Saturday, April 11, 2009

In Heroin Veritas

Forewarning: Some of you may find this post disturbing, more so than others. You have been warned.

There are many ways a person can measure their worth. I have found one of the most honest systems of measurement is to strip someone of all the things they feel make them important, leave them truly hungry and desperate, and then see how much of their bullshit ethics and flighty pacifist ideals they cling to. The truth of the matter is that when most people are in dire straits, and you were their best friend for years, once they lose sight of anything beyond their own noses, they wouldn't cross the street to piss on your head if you were in flames. I'd like to think I am better than most of those people. Much more so than any of you who will read this, I know what a real struggle is.

I had started using heroin back in November, I had used it in the past, but opiates were always a constant in my recreational/therapeutic drug menu. Weekend warrior in November, avid user by Christmas, and daily user before Ground hog Day. I have no idea how my employer didn't know I was a junkie. Everyday at 3:30PM I bolted for the door, cell phone up to my hand, either calling my "best friend" or one of our shared connections. Even if it meant buying Brandon a bag, I'd prefer to pick him up. He knew the best dealers, got the purest dope, and dope was always more fun when you had someone to use it with. Also, it was much safer to use with a friend. If one of you started to turn blue and pass out, the other could, usually rouse you, hopefully without the use of Naloxone.

My first accidental overdose happened on a Sunday evening. Brandon and I went to see his contact, Nico. Nico does not look like a pusher, nor does he talk like one. Nico is a gentleman. Brandon had called him while he was eating dinner at Beni Hana's. If nothing else explains how much money we were spending on heroin, this will: Nico invited us to come in to the place, sit down with him and his family, and eat dinner on his tab. We met his wife, some of his cousins, and his son. While we were there making small talk, Nico slipped off into the restroom, fixed up what we had asked for, and slipped it to Brandon as he took his seat. We left the restaurants, and being the junkies we were, I was snorting mine off the dashboard while I was driving, and Brandon was cooking a shot on the bottom of an old soda can in the floor board. This wasn't the kind of dope that had been going around. It was a deep, dark brown and smelled very strongly of vinegar. I could smell it through the wax paper before it was opened. The shit was good, no doubt about that. It was real good. Once we got back to Brandon's house, we realized that we had made a mistake. We didn't get enough. I don't say that to mean that we were jonesing for more, I just mean we would want some for the next few days. Dope this good didn't come around often.

We get back to Brandon's house, and being the kind of junkie I am, ate again. I am the only person that could ravenously eat under the influence of drugs. Benzos and opiates tend to have the strongest effect on my craving of foods, but I could do and eightball of blow, sit down at a kitchen table, and polish off a whole cherry pie on my own. After I ate again and Brandon and I played a few games of pool, we decided to call Nico to get some more that night so we wouldn't have to hustle in the days coming. Nico had dealt out his supply to his cousins that were at the dinner table. He gave us contact information for one of them, and we set out, across town to a motel by the airport in the pouring rain to score. I waited outside as Brandon went in and came back out. This was so sketchy. Anyone who had any idea of what a drug deal looked like could tell what just happened. When we arrived back at Brandon's he promptly went into the bathroom to shoot another bag. He warned me, he told me it was good. He came out of the bathroom and he was visibly altered. I had never seen him like this.

"Don't do both of your bags. Just do one. It's...." his eyes began to roll in his head a little. He was already on the nod, "it's some good shit, if you're not out of the bathroom in five minutes I'm coming in there."

Brandon had given me a "setup". For those of you who don't know what that means, it's all the gear you need to shoot up with, safely. There's a lot of shit that they show in the movies that isn't true. The thing I find most disturbing is the tie off. Maybe I have good veins, Brandon had destroyed most of his, but I have never, ever used a tie off. I could hit damn near any vein in my body without using one. Besides, using a tie off is a good way to get a clot if you're injecting into the vein, not drawing from it.

First thing first, I took the spoon out, laid it on the marble counter top, and flattened out handle. I did this so the spoon would sit evenly and be more balanced for when I go to draw up the dope into the syringe. Brandon had even put a few cotton balls in the bag. I, am not a fan of using cotton balls, I much prefer to tear a piece of the filter out of the end of a cigarette. The fibers aren't as fine and are less likely to draw up into the syringe. If you do push that poly or poly-cotton fiber into a vein, you will regret it. It is a sickness known to the junk world as "cotton fever". It has happened to me once, and will save you that bit for another time...

Also, in the movies, you always see people cooking heroin. Okay... let's get something straight. Heroin is a compound that is highly sensitive to heat, light, and moisture. Cooking it is all wrong. I dropped the dope into the spoon, took the orange cap of the 1cc insulin syringe Brandon had placed in the bag, and I crushed the brown rocks into a fine powder. I then filled the orange cap with water, pulled back, and let her go. By this point I had figured out that with a certain amount of force, I could pull the plunger back to 60 units and let it go quickly, the air would escape and I would be left with 20 units of water. I then sprayed the dope with the 20 units of water and stirred the mixture with the cap. Then I took the cotton from a cigarette, balled it up, and placed the fine edge of the needle on the cotton. The cotton's purpose is to keep anything bigger than the needle out of your veins, also, it allows you to soak up all the fluid from the surface of the spoon. After drawing up, I added another 20 units to the spoon, boiled it, and drew it up. I should have only had 40 units of water, but with all the dope, I was sitting at 85.

As I mentioned earlier, I have good veins. I don't have to use a tie off, few do. Also, you don't hit veins by sight, you hit them by feeling. Mine don't roll, and they protrude from my arms. In with the needle, I could feel it break the skin, and find its resting place inside my vein. I drew back, dark red, I was definitely in. Then I pushed the plunger in and emptied the contents into my arm. I almost passed out then and there. The room begin to move, I was dizzy, I had to force myself to breathe, and I was very nauseous. I was able to clean up my things, and secure my setup and my dope in my jacket. I walked, stumbled rather, out of the bathroom, and Brandon could tell I was most noticeably altered. I sat beside him at the computer while he was working on a new song. His father and older brother were in the room. The last thing I remember hearing was his older brother yelling, "CATCH HIM!"

This next portion is not from my memory, it was told to me later. I had most certainly overdosed. I was blue in the face and my lips were purple. I wasn't breathing, and I didn't have a pulse. I was clinically dead. Brandon began CPR on me while his father called 911. It was Brandon giving me CPR that saved my life. The next thing I feel is pain all over. My gut, my head, my entire body feels like it's being put through a meat grinder. I sit up, fighting 3 men my size that are trying to restrain me. They had no doubt pushed Naloxone into my system. It works by taking over the opioid receptors in the brain. It puts you into instantaneous withdrawal.

"I'm fine! I'm fine! Dear God, where am I? What's going on? Let go of me! Stop it!"

My outbursts had attracted the attention of a Bartlett police officer who had been called to the scene.

"Let me go. I'm refusing medical attention. I'm okay. I don't know what happened but I'm ok now." I wanted them to let me go so I could get my fix. I felt like shit from the Naloxone. Yes, that's how strong the physical addiction to opiates is, I had just killed myself and was begging to be released so I could do it again.

The firemen were very kind and told me that they would be happy to let me go after I signed an AMA form. AMA stands for Against Meical Advice, I was familiar with them. As soon as the police officer heard this he jumped into the back of the ambulance.

"You either go with them or you go with me, it's your choice."

I laid back down on the stretcher. At least the hospitals wouldn't feed me some wet ass bologna sandwich and taunt me while I went through withdrawals, try to make me sweat it out in an interrogation room and try to get names and phone numbers out of me, no, the hospital was definitely my choice.

They rolled me in, did the routine workup on me, "What have you been using? How long have you been using? How much did you use tonight?"

They got nothing out of me. I told them that I had prescriptions for Xanax, Effexor, and Hydrocodone syrup for a cough and that is how this happened and I didn't know why. They knew I was lying, I knew I was lying, but it beat telling them heroin and having to talk to an addiction specialist when all I could think about was getting out of there.

The problem with Naloxone is that it only lasts about an hour, heroin lasts several, so it must be re-administered several times. They would take my blood oxygen levels, for me to be stable to leave, they had to stay at 90. They would jump up to 95 and then within 45 minutes, would drop to 60. They assured me that if I fell asleep, I would die. The doctor came in and saw me, I told him I wanted to go home, but he said only after an evaluation and 3 days of rest. Ha! Rest, now I know is meant by celebrities going into rehab for "rest". At this point I kept pulling the mask off of my face while I slept that they secured it to me with rubber bands. I woke up a few times, the final time it was 6:00AM. I had to be at work in 2 hours.

Panic. I looked around the room. On a table I found my glasses, a plastic bag that had my clothes that the paramedics had cut to ribbons, and a vial of Naloxone. The Naloxone hadn't been opened and was there to use on me, no doubt, when my O2 levels had dropped again. I struggled to pull the mask off because I could feel that my lungs were full of some kind of fluid, probably vomit. The nurse came in as I had pulled it off and was throwing up. She insisted I keep it on. I told her that I could feel fluid in my lungs and if she knew anything about medicine, then she knew it was imperative that I cough it up.

I pulled the mask back and started coughing up mouth fulls of a chalky brown fluid. I did this several times until I no longer felt or heard the rattle in my chest. I could feel myself starting to go back under. I took the vial of Naloxone and put it in my bag with my clothes and I asked the nurse for another shot because it made me feel better, or so I said. They gave me the shot and my breathing went up to 99. I cleaned myself up as much as possible and asked the nurse to remove my IVs. She said she couldn't do that. She was not the kind nurse I had spoken to earlier. She knew I was a junkie, and she didn't feel like wasting her time on me, that much was apparent.

"Ma'am, I know you don't want to take care of me. I know you have better things to do, but I know that I'm not going to let you charge me and my insurance company $700 for a bag full of Sodium Bi-Carb and water. Take the IVs out or I will." I said this directly but politely.

"Sir, just lie back down. You're not going to take out your IVs, you know you won't...."

I had had enough. I took the tape off of my right forearm and slid the IV out. I'm a needle junkie, come on, did she really think that would bother me? Blood began spurting from my arm and she was mortified. She had really never seen anyone do that before. She got the attention of a much more seasoned nurse who came in and was very polite and kind. She commented on my tattoo and piercings, said she ran the shop where my piercings were done. She took the IV out of my left hand, gave me another shot of Naloxone, and I got dressed while she printed up an AMA form. I got my phone and called Brandon, he came and picked me up.

Before I even made it to his house the Heroin was starting to overpower the Naloxone yet again. Once we arrived, I drew the Narcan up into the syringe, capped it, taped the cap, and slid it down into my sock. I went to work that morning. I took one quarter of the dose then, and then continued with 25 units every two hours while I worked. I would feel the heroin creep up on me and I would just go into the bathroom and shoot some into my thigh. I worked the full day and shot my remaining bag once I got off work. This was my first of several overdoses before I would kick the habit.

1 comment:

  1. Surprisingly, this doesn't bother me. The reason being in my mind I had pictured much worse. I don't know what, or how, but emotionally I was terrified. Reading this, so systematically written, I am relieved; relieved because I know it wasn't you, and now I have my Bubba back, and I love it :)