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Showing posts from 2018

Depression, Opioids, and Isolation

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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, waiti…

Tasty Corpses

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The predicament

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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.





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 m…

2018- the Year In Harm Reduction

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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 expande…

Little hands

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"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…

Flavored Coffee and a side of remorse

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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…

"The Normal"

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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 s…

where the fuck have you been?

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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 arou…

My future is in my hands.

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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…

When You Only Have One Syringe

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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 we…

This Week In Harm Reduction: Self Care or Self Harm

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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 …

My Love for You is Endless

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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 wa…

Thank you to my supporters (and my haters too)

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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 th…

In Defense of Harm Reduction

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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 populat…

The Voices Start Creeping In

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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 othe…

A link to a new piece I was involved in

Recovery and Relapse (and recovery)

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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 po…

What Do We Do With Our Dead?

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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 peopl…

Article I wrote for The Fix

The Opinions of Sheep

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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 …

The Southern Convening On Harm Reduction

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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 a…

Abscesses

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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 fa…

My Dog Died and Other Unexpected Life Events

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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…

This is Us (Dope Fiend Edition)

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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

"'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…

Black Tar Heroin "tracey" March 2018

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Guest Post Justin M "Animal House"

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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 a…