It was not a good time for me, Billy had just had the stroke, I had been drinking a lot. A lot. I had been away from Japan for about six months, he had fallen off the wagon, and I was desperately scared and unhappy. I could not go back, and now was stuck with my old friend, who had promised me he wouldn’t drink, but broke that promise within months of being back together. I had known him so long, he had made so many promises: that if I would leave, if I would jump, he would not drink, he had been sober a long time, and I was safe. I was safe. I was safe. I was not safe. A shot of whiskey with friends, turned into a bottle, turned into him falling off the wagon, lurching into a wall on purpose and banging the side of his head that had the tumor growing in his brain. Bang. Stroke. It bled, the tumor bled, filling his brain with blood, and sending me running for an ambulance, but that is not what I want to write about tonight.
It is what happened after. He survived, I used our savings to rent a two bedroom hovel, and I took him inside, gingerly parking the camper outside. I brought him home, I got him through the door, and he came back from this ordeal with pill bottles and prescriptions and regimes of physio. I had stopped drinking suddenly, saddened that I had let everyone down by giving up on life. I have never liked alcohol, unless I consume large quantities, I simply remain pretty much as I always am, until the point that I fall off the chair, there is no perceptable sign I am wrecked. A little more animated perhaps, a little more ME, but booze simply does not float my boat, it does not scratch my itch. After drinking with Billy a while I’d get the shakes and the sense of unease, but I do not enjoy being sloppy. I don’t enjoy that carnival ride of goofiness. I stopped drinking and never picked it up again. I haven’t had a drink for years, and now, after what booze did to my life by proxy via Billy, I have no desire to ever touch the shit again. I am no angel, I’m not blameless in this regard, nor do I pretend to be. I was so deeply frightened, so intimidated by the scale of things blowing up in my face after I had been so brave as to leave and run and hide. It had taken so much out of me. Reasons, not excuses. I tried, I really tried. I was terrified, no way forward, no way back, I felt trapped, duped, terrified.
Billy opened the plastic bag. At this point in life I had been opiate-free for about fifteen years, devoted to the children and surviving. I picked up the bottles. Morphine. Oxycodone. Gabapentine…..blood pressure meds, nausea meds…but…morphine…oxy….sweet baby james it was an opiate-head’s dream. Scripts and bottles. I wish I could say to you that I struggled, that I fought it, that I refused but I didn’t. I didn’t even try. I told him that considering what he had pulled on me, put me through he fucking owed me a vacation. I grabbed the bottle of oxy, and making sure the kids were settled with homework and food, I went to my bedroom, and shut the door. I think I put Dylan on, Blonde on Blonde, everybody gotta get stooooned, little pink pills, tipped out one…then two…added a third…put them between folded sheet of paper and grabbed a spoon. Leaning on them I ground them into large pieces, and then smaller pieces, went through the motions before I realized that one, I had never used these newfangled pills, and upon adding water to them they were kinda gelling up, i.e. they were not breaking down, and two..I had no needle for my damn spoon anyway. I was just going through the motions, carried away on a storm, not thinking just muscle memory, grind, chop, spoon, water…where is the needle..oh yeah…no outfits…head to google to tell me how these little pink 40s worked. They had an extended timed release that I was interested in only in how to get around it. I had not a thought for the children, for myself, for him, I just wanted to abdicate. To get away. To give up. To float away…reduced to butter in my bones, dreamtime, separated from sinew and flesh and pain and life, a half death. This new adventure in disgust was carrying me along, I decided to snort the pink powder. It has a vague candy smell to it, a sickly sweetness: I was always a puker, all the junkies who really enjoyed their drug of choice were, all of them that I knew, anyway…a wave of vague nausea hit me. I felt like a newborn baby junkie all over again, cautiously doing another line. Bingo. There it is. -Walking on sunshine made flesh. Ok, so it’s not heroin, there’s not that intense rush, nor the intense nod, but it is good enough, and kinda speedy, kinda active a high. More high powdered neon light, summers day in a little pink pill, Productive even. It was ok. I carried on by myself in the bedroom, snorting a little more and a little more, eventually hitting the next sweet spot the next plateau, this one a little more sedate. I couldn’t fall in love with this stuff, but it was better than nothing. It eased the pain, untethered the balloon, care-freed, loosened up the self-less. I was pleased, but not overjoyed. The next day I claimed the morphine or at least my portion, they would give him as much as he wanted, they were not expecting him to survive the next month, and were doping him…and me….up to the eyeballs.
The morphine was more like it, not quite the diamorphine horse and that sad lonesome dying dove road it takes you down, but close enough, closer. The powers that be in their infinite stupidity have put “anti abuse technology” in the pills, meaning if you try and inject it, dissolve it into water, it turns into a thick gloop that will cause ya to lose an arm, veins blocked and abscessed, hot and infected. The infection caused by the non dissolving particles in the dope, not by dirty practices. Nice. How considerate of them. No junkie will be dissuaded by threats of pain or injury, it would be more humane, more sensible, less of a drain on resources to make it as safe as possible to inject, not as dangerous, but the straight world is rarely concerned with helping with safety, with making things as cheap as possible for them in both lives and social problems, no they want to punish: shoot this shit and we will take yer arm. Bastards.
I pushed it further and further, leaving the kids to Billy and to their schooling and church groups. I became temporarily unavailable, until one day I went too far. Let’s just say, I had beaten the scientists anti abuse game…and overestimated my tolerance. A pillow had been filled with feathers, heavy leaden sodden concrete feathers, and it hit me in the solar plexus. THUD. Water mingled with padded concrete softness and smacked me round the back of the head with it. THUD. A wave of opium pleasure flooded through my veins and turned my flesh into mercury, sliding and slipping around formless, poisonous, jiggly escaping the grasp, coalescing into a molten animated night-running creature. THUD. I was overdosing, and it was the slowest overdose in the history of overdoses, slow enough to think about it, which is not a great thing at all. I laughed to myself, the words to killing me softly floating in front of my fading eyes. THUD. There was no taking it back, I made myself get to my feet, stay conscious. THUD. That heavy-pillow kept on, now being wielded at my skull. I tried to breathe, looked down and realized. THUD. Realized that my chest was not moving as it should. I was in real trouble. THUD. I knew I had to get help before it was lights out. THUD. Dragging myself to the kitchen where Billy was sitting with the kids, I stood and looked at him. He knew that look. THUD. Walking over to me irritatedly, nonchalantly, uncaringly, robotically, He hauled me up and dragged/walked me to the door, opening it. I was under by this point and it was continuing to climb fast, ice down my back, water over my head didn’t even feel like ice, just the sensation of something running over my skin. THUD. I fought to form he thought and the words that came with it. THUD. I went to find a breath to make a sound, and failed. THUD. THUD THUD. Knock out punch. No shame, no sadness, just fear. I feared it would be my end and he was going to let me die rather than call for help. I found some air, fighting fighting like I had not fought for a long long time. HOSPITAL. It was all I had, all I could say. I was out of energy or breath or fight. “You stupid bitch, I leave you alone for two minutes and you overdose on MY pills.” This was how I reckoned it to be. Back to life as I knew it, I was the stupid overdosing junkie bitch going blue in the corner, and he was reverting to druggie boyfriend who didn’t give a shit. Great, we could play Sid and Nancy later, but for now, just for now, could he find a shit, I didn’t let him die. The kids, the poor kids, my babies, they would be sent to their abusive father. I tried to remember how to move my chest, to breathe. To my alarm, it wasn’t working. THUD. It was still climbing higher and higher, no plateau, no easing up. I was aware tears were falling down my face. I started to wish that if I was going to die, could I not suffocate so slowly, this was agonizing. Any other time I had done this, this accidental going too far in a search for relief from mental pain, any other time, it was smack, it was a needle and it was so fast I never even got the needle out of the vein. I survived by sheer luck, or intervention. This time I was absolutely aware all the way up …and down…
Realizing no one was calling for help, and I was on my own. I couldn’t fight any longer, I had to give in, and if I died in my sleep, so be it, I had no way of stopping it, of staying awake, of fighting to breathe against the paralysis in my chest, so I let myself fall into my dreamworld, I let the morphine take me away. Morpheus had a treat for me, if I wanted to travel to the wild wild west, he would take me all the way there. I awoke into a rangers office, a black and white paint pony with just a rope around it’s neck, nuzzling at my waist. The man behind the counter offered me a ticket, his eyes glowed gold and his skin metallic silver beaten matte into waves and streaks, mercury rising, but unremarkably dressed in a ranger’s clothes, his hair from the grave, dusty and black and long. I took the ticket from his bony fingers and led the paint out of the door that I did not enter. I exited into Deadwood, circa 1870. something… I could see the horses, and the gunsmoke and the dusty streets. Six shooter at each hip, Annie Oakley-d up the the nines, I hopped up on the pony and rode straight down mainstreet. It didn’t have the quality of a dream, it was solid, sequential, bright technicolor. A woman sat in a rocker, sewing socks and monitoring the world as moved by her porch. I walked in and out of the porthole, via a ticket booth a paint pony trailing me, in and out of 1870. Some story worked it’s way through involving a pot and pan salesman, a horse and a woman in a saloon. Strains of Clementine played in the distance. A native man blocked my pony’s path and grabbed him by the halter. The world around me stopped, everyone was watching me and my paint and the man in a loincloth and skunk furs. Regarding me coldly, I got off the pony, and sat next to the woman on the rocking chair with her needle and thread. He stood watching me. I was to go no further. When I went to sleep I was not sure if I was ever going to wake up again. When I did awake the other end of the overdose hit. I vomited and vomited and vomited, shaking cold, gasping air into my lungs, utterly dejected, sick and sad. Truth was, Billy was glad to take my help, but the rules of the road were suspended in his head: this was the rule of the underground, the junk and the booze, and there is only one rule in this set of circumstances: you never call for help, if they die they die, and no one ever brings the cops to the house. Dig.
I quit a few weeks later. Once you have had a habit once, it takes less and less each subsequent time to throw you into withdrawals. By the time Billy announced he would no longer be sharing, he needed ALL of the pills, I was in trouble. He cut me off dead. Watched me sweat and shake in the bed. Saw me off as he demanded I went out to get food, as he couldn’t yet drive, my legs turned to jello and barely able to move without vomiting. I started to develop a deep dislike that I pushed under, deep under. I used to love him. He used to be my sidekick, my twin, my best friend through the decades, both subject and perpetrator of past angry phonecalls from booths and bars in the mid west, to emails and letters from jail (him, not me, I have never been locked up), and for now, I knew I needed him in order to stay with the children. I had leapt out of the lion’s den in Japan, I had no choice. I had to make this work, and I hated him for it, whilst loving him too. He took, but didn’t give. It would get better and worse again, but in the end it never worked at all.
If he hadn’t drunk, if he hadn’t had the stroke and bought opiates into the house, I would never have fallen. I apologized to the children, an unspoken knowledge of what had happened. I returned to my usual loving present self. In the end you cannot be beaten for decades, trust and have that trust destroyed, hope and find it false, survive with no real help for the longest time, and not fall. It is not possible, it is not human. I haven’t touched anything since. No weed, no pills, no nothing. Can’t say I never will. I’m not perfect. I ain’t pretending to be. But people with simpler lives have such high standards for those around them, and I’m no shining example of inhuman strength, I am not beyond reproach, but I have done my fucking best, time and time and let down an disappointment after time again. So, hang me oh hang me, but at least I’m me, not quite unapologetic but me all the same…