It’s been ten years since I last touched heroin. I haven’t been drug and alcohol free all this time, but heroin is the only drug that ever had the power to turn me into a fully committed addict. Heroin was the missing piece of my physiology. I miss it every day, and this is why I must never, ever see it again.
I began by snorting it. It was instant swooning-type love. Like I was resting in a felt-lined womb, or as if I were the goop in a lava lamp, or like they said in the movie Rush, I felt like I was floating on a cloud of titties. I didn’t throw up. I didn’t fall out like other people do when they first try it. After the initial warm and fuzzies, which doesn’t last nearly long enough, I felt normal. I was comfortable in my body and at peace with the world, how ever fucked up it might be.
I was eighteen and came from a small hick town. Damon was a small-time dealer from the suburbs of a large city. I was drawn to his black hair and blues eyes. His looks were sinister and beautiful. I had the habit of chasing risky situations because I wasn’t brave enough to construct my own adventures. I attached to boys I found different and interesting, even dangerous, and examine them like my personal sociology projects. Maybe I could even fix them. I tagged along exhilarating rides through their lives. I loved them too, of course. I loved Damon desperately, unhealthily, in the Mickey and Mallory way. But I watched and observed my life from somewhere outside myself. I kept part of myself untouched.
Within a year I watched myself become fully immersed in the drug world. We went from selling at raves to running local operations out of hotel rooms. Now that we were living together, it was clear that Damon was emotional wreckage. When he wasn’t high, he was distant and even psychologically cruel.
After I started to get hooked, he withheld heroin from me until he decided I was submissive enough. I was too proud to ask and he sat there chopping up lines for the coming and going customers. He’d look at me sideways, smiling and scratching his nose, high and happy as I sniffled and gagged, already beginning to withdrawal. It was his way of making sure I knew his power over me. He wanted to break me. He wanted me to beg.
When got sick, I could no longer watch from that calm place outside myself. Withdrawals make you aware of every cell in your mortal flesh, you feel every nerve and synapse in your body writhing and screaming in agony. You’re trapped in acute misery, a prisoner in your own skin. Sometimes the entire city would go dry and there was nothing to do but suffer. No hope. Just torture. Blackness. Hell.
Eventually, the police caught up with us. They smashed down out hotel room door one night. It was surreal. This wasn’t like the in movies. Nothing heroic or glamourous. No, I was one of those degenerates in an episode of Cops. I couldn’t believe this was my life. Ecstasy, coke, weed, opium, special K, LSD, and heroin: I had tried everything but crack and I wasn’t even old enough to drink yet. This was growing up in the nineties.
Damon was taken to jail. The cops felt sorry for me, the dumbfounded child that I was, and left me there in the hotel room that they had ripped to shreds.
I was far from home, with little money, and within hours of going into withdrawal. I had no one else to turn to. I called Damon’s mom. We hadn’t talked much. I always felt embarrassed because her son treated her badly, but she was always sweet, bringing groceries to our efficiency apartment in the ghetto and doting on us like we were hotel-hopping newlyweds.
I couldn’t understand why Damon was such a disturbed young man. His mom was so sweet. I knew his dad left them when he was a toddler. Was that enough to ruin a person? I didn’t know, but he must’ve blamed his mom. I remember her mentioning that they lived in a car when Damon was three. This was beyond me. My family was happy and my parents were married. I didn’t know how fucked up other families could be. I couldn’t comprehend not having a loving mother and father.
I showed up on their doorstep in tears. Damon’s mom didn’t know about the heroin yet. When Damon called from jail the next day and told her his narcotics charges, I pretended I knew nothing about the drugs. I had to lie like a jackass. Heroin? What? I didn’t know it was heroin he was selling. I thought he just sold weed. She seemed to genuinely believe me.
I was too sick to drive to my parent’s house, so I spent three days kicking with Damon’s mom and step dad. This was very awkward. I had to pretend I had some violent stomach virus. I think they also thought I was sick with grief, which was believable because Damon and I were young lovers like that.
But I had never fully gone through withdrawal before. I never went long enough without dope to arrive on the other side of the sickness. Maybe I’d suffered for a few hours, or a half a day without heroin at the most. I didn’t know what to expect or how long it would last. I was still an amateur junkie. Good thing I had no idea what was coming.
It was so much worse than I thought. I was disgusted at what was happening to my body. Pure horror. Damon’s mom made up a fold out couch for me in Damon’s former bedroom where I twitched and convulsed. I tried to be quiet, embarrassed if they heard my constant explosive diarrhea in their bathroom. I shivered and sweated while trying to make a show of eating for them without gagging. I found out it was impossible to sleep. I couldn’t brush my hair or take a shower because my skin hurt so badly. After everyone went to bed, I would sneak out and watch TV–Portishead videos flickering against my watering eyes, punching my lower back and the backs of my legs to try to get them to stop cramping. I thought of Damon in jail. What could he be going through?
After about three days, I could stand and drink water and walk without anal leakage. I figured I was safe enough to drive. I went home to my mom and dad’s for a few months. I cleaned up and put on some weight. I reconnected with my old friends, but boredom set in and so did my craving–not just for the drugs, but for that underworld. Adventure called and it was time to move on. I had learned my lesson with heroin. I would control it this time, and I set out for the city again.