Friday, June 30, 2017

Burning Away

I smelled the alcohol on your breath before I felt the whiskers that brushed my check as you said goodbye. I wanted to wave to you. These occasions don't require me to do anything but stare straight ahead and pretend my heart isn't breaking. Are you stopping at the next station, getting off to buy some (more) dope? Will you make it home tonight, using vodka and grape juice to stave off the last bit of sick left from five days of twitching and turning on sheets soaked with sweat. A week ago, when I unconsciously smelled your neck, it smelled like vinegar must taste when it runs through your veins and out through your pores. I loved you that day, the day you chose drugs over me. Not with any subtle motion, just the daily actions of a junkie propelled forward by the depleted emotional battery searching for a charge of life in the form of a hit. I still love you- with the slight hesitation of being attached to a shinning star that is quickly burning away.

As I head in the opposite direction, my heart briefly sinks into my Sambas wondering if I can find the strength to hold back the tears that claw at the back of my eyes. I slide down the wall until I smell the piss before I see it. A pool underneath the railing telling me this is no place for me to wait for prince charming to appear. There are no princes. There are no heroes in this life. There are only moments when I know I am doing what I need to do and emotions that boil in my insides telling me to get out. There is a breeze in the tunnel telling me that I can get away from this place. You were already gone before you even got here- a shadow of the person I once knew.

Friday, June 23, 2017


I'm lying on my bed under three different types of blankets. The window is slightly open so the sea breeze can creep across my exposed ankles. I feel nothing. I feel everything. At the same time. I am not sure why my life feels so empty when you arent around. There is a whole, as large as my imagination, picturing you here with me. There is a burning in my brain. It stings with the memory of what it would feel like to have you inside of me. You aren't a lover. You are my drug. I love you despite your abuse. I can't quit you. 

I can't go on with you. 

I can't go on without you. 

Taste the blood. 

I bite my tongue in desperation. 

Switching from side to side to side. 

I cry inside my pillow.

Kicking you one more time. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Responsible Junkie and Other Minor Irritations

Shooting heroin sucks. Not shooting heroin sucks.
There is this huge myth that getting off drugs is the solution to all of your problems. HAHA. Not even fucking close. Getting off drugs is a solution to a subset of your problems. When you quit opioids, it might fix your orgasm issues. You might be able to poop daily. You might not go to jail, get abscesses, overdose, a heart infection, or spend all over your money on little powders and pills. Getting off drugs does not make that girl/boy love you. It will not make people forgive you. It will not fix the fact that people are still peopley and somewhat scary. It won't fix your social anxiety. Don't hate me for telling the truth. It takes some work on your end.

You know what else is work? Sucking dick while you are dopesick. Working a nine to five while supporting a habit. Remembering all the lies you have told. Missing family functions while you wait for the dealer who is eight hours late. Stealing from stores. Middlemanning for people who truly hate you. Going to the pawn shop. Breaking all your "nevers". Being sick for twelve hours, then buying baking soda bunk dope, then having to hustle all over again. THAT IS A TON OF FUCKING WORK.

My children had their own version of fight club this morning. While I was getting dressed for work, they started beating the living crap out of each other. While I packed the lunches, this started up again. "BUT HEY KIDS- I'M NOT SHOOTING DOPE". They do not give two fucks about this (well they do but not in this case). They needed me to get in there, break them up, figure out what the issue was, and get them on their way. Just like you do. You need to stop beating yourself up, sort a few things out, and get on your way.

I love all you friends. I understand the struggle. I understand your fears. I honestly, truly want you to be happy. I want you to have the whole picture. My life is not perfect but it is pretty fucking okay. Be safe.

    I was hiding in the kids' room earlier. They found me.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

It isn't a party until...

Is Kelan crying? It's not a kids' event 'til somebody cries. 
No. Not this time. That isn't one of my children. The cries of my children are generally followed up with a second set of cries indicating one child has decided to violently charge the other to avenge whatever caused the first set of tears.

My friend and I have dragged our lawn chairs closer to the field. We are pretending to watch the nine year old compete in this game of chance known as youth athletics. Mostly, we are happy to spend some time together. With jobs(mine) and relationships (his), we don't get to see each other that often. There is a certain comfort in having a friend that understands what it is like to shoot dope then try to transition into a "normal" life. His recent relapse has reminded me how fragile the line between sobriety and insanity is on a daily basis. The last time I saw him, he was high as fuck. I had to admit I was more than a little jealous at the time. It had been a long long time since I had been so close to that eyes rolling back in your head feeling. Now, newly detoxed, we are trying to spend a few hours to catch up on the months that were squeezed into a couple weeks of using.

"Have you ever been sick enough to shit your pants?" I asked in between watching pitches.

He looks at me as if I asked him if he has ever killed a pet. "NOOOOOOOOOO" he blurts out, grabbing his neck in a semi pearl clutching gesture. He rolls his eyes "Have you?"

"No," I tell him as I wave to my daughter " but I have thrown my shit out the window".
He starts waving his hands with the c'mon with the story motion. I look around to make sure none of the other parents are close by. Okay, I'm game let's go.

One day in particular, I was sick so a friend convinced me to do some coke. I hated coke- but do you have some? You know how we are. Anyway-  I was selling the Chivah, the shitty stuff all up with coffee etc that the low level Mexican cartel guys would front me. ANYWAY- I was all nestled in my room so I took the balloons out of my mouth. If all sold all the dope, the would throw me free coke. I thought hey, what a gift. I realize now it was so I would sell dope all day and all night for them. I invited some fuckwit up to my room 'cause I did want to do my shit alone. But there was a problem, when  I did my uptown, I was so sure I was going to fucking die but I was paranoid, too"
"DUDE", my friend injects.
Exactly, dude is right.

"Dude you have to leave!" I said as I practically pushed him out the door 
"What the fuck?!" He looked at me. Suddenly I was dripping sweat. I was having a heart attack. I knew it! This motherfucker is trying to kill me! He is trying to kill me and get my dope. "Get out!" I scream. PARANOID AS A MOTHERFUCKER. I throw a free bag at him "get the fuck out!" 
I stick my head out the window and gasp for air. Ugh get out. I hear the door click.

My friend nods at me. "I like where this story is headed", he tells me. We giggle like two school girls with lots of tattoos. 

Then the feeling comes over me. The turtle head begins to forces it's way out of my even weakening sphincter. I feel my ass being ripped apart. After a week (maybe two?) of not taking a crap, I am geezed. but I am too fucking paranoid to open the door. 

Stop me if this story is too gross for you look. Silence. I continue

I get my narrow junkie ass on top of that sink. I do what we do. Except that mfing thing is the entire length of the colon. I have now delivered a five pound chinga babe. A dry grey stool without a single drop of moisture. I felt liberated from the cement oppressor that had been weighing me down. I shit in the sink and threw it out the window. Then I wiped my hands with alcohol pads cause yeah that is sterile. And fuckity fuck, that's my story. I'm sticking to it."

There is an awkward pause then we both laugh hysterically. We are laughing at us, who we are, the life we lead, the things we do. I pass him my Gatorade as we both shake our heads in recognition. My son asks to sit on my lap. I happily oblige him. As I sit at the game with my kids, my past, and my best friend in the world, my life feels complete again. I am content in the recognition that I am not in that place today. The only hits I have today came from my daughter in the third inning. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Few Thoughts on the American Opioid Crisis

Normally, I use this space to post my stirring tales of addiction and recovery. Today's post is slightly different readers. I have been contacted by two different federal agencies in the past month about my opinions on what needs to be done to address the opioid crisis. This SHOULD be a good thing. But there is a catch. These clandestine contacts with me are indicative of a much larger problem. Policies and programs are currently being crafted at the national level with little to no input from former or current consumers of opioids. This is completely unacceptable. If leaders in the field want to know what we need, we should be leading some of these conversations. Instead, advocates/former users like myself are essentially the side piece of policy leaders. You want me around in private. You just don't want to take the risk of being in public with us.

When I make these posts on reddit or my personal blog, decision makers are reading them. They want to know what we are thinking. They just don't ask us directly. If you have ideas, please feel free to post them. I will continue to pass them on.

We need our voices to be heard, not just just read.

I love you. Be safe.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A lifeline

This is some long form material I am working on for a new book in a very raw form...
Also thank you for all the birthday wishes!

There is a moment in every day when we chose to succumb to the incredible mystery that is life without drugs or inflict self injury in the form resistance against our truths. I don’t know if I was born with the desire to use drugs. I don’t know if I evolved into an individual that needed solace in the chemical expression of happiness. I just know that once I began ingesting them, my life changed forever. I can never put the cork back in the bottle. I can never unsee the horrors unveiled in the life of drug user living on the streets of any major city. I can only strive to find a way to balance the past, the present, and plan for a future I want to live in.
“Why didn’t you meet me for lunch that day?” I asked.  I push my food around on the plate. There is always an awkward moment when I first meet people when I am not sure who they think I am. Am I an addict to them? A mom? An aging woman stuck with many of the same interests as a twenty year old. Despite many years of recovery, I still find a slow emergence of the true nature of who I am. It is as if I was born with a mask on. When one face is revealed to me, I peel it away only to find another. I am never settled, always a restless individual in search of the next thing that can heal my broken spirit.
He takes a drink of his soda. “I was too embarrassed then.” He starts pushing his food around, too. We are both feeling anxious for different reasons. He is casually dressed in a crisp t-shirt and jeans with just a tiny bit of sag in them. The tattoo across his throat is colorful and well done. There are no noticeable scars on his arms, thanks to the good sense to quit before he got too far behind in the game. His hat hides overgrown brown locks. The first thing I noticed about him was his crystal clear blue eyes. They reminded me of my own. The type that easily gives away the presence of opioids with the distinctive pinned pupils. I can tell he is not really hungry. He is dying for a cigarette as I force myself to finish my food. That routine smoke is a powerful draw to the space just outside the restaurant. He adjusts his watch in a nervous tic to signal he is paying attention.
“I was working a few blocks from you at the time,” he explains “I was using up to $300 dollars worth of pills some days. I had a great job that I fucked up. I switched to heroin because it was so much cheaper. Not sure what else there is to say…”
He has lots more to say. He is just feeling me out, unsure if he can trust me. It isn’t every day you meet someone off the internet that you stood up two years ago. The big difference is that he quit that drug after overdosing on the city bus. The driver was forced to call for an ambulance to revive him. I could tell within a few sentences we would become friends. There is just that Ohioan way of telling a story that I appreciated. We grow up restrained. We neither beg nor extole our accomplishments. We have a polite way of telling someone we think they are stupid. We like our chili sweet. We like our nights filled with fireflies. We like solitude instead of explaining our feelings. We also like to downplay a crisis.
“How does it feel to not use drugs for so long?” he drops an innocent enough question that sticks with me for the rest of the afternoon. How does it feel? Feelings are not reality. Feelings are just an expression of my current mental state. Today, I feel angry at myself. Despite a multitude of things I should be doing to improve my situation, I have spent the past eight months muddled in the stagnation that comes when a person completely disconnects from their support system. It wasn’t a drastic change. It happened incrementally over a period of years. “I am just too busy to…” and “I don’t really like” put bricks into the walls that surround me. There are problems with these walks. While they may keep me safe, I am also terribly alone. Socialization becomes a burden. I hate it. I miss it. I am confused by my own choices in the matter.
Where does one find a new friend? The idea is laughable. I am not a toddler on the playground. I am a woman of a certain age. I will do a google search on my break to find a solution. In between strange rashes and unusual animal friends, there should be some insightful dialogue on the friend making process. Yet I have read information on selecting a ripe cantaloupe with no success. A friend seems much more serious of a process. The unfortunate truth is that in the long stretch of what I call my recovery, my friends have either moved away from the costly area in which I live, died of both natural and unnatural causes, or relapsed never to be seen again. This is part of the reason why I don’t find the rooms of 12 step to be a reliable source of new friends. There is an  increased likelihood that I will just be bringing that next person into my life that will eventually leave me. Despite working the steps, seven years of therapy, and the ability to at least construct a halfway decent relationship foundation, I fear a person leaving more than I fear being alone.
I turn the bathwater to the only setting I enjoy- scalding hot. If the water doesn’t leave me looking like a lobster on a hot stove, I am not having it. I would throw in a few bath bombs however the risk of a urinary tract infection overrules the happiness caused by fizzy pink bubbles. I can never forget that weekend I was laid up with some 100% cranberry juice with no sugar added and a pillow between my knees after a long soak. I am cool off that, I tell myself as I sink just far enough in the water not to get my hair wet. I started using henna based dye when I noticed my hair might actually be thinning after age forty. In addition, those greys are slowly creeping into the unmanageable phase. It won’t be long now before I have to make the decision. Do I continue to rage against the dyeing of the light or let this mane go into salt and pepper. Maintaining to MILF status I desperate cling to in the presence of obvious marker of aging.
I remain relieved to be in the generation where sending nudes involved postage stamps and discreet photo options. I cringe at the thought that I will soon be advising my daughter and sons on the finer points of both sexuality and impulse control. Being naked of requires a level of trust for me now. Long gone are the days when I could rip my clothes off at any time under the right set of circumstances. I have accumulated enough life experience to understand that “privacy” is a luxury most of us will never experience. Nothing in our world is truly private. Yet the mystery of the mystery of the human body holds a few lasting secrets. Underneath whatever garments I use to sign my individual preferences, lies the precious vessel I have endlessly abused.  
There is a certain vulnerability when taking your clothes off as an adult. A vulnerability that I am hyper aware of because my clothes were once an imaginary barrier between the flesh and violence. When I would get a place to clean up, it was generally a “bird bath”, when the head is stuck under the sick and body parts get brief seconds to touch the water. I did not want to leave any part exposed for more than a few seconds. A bath was only taken when I was entrenched in a safe location.

I close my eyes to drown out the sounds from the next room, I feel myself slipping back into another time. Dissociation is what my therapist called it. A symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A subtle reminder can shift me into another place, another time. 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.
There is no such place as this concept of rock bottom. There is always much, much lower. I can assure you of this because I have visited this place many times. Waking up in a pool of self loathing. Curling up in a ball of fear. This is the spiritual death that comes when we turn our life over to the desperation that is the life of active drug use. That slow walk to the pawn shop as that thing we “never” would part with become visualize in terms of a half grams. The deep breath we take as we fumble with the crisp bills inside our mother’s wallet. The slight nod we give ourself as we step off the curb in the direction of that trick waiting on the corner. The slow realization that the “NEVER” has now become the reality of the every day.

There is a new kind of never that comes when survival is based around the world of those we always called normal. These creatures are fucked up too.

“Hey, I was wondering if you had a minute…” a woman’s voice trails off as she gently taps my arm. I can clearly see she has been crying. The moisture still clings to her eyelashes. The redness in her face is unmistakable.
Without her even finishing her statement, I already know what she is going to tell me. I have heard it a hundred times before. Women and men in their 40’s or 50’s meekly pulling me aside to discuss the addiction issues of their adult children. The parents are always extremely apologetic. They don’t want to “bother me”. They just want five minutes with someone they think could understand them. They want someone to feel their frustration, to look into their eyes. They want someone to tell them that there is still hope. They want to believe that the son or daughter that has stolen from them won’t die somewhere with a needle hanging out of their arm. That the child they sent to rehab four times will miraculously get it on the fifth trip. That the three month chip their son showed them will mean sleep will be easier now, that things will “get better”. I can’t promise these things. I can only listen. I can only dull my own struggles by helping others. Throwing them a lifeline saves me from the water's edge.