There was a heroin junkie I once knew who told me that even though he hadn’t shot up in a decade he was still addicted. The feeling never left him, the craving never stopped and he said there was never one moment of one day he didn’t miss it. The high he got on heroin was his god, his wife, his lover and nothing in the life he lived today could ever match it. He had spent a couple of years in a hellish prison and went through a weird inner debate as to if he would try to quit heroin or go ahead and quit life. He decided to live but he told me he regretted it. The life he was living looked ordinary enough but to the former junkie it was a one act play in which he pretended to be the man he was but deep down inside he still craved the needle.
He still dreamed of it. He still woke up in the middle of the night and felt that feeling again, the high, the cocoon, the buzz, and the envelopment of all time and space and sense of self with the warm glow. He would wake up and realize he was straight and sober and it was all he could do to keep from sobbing that it was gone.
It’s unfair, he told me, that I could write all I wanted to and that was my thing. I could have that. People who drank could drink themselves silly and they could have that, and in fact, there were bars and clubs and stores with all sorts of alcohol in them. People celebrated with alcohol, gave it away as gift, launched ships with it and only those hardened drinkers who killed people with cars or lay in a coma in the gutters were condemned.
It started out very simply. He was out drinking with a friend and they went to a party. He had every intention of being home at a reasonable hour but he met a woman. The alcohol liked her and he was around other men who were trying to get the woman’s attention so he took that one step too far. He told me the entire time they were riding to the motel he wanted to turn back, tell the woman he was sorry but he couldn’t do this, but all the while there seemed to be something inside of him that made him keep going. He still had every intention of going home that night and putting the woman out as quickly as he was able, but the sex was good. The sex was maddeningly good. And after the second time, when he had forgotten everything in the world but this woman, she asked him if he had ever tried it.
It was better than sex. It was better than life itself. It made life better. It made time better. It made living and breathing and being better. It made sex with the woman better and before it was incredibly good. If you are interested, the woman told him, I can get you some more of this. And he was.
Like a man whose body burned from within he shed his life like articles of clothing. His work suffered first because his concentration began to wane. The let down between fixes was more frequent and more severe. Very quickly he realized there had to be some way to hide the money he was going to use to get drugs so he started stealing small and stealing not very often. A fellow employee dropped his wallet one day and that led to a hundred bucks in cash. The woman told him she could use the credit cards and they would never be traced back to him. But they were and his first brush with the law came hurtling out of reality like someone who had knocked over a hornet’s nest.
The woman was caught with the cards and immediately told the police where she had gotten them. He denied it but the woman knew far too much about his life for him to disown her. It was his first time ever in trouble with the law and he got away with a wrist slap and a fine. But he lost his job and his wife saw trouble brewing in the most terrible way.
How do you find someone that sells heroin? I asked that question because I had no idea how to find it. You just know. You can tell when someone is using. You can tell when someone is holding. You look around the edges of life and there you find someone who is too drunk to stand up but they have that look in their eyes, too. You ask around for pot and pill and you find someone who has something a little heavier. You drink with people you normally wouldn’t be caught dead with and you get seen with people you wish you had never seen.
He found another woman, a much younger woman, but she had experience. She taught him how to steal and get away with it. Stealing copper from a new subdivision meant a week’s supply. But never go back to that area and steal again. Keep moving. Keep shooting. Keep going from town to town to steal and then come back home to shoot. He woke up one day and realized it was his son’s birthday but he hadn’t seen his son in a month or had it been two?
But there were lean times, hard time, and they had to sell his car. Then they had no way of going somewhere else to steal, no way of getting to somewhere else to buy, and like rats heading for higher ground, the higher ground ran out. They finally started selling the woman for a fix and he told me the first time she let her go away with another man he had been holding back on her, that he had another fix. He shot up while she was gone and when she got back he realize she had shot up with the man so they were even.
He gave her to a man in an abandoned house. They had stripped the copper out of it long ago. They had taken the plumbing fixtures out and sold them too. They had walked down the street to a second hand shop carrying the toilet on a toy wagon they had taken from someone’s yard. The whole ordeal had netted them two dollars but each and every penny they earned was one step forward to a fix. The man was some homeless bum that had been signing at a corner and someone had given him ten dollars. So he gave his woman to this man for that ten dollars and watched. It was over in a matter of a minute or so, but in that minute a mouse ran over his woman’s arm as she lay there and at that moment, she looked up. Their gaze met, and they knew this event meant they were so close to having another fix, so close to being where they wanted to be, so close to yet another timelessness with one another. He said she smiled and the homeless man was soon finished with her and this moment was like a sunrise between two lovers on the balcony of some palace.
She died of an overdose and he always thought she did it because the drug wasn’t having the same effect and they had to shoot more and more. She opted out because their god was dying faster than they were. He wanted to follow her, and would have, but then it would be gone forever, and he wanted to live, not to start over with life or to get clean, no.
He lived because as long as he lived there was a chance he could have it again, that the one thing he wanted might one day be found in some form that wouldn’t kill him, and he could have it until he did die. His wife never returned, his children grew up without him, and he works now in a factory making enough money to live for that day and that one thing.
I write. My addiction, whatever else it may do, will not kill me, or at least not in a way that leaves me wanting, while dying slow.