From The Privileged Addict, pp.15-26:
Pin-eyed and jammed out of my mind, I drove countless numbers of entrusting families around, concocting imaginative and often illegal lies designed to clothe rat-infested dumps in silk and pearls. I glowed inside when I saw their checks come out. I was twenty-eight years old and the only thing that went through my mind was heroin. But it was getting a bit complicated.
I lost an OC 80 (OxyContin – 80 milligrams) in a colleague’s car one day at the gym and drove back to his house to look for tools to extract a SINGLE PILL. I must have appeared to be a freelance mechanic, having entire pieces of his interior unscrewed and laid out over the sidewalk. For hours, I deconstructed and demolished the poor guy’s Honda. So screw pills. We started buying grams of heroin everyday from a kid at Northeastern University.
My savings dwindled. I was looking skeletal. Sounds a bit deranged, but there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that I looked normal. I was seventy pounds underweight yet considered myself to be completely gorgeous. I went to the gym to pretend that I was okay and to try to balance out the effects of the heroin before coming home to my wife. I think my favorite part of the gym experience was sniffing lines in the parking lot before working out. Actually, it’s a toss up between either that or nodding off in the steam room. I guess I should mention that ‘nodding off’ occurs when you are really high on heroin and can be characterized by sweeping in and out of consciousness.
I tried all sorts of things to make myself look normal again. Some nights I elected to stuff as many cupcakes as I could down my throat in an effort to gain back some of the weight I’d lost. That didn’t really work. It wasn’t long before a colleague at work commented on how thin I was. I looked at him in astonishment.
“What the hell are you talking about, buddy? Look at me! I’m fucking huge. Bro, I’ve been going to the gym. Look at these guns. What, you can’t see that?”
Somehow I didn’t notice my rib cage pushing though the skin of my chest. I was 6’, 2” and about 210 lbs when the run started. Soon I was down to 170, 160, 150, 140…
When Northeastern Kid was out of commission from one of his frequent, overdose-related seizures, I had to pick up OxyContin from a girl I knew in the suburbs. Since her parents worked the night shift, I had to get in and out before 7:00 a.m. Time to really start honing my bullshit. On those days, I woke up much earlier than usual. Easy. I could make it look to my wife like I’m being a good, responsible husband by getting to work early. The difficult part was not just getting over to Suburb Girl’s house that early, but getting out before 7:00 a.m. If she wasn’t up getting high, she was temporarily unconscious. Twenty phone calls successively didn’t come close to rousing my fellow scumbag. So I’d wait in the hallway until she called my cell phone, and when it finally rang, that’s when my heart rang with pure and unyielding happiness.
Inside her bedroom, I bought the OC 80s and immediately shaved one down to a fine powder and sniffed it. One big line in each nostril. Then I ate one. Then I sniffed another one, if my daily supply warranted. I took the rest to work with me. I cherished them and carefully stowed them away. Losing one was like a close friend dying… or worse.
Driving into Boston afterwards was always a production; joint in one hand, cigarette in the other, coffee spilling, and on the cell phone lying to a client as to why I was running late to our appointment. Somewhat out of character, I began running so late for landlord meetings and lease signings that I had to sniff lines of dope in the car while flying down the highway. That entailed speeding around ninety mph with a knee on the wheel and balancing a piece of paper on my lap so I could shave down the OxyContin with my sieve. You have to keep your knee on the wheel but pull up the paper and sniff it without looking down for too long.
Once the car was totaled, it was difficult to get to Suburb Girl’s house by 7:00 a.m. I had to wake up at painfully uncharacteristic times, walk downtown to catch the train from Manchester Center, take it a few stops to Beverly, call a cab, take the cab to Suburb Girl’s house, run up, get the OxyContin, sniff one, run back down, take the cab back to the train station, and pick up the next train to Boston. To be honest, I usually felt so proud for pulling it all off that I treated myself to one more thick line of death on the packed morning train. I’d start coughing to give myself a reason to bend over, allowing me to rip lines off the train seat – right next to normal people who could actually go to work sober. Imagine that.
After relief saturated my brain and pulled me out of continual withdrawals, I began planning out the rest of my day. Planning the day was coming up with lies to feed to my boss, clients, colleagues, everyone. I could lie on the spot. I am a natural liar. I only spent time devising clever bullshit when it came to my poor wife, because if anyone couldn’t find out about me, it was Wife.
When Suburb Girl and Northeastern Kid both ran out, I had to resort to Spanish Guy in Dorchester. Spanish Guy days had to be meticulously executed. He slept in, so I had to get up later and chat for a while with my sweetheart, which involved explaining why I weighed one hundred and forty pounds, why my pelvis and ribs were sticking out through my skin, and why my facial skin had a greenish/yellowish hue similar to jaundice.
“Uh… honey, so basically you have no idea how stressful and exhausting my job is, do you? I have to run around all day long freaking out, trying to rent enough apartments to keep things going. No wonder I look like this. I work myself into the ground, eat shitty food in the city, and then sleep for, like, four hours a night! How do you not get that?”
I spent some time touching up on my Spanish fundamentals out of consideration for my dope dealer who didn’t speak a word of English except “Five min’, five min’, I comin’, I comin’”. Waiting for Spanish Guy was the story of my life. “Five min, I comin’” meant another thirty minutes to an hour. I met him all over the city of Boston – in the projects of Charlestown, outside Happy Market in Dorchester, on Washington St. in Roxbury, over in Somerville on some corner. When he finally showed up, I had to drive him somewhere else to get the dope and then succumb to the rides he demanded all over Boston. I sniffed a half-gram right away. I got to work around 11:00 a.m. Work starts at 8:00 a.m. My boss only kept me on as manager because of the deals I was cranking out.
The new hire at our office turned out to be as demented as I was, which was absolutely wonderful. Having a using-buddy always makes it easier to rationalize your behavior. This guy was something else. He’d just start shooting up in the middle of the office when no one was around. I was impressed by how little he gave a shit.
One day Spanish Guy never showed up. I waited drenched in sweat outside the Charlestown projects. I scurried around looking for drug addicts. People screamed at me through their windows to get the hell out of there. Hours later, I approached the most sickly, malnourished, toothless woman I could find. She was perfect. Mini-skirt up to her ass, no teeth, yellow skin, dirty fingers. I knew she could hook me up. When she came back with a forty-bag of heroin, she pulled it out of her mouth, dripping with saliva infected with God knows what. I hobbled to my car, sweating buckets and hunched over from my writhing gut, so dope sick I could barely move. I took the bag that I just obtained from the creature’s mouth, opened it up, and sniffed the whole thing. I knew I shouldn’t put the bag in my mouth but it had some brown powder on it, so I threw it in there and sucked on it for as long as I could taste the gasoline-like, tangy flavor of the light brown heroin. I loved it. Insanity.
Another day no one answered the phone, so a few of us got into a mystery cab at Dudley Station in Roxbury, which ironically sits across from a free needle exchange center. Mystery Cabs are a last resort – independent cabbies willing to drive around interrogating other deadbeats to get what you want for an extra tip. We jumped in and drove around Dorchester for two hours as our chauffeur pulled up next to various community members, asking them for some junk. After no drive-by luck, he took our money, went into one of Boston’s thriving subsidies, and reappeared thirty minutes later with a gram of dirty dope. I wasn’t sick for a couple more hours. Willing to go to almost any lengths to use, yet hardly any lengths to get better.
Soon even heroin lost an edginess that I began to crave like an indulgent pig. I didn’t feel alive unless I was somewhere between absurdly high and overdosed. The solution: mix cocaine with dope. That put me in kind of a bind, though, because my heart reacted a tad sensitively to cocaine or crack. I sniffed monster lines, sweated profusely, threw up, and felt my body pounding – sort of like my chest was caving in on itself. I often thought my heart might explode, and when it didn’t, that’s when I started sniffing more. By the end of it all, it was several grams of heroin and cocaine everyday. I purposely neglect to mention constant weed, cigarettes, and benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium, because that stuff is like aspirin to people like me.
The schemes I devised to obtain money were by most standards sociopathic. I preferred items of emotional manipulation like asthma medicine, rent, car insurance… you know, survival-type things I could whine about losing if the people who loved me didn’t cough up the doe. I told friends that I lost gambling debts and how thugs were out to kill me. Sure it was a nightmare for them, but to me it was a display of true brilliance.
I never shot up. For some reason I never pushed a hypodermic needle into my arm. Perhaps being married kept me from shooting drugs. If my wife noticed fresh track marks on my arm, it’d be over. Or maybe it was because sniffing drugs still worked. Maybe I was just a fucking wimp. But whatever the reason, it didn’t matter. Once you become an addict, there is no ‘worse than’. Once you cross that line, you are equally screwed. I don’t care what anyone says about being “… just some suburban dope sniffer.”
Next to bed at night, I often fell to my knees and said silently, God, forgive me for this sin. Forgive me for what I’m doing to my wife… to myself. But I saw myself as a victim and blamed Wife for expecting too much. How could she possibly expect me not to be a heroin addict? I slave for this family of two all day long, at least when I’m conscious. Sure some accounts were overdrawn and credit cards were maxed out on 29% APR cash advances, but how dare she make such horrendous accusations? So I started fights just so I could leave the house alone. I had more important dates to be kept with Spanish Guy, Northeastern Kid, and Suburb Girl.
I took one day off a week to keep up with the good husband act. In her soft and loving voice, Wife tried to spend some time with me.
“Sweetheart, maybe we could go to the farm today, you know, get some cider and donuts. You could help me pick out some food. I love going to the farm with you. I love just hanging out with you.”
“Oh Sweetie, I’d love to… it’s just that I completely forgot I promised what’s-his-name that we’d play golf today.”
Golf was perfect. A round of golf bought me at least four hours, hours I needed if I had to wait around to pick up. Usually I had no intention of actually hitting a golf ball, but I thought she was on to me one day, so I played it out. Dressed up in Nantucket-red khakis, a collared shirt and golf shoes, I picked up my clubs and left the house. Reduced to bumming rides after totaling my car, Wife drove me to the course nearest Suburb Girl. No sooner was she driving away than I was making my way down the streets of Beverly, hauling a bag of golf clubs in my red pants, soaked in sweat and emaciated.
I made it to Suburb Girl’s house fully drenched. Her mother answered the door, looked at me with the clubs, and almost laughed out loud. She knew. And she refused to wake up her OxyContin/Methadone-dealing daughter who was all cuddled up in her crusty flannel blanket and passed out on her stained, bare mattress. She wasn’t coming to the door to rescue me. My heart dropped to the floor. I left and walked a mile back to the golf course when suddenly a suspicious Wife drove in and spotted me walking down the driveway. It’s called fast-talking; I told her I was still waiting for my friend and just went to the clubhouse to do something healthy like get a vegetable sandwich and bottled water for the course. By the way, they don’t serve vegetable sandwiches at the golf course. And locally grown, organic produce is not a priority either, but hey, she didn’t know that.
I believed with all my heart that NOBODY suffers quite like I do. Nobody feels depression like me. Somehow I am different than the rest of the world and therefore I deserve to free myself from this curse. I deserve to do everything in my power to feel better.
I stumbled into my real estate office, dope-sick and freezing cold in late July. I couldn’t find the energy to figure out how to get high for the day. I walked into the bathroom, looked in the mirror and saw a great shadow behind my eyes. I wanted to turn away but couldn’t. I had to see what I’d become. I was going to die like this. I stared myself down in the crooked little mirror of our filthy bathroom to see what I could come up with. No answers. My world shriveled up like a black hole and then crumbled right there before me. I saw nobody looking back at me in the broken mirror. I saw a dark and twisted hole of evil. I saw a phony. Steady clouds of torment rolled in with heavy rains of restlessness. A sense of impending doom took over my body. I was losing it, and fast. I suddenly felt like getting high again and tried to formulate a plan. Get myself to a hospital, detox quickly, leave, find some money, blow some heroin.
I've been reading your blog having learned about you from The Gardener's Cottage. How would you describe the God you/other addicts need in order to recover? I work with substance abusers on the North Shore.
Lol. Forgive me, and no offense at all, but it sounds as though you are assuming that God is some sort of man-made concept or idea, one of many, that we use to somehow recover. Sure mankind, because we are so limited, tries to conceive of God and reduce God to our own man-made concepts, but this has nothing to do with God. God is/was before any us. God is Power. How would you describe power? Just the fact that we can have this conversation is the result of divine Intelligence and Power. And just as cause and effect is not an idea but a universal law, so is God also not an idea but simply truth.
I suppose if you want to understand God on some sort of practical level, then establishing a relationship with God can be equated with establishing a relationship with one's conscience. Growing spiritually occurs when we develop, listen to, and act on our conscience. The more unselfish action we take, the closer we get to the source. Humility is essential for an addict for the very thing that keeps him sick is his refusal to get underneath anything. He worships nothing but himself and the world and his intellect, and rejects the natural fact that God is more powerful than any of his or her worldly faculties.
A good sponsor will hook another addict up to God (Power) and then get out of the way. This can be done by guiding an addict through the spiritual actions of the Twelve Steps, and I'm sure there are other ways as well. Doctors and classroom-trained clinicians etc. are quite powerless to help addicts in any sort of real or lasting way, in my view. I've never seen a true addict work with a non-addict and recover in any meaningful way. It is only recovered addicts who are filled with spirit and who can effectively carry this message that are capable of opening this door for another addict, whereas atheist clinicians with no direct experience as an addict in the real world cannot. For me, addiction is just so clearly a spiritual problem.
And this is off-topic, but most intellectuals do not believe in God, or rather, they are disconnected from themselves, because a) they've had no direct experience with the spiritual realm, and b) they are blinded by their own intellectualism and what they think they know. Thinking we know something and that everybody who disagrees with us is wrong is quite delusional, if you ask me. And yes, I am willing to be wrong, too, and I am willing to re-learn what I thought I knew. However, I know my experience pretty well, and therefore I understand addiction and recovery pretty well.
At any rate, there is nothing worldly that can fix an addict and restore him or her to sanity. I would know because I am entirely recovered from addiction and all chemical/mental illness, and nothing earthly can be credited for doing that. It happened instantaneously as a result taking a set of actions based on spiritual principles. And believe me, I tried everything under the sun and couldn't produce a mere percentage point of real change.
We have to do our part. We have to do the work. No therapist or pill can fix us. While I'm sure somebody will throw some scientific study at me to try to disprove this, in the real world, it doesn't matter because science has never been able to restore an addict's mind to sanity or restore his body such that it begins to react normally once again. Once he crosses that line, there is no coming back, physically speaking. But hey, I always tell my sponsees, feel free to go try if you don't believe me (unless maybe your thing is speedballing into your aortic valve) 😉
Even though I have read your book, which is excellent by the way, reading this part again is so sad to me. I know how hard my son works at getting drugs and keeping that life he has created going. But I also know how disgusted he gets at himself. What a brutal way to live.
Imagine if we were willing to put the kind of effort we put into getting drugs into our recovery and growth? We'd be doing some pretty amazing things, I imagine. Good to see you, Tori 😉 Bless you.
Charlie everything you speak of here is true for the people who love addicts too. It wasn't until I began to realize that I was not having any luck whatsoever with trying to heal my son and finally finally turning that job over to God that I began to see improvements in my life. It is heartbreakingly hard to do and feels so wrong as a parent but it must be done to save our lives and if they ever are to have a shot at saving theirs. Us letting go is essential and knowing that God is in control has been the only answer for me. So really it's the same for all of us. 🙂
Again, thank you for your tireless work here. x
Charlie everything you speak of here is true for the people who love addicts too. It wasn't until I began to realize that I was not having any luck whatsoever with trying to heal my son and finally finally turning that job over to God that I began to see improvements in my life. It is heartbreakingly hard to do and feels so wrong as a parent but it must be done to save our lives and if they ever are to have a shot at saving theirs. Us letting go is essential and knowing that God is in control has been the only answer for me. So really it's the same for all of us. :)Again, thank you for your tireless work here. x
God bless you, Janet. It is my tremendous honor to continue doing this. I'm also in talks with some partners/investors about the possibility of opening up a treatment center/spiritual retreat. That plus the eventual website will hopefully allow the solution and the truth to grow appropriately…