front of me

There is a pain that creeps through my body. A jolt like electricity has let me know I pushed this in a little too far. I pull back my hand in agony. There is a fire burning, like stepping on raw sand on a thousand hot days. Searing the flesh in between my fingers where I dared to sew myself to the bed with a barbed needle. Why is this happening to me dear Jesus. I gave myself just enough time for this joy to reach my receptive brain. I want to feel the rapture that comes when you embrace me and forgive me for all the sins I am about to commit. There is no past. There is no present. There is no future. There is only the moment when I push the needle in. All my bills that are past due can wait until I see you.

But this isn't me. Isn't me anymore- right? I'm not laying on the bed with my headphones on, dreaming about the drugs. Skating the line between life and death ended long ago. Now, I worry about spreadsheets, Easter baskets, and wonder if they have the full size lipstick at Sephora since I have a coupon. As I put on my eyeliner, I wonder if it will run down my face tonight. The chances are awfully good. My foundation covers my ever present wrinkles, not my track marks.

When you get a craving, does it make your whole body shake? Like an endless loop of want. I am trying to watch this movie on netflix when I feel that pull, like a rip current, sucking me back to all the places I just left. How much for________ wait, I haven't even gotten to the second season! I thought we were binge watching this bitch. Tell me how it ends. I know this plot line very well. Can I learn to be the heroine in my own story?

I think this movie is almost over. "I love drugs" he tells me as he rests with half pinned eyes. the trash can is close by in case he throws up again. It is hot in here from on old floor heater, the type that won't allow you to adjust the temperature. There is a ring of sweat all around the top of his t-shirt. I had never really seen him high. I wasn't sure what to expect. Certainly not this. "You want some orange juice? It has ice..."

"No thanks," I reply with a polite smile.

No, I don't want any fucking orange juice. I want some of what you had. I want to be able to lean back, close my eyes, and completely ignore that this uncomfortable feeling makes me completely at ease. I want to be in that haze that tells me those open sores did not leave a bloodstain on your sheets. I want to ease into a place where everything and nothing mix for six more hours as my legs twitch in recognition that I've gone to that place that only opioids take you. I want to scratch myself until I bleed. I want to not fucking care. 

Do you realize how much I love you I think to myself as I hug my friend goodbye. The words may come out of my mouth. When I see a reflection of how I used to be, it shocks me to my core. This is me. I am them. This is who we are. The savage junkie is just beneath the surface of a "normal" life. If we are realized back into the wild, the feral animal within us takes shape. We are not so far removed.

As I step out into the open air, I take a deep breath of reality. It feels good, the night air. Like that breath you take after you have overdosed. Life is rushing back into me. I feel my limbs again. Have you ever been out to dinner where you are struggling to pretend that you aren't high. They are looking directly into your eyes. You are projecting, with ever fiber of self will, I AM NOT HIGH despite the fact that you know they can see it. But they don't. They don't want to see. Another opportunity lost. Another memory made. It isn't that they did not notice. That person just loves you so god damned much they just want to have a few precious words. Am I talking about myself or you? You don't have to hide who you are from me. I completely understand.

There are seconds, there are moments, when the all the things I thought were real, reveal themselves as a fantasy. Are the drugs the illusion or it is the life we struggle to avoid? It is time for me to go home now. I am returning vaguely satisfied yet sober.

Staying off drugs is critical to who I am today but I don't forget where I came from. It is not that I judge users in any way. I absolutely do not. I just know for me drugs stopped working. Heroin saved me from committing suicide. That is the flip side of opioids. In the early days, they will suck that depression away and it turn it until the most magnificent crystallization of I DON"T GIVE A FUCK about my problems for a few hours a day. It really is ingenious the way those chemicals invade the body, take over, and sit in the drivers seat. Eventually, I realized the car was being driven off into a brick wall every single time. "Partying" turned into "more" turned into "maybe possibly hooked" turned into "so what I'm a dope fiend". I didn't need to justify my use to anyone if there was no one around. Just me, my dealers, and the occasional using buddy in my life. 

I struggle with depression. I struggle with self image. I struggle with connection. I never struggle knowing I am better off today than I was when I had to stick a needle in my arm (leg, foot, neck) 6-8 times a day. I miss heroin sometimes. It is 100% okay to miss it. I don't dwell on it though. Instead of focusing on the past, I focus on the thing right in front on me. This life I have built that makes me content if I can't always be happy. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

An itch

“I don’t really want to talk about what is going on with me…” 

I reach for a glass of water. I need a prop to keep going. Something to hold on to that is going to keep me grounded. My mind loves to find the chaos in the silver lining. I like to find the one frayed string on a beautiful dress. I pull on it until the fabric falls apart. Then, I blame myself for trying. 
Why do I even care what is going on outside of my nuclear family? I would not dare say this outloud. This would be far too healthy of a declaration. That is the kind of thing I need to keep to myself. I mean we all should care about the world around us but I can’t let go of “the things I cannot change”. Many days I feel like a little child at the foot of my father’s lazy boy recliner wondering what I can do to get this man to stop drinking. A child feeling responsible for the actions of a grown man! Isn’t that a fucking sad statement. 
“Are you done here?” the waitress is trying to clear our table. “Yes,” he tells them “you want this to go?” I take it but I know I will never eat it. I just don’t want to let anyone know how I really feel. 
    Foooooooooooood glorious food. When I arrive home, the munching begins. A handful of pita chips, a few yogurts. Maybe a couple pieces of dark chocolate to reward myself. “But you just ate” those words never cross my mind. Those are words foreign to my language of dysfunction. Yes I just ate at the restaurant but I am home now. That is an entirely different slate of eating. Plus, everything is relatively healthy. I mean, not all of it at one time, but if I was just snacking on one thing, it is all perfectly fine. 
    The kids are done eating? Let me finish that last few bites. I don’t want that food to go to waste. Here I am again, my face in the pantry. It is almost time for bed. Popcorn? Sure why not. No butter so it should be fine. I did accidentally make enough for 3-4 adults but it wasn’t even cooked in oil. It won’t hurt anything. 
    The first place I feel my emotions is always in my stomach. That tight feeling tells me that something is wrong long before my brain tells me. I can hear my parents arguing down the hall. The same thing over and over. Will he put his check in the bank? I will come to know this later as financial abuse. Why is my mother crying in the hallway? Why is she so worried “Go be nice to your father” she tells me. I don’t want to. I am afraid of him. But his mood, I’m told. He will be in a better mood. My life revolves around his moods. As I approach him, he smiles. He is so different from the person I saw just a moment ago. The ever turbulent world of living with a Daddy. 
            Heroin is a poison that has slowly killed my brain. Alcohol is just a means to the mysterious end. Once I put the dope in my receptive body, it left me in the grips of endless insanity. It cured my depression as it infected my life with a greater affliction- the hedonistic pursuit of numb. I was raised to be a user, conditioned to believe my feelings don't really matter. I was told by the adults in my life that children are to be seen and not heard. Can you hear me screaming on the inside? Can you see I can never settle? I bounce from one thing to the next like the tight coil inside a ball, waiting to unravel.
     This isn't even about me. It is about YOU. I was thinking about you.. I don't know where you are but I know why you did it. Like a dog that found a special patch, you will scratch this itch until I find you bleeding again. 


Saturday, April 29, 2017


There are reasons that many individuals chose drugs. Not only do they feel good, the alternative can be a blend of emotions that swirl into a potent cocktail of misery. I am not shy about my mental health issues. While many days are fucking fabulous, there are also many days like the one I recount below. I am attempting to give a broader picture of whys of drug use.

I make myself a second cup of tea. The first is for the dose of caffeine. The second is combat dehydration. This is the height of self care for today.  I check my phone for the twentieth time this hour. No texts. No calls. No social media likes telling me that I am a likeable. I feel myself leaning into that spiral that only ends at an emotional bottom worthy of suicidal ideation and dark chocolate. The self loathing has started again. I am forty six years old, I tell myself. Why do I give a flying fuck about the opinions of others. Yet I do. I absolutely do. If it isn’t a comment under my picture then I am wondering why my article didn’t get a hundred shares. Why didn’t the person on the train acknowledge my attempt to squeeze by them. Why didn’t my co-worker see my name on that project. I am taken aback by my what I feel is my own shallow need for approval. Aren’t I above this?  Despite all my efforts fuck it level of independence, I am filled with the gripping feeling that tells me I only exist if I am seen through your eyes.My curves and track marks and imperfections can only be relieved by a few gentle words from a random stranger. I am not waiting on the connection this time. I am waiting to CONNECT.
They told me I needed to work a “program of recovery”. They not being one person, but the collective “they”, the voices that started to replace my own in what they called my “diseased mind”. I would lay in bed at night for hours wondering how I was going to make it through the rest of my very very long life without another drink or dose of that sweet misery wrapped in the form of intoxication. This life, the sober life, I was finding is part miracle and part prison.  I had been naive. I thought taking away substances would be the solution to the problem I knew was myself. However, when the chemical veil is completely pulled away, I am left with an overwhelming dread known frequently as my mere existence. My feeling self loves kittens, rainbows, and the joy that comes from not stabbing the soles of my feet with syringes. My brain has different ideas. The world inside my mind spins on an axis of criticism. It is working against my best efforts at acceptance by chiming a chorus of my mistakes whenever I stop long enough to give it a listen.
I catch myself feeling alone.  If only I looked like her. If only I had what he has.  If only I would have stopped, stopped before I was willing to suck a dick with my knees on wet newspaper between two cars as the sunlight barely trickled over the horizon. The collective “they” is incapable of understanding me. Even worse, why do I care what anyone else thinks? As I twist myself into a familiar miserable cycle, I hold my coffee cup a little tighter willing it to make me disappear into a pool of fuck you. I trail off into my unconscious, I remember what “they” tell me over and over. “You belong here”. I belong in a fucked up set of diseased individuals- addicts?  That doesn’t seem comforting.  As I walk out of the 12 step meeting, one of the men in the program graciously offers me his embrace. I feel the back of his hand quickly and deliberately brush against my breasts as he reaches for my neck. I guess I should feel grateful someone gives me the kind of attention I secretly know I deserve.
I shuffle through my life with crippling doubts. “They” say that I feel “terminally unique”. Is it all jargon, more drinking of the kool aid. All these catch-phrases designed to make me feel included have a tendency to make me feel more isolated. In 12 step, to become part of the collective “they”, we give up surrender some of our individuality for the sake of belonging. As a woman with a shadowy past, my history avails itself on a daily basis. The brief smell of vinegar as I pass by the fish and chips place reminds me of the dope I pumped into my veins. The cheap cologne that permeates the air at the bus stop reminds me of the man who tried to murder me. The darkness that trickles into my dirty window reminds me of the streets that used to call my name. In the early stages, my sanity hangs by a weak thread of hope. Can I force myself out the door when ever fiber or my being tells me happiness is an illusion? I do and I did. Incrementally, I find I hate myself less and like my life more.
The days become weeks, the weeks become months, and the months become years. The consistency in my narrative is the uneasy relationship I have with myself. Drugs and alcohol are no longer the stones strapped around my neck pulling me to the bottom of a lake of self delusion. The issues I face are not ones of food, shelter, and the weak determination to live. The main issue I face  involves a fundamental belief I hold that makes me ill equipped to deal with a planet full of humans. I seemed to have been born with a section of DNA that codes me as less than every other person around me. While all evidence points to the contrary, no amount of positive affirmations or mindfulness can sway me in the direction of truth when I am in that space. In that moment, in that spiral,  I am utterly convinced that I am not enough.
That pain is real. That pain is dangerous. That pain can make the difference between participating in my life or becoming a passenger. I get driven around by unhealthy behaviors. Scratch offs, over eating, over texting, too much porn, too much isolation, it is just too much.  I can allow myself to be pulled in so many directions it eventually tears at the fabric of whatever joy a drug free life is supposed to provide. Despite having the tools to turn down the stereo of self hated, I can sheepishly admit a portion of my life in search of validation, like a cure for the emotional hangover. I define addiction as the constant state of longing for something you have never had. For all my achievements, what I have never achieved is inner peace.

This is where I turned my first trick

Monday, April 24, 2017

Natural Habitat

"Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken"....

"Is that from the Bible?" I ask "Are you quoting the fucking Bible to me right now while I am in the bowels of hell?"

He takes a drag from his cigarette "yeah, it's from the Bible. How did YOU know?" He leans back against the brick wall, pushing his long bangs back into his hat. He is a handsome man. At 5'9" or so, just a tiny bit taller than me. He has that untamed muscular body that comes with an angry energy. His blue eyes peep out from underneath unkept bangs. In another life, In another place, he would be riding a skateboard not chasing a bag. The skateboard and the guitar and the xbox are long gone, just the Thrasher shirt and the Van remain. He doesn't have those blood stains yet. He isn't quite that seasoned.  

"Um, that would be from four years of Catholic School..." I throw down my blankets next to him. "Are you seriously trying to impress me with some Bible shit when I am dopesick? What kind of perverted motherfucker are you? " The kind I like I think to myself. 

He reaches out for my shoulder "...I am trying to make you feel better darling..." he leans in for a kiss. Between the sores on his lip and the sickness on mine, it is an awkward moment in infectious disease history. Hopefully, it isn't herpes. I've already the Hep A<B<C. 

The prospects for the morning are dismal. He doesn't care, I think to myself. He is a tweaker, a completely different type of user. When he doesn't get his fix, he might turn grouchy. He might fall asleep. He might go steal something. I am not really sure. We are just trying to feel each other out in the game. I have sworn off tweak since my last four day run ended up in a suicide attempt. Those voices swirling around my ears, telling me the things I already know- YOU ARE WORTHLESS, NO ONE LOVES YOU, WHY TRY. These are the same things I have heard replayed since I was twelve years old. 

"You do realize I am sick," I tell him. I feel the heaviness start to creep up in my legs. If I don't get moving soon. I never will. Just for once, I would like to sit here. I would like to not be controlled by the magnets in my brain that are pulling me to find more drugs. I like the man sitting next to me. I don't really know him, but I would like to. He has a pleasant face, a hard shoulder to lean on. He gingerly rubs my back the way I would like him to rub my front if dope hadn't made me a sexless creature. I could see myself with him , I can see it would be easy to succumb to a wave of emotions, drowning out all reason. 

I feel the dry heaves coming on, telling me it is time to move. He grabs my hand "wait here" he tells me as he hands me the last of his cold coke. The ice in the cup feels good against my head. I feel hot all over. I wish I could crawl into this cup of ice. The sweetness of the coke is soothing for a moment as it makes the short trip to my empty stomach. I think he might like me, this one. As I was walking down the street, he was looking back at me. Looking so hard, in fact, he ran into the back of the bus stop *whack*. It was a bit of levity in a long week of broken luck. We had been hanging together for a few days. The literally ups and downs of street life. 

In less that five mins, he has returned red faced. He quickly pulls me up "let's go". Uh ok. 

He nearly pushes me up the hill, passed the parked cars, and back into an alley. He grabs my hand and pushes a bag into it. "here" he tells me "But you can't shoot it". 

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. That is funny. Wait, is this dope?

I don't even finish my sentence before I am ripping that shit open, pulling out my rigs, cooker. I AM SERIOUS, he tries tells me as he hands me foil. What the fuck am I suppose to do with this. Oh my GOD he really expects me to smoke dope that he just gave me. Things quickly escalate to the junkie red zone which quickly escalates in him trying to snatch the dope he gave me back which quickly escalates into the death of a relationship. As he sees me push the burning tar into the veins in my stomach, I see the blood run away from his face. It is one thing to be attracted to a junkie. It is another thing to see me in my natural habitat. As he runs his bit of crumbs on his foil, I see all the actual drugs go to waste. Thank Goodness. I don't want to share my affliction with him. I don't want to share my affection with anyone. As the sickness disintegrates, I wish he could rub my shoulders again. But he hates me. And I hate what I have become. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

The present sufferings

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us..."

The pink of the sky reveals the last bit of night that will save me from seeing myself in the last bit of sun. I caught a glimpse of who I used to be when I walked by the store front. The distortion was as infectious as the bacteria that creeps up my legs. I am an amalgam of chemicals, fear, sugar, and good intentions. I see the mother pull her child in closer as I walk by. I don't need to see myself to know how I appear to them. 

I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a woman. I am capable of love. These drugs that course through my veins provide me from a brief respite from the voices that announce on a daily basis that I am not worthy to walk along side the mortals shun me. I am godlike in that I have chosen suffering as the path to righteousness. I see a few minutes of joy in the waves of chemical satisfaction that stole me away from you. 

If I hold out my hand, would you take me somewhere? Can I sit with you despite my dipping, my slurring, or twitching? Remember when I was human once. We threw the ball on the playground. You patted my head. You told me to be careful. I am careful. I am careful not to reveal myself to you for that knowledge would make me utterly alone. I am careful not to let my pinned eyes look in your direction. You don't see me anymore. I only exist in terms of your judgement-an addict, a junkie, no longer your best friend. 

What would happen if you held me a little tighter? 
What if the world loved me a little more? 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Promises Made and Promises Broken

I am obsessed with losing you. I am obsessed with your using.
I am obsessed by all the signs and flags and flares that were thrown up that I ignored in my almost selfish pursuit of happiness. It was too much to think that I could find another person that made me laugh that could be “normal”. I misread all the cues. I am now thinking about heroin again. Not thinking about using it. There were silent promises made and broken on a daily basis.

I dismissed myself in this process. As I received a steady diet of half truths, I settled into the idea that there must be something wrong- me of course. I thought it was me! How unsettling that is in retrospect. I blamed myself for your problems. I have become truly sick again. I have become immersed in the language and the mannerisms of a using addict believing them when I should be strong enough to recognize.

Do I enjoy the familiarity this scenario brings? The cryptic messages my brain feeds me screening out moments of truth? I have skated in this direction for many years. I have just never dove headfirst into the pool without checking the depth of the water. That water is all the tears I have cried over the past few weeks trying to figure out how I could get in this place.

Why in the fuck do I even care. Why the fuck do I keep going over this over and over again? I am so fucking mad at myself for getting caught in this fucking bear trap. Do I keep pulling at myself until I get ripped apart or do I try to strategize my great escape. These feelings are totally out of place in the fabric of my life. Who fucking cares right. Just let this go.

Like a tragic comedy, I hear the chorus inside my head telling me that something was amiss. You went back to it. While I raised my hand at the meeting, you pushed the plunger deeper into my heart. While I tried to be well, you wanted to get well. I am no better than you. We are absolutely the same person. We are both dying. The exception is that I am dying on the inside and you are waiting for the day you don't wake up.

Down, down, down. Waiting for the phone to light up. A text that tells me what to feel. I'll be there in thirty minutes. It is over, all over, again.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Junkie Boy.

There is nothing like a perfect junkie boy with perfect junkie collarbones feeding me perfect little lies. I look at him, with his pinned eyes. I know that everything will, in fact, not be alright. I want it to be very very wrong. There is something about the way you treat me. There is something about your swagger. The way you make me feel safe then pull that feeling away like a hot cooker. I feel for you. I feel with you. I melt into you while you drift away, dreaming of an endless pile of get well that will keep us together for ever. I love your bruises. I kiss your swollen knee, swollen from running from the security guard when you boosted us those pints of Ben and Jerry's. I would love for you to hold me, those arms cold and clammy. Maybe we can fuck today? Tomorrow? Next month after we get our checks. No, I haven't gotten my period yet but i know I'm not pregnant because I didn't let that trick come inside me. I've told you a hundred fucking times. We were both sick- remember.

Perfect junkie man, where are you? I've called to you so many times. Come tell me that you think I am beautiful. That we can make it together if we try. I will save some of my methadone for you if you will only walk through the door. Promise me you will never go until you leave me once more.

Chaos of the Sober Mind

Fuck this.
Fuck this.
Fuck this.
Fuck that.
Fuck you.
What the fuck.
Ugh. Fuck.

Please feel free to add to the list.

This is where my mind is at today. A swirling vessel of chaos.
I wish I had some insight as to why I end up back in this place so frequently.
I grew up in chaos.
It formed me into who I am.
I respond better in a crisis than happiness.
It just doesn't feel as good.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


"I relapsed" the blue bubble passes across the screen.
"I'm afraid I might lose you"
At least I know you are alive to send this message. That is little consolation though. I had finally put two and two together. I am surprised that it took me so long. All the hits were there. The faint smell of alcohol. The long list of excuses of why you could not hang out. Unfortunately, my self esteem is so low at times I completely began to wonder what was wrong with ME.
"I know" I push send. I am a sentence too late.
I know, I knew, I don't know what to say.
"I am here for you". Whatever that means.
How could I have missed it? I am not sure. Heroin strikes again. That fucking bitch. Haven't you killed enough of my friends? Haven't you taken enough from me? My freedom, my lovers, a big chunk of my life. Even the acknowledgement that yes, heroin is involved, brings on a new wave of sorrow. I am the "queen" of harm reduction. What the fuck am I supposed to do?
"I love you" I click send.
I love you means many things. It doesn't mean I can trust this. It doesn't mean I can just trust that life is going to work this out somehow. You know what? I am fucking afraid. I am fucking angry. I am afraid that this fucking drug is going to take you like it has taken so many other people I loved. I feel tricked. I feel lied to. I feel slightly jealous- I would LOVE a fat hit to take away my problems for a brief moment. Fuck, I feel very very afraid. I am spinning with anxiety and fear. This wasn't supposed to happen to me. Not me. Not again. Not now.

I normally write sweeping personal narratives about my life as a user. They are sad, entertaining, and true. I never thought I would write about how heroin keeps fucking me over- over and over again. I will never get away from this drug. It follows me every where I go.  Maybe this person will live. Maybe they will die. I don't have any answers. I just know this hurts.

This is a composite of a few different relationships. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

An Angry Sky

The sky opened up. It started to rain, raining buckets. I thought I would drown if I played my cards right. All I was playing was broken hearts. I looked for the connection. Even Mexican drug dealers have limitations. He wore a garbage bag poncho, unprepared for the Northern California weather.

"Uno", I told him. I really wanted two. I NEEDED two. One wasn't going to do shit.

He looked around before he spit the dope into his hand. In his confusion, he gave me a half instead of a quarter. I wasn't going to complain. I've seen junkies try to get brownie points by mentioning errors in the transaction. Oh look- you gave me x.y,z. Fuck all that. It is me verses everyone.

I look into his brown eyes. How old is he? Where did he come from. The last one told me he was 15, brought up her from Mexico specifically to sell dope with his cousin. The one before him was 14. They are all disposable- just like me. They grow fuzzy patches of facial hair to try to make themselves look older. When I was 14, I was still sleeping with a stuffed animal. I still would be if I wouldn't have lost my innocence somewhere on this street.

I look for a corner dry enough to sustain my activities. I look for a vein strong enough to carry away my burdens. I was hoping the rain would drown me. I was hoping I would die but I woke up today. I know this hit won't kill me. Maybe, just maybe, it can make me feel  again.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Last Day I Used Drugs 2017 edition.

This week marked 19 years since I quit using drugs. I had planned this elaborate post outlining all the horrors that drug use brought me that I was going to share with you. Then, the strangest thing happened. I went out on a long walk around the city I love with a new friend. When I got home, I was simply too happy to take myself back into that place.

Depression is a comfortable sweater for me. Only there are times when I really want to change my clothes. I took off all those layers of anxiety and that veil of sadness a few times this week. I have to say, it felt REALLY fucking good. There are many days over the past 19 years when I have wondered if my brain will ever recover from the damage I did to it. Between the heroin, the crack, the 4-6+ days up on amphetamines, to the copious amounts of benzos, I have feared for my long term sanity. Getting together and talking to another person who has the same issues made me feel like I am not so isolated. In fact, there ARE people who want to be around me. I just shut them out because I am afraid of being hurt or somehow unworthy of affection. It is a vicious cycle of self doubt. For whatever reason, I really spent some quality time with quality people this week. I realized my world is a small as I allow it to be.

I get asked alot- why don't you just put all this behind you? The truth is that I can't forget it. The reminders are there every single day. First of all, I have abscess that are on all my limbs. Between that and the collapsed veins, their is more than enough physical evidence that using was huge part of my left. Second of all, I am a convicted felon. This impacts my freedoms. Third, there are no pictures of me from my senior year of high school to my first year clean with the exception of police booking photos and the movie "Black Tar Heroin: The Dark End of the Street". Finally, the vast majority of my friends are dead. Writing and talking about them keeps them alive.

I don't have a gory tale this year. Don't worry, I have plenty stored for next time!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

More Questions than Answers

“I had the dream last night…” I thought he was listening but he had already turned his back to me.
I had the dream last night. I have this reoccurring dream where I am walking in the doorway of my parents’ house. It is cold outside. It is cold enough to see my breath. I open up the door with the key that is on a chain around my neck. I am eleven years old. Old enough to be home alone. I walk into the empty house. I can hear the echoes of the constant screams. The arguments that trail from one room into the next as my mother follows my father from room to room. I KNOW YOU HAVE BEEN DRINKING. We all know. How could you miss it? This man with the large hands staggering through the door. He attempts to make himself something to eat before there is a confrontation. I sink into the couch, wondering if I can disappear into the fabric. I want to be invisible. I want to run away. He didn’t put his check in the bank again. Are we going to have money for food? I will sneak upstairs later. I will crawl across the floor, army style. I will select a crisp twenty from his wallet. He always has money for booze. He always makes her beg. The voices are ringing in the hallway yet no one is here.
I am alone. I am in my twenties now. I have one backpack full of all my belongings. The house is empty. I am strung the fuck out. Returning home with my tail tucked between my legs like the broken animal that I am. I need a place to stretch out like a cat in the window as I shiver as the fear leaves my body. Detoxing in my parents bed. Sleeping and dreaming of heroin. Sweating and freezing and praying that I emerge from this shell as a butterfly not a tick, sucking the life from anyone that gets close to me.

I had the dream again. I was strung out, searching frantically for a syringe in my blankets. This time I was in jail. I was kicking so hard. Searching frantically for that last hit. Except I am awake. This isn’t a dream, this is a memory. This is how my drug use ended. I was hallucinating that day. Day 2? Day 3? All the days blur together.
I am alive now. I am aware of all the things that have passed in my life, all my “reasons” for using. I keep having the dreams. People ask me- do you crave heroin? Do you ever think about getting high? Um yeah. Of course I do! I think about eating a whole cake, or cutting myself, or jumping in front of a train too. I just don’t do it. Not today at least. I can’t control my thoughts. I can only control my actions. Heroin saved me. It saved me from killing myself. Then, it strangled me near death. I don’t blame heroin. I don’t blame my past. Blame, shame, guilt are all useless in daily living. I just push forward. I just focus on the NEXT thing that will keep me sane. It might be my cats. It could be my work. My family helps. I made a new friend recently that actually likes to spend time with me. That certainly helps. Addiction, the feeling of missing something I never had, makes me realize I have to be okay with what I am. Someone loves me. Someone loves you, too. Believe this. Sticking needles in my neck left me with more questions than answers but I am okay with just living my life as it comes.

I roasted a chicken. Who says you can't turn a ho into a housewife?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Maybe I Never Deserved This

Maybe, I deserved to get raped. 
I mean, I was so fucked up I shouldn't have been outside, right?!
Why did I think that I could kick heroin anyway. Does anyone really stop? Don't they just die or get on methadone for the rest of their lives. I mean- do you know anyone like me that has ever stopped?

I turn to look at my therapist. She gives me that warm look of interest without the sense of true understanding that I am going for at this moment. I am laying down on her couch. This isn't how she generally handles her sessions. This is by my special request. I can't stand to look at her. I can't stand to look at anyone. I can't stand to look at the truth. 

Rape is a type of spiritual pain that rips into your psyche as your flesh gives way to the hate of another human being. Despite the anesthetizing benefits of klonopin, my lower extremities were still present enough to wonder if I was actually going to bleed. The delicate walls of the honey hole I had used to seduce the last $20 out of a wallet was now being stung with the reality of how little my life was worth. 

I feel myself being pulled back into that moment. I remind myself I am in the room. I am on the couch. I am staring out the window now. I am trying to stay in my body. Remember how I left my body that night? Remember how I got back and my boyfriend told me it was my fault. I saw him at a meeting. He wanted a hug. He wanted a hug from me. All I needed that night was a fucking hug. 

"Why did you go out there?" he asked me. 

I get it. It is MY fault that I was walking long  when someone decided to rape me on the stairwell. It was MY fault that I didn't fight him off. It was MY fault that we needed money , that I left the room, that I wasn't satisfied drinking beer and fighting with you all night. 

Quitting heroin left a void in my life. When I took that last drink of methadone at the clinic, I already knew I would somehow make it back on dope. I just didn't know WHEN. I tried jogging- the idea was ridiculous. I went jogging through the Tenderloin and Civic Center. The clinic swore that exercise would help. 21 days on detox was not enough, they told me. Then why am I paying for this shit- I asked myself. I tried to stop. I really fucking tried to stop. 

"I really fucking tried, " I told the therapist. 
My best was never good enough. 
When you pull the needle out of your arm, when you feel the burn in your nose, when you lay back on the bed and blow out your last pull of those delicious drugs do you ever wonder if you will ever stop. Can I ever stop? Or do I want this feeling to last forever. If I die RIGHT NOW, will my life have mattered? It did, it does, it will (I never told myself that I mattered). 

They day that he raped me was the day I believed I would never stop using drugs. Why should I? 23 years old. Now I am soiled. I am the scorched earth. I am the bridge I burned to the ground. I am never the same again. Chalk it up to the game, they told me. I didn't. 

I am clean now. Or sober. Or off drugs. Or whatever I chose to call it. I tried, I really fucking tried. I did this. I am beating this thing called my past that enjoys swallowing me whole. I can walk past my fears. I can enjoy my life. I didn't die on that day, although many time I wished that I had. That night is just a speck in the landscape that is my (mostly happy) life. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

This Afternoon.

I was so excited to get done with work a few minutes early today. The sun has been shining for the past few days. As I stepped out of the building and into the alley, I caught a little chill in the air. I decided to throw my hoodie on. I looked around first. The alley is a popular tourist destination. In the morning, the sides of the buildings are supported by the bodies of those souls hoping to get a spot in treatment for the day. When the gate gets flung open promptly at 8:00am, there is never a shortage of folk hoping today will be the first day they spend searching for a hit. There are limited spots for detox, bupe, and even rehab for a lucky few that arrived at JUST the right moment when the universe aligned to provide a rare opening. Mostly, people are told to return, shuffling back to the streets with less urgency and more hopelessness. At night, the alley becomes a beacon for crack smokers and youngsters needing to find a "safe" place to piss as they stumble to the train after pounding fifteen dollar cocktails.

I pull my backpack on. With a quick adjustment to my attire, the addition of my hoodie has pushed me back into a different era. There was a time when everything I owned fit in a backpack just like this one. The layers were meant to keep me warm all night. My pockets were filled with matches, a few syringes, and perhaps money that left as soon as it got there. As I make it to the corner, I see a crowd across the street. A group of the usual suspects is gathered in front of the liquor store. I recognize one face from my time, long ago, at the methadone clinic. A few are stone cold alcoholics plotting their next bottle of poison. I see one dude firmly on the dip and scratch from the blessed combo of uppers and downers. As I plan in my mind where exactly I am going to walk to avoid being straight in the middle, a woman tells me "excuse me" as she pushes through.

I missed the reason for the assault. I missed the reasons that the old man was now lying on the ground in front of me. "No one gives a fuck about what you..." I heard him sobbing, waiting to see if someone is now going to kick him in the head. I review the odds in my mind. The odds that I will now get ratpacked if I decide to help him up. The odds are just too great. I can hear the other man is trying to teach him some kind of lesson that only is solidified at the end of a fist. Should I call the cops? Never. That is what I was told so many years ago. Should I call the ambulance? I do neither. By the time the ambulance gets there, the man will be gone. The man who hit him will be gone. The people on the corner will be gone. The only thing left will be the image in my mind. The only thing left will be the questions about humanity. The reality is that I was afraid, afraid for myself in that moment. I haven't felt that fear in a long time. Someone helped him up as I walked away from my past.

I used to stand on a street corner and sell heroin. I used to carry money in my pussy with out a care in the world. All I wanted was that dope to fuck me from the inside. All I wanted was to feel numb enough to no longer be afraid. I went from being a nerdy kid to a whirlwind of violence, all because I was too afraid to let the drugs go. Would I have ended up laid out on that street corner? Probably. I have more than once. My fear was not dying with a needle in my arm. It was having to live in that life for many years to come. What a horror show.

I caught my train. My three kids gave me hugs. We talk about the Valentines they need for school. I am grateful.

I paid dude to take this picture. Don't take pics of random people on the street without asking. Rude. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

I was here.

The rain reminds me of being homeless. I would scramble or even fight, if necessary, for a dry place to sleep.

The rain reminds me of a time when I was dopesick. It was dark outside, but the dealers were still out of the corner. I tried to make it back to my encampment. I knew I could not. I felt the puke hit the back of my throat when I realized I needed to conduct my dirty business right there. I had a cooker- no water. I pulled my rig out of my back pocket. It was raining outside. I saw the rain pooling on the hood of the car in front of me. It has been raining for awhile- how dirty can it really be? I thought to myself. I used that water. That water almost cost me my leg. I got a raging infection, an infection so rancid that you could smell the rotten tissue from half a block away. If I would not have gotten arrested, maybe I would be one of those people you see panhandling in a wheelchair in the median of any busy street.

The rain reminds me of getting in cars with strangers. Dealers, tricks, new "friends". Waiting outside in front of some business, hoping some civilian doesn't ask me to move along. Wondering if my life has any meaning. Wondering where I will go next.

The rain reminds me of curling up next to friends of boyfriends in parking garages. We would huddle for warmth in there. Two bodies under a trash bag or a blanket. There might be a fleeting kiss. Most of those people are dead now. Most of the people who knew them are also dead. I am the vessel left with the collective memory of those that have passed on. If I didn't write about them, would they even exist. Would I have existed if I died then? Faded pictures in a hallway collecting dust in the sunlight.

When you are gone, and your family is gone, who will remember you? Who will remember any of us? Are we washed away like the filth on the street made clean after a rainy day.Or do we cling to the concrete. We leave little pieces of us saying "I was here". I left that life. I left those streets behind. I have little faces that make me cards saying "we love you mommy". They don't know the person I was back then. They will never understand the pain I felt inside. I don't want them to know. I want them to think than a rainy day means coloring, xbox, or making blanket forts. I want them to know rain brings flowers. When I see the dripping trees, I still remember. I still know I was there.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Rotten bandages

Which came first- Crippling self doubt or the magnetic desire to numb myself? As far back as I can remember, these have been the tracks playing in my mind. Tip toeing around the house, trying not to wake up my father as he sleeps off the booze. The smell of mixed drinks and his violent snores fill the middle of the room as I quietly retrieve my toy from under his feet. If I wake him, there will be a series of arguments. Or he will walk out with no indication of when or if he will return. I slink up to my room to play alone, grabbing some Doritos and soda to drown my feelings. 

I pull my pants down to my knees, searching fruitlessly for that perfect spot of blue that hasn't disappeared beneath the goosebumps that cover my bruised flesh. It's cold out. I don't feel anything. I don't see anything. I don't hear the sound of children nearby as their parents walk them to school. He left me again. Left me days ago saying “I'll be right back…” I should have known the truth. My $40 and his pretty face are gone. I gave up believing in happily ever after a lifetime ago. If he doesn't show up with a jail wristband, it's over. Sticking myself with poison, hoping I can spread my ribs to massage my aching heart back to life one day. 

I got your text message. I read it again and again. I want to believe in someone. I want to believe in something. When you told me you “adore me”, I want to believe I am the person that you see. I want to believe you aren't the ten other men that hurt me. I want to believe you aren't my father, looking for any reason to leave. I want to believe in a friend that elevates me above my fears. I want to believe I am better than this. I dissect happiness into the smallest pieces. I inspect it for the tiniest flaw. Which came first- Crippling self doubt or the magnetic desire to numb myself? I am not sure. I need you to shake me loose from these rotten bandages so I can finally heal. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

"If I knew what to do, I would have already done it..."

Heroin made me it's bitch. There is no denying it. There is no sugar coating the relationship I have with this drug. Heroin fucks you in all your holes, tells you it is real this time, then leaves you. It is the one love that drives you to the outer limits of your fucking mind. Check your phone every five minutes. Go out in the street at 2am looking. Hand over every penny as long as it will love you one more time, every god damn time. Our love is the saddest song ever written, played every six to eight hours. I will disgrace my name for one last time to prove my love for you. I would beat or kill or fuck or beg a man- I'm just that sick.

If we can't be apart, we will die together.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Water's Edge

I hear each individual drop of as it slowly joins the pool that I hope will swallow me up. My freshly painted toes peak out at the end of the bathtub. The veins are popping out from the heat of the water. I feel myself sinking deeper and deeper into a cloud of my own making. If I only had the courage to slip underneath the smooth to hide my screams.

How long have I been in this place? An hour? A day? Time has completely escaped me. He said he had a clawfoot tub. He promised me I could seclude myself in here. A wounded little girl now has adult problems. As I slid the deadbolt, I felt a slight sigh get caught in my throat. Maybe I can rest. I gently strip off the top layer of clothing, the layer that I want the world to see. The next layer reveals my secret. The fabric of my shirt is crusted against the weeping sore that scabbed in unison with the undergarment that doubles as a bra. When I bend over to pull of my socks, I notice the shoulder that once supported my ample chest is giving way at the lack of womanly assets. I have nothing in the space that surrounds my heart with the exception of the memory hurried kisses once given by young men who called me baby.

I sit down on the toilet in an effort to balance myself. I feel myself spinning with regrets. It isn’t often I get to inventory the physical damage I have caused to myself. As I pull off my other crusty sock, I wonder when will this finally end. I place my ear against the door. I want to know FOR SURE that he isn’t going to be coming in. I can hear the rattling noise of a sleeping tiger, waiting on the futon for me to return. He couldn’t stay awake long enough to collect on his end of the bargain. That’s okay. I slipped him a xanax so he should be out for awhile. I look up at the florescent lights on the ceiling as I have the pleasure of releasing my belt in peace. My jeans are as tight as the shoelace I had wrapped around my arm. I wiggle out of them in the hope that I can feel human again. I move the condensation aside on the mirror hanging on the back of the door to reveal what remains of me. The body of a tired of woman and eyes that have seen far too many things. I dislodge my panties as I prepare myself for the baptism that can wash away my frequent sins.  
I feel everything and nothing at the same time. I'm too tired for the five different kinds of body wash he left for me. It was almost human. A gesture of manufactured affection. Really, he just wanted to  make sure I was “clean”. As I lie back, contemplating my next hit, I think about home. I think about a time when I was wanted for something besides the feeble body resting below my neck. I think about Saturday morning cartoons in footed pajamas, flannel sheets, and my special towel. No one made me a junkie. Yet, here I am. I am going to fall asleep here, pretend for a second that my life is normal. Until it is time to put back on my dirty shell and start all over again.  

I have been writing a lot lately. Thanks for listening.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Strung Out On Love

As delicate as a spiderweb in a rainstorm, my tenuous grip on my emotions dictates that gather my words off the floor. I push all the things I said back into my mouth. I hope that you didn’t hear them. I feel foolish. I am an old dog that turned a few tricks easily lead from place to place by a few pats on the head. By promises that will never be delivered. No one needs to tell me that I fall too hard. No one needs to point out that I would give anything in one moment to know that the things that have passed between us are authentic. I am stuck on you. Stuck like my legs to the hot slipcovers on the day my father left us. I feel abandoned again. I replay my childhood in every relationship hoping that this one will somehow stay. I play silently with my toys on the floor while my parents argue in the next room. My ears are ringing again. The chills are climbing up my spine, telling me this is over (over and over again). How or why doesn’t matter. I am the shy kid hiding behind my mother, pulling on her pant leg, asking where you are. It burns. It slowly eats me alive, that magnetism that will pull any woman within your orbit. I have it too- that something that draws the glimmering moths to my exhaustive flame. I burn myself out each time I use another person to feed the part of me that needs constant fuel to stay alive. I sucked the marrow from their bones, telling them they should be happy to know me. The worst part? They believe it.

I know this pain. I acknowledge this familiar misery. I have painted myself into a corner again. There is no way out of here without the leaving the footprints that signal I had to walk away.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Conversation

"I spent six years living on the streets", I told him. "Two years of that living outside." 
I meekly reach for my lukewarm beverage as I sink into the bench. I feel like a little kid at the table for adults. Do I belong here? hate that feeling of being exposed. I spent many years putting on masks the way my mother used to cake on her makeup. It is rare that anyone sees what is underneath all the mythology I created for myself. I am pushing the boulder back up the hill, waiting for the end of a beautiful friendship.

To be a drug addict in "the life", one must completely embrace the idea that no one can be trusted, not even yourself. I have buried the truth so deep inside of me, I forget where to find it. Not the truth of daily living but the truth that is only accessed on a sleepless night when you wet the sheets with tears and the heat of pain leaving the body. The truth is revealed only in shadows while hidden away at the very same time. I lived my life with one truth- I was wholly in the grips of the drug I loved/hated so much. Now, sober, I have to sort through this life with no real idea of what comes next. 

It is rainy outside. The windows are dripping condensation from steam  and the faint smell of regrets. It feels like my mind is on fire. I am too nervous to eat, I push my food around in circles.  When I start talking about myself, my stomach turns in a similar way as it did when I reached my hands out for little bags of dope down the street. My past, this is generally my ace in the hole. It gives me the ability to shut everything around me down. The general public is so horrified by my poor choices, the rest of the conversation involves voyeuristic question or vain attempts at making me feel safe. Either way, I win. I don't have to be myself. I can be whatever you want me to be. I'm your huckleberry, your whore, or the mother you never had. I don't have to be myself; I have already been defined by a few moments in a long life that involved syringes. 

When the words slowly trickle by, I am not safe here. I am dangerous. I am wounded. I am cornered. I have to face someone who sees through me because I let them in. It is so delicate, this moment, when I wait to see their reaction. Will they judge me for what I am or who I was? What is the next joke that I can tell to shift the focus. I am still shivering but not from the walk here. We traveled a mile in the rain, handing them a pair of my glasses to see the world through my eyes. 

I hold my breath in waiting for a moment when I can live again. It isn't isn't just the track marks that need healing. It is the idea that I am somehow unworthy of love. That lies at the core of my existence, a jagged hole this new square life can't fill. I can bury myself in food or charm some random out of their clothes or buy the perfect outfit to cover up the ugly I feel inside. I know I am better than this but when I wake up from my dream state of self delusion, I missed the rest of the conversation. I was too busy sitting there judging myself. I felt better. I felt lighter. I crawled out from underneath the stones than cover my chest. For a few moments, I was completely present. It was an unfamiliar feeling but one I enjoyed.  

I brushed the raindrops off the pin on his jacket at the train station.  That was way of saying thank you.