One Detroit Junkie's Battle Laid Bare

Sunday, December 15, 2013


I've got a thing for wings and flight, the promise of freedom inherent in feathers. A promise I longed for but never came to know as my own. I'm grounded with feet planted firmly on solid ground and now I'm realizing at last that the solidity I feel beneath my feet is what I've truly always hoped for. I don't yearn to take wing and make frantic frenzied flight far away anymore. I'm happy here, happy where the snow covers the trees and my boots against the pavement have good grip. 

The strength in numbers somehow became my weakest link when the bullies ganged up so many years ago, but now it is strength in numbers which builds me strong again. New love is the best love and love when sober tops it all, and it's the friendships I've made in Narcotics Anonymous who delivered this man to me. I've never felt this way about someone before, I've never wanted someone to know everything about me- good bad and everything in between- before. Never had no fear before. Never sat and talked with a guy for hours without any awkward silences- our silences are few but when they come, they're comfortable and make me even more sure this is the right man for me. This feels right and I feel strong and it's been days- DAYS!!!- since I thought about using dope. I got rid of the last of my needles days ago and I'm committed to this new life now, and to this new man who is a part of my life now. He made it clear from the start that he's mine as long as I'm clean. I use, and it's over. Just another incentive to add to the neverending list of reasons I say fuck smack today. 

I no longer walk the line in neutral noncommittal territory- today I've chosen sides and my side is recovery. I'm free. I'm fucking free. At long, long last I'm free and the drugs don't own me anymore. They don't tell me when to wake up, when to sleep, who to sleep with, when to move and when to be still. Heroin doesn't dictate my reality anymore. I do. My higher power does. My heart does. 

When it's dark and the cold starts to hurt, it's no longer a signal that I need to scramble to find a place to huddle to survive the night. It simply means I need to put out my cigarette and go into the meeting I'm standing outside of. Surrender doesn't mean giving up. The definition of surrender is "to join the winning team." Surrender means not having to fight anymore. 

I surrender. My white flag, I wave with pride. This white flag was woven of fifteen years of pain, sorrow, rage and fear. I earned this white flag, just as I earned the white surrender keytag I picked up thirty days ago and the orange 30 day keytag I picked up last night. 

I surrender, I've crossed over to the winning team. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Lapping At My Heels

I cook it up and shoot it up and make an attempt to live it up, but fighting death gets tiring. So I suck it up and turn it up and make an attempt to sing it up, but screaming lyrics gets old. And so I turn around and look around and make an attempt to live this down, but stereotypes are stronger than I am. So I fuck it up and shake things up and make an attempt to change it up, but wasted days just bleed into wasted nights and form endless wasted years.

I sit beneath the streetlight for hours before I look up and see only darkness, some kind of metaphor for the reality of my mode of living. The truth does battle with my self-convinced mind full of lies, and up sure looks like down these days. Black looks white and darkness is blinding, and I know I have become the embodiment of urban blight. Self-imposed isolation is the hardest kind to overcome, when only shattered glass and missed cues keep me company. If you ask me to lie, I'll always tell the truth, but ask me for the truth and it's bound to be a lie.

This lifestyle weakens me physically and hardens me mentally and tears away my ability to trust the human race, because I've seen the desperation of various human conditions that have no place in this world. I've seen the aftermath of a cold shoulder, the loss of hope that dulls the eyes and steals away all light. I've seen 15-year-old kids who held more pain and weariness and distrust within their souls than prisoners of war, than battered police brutality victims, than New Yorkers on 9/11. I've stared down the barrel of a dealer's gun with no fear, only a longing for whatever rides on the butt of the bullet. I've felt cold, sharp steel against my back and felt no regret, only longing for whatever hangs on the dull side of the blade. I've felt violent hands around my throat and felt no need for air, only longing for whatever floats on the other side of the darkness. I've seen the impact incoming and stood to face it because really, what could be worse than what I've already seen?

Frostbite steals skin off my toes I won't miss, and I steal stereos and moments of euphoria, knowing always I'm only ripping off myself. Leaving smashed car windows and crushed hearts in my wake, destruction and blatant criminal acts only mask my fear of what's around the bend. If you look me in the eye I'll always look away, because to face you would mean facing myself. I run from confrontation and always crack under pressure. I'll spill guts to the masses from the tallest buildings and spill blood into empty streets and desolate alleyways, fighting with staggering violence against all that I am, all that I have become. And every time I look over my shoulder I see less and less of who I used to be, as the dust grows thicker, as the lights grow dimmer, as the wreckage piles higher. And every time I look ahead the path is drastically shorter, as I further batter my body, as the pains in my liver grow sharper, as the hours I spend asleep grow longer and longer while my body gives out. I know how it feels when my mind is no longer mine, when loss of control is so complete it leaves me questioning whether control ever existed to begin with.

I dream the dreams of the dying, so starkly clear, those that don't fade a bit after I wake. I'm dancing life's razor's edge, pushing the limits of even this addict's endurance, feeling pieces slip away as the walls close in. I don't just take chances, I take major risks, putting my life at stake by constantly seeking that once-in-a-lifetime high, shooting as much at once as I can fit into the syringe, regardless of whether it's heroin, coke, or whatever else I've decided to use to blot out my thoughts. And even when I scramble and get up on my feet for brief periods, my body still lives with the aftermath, constant physical pain and weakness that doesn't fade anymore. After I've been running the streets for months seeking dope, I finally become so sick that I sleep solid 72 hour periods as my body tries desperately to heal. To rest for the next week's inevitable torment. And yet, I just can't stop.

So I spend my life searching, while my wasted days bleed into wasted nights and form endless wasted years. And I spend most hours face down on the pavement, cursing the moon and stars while I grasp at straws that only get shorter and shorter. There's interference in the clouds and my satellite dish fails to pick up transmissions from the future, and the static is the perfect place to stage an ambush.

And as the edges blur and the sun becomes reluctant to rise, I grow tired of waiting for the storm to pass and make another attempt at learning to dance in the rain, water rolling off my shoulders, washing away a decade's worth of dried blood and city dust. And though I dance alone these days, my neck is gaining strength, almost powerful enough to lift my head again to salute the world as it passes me by, our parades marching opposite directions on the same crowded street. And in these moments, if you tell me the end is near I'll just laugh and live on forever, with flames always lapping at my heels, the hounds of hell bounding circles all around me, rain pounding my back and elusive hope slipping in and out of my grasp.

(Written by me in 2008. Still had five years of living in hell left ahead of me. And elusive hope was a lie- I had no hope left.)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Burning Alive

I'm frantic to get away but I can't walk. I'm sweating and shaking and nothing stays down, throwing up globs of blood because the acid is eating me alive inside. I weigh next to nothing and my pants are held up with the cord from my hoodie. I'm filthy, my sweat smells like death, my body is revolting against me and I can't make my goddamn legs work. I can't get up. I'm in a puddle of bloody vomit but at least there's nothing in my guts to be coming out the other end. It's winter but I'm burning up, my skin cold and clammy to the touch but if you touch me, I'll lash out and rage against you and smash my fist into your teeth and drive it through your face because my skin fucking hurts. My bones fucking hurt. My hair fucking hurts. It all fucking hurts. 

I'm on a wood floor in the living room of an abandoned house with no glass in the windows and snow gathering around my face. I'm a human puddle of pond scum, I'm vacant on the inside and my soul is fucking bankrupt. My heart's beating funny and I keep hoping it'll stop. I know I won't freeze because the white hot steaming heat my sick body throws off might be enough to burn this motherfucker down. God let it burn down. Let it get torched and just let me fucking die. Somebody please help me. Would somebody please, please just help me. "help." Put a bullet in my brain like a crippled old horse or put a needle in my vein that'll pull me out of this remorse. Somebody please just help me. I'll never do it again if you'll just help me this one last time, I promise. 

My eyes are glass, you couldn't tell what color they are they're too filmed over. I'm seizing now, my body moving on its own with energy it apparently has but that I can't harness to make my useless legs move. My legs move all right, they move constantly, kicking and crawling and I need to punch them till they're black and blue to get them to stop for five fucking seconds. Now my arms start. Punch one with the other and then switch sides. The dopeman, he's not shown up here today. Where the fuck is he and why did I let this get this bad? Why didn't I walk and cop while I could still walk? Why do I keep trying to kick when I know I'm gunna die a filthy disgusting junkie with nobody to mourn me?

I got fantasies and dreams- I fantasize about rotting here after this finally kills me. I dream of ending up in the hospital with an IV line to exploit. Hopefully a central line, those are the best. It'll be a central or a jugular line, that's all the options left for anyone's needle now. My fingers black with gangrene stink like the rotten flesh they are but my sweat smells worse. Oh god, what did I do to deserve this? The smack was an escape, how did it become the very thing I now cannot escape from?

I haven't slept in a long time, I either nod instead or am wide awake in misery as I am tonight. The dopeman was supposed to come by, he does every single day like clockwork to take care of me in return for me taking care of him. Did he die? He got shot I bet. I bet he's never coming back. I bet he's doing this on purpose. I bet he's watching. I bet I'm gunna die but not anytime soon cuz I've got to burn for my sins first. First I got to suffer and suffer I am. 

I'm delirious. I'm hallucinating. I'm starving. I heard a noise, I hear birds but its midnight, why're the birds awake? Why're the birds whistling? Why're they yelling at me to sit the fuck up? Oh god it's him. It's the dopeman. I'm saved! I'm saved. I'm saved from responsibility and from reality and from a future I'll never know. The rig's preloaded, he'll let me get loaded before I take care of my end of this deal...

I'm awake now. I'm awake. I'm awake and I'm sitting in bed. I'm not high. I'm not sick. I'm not in an abandominium, I'm in my mom's house and I'm safe here. I've still got 19 days clean and I'm in my inflate-a-bed with my dogs awake and looking at me with concern. It was a nightmare. It was all a nightmare, it lasted fifteen years but I'm awake now. 

I'm awake. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Dousing Flames

Everything has a natural summation, an ending unavoidable and with all the hallmarks of finality. Life ends at death, day at night, autumn at winter. It all follows a natural order without deviation. Addiction is no different, but it has two possible endings- death or recovery.

It has been a long, long fifteen years. I had fun in the beginning, running wild and enjoying my newfound love, heroin. But that fun ended so many years ago. It devolved into the lowest form of slavery, I gave away all I loved and all that mattered before the dope to avoid that horror that is withdrawal and the greater fear of reality, life on life's terms. Then Monday before last, eleven days ago, some shit went down that left me asking myself how high a price I was truly willing to pay to live as a junkie.Was I willing to spend years in prison? Was I willing to die and leave my dogs without their mom? Leave my family broken, leave life behind, all for a fix? Just to avoid being dopesick and avoid the pain I've held inside for so long? Willing to chance the next near miss not being a miss at all and instead being a screeching halt and a farewell to any possible brighter days, against my true will?

I've lived in a motel the past eleven days. Well, one motel the first night and then a much cheaper and seedier one the rest of the nights. A clean drug test was required to come back to my dogs and my family, and I got seriously lucky in that an unlikely friendship meant rather than sleep outside or in a vacant house or the two-door Neon a friend loaned me, I slept in a bed. Massive doses of loperamide- in the 100mg range (they only come in 2mg the math) kept the worst of the sick away, and today I took a drug test that came back negative for heroin- my first clean test in five years.

I threw away over two years clean five years ago, on a cold and rainy Devil's Night in Detroit. I cried the whole way to the dopehouse, begging whatever higher power had kept me alive over the years to please make me crash the car, get pulled over, do something, any fucking thing, to stop me. Nothing stopped me. I gave it all away that night and the next night, Halloween, was nodding out while giving kids candy. That night, I was told to get the fuck out and I spent months afterward on the street. Spent Christmas Eve in a burned out Crown Vic in an empty lot, digging for veins. Thanksgiving at a soup kitchen. The only call those I loved would take from me was if I called to ask to go to rehab- a call that never came.

I told myself I could control it. I got myself off the streets through manipulation and lies and scams and back into my family's house. I started a dog rescue. I had a Jeep. But the dope? I never stopped. I fooled everyone around me into thinking I had stopped, got sneakier and slicker and everyone gave me the benefit of the doubt or perhaps just ignored it or thought I was simply crazy and didn't want to risk confronting me. I balanced on a razor's edge, keeping up an outward appearance of normalcy while really I was just a fucking smooth-talking hoodrat hyena in sheep's clothing. I truly believed it was under control. I had access to suboxone, and I would shoot dope and then take sub when I thought it was out of hand- but for five fucking years, I stayed solidly physically dependent on opiates in one form or another. Even that month I had "clean" just recently- I was hooked on the goddamn loperamide the entire time. Kept trying to wean off but couldn't. Had a damn diarrhea pill habit, for fuckssake. And the whole time, my brain kept spinning, saying, "when you get your shit together, Hyena, you can handle shooting some dope here and there." Here and there meaning every fucking day again within two weeks. Meaning backed up against a wall again. A wall that eleven days ago started flashing cherries and berries and almost ended very, very badly.

My hands are still swollen, yet another abscess is on my upper arm from getting frustrated after digging for veins for an hour while blood clotted in the needle until I gave up and forced the shot into my muscle. I'm dizzy a lot, I have to pull some dopefiend moves to put gas in the car I've got use of until my friend gets her license back, I took the last bit of loperamide today and have been weaning off and feeling like shit for days but I AM CLEAN. I didn't have to dig into my jugular vein with a bent, dull, barbed needle and dig till I either hit or gave up and resigned myself to causing another abscess multiple times today. Both my main dealers are now in jail or just not dealing anymore, which I wouldn't wish anyone into jail in Wayne County but it seems like some higher being conspired to take them out of circulation right at the time I got smacked in the face with a seriously terrifying wakeup call. There's rumors in the 'hood that I'm a snitch, since both dealers were either with me or going to see me when they got pinched, but I honestly don't give a fuck what people think anymore. I'm not wasting time trying to talk sense to someone so deep into their addiction they're willing to spread shit that could kill my entire family- someone that sick won't listen to a word I say anyway, and might drag me back into the thick of it. What others think just doesn't matter to me anymore.

What matters is that I no longer have any reservations- I know I will never, ever be able to use heroin once in awhile and then leave it alone. I finally understand and accept the full first step of Narcotics Anonymous- admitted we were POWERLESS over drugs, that our lives had become unmanageable. I always knew life was unmanageable when I'm strung out, but never truly believed I was powerless- but I'd tell you I was because it was an easy excuse for why I was seemingly unable to get and stay clean. But I get it now. Powerless means that when I pick up a needle, I won't put it down until I am dead, locked up, or hit with a scary enough wakeup call to knock me into reality long enough to understand what I'm really doing to myself- and to everyone who loves me.

Heroin, in the end, makes me fucking miserable. It makes me want to put a pistol in my mouth and pull the trigger. I shoot dope and I end up crying when I'm high. I beg, borrow, steal, rob, whatever to get more. I become someone I hate to the very core and I cannot stop. Dope no longer acts as a cushion, it's a bed of needle sharp nails now. It shakes my ground and makes me give away my hope. It's clear to me now like never before what my choice comes down to- go on to the bitter end, blotting out my consciousness with as much smack as I can fit into each syringeload, degrading myself in order to maintain a raging habit that claws at my soul every waking second- or recover. Face every dirty rotten low down junkie scumfuck thing I've ever done. Heal my soul, make amends, trust others with more clean time than me. I'm going to NA and AA meetings on a daily basis, I'm learning slowly how to live through the emotions cropping up in a whirlwind, and I'm motherfucking determined not to let reservations about control sneak back into my head.

All that stands between me and death or prison or complete, irreparable insanity is one shot. One pack. One bad choice. I want my life to be more than an existence. I want something worth living. And the only way I'm going to get that is to murder and bury my constant companion of the past fifteen years, that beautiful, destructive, omnipresent Lady Heroin.

Today, I'm moving on.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Christmas Eve in Crown Victoria

Lotto ticket in my rotting infected hand, my numbers might come up tonight. They should come up any day now, any ticket now should be the one that takes me to hell where I belong. I refuse to believe in hell because then, then I can delude myself into thoughts of me in heaven when I'm done here on this icy coldhearted earth. This night is dark and lonely but I embody its darkness and embrace its loneliness. 

My lotto ticket is folded into an envelope with powdered death inside, nobody picked out numbers hoping for riches on this square scrap of orange yellow and black typed paper. Powdered poison that eats my veins and eats my dreams and leaves me nodding broken on my knees in the snow, cold winter rain forming crust on the drains while steam rises from the sewer grates where I sleep. There's a crowded filthy shooting gallery nearby but this burned out car in a snowfield marred by only my own tracks is fine. It's fine. It's just fucking fine. My brain won't work anymore until the powder is liquid and mixed with my blood. My body won't work anymore except to continue torture until I feed it this drug. 

Climb into scorched steel built here in Detroit, a Ford Crown Vic that has seen better days. Wrestle a dull needle out of my socks, three pairs because winter is brutal here and I'm already frostbitten, body and soul, toes and spirit. I lost the will to live but I found my key to oblivion. Pull off filthy thin gloves and melt some snow in my hand, uncap the rig and draw up the frozen acid rain. Dump powder into spoon and add meltwater, hold over lit Zippo propped on my knee for light more than warmth or function. That delicious sick scent of hot steel and heroin licks up to my nose and my empty stomach growls, hunger deep and sick so few truly know and fewer still would wish to know. Bubbles form and I remove heat and drop in cotton wad formed from pocket lint, q-tips cost too much and aren't worth the risk to steal. Draw up my poison and wrap hoodie cord round my lower arm.

I've got one trusty vein running through the R in create, an old tattoo more a broken command than anything now. I don't create, I destroy, myself and anyone else who decides I'm worth the risk of bonding with. Christmas Eve and I'm alone in the streets, the only one sick enough to choose dope over life, tonight of all nights. It doesn't matter much what day it is when I'm sleeping alone in the cold, hoping the chimney in the abandominium I call home doesn't collapse on top of the weak flames from treated wood I ripped from the burned house next door. I'm sick growing sicker and weak growing weaker but this syringe in my hand full of heroin will make that all okay, will make it all fade away. 

I touch the surgical steel of the needle to the well used and angry red flesh before the R and must apply intense pressure to pop the dull spike through my skin. I'm lucky the vein is so weak in that spot from repeated use and the flesh too swollen to allow it to roll or I'd be in big trouble, unable to IV and instead forced by my sickness to slam the filthy thing into my muscle, inviting abscess like the two on my left upper arm. Why I feel it's much better to inject filth directly into my blood I never know, but at least it hits quicker that way. 

Blood registers, mixing with the golden liquid relief, and I depress the plunger with increasing speed, needing the gold to disperse and kill the pain and with luck me as well. Then I wait. I wait and I taste my thick dopesick saliva, waiting for that indescribable taste on the back on my tongue that means relief is here. One second. Two. Three. Counting in my head. Six. Seven. Did I miss? This is taking too long, did I blow my shot? I'm not itching and hiving at the injection site so not likely. Eleven. Twelve. 

There it is! And then warmth. The night is no longer cold to my easily fooled body as heat spreads from fingers to chest, toes to stomach. Sweet, sweet relief for my clenched muscles, sore from walking and scamming and stealing and selling my body and soul day in and day out to keep the demons at bay. This charred leather seat is suddenly a throne and I'm in heaven, life doesn't matter and neither does death. I'm here and then I'm gone and everything is all okay, it's okay that I'm nodding out with a needle in my wrist in a burned out car in Detroit on Christmas Eve because it just doesn't matter anymore. None of this really ever mattered much in the first place and now it doesn't matter at all anymore.

My head gets heavy, my eyelids grow weak, my breathing is shallow and maybe, just maybe, I'll make it to heaven or hell this time at last. Maybe this is the last winter on the streets of my dog eat dog city, the city where I gave my life away and fought halfassed battles pretending I wanted control back. I don't want control, I want this. I want bliss. I want oblivion and I want death and I will never, ever reach any of those because I'm "not meant to die" and have a "purpose on this earth" but really because I can never find enough cash to afford a suicidal overdose and because my gun isn't loaded- but I sure am.

You've brought me to my knees my golden powdered queen, so now how do I stand up again before the roots grow too strong and I'm stuck kneeling forever? Where are your magic answers for the future, queen? You won't give them to your loyal, devoted servant? Your motherfucking slave who spent the holidays with you, eating cold, processed turkey at the soup kitchen on thanksgiving, grateful only to not be dopesick because there was truly nothing else worthy of gratitude? Your bitch who works her ass off or sells her ass when needed to meet your demands? You won't give my loyalty the reward of your secrets, my queen?

I'm alone in this and I know it, I'm alone and adrift and I know it, I'm freezing to death and I know it and my blacktipped toes show me the truth. My two eyes are liars telling different truths- one of heaven, one of hell- and my heart is full of fallacy but some part of me, somewhere in me I know it. Something says this is not okay and I am not okay and dying here is not okay, but my eyelids are so heavy and the world is fading out. I am not cold nor warm nor anything else, I'm crossing over and I'm ready to leave. I close my eyes and there's only blackness and then time staggers and stops and I'm gone. 

And then I wake up and it's Christmas and I know still this is not okay. But I have no idea how to change it or if change is even a possibility for me, so I carry on as carrion for years and years more. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Zelda: A Very Belated Eulogy

He was my hero and my enemy, my destroyer and my friend. He drove me insane and kept me grounded, spun circles beyond the outer edges of normalcy and screamed full-throated, half baked tirades from rooftops, frantically waving handguns and poetry like rescue beacons at a savior who's attention he could never quite catch. He had good days and bad days and the bad days were living hell for me yet unfathomably worse for him, yet the good days always made up for it in the end. Medication wasn't optional for what ailed him but he refused it often and vehemently anyway, lest the capsules help the government install cameras into his intestines. He was an angel and a demon, a maniac and a slave, with tattered bloody stumps where his wings once were and a hollow rudimentary star below his right eye and scribblings of ink along his arms and chest. His dreadlocks were peppered with beads and bits of string and ribbon and he was the white boy version of George Clinton on LSD and smack. He was an ignorant genius who knew everything about some things but nothing about anything that mattered. His name was Zelda, and he was my best friend and on again off again boyfriend, dependent upon whether he was being a stark raving asshole or a sweet and friendly puppy dog at any given moment. 

We sit in the living room of the apartment his mom is renting for him as a desperate attempt to somehow force his brain back into the normal mode it operated in before the first hallucinations came to haunt his everything- she believes if he can live normally with a place of his own, it will cure the schizophrenia. There's nothing but my rolled up, ripped and threadbare excuse for a sleeping bag, two folding chairs, and a card table in this too big room. We sold the nice futon and television his mom bought a long time ago. On the table, on top of a layer of Saran Wrap, are my tattoo machines, my pigment, my needles and my greensoap, nestled amongst a pile of paper napkins from 7-11; paper towels like I preferred weren't in a budget designed around every penny being spent on heroin for both of us and crack for him. A box of black nitrile gloves sit on the very corner of the flimsy and shaky plastic surface balancing out the power supply sitting kittycorner to it, my foot pedal tucked under the table in easy reach of my right foot. It looks like a tattoo shop compressed into a prison cell until you notice the hundreds of dirty insulin needles scattered across the carpet around us; there aren't multitudes of needles scattered in most prison cells. 

His arm is held steady in the clearly uncomfortable position I've bent it into, his boney, so deathly thin elbow in the right spot for the work I've been tasked with and talked into doing while high. My first- and fortunately last- tattooing job while nodding out; my best friend, boyfriend, and confidant is the only one safe enough to risk this on, he says. God, he is so thin. We are both so thin. Together we barely break 200 pounds, and he is over six feet tall. If you empty the pennies he insists we save- but aren't ever allowed to spend- out of our pockets before forcing us onto the scale, we wouldn't even be 190 together. 

Electric buzzing fills the silence and then the clinking of glass joins the din as a friend drops off the vodka we are owed in payment for allowing him to sleep in the bathtub last night. I shouldn't drink, Zelda even more so, yet we do anyway. The heroin and alcohol mix in my blood and I nod harder, my edges blur to grayscale nothingness, my focus falls by the wayside. 

Spiderwebs and elbow tattoos are precise with no room for sloppy lines or mistakes. I'd spent an hour and a half the night before drawing this web onto my fellow warrior's elbow, as I wanted to have a day to look at it and watch it as he moved and bent and twisted and raged and tried to murder me in a paranoid delusion. It was perfect. Everything was perfect. Everything was a perfect, beautiful, deadly swirling mass of chaotic selfishness and selflessness combined into hatred and love and companionship. 

I nodded and the needle followed my weakening hand as I slipped away, caught quickly but still too late. Perfect was destroyed and strays entered the picture. Stray lines, stray souls, stray hopes being mutilated and tortured to death. We locked eyes and agreed silently to try once again. We were almost halfway there, and I handed my bottle to him so he could finish my rightful share while I tried to work the line I'd made in nod into the design I'd painstakingly drawn with purple surgical marking pen 24 hours before. 

Another nod, another line. We locked eyes and silently decided to finish in the morning. Morning soon seemed hopelessly distant. Within 10 minutes of me cleaning up and packing away my machines, our "friend" and sometimes roommate overdosed and almost died while I did CPR and mouth to mouth on her for over a half hour until she finally took a breath on her own and her pulse came back to my fingertips pressed against her carotid artery. I ran her pockets once it was clear she'd survive, stealing the rest of her smack in the name of preventing a second round of lifesaving for her and preventing a round of dopesick blues for myself. 

And then I set out to erase the image of her blue, lifeless, breathless and pulseless body from my mind with copious amounts of vodka and heroin. The erasing worked in a way; I erased forever the rest of the night from my memory, finding out I'd blacked out and gotten violent only when I came to hours later on the floor rather than in our bed and saw the cuts and bruises on Zelda's face, a first for me- I am not a fighter. I'd attacked my best friend, my boyfriend, my everything and beaten him bloody and black and blue without knowing why I'd done it or how I overpowered him. It wasn't until years later that I learned I hadn't overpowered him- he had refused to raise a hand to me even in self defense, a far cry from the constant attempts to kill me while in paranoid episodes. Zelda was a good boy when the disease wasn't chewing on those vital parts of his cerebellum. 

Paradise was tarnished and the solid ground was shaky. The ending started within days of my blackout and lasted little more than a few months, and I will never know if my beating is what caused the sudden and drastic acceleration of symptoms. He hadn't had his first schizophrenic signs until he was 22- a relatively late onset- and for it to go into a tailspin like it did so quickly wasn't typical. I stood by Zelda through the worst of times in his life and he stood by me, but cheating is never okay and when he refused to kick her out of our room one night when I caught him with her, I'd had enough at last. The boy I'd grown up with, who'd journeyed big stretches of my path with me since I was 10, who was the one person I could always always crawl back to and be welcomed no matter how damaged I'd become, wasn't the same boy anymore. He wasn't my Zelda anymore. The paranoid schizophrenia was getting worse and even medicated now his personality was forever altered beyond repair. He became increasingly misogynistic and treated me like trash more and more. He walked away from punk rock and techno and decided rap was his culture. He stuck out like a sore thumb and for the first time in our lives, it didn't cause him pain to know he fit nowhere anymore because his spirit was owned by the sickness in his head, leaving no room for the emotions and reactions that would've made sense in those final weeks. The cheating, the lying, the name calling and the physical attacks when delusional had always taken their toll on me but I could never leave him just because he was sick- the good days truly did make the bad worth it. But the day came when it was clear that the good was gone, as was the bad, replaced by a stranger in Zelda's body. I had to leave. I had to walk away. I would kill myself with drugs because of grief or he would finally kill me in a paranoid episode if I didn't. And it caused Zelda no pain when I did- he simply was too broken now to feel anything normal, too brain damaged to be saved. 

I walked away and saw Zelda only in passing while buying smack from then on, as we used the same dealer at the same dopehouse. I left bags of clean needles there for the dealer to give to Zelda, the only way left I could take care of him. I let go a little more each day but knew he'd forever leave me changed.  

Within four months of my blackout, Zelda was dead. The story his mother told acquaintances was that he died in his sleep, but I was privy to the truth and the contents of the toxicology report. Zelda died of a heroin overdose, the way he always said he wanted to go if he had a choice- a final rush and then a soft, warm black curtain drawn on the "freakshow" his life had become. Euthanasia, a good death. It wasn't suicide to me no matter what the evidence stated because Zelda no longer had even split seconds of clarity where he would be able to make that concentrated effort and final decision to end his mental illness once and for all. It was euthanasia, with the giver of the good death being whatever higher power there is above, the same higher power that made goddamn sure I survived the loss of my Zelda. 

His funeral was the most macabre and disturbing event I've ever been to. The entire old Blue Hill Punks crew was there, friends who turned their back on Zelda and I the day we caught our first habits. It was an open casket, and Zelda lay in his favorite ripped Rancid t-shirt, his dozen beloved brightly colored bracelets made by various friends out of cheap plastic beads still adorned his chillingly skinny wrists, and his elbow showed the half spiderweb tattoo we kept saying we would finish the next day, for weeks on end. Nirvana's "Unplugged" album played over the speakers in the ceiling in the icy funeral home room. Zelda's eyes were closed softly, the star below his right eye as perfect as the day it was first tattooed. I felt eyes bore into my own star tattoo below my left eye whenever I spoke to someone at the viewing, my living memorial and declaration of unconditional love for my best friend which Zelda had gone with me to get and given me his enthusiastic blessing on doing. I turned away from the casket and gazed across the room, registering so many faces who came to pretend they loved him too but who had all turned their backs and never thought of him until he died. I had to protect myself and put physical space between me and Zelda but not a day has gone by in over 16 years that I have not thought of Zelda, no matter how far away I was. I have always and will always love him unconditionally. The same way I love my best friend Lepurd, or my friend Dex, or Rattie or Annie or my mom and sisters and whole family. Nothing they can ever do will change my love for them.

But anger or rage towards the ones who walked away was not going to save Zelda now. It wouldn't save me. It wouldn't ease the pain or make this any easier for Zelda's mother, who was preparing to do the unthinkable and see her son for the final time before burying him. My anger was irrelevant and petty in the bigger picture of this event. I had to let it go. No matter what the old crew had done or said or thought, they were here for the exact same thing I was- to say goodbye to our friend.

I turned back and faced Zelda once again. Tears were streaming down my face, my heart felt like it was being crumpled into a ball to be thrown against a wall, and my hands shook as I reached out towards Zelda's silky smooth face for the final time. I ran my fingers down his cheek, the cold firmness of his skin reminding me he was not there, he was somewhere far above or beyond this world where addiction and mental illness do not exist. I looked carefully at each detail of his face, each line of each tattoo that was visible on his arms, neck, and his star on his cheek, committing them to memory so I would be sure to see them in my mind whenever it all felt like too much. 

Zelda will never truly die because he lives on in my heart. He lives on in memories, in the black star upon my cheek just below my left eye, in the bag of plastic PLUR beads in my nightstand drawer. He doesn't die because he's one of those eternal souls, one of those who even when truly completely beaten still had a spark, even when that spark did nothing but add to the flames that were consuming him. Zelda was a warrior, he was a brave, he was a fucking total wreck insane sometimes very mean but always unique and startlingly real boy who stomped all over my soul and left scars that will never heal but also splashes of color and good memories that will never fade. This punk rock kid made an impact on everyone he met and I still talk with old friends and reminisce about the days before Zelda got sick. If you met Zelda even once, you remember him. He had that staying power and that memorable of a personality. 

And somehow, knowing he'll never truly die because his memory lives on makes the unthinkable and horrific fact of his death a little less of a pathetic excuse to kill myself slowly with heroin over a period of years and more of an excuse to do fucking better. To not make the same choices I made when with Zelda and to live better in his honor. 

Honoring his memory is the eternal flame I keep lit for him, burning on forever no matter how dark the nights may be. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Haven't Fallen Back Into Familiar Flame

I haven't fallen. My legs are made of lead and ache all the time, my knees round balls of pain, but I have not fallen. My chest is on fire when I breathe and my back corresponds, but I haven't fallen. My stomach is weak and I can't stomach much, yet I've not fallen. But it's getting harder and harder to stand when everything hurts. Everything. My body full of pain that keeps me lying awake late nights, which is when my soul full of pain does it's hardest biting. I'm still standing, but it keeps getting harder.

It's getting harder to smile when I feel so deeply broken inside. Harder to laugh and try to overcome this apathy towards life. Harder to look my family in the eye although I've for once done no wrong. It hurts. Everything, life, it hurts.

I wasn't happy strung out. No matter how delusional I could get, I never believed I was happy. What I got from heroin wasn't happiness, and I didn't use it to be happy. I used it as the painkiller it is. Used it so I had numbness to look forward to no matter how bad life hurt.

I don't know how to explain it to someone who isn't an addict- yes, the drugs made me miserable, but they also made my misery okay. Even though they hurt just like this does, the drugs gave my pain a cause and purpose and the idea that if I ever quit, I could be truly happy and I would feel free- and the promise of numbness until the end. Now I've quit, but the pain hasn't.

I just need one moment, Higher Power, one glimmer that this is worth the constant pain of my broken soul and breaking body. One sign that there is light at the end of this tunnel I have found myself in. The light I was using to guide my way has gone out, I need a new one. The only light I see nearby is flame, and that is what I am running from. The flame is familiar though and growing closer to my consciousness.

Please, give me a sign- and some railings, something strong I can grab to save my life.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Pain Tolerance of a Hyena

I'm finding it far harder to climb back up than it was to let myself slip down, but that of course I expected. I had no way to anticipate the length of time withdrawal would linger, of knowing that with weeks between me and heroin I'd still not be able to sleep, still have the cold sweats and upset stomach, still find myself struggling to walk up the stairs or even across the room because I have no energy whatsoever. I've come to understand it is now post acute withdrawal syndrome and could drag on indefinitely, for a year or even longer, with progress only able to be measured on a month by month basis because the recovery is so slow. But what did I expect, that I'd get away with what I've done to my body with nothing but a week of being dopesick? Well of course I did, because I've never been known to place anything but the most unreasonable, superhuman expectations on myself, thereby setting myself up to let myself down every time.

I'm having a harder time by far with the emotional side of things, though. I literally make myself miserable, which becomes a problem when I remove the drugs and the lifestyle of easy alliances heroin offers. I'm completely isolated, feeling halfway between two worlds, not yet fully a part of normal life but no longer a part of the daily struggle that binds junkies so quickly and firmly together. I gave so much away to heroin over the years, but I'm realizing that by getting clean, I gave some things that weren't necessarily bad away as well, namely that social aspect.

I've never been good in groups without some substance being a part of it. I've never found it anything close to easy to make friends, am in fact terrified of meeting even someone I've spoken to online at length in person for the first time, let alone how I feel when trying to make nice with a stranger. If there's a purpose or reason behind my interaction with a stranger, then I'm fine, but to speak to someone new with the sole intention of possibly making friends- it makes me freeze up in fear or make a complete ass out of myself. So being clean now and trying to find a way to break this isolation, it's hard. I still have a couple of friends, both of whom I was friends with prior to using with them, then used heroin with, and now neither of whom use anymore, but even those friendships, those two people who know and love me despite everything I've put them and me through, are scary to me right now and I have no idea why. I feel like a teenager again- awkward, unsure, like I've got to prove myself by showing off or something. This functional adult thing is way harder than it looks. And when I start thinking about trying to compete for jobs, with the plethora of unhideable tattoos I have on my hands, neck, throat, even a star below my eye right on my face, and my complete lack of work history and no formal education past a GED besides some college courses for a degree I never finished...

I made an appointment with my old psychiatrist for tomorrow, and am going to see if there's any medication that might help me make it through this early stages pain and anxiety and fear. I got clean to live a real life, not to be crippled by emotions I have no idea how to deal with and dopesickness that never ends. The cravings are getting worse and the pain is building rather than decreasing as I face it clean, and I will try anything to keep myself clean long enough to finally feel better emotionally and physically. I'm feeling that terror of being strung out I felt in the first two weeks lessen by the day, and I need to find a way to keep myself together until the happiness I experience clean becomes greater than the numbness I felt while shooting dope. An opiate blocker only works for 72 hours after I take the pill- I need a longer term solution than a pill I can work around. Something that gives that pill's buffer a chance to be enough to let me think things through and decide heroin is not the answer.

Until then, I have no choice but to feel the pain, which in a way is still better than numbness through injection; at least the pain is real. But even a hyena has a limit to their pain tolerance, and this hyena is no different from all the others.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Here's To Better Days!

Here's to better days, to bluer skies and brighter horizons. Here's to broken hearts finding ways to heal, to memories that don't fade of yesterdays and the tomorrows never lived. Here's to the heroes and the villains, the punks and thugs and misfits. Here's to those who are dead and gone but memories remain, to the things we never did and bands we never heard, music never played.

Here's to the scenery flying past and fires burning bright, to the ends of the earth and back on our feet and in our broken minds. To the true believers, the skeptics and the god squad. To the kid who never backed down, to the fights we lost but won by fighting just the same. Here's to Opie and Fat Jeff and Bob The Squirrel, to Fraga and Casper and Alex, to Annie and Sexy Squirrel and Lisa, to Zelda and Knot and the list goes on forever, to the Blue Hill Crew punks and drunks. Here's to the TV plugged into the ground by the Big Tree and the musty couch and our barbeque fueled with sticks cooking stolen steaks courtesy of Kenny.

Here's to tattoos that weren't mistakes but may have been better left unpoked, to the filth and the fury, leather, studs, spikes and mohawks. To pomade and gel and so much damn Aqua Net, our own hole in the ozone while we screamed about animal liberation. To taking the city by storm and massacring the suburbs, to the Wired Frog and the Shelter, St. Andrews and the Magic Stick, to always knowing all the words by heart. Here's to Click47 and the Radio Rejects, to Leftover Crack and Anti-Flag, to Bad Religion and NoFX and Pennywise. To the crown and the down, the working man logo, the Blue Hill Zine. Here's to nothing we couldn't overcome, to anarchy and nihilism, to rebelling against what? We never really knew but rebel we did! Here's to friends, each others' alibis, brothers and sisters in arms and partners in every petty crime. To vandalism for the sake of wasting paint and long words on corporate coffee chain stores in the suburbs.

So many days passed, so many lives lost. For what? To what god was Zelda a sacrifice, to what god was Knot? Do they know love never leaves despite their passing? Does Lisa know I tried to say goodbye and would she have wanted me there? How many more of us will fall and when will the end come for the next in line? I know you've all thought for so long that I was next, but I'm not done here and not actively killing myself anymore, I have chosen to live with and live through and not let my knees hit that same worn wood. Doesn't mean I'm not next anyway, accidents happen and I have always loved and lived danger, so who knows what tomorrow may bring. But I won't go because of heroin today, if I die in my sleep tonight I will die sober. Surprise, guys!

Where have you gone? You used to be the one I looked up to, seemed like nothing could shake your foundation. I know how high your price was, I've paid the same- was it worth it? I don't yet know if my price so high was worth the future it brought and past it has left behind me. I'm glad you are alive and I hear Florida is beautiful in the winter.

Where did it go? Everything we fought for, and all that we believed, things we screamed from flower pots and on the city bus, ANARCHY! Was I truly that naive? I believed tomorrow was guaranteed, we would all live forever, blindly ever forward and never looking back. Seemed we would be bound forever and yet at some point, you turned on me and I on you and we walked away from our beliefs.

I chased the thrills down dark alleys and back until one day I found I was trapped and home no longer existed. Will I ever feel that bond again, that belonging in a crew? I feel it in the music we all shared, I feel it in the crushing sweaty bodies at a punk rock show, but I'm older than all of them now and maybe, maybe I don't belong? Where do I fit without heroin? Where do I fit not shitfaced or half dead?

When everyone has drifted away and the divide just grows wider, when I stand apart because I've distanced myself from the good when I was down and from the down on my way back up, where do I belong? Maybe I belong nowhere, maybe I am simply me, an (ex?) junkie, punk rock, anarchist, rebellious youth trapped in an adult body with responsibilities and chains to this city of Detroit but no idea how to live as the adult I have found myself somehow having become. I can't pick up and travel, but staying put is driving me insane slowly and painfully. I want to head North, I want to breathe the clean air and hear the calls heard in the wild. I want to head West, I want to smell the lemon trees in bloom in the East Bay. I want to head East, hear the constant pulse of New York at night. I want to head South, smell the stink of New Orleans in the morning before they wash and bleach the pavement, hear the drunken debauchery of the French Quarter. I want to go anywhere but where I already am. And I want to leave me behind when I go, leave behind the memories of a crew that didn't last forever, leave behind my mind while I travel and see sights sober. But I know always I'm only running from myself and bounce back home again at the end, finding I can never outrun my own mind.

I miss camaraderie and fairy tales, miss the feeling of being right where I belong. I can never go back, I will not have a crew like the Blue Hill Crew again, adults don't run in wild packs across America and I am an adult now. But I wish I'd known then what I know now, for I would've put the teenage angst on the backburner and done a lot more living in the moment. I will seek adventure here and kill this boredom without smack. I'll climb the empty stairwells in vacant factories without the intention of sleeping somewhere high above, I will find my passionate artist again and paint and tattoo and draw.

I want to start again. I want to start again! I want a second chance, I want my cocky sarcastic clowning self back. I want to feel that urge to be an idiot for the sake of idiocy and laugh so hard it hurts. I want to say things I already said and make sure I'm heard this time- and I never once warned any of us to watch our backs and still never would, because my path and your path and our paths led us to where we are today. I will never hide from my truth, I will wear track marks with pride knowing I survived a battle so many of my friends, my brothers and sisters, did not. I won't cover my tattoos no matter how shitty or offensive and I will find my place again.

But for now, I'll muddle and struggle through the feeling of being 13 again when I've doubled my years and know those days are gone. Someday there will be other heartbeats beside me on the front line again, and a battle fought with passion that never dies. I fight for pit bulls and peace, I fight for my right to not be judged at first sight, I fight for the dogs with nobody else on their side. I will throw my passion behind as much as I can handle and figure out my new beliefs and joys. But nothing will ever be the same. For any of us. Nothing will ever, ever be the same.

It will not be the same, but I will make sure that for me, somehow, it is just as good as it was during Blue Hill Summers. During cold nights and beside hot fires and that love of one another will be there again someday, I will find a new family somehow off the streets. I love you all and always have, I always will. I'll never forget the good old days but it's high time I create some good new days. I've lived in pain long enough, it's time for me to find my joy again. I am sober and the needles are gone from my drawers, half the battle is won though withdrawal still lingers. The darkness, it's always been my own- but so is brightness.

I will walk this path until that darkness is gone.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Craving and Surviving

I've come to a decision. It's one I've been kicking around for awhile, with pressure towards this decision from my mom but still one ultimately only I could make, since it is my throat the pills will be going down. I've decided to take an opiate blocker. Making a commitment. A white pill, made of what is essentially Narcan, same thing used to revive someone from an opiate overdose. Taken daily, it will latch onto the fucking demanding, hungry, ever twisting and scheming opiate receptors in my brain and then block entirely any smack I decide to shoot. And it works, I've (of course) tested it out before. It helped me before and I hope will help me again. It works for 72 hours after each dose, giving me time to stop and think before I act.

That doesn't however prevent me from deciding I'll just shoot crack instead when I want to run from myself; despite the fact that I hate it, I still sometimes decide it's time to see if I like it yet and try again, which always ends in me puking while my ears ring and my heart beats so fast I can barely feel each beat separately, my chest screaming in pain, while swearing to god if I just don't have a heart attack and die I'm never touching cocaine in any form again. The thing with shooting crack versus smoking it is, with smoking, it's hard to overdose. With IV, you don't know it's too much until after you've already shot it, and there have been numerous times where, had I not had smack to slow my heart down again right away, I think I would've collapsed and died. I've also been known to inject diphenhydramine- Benadryl. You could vaccinate me against every known abusable substance on the planet and if I were so inclined, I would still find a way to get high, even if it meant choking myself till I passed out just for the rush that comes before death. That is how sick my brain, at its very core, has become.

So while naltrexone will help, it isn't a magic cure. Either is the Vivitrol shot, given in your ass once a month and supposed to do the same thing naltrexone does- except I had to test that out, too, and a couple days after the shot, my ass still sore, I discovered I am one of that tiny little tenth of a percentage point of people for whom it is totally, absolutely, 100% ineffective. There IS no cure for addiction. This is a fatal motherfucker of a disease it is impossible to ever remove from someone, no matter what Scientology says (been to that treatment center too, it's where my college fund went, and let me tell you, there's no cure to be had there but many, many memories I'd rather not have of some abusive treatment methods- which is why the center I attended was shut down and the directors excommunicated from the Church of Scientology.) This disease will gladly and calmly wait years and years for me to let my guard down and when I do, there will always be a dope dealer down on Peterboro who will help me give my life away again and smile while he does it.

It's up to me to live the life I choose. A friend and brother in arms named Tripp, who is now in prison for dealing meth, made me write on my mirror here at my mom's house "I CHOOSE THE PATH I WALK EACH DAY" and damn if that pseudo brother of mine wasn't dead on. I've looked in that mirror to inject into my neck what probably amounts to multiple kilos of heroin since then and HATED seeing that phrase every single time. Because sick as I am, I am not stupid. I always knew it was true and I was making a choice to push the plunger. Even knowing what choosing not to do dope would mean, the misery of withdrawal, it was still a decision made to start that cycle again after each attempt at sobriety. The decision of using or of cutting myself loose from smack, what I felt for so long (and still feel most hours of the day, though I know it'll pass) was my only tether to the world.

My life, my existence, was as a junkie. Period. I didn't question that, I never asked why me, though I have wished I had a disease with less stigma, like cancer. I didn't stop to think, I just reacted. Pure animal instinct from the deepest reaches of my brain. What will it take to not be sick today and where do I begin going about that task. That was it. Sober moments, even moments on a withdrawal med like subutex or suboxone, were torturous because I knew I would and fully intended to use again at some point. I don't intend to use again now, though, though I am not nearly naive enough to think it could never happen. I'm terrified, honestly old fashioned shaking in my boots waking nightmare terrified, that I'll slip and use again. I need to have 14 days with no opiate use at all in order to start the pills, and every half hour I'm hit with another stomach churning craving out of nowhere. It's hell, it makes the withdrawal I'm still in feel like day three cold turkey kicking, and my mind just spins circles around that image of, say, a filthy rig that MUST be hidden somewhere in my room or the bushes out front or maybe under that one bush round the block from two years ago that might have a cotton with enough dope to feel left in it's plunger cap.

It is absolutely unreal, the power of those cravings. But somewhere, I read that a craving lasts on average 7 to 8 minutes if you don't feed into it. So when my stomach clenches and that picture of needle in vein blood registering plunger depressing hits me out of nowhere, I find a clock to look at. I look at the clock and think, "okay, 8 minutes. Probably more like ten since I'm a really sick one. I can do ten minutes of this, I've done months in jail and kicked cold turkey for days. I can do ten minutes of wanting to snatch the nearest purse and run to my dealer." And it freaking works! It works. I survive. I don't commit a felony, I don't end up dopesick and broke and homeless, and I don't die right then and there from sheer lack of heroin. I survive.

I survive. I have survived a long, long time in a hard, hard lifestyle, one that the president of the USA couldn't survive and I hope never has to. I wouldn't wish what I've survived on my worst enemy. But I survived and am at this point right here, right now, with four days totally opiate free and I think nine or ten days totally heroin free- and for the first time in a very long time, I have every intention of staying as sober as I am right now. Even if it does mean I start crying because one of the 25 cent ghost shrimp I bought today died on the way home, or crying simply because I started crying and then laughing because I can't figure out why I'm crying, and then feeling absolutely nothing for a second before crying again. I feel awkward, totally like a teenager in middle school again, don't know what to do with myself, but I am clean and sober.

I survive, and I am clean and sober. And I will keep surviving no matter what, and someday, I will find myself LIVING again instead of surviving. And that's why I'm clean and sober- because I'm ready to find out what living is like.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Rebuilding Begins When My Arson Ends

I've spent so many years circling in the clouds, searching for life as it is meant to be lived, soaring on false wings given by heroin. But it turns out that all along, the life I was searching for was never one I could see from the air. I needed to land and breathe sober air and take sober steps before I could see that life? Life IS that pain I run from. Life is that sadness, sorrow, regret and fear. But life is also moments of joy, of peace, of sometimes feeling nothing but okay. Life is placing one foot in front of the other with no chemical buffer between my feet and the ground and knowing that the simple fact of my sobriety does not entitle me to anything more or anything less than anyone else gets- life as it is, with it's flaws and uncertainties and pains and triumphs. Because that is what life is, that is what living entails.

I sit here with a pair of days with absolutely no opiates at all in my system, after taking the last tiny bit of my suboxone the other day. No suboxone, no smack, no methadone or even kratom. I'm in withdrawal, my entire body hurts, my stomach is revolting and threatening to rip it's way out of my abdomen altogether, but I've no desire to walk away from where I am right now, both physically and emotionally, because I want what lies on the other side of these last couple days sick. I have an abscess on my upper arm that I'm fighting a losing battle against with double doses of three different antibiotics, and one in my neck I'm more hopeful will respond to the pills, and even that pain is welcome, because it is REAL. I've made it through the seizures, I've made it through the sleeplessness. I have made it through the daily moments where I would gladly and without second thought cut out and sell my own kidneys for relief of this sickness. I know $20 would relieve this sickness, but then what does that do for the deeper root of the sickness, my disease? It would set me back behind that wall between me and life as it is meant to be lived, a wall I was so sure, so absolutely, entirely certain, I would never see this side of again.

I've been absent here and on my corresponding Instagram, which is apparently now famous thanks to the way viral news reports have spread about the community of #junkiesofig, because my phone was stolen, ripped out of my hand at the bus stop. At the bus stop, on the way to go meet my dealer relapse. My ability to contact my dealer- not a dopehouse, he is a call and meet dealer- that day and get him to meet me at the bus stop went with my phone. Funny how things work sometimes. Since then, I've been simply too sick or too weak to write or think or do much not dictated by my most primitive brain functions. I've managed to take care of what needs taken care of thanks to one incredible and absolutely priceless thing- my mom. My mom, who I thought I'd lost forever, though not physically, emotionally. She said, the day I told her I was done, that this is it and I'm not using again, that she had no hope for me. That I would be dead in a gutter someday anyway and me pretending to try just hurt her too much, that she had detached. And I could not for one second blame her or feel anything but absolute shame. Shame, but also a determination to prove her wrong. I think she sees it now as I do, I think she sees the change in my soul I felt that day I slipped up and used last week, the day I knew the drugs were the same but I am different now. And she has been there for me. She has seen the choices I've made and the determination to not go back, to not let myself fall.

Who knows what next week will bring. Who knows if I will even be sober tomorrow. At this point, I don't even think whatever gods there are out there that have kept me alive this long know what my future holds. But I do know what it felt like the last time I shot dope. How instead of relief, it was as though I'd injected fire into my very soul itself, burning myself down from the heart on out. The shame, the instant wish that I could just pull the plunger back and undo what I had just done, that desire for a do-over I've felt so many times in my years as a junkie. I know it felt all wrong, and it wasn't a change in the drugs that made it feel that way. It was a change in me, a change in my heart and soul and knowing for a fact that I have found a better way.

I don't need to live like a rat anymore. I don't need to live as a zombie. I don't need to be a bottomless junkie. I can make my bottom wherever I choose to get off the sinking ship. And I'm off the ship today. I'm on land, though it is still just the very edge of a beach shrouded in mist, the rest of which I cannot see and don't know what is around the next chunk of fog, but I know I am in the right place right now. I know I am walking the right road right now. This is not easy and it hurts like nothing else and sometimes it feels like I am burning and engulfed in flames still, but I know, I KNOW these flames will burn themselves out. I am going to build my next life of brick, quit relying on the flimsy and flammable matchsticks I've always used before in my rebuilding attempts.

The city of Detroit burned almost to the ground three times in her history. I have burned my life almost to the ground countless times. Detroit rebuilt and is rebuilding again from a different type of fire today. I rebuilt, and am rebuilding again today. My self-arson is under control today. I am going to make mistakes. I am going to hurt beyond anything I can imagine. I am going to cry, I am going to laugh, I am going to feel joy about something other than free smack. I am going to fucking LIVE. I don't know if this is "it," if I'll never be strung out again, and frankly, I couldn't give a shit less. Today I'm not strung out, today I'm not giving my life away to heroin. Today is all I have and today?

Today, I am going to be okay.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Rising From The Ashes

Sickly sweet orange Suboxone salvation, under my tongue and under my skin. This rutted road of dirt and stone I walk on down dealing punches I won't counter in a world full of questions. Can this really be it? Can I really break my roots and chains and rise up from the ashes and BREATHE EASY again? I draw breath and my heart beats, so there's still hope for me.

Haunted by the memories that follow me into my dreams, where needle pierces skin leaving drops of blood and such staggering destruction. My life is not meant to be thrown away or it never would've been granted to me. My life is not meant to be lived in slavery or I would not have been born here, free. 

A train calls in the distance and I can almost hear the rumble on the tracks. Not sure where I'm headed but I shall look ever forward not back, head up against a wind full of chill and living always a life full of loyalty. Loyalty always to something, be it needle or now this medicine I take to ward off the prick of rig into vein. Loyalty to dogs or friends or the belief that I DESERVE FUCKING BETTER. 

It's early morning and the world is spinning on. It doesn't notice me here, two dogs under the covers with me while I tap away on a cell phone writing words they don't understand but that if they did, would know meant elusive hope is in my grasp today. They know that already though. They can tell by the way I'm me again. By daily walks and no dopesick sweet scent coming from me today. By clear eyes and clearing fog. They can tell by the absence of needle replaced by citrusy salvation, thick and bitter dissolving under my tongue.

Game-changing and life-altering, this medicine of mine. Yesterday an hour passed without heroin on my mind. An hour where my gut didn't clench up in knots and I didn't start to sweat, without that monkey stealing from me a single second of 60 entire minutes. Perhaps miracles do happen, or perhaps I'm just too tired. Too tired to chase that dragon into it's cavern anymore. Too tired to scheme and steal and stay high at all costs, all the while dreaming of a better way. 

The better way is here. I'm shaky still learning to walk again but each step will bring more practice and more confidence. It always has, since St. Patrick's Day of 1988 when I walked on my own two feet for the first time. I do not want heroin to be the cause of the last time I take those steps. She was not the reason for my first. She shall not be the reason for my last. 

I know I sound disjointed and perhaps a bit insane, but trust me when I say I feel a bit better today than yesterday, and yesterday than the day before, so on and so forth. 

It takes forging through fear and breaking down walls and opening my bandaged yet healing heart up to the world, opening myself up for pain but also sneaky joy. The happiness, slippery and frail, getting a little stronger each day, that skips up behind me and slaps a smile on my face. It's startling and brings a tinge of sorrow each time, that smile, why the sorrow? Do I feel guilty allowing a life lived in flame to be lived in the sun today? How sick that is, to feel guilt for living the way I was meant to live- free of chain and shackle.

Or is that sorrow mourning? If it is mourning, it means maybe this really is the end. If I'm mourning the loss of my best friend and worst enemy heroin, then maybe it means I will really leave her for good this time. For even a breakup with someone who beats you down has pain and loss and sorrow. It is still an ending. But it is also a beginning. 

I keep close to my heart the knowledge of the path I took to get to today. I cannot allow myself to forget. History will repeat if I do. History may repeat anyway, but if it does, I know now I can rise again. 

I stand here surrounded by the ashes left by the flames, and I see possibility. I see the things I could build to replace what I've burned and a future for the little left charred but still standing. I've rebuilt before and know I can do it again. 

I've risen before. I know I can do it again. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Great Lakes of Thought

Be the voice of reason in my sea of insanity. Take charge of this swirling mass of cloudy thoughts and half visions without influence of narcotic. Half sight when one eye closed I'm laughing because I can't see tomorrow. My god is a drug and I've bowed so long my knees are broken. They've thrown roots into the floorboards and I'm stuck here it seems. It seems anyway, but seeming is not existing it's somewhere in between where I still have a chance.

It all makes perfect sense to me but from the outside? I'm just another freak show nobody junkie. But really, I'm a dreamseller fortune teller heretic and slave. I'll sell you any dream you want for me, be it sobriety or whatever. It won't come to bear fruit but I will still sell it.  Salve won't soothe these infected wounds. It's pain that gnaws and sometimes spikes but always there. Always. Haunting masses of memory that come down hard and the weight it never lifts. It never lifts back off of me. 

What is wrong with me? Am I a junkie by design or by decision? Must be design this must be meant to be, it's always meant to be, it's all meant to be. Has to be or else there's no sense or order to things. My sensical order in the scheme is I am at the bottom of the ladder. No bottom junkie with a big fucking monkey stealing scraps from my table. 

What're the odds of escape? 1%? I reject your numbers and choose instead to create my own. My own 15 years. My own 5,000 days. My own 25 months and 3 days sober now long past. My own odds of survival through autumn. 

Autumn  I feel in the air tonight, another ending rolling in. I can taste it in the cool breeze and chilly rain. My thoughts spiral on the last thermals of July while my body waits below, hoping there is salvation. Can you salvage a life that's not much beyond scrap? I don't know if I can. I won't die because of that though, I won't just let go. I'll fight and rage and battle on till the bitter end, drinking alone and singing songs better sung round a campfire with friends. It won't be long until cold winter rain forms crusts on the drains, steam rising from the sewers where I sleep. 

It won't be long until the opiates are gone and all you have is yourself. And what will stare back from the mirror when you look? What will I see looking back? A monster?

Or do I have wings?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fearing Fear Itself

Will I truly arise from the ashes? I'm alive, that means there must be hope left for me, right? There's a reason I'm not dead, that much I know for sure. But what is that reason? Some days I think I've pinned it down, but some days I wonder if what I believe is the reason I'm here is really the thing I hold back the most, the progress of what I started and maybe now should hand over to someone who can guarantee they won't dip out for weeks to feed a raging fire they set themselves. I've been handed an out and a plan of how to do it gracefully; there's always that option now to bow out and let myself be fully consumed. To just lay down and die, or whatever else it is life has in store for me before then. But could I really turn my back on those I can't make understand?

Will I ever truly rebuild without the flames close at hand, without being one dropped match away from burning myself to the ground again? Thinking of sobriety is terrifying. Of a life with no opiate influence, not smack, not orange-flavored sublingual medication that keeps me well physically and keeps some of the cravings at bay. With nothing. No buffer. Just me and my thoughts and my demons. My history and memories and hopes and fears. The whole package that is myself. I fluctuate on that package of self idea- some days, I know it must be so much worse than it seems through the haze I keep between me and the truth. Others, I think maybe what I'm running from isn't actually that bad after all and maybe I should let it catch me and find out.

It doesn't matter if it's heroin. If it's suboxone. Vodka or Benadryl or Dramamine or whatever it is. It all does the same thing, it's all a buffer. It's all a shield I can hold up when I've poked at a sleeping bear and woken it up again and am being charged because of my own choices. It isn't as simple as putting down the shield. I also have to stop poking the bear I need the shield to protect me from. But I'm beginning to see that first, I have to set down the shield in order to be able to get a good look at the bear and figure out what it is about it that makes me keep prodding at it. And that is scary. Nothing on earth scarier, not death or terrorists or centipedes, all things that have had a very real presence in my life. The idea of facing myself with nothing but what I was born with in my body to help me through is absolutely bonechilling to me.

But what scares me most about sobriety is that it gives me something huge and life-altering to lose. I know how fragile it is. I threw away over two years sober, I know how it feels to go back and look back from this side and wonder, which choice was it I made that finally sent me on a spiral I was powerless to stop? Which moment in the months before was it that I made the wrong move, the wrong choice, which landed me flat on my back in a dopehouse so literally? I look back and I truly had it all. I had it all and then I gave it all away. If I had it all again, I'm so terrified I'd do the same thing again. I know that pain. I feel it still today, of knowing what I had and gave away. There was an offer on the table as of a few months ago for my oldest sister to pay my way through vet tech school if I could get it together and get there. All I have to do is enroll. But if I enroll and then screw it up, it's over. Never another chance. So I don't enroll because of fear. Fear that again, it will be thrown away by my idiocy and refusal to face myself. Now that offer, it's gone with the relationship we still maintained even as of so recently. Now I hear her voice and feel only shame.

I'm scared of what addiction has done to me. The ashes it has reduced me and so many better, stronger, smarter people to. I'm scared of what it has in store for me yet. I'm scared to start building anything or even to hold onto what little I have built that still stands because of how those flames consume once I set them. I feel so much fear, so I run. I hide behind lotto wraps and foil suboxone packets and glass bottles and anything, anything I can take an overdose of to get a high. Because a high for me, it has nothing to do with fun. It is all about escape and numbness and just not feeling anything for a time.

I'm afraid, I'm hanging by a thread I have attempted and failed to cut, I'm losing my mind bit by bit, but still, I'm not done here. I know that because I am alive.

That means there must be hope left for me, right?

Monday, July 22, 2013

An Ending In Flames

I want to believe that when my time is done here and I leave at last, there's something better waiting on the other side. That after a life lived in the flames, I get to rest when I am dead. That maybe on the other side, I get to hold down a job and lease a safe, reliable minivan and pay a mortgage on a house in the country with a chunk of land, half of which I use for a pit bull rescue and the other half the love of my life uses for a working line Doberman breeding kennel. I like to think I will never have heard of heroin and never have known her bite, soothing at first but eventually the death of me one way or another. I like to think my family will visit and be proud and eat BBQ ribs while we set off fireworks on the fourth of July, and I will never spend a night sleeping outside unless I'm camping in the U.P. listening to the howls of wolves. I like to think all this because at least it gives me one thing to look forward to. I like to think it but I know with the hands I have always been dealt, I'm not going to be that lucky. So I just hope it isn't as full of flame as my life here has been. As long as it isn't a repeat of my time on earth, then that's all I ask. I do believe all junkies go to heaven because we have already been through hell on earth. But I don't know if I qualify for that relief. I gave it all away. 

I gave away my bond with my dad, choosing trying desperately to fit in when the wolves turned on the hyena in their midst so long ago. I gave away my relationship and the pride of my mom, what my sisters hold close and guard so carefully, what I'd give my life and will give my life to fix, for only my final departure can end the pain and shame I cause her now and let her heal at long last. I gave away my home in pursuit of what I believed was cool and right and where I believed I was meant to be. I gave away my control over self when I first met heroin and felt a needle's prick. I gave away my soul when I realized that an abandoned half burned house felt more like where I belonged than in the arms of someone I love. I gave away my future when I caught my first habit, a habit I caught because I chased it, so naive. I gave away my love to so many even knowing always they would leave, but still I loved them all and always will. I gave away my familial ties by repeatedly biting the hands they reached out to pull me to my feet, not knowing the reason for the reflex, only knowing the harder they tried the harder I bit. I gave away the love of my life, my kindred soul, when I proved to him and myself I could not beat this addiction and came to realize that by giving him away I would ensure I didn't drag him into my ever raging Saint Elmo's Fire with me. I gave away what I spent years building, a haven and hope for forgotten dogs, the only good I'd done in my life and the last thing I had left to try to hold myself together for. I gave it all away. 

I sit and stare into blackness knowing soon I will be in that blackness at last, without the pain and regret I've known for so long, without the knowledge that even the good I'd built I gave away in the end. I know that is the color of the end because I've seen it before. I've seen it when I gave death my best shot and yet didn't stay gone. The end will come dressed in black, sharp at first but then soothing and soft, and I will melt into her embrace and I will go quietly into the night. I won't fight. I don't have any fight left. Now with only my two furry daughters left keeping me here, daughters I know my mother will keep and protect and love for me, I see at last how selfish I am in staying here. In continuing to form bonds with people only to hurt them and drive them away shaken and changed in the end. In continuing to hold control of that haven I built knowing I'm really just a burden even to the progress of that in the end and it is better to let control be passed away from me now, so it can either end or grow brighter without me. 

I never belonged here. I don't think I was meant to be put here. Or at least not as a human. Maybe as one of the strays I tried and failed to rescue. Or a wolf. Or a hyena, brutal and vicious at times but so loyal and true to their clan. I don't believe I will come back as something or someone else. I believe I had my chance and have proven my soul flawed beyond repair or hope. Now all I want is to be granted my due, free passage to a place beyond this realm where the light isn't tinted red with history and the great inland lakes are cool and refreshing when I dive from a cliff into their waters. 

I dream of a place with fields that don't end and the dogs I've let go before me are there waiting. Where my dad stands with open arms and streaming tears, welcoming me home at last with the only hug left that could heal me. Where friends who became family sit around the fire telling stories that end in triumph and never our failures, never our regret. I dream of a place free of pain, free of fear, where each day is the same, as they were here, but each day is not the same as it was here. Where my breath comes easy and the sunset lasts forever. A place without darkness or doubt or flame outside a fire pit. 

I hope my dreams foretell the future but I know better. I know what my lot in life is and know I will reap the same in death. But I have hope it won't be the exact same, and that is why I have no fear of it. I don't fear death. I fear a future I cannot ever picture beyond the next day. I fear living on now that the last of the good is gone. I fear another fifteen years in the flames until there's no ashes left to arise from. 

I don't know yet if this is goodbye. I do know that to try suicide is an act of futility for me, that the most earnest attempts end in further failure. But I do know I know a house where a dead dog lies in a closet upstairs, surrounded by his toys and food dish, likely left "just for a few days" that became forever and I discovered him far too late to rescue his forgotten soul. I know this house well because I spent a winter there until I found the departed dog upstairs. And I know a corner in the kitchen by the stripped sink where I once almost left this realm before, too much heroin when I didn't mean to and six hours gone half alive and all unconscious. I know I could sit down and shoot up and let go there. It wouldn't be hard. I'm hanging by a thread that shouldn't take much to sever. 

How low can I limbo before I break? How much weight can I carry before I crumble?  How long will it be before I sell my soul again? How long until I'm delirious from lack of sleep again? How long until a gun is shoved in my face, and will they pull the trigger if I turn and run? How much is my useless life worth and how will I find out?

I don't have the answers but know I soon will. Know I am facing flames of my own making again. Usually it is as simple as putting those flames out by sobering up, but that didn't work this time. It just made me realize no matter where I am, still I burn. Those flames lap always at my heels. And there is nothing left of me to turn to ash, no ashes left to arise from. Nothing left to rise for. I've given it all away and there's no going back. 

If God exists, I hope He lets me go in peace and warmth and beauty, even if that warmth is false and created by the product of the deadly beautiful poppy flower, as red as the blood I draw into the syringe that I use to blow my brains out and erase myself from this realm.