Epidemic- Chapter 1
The darkness is consuming my wake, as morning is upon me. Most people associate darkness with the black skies the night brings with it. However, morning is when I disappear from the world. I have spent the entire night scavenging for money and feeding my hopeless addiction; heroin. I am the underbelly of a society that shuns my sins and looks the other way, while secretly judging me by the track marks on my arms and dark, restless circles under my eyes. I have spent the last two hours driving up and down the interstate. Pulling off on every exit that has a gas station. I park my car, (which incidentally is also my home) by the gas pump and watch the people filling their gas tanks before their morning commutes to work. I read the faces and body language of these Americans of societal norms and contemplate asking those who may contribute to my addiction for, help.
I call it help to justify my illness, but truthfully any gas pumped into my car, or cash transferred from their hands into mine, is another day of enabling me to kill myself slowly, with this dark poison I cannot escape from. I call it help because the lie is much easier for even me to swallow. I approach these strangers daily, with some exaggerated story of being lost, out of gas and stranded. If my street boyfriend has been particularly abusive that night, I can even produce some heartfelt emotion and tears to make my story more believable.
Many of the commuters pretend they do not hear me as I call out to them. Others refuse to allow me to even tell my story before dismissing me. But, even still, others hand me whatever change they may have or add money to my gas pump while they make their purchases inside the convenient store. Almost none of them will meet my eyes for the eye contact I have mastered using, in order to manipulate my victims with my lies. It is a rare but occasional bonus when a generous stranger spouts some biblical references, assuring me God loves me, while handing me a $20.00 bill and reminding me to trust in the Lord and to one day pay it forward. It’s ironic that these are the people you hear about most, as being hypocrites or judgmental. They are the ones most loving, generous and less judging of me today.
Now, as daylight shines brighter with every passing minute, I retreat into hiding. I have enough gas to get me back into the hellish circle, I call the three towns I make my rounds through, chasing bags. Chasing bags is a term junkies use to describe that very behavior. As soon as I have located a bag of dope, I consume it and then I am off immediately chasing another bag. I haven’t been on the streets as long as some. I haven’t resorted to selling my body or robbing people. Instead, I utilize my vehicle to drive those types of junkies around, in turn for: small cash payouts that immediately go into my gas tank, pathetically pinched bags and the chance of getting high off their shit because I am around them and they might break me off a piece of tar for my shot or pass the meth pipe around.
Crystal isn’t my drug of choice, (DOC) but it keeps me awake and going until I can meet with my real demon, heroin. I wasn’t always a junkie. A year and a half ago I was in my senior year at a Lutheran college, an active member in my church, a full time employee at a job I had maintained for 13 years and a loving mother to my beautiful daughter. Back then I was popping Percs and functioning. Popping Percs is a term junkies use to describe taking pain medication. I was completely justified, with a prescription of Percoset I obtained for two motor vehicle accidents I had been involved in that caused me to have legitimate back pain. I started off following doctor’s orders, but as the years went on, my tolerance went up and I began taking more and more until I had developed a chemical dependency on opiates.
Suddenly I found myself in a paralyzing condition. When I woke every morning, my hands were balled into fists and my entire body ached. Until I popped my Percs, I had to lay in bed. Once the opiates kicked in, I could get up and move through my day with ease. However I needed more and more to be able to function the way I had been able to the day before. They were quite literally my happy pills. No matter what was going on in my life, I was completely numb to feeling anything but the smile I wore on my face as I made it through another day of my dreaded, little life. I hated my responsibilities, I loathed myself. In fact, I didn’t even know who I was to justify my hate, but I despised myself nonetheless. I resented my situation and lack of apparent importance in this world. It wasn’t difficult for him to convince me to try my demon friend. I already felt dead inside.
He came disguised as the worst kind of angel, an angel professing help and mercy but delivering destruction. The fallen kind. After four and a half years of filing restraining orders against my daughter’s father, I made the mistake of calling him. I felt so overwhelmed with my schedule and having the sole responsibility of taking care of my child. Resentment towards his absence and lack of any physical or financial support, resulted in my binging on a bottle of Crown Royal and contacting him. He had been both physically and verbally abusive before during his raging alcoholic storms. When I was 5 months pregnant, he: crumpled up my daughters sonogram pictures, threw them at my feet while saying fuck our unborn child, poured a 2-11 Steel Reserve beer over my head, pushed me on the third flight of stairs and grabbed my cell phone and keys, preventing my ability to leave. I got away and began the years of restraint. My daughter had never known her father and I wanted so badly to believe that he had quit drinking and was going to be a better man. A father and a provider. He had quit drinking and his charm lured me back in. I just wanted to be that All-American family you hear about, but never experience. Instead I was introduced to heroin. I let him in, I let the devil in.
I take my rig, (needle) out of my junkie kit and slowly pull some Gatorade that has been rolling around on the floor of my car for a couple days up into it. The tar is sticky and I am careful not to scrape it under my nails as I break off a decent size piece to melt down for my shot. I can’t afford to waste any and it is not above me to suck on my fingertips, while scraping my nails on my teeth, to get every last bit of it into my system. I reach for my spoons arch and set it level onto an old CD case that I place on the middle console of my vehicle. I mix the heroin with the Gatorade in the spoon, reach for my lighter and lift the spoon to cook my dope. I try to steady my hand but I am trembling with anticipation, as my withdrawal renders me restless.
As I watch the heroin cook, I think back to that first day I was introduced to it. I had walked into the bathroom to see my daughters dad smoking it off tin foil. I was outraged and began screaming at him. I asked when he became a Tweaker. I thought he was smoking methamphetamine, (crystal meth). Awe, I was so naive back then. I didn’t even know heroin could be smoked, I always believed it was a needle drug. I was withdrawing from my Percosets and he assured me it was just like taking pain pills because they are both opiates, but that heroin was better. I was worried my daughter might not be properly cared for, if it produced a high I could not control and protested trying it three times. But, he functioned just fine on it, so in part curiosity and partly to stop feeling my withdrawal from the Percs, I took my first hit off the foil. I immediately threw up. After I vomited, I reached for the foil again. He screamed at me for wasting smoke and I told him to fuck off. I had found my new best friend. I was numb and felt surreal. I quickly assessed that it was alright for me to smoke it, because at least I wasn’t a junkie with a fucking needle in my arm. I would never be that pathetic and sick.
I throw a piece of cotton into my spoon and let it absorb my precious poison. I place the tip of the needle into the center of the cotton and slowly pull my shot into my rig. I am so anxious, I can taste the heroin in the back of my throat, as my entire mouth salivates. I give my rig a couple flicks and place it on my lap. My veins are nearly impossible to hit. Even junkie veterans that are adamant in their professional abilities, start off smiling and reassured when given the challenge. They end up apologizing and shaking their heads in disbelief when they fail at hitting me. Hitting is junkie term for getting the needle into your vein. It is frustrating to watch everyone hit immediately, falling deep into their nods. I struggle and poke at myself repeatedly, sick and restless. Today I am alone. I’ve spared myself the frustration of company. I take a deep breath as I wrap my hair band around my arm. I grab one end with my teeth and pull it tightly. My arms and hands are bruised. Old reliable, (that’s what junkies call their go-to vein) has thick scar tissue around it, and it hurts when I attempt to penetrate threw it. I cringe and let out a pathetic yelp as I withdraw the needle from my arm.
I stab myself a few more times and begin rocking slightly back and forth in anguish. I don’t want to try to hit the veins in my feet. My feet are bony, bruised and swollen and it is the most painful spot to make a connection. I find myself actually asking aloud, “Please God?” as I stab myself with no luck again. I remove my tourniquet and scream. Pounding my fists on the steering wheel. I blew a vein and now there is a small amount of my blood that has trickled into my rig. I have to hit it and I have to hit it now, or the blood will coagulate and my shot will be fucked. I tie off my right arm and puncture through the scar tissue of my right side old reliable. It hurts and my eyes water instantly. The blood starts to mix with the heroin in the barrel of my rig and my heart oddly races, as I calm down. I slowly pull the plunger back and then start my successful push. I can taste it immediately, so I know it is good. I remove my headband, pull out my rig, lean my head back and lick my lips as the heroin successfully starts its swim….