Saturday, December 9, 2017
Saturday, December 2, 2017
I quit all drugs when I was 27, almost 28 years old. I am not sure how old you are but I suspect most of the people reading this are around that age give or take. I went to jail where I kicked cold turkey. Then I did the in custody program stuff for 2 and a half months. The main thing I found beneficial from that was the 12 step meetings that came into the facility. Then, I went to a parolee rehab for 3 1/2 months. Once the system wouldn't pay for me anymore, I had to get the fuck out. Period. I had lined up a place at the Salvation Army Sober Living facility. I had a job working at a market research place. I was volunteering at an outpatient women's clinic for people who had been sexually exploited. I also attending one weekly group there.
I don't think any of this is new ground if you follow me. I am running through the details to let y'all know there is nothing particularly remarkable about my story. I had a LOT of help. I was very determined. And honestly, I was just DONE. When I made up my mind that I wanted to stop, I did the damn thing. You may be questioning yourself and your choices at this very moment. Just like I did in the months leading up to my last hit. It's a tough place to be in. My "bottom" was lower than most but the pain is all too familiar.
Maybe you aren't ready to stop. You know what? I totally get that too.That was also me. I 100% refused rehab when I was 26. I knew it was a waste of time so I didn't bother to drain resources. My family was pissed. The judge was pissed. I just was not in a place to stop. So I didn't. I respect you. I respect your choices. I just want you to be safe. Fentanyl has changed the game completely. No one who partakes in what they call "hard" drugs is immune from the potential risks of fentanyl in the national drug supply. When fentanyl showed up in the crack here in the bay area, I felt immeasurably sad because it seemed like our harm reduction efforts were too little too late. I digress.
The point of this really is to say I believe in you. You are smart. You are inherently a good person. Drug use doesn't define who you are inside. If you decide you want to quit, you CAN and WILL. If you continue to use, be safe. Preserve your health as much as possible. Trust me- you will need that body of yours one day. You want it in good running order.
Maybe I am a sentimental old lady writing these posts. I really want you to live and have a shot at the things I never thought I would see in life. Graduating college (twice), having kids, having friends, finding love, writing a book, waking up every day satisfied that I did not die. There was a time that all I wished for was to never wake up.
Anyway, this is the time of year when I think of you. The person in the picture, ready for change.
Monday, November 27, 2017
Friday, November 24, 2017
1. If you are actively using, plan ahead. Yes, I know that sounds impossible but actually plan ahead. As a person who been ripped off AND dope sick on both Thanksgiving and Christmas, you don't want this to be you. Get a few sub strips as a backup. Dopeboys take holidays too (dirty mfers). I strongly suggest not trying out new dope on these actual days. Nothing spoils the season like ODing in the family bathroom. Get naloxone as a present to yourself.
2. If you are feeling suicidal, tell someone. Call a hotline. Find some online meditations on youtube. Listen to podcasts. Go to a support group for the social element. Even if you feel they are judgy and full of shit, getting out can be a good thing. Set up a tune appt with your provider if the season generally does you in. Keep a journal.
3. If you are on MAT, find out what days the clinic is closed. What is the takehome schedule? What will your insurance do in terms of refills? Don't assume the clinic is closed/open because of the holidays. Do not assume your insurance will fill your meds a day early. I have seen folks plan elaborate trips without pre arranging medication requests only to end up going empty handed and quickly very very sick when their meds ran out. (This goes for psych meds, any kind of meds).
4. Do Not Feel obligated to buy things you cannot afford.
5. Do Not feel obligated to hang out with people who treat you like garbage. Who knows, maybe you can even pick up some extra shifts at a seasonal job. A great excuse not to come around AND moneys.
6. Always have an escape plan. How can I get out of here and back to safety? If everyone is drunk, can I get home. If I am too sick to deal, how am I aborting this mission? Do your homework.
7. Is there something good about this time of year you can focus on? Make a favorite dish, go to a favorite spot, watch ELF in your flannel pajamas. Make the cat wear a funny hat and take pictures. Put a jingle bell around the dog. Drink hot chocolate with marshmallows. It's your life, grab it and enjoy it while you can.
8. BE SAFE. Despite how you may be feeling, someone loves you. Feelings are not fact. Feelings will pass. If you have to use anonymous forums, crisis lines, and a copious amount of pumpkin pie to make it to the next day, we love you. We understand.
Add your ideas below...
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Saturday, November 18, 2017
On my break, my coworker and I decided to get some air. Out front of the building, we heard some noise coming from the corner. In true former street people style, we decided to investigate. There was a cluster of people getting high half way down the block in the alley. While that wasn't my alley, the alley where I lived, this whole area was fairly familiar territory. The coworker and I decided we would deliver whatever excess food was available out to the alley so they could make plates. I had been on the receiving end of many meals like this. If I had to chose between money for food or money for dope, food lost out every single time. If it was for little debbie, I am not sure I would have survived my early twenties. That and home run fruit pies.
When we rolled our cart out, it was very clear we had interrupted folks doing what they do. I could see a woman poking with her uncapped syringe in light of the street light. Another two people had the flame of the pipe going. One of pretty much laid the fuck out. A decent mix of what the drug life has to offer. I was stepping out of my current reality, back into a land that time forgot. I think we were feeling good about being able to feed a few people. That moment was pretty brief. A few minutes after we walked away, the same folks are now fighting over their share of the food. I didn't expect that, mostly because I have been living indoors for too too long to understand the realities of that life.
I do remember arguing for twenty minutes over two dollars. I walked up on a person trying to cook up their dope outside when they had owed me two dollars. "The cops are going to come- you are fronting me off" MOTHERFUCKER I DON'T CARE. You owe me two dollars. You need to give me two dollars RIGHT NOW or that hefty cotton. "Okay Okay" (mumble fucking bitch mumble).
What kind of existence is this when human beings are fighting over food? Drugs, poverty, violence, humiliation are the daily staples there. Do I cry, get angry, pull the covers over my head when I get home. I think I remember what the life was like. When I see it completely in my face, I realize I have forgotten so much of it. While I made it out, that same bear trap is currently holding , or for the escaped, ripping legs off victims over single day.
As I was walking back to the train station, my friend thought it would be cute to sneak up behind me, touching my hand. In a past life, I might have tried to stab him. Last night, I was just happy to have someone walk me towards home.
My son and I were eating out on the sidewalk last weekend cause streets are for the people.
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
There is a certain finality about knowing you are dependent on a substance. Be it heroin or coke or alcohol or speed or benzos. Or in my case, all of the above. When it finally sinks in that you will never escape the grip of addiction, it is a sad fucking day. My brain truly betrayed me. It lied to me saying this would never COULD never happen to me. Yet it did. When I looked at the decaying state of what used to be my young body, I did not feel a thing. I could not feel a thing. I just knew I would never escape.
The day I tried to kill myself, I did not cry. I did not falter in any way. I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to do. I did not want to feel that psychic pain any longer. If the right eye offends thee, pluck it out. I could not pull myself out of the stew of sorrow, my mind would drift off hoping I would never come back to this place. There was no one to help me, no one to stop me. I tried to kill myself. I survived. I clawed my way back from death. In dying, I realized I wanted to live.
The holiday season is a complete nightmare for current and former drug users. There are doing to be many moments in the coming weeks where you are going to think to yourself "fuck this". You know what- that is 100%. Your feelings are valid. Pace yourself. The shame train is a long ride from now until new years day. You are not alone.
I have to tell you this- as bad as this feels and it is going to SUCK- it will pass. For most you, active drug addiction is going to pass. You are going to move to something different. Please realize that there are folks out there that care for you. It might not be your family. There is some one. Be gentle with yourself. I spent a few different holiday seasons sleeping on top of a cardboard box in the rain. Yet here I am clicking away on my keyboard next to my snoring dog. I just want you to know that I see you. I am thinking of you. Don't die- I need the company.
Sunday, November 5, 2017
Thursday, November 2, 2017
Before he pulled back the makeshift bandage, I began to brace myself for the smell. I pulled up my leggings which were currently sticking to the gauze by means of dried puss that had formed an organic bacterial glue. I knew it was all bad underneath there, I just could not gauge how bad. My lower leg was no longer swollen. I had been smart enough to trade a cotton for a bottle of antibiotics. That wound- the wound was not healing.
The doctor started to examine the area "Can I cut this off?" He waved over his assistant, a person I assumed was a nurse. He was pointing to my sock which was equally encrusted to my skin. There was no way to extricate it without pulling off scabs. As he poured cold saline on my leg to loosen the fabric from the gaping hole, I leaned all the way back.
I had to be high to come here. Not Just high. REALLY fucking high. The pain was excruciating. I felt the throbbing before I even opened my eyes in the morning. My leg, twice it's size, red and swollen last week contained a two inch by four inch sized gaping hole that looked like a cross between a cheese pizza and snot. I casually stuck a clean syringe in there to draw out the puss. I gave up at five full trips to the abscess of sorrow. I could gently stick my fingers between the bones, afraid of what would happen if I went even further.
My daydreaming ended as he pulled the sock away from my receptive flesh. I felt a painful yet satisfying pop. Instantly, the room smelled like rotten garbage on a hot day "Basin please", he requested a place for my liquids to drain besides for the floor. As I looked up a the ceiling, I felt a sense of relief wash over me, I knew I was finally safe. I didn't have a place to stay tonight. I didn't have a fucking dollar to my name. I didn't have a sense of where my next fix was coming from. I just knew I was going to not die. Right now, that was enough. The pain of knowing the truth had kept me from getting help. This would be a metaphor for my entire life.
When I left the clinic a few hours later, I had some saline, gauze, two types of antibiotics, 30 Tylenol #3 with codeine (sorry liver), and a tiny bit of hope. I curled in a ball and took a much needed nap.
Thursday, October 26, 2017
“hello?” she says in a sleepy voice.
i’m silent for a minute. i can’t believe i actually called her. “hi mom. it’s me.”
i can hear her wake up. this is the call she’s feared. “honey are you ok?”
“no. no mom. no i am not ok. i’m scared and i’m alone. can i come home?” i start sobbing. “please mommy just let me come home.”
silence. she sighs.
“i can’t let you come home honey. i can’t let you come into this house until you are sober. i love you so much and i’m so sorry but i can’t” i know this is breaking her heart to say to me. i know she wishes more than thousand wishes she could let me come home and fix me.
“WHY? MOM I AM SCARED AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO ANYMORE PLEASE”
“i can’t. but i can stay on the phone with you. what are you doing?”
i’m crying so hard i can barely get the words out. it’s not working. she’s not going to let me. doesn’t she know what’s going on? doesn’t she fucking care? HOW IS THIS NOT WORKING THIS TIME WHAT THE FUCK? i’m crying so hard i have hiccups i choke out “i’m watching tv. will and grace”
“hold on. i’ll put that on too and it will be like we’re watching it together, ok?’
she puts it on. we stay on the phone for about an hour just watching the show together. we don’t really talk. it’s the first time she’s ever told me no. after i’ve calmed down we get off the phone. we say our i love yous and what not. i fall asleep. when i wake up in the morning i know that i’m on my own. it’s just me. no one is going to help me anymore. i’m the only one who can do this. i want to do this. but not today. probably not tomorrow either. but soon. i know what to do. i know there’s people out there that are happy. there’s people out there who don’t hate themselves. hate the way their skin feels on their body. shit, i just spent 5 weeks with some of them. they came into the program bringing meetings to spread the message. i’ve even got some of their numbers. i’m gonna call them. not today though. not yet.
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
There is a gnawing inside my chest. My heart is pounding to get outside. The ribs spread to form a bony prison, keeping me from you. My lungs fill without my consent. I don't want to spend another day wondering where you are- this ache known our separation. I'll hate myself for another sleepless night.
There is a chill in the air. I am spending another night sweating. Sticking to the sheets like unwrapped candy to the sidewalk on a hot summer day. I am sweet and easily discarded. Two users in love.
Saturday, October 14, 2017
I have been traveling a lot, trying to use my personal story to help others. I'm typing this on my phone so forgive me in advance .
It's fall now. My kids need me to be home. I need to catch up on carepackages, apply for funding, and just focus on keeping my mind right. I'm not going to lie to kick it, for whatever reason, the winter months give me a wave of depression. My mother really loved the holidays. She would do the whole house with decorations. She had decorative sweaters, decorative jewelry and pins. I have never embraced anything as much as she embraced the holiday season.
Winter as a homeless junkie sucked beyond measure. The SF Bay Area in my specific corridor doesn't really get "seasons" per se. It's more 10 days of heat, dry, cold/foggy, and rain. The rain when you live outside is inescapable. There are only so many sheltered spots in my general area. Those are highly coveted and physically defended. The average person might stay awake on rocks or tweak to avoid laying in a puddle at night. Remember- it isn't JUST a puddle. It's a combo of the oil and piss runoff that has accumulated in the dry season. The shelters were whack- curfew by sevenish only to be kicked out in the early early morning. That's if they aren't full.
I'm old now. I'm an old retired junkie. But I can clearly remember shivering in the cold rain, unable to accumulate enough money for a fix. No place to sit, no place to stay, no prospects. Those memories keep me sober but they also make me insane. I left that life and three people took my place. The water wheel of addiction flows like the dope on the streets.
You are probably alone reading this. I'm alone too. Alone in my hotel at a conference. I'm trying to learn about new ways to help people that use drugs, people like us. We deserve help. We deserve to be safe. We deserve love.
Be safe my friends. I'll get a story to you when I return.
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
The Tenderloin tour was nothing but tender. I am how ever strange, grateful it all happened. I appreciate every thing I have today. From clean sheets, to use of the limb they said I might need amputated, to people that love me. People ACTUALLY love me. Not because I have the bag but because I am a good person. I like to pet all the animals. Eat curry. Drink tea that is hot. I have THREE sets of sheets because I can. I like to wear whimsical socks because it makes me smile. I survived all that shit I mentioned. I am happy to have made it out alive.
I love you ppl. I was traveling, not ignoring you. I was eating way too many sea creatures in Boston.
Recent articles about me/harm reduction
Friday, September 22, 2017
Sunday, September 17, 2017
My girl is nodding next to me. She looks pretty tonight. Her hair is pulled back into a pony tail, a scarf covers up her exposed skin. Her dress is a sort of black crushed velvet, tight at the waist. Her sugar daddy liked to show her off. She wipes her makeup and lipstick off with some alcohol pads. Our dealer met her in the lobby of the hotel. He knew EXACTLY what time she was going to return. I think he still had hopes she would date him again. She promised me she would never be that desperate. A one time thing is what she told me. I almost believed her.
We put all of our money together on a gram and a hotel room for the night, leaving nothing but a healthy rinse for the morning. She promised me if I went to the doctor she would "take care of me" for the day. I didn't have much to contribute but I could hit her in the neck. That made me valuable. "Blow Blow" I insisted. I wiped away the trickle of blood before it reached the scarf. She needed that for the next date. I can feel the fever breaking as I sweat underneath my thermal, hoodie, and a wife beater to tuck in my non existent lady bits. We have the window up, the door barricaded shut. Neither one of feels safe in this place so we pushed the dresser against the door. A couple of xanax later, it will be night night time.
She passes me her other Little Debbie swiss roll she grabbed from the corner store. "dude," she tells me "what the fuck are you even saying?" I am semi delirious from the fever I've had from two days. That plus finally getting well has made the dope hit me hard. I snuggle up even tighter against her. I know she isn't into chicks really but I know she doesn't mind either. We both did that double awhile back. The guy just wanted to watch us kiss while he jacked off, or so he said. I closed my eyes. I didn't want to see it. I just could not that day. She handled everything.
The chocolate is like paste in my sore mouth and throat. "I want some one to crawl inside my skin," I repeated "I want a man to touch my face when he kisses me. I want someone to kiss my scars. I want someone to tell me I'm okay." I halfway laughed at the benzos were kicking in. What I was saying was completely ridiculous. I kicked my shoes off the bed. As the thumped on the floor, I heard the TINK of my empty beer bottle hitting the floor. "I want a him to pull me next to him. Kiss my shoulders, you know, romantic shit."
She started laughing "Kiss your shoulders?" She shook her head. I could feel the motion making my head gently knock against the wall. It was getting heavy now. The pills, all of them, were making their way through my bloodstream. "Bitch you want shoulder kisses? Of all the things- shoulder kisses?" She actually giggled like we were normal for a moment.
I cut her off "YEAH" I said defensively "shoulder fucking kisses." SOME PRETTY WOMAN SHIT she said under her breath.
Her voice starts to trail off "the best you can hope for..." She never answers.
When I open my eyes in the morning, there is 20 units waiting for me. I never saw her again.
I saw them give up on life support and wrap a sheet around this person on Wednesday. No one should ever die alone like this.
Saturday, September 9, 2017
That fucked me up family. NO ONE KNOWS you are using heroin except your dealer? That person is at SUCH high risk of dying alone from a fentanyl overdose. It made my heart hurt. Also, thinking about the feeling of keeping a secret like that from everyone in your life. So much stigma attached to heroin use. You can go to any club on any weekend and see people freely blowing lines of coke. Heroin makes a person a social outcast where people feel it is necessary to hide the valuables. This person works, is attractive (from what I can see in pics. I'm not trying to look too hard), has so many "things going for them". Oh, and they use heroin.
I thought about you, dear readers. How many of you have no one to talk to except folk you chat with on the internets (yes I said internets)? We are socially isolated and afraid. In that situation, drugs are a logical conclusion. The drugs are a solution of sorts that create a whole new set of problems. In looking at what we can do to reduce overdoses and increase the health of people who use drugs, it is becoming clearly to me that addressing social isolation needs to be a part of that strategy. I don't know the answers but I know we desperately need connection besides for the connection.
I love you friends.
I won an award this week for my public service.
This is a pic from my flight with my bff.
Monday, September 4, 2017
I could feel his leg shaking on the bed, a combination of anger and betrayal.
"Why did you do that Tracey," he gently turned me towards him "why would you let someone take my check?" I turned my back to him again. I don't feel like talking anymore. My sugar daddy came through with the $200 I begged/borrowed/lied for. I was celebrating- can't you tell?
I was high. High as fuck. The type of high where there really was no point in asking me anything that involved reality. The truth was not going to come out of my mouth. I didn't take his check, I reasoned to myself. I didn't profit in any way. Someone else took it so what did it matter to me...
He started getting louder "why didn't it matter to you?" He asked as if I cared "Because it wasn't YOURS. Because I thought we still meant something to each other?" That was his first mistake. Caring about me. Thinking I had the capacity to get beyond my pettiness.
He was the most beautiful man I had ever dated. I don't mean handsome. I mean he was fucking beautiful as in even the most homophobic of men would concede "that's a handsome man." Heroin had brought us together, a relationship forged in desperation. We would stay the night in seedy hotels, where the floor would move from bugs at night. We clung to each other for some sort of security. Eventually, that security turned romantic, as romantic as I had ever experienced. He bought me a gift once and would save me a wake up. I don't know if it gets more romantic than that.
It's over now. Over the day we sipped that first dose of methadone at the clinic. It was if we both woke up only to say "not you". Except I was regretting that decision. Except I was still in love with him. Except I was chipping again and he was fucking other women. When he didn't come back to the room we shared, I did care if someone took his check. I didn't care about anything. Not caring was my escape. He didn't see the eyeliner that was running into the pillow case from the tears in my eyes. I just wanted him to leave me her to die in dramatic strung out fashion. I proved myself to be the junkie I knew I was right? let me wallow in this a little deeper.
As the door slammed, my heart closed too. Fuck love, I told myself, as I mixed myself another shot- just because.
Recent things I have been in or written:
An article for work it health
Sunday, August 27, 2017
He took another bite of his food. I feel like I am being interviewed for a job I'll never get. If I tell the truth, he is sure to reject me. If I lie, I suppose he will know. I'm not sure how a casual late lunch/pre dinner with a person I met through Instagram has turned into an interrogation of sorts. It's not a date, more of an initiation. Can I meet the standard qualifications to fit into role. It's as if I wouldn't want to be in any club that would have me as a member but social isolation is also a mother fucker.
The truth is flexible. You don't have to lie. You can simply chose to omit the truth. Did you quit using? The correct answer is yes I did (but I started back again). Did you rip me off? The correct answer is no (but my boy did and we split the difference). Do you love me? The answer is always yes. I just happen to love/d drugs more.
He presses me again, not satisfied to hear my opinions on the decor, the neighbor, or the passersby we watch from our window seat. "What do you think is THE worst thing you have ever done for drugs?" When he reaches across the table for the salt, I notice a bump on his hand. It is the type of angry bump one gets from shooting tar into a vein that is completely unreceptive. The infection has taken off part of the ink from his tattoo. Is this old? Is it new? I can't tell exactly. He is overdressed for this occasion. San Francisco doesn't require a t-shirt and a flannel and a jacket and a beanie. Despite the fan twirling overhead, I can see the sweat starting to accumulate on his forehead. I can tell he wants to brush it away with our extra napkins.
I take a bite of my increasingly cold food. I hate eating in front of anyone. I feel like eating is an embarrassing private habit. I pull down my shirt to make sure no flesh is poking out on the side above my skirt. I keep pressing my hair behind my ear. I am becoming increasingly anxious from the copious amount of caffeine I ingested earlier. "Um, I would suppose it would be sex for drugs or money."
He laughs out loud, as if I have made a fart joke or something outrageously hilarious. "That's it? I thought coming from you there would be something more original" he quickly salts his food "I mean women give that shit up for a dinner on tinder these days."
I can't decide if I am supposed to be offended by his lack of empathy or laugh. "Well, that is something I don't really like to talk about..." I take a bite of my food, spilling the contents of my taco back on my plate. It sounded like an addiction related dick measuring contest was about to pop off. Instead, we are both trying to feel each other out with small talk about music and why coke tastes better in a bottle.
What IS the worst thing I've ever done for drugs, I think to myself. What does WORST even mean? Have I begged for drugs? Yes. I used to pan handle. I used to go the open air drug market to beg for "uno por gratis". I've spent hundreds of dollars with you. Can you help me out? I'm sick. That falls on deaf ears more times then not. Hundreds? Thousands? I've put a whole life of dreams up my arm. The cost? PRICELESS. Have I scammed for drugs? My whole life is an elaborate con I've played on myself. Of course I have scammed people for drugs. In fact, I've even worked for drugs. Imagine that. I worked a retail job getting yelled at by customers while I saved my pennies up to cop a few Percs when they were available. Who knew it would lead to begging people for their rinse. Do I want to explain these things to another person? Not really, not ever if I can help it.
As I choke down the rest of my food, I notice a restlessness. There is general sense of urgency on his part to end our lunch. As he takes a swig of his "apple juice" from his bag, I get the sense that it wasn't a test to see if he could understand me. It was a test to see if I could understand him. Did I completely miss something here? He throws his napkin down and stands up. It is time to go. NOW.
As we step out in the approaching night air, I turn my head to him. "I didn't get a chance to ask you the same question. What's the worst thing you've done for drugs..." he quickly hugs me as if to say this interaction is over.
He tilts his head to me "I'm not sure yet..." he half smiles "have a good evening." As he pulls his backpack over his shoulder, I can't help but catch a glimpse of his reflection as he walks away.
Thursday, August 24, 2017
Ok, thanks for letting me get that out of the way. So- you want to quit dope? Or maybe you don't. You want to cut back? Or maybe you just want to be safer? (fuck I hope so). I don't know what your goals are dear reader. I just know you have to have something positive going on in your life outside of powders or brown sticky substances.
There is a scene in the movie "Black Tar Heroin" when I was doing laundry. I asked the filmmaker when I got sober, why am I doing laundry. Pretty much anyone who knew me knew I would pick up clothes from the street, a thrift store, or just wear the same damn outfit for a month before I would bother to do laundry. He told me "all you ever did was get high- we needed footage of you doing something else". I cringed for a minute. Then I realized what he was saying was true. My whole life revolved around the obsession and compulsion to use drugs. The obsession in that drugs were pretty much all I ever thought about 24/7. Getting drugs, using drugs, and getting money for drugs were my top three. The compulsion in that I would use drugs even when I didn't want to use them. It was like I had these plans to do other things I would still end up alone with a needle in my arm.
I don't know the magic formula. Maybe you will stop on your own. Maybe rehab. Maybe you will start smoking weed and forget opioids. Maybe Subs or methadone or whatever will do the trick. I just don't know what works for each person. What I do know is that having positive things in your life is going to help you. For me, it is hanging out with my cats/dog. I like to walk around and look at graffiti. I hang out with my best friend at least once a week. I go to a job I like. I go to meetings periodically, mostly for the social aspect of them. I volunteer to help other. I get tattooed by friends. I just try to be in the moment.
Do your thing friends. Don't let your thing do you.