One Detroit Junkie's Battle Laid Bare

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.