One Detroit Junkie's Battle Laid Bare

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.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Seek To Understand as We Seek to be Understood

An addict's greatest enemy is always themselves. We are the only ones in the end who can hold needle against vein and commit the act of piercing that vein. 

But one of our greatest challenges will always be the judgement, hate, cruelty and anger people without understanding and with closed minds dole out so freely and without solicitation. I knew by letting it all hang out on Instagram I was inviting a convention of haters to form. Yet at first, I still let it get to me. Still let it form new wounds on top of old scabs and rip out stitches on things I'd thought were worked or survived past. I let their words bite me to the core, not the ones who just threw out things like "junkie" or "dirtbag" or other simple insults like that; I already know and accept that I am a junkie and when using often am more than a bit of a dirtbag, and am not at all offended when others take note of the obvious and attempt to use it as a weapon. I mean really, you think I don't know that, guys? I know it as sure as I know where every dead vein in my body is, as sure as Narcan makes for a bad fucking night. 

Plus, there's the cold hard fact that for whatever reason, a junkie is proud of being a junkie. No, not proud of our addiction. Not proud of the sickness inside. Not proud of the damage we cause. But we accept that we are addicts and wear the badge of the status of official junkie with a sick pride and defensiveness; we went through a living fucking hell to get there and gave away chunks of our hearts in the process, so it's only natural we would be proud to have survived as junkies. We are proud to have survived what would destroy 90% of the population. We are strong and we are fucking warriors. We wear it with pride around other addicts and when called a junkie, say "Yeah? Your point is?" Or "Goddamn right!" So that stuff doesn't get me. 

What hurts is the more complex and time consuming haters. Those who take the time out to post long, drawn-out comments explaining to us what a piece of shit we are, how we only want attention, have daddy issues, on and on. The ones with such closed minds they assume that we made a choice to become what and who we are, and therefore it's as simple as making a choice to not be addicted to smack anymore. I mean c'mon, it's just a fucking powder, right? You've only been chained to it for fifteen years- MAN UP and walk away already! It is not their words that hurt- it is the knowledge that should one of their loved ones ever find themselves suffering from the disease of addiction, that hatred and judgement is what they can expect. Not help. Not support. Not the ability to be open with their best friend about their pain and their struggles. The knowledge that if they are, they can chalk them up as lost forever. And that?

That fucking HURTS. 

A junkie judges themselves so harshly, we truly in our hearts- don't feel but rather KNOW- we are trash. Know we are worthless. A drain on everything and everyone. We live every day with not only the burdens of our root pain, which I've talked about before and will go into again at some point I'm sure, but the pain added on by our escape and what we are now powerless to stop and must submit to- the need, not want, NEED to get more. Our lives owned by that fire, reduced to ashes and smack. The acts of degradation so staggering most would just eat a fucking pistol afterwards. The fires we start and fires that consume what we once were and forever change our worldview, our self image, our reality and our future. Junkies live such hell every waking moment and many dreaming moments as well that when I see a closed minded asshole who refuses to self educate or ask questions or seek to UNDERSTAND, who chooses instead to attempt to further the pain we already live, I get hurt, angry, enraged- and then I get writing. I try to explain to them with kindness rather than their same weak and juvenile nastiness how the same way they think we are pathetic, well, I feel the same about them. Their ignorance. Their desire to belittle and attack and wound those souls already so close to broken, it's less than a thread we hang by. That is truly pathetic. A junkie isn't stupid. In fact, I believe the longer you've survived this mode of living, the more brilliant you must be because it is endless work, endless scheming, endless thinking and planning and split second decision making to be a junkie and stay high and keep away the withdrawal. And it takes the strongest kind of souls to survive the worst forms of pain. 

Addiction is a disease. It is recognized and categorized as such by the AMA, can be found listed in the DSMV and there is not a country in the world without addicts as a part of the population. Addiction is not a choice, not a lifestyle, not a goal nor a decision. An addict's brain, viewed on MRI, is literally PHYSICALLY different from a normal person's brain. We are not like you. We were born this way just like a person is born black or white, gay or straight. You may be an addict too and it may be as simple a difference between us as you not having that deep pain that kick starts your addiction, that drives you to seek out a way to escape that becomes the very thing which you fight with staggering violence to escape from. 

If you don't get it, that's fine. If you don't want to learn, that's not fine because ignorance is not bliss but whatever, I cannot force open a firmly closed mind. I can and will and do however ask that you show a little respect. Some common decency would be nice. See a photo of someone in so much pain, so tormented by whatever their root pain is, that they have a needle full of smack in their arm to try desperately to escape? Think about what your words will do. You cannot shame me out of my addiction. You cannot bully me out of it. You cannot do anything but add to my root pain- an my root pain? It comes from the very bullying that you are so cruelly, so thoughtlessly, so immaturely doling out. What purpose can your cruelty serve other than to take me instantly back over fifteen years ago to the first time I felt that same punch you're dealing out so coldly. 

Wake up each day, junkie or normie, fiend or not, and think, "What can I do today to seek to reduce the harm I do to those around me? What can I do to promote understanding and peace rather than judgement and hate? What can I learn today and how can I stay open enough to allow myself to see that which I am supposed to learn and they whom I am to learn it from?" Do that and maybe you'll find the world isn't half as black and white as you think. Maybe you'll see I'm not a bad person, I'm just sick. I'm not evil, I'm suffering from a disease for which there is no known cure. Yes, I made a choice to pick up the first shot but how could I have known that fifteen years later, I would be fighting still to escape that decision? And after you educate yourself I hope you can sit down and think, "Thank whatever god there is I am not in that kind of pain," rather than wanting to spew rage and hate and evil on the Internet. 

Seek to understand us as we seek to be understood. The stigma and judgement is what keeps us sick, prevents us from seeking help, from being able to take care of our disease with the same matter of factness with which a person would seek care for cancer. Hate addicts? Then the way to help wipe us out is to stop judging and start learning and become part of the solution rather than adding another closed mind to the problem. 

Because without understanding, I truly have no hope left at all. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013


My father was my one true ally. No matter what. He is the one who taught me all the most important things I know: never pull the trigger without a totally clear shot because to cause an animal to suffer for even thirty seconds while you get off another round is atrocious, and to show that animal compassion and gratitude and the utmost respect for the sacrifice it made for you. NEVER hunt for sport unless you intend to eat or use (not just mount on the wall) every piece of the game you take. That you ALWAYS have enough money to spare some for a kid's lemonade stand. To be self sufficient. To trust people to be good on the inside. To be kind to everyone no matter what. To help people fix flat tires no matter the time or weather. To use words rather than fists when you are angry. To catch and release once you've got enough fish for what you need, and always be gentle and quick in the death of those you keep and grateful for the gift they've given you. To show mercy towards everything and everyone. To make amends for your wrongs no matter how small or how old they are or how angry you feel towards the person you wronged. To never hate- ever. How to raise pigeons in the attic and calmly deal with the fallout that caused with your neighbors when they shot and killed my favorite one, Chirps. How to train dogs to sit, stay, hunt, retrieve and do anything else you need them to do- always with respect and compassion. That there is always something you can do to help a stray, be it a dog or a human. The name in English and Latin of every wildflower, every tree, every animal, insect, bird and fish in Michigan. How to identify a bird by sight, sound, eggshell, nest, or sillhouete. How to stand in the middle of a stream, flyrod in hand, and simply exist in peace with my surroundings. How hard work pays off if you allow it to. How to live in the city peacefully while your heart lies farther north. 

All of the lessons and knowledge and skills I need to live a life I only dream of now, while cravings and thoughts of blood mixing with brown liquid pain relief gnaw at my guts and cause me to retch. Nobody at the squathouse ever cared much about birds unless it concerned flipping them to cops. Nobody I bought smack from ever asked what variety of elm it was we met under (American, rare now thanks to Dutch Elm Disease.) It sure wasn't secret hunting spot locations I was begging for by the freeway ramp. And it wasn't great perch fishing conditions I was running from. Why then is this my life and not the one my father spent countless hours teaching me how to live?

My childhood was spent in the northwoods. Seeing in me what he knew in himself, my dad ensured I spent not a single weekend in this city. Friday after school, Dad loaded all the gear for our next adventure into the car and we were off. My childhood up until age 10 was absolutely, 100%, pure as driven snow PERFECT. I cannot ever remember being unhappy. I excelled in school and excelled in learning what my dad offered up in lessons Up North. Even our own backyard- the wildflower garden that after his death was allowed to go back to nature, which I've now turned into a wild berry patch with tangles of bushes filled with raspberries and blackberries dug out of Michigan soil with my fingers and transplanted there. It'll never be called anything other than "Dad's garden" though. We would catch a garter snake, bring him home for a week, and then I'd learn the lesson of why wild things belong in nature for myself, watching Slithers sit silent and miserable in an aquarium rather than slipping through the grass or sunning himself on a rock in the field where I captured him. It was always by the following Tuesday that I was begging my dad to let me skip school so we could go take Slithers back to his home where he belonged. Or Hissy. Or whatever kiddish name that one had been given. I did this same thing over and over, it being a hard lesson for me to accept, that I could not bring the wild I so loved home with me and have that wild be the same as when I visited it. That the snakes and birds and baby raccoons lived in their home, and I in mine, and our homes were not the same. They were not happy in my home like I was in theirs. 

I don't know quite how to describe what bullying does to a kid. How it totally and irreparably kills them inside. But the fact that the power of those kids' cruel and totally wrong words and actions and thoughts about and towards me eventually became more than the power of what my dad put in my head my entire life- that I was awesome, I was perfect, I was smart and I deserved every bit of my inner happy- goes a long way towards explaining. The words and the actions and the shunning the kids started doling out completely destroyed me. It demolished me. Set fire to my confidence and burned my happiness down. I became haunted, afraid, alone and scared of every new day. I could only fake sick to skip school so many times. I tried my hardest to live for Friday afternoons, when my dad and I would take off north together and the kids didn't matter, but the day came when those kids' words followed me North. They haunted me through the woods, shadowed me along the riverbank. That pain became a piece of me I couldn't escape from anymore.

I internalized their words. I started trying to be like them, stopped going North with my dad. I willingly and consciously pulled myself away from the one person who always understood me, always supported me, always loved me and always encouraged me. I willingly and consciously stopped going with my dad to the few places I always, always belonged- the woods and his embrace, the passenger seat of his car, I-75 North beyond Birch Run with old hippie music on the radio and my best friend at my side, the field with a shotgun against my shoulder and a dog out in front of me on point, Dad speaking encouragement and correcting my stance before asking the dog to flush the pheasant. The very last places and times I felt completely whole and content. I look back and I want to smack myself. Hard. Wake myself up to the reality that those school years do not matter. FAMILY matters. Inner peace matters. Joy matters. Wherever I found that joy and peace is where I should've stayed. I should've fought tooth and nail to stay there. And to walk away from my father? To willingly give up those weekends, those moments in the backyard, because it wasn't cool to be who I was? In all these years between that day and now, in my entire fucking life here in this realm, I have never and most likely will never again do anything else so absolutely stupid. So blissfully ignorant that that choice would end up being why I sit here now, running out of the suboxone I've now got myself hooked on to try to make this easier and planning my escape. 

My father passed away on March 16, 2008, at 57 years old. I had 17 months sober. I had gone hunting and fishing with him a few times in those months, was working back towards what we once had. Making amends. Living the lessons he taught me with him by my side again at last. I had just flown home from a visit to my sister in San Francisco the day before, and we went out to eat together, me, my dad, and my mom. Before I'd left, my mom had asked my dad if he thought I'd be okay in San Fran, if I'd stay sober. My father told her he trusted me implicitly. Over 17 months I had done so well and had earned that trust. But on March 16, my dad got up early to take our new dog hunting, his first work in the field on live birds, and he never came home again. With no history of heart trouble, my dad had his first and last heart attack in the field and died within an hour, the ambulance having just gotten there. My dad died on the half-frozen ground of March in the fields where I shot my first pheasant, with his dog by his side. I'd like to think he would've wanted to go just like that, but I know better. He would've wanted to go surrounded by his family. 

I don't get to ever feel that all-encompassing security of childhood again, but then no adult does. I stayed sober another six months before I let the same thing that sent me to the street the first time send me back again- the loss of that bond with my father. The night I went back, Devil's Night, I screamed and cried and pounded the steering wheel of my truck, begging my higher power to stop me, to send a flat tire, a car crash, ANYTHING to stop me. That was the first time I shot dope against my will and the first time I truly understood the power of the heroin I'd gone running to so long before to kill a pain I could've solved with the tools I had, the person in my life that was always on my side. 

I believe my father paints the sunsets. Delusional, silly, whatever. It is what I choose to believe. What I need to believe. And I'm starting to think he sends the storms that seem to follow me wherever I go when I'm getting high. Sends the sunsets to remind me he is always there, that it is up to me to come back to safety. And sends the storms to remind me what I'm doing is violent, vicious, and unstoppable once started. I watch funnel clouds spin and twist over the lake and I think how they are so much like addiction, striking with seeming randomness, not caring if you're rich or poor, inner city or suburban, a child barely out of pink sweatpants with cartoon dogs on them or an adult with a better grasp on life. 

This disease is cunning, baffling, and powerful, and I don't think there's a way out for me anymore. Some days I grab elusive hope, but usually it slips from my grasp and the world just spins on around my nodding empty shell, leaving greasy tracks along my skin as it passes me by. I miss my dad. His death isn't why I get high anymore; I get high because I can't stop. Or won't stop, don't stop. But really, I can't. Because I'm not willing to face that pain and shame and guilt and regret. So, so much regret. Regret unlike anything I've ever felt before, that crushing weight and stabbing pain and so much that's never far from my mind. So much I want a redo on. Just a do-over on those months between the start of my withdrawal from my dad and my discovery of heroin withdrawal. If God could just give me that one do-over, maybe this story wouldn't be the one it is. Maybe it wouldn't end the way I know it will. 

Maybe I'd have a shadow of a fucking chance. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Homeless! We Are Homeward Bound!

Home is where the heart is. But what of a heart that has no building in particular it belongs to? What of the heart that feels home is a whole city, or the embrace of another heart, fallible and fragile as that heart itself? What of the hearts who travel and ramble and wander and hike, who never sit still and allow moss to grow upon their smooth and well worn stones? What of the hearts that know no walls, no roofs or floors or confines of house? What of the hearts sleeping under open sky, with stars bright above but no shelter from the cold? And what of the hearts who having lost home, are homeless and hopeless but fighting on still? Shall those hearts ever rest or is rest for the wicked, for good indeed these hearts are at their core? Shall those hearts find peace, settle old scores, win the hand, or are they forever to exist in pain as though damned? Those hearts did no crime, broke no law, never drove a knife home nor shattered a jaw. Those hearts are simple and tough and soothing yet sore, with rage and loss around their good core. Those hearts fix you with a gaze and you are never the same, as before when you thought you were best at life's game. Those hearts are the heroes, the warriors, the braves; those hearts they refuse to exist forever as slaves. Free of chain, free of shackle, free of shame, a free radical, these hearts they break but seem always to mend! They are strong, they are smart, they know love with no end! They are the future, ignorance of which we pretend! These hearts, they are stunning, they are bruised but not broken. They are the ones who know the heavens have spoken. Living life how they choose with no tethers to home, these hearts are the ones who've escaped from the gloam. Hail the hearts with no home, with no ceiling nor sink, hail those hearts living freer than most often think. Hail the half broken half bloodied hearts of the damned, the hearts no one from the outside shall ever understand. Those hearts surround you on the streets every day; tis up to you to live life another way. For the homeless, we are homeward bound! Even in our poverty we shall not drown. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Weight On My Shoulders And Memories Everlasting

A friend on Instagram said something tonight that struck me, and got me thinking. It was about how people who are not addicts themselves cannot comprehend living so full of pain that the horrors of heroin addiction are preferable to facing that hurt. Most of my thoughts were actually memories that are so much the reason why I do what I do, why I continue to shoot smack knowing the end results- jail stints, abscesses, pain for those I love and the few who still love me, further damage to a liver that screams at me all day every day, homelessness, poverty in the most sincere sense when a loaf of bread is out of financial reach for me, and so much more. So much worse.

The beginning point of my pain was towards the end of elementary school. I never fit in, never had many friends. I switched schools every couple years because I was in the "gifted" program, which also hopped schools every couple years. So I never put down roots, never formed lasting friendships as a little girl. As kids got older, they realized I wasn't like them and turned into the demons I now find almost all kids can be at times. Bullying started, my interests and hobbies became taboo, and my spirit came so close to broken at a very early age. I have always loved animals, canines such as dogs and wolves especially, and that was apparently not cool or okay, and was a "boy thing." So in came the chorus of "lesbo" and "she-he" and words the kids and I had no idea the meaning of, all I knew was they were cruel and they hurt. So I buried that part of me. Never went so far as to hurt or ignore an animal but definitely didn't advertise my love for them like I once had. But still I found myself alone. Middle school brought it's own pain. Kids were even more cruel and far more devious in their bullying than in grade school. They also hit harder. So I quickly found an outlet and a crew- punk rock. Heard a song by Pennywise, "Straight Ahead," on a skateboard show when channel surfing and fell in love. Punk rock saved my life as much as it destroyed it by being my intro to smack. That anger, that energy, and that unity in the scene was what I craved.

After I fell into the punk rock crew I ran with, bullying didn't bug me so bad, although to this day I wonder if it's still the root of my self-loathing- if the words of those kids live inside me still to this day, that I'm wrong, I'm no good, I'm weird and a freak in all the worst ways. But now I carried knives and the tables were turned. Fuck with me? I bite back now, motherfuckers. I became the Hyena, fighting for what I believed in, savage when need be but gentle and caring at my core, showing only those on my crew my soft side. Eventually, as I got older and my skin got thicker, my outside image got tougher, my scars became badges of pride, I had a crew that viewed me as leader, a role I've always hated and never felt comfortable in. I am not a follower, but I hate that feeling of a group depending on you for guidance. My guidance sucked and cost some kids their lives, following me into smack. I rode the rails, hopped freight trains all over the country. And then, I started losing friends to death instead of judgement or my addiction, my scams, my criminal acts, nursing an ever-raging habit all the while. The worst event of my time on the rails were not those friends who overdosed and died in my arms, or those who I gave breath and pulse to and brought back from ODs, or even watching as trains severed arms or legs and changed futures once bright into bleak and limited. It was my riding and using partner Knot and the day he died. It's one of the memories that brings me the most guilt, shame, and a pain that once touched, lasts weeks. I touched it a few weeks ago for the first time in years and it plays through my head on a loop many times a day now. Should've left it buried but I suppose some things just refuse to stay where they're put.

Knot was a scraggly kid with no family, no home, and honestly no future beyond life on the tracks and smack. He was my male counterpart. He was my best friend and my perfect equal match. Dreadlocks with bits of string and beads and ribbon woven in here and there, pierced septum and a dozen self-done safety pin tattoos, two years into a smack habit to rival my own but with a spirit that refused to be broken or held down, Knot is who I think of when I think of heroin warriors. A kid with gumption and pride and a refusal to stay down when hit with whatever life threw at him, he rolled with the punches and threw a few punches as well. He was wise, he knew he wasn't going to settle down someday, he knew his life wasn't going to be long but was going to make damn sure he packed as much living into it as possible before the end. I don't know if he could've seen the end that would come though.

The day Knot died, or in truth was killed is a more accurate description, we had spent the night in some podunk little town in South Dakota, running low on smack and planning to head back to New Orleans where we could get work and gear. New Orleans and Atlanta were the only two cities in the south we ever visited together and except Florida, the only part of the south I've been in to this day. The north and the west coast were far more our style. I must've been around 13 or 14, the exact age escapes me always for some reason. I know Knot was a year younger and looked up to me; I hope he knows I looked up to him just as much, in truth likely more so. We woke up that day and headed back to the railyard we had camped near, planning to catch the first train on the right set of tracks to get us headed the direction we planned to go. While waiting, knowing we'd be getting more smack within a day, we did our morning shots plus a little extra for a nice nodded journey south. That cost my best friend, my traveling buddy, my protector and my confidant his life.

I always jumped first, always grabbed the handles first, chose our boxcar and our moment to jump. I'd ridden longer, had more experience, and just was generally good at judging the right moment. Except that day, I was too high. I judged wrong. I jumped too soon, the train was moving faster than my heroin haze led me to believe, and my hand lost the grip on the handle of the car. I caught Knot's hand slip out of the corner of my vision. We both for some reason, rather than finding footing and pushing away from the tracks as we fell, swung back and down and ended up on our backs.

I landed smack dab between the rails, under the train.

Knot landed smack dab on the rail.

There was nothing I could've done at that point. I know that at least. Though the guilt of knowing I made the bad call that day haunts me and will never be far from my mind, I do know that once the events were in motion we were powerless to stop them. The ad for Trane air conditioners, about "You can't stop a Trane," always brings me to my knees because of the solid and tragic, unfair and terrible truth of that statement. The train was moving too fast. It was over in seconds. Knot's eyes, blue as the sky over the Dakotas that day, never left mine. I could see he knew what was coming, could feel the rail under his back and resigned himself quickly. I watched fear, panic, then peace flash through his eyes while the rumble of the train filled my ears. He never made a sound.

I laid there beside him until the entire horrific train passed. Then I laid there longer. Finally a rail cop ambling along his patrol happened upon us. Or me, and what was left of my best friend, the person who I knew and who knew me better than anyone on earth. I don't remember much beyond the cop yelling for help and kneeling down beside me, on the other side of me from Knot. I must have passed out.

Knot had no family. His real name revealed that was the honest to god truth, that his parents died two years back and Knot was thrown into foster care. So his body is buried somewhere in a Potter's Field in a small town in South Dakota. The authorities were cold enough to refuse me the right to claim and cremate my partner.

I spent the last of my cash on a bus ticket home a couple weeks later. I didn't ride another train until September of 2001, when I was on a train along the east coast on 9/11 and know those planes flew right over me on their way to their destination. That was the last day I ever rode a freight train and I will never hop another car as long as I live. Part of it is knowing that with the damage to my body in the years since, I couldn't keep up, but mainly it's because I cannot hear a train whistle without feeling like I've been shot in the gut. I have no photos of Knot. I have nothing of his but a scrap of red lace I wear on my wrist, the same wrist as my piece of gray lace he tied on me so long ago; I've taken them off for periods but never again. I feel naked without them. I do have memories that I will never forget. Memories of open sky and flat country, of mountains and rivers and close calls and bonfires and fun. True, unfettered, untainted fun. Nights we didn't sleep, just talked. His face in the firelight, eyes sparkling as he told me about his brindle mutt from his childhood named Spot (which is why I named my striped cat Spot) and how he'd always nibble his fingertips to wake him up. Memories of days when it seemed like anything was possible and we were king and queen of the world. Running from rail pigs, laughing as the train pulled away and gained speed while the cop huffed and puffed along, growing more distant. Guitar jams before we sold those off for smack, drum circles with other hobo kids. Him having to literally cut a man with a knife when he wouldn't keep his hands off me on a stretch of lonely track.

But most of all, I remember his eyes. The clear, brilliant blue of the Midwestern sky in August. The way he was so easy to read by what his eyes told me about how he was feeling. I have never seen another pair of eyes the color his were and I know I never will. They were as one of a kind as everything else about Knot. No other eyes will catch firelight the same way, will ever reflect the clouds over a field of wheat the same way. No other eyes will ever have that instant connection with my heart and soul his had, the way they'd always pull the truth out of me no matter how hard I tried to stay strong and resist. If eyes are the window to the soul, then Knot is where he was meant to be- somewhere high above in that perfect bluebird sky, without pain or fear or the uncertainty of a life unmoored, a life in which the only home left was no home at all. But in those last months together, we were both always home. Our homes were each other, the security and safety and comfort of each others' presence. Knot was never my boyfriend- he was always my brother. My blood as sure as a leopard has spots. I get a measure of comfort knowing the last thing Knot saw as he left this realm was his home, boring those blue eyes into mine. Homeless as he was, as we both were, Knot died at home. This I know without any doubt.

I live with the knowledge that my decision, my bad call, cost the truest sibling I've ever had his life. Today, I'm building a relationship, a connection, with a new kindred spirit, Lepurd, so parallel to that I had with Knot it gives me chills. I know that's why Knot is on my mind so constantly lately. Because so much of Lepurd is like him, like the brother watching over me from his perch high in the brilliant blue sky his eyes let me glimpse even on the stormiest days. Lepurd has the same smile that makes it impossible not to smile back, the same softness in his heart and the same warrior's bravery, courage, and strength alongside that softness. He has the same pain as well, deep-seated and staggering but a pain we both know, a pain from youth that unites us in yet another way. We both love so much of the same things, and argue the same way Knot and I once did, in a roundabout way that seems more like discussing but with all the passion of a full out brawl. And we both have furry daughters who mean the world to us, two misunderstood breeds who remind us of our own struggle to be understood or, at the very least, not judged on our outsides or our modes of living. I've found much of life is circular rather than linear, and my circles brought me back to the same type of beautiful, kindred soul that led me to bond so deeply and so timelessly, so unshakably, with Knot.

You have to always keep your eyes open in this life; if you blink you may miss meeting the gaze of the people you are meant to meet. I met Knot on a shitty little street in downtown San Francisco, locked eyes and we moved as one from that day till the end. Lepurd and I met online and it was through locking eyes with his words via email I first realized I needed him without knowing yet that he needed me as well. Smack is present in our connection, but is not our connection. Smack is present in everything for me though, so it's presence means nothing. What means something is the depth and finality of the connection. The way it feels the same as it did with Knot- like if I lose him, I lose myself as well. Lepurd came into my life at a time when I was leaving life altogether, ready and planning to go. He gave me a reason to live. He gave me the courage to fight for one more day. He still gives me that. He stands tall and faces a world that's dealt him blow after blow and he grabs onto the victories in that life that's often so cold to him as it so often is to me- and he shows me it can be done. He is a warrior. He is a kindred soul. He is my excuse for continuing to live a life some say I should end out of mercy for others and society as a whole, he is my reason for continuing to live a life I sometimes feel I should end out of mercy for myself. He is my hope. The new knot around my wrist that won't let me forget I am more than my addiction. I am more than a junkie.

So that pain eats me inside but it also has allowed me to see in Lepurd the best qualities of Knot. That guilt and pain is part of why I prefer the torture and living hell smack addiction often is to the far deeper pain of my past. I do not expect anyone without an addict's mind and past to fully understand.

But I hope maybe this will help those without a junkie's life gain at least a glimpse into what my reality is like. Why I stick around heroin despite the quite obvious and sometimes close to unbearable pain that comes with it. Because that weight on my back is always lighter than the memories everlasting.

Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus

I suppose the first thing I have to do here is explain who I am, what I am, and why I've chosen to lay it bare and share what I'll be sharing here. But before any of that, I'll explain the name of my blog and title of this post, which in turn will help me explain the other things I mentioned.

"Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus." Written by Father Gabriel Richard, it has been the motto of the city of Detroit since 1805, when a fire destroyed the city, including the school the Father had founded here. Translated, it says, "We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes." That's been the past fifteen years of my life- rising from the ashes only to burn it all down again, leaving myself bloodied and bruised and filthy, hoping desperately for better things.

You see, I am a junkie. A heroin addict. Smackhead. Skaghead. Dope fiend. Whatever. Heroin is the fire that leaves my life in ruins over and over again. The first needle entered my vein when I was 11 years old, a little kid with big pain from bullying who fell into a punk rock crowd and yearned for the numbness I saw on the face of an older rock star, a punk rock grrrl who hung around the older kids in the group I was in when she wasn't touring with her as-big-as-it-gets-in-punk-rock band. It took months of begging and wheedling, but eventually she agreed to introduce me to the dark, mysterious lady H who already haunted my every waking thought. I can recall even then having a vague feeling that I'd be giving a lot away to this new relief in the days to come. If I'd known how much I'd give away, how many years I'd be down, the pain I'd cause and the pain I'd feel, maybe I would've thought longer about it but I doubt I would've acted differently. The numbness, the euphoria, the escape was worth it at the time. Often remains worth it today, though for very different and much deeper and darker pains than I had back then.

The downward spiral was quick for me, because I let it be quick, let it take me down roads far from home, across the country on freight trains, through hell on earth and so many near death experiences it's truly a wonder I'm alive. I hear a lot of junkies talk about what heroin has taken from them, or what they lost to it. I have never had shit taken from me by smack, never lost anything. I gave it all away. As sure as I gave my money to my dealers, I gave my life to smack. Gave my friends away, gave my family away, gave my hope away. Fifteen years of smack has resulted in me ending up with a much smaller set of possessions and associations than your average 26 year old, but it was all because of a choice I made as an ignorant, bullheaded, tough as nails on the outside yet dying on the inside little kid. I gave it all away, and I give it all away still with every pack I shoot, every nod I spend hours in, every dollar I scheme and steal and lie to obtain for smack to keep withdrawal at bay- and to keep my demons at bay.

After fifteen years, with a 25 month break in there almost a decade ago during which by some act of a higher power I was totally sober, I know my odds of lasting recovery are not good. I know the reality of my situation is bleak, my outlook dismal. But the name I go by fits me- Hyena. I refuse to go down without a fight. I know this disease, this powder has brought me to my knees and thrown a noose round my neck so many times, but always I stand and struggle away. I'm pulled back in each time by choices and consequences and the subtle whisper that its alright, it's all right, come home to me where it's warm and silent and the numbness kicks in when I bite down. One day, I know I will be too weak to rise. One day, I won't have the will nor the strength to fight to my feet again. One day, I shall swing from the gallows with a needle in my body still, crying out to be heard without a sound. Without a prayer. Without last words and with only stolen breath fifteen years overdue for return.

Until then, I will struggle and fight and hope for better things to arise from the ashes that my life so often is, ashes left behind by my own fucking arson. I think a lot about the past, but fear keeps me from thinking about the future. A gut-wrenching, all-encompassing panic and sorrow sets in and stabs deep when I think about ten years from now, ten months from now, anything longer than a few weeks from now and sometimes even then. Sorrow because I simply cannot come up with a long range image of myself, because my heart and soul says I won't be here then. Sorrow because I know I've already lived and shot smack far beyond my expiration date. Panic because it makes me feel like I'm untethered when I can't envision any future with me in it. Panic because I already live with the damage and can't bear to think what another fifteen years of this hell would produce- because I sure as the sun will rise know that my future includes heroin in some amount, some level of control or lack thereof. Taking medication for a case of hepatitis I've had for ten years, liver damage that made the doctor do a double take. Shooting smack in my jugular because there simply is no other option; all my veins are gone. Sleeping on the street sometimes, wishing I could reach another, higher mode of living not shared by rats and roaches so plentiful in my favorite vacant houses in the Motor City. But after fifteen years, though I still fight and sometimes get a month sober at a time, I need to look realistically at my situation. Acceptance brings a sort of fragile peace, a respite from worry or fear or even the rage that drives me to keep fighting but eats me alive from the heart on out at the same time, rage against myself for the choices I made, against smack for being so goddamn fucking easy. Acceptance is a warm blanket I drape across my shoulders on the darkest nights, when I can feel death stare me down and move in close, looking me in the eye and asking if I'm ready. Some nights I say yes, but must change my mind at some point after the shot I knew but didn't know but suspected and expected to be too much, for I always come to in the hospital while they stab me frantically looking for a vein to deliver that liquid torturous hell that is Narcan. So my brushes with death always end up only being brushes, rather than final meetings.

So I don't try to run from death like I once did and yet do not embrace the end of struggle, the end of a deep pain that never stops chewing and gnawing away, that death would bring. Today I have two days sober, today I'm up a couple dollars in the card game of life. What tomorrow shall bring only tomorrow knows, and tomorrow has never liked to reveal her secrets to me. I'm beaten, battered, bruised and so close to broken but still I stand. Still I rise. I rise, I rise, I rise. You can watch me rise, watch me fall, watch this battle play out here in words and on Instagram under DetroitHyena in photos. But do not judge me, do not judge my path, do not judge my pain and the methods with which I escape. We all have our vices, we all have our flaws. We all have our anger, we all have our love. We all have our escapes and we all have our demons. We all have our victories and all have some devastating defeats. Here is where I'll let mine see the light; I'm too tired to try to hide it all away any longer and maybe someone will gain understanding or insight or hope from my fight.

There's a dead dog in the closet, junkies bootin' in the bedroom,
   harsh images flashin' ever faster,
   I'm shootin' up the everlaster.
And the birds all scream dissent as they stare me in the eye,
   spittin' razorblades and knives,
   but when the needle owns my soul, there's nowhere left to fly.
So I close my eyes and fade away,
   embrace this night and die today,
   the bonfire in the hallway throwin' light across my face,
   I'm secure in knowin' I've found my place.
And as the final flash fades from my eyes and knees hit worn wood,
   I'm thinkin' warm thoughts of all that's good,
   no time for tears in a life spent rewritin' the same page,
   leavin' a fractured family filled with rage.
I take with me soft memories of better days and hospital stays,
   and all the words I never prayed.
So hold me tight and keep my breath
   as I seek my peace in a hopeless death.