Not Your Average Addict

I’m not your typical addict. Not that there’s a difference. An addict is an addict no matter where you shoot up or cop your fix.

I don’t fit the stereotypical version of a junkie seen in movies or on television news every night. That’s the problem with the stigma of addiction…it’s a dirty world incubating within the slums and ghettos where people dumpster dive or old needles and hustle for money. Or you are a misunderstood musician, writer, painter who glamorizes using like it inspires only the best and brightest.

At least that’s what they want you to believe.

My story is different but there are many others just like myself.

I grew up in a small sized city of about 130,000 people packed into three square miles outside Boston. Yes we have gangs, slums, guns, murders, drugs and those city problems that plague larger metropolitan areas. However, those issues are centralized into small neighborhoods while upscale four bedroom old Victorian homes make a border around the less than desirable ‘hoods.

I grew up in a two parent household. Attended Catholic School. Had a mother who tried to make us kneel in the pews with her every Sunday until we were teens and fought until it was too much for her to rouse us from bed for hymns and prayers.

I wasn’t spoiled but didn’t have many wants. We hung in the neighborhood and I still am friends with the same bunch of kids who smashed pumpkins and egged the mean old Mr. Reading’s house any chance we could.

It was in 8th grade my obsession with drugs started. Grunge was the rage and Nirvana was the Justin Beiber equivalent of the biggest star in the universe. I was enthralled.

I dyed my hair with Kool Aid. Shopped at the Salvation Army store for baby doll dresses and wore pink plastic barrettes in my ratty hair. My walls were covered with images of Kurt Cobain, Eddie Veddar, Thurston Moore and Billy Corgan.

I watched VHS videos over and over of concert footage and appearances from those grunge bands. I was determined to runaway to Seattle with the acoustic guitar I made my parents buy me (then skipped lessons they paid for) and busk on the streets of the fabulous land I thought was the Oz to my Dorothy.

Then grunge died.

I will never forget hugging my best friend in the parking lot of grammar school, tears rolling down our cheeks, sobbing in front of nuns who thought our parents should send us to a retreat to “clear our heads and pray”. It was April 8…and Kurt Cobain was found dead of a shotgun wound to the head.

From that day on I was intrigued by heroin. What was this magic drug that caused my idol so much pleasure that even the thought of living without it made him kill himself? That’s how I rationalized suicide at 13 years old.

I was fearful of heroin. But not of EVERYTHING else.

In high school, I dropped the grunge persona as soon as I was given attention by some of the more popular guys. Guys that grew up with me. That I’ve seen pee their pants when old Mr Reading did catch them egging his car one time. These same guys were now the “hot” guys and I was their girl.

I partied and drank in the woods with them. Stashed weed in my locker for them. Skipped school and did acid with them. Sold E for them to the under classmen. It was a blur but it was fun.

However, my reputation for being a “party girl” at first was just a show. I’d pretend I drank six keg cups when really I hated the taste of beer. I would leave the party early to meet one of my geeky guy pals to talk about authors and books and getting out of this city for a more cultured one. The rest of the party goers figured I’d passed out or went to hook up with someone.

After high school college was when I first messed up. The new found freedom meant I slept through class, only showed up for the mid term and final and knew where every packie in town would sell to me with my fake ID. I flunked out. My parents made me get a full time job. It was horrendous getting up at 7 a.m. And working as a receptionist dealing with rude people all day while my friends were hanging out getting expensive coffee drinks and chatting about the cute professor.

I got my act together after one year. Enrolled in the local community college and flourished. I had a 3.94 GPA. Received multiple scholarships. Attended my dream university in Boston. Graduated and was hired at my dream job in my field within a month.

I still had my party girl reputation though and this time it appealed to my boss. He tapped me to write a column about being a single twenty-something. It was about dating, going out, boozing and all the things my readers, mostly baby boomers going thru a mid life crisis, could vicariously relive their younger years through reading.

I was a hit. The popular girl once again. Not for me but for my partying and all the sordid seedy details that went with it.

I wasn’t writing the truth. It was half truths. There’s nothing glamorous in waking up with my cheek stuck on the floor of an apartment laying next to some guy I didn’t even know. Running for the door with my things, sans underwear, and walking down the street in a dress-no jacket- in 25 degree temps calling any friend for a ride ASAP at 5:30 a.m.

Those takes never made my column. Those tales wouldn’t win me an award or raise or syndication. So I put a funny spin on them and a smile on my face.

I Fooled everyone else into thinking I lived a fabulous life, even myself for a while.

Then I was introduced to pills. Ah, those were good times.

One of my boys from the old neighborhood was a pretty big dealer. He always dealt weed and a little coke, but now he was pushing painkillers. I would get one off him for free and pop it at the bar. A few drinks later I’d be on cloud 9. Just one pill! It was amazing.

Then he laid it out—if I sold them to my girlfriends and pals I could basically get mine for free. I didn’t think twice at passing up the chance.

At first, I was pushing about two dozen OC 40s or 80s a week. Then word got around. Friends gave my number out to their friends. At one point, I was copping a 100 pack of 80s every other day at the storage unit where he kept his stash. It was awesome $$$.

However, my habit began to get worse. Instead of selling I was dipping into the stash and I would end up owing him money instead of getting free drugs and making money. When I couldn’t pay him and dodged his phone calls for a few days he should up at my place grabbed me by the throat and instead of threatening me to get his money he threatened to tell my parents I had a drug problem.

Ha! Drug problem! I laughed. I could stop an not take pills starting from that second I told him. And I did. I tried. Not knowing the severity of withdrawals or even what was about to hit me like a Mack truck when I didn’t crush and snort an 80 the second I got out of bed.

My endless supply was cut off in an instant and I owed him money that I didn’t have. When one of my customers called I explained what was going on as I laid in bed sweating, shivering, my voice trembling.

“you don’t have to feel like that. I’ll bring some H over.”

I hesitated. No. I wasn’t going down that path. Ever since that day in the parking lot when I cried 10 years earlier for my idol I knew heroin was not the drug for me. Little did I know the opiates I was snorting up my nose every half hour were a prescription form of the same drug.

How naive I was.

I hung up. Wrestled with the blankets for an hour or so…then just gave up. The withdrawals were getting more severe and my search on the Internet for at home remedies caused me even more concern as I discovered this could last for up to ten days with the first 3 being the most brutal. Some addicts feel affects months later and don’t feel 100% even a year later.

About 15 minutes later I was snorting a line of H off the mirror in my bedroom with him. I remember saying to myself, I get enough to get thru this work week then lay in bed for the three day weekend.

That was about five years ago.

The party was over.

Why do I say I’m not a typical addict?

I maintained my full time job and a part time one for the next three years. Even as a daily heroin user. I’d snort in the bathroom. Meet my dealer at lunch break. I also have a medical issue that flares up at times…this made my excuses calling in sick when I was in withdrawal all believable to my boss. My inlaw’s weren’t aware. Nor my parents.

I did lose a lot of weight. Which only garnered compliments until I was a tad too thin for my height. People started to worry then. But they thought I was stressed. Layoffs were going on at work. Also, my father in law was in a serious ATV accident and in a coma for 6 months in intensive care with a 50/50 chance at surviving.

I was stressed. But I was high.

The act could only go on for so long. Eventually we had to move to my in laws after not paying rent for 6 months and getting evicted. The deal was we had to get treatment and save all our money. In three months, we were to start looking for our own place.

That’s when my life changed dramatically. I started on the methadone clinic on June 18, 2010. I discovered I was pregnant on July 24, 2010. I gave birth the following year. I had been clean of all opiates except the methadone of course from July 24 2010 until February 1, 2011…the last day of my involuntary detox from the clinic due to losing my health insurance and being unable to pay the weekly fee since I was unemployed.

I used heroin again all spring and summer until getting myself back on the clinic August 30. It’s been a struggle. I’ve relapsed a few times since. I started this blog. I began exercising again. I reconnected with family I’ve avoided for years while actively using.

I enjoy playing with my son and spending money on him rather than thinking “well if I buy him this toy that’s one less bag of H for me…”

Since I started this blog a couple months ago, I haven’t told my story. I’ve shared bits and pieces. This isn’t my ENTIRE story on how and why I started using heroin.

It is however a story on how even a girl from a nice neighborhood, educated, spiritual, and middle class family with parents married 30 plus years found herself on the wrong side of the track marks.

I have a family. A nice home in a nice working class neighborhood where people sit outside on their porches during the summer watching their kids play kickball in the street. The ice cream truck drives by playing annoying ditties. I have a college degree. I have a reliable car that’s good on gas. I read novels and do the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle for fun.

I was never arrested. I’ve never been molested. I’ve never hooked on the corner. I’ve never dumpster dived for needles.

I don’t even have a cavity!

Yet, I am a heroin addict.

All I ask is the next time you roll up your window while at a red light as someone approaches you for money and make a snide remark to your passenger, “look at this junkie” stop and take a look at the person in the sedan next to you. She may have their hair blown out. Nails manicured and a large diamond on their ring finger that blinds you as she apply her $20 lip gloss in the rear view mirror.

But in her designer purse on the seat next to her, she may just have a bag of H and her works. And the poor guy begging for change may just want to buy his kids a pizza for supper.

Think about it…

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A High Wasted

I want to start with a quick apology. I usually don’t ever say sorry, especially to my fiancĂ©, so you should all feel lucky! I kid.

No, I want to say sorry for going MIA the past week and a half. It was a tough week. A holiday spent with both sides of the family sober is well, a sobering, experience.

No need to get into details. I did relapse. There wasn’t one point in the holiday weekend that I can say was the reason I decided to give my dealer a call. I sort of figured he wouldn’t answer mid afternoon on Thanksgiving. Probably busy carving his turkey with his family. But he picked up on the first ring. I ordered, he said 15 minutes, and I slipped out the back door at my parents sulking behind the neighbors’ houses to my place two blocks away. I hadn’t taken that cut through since I was a teenager sneaking out of the house to meet my friends for cheap beer and sour wine at the baseball fields. I felt a bit of a rush like I was again doing something I wasn’t supposed to and if I got caught there would be hell to pay. I still went.

I was waiting on my back steps for less than ten minutes before I heard his exhaust humming down my driveway.

Dressed up in a sweater, khakis, leather square toe shoes and a pea coat, he actually looked like a business man. Then I thought, he IS a businessman. And my habit more than likely bought him that outfit and his exhaust system that annoys anyone living within a half mile of his home. For a drug dealer who is always paranoid about suspicious cars parked near my house or who I am with when we used to meet on side streets, he sure does love sounding like the BatMobile when he drives up. Like that doesn’t get anyone’s attention.

I told him I didn’t think he’d answer my call…

He laughed.

This was one of his busiest days of the year. He said he’s like a doctor- always on call. Never a day off.

I guess comparing himself to an honorable profession like a physician makes him feel better when he hands me, a mother of a young child, my medicine. But then again, I asked for it.

This guy wouldn’t be driving around in a shiny new obnoxiously loud vehicle wearing designer duds if not for me and others like myself. He doesn’t have a “job” with benefits, a 401K and vacation days accruing each pay period. Taxes? Yeah right.

But to be honest, I kind of like the guy. He reminds me of my Dad. He’s about his age. He grew up here in the city we did after his family relocated here from Puerto Rico. He is a Vietnam Veteran. He worked odd jobs here and there all his life so he knows how to fix anything from a tube radio from 1945 to a vacuum to a lamp to the plumbing under the sink. He always dresses well and has some wild tale to tell about the stresses of having five ex wives, a 25 year old current wife, 18 children and more than three dozen grandchildren. (in that respect, he’s nothing like my Dad who has been married to my Mom for nearly 35 years).

I just have to remember that he’s a DRUG DEALER. He’s supposed to be charming and suck you in. He’s a salesman. Just like a car salesman or the buff guys at the gym who try to sign you up for an upgraded membership. He wants me to trust him. Like him. Call him instead of the dozen other dealers. Competition is tough in the drug biz. You sell junk, word gets around fast that it’s all cut and it takes a long time to get those customers back.

Anyway, as soon as he put the dope in my hand I couldn’t get away from him fast enough. I skipped nearly every other step up to the second floor where my apartment is. I already had my works set up ready to go. Wham.

It had been a while since I used so the rush BEFORE the high was even more exciting than the actual drug high.

I loosened the belt and waited…waited…waited…

NOTHING.

Great. As my counselor explained to me, when you are finally on a stable dose of methadone for time you don’t feel the high from the heroin. Since the receptors in your brain where the opiate attaches to to give you that euphoric feeling are already filled with the methadone, the heroin just kind of floats around with no where to go.

A waste. Of money. Time away from my family. Of my clean time. A complete and utter waste.

As I walked back to my parents feeling more like a waste than wasted as I wanted to be, I could hear my Dad’s robust belly laugh as my son squealed. They were wrestling with each other as my Mother was scolding my Dad to keep it down or the neighbors will think there’s a fight.

That’s when it sunk in—my Dad was nothing like my Dealer. My Dad would never hand me something that would kill me and take money out of my hand for it.

Ironic, my neighbors probably would call the police for the ruckus going on between my Dad and son play fighting…sadly they close their shades when my dealer pulls in with his rumbling muffler.

Makes me wonder what type of society my son will grow up in. However, I will make sure my son has my Dad as a role model rather than a drug dealer. Or then I truly will feel as if all this has been a waste.

Living in Methadonia

Since my cable is out till I can pay the bill later today, I was relegated to watching YouTube most of yesterday when my son was napping, preoccupying himself with his toys or chasing our elderly dog around pulling his tail. Poor old guy. That pup has more patience than me and he’s a great live-in baby sitter.

Anyway, after perusing the most popular videos of the day which included a Rihanna video, toddler picking his nose and tea cup poodle doing the tango, I decided to look for something more educational. I swear YouTube killed more of my brain cells in one hour than a decade of opiate use ever did. In the search field I typed in “Methadone”.

Other than a dozen video diaries of at-home withdrawal rants from what looked like a creepy basement studio apartment where the “actor” dispenses medical advice and knowledge about detoxing like he finished med school (twice) when truly by his vocabulary he definitely was a child left behind in the American school system…I discovered a documentary called Methadonia.

Here’s the IMDB link HERE

Directed by Michel Negroponte, the documentary was released in 2005 and follows a half dozen clients on a methadone clinic in NYC. Some are clean and have been for some time. Others still use illicit drugs. One woman is pregnant. Her “baby daddy” just was released from jail for selling drugs.

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It’s fresh. It’s pretty true to some of what I see on a daily basis. However, I do take issue with the director’s choice of subjects to follow for the film.

Mr. Negroponte, you couldn’t find ONE client, just ONE, on the clinic you were allowed to film in, that was successfully living a normal life on methadone maintenance? There wasn’t ONE man or woman who had a full time job, was college educated, lived in a home with a white picket fence, or hell even someone who didn’t use the F-Word as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb and interjection every two seconds?

I am POSITIVE they are there on the clinic because I am one of them. I’ve met plenty of them in the going on three years with a 6 month hiatus.

Possibly, those particular clients either didn’t have time to participate in the filming because of their family, jobs, responsibilities that keep them busy. Or possibly, they didn’t want to be filmed because of the stigma Methadone Clinics and it’s clients are subjected to.

Otherwise, the emphasis the director makes on how mixing benzos like Xanax, and the likes with the methadone, is a way to mimic a heroin high is right on the money. My clinic is only one of many in the state of Massachusetts that actually allows clients to have a prescription for a benzo and be on the clinic. Which my counselor says is going to change very soon.

It’s a very dangerous combo of drugs. A friend of mine took his methadone, went out drinking one night with his college roommate, popped a Xanax and went to bed. His Mother went to wake him since it was nearly noon the following day and he still hadn’t emerged from his room. He was dead. Worst part—it was Mother’s Day.

You see clients

sleep walking

as we call it into line every morning. Since the clinic I attend is in the bottom floor of a large converted mill filled with offices, those shuffling with their eyes half open, dried spit on the corner of their lips, give the 9-5ers upstairs the wrong impression. We hear it from our counselors and through notices posted and handed out all the time…

No yelling. No loitering. No smoking cigarettes. No passing items hand to hand. No going car to car. Just wait quietly in line. Dose. Then leave.

Or else the clinic will be evicted by the landlord and relocated. Maybe to an inconvenient location since city leaders like to “hide” these type of places away from the public.

We are not wanted anywhere. Funny thing is, the statistics keep saying heroin use is on the rise especially here in Massachusetts but programs to help addicts recover are having their funds cut, or just making it overall difficult to operate or open. For example like in this article here where a sober house was looking, not even proposing, just LOOKING and the neighbors got all up in arms over it.

If you have an hour, watch Methadonia on YouTube. I tried linking it however the code wasn’t working. Just search “Methadonia” on the site. There’s the full HBO special, a trailer and also clips for those without an hour to spare.

The documentary may change some people’s minds or reestablish their prejudice towards MMT. Either way, it does open people’s eyes to the struggle MMT patients experience daily with their addictions and gives information on Methadone.

Overheard in Line this Morning…

When the judge asked me ‘rehab or jail’ I should’ve chose jail. I would’ve been done with this eight years ago—detoxed in jail, get out clean and on with life. Instead I am stuck here with these shitbums every morning…No offense.

-The middle aged man behind us in line at the clinic today.

Giving Myself Thanks and My Son a Gift

It’s only been two and a half months and already I am starting to experience the perks of being clean.

It’s amazing to me that about 75 days ago, I was hiding my car from the repo man, driving with no insurance and revoked registration, begging the utility companies to keep my lights and gas on, and pleading with my landlord to give me an extension on my rent yet again.

My finances weren’t the only aspect of my life in shambles. My health both physical and mental was suffering. I was lying to family and friends and myself about how I was doing.

Worst of all, my son was experiencing a life without his Mother. I was physically present, however I had checked out. No longer was I the Mama he was used to. Without drugs I couldn’t get out of bed, never mind play with him, take him to the playground, or read him his favorite book Goodnight Gorilla.

We didn’t even get to the beach once this summer. I feared I’d miss my call from my dealer and not be able to get a gram I desperately needed for the afternoon. Nor did I want to spend any extra money I had on parking, lemonade, fried dough or sunblock. That meant less heroin for me. Pretty sick.

This morning at the clinic it hit me—I am on the road to recovery. When I punched my client ID number into the kiosk, the blue administration box popped up. I figured my insurance was suddenly shut off or some other bad news was about to come out of the receptionist’s mouth. Instead, she handed me a packet of papers.

“You have to initial here, sign and date here, and initial again here,”

she muttered throwing the pen up on the counter.

I asked her what it was…

“You’re getting a holiday take home dose for Thanksgiving,”

she explained unenthusiastically.

Wow. Finally something positive. I would get to sleep in, snuggle with my son and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in our jammies next week. That’s how it’s supposed to be.

My reward, may seem minor to many, but to us “clients” who never get a day off from bundling up, getting in line, waiting in the frigid temps, every single day–no matter what, not having to perform the daily routine on a holiday is a special gift.

A gift to myself and my son.

He will have his Mama back just in time for the holidays. And lots of presents from Santa Claus underneath the tree. And instead of my mind thinking, “ugh I could have got another gram if I didn’t get him that remote control car” I will be in the moment, enjoying his excitement and helping him with the batteries.

I can’t wait to experience a sober season with him and most of all myself.

Troubling Findings in Opiate Addiction Study

No longer do I have to be laughed at or given the smirk with the eye roll when I tell people opiate addiction is a MAJOR issue and is getting worse in my hometown and surrounding area. Even worse than in major cities like Boston, NYC and Chicago. I have the stats and facts to back up my statement.

Hard to believe? Well, a report released today by the Massachusetts Health Council says:

The rate of emergency room visits in eastern Massachusetts for drugs surpassed that of much larger metropolitan areas in 2011, including New York, Chicago and Detroit. The region also ranked first at a rate of four times the national average among metropolitan regions for emergency room visits involving heroin.

Still skeptical that I can cop a bag of heroin probably 9 out of 10 times I ask a random person walking down the street? Here are a few more findings in the study:

The problems were particularly acute in Worcester where lifetime heroin use was twice the state and national average, and on the South Shore where researchers said one person died every eight days from an overdose.

I live about a half hour drive north of Worcester now, however when my fiancĂ© and I were trying to get clean and into treatment four years ago, we relocated closer to the city to a suburb not even knowing how bad the drug scene is there. We thought moving away from our current city would make it more difficult to find a dope dealer. How wrong we were—there was an abundance of heroin and it was even cheaper in Greater Worcester than where we used to live.

Here’s a little background on the study:

Titled “Common Health for the Commonwealth: Massachusetts Report on the Preventable Determinants of Health,” the 2012 report is the seventh such study published by the council, a nonprofit, non-partisan statewide organization of more than 150 government and volunteer agencies, consumer advocacy groups, professional societies and private corporations.
Topics measured by the report include rates of poverty, access to care, education, air pollution and asthma, tobacco use, obesity, violence, suicide, substance and alcohol abuse and infectious blood-borne disease.

The numbers speak for themselves. Anyone who lives here in the Bay State that still raises an eyebrow, I challenge you to take a drive by the local methadone clinic. Just count the number of people who go in and out the door in one hour. Then tell me there isn’t an opiate addiction problem within your toney suburb.