Thursday, December 6, 2018

Depression, Opioids, and Isolation

It is dark outside. This is the time of year when the darkness swallows me up from all directions.

My friend Korri and I went out to brunch this afternoon. We hadn't really seen each other in a few weeks. I got three pieces of bacon, two eggs sunnyside up, dry wheat toast with smuckers jelly added for sweetness. He got the same combo with a side of pancakes and sausages. His coffee had the typical too much cream and heaps of sugar I try to avoid. I like my coffee like I like my shots of dope- dark. The conversation went from potential Christmas presents for our respective kids, to what we are reading, to debate about whether cordoroy ever went out of style.

As we head down to finish our work related business, I see a flicker on the sidewalk. There is blood dripping down a wrist. I would love to say I saw the details in the man's face but I did not. All I saw was him switching his fluid from one to syringe to another. I imagine him fishing for a vein in this cold weather, waiting for his opportunity to rocket to the fourth dimension. I imagine myself licking off the last bit of my blood. Korri stops me "If I could only just have one". I chuckle to myself. "You just finished off 15 years of just one". He nods in agreement.

We discuss what that one would be like- Him high as fuck discussing how it is almost Christmas time and what will the kids thinks and the instant regret. Yet, we both have trouble focusing on the task at hand. It isn't the guy holding the drink at a party that intrigues me. It's the dude on the sidewalk shooting random drugs in the cold.

We swing by Target to get gift cards for a client event next week. People trust me with money now. It is awesome and scary at the same time. As we get down the street I tell him: "here's the plan. You are going to hit me in the eye. Then I am going to get some kind of police report. We can says these gift cards are stolen and split these 50/50." This makes HIM laugh. "Tracey we are so fucking square now, we would probably spend that $150 on things we need around the house." I'd probably also be pissed if he ACTUALLY hit me.

As we go our in opposite directions, I start to think about what I am going to make for dinner instead of what I can put in my arm. It helps to talk to another person. It helps to spend a little time outside of my bubble of isolation.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The predicament

The fan is whir-whir-whiring.
The slow breeze is traversing the room, hitting my toes.
I have them sticking out of the sleeping bag.
I am overheated. I am cold. I am stuck to the bed.
The springs of the mattress are poking into my leg.
I reflexively turn my body away from the light.
A passing car is illuminating my predicament.
It's 2:35 am.

I feel myself slightly sticking against the plastic sheet.
It's the kind they use for the kids that wet the bed.
There is condensation slipping down the window pane.
There is a little snore a few feet away from my head.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Prelude to Addiction Part 1- Longform story

As an educated young woman, there were many things I imagined for my future.
I was a nerdy, mostly chubby school girl that walked out of high school with idea
I was going to make it in the world. Never did I imagine that I would spiral into an
entirely different life. With a copy of a book by Dorothy Parker tucked under one arm and my Walkman in the other, I moved out of my parents' house just shy of my 18th birthday.
I had always been overweight and awkward, the center of negative attention.
When I drank those first few beers of freedom, I felt relieved of these burdens,My parents, while sympathetic, had no idea how to deal with cycles of eating and chronic depression. In some ways, I was ahead of my time. I was a cutter before I even knew that was something other girls did when they needed relief. I discovered binging and puking with the help of a school friend. I also knew about laxatives and over the counter diet pills. I would spend hours reading books, watching movies,stuffing my face with food- anything to pass the time. I lived in a small community where nothing seemed to happen. Or so it seemed.
I took my socially awkward ass to the big city. There was living to catch up on. Drinking and fucking and drugs and shows and life. I started to feel alive for the first time in my life. I could reinvent myself, a skill I mastered in my life as a barfly. Listening intently over cheap vodka,. I became a great companion. I would help walk you home. I'd keep you awake if you swallowed too many pills. I went to some shitty poetry readings that smelled like clove cigarettes and squeeze into plaid skirts that might have been too short. I would stagger drunkenly with you to taco bell at 2am and eat leftover food from the tables when we had no money. I learned to be a friend.

I met him when I was on vacation. The first thing that struck me about him was his syrupy sweet Southern accent. “Hi y’all”. He shook my hand and gave it an extra squeeze. He offered to carry my things inside the house. As we sat down to have a few get to know each other beers, I felt his leg rub against mine. Did he do that on purpose? From that very first moment, he had me on edge. I was not used to a man being so forward. It was almost as it he knew what I liked as if he was studying me. When I would walk past him, he would touch my back so lightly with his fingertips as if he had never been there. He saw something in me.He would turn his head and smile while he talked to me. I knew something was going on. Then, in casual conversation, he dropped a comment that he liked a “bigger woman”. Suddenly, I  realized this was a blind date, not a barbecue. Apparently, my southern gentleman had an idea that I was on the menu for dessert.
This man seemed to want me in a wayI did not know could even exist outside of novels. Sex had always been something I avoided until recently as it never seemed to come to any benefit for me. I was raised to believe sex was dirty and I should cover up my body. This man taught me the exact opposite was true. My body was beautiful, sex was to be enjoyed, and there was no shame. Our initial time together was a revelation. After a few days, I returned home a different person. Never in a million years, did I imagine he would follow me back to Ohio a few weeks later. My fling had turned into a legitimate "thing". I think in the first week he stayed with me, we must have used every bit of floor space and furniture for some new type of erotic adventure. I really believed that great sex must equal love. Little did I know, he was just great at sex because he had lots and lots of practice.
One night, he showed me a picture in his wallet. It was an infant, maybe four or five months old. He had a son with a woman, a child that was now much older. How could you have a child you don’t see? He pushed my head off of his chest. I was naive. I did not understand what a bitch she was to him. As he went on and on with his expletive laden rant about her, I got a glimpse into the future. If only this woman would not have been a certain way, he would not have had to mistreat her. He put my head back on his chest and wrapped his arms around me tightly. That would never be us, he assured me. I knew how to treat a man.
          It was nice to skip a class and have someone to come home with him there. Many days, it was if my time away from him set him off somehow. Subtly, he diminished my accomplishments. When he would ask me questions like “Do you think you are smart?”. I was caught off guard by his anger. There was no where for him to let off steam- it was my place, my city, my money that supported us. It was clear this made him bitter towards me. The honeymoon was wearing off. Our daily life became a cycle of highs and lows that matched his moods. The high points were so much better than anything I had ever experienced that I was willing to work through a few issues. He assured me things would improve as soon as he “got on his feet”. Yet I loved him. I felt like I was loved for the first time in my life. This man was not perfect but he loved being with me. His cards, his letters, and the way he made me feel alive drew me back every time. He needed me. I never had a pet or even a plant before him. For the first time in my life, someone needed me. That need was intoxicating to me. I had gone from invisible to important because now someone loved me.
One night, we had a heated discussion about moving back to his hometown. This meant transferring schools, leaving my family, and a handful of friends. Our argument was punctuated with the stinging observation that “no one else wants you anyway”. That was always my deepest fear- not being wanted- but to have him point it out, made me both angry and afraid of him. Why would he say these things to me? He got on one knee and told me that he loved me. If I would only go back home with him. He agreed to leave for a few days so I could “make up my mind”. His phone calls, his letters drove me insane. Imagine all the things you always wanted to hear repeated back to you in an intimate voice. He also punctuated his love with creating doubt. What if he was with someone else? What if he decided he did not need me anymore? I "needed to make this change for love". It always worked in movies.
          Once he had me on his terms, the verbal abuse quickly escalated into taunts about everything from the sound of my voice to my weight. As he constantly reminded me “Who would want you anyway?” and “I can leave any time I want” as he had proved a many nights by walking out of the apartment we shared with roommates. He had started embarrassing me in public by pointing out my faults in front of others. The thing I found so surprising was how little people reacted to this, as if it was normal. Is this how love is? I had never had it. Slowly, I began to wonder what he saw in me.  I could not make food correctly, I could not fuck him correctly, he got so angry at me, and no one reacted to it. It was only because he" loved me", or so I was told so many times.
          After a few months, he turned a threat into action.He had began telling me he would kill me or kill himself if I left, whatever got me to stay with him.  After an ordinary argument, he hit me in the leg with a billy club he had laying around the house. Since we moved in together, he had started collecting weapons.He said it had been to keep other people out, but more and more, I had suspected it had been to keep me in. I don’t remember what I had said to set him off that time. I had become tired of the constant threats of him leaving me. I may have even threatened to leave that time.I ta was the same pattern over and over- threats, fights, abuse, apologizes, then sex. Now, even the sex had stopped. It was just fights. I had suspected he was ready to break it off because he had found another woman. I found out later, it was our roommate. He swatted my leg then repeated told me it was an accident. “That did not hurt, it is just a tender area Tracey “ he assured me as he rubbed it. In reality,  It was strategically placed on a section of my body that was not obvious, some place that could be easily written off as an accident. I believed at that moment, he had been through this before. Soon after, I was given "permission" to visit a mutual friend—something that was ordinarily completely out of question. Yes, a twenty year old woman asking for permission. That was the end of that relationship and the start of a new chapter in my life
          With no money, no dignity, and no value with or without this man, I embarked on the world of homelessness.There was no “Lifetime” television moment where I called the hotline and moved into a shelter. I did not even know what at shelter was at that point. There was no valiant effort to help me among my friends. Most of them were completely oblivious to what had happened to me. My humiliation had occurred in secret, as it often does, which makes it so easy to return to the abuser. What else were my options? I had become so isolated I was unsure where to begin. I started out couch surfing with friends, but I quickly wore out my welcome. I had started consuming heavy amounts of alcohol to drown my sorrows. I was that girl sneaking drinks at the bar. I was the girl crying in the bathroom trying to fix her mascara.
   After around a month of staying with friends ended, my next move to find a place to stay was allowing strangers to pick me up in bars. I had had quickly learned that without a stable address or phone number, it was nearly impossible to get a job. I began to depend on the men who took me home to look after me.  I would wake up in the morning- where am I, who are you, where are my clothes? I am not sure if they knew I was homeless the people at the bar noticed I only had a few outfits. Sometimes I would find clothing on the street corner. I imagined a man similar to the one I left had dumped out these clothes in a fit of rage just like the ones I left must lay in a pile somewhere. I learned to trust no one. When you are a homeless woman, you are seen as vulnerable. I learned not to look anyone in the eye to keep them from conversing with me. In sober moments, I would start to feel the weight of my situation- What if one of these men decides to hurt me? I would leave their homes in the morning.  I would whisper aloud “I hate my life” as walked miles in the heat instead of paying for the bus. I just could not figure out how to make it without help. I had burned through all my options when I begged my mother to let me temporarily move back home. She said she barely recognized the daughter who had left home just a few years earlier.
For many years after, the drugs and the and bad relationships went hand and hand. The "I want to get fucked up" switch had been flipped. I briefly went back to college but I was not the independent minded young woman who had started a years earlier. I now had a deeply held believe that I was somehow broken. The message that replayed itself in my mind was I was fat, stupid, lazy, I was never going to be anything because no one would want it. It was simple and powerful. His voice had become my voice in my own mind. I would be out in the public yet one knew I was there. I escaped inside a world of fluffy opioid clouds and pints full of bitter kisses. I  became the invisible woman, living in the shadow of what could have been.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

2018- the Year In Harm Reduction

2018 is slowly coming to a close.

Let's start with the positives. Overdose deaths have fallen for six months in a row. I know the Trump Administration wants to take credit for this number but I suspect the record will show this is linked to a combination of factors: The rise of fentanyl test strips, the expansion of MAT, the diligent efforts of outreach workers, overall awareness of overdose, and the expansion of access to naloxone. Regardless of any short term decreases, these numbers are still in the tens of thousands. In addition, deaths related to stimulants are creeping up to 10,000 people per year. In other words, much more work needs to be done. Work we can all do together.

Secondly, mail based Harm reduction services have officially been approved in New York State with more on the way. Please visit my partner project Next Distro here. In 2019, I am going to pour all my personal and professional resources into expanding mail based Harm Reduction.

Naloxone access has expanded all over the US. There are programs springing up in unexpected locations such as Iowa and Arkansas and Florida and any place radical folks decide to set up shop. In 2016, I predicted that Harm Reduction efforts would have to expand both above ground and below ground. I am extremely pleased with the results.

There is a ground swell of support for Harm Reduction. I recently was in New Orleans where 2000 folks came together to share best practices. It was rad to see how far we have come as a community.

in 2018, we lost Dan Bigg, one of my personal heroes. Too many of us are still dying.

In 2018, sex workers continue to suffer as a result of SESTA/FOSTA.

In 2018, the 12 step community continues to stigmatize people on MAT.

In 2018, methadone continues to be treated as if it is not "recovery".

In 2018, people are being sent to shitty rehabs where they detox, leave, OD and die.

In 2018, there is still limited accountability in both the sober living and rehab industry.

Personally, I saw a stark difference in the crowds at my presentations across the US. The messages I promote have been well received from even very conservative audiences. Everyone seems to be in agreement that SOMETHING has to change. The details of what and how are in dispute. I also have personally enjoyed some of the protests of I absolutely think pain patients have been fucked in this whole national opioid strategy AND I believe fuck the system that created many of these issues for those not in chronic pain.

I have been spending a bunch of time with my children lately. They are rad little people.

I love you. XOXO Tracey.

California Dreaming 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Little hands

"Mommy- have you ever shoplifted?"
This was an unexpected question coming through the darkness from the direction of my sleepy son. We recently had started a series of question and answer time before we fall asleep. Due to an unforeseen series of events, sleep has been evasive for me. The fan in his room provides me with just enough white noise to drift off into dreamland (until I wake up at 1am, 3am, then finally 5:30am for work).

"Why are you asking me that sweetheart?" I don't want to be evasive but I am certainly curious where a seven year old heard this term. "and yes, I have shoplifted before..."

The truth is, I was already shoplifting when I was his age. I had already tried weed. I had already drank. I am not looking for sympathy. These are simply facts. My upbringing was a complicated one. On the outside, things might have looked relatively normal. But the foundation had many cracks in it, just beyond what was visible. Stealing wasn't what I called that behavior. It was just the rush of taking an object I wanted and getting away with it. Later in life, I did some minor theft but that was related to things I couldn't afford like tampons, lice medication, socks, and food. I explained these realities to him but he appears to be growing disinterested.

I get a lot of questions about what I will tell my children about my addiction to drugs and homelessness. The truth is that I have already clued them in to these things. I feel like there is no point in hiding it. They would find out, they would be angry that I hid the truth. Instead, I am trying to integrate them into my life and into my advocacy work. They are a shiny example of how families need to be kept together, that the system needs to be overhauled, and that ex offenders need treatment.

So I answer uncomfortable questions.

Dear readers- Please educate your friends about overdose. Get naloxone. Contact me if you need it. I love you and hope you are enjoying your day.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Flavored Coffee and a side of remorse

I got up at 6:45 am this morning to head to the lab at my HMO. They said I had to fast 12 hours so of course I woke up every 30 minutes imagining myself withering from hunger. By 7:14, I took a number. I took my place on the hard plastic seats, a favorite furniture choice of medical clinics and waiting rooms outside county jails. I was holding labels for six tubes of blood. One to see if my food choices is clogging up my heart, one to see if my fatness is actually a medical issue, one to see if I have early markers for the cancer that killed my mother, one to reassure me that I did, in fact, clear the Hep C virus, and one to see if I have any signs of the DIABEETUS,

My name is called. I have to explain to Ben the handsome Asian tech that I used to use IV drugs, I have no veins, and other sordid details. Mercifully, he agrees to stick the needle where I recommend. The blood starts to register, uh I mean rush, uh I mean pour in. I thank Ben for his kindness. I have a snack in the pocket of my hoodie. I pull it out like a security blanket. I drop by the cafeteria for a quick cup of coffee. It's close to 8:00 am now. I'm two full hours past my normal coffee o'clock. I pick the hazelnut flavored one.

As I go to put the lid on, this remind me of the coffee shop next to the methadone clinic. I'd mix 1/4 cream, 1/4 sugar and the rest a thin brown liquid. It tasted sweet as candy and helped to boost me up. A cup of coffee meant I could sit at the table for an hour. I had paid the price of admittance. I sit and stare out the big windows that face the clinic. All my belongings are in bags beside me. I hoping to be seen. If I can sell two more bags, I have enough money left over to reup and get a room for the night. I take the balloons out of my mouth and put them in the palm of my hand. The coffee feels warm as it drips down the back of my throat. I haven't eaten today but I have done a 1/2 a gram plus a bag of coke. If I rest my eyes here for a second I can almost feel my dose.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"The Normal"

When I was strung out like a lab monkey, I would pull up a piece of concrete and watch the "normies" go by. I was always horrified by myself when I would imagine how I must appear to the mother holding her toddler's hand as the scoot of to daycare. I was in a world of my own to a certain extent. My world consisted of getting money, getting drugs, using drugs, maybe hanging with people, eating once a day, finding more money. If I was lucky, I could cop a nod in between point A and point B. Those occasions became fewer and farther between though.

In 2018, I'm a married mother of three kids. I have a career. I have pets. I have responsibilities. It isn't that I never think of shooting dope, smoking crack, taking klonopins, or tweaking balls like I used to for many years. I just have collected a bunch of things I like to do more. Drugs played a role in my life, a pretty sizable one. It just wasn't sustainable. During the last month of my drug use, I used to mix speed, heroin, and powder cocaine in the same shot. I used to call it "the normal". I would inject it then for a few minutes I would feel similar to how I feel now. Then, the chemicals would spin me off in different directions until the next time.

I don't know what normal is but this is the best I have ever felt. I hope what ever you have going on, you are safe and healthy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

where the fuck have you been?

Well "where the fuck have you been?' used to be a phrase I would hear a lot if you were to hand me any money. I was notorious for losing track of time ie trying to use your money to make more money. The same sort of applies here.

I have been taking a break from writing to focus on the expansion of the mail based Harm Reduction program. What I have been trying to construct is a distribution network that can get supplies out to the pubic quicker and more accurately. My closet based thing is great but I put the PRO in procrastination. I just don't have as much time as requests expand. I am happy to say, we have steady distribution networks building in multiple states. If you want to get on board, let a bitch now. I can use all the help I can get. The main efforts also involve seeding clusters of people who use drugs with NARCAN so there is some available to communities of folks using together.

In personal news, there really isn't any. I haven't been depressed in around two months. I tend to write when I am depressed. I am working on providing some technical assistance for a very special project with some high powered folks around overdose education. I had a NARCAN pop up at the REMIO art show. That was RAD. Mostly, I have been spending time with my kids.

I have a survey going, trying to assess the needs of community. Please fill one out. It is anonymous

I will be back with new stories but probably more like 1-2 a month. XOXO Tracey

Graffiti from outside my job 

Monday, July 30, 2018

My future is in my hands.

I took the syringe firmly in my hand as I attempted to draw up my life through a cotton. My nose is dripping into the cooker, the smell of vinegar and instant coffee is overpowering. Whatever this is cut with, it ain't dope. My streak of broken luck continues. My eyes are watering with what I can only describe as involuntary tears. It had been a sunrise and a sunset since my last hit. I have no concept of what the rest of the world could describe as time. The Earth revolves around the sun the way my life revolves around this drug. Every hour, every minute exists for the moment I will spend engaged with this syringe and the blue lines that lead me to where I need to be.

I take my broken cockring and make it tight around my wrist. I don't have time for shoelaces or a condom for a tie. I got this "bracelet" from the last person I fucked- a lil souvenir. Looking for that space between my fingers where I found that last spot. I marked it with a sharpie for future use. The pain is my existence while stabbing myself in search of the pathway to salvation. with the sweet release of the tie, I feel the hot pink swelling travel over my hand. Not only did I miss, the tar was so hot it feels like it is searing my nerve endings. I lick the blood off my fingers and pray for a feeling that never comes. The histamine reaction runs down my arm like a scene from Dante's Inferno. It is worse than the two lovers that see each other and never touch. It is the junkie that misses her hit on her last $20. I put my head against the brick wall, secretly hoping that this shit will kill me. It never does.

art by MIKE

Saturday, June 30, 2018

When You Only Have One Syringe

From 1990-1991, I had one syringe. One.

What do you do when you only have one syringe?

I started using opioids IV in 1990. The first thing ever put in my veins was some kind of vicodin or perc shit show my friend had cold water extracted. He had one syringe. That he had inherited after a cocaine binge involving three other people. This was now mine/ours/the community syringe. He bleached it, a process that frequently dries out the runner plunger. That instrument was suspect from the day it first went in my arm. I used that same syringe for the next YEAR, unable to obtain a new one.

There was my first time trying heroin, a three day binge on morphine sulphate (involving friends), a few coke binges, more heroin. Same syringe. We would sharpen in on a match book. We would use lube from a condom. There were times we would bleach it. There were times we just cleaned it with water. It was essentially a fish hook that left me bruised and damaged. Yet it was so valuable, years later when I went home to visit, I found that same syringe hidden inside my belongings. I was THAT SURE I might never get another one. It was precious. It probably passed along the Hep C to me but I loved you gal.

It's 2018 now. In Cincinnati Ohio, where I am from, there is a very small syringe exchange program that began in the last few years. The rest of the state has limited access. BUT ISN'T IT LEGAL IN MY STATE? It might be but that doesn't mean the pharmacist is required to sell them. Hep C rates are rising all over the country. There are clusters of new HIV cases. I've been contacted by people paying $5 for a new one or more.

There is more work to do.

In the meantime, I strongly suggest buying a prepaid credit card and ordering a box online then dividing among friends if nothing else is available.

I love you. XOXO Tracey

I'm teaming up with Remio to do an overdose prevention event July 13 at Art Primo in SF

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

This Week In Harm Reduction: Self Care or Self Harm

Hello Readers:
I am trying a new format for a few months. I hope you will enjoy it.

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. Being on the Today Show completely blew up my spot. Thank you to Jamie from Next Distro and Matt from Rebel Recovery Florida for helping me keep up with requests. More and More, my work is focusing on expanding a network of folks who want to do what I do- a mail based system to get harm reduction supplies to those who have no access. In the past few weeks, I answered thousands of messages and comments to the point I have some kind of stress related shoulder injury. I am excited that so many people wanted to weigh in on their love for people who use drugs and the need to expand services that help them. There were minimal shitty comments which is pretty unheard of when it comes to these topics. THAT gives me hope.

I love the fact that so many of you are just doing the damn thing. Passing on naloxone. Handing out syringes. You don't need a program and I love you for it. Take a box of syringes down to a homeless encampment. They will get to the right place. We are in this lifeboat together, fighting for our lives and the lives of people we love.

In the personal news, I'm trying to get my program of self care back on line. I'm a person with a long history of self harm as a coping mechanism. Cutting, eating disorders, and dysfunctional relationships have always been my go to when I am stressed. I am working away from my natural instincts and sitting with my feelings. I am not sure if I have mentioned it here but I started going back to 12 step meetings last year. It seems to be helping some. I am making a few new friends, which was desperately needed. I ignore any kind of cultish elements to focus on the positives, I also make sure to advocate for MAT and being accepting of those who are not abstinent at meetings I attend. Next year, I might not be interested but for now, I am trying this out again.

I have an event coming up at art primo in SF on July 13th. I'll be doing overdose education in cooperation with Remio's art show.

I'll be in West Chester Ohio July 5th at 7pm at the Mid Pointe Library

I also have a book reading next week outside of Monterey on the 28th of June.

Got all my health screenings today: HIV test, cholesterol, weight, iron, pap smear. 

Please excuse typos because I'm a hot mess.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

My Love for You is Endless

In the five years I have written this blog, I have written down a long series of depressing entries about my heroin addiction, my mental health, and the long uphill battle to stay off drugs. This isn't one of those posts.

Overall, my life is pretty fucking good. Let me explain. 

Every single goal I wrote on a piece of paper in rehab has been achieved. All of them. I have a cool relationship. I reunited with my family. I got my credit straight. I discharged probation. I got a good place to live. I finished school. I did all those things. 

I spent seven years on and off in therapy. Despite intermittent bouts of depression, my mental health is better than ever.

I have three great kids that love me. 

I woke up today in my bed. The blanket was clean. I was safe. 

I don't need a bunch of fancy things. I just need to appreciate the things I have. 
To be quite honest, heroin was probably the first real love of my life. I wasn't sure if I could live without it. It consumed me. I was fine with that, as long as we could be together. I truly never believed I could be without drugs. Now, I can't understand how I revolved my whole life around them. 

My love for you is endless. I may not always chose the right words, type the right things. I am not a great speller. I am not a masterful narrator. I keep this blog alive to let you know that this too will pass. That someone out there loves you. That people want you around. That you are needed.

You are fucking rad. The world needs you. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Thank you to my supporters (and my haters too)

We did it people! We got Harm Reduction on national television. There was a combination of non threatening sweaters, my cute kids, and life saving medication splashed across television sets while people ate their cereal. This, combined with hundreds of birthday messages, has made it a busy few days for me.

First of all, I want to thank all of the people who have trusted me to provide you with this service.

Secondly, I want to thank my friends and family who have put up with my obsession with saving lives for the past two decades.

Finally, I want to thank all of the strangers who have become friends by embracing this cause.

My main partner agencies are:
The National Harm Reduction Coalition
The DOPE Project
NEXT Distro
Rebel Recovery Florida
The Missouri Network for Opiate Reform In Recovery
Rebel Recovery Missouri
The North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition

If you come in contact with any of these agencies, you are in good hands. There are additional agencies I work with but all of these agencies have assisted me in securing naloxone for local residents.

I am going to rest up and spend time with my kids this weekend then get ready for the next challenge.

XOXO Tracey

The Today Video

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

In Defense of Harm Reduction

This isn't a short story post or anything creative. This is about my morning.

I was invited to appear in a panel presentation this morning for an audience of approximately 200 folks. This was a criminal justice summit where the panelist were to be provided with questions around the current state of San Francisco's treatment landscape. I knew going in, it would be a tough crowd. I expected an audience of mostly probation officers and a few service providers. Instead, the place was packed to the walls with mainly service providers paid through local and state programs to work with people who use drugs and have criminal justice involvement. I expected a tough crowd. I was shocked by what I heard.

The official policy of San Francisco is HARM REDUCTION. It has been for close to two decades. Yet, I heard one provider say "we can't work with people until they are allllll the way clean" and another say extremely disparaging things about MAT while referring to the population as "dope fiends". Methadone apparently doesn't work because it didn't work for him. Insert eye roll here. Then, the idea that clients are taken advantage of sexually by treatment staff was dismissed. Readers, I was horrified. I am not exaggerating when I say, it took everything in my soul not to throw a chair across the fucking room. Everyone thinks I'm nice but trust me when I say, I was THIS close from saying some things that could have risked my job. Oh, I did mention they invited ME to this shit show.

I held my own. My colleague held his own. We got in facts over opinions under extremely challenging circumstances yet this is 2018- why are we having this conversation? Personal opinions should not dictate how clients are treated. I am tried and I am frustrated. Most of all, I am disappointment so much work needs to be done on my home court.

Excuse typos.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Voices Start Creeping In

My background music- My Solitude Billie Holiday

Mental Health issues are a pain in the ass.

Things have been going pretty well for me for a few weeks. I traveled a lot in March and April so I have been happy to park my ass in lawn chair to watch the kids play sports. I started going to a weekly meditation meeting. I reached out to some friends. I even got new phone numbers. Then, out of the blue, the dark cloud of mental health bullshit has been rearing it's ugly head. You know the drill.

Hi Anxiety.
No one wants to hear from you.
I'm so tired.
Why aren't they returning my text.
I want to stay in bed.
Obsess. Spin. Rinse. Repeat.
You are just a ______, why bother.

Yeah fuck this voice in my head. This is the same voice that told me I was never going to be anything besides a dope fiend, that I would die with a needle hanging out of my arm. It is hard when deep in the guts of addiction or in early recovery to tune that out. It gets even harder when I cut myself off from others. I don't even have to be alone. I can cut everyone off while surrounded by people. Isolation is a state of mind for me more than it is about any kind of geographic location.

I read forums. I see people in all stages with their relationships with drugs. For me, mental health issues was the piece I had been ignoring, suppressing, and medicating. That and a fear of people hurting me. The trap house isn't a good place to discuss my overall lack of coping mechanisms but I swear I remember having long conversations with people I consider friends about what I needed to do with my life. It was another person who used drugs that initially introduced the idea that *maybe* stopping everything would be helpful to me. And it was.

I am feeling like I can't depression nap my way out of this. I am going to have to spend some time really telling my brain to shut the fuck up and push forward. I am thinking positive things for you. Tell your voices to shut the fuck up. I give you permission and invite you to take care of yourself. You deserve it.

In case you didn't see the NBC Naloxone piece.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Recovery and Relapse (and recovery)

As of late, many of my emails have been questions about the nature of my recovery. Firstly, I would like to say that my recovery is relevant but ultimately you have to decide what works for you. There are a few contributing factors to my discontinuation of drug use. 1. No Veins 2. Poor overall physical health especially heart palpitations from stimulant use 3. My mental health was very poor 4. I was extremely socially isolated 5. DRUGS WERE NOT FUN ANYMORE. I was just using because that had become my life. I spent from 1990-1992 deep in hardcore drug use and alcohol abuse. I got to the place I really didn't know anything else besides the lifestyle. It seemed a huge stretch that I would ever go back into any semblance of a "normal life". But I feel like that is that negative self talk that permeates late stage addiction- the lack of hope.

Recovery as a concept is not just about abstinence. Abstinence is just one in many forms of recovery. The goal is to progress to the point where you have things you enjoy doing on a daily basis and your are a slave to the next fix. Trust me, if I thought I could smoke weed I would but that shit makes me paranoid and I'm already paranoid enough from low level PTSD. If you want to try abstinence, there is going to be some pain. Withdrawal is a physical and mental mind fuck. It takes a solid week to feel better in most cases. But/and it starts to get better fairly rapidly. MAT is a softer landing, especially if you intend to stay on it but if you ever taper, just know that physical bill comes due and you will get some shitty feeling and days. PAWS fucks us all unfortunately. The depression is real and it can be deadly.

It is should be known that relapses are pretty par for the course with opioid users. We are risk takers and like to test the waters a few times. This is pretty much the norm. Unfortunately, our treatment systems are still catching on and behind the times. Tossing mfers out over one relapse is still the standard. Now, that person feels guilt/shame AND is homeless. Also, at high risk of OD death.

Whatever you decide to do, be safe.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

What Do We Do With Our Dead?

What do we do with our dead?
And what do we do with the living?

We celebrate their lives when they have died from an overdose. Grieving families and friends produce pictures from high school. There are jackets that were rarely worn in images that were quickly taken in places that person would never go again. We celebrate the spirit of the person who was taken far too soon. Oh if only we could see them again.

What of the person who is addicted who is still living? A mile, or a block, or a city from your door. A text message that is not sent. A voice you are afraid to hear. Will they ask me for a thing or tell me a story that I am not able to take in? They would really like to see you. They would like for you to touch their shoulder blade as you assure them you will always love them.

What do we do with our dead?
And what do we do with the living?

Addiction can be the living death.
Addiction can be the cause of death.
Why- if it feels like no one loves you.

People who use drugs are people first.
Love us and love them and learn to love ourselves.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Opinions of Sheep

I've been robbed at knifepoint before over dope by a person I thought was a friend. I have been burned a few times. I certainly have degraded myself on a few hundred occasions. I've stolen from the til once or twice. I have even convinced myself that my lies were true, one of the biggest crimes of them all. This post isn't about what I did or did not do. It is about the life that I lead and the pain that it eventually caused me.

Women on the streets get abused. That isn't speculation. That isn't an observation. That is a fact. I was told that my pussy was a gold mine, a treasure chest that could supply a lifetime of drugs and money. IF ONLY, I had the right management. I certainly had to pass on that bargain basement line but I did get hooked up with a stranger who said we would be running partners. He wanted to "protect me". I have been alone so long, a momentary lapse, a "why not", has turned into decades of headaches on and off. It isn't just about the drugs. It can be about the choices you make or the passive way life overtakes you.

Men get abused. Fighting for a rung on the ladder of Chaos. The expectation is that you will provide a way. No one stopped to ask you how you got here. Just don't fall asleep without your shoes tucked firmly under your head.

Trans people get abused by the world that loves to hate them. Trans women taught me how to hold down a corner, flag down a date, and cry without smearing my eyeliner. A trans man taught me how to tape up my chest so no one could tell we actually had parts that inspire sexual violence at three am when you are sleeping all alone. We are all gender neutral when we have no periods, no orgasms, no food, and no will to live unless you want me to baby. That will be $20 extra.

I never meant to get hooked up with a sociopath. Who does? Also/and who had already been in prison for manslaughter (I found out later). I did believe him when he said he would kill me though. I absolutely knew it inside the little bit of intuition a heavy nod didn't take away from me. "It was the drugs", he told me as he handed a bunch of faded roses. I am not sure where he stole them but they won't reduce the swelling on my black eye. I toss them on the sidewalk. Why not? You are going to certain going to "make me pay" one way or the other.

This hostage situation was brief. The scars are lasting. A few broken noses, a chipped tooth, three years of restraining order lasting. The chorus of white men who wrote the big book didn't explain what to do when your abuser want to make you feel powerless again. Recovery is a journey and I'm walking home. Walking to a meeting one night, I encounter him again. "It was the drugs..." he tells me. I was walking home alone to my SLE. Sober living and torn up from trauma. When the past creeps up on the present, it may not come in the form of a broken needle or a baggie. It might just walk right up to you and introduce itself as a sheep among the wolves.

You may stop using. You might not.
You may die from an overdose. You may survive.
You may look back on this time, wondering "why".
Plan on living.
Plan on sticking around,

I have been traveling so much, I have been slacking. I am back writing again.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Southern Convening On Harm Reduction

This past week, I was deep in the heart of the Smokey Mountains for the Southern Conference on Harm Reduction. While I did everything humanly possible to talk the organizers out of having me, I was brought in to discuss the negative and positive realities of sharing stories about drug use and abuse as a woman. I was excited to attend but the trip was LONG- two flights and a forty minute car ride. The day I arrived, nothing at the hotel was open so I had to walk into the town. This involved walking along the grassy side of a busy rural highway. I channeled my inner Eileen Wuornos and hiked down to the breakfast place. The after church crowd was filing in, discussing the sermon. What was pretty clear from this trip was that Harm Reduction or pretty much anything cannot take place with some level of cooperation from the religious community. Coming from the "godless" Bay Area, this was a culture shock but not wholly surprising. 

These types of events energize me as I see there are hundreds of rational folks out there pushing for common sense drug policies. North Carolina, a red state, has over twenty syringe exchange sites including one located at a pawn shop. You have no idea how much I love this. There is no more "any door is the right door" that giving out supplies at the mfing pawn shop. There was also a wrestling show/fundraiser held at a brewery that also had a two step dance class going on. It was kind of other worldly. I have lived in GA, TN, and KY but I had forgot a lot of the flavor of the different areas. 

The Southern Harm Reduction is plugging along despite some of the worst drug laws in the nation. Poverty, race, and the stigma of being a person who uses drugs were hot topics. I was especially surprised to learn about repressive child protective service practises where parents can be separated from their children over weed. Most importantly, I think the conference highlighted that change IS happening. We ARE mobilizing. There are people that care about you. 

I also had a young person approach me and tell me I had provided the correct contacts to their friend to enable them to start the only naloxone program in the state of Arkansas. That was pretty rad. I also loaded up on shrimp and grits AND biscuits and gravy with greens. Lord help my digestive tract. It still has not recovered from the copious amounts of butter. 

I love you and want for you to be safe. 

Here is a dose of the new puppy, Buster Pimms. 

Friday, April 20, 2018


I want to talk briefly about my love/hate relationship with abscesses. I've had like 34 of them :(. First of all, if you inject drugs and you have never had one, congrats. I feel like the key to avoiding them is really keeping a sterile field at the injection site, using sterile water, and new syringes. Being a homeless junkie, it get REALLY hard to keep a sterile injection area. Even in the best case scenario using alcohol wipes, just the environment all around me was fucking filthy. Syringes were kept in my sock, my gross pockets, or in some kind of bag with god knows what swirling around in there. Also, as a person who injected tar, god knows what kinds of bacteria and folgers coffee I injected over the years.

Secondly, I would get super excited to pop one. So gross. So wrong. So true though. They get red, painful, and your skin gets swollen and tight. It is as if mother nature compels you to do something. They gush out gross green stuff. The human body is truly amazing. The fact that we can walk around with a part of the body rotting is crazy to me. I am in no means dismissing this as a dangerous situation- it absolutely is- unfortunately people who use drugs are put in so many dangerous situation there is a certain amount of system overload prioritizing what to deal with first.

Anyway, as I'm sitting with the new puppy in my lap I was looking at one of my scars thinking about how I used to always have some infection brewing on one limb or another, walking around like an extra from a zombie movie.

The sun is slowly creeping in to the house. I hope you are having a good day.

Reason # 1001 to get naloxone This is a message from reddit. The naloxone was used the same day it arrived:

Hey Tracey! First off thank you so much so sending that, I received it this morning and it saved my cousin's life this evening. We ( his mom and I) can't thank you enough. His mom found him unresponsive and was able to administer two shots before the ems arrived on site. My cousin is a big boy @ 6'3 & 310lbs. And there is no way my aunt (has COPD on permanent oxygen in her 60s) could have got him out of the bathroom to start any form of resuscitation. Thank you for all the selfless work you for the community, you're an angel.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

My Dog Died and Other Unexpected Life Events

Well readers this has been kind of a shit week for me. My dog Sadie, who has been my baby for the past 12 1/2 years had to put sleep Monday morning. She was 14 so it wasn't wholly unexpected but is was extremely sad. I was grateful I could be there with her to the very end. Of course, I wanted to know what drugs they were using to put her to sleep to make sure she would be feeling no pain. 

In addition to this, I threw my back out. It isn't even a cool story like "oh I was lifting at the gym" or "I was carrying this pack on a ten mile hike". I pulled a muscle in my back angrily cleaning up kid toys. It was super humbling to have to lay my old ass down. SIGH. Oh well. 

In other news, I am leading a writing workshop for women who has histories of drug use and abuse in North Carolina this month. That is pretty exciting. It's a volunteer gig which are generally the best ones. Plus, I will get to see lots of my Harm Reduction friends. 

A news crew is meeting me this week to talk about care packages. That is always nerve wracking and exciting. There is also a project starting in New York State called next distribution. They are in the early stages of doing care packs there. The seeds are slowly growing. WE are going to get the message out there. Every life is worth saving. 

Big shout to the DOPE Project here. I am loosely associated with them and have been since 2000. 

Love you friends XOXO tracey 

Monday, April 2, 2018

This is Us (Dope Fiend Edition)

Well family, another day is coming to a close. I am sitting on my bed in a t-shirt and boxer shorts figuring out how to inspire the world. In today's edition, I really want to discuss how the media portrays us. Pretty much on a daily basis, a journalist of one type of another want to get the "inside story" by interviewing current and former opioid "addicts". While some may be kind hearted and many are sympathetic, they aren't us. I look at the books coming out about the "epidemic". They aren't US either. I want to hear stories written by us.

What constitutes US:
- Have you used toilet water to fix?
- Have you gone to work dopesick?
- Have you had to drive you kid to school holding your cheeks sick?
- Have you traded a family heirloom for some pills?
- Have you washed the dope man's dishes? Watched their kids?
- Have you cried over a lost bag?
- Have you burned out all forms of credit?
- Are you on house arrest? Do you have to pee in a cup
- Have you thought subs taste like defeat at least once?
- Have you had to put your legs against the wall and pushed to poop?
- Have you nodded out on top of food?
- Have you used a syringe with the numbers worn off?
- Have you been called in on a pill count?
- Do you know what "BLOW, BLOW!!!" means
- Has anyone ever walked off with your last money?
- Do you know what squat and cough means? Or spread your cheeks?
- Have you had your dose held for a UA?
- Have you been narcaned?

I want to hear THOSE stories from US. We don't need all those to qualify. That is just a start. I want to hear about your first day at the sub clinic. I want to hear about the time you bought baking soda. I want to hear about your first week back at college. Our stories are being taken away. We need our voices heard. I am not sure how I am doing this yet. I am on the case. Nothing about US with out US.

I love you all. Fentanyl is in pretty much every part of the US drug supply. Please get naloxone.

I have had folks inquire about my day job. I run peer based mental health programs. I use my day job to help fund the care package program. There is no way I could do my advocacy without the support of my full time job. They are very understanding and I enjoy my work. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

"'it's so insane how this drug has taken hold over me."

"'it's so insane how this drug has taken hold over me."

Another person lost to drugs. Another person lost to the world. I have corresponded with thousands of people over the years- a few messages from time to time. This person was different. I had been corresponding with them off and on since 10/2013. That's a long fucking time. I had recently looked at their pictures, remarking to myself they must be doing well if I haven't heard from them.

Things start as they do- sniffing some pills. Then more pills. Then more pills. We started with some questions about if you could OD from snorting oxy.

"I usually do, at a minimum, 120mg of oxy a day. the average I do is about 200mg. the max is about 300mg. I haven't moved onto the needle, and I really don't have plans to"

There were some times when the using stopped. Smoking weed with friends. Taking classes. Playing xbox and paintball.

"you truly bring me hope that there are still good people left in this world"

Then a few more frantic messages. Some pictures of a swollen arm. I've started doing H. I have started shooting up.

"I fucking shot up. Fucked my arms all up.. I don't think I missed, but I had to stick myself a shit ton, and they feel bruised."

Then months of no contact.

"Hey tracey.. I don't know who else to go to right now.. but I am completely in over my head. Somehow I have managed to get up to doing 1.5g a day IV. Binged out for the last week so hard its not funny. But i've been doing at least a half g a day for at least 3 months now. I want to stop so badly "

Two trips to the sub doctor. Some benzos in the mix. A final last hope was a trip to the methadone clinic. They were doing SO well. A message about getting down to 1mg on a taper..

Then a few more words and that was that. I don't know all the details. I just know I could have written this story. This was my story. Except I did not die at 25. I didn't need to worry about fentanyl. I got off everything at 27. I consider myself lucky.

Working as an advocate, I get the bitter and periodically I get some sweet. There is more work to be done. No one should ever have to die alone like this.

I love you.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Guest Post Justin M "Animal House"

I put the car in park and peered around at my surroundings. I’d driven to a brick and wood panel house, one of those houses that was obviously designed and built in the 70s. It lay under an ancient oak tree, it’s long and twisted branches reaching out over the house and front yard with their shadows giving a false sense of comfort in the midday heat. One fallen branch would easily destroy the house. A rough looking dog house was nestled at the base of the tree housing an equally rough looking mangy Siberian husky.
The husky was not the only animal I saw. In fact, the yard was infested with pets and strays alike. The house sat down the road from a low income trailer park, where parents would gift puppies to their children, not understanding how much dedication and money raising a dog truly takes. Some of these neglected and forgotten pets inevitably migrated to this house, where the owner set out food every day for all of the unwanted dogs as well as her pets.
I turned off the ignition and opened my door, stepping out into the sweltering Mississippi summer heat. The smell of dog feces immediately met my nostrils. I stared at my feet as I cautiously made my way to the front door, stepping carefully to avoid the numerous mounds of shit. The smell of extreme neglect joined the smell of feces once I reached the front door. A pungent potpourri of waste and decay.
Knock knock, shuffling inside, then an open door. The smell of urine joining the fecal rot. Standing before me was a nice enough older lady. She was extremely sweet, to the point it sometimes felt disingenuous. She wore a purple sweatsuit despite the heat, stained with sweat and food and dirt (I hoped it was dirt, at least.). Slightly overweight, her jowls had a habit of jiggling violently when she spoke. I always found myself focusing on it while listening to her speak and there was no change to this routine as she said “hello.”
“Hey Miss Paula, how are you doing? Hiding from this heat?” I asked.
“Oh ya know, I’m just makin’ it. Scrappy, hush!” A small dog was yapping at me from between her feet. I never found out the breed, probably a mutt, but it was a dog I classified as an “ankle biter.” The words of Ron Swanson snuck into my thoughts...”any dog under 50 pounds is a cat and cats are pointless.” My mind had a habit of drifting to some pop culture reference that few people ever got when I’d speak them aloud. “Why don’t ya come on inside with the AC. You look like you’re burnin’ up.” Her southern accent was as thick as the humidity.
She stepped to the side and held open the door as I passed the threshold. The aroma outside was undeniably bad but it simply did not compare to the wall of stink that crashed into my face as I entered. The house was a mess in every sense of the word. Hell, “mess” was an extreme understatement. The living room furniture, if the room even actually contained any furniture, was piled with laundry and trash to the point of invisibility. I could see in some spots that the floor was originally white, but most of it now was piss yellow. More dogs began barking at me as Scrappy nipped at my heels. The inside of the house told a tale of a lonely woman, one whose children no longer came around and a husband long gone. A tale of a woman who cared more for the stray dogs she took care of more than she cared for herself. A tale of a woman that hoarded useless things to try and fill a hole left in her life after raising her family. Not caring about ourselves was one of the few things Miss Paula and I had in common. “Sorry about the mess, she apologized.”
“Oh it’s fine, I hardly noticed,” I lied as I searched for a decent place to lean my aching body against.
“’s your momma?” The beginning of a barrage of questions I couldn’t care less to answer. A pointless formality to maintain the facade of southern hospitality. I answered each one respectfully, patiently waiting for us to arrive to the point of my visit. “...and those damned doctors have found more junk supposedly wrong with me. Sometimes I feel like they’re just yankin’ my chain for insurance money, I swear.” Miss Paula was riddled with medical issues. Thinking about how little time she had remaining would give me an existential crisis.
“Yeah I can’t imagine what you’re going through. It’s obviously tough,” I replied, wondering if she ever noticed how captivated I was by her chubby, rippling cheeks. Maybe I focused on them so as not to become overwhelmed by the putrid stink of this house and thoughts of death.
“Yeah it’s tough, but The Lord will guide me through it. I have no doubt about that.” I couldn’t help but wonder why a loving god would put his creation through such pain. “Anyway, how many did you say you wanted again?”
Finally, to the fucking point. “Well, I have like $120 so I guess 12? If you can spare them.” Pointless politeness. Of course this unemployable lady living in squalor would sell me her morphine pills. My habit bought her groceries every week.
“The doctor gave me some new ones this last time. These are 60 milligrams instead of 30. I don’t know how much these usually go for...”
“Well I guess it makes sense to double the price for double the milligram, you think?” I asked. The price was fair. (Some of you will doubt this, but heroin was non existent in my area so pain pills were relatively cheap. No ‘dollar a mg’ bullshit, here) I was a junkie with a serious habit, but I couldn’t bring myself to be dishonest to this poor lady. The least I could do was pay her right.
“You sure that ain’t too much? That’s an awful lot...are these really worth $20? I don’t think I’d pay that but I sure am thankful you know people that do.” She punctuated her statement with a hearty laugh. “So it’ll be 6 then, right?”
“Yup, 6.” I replied anxiously. I was giddy with the anticipation of getting back to my car with the pills. I was on the third day of withdrawal and had been waiting on “refill day” all week. Miss Paula poured 8 little white ovals into my outstretched palm.
“Here’s two extra for you sellin’ ‘em for me. I know you wouldn’t tell me but I bet it’s a lotta trouble findin’ people to pay $10 or $20 a pill.” Miss Paula believed that I was an innocent college kid just helping a poor old lady make some money. She had no idea I’d be cooking two of these pills in her driveway five minutes from now, shielded from her view by a large holly bush.
“Thank you, it’s not a big deal. They’re easy to sell, especially at school, ya know. Those kids would rather buy drugs than food.” I joked, Miss Paula unaware of that jab I was making at myself. I’d chose to buy her groceries instead of my own.
“Well, I sure do appreciate it. You be safe now, ya hear? You want a coke or somethin’?” I said sure and she moseyed over to her filthy fridge, stepping barefoot into puddles of lukewarm dog piss. She came back with a Dr. Pepper... Southerners called any soda “coke.” I thanked her and walked outside, trying not to sprint to my car door and thankful for the shit-smelling air in comparison to the pungent mess that was the inside of Paula’s house.
I sat in my driver’s seat, shut the door, and reversed down the driveway past the holly bush near the old country road, stopping once I was sure the nose of my car wasn’t visible from Miss Paula’s front door. I was acutely feeling every symptom of my withdrawals... it always seems to get worse when you know you’re just a few steps from getting better. My AC was off despite the sweltering heat, amplified by my closed car windows. An ant trapped under the magnified beam of sunlight aimed by an uncaring bully of a god. I opened my center console, gathered my supplies, and began to work.
First, you had to wipe the coating off the pills. Sometimes I would skip this step out of impatience, but that day I methodically smeared every bit of white off both of the pills I selected. With both pills free of their coating, I dropped them in my spoon. The amount of water one needs to successfully make a solution of morphine from a pill depends on a few things... the brand of the pill (different brands require different steps to break down), the depth of the spoon (a deep spoon wouldn’t evaporate water as quickly as a shallow one), the strength of your source of heat (the weak flame of a Bic, the red hot heat of an oven eye). I had a fairly deep spoon that I’d shoplifted (how pathetic is it to shoplift a .99 cent spoon?) and one of those small torches sold at convenience stores, so I didn’t require much water. Torches have the added benefit of not leaving behind any smut. A “good rule of thumb” (a phrase with extremely fucked origins, by the way) I used was “one syringe cap (the cap protecting the plunger on diabetic needles) per pill.” I dumped the water in the spoon and put the torch to its bottom.
Breaking down pills isn’t like fixing a shot of heroin. It takes a bit of time. I sat there for about a minute, waiting for the water to boil and trying to ignore the school bus coming up the street. The pills swelled and I smashed them into the water as the bus dropped my niece off a few houses down, oblivious to her uncle preparing a shot within eyesight. With each smash, a white cloud spread out from the round edge of the plunger until nothing was left of the pills but two oval husks with a faint “60” imprint. I dropped a piece of balled up cotton into the water and drew up exactly 100 units of solution. I’d done this so often that I filled the syringe completely the first try, using just the right amount of water. My deviant chemistry lab experiment was complete. If only I did that well in my actual chemistry class. Oh well, time to get well.
I was drenched in sweat and my veins were popping. I didn’t even need to tie off. The needle tore a hole through the top of my hand and I began to dig under my flesh in search of a vein. After a few seconds, I felt the familiar “pop” as the vein gave up its flight from the needle, bouncing back into place as I pushed the needle deeper into the vein, insuring it didn’t pop back out. I pulled the plunger back, mesmerized by the majestic swirl of blood shooting into the morphine solution...I always appreciated that part of the ritual the most. I pushed the plunger all the way in until it expelled a sucking sound as the last bit of solution entered my circulatory system. I pulled the needle out, placed a thumb on the wound to mitigate bruising, sat back, and waited.
Morphine sneaks up on you just like heroin (I feel like I need to explain because I know most people here shoot heroin). In my experience, just as I become disappointed in how “good” my shot was, it creeps up on me. That day was no different. Being 3 days into withdrawal, the shot showed me no mercy. It started with a sensation I can only describe as “needles in your teeth.” It was so strong that it felt like my head would shatter, each tooth exploding like a kernel of popcorn in response to the heat swelling in my chest. The familiar sinking feeling reached my legs and stomach, as if a force were pulling me by an invisible rope through the bottom of my car. It felt like I gained 200 pounds in seconds. The pins and needles spread to the rest of my body, pricking and prodding in an unexpectedly pleasant way. Twenty seconds in, the rush continued to become more intense. My head drooped as a black shadow formed around my vision. The thought of me overdosing crossed my mind, though I wasn’t sure if it was actually happening. I imagined my innocent niece seeing my car from her house, walking over excitedly and discovering her selfish uncle cold and blue and covered in vomit. Her innocence ruined, the image of my corpse forever seared into her memory. I fought the shadows back...huddles of demonic beings retreating from the light. I couldn’t let myself overdose there.
The rush finally let up. My heart was pounding into my skull, skin beat read and hot as if I had an extreme fever. I felt a mild headache forming in my temples. The lingering memory of the pins and needles creating an unbearable itch in my feet. Yet I was alive and I was well, the beast of opiate withdrawal temporarily placated yet again. I sat there for a moment, trying to erase the image of my imagined death and discovery. Eventually I started the ignition and drove to my sisters house.
My niece greeted me at the back door of my sister’s house. It opened into their kitchen and she was preparing an after school snack. A pang of guilt shot through my body.
“Hey, how was school? I was just driving by and figured I’d come say ‘hey’. Do you wanna go play Minecraft?” Like any elementary aged child at the time, she was absolutely obsessed with the game. She said yes and I followed her to the living room, waving to my sister as I walked. My niece sat cross legged in the floor and I joined her in front of the TV, picking up a controller.
“Hey Uncle, what’s that? Did you get hurt?” My niece asked as I crossed my legs. She was pointing to my hand.
I looked down and saw a streak of blood left over from my shot, another pang of guilt shooting throughout my body. “Oh, I don’t know what that is. I must have gotten bit by a mosquito.”
At least I wouldn’t have to live with such guilt if I had overdosed, I selfishly thought.