The Disappearance of Heroin

Well, heroin isn’t exactly gone however, it’s not exactly true “junk” either.  This Fentanyl thing has crept into the scene and seems to have overpowered life on the ‘nod’ side.  As an old time junkie, who hasn’t used for over a decade, ,the kill rate of this new not-junk thing, is kind of terrifying.  I mean, who would want to relapse after many years in abstinence, if you couldn’t find real heroin.

I hear of people taking a shot and then blacking out for a few hours, then waking up when it’s time to trundle off and get some more.  Really, if you can’t enjoy the high, what’s the sense in it? If all your friends are taking the big “dirt nap”, well that’s kind of a drag.

In the beginning, way back in 1964, I remember the time that Joey Marantino and I went into the Newark Projects in the hellish state of New Jersey.  We only had enough money for one dime bag ($10), and we were sweating it because we usually buy one bag a piece. But as things go with junkies, we were broke and lucky to have the gas money to make it to Newark.

We saw the guy who we usually buy from, made the deal, and headed to the gas station, where we always go to shoot up.  Grudgingly we split the bag. After we cooked it up and prepared it, we shot it. The next thing we remembered, we were picking ourselves off of the floor of the bathroom.

We were lucky that we couldn’t afford a bag each.  If we had shot a whole bag, we would have been dead.  But back then, it was heroin and we could count on that for the most part.  Never fentanyl. Sometimes, if we got beat, ( mistakenly bought a bag of chalk or flour) we would know it as soon as we tried to cook it up.

I used heroin for over three decades and for most of that time, I never wanted to stop using.  My first detox was in Alice Peck Day hospital near Lebanon, New Hampshire. I left on the third day.  I remember arriving and laying down on the bed and then the resident came in and handed me a schedule full of meetings for the next day.

I was a bit taken aback and said, “All I need is a detox and some bed rest.  No meetings please.” Then, when I found out they didn’t give methadone for detox, I knew I wasn’t going to stay.  My wife Sascha had dropped me off and I had no vehicle, otherwise I would have left right then.

My wife called me the next day and told me she had picked up our paychecks from the New Hampshire State Hospital where we worked as Mental Health Technicians. The checks were big due to all the overtime we had worked during a two week period.  I told her to pick me up the next day and we would go to cop some dope.

Back then we had real heroin, which was truly a gift in my insane thought pattern.  Now, even after being clean for so long, every now and then I get the urge to go out and buy some junk.  However, all there is around here, in the Boston area, is fentanyl which I have no urge to use. So the presence of fentanyl and the lack of true heroin is quite a deterrent to me.  Heroin is my drug of no choice for sure.

Of course, in the way back of the 1970’s, opium would sometimes arrive when I lived in New Hampshire.  It would come shaped like a tootsie roll with paper and Chinese lettering around it. I loved to eat opium and then have a cup of hot coffee to rush it through my system.  When one eats opium it creeps up on you over the period of an hour or so and the arrival of the feeling is quite nice.

I always worry, even in my double digit sobriety, what would happen if I ran into some real opium.  I don’t know if I would have the wherewithal to turn it down. In the parlance of recovery jargon, I guess that means I have a reservation.  Usually the reservation is for a place in hell but the journey, lies my monkey mind, would be quite pleasant.

Addiction is the illness with a voice.  The one thing I can count on is that “this monkey is a liar,” a phrase that I have used in poetry and in my story called “Getting Fixed In South Carolina,” which is sometimes available on a CD or a download.  It is performed by the Jeff Robinson Trio, a great jazz band, who also wrote the music. Believe me, it does not glorify the life. You could probably find it on-line somewhere.

It would probably be easier to find that CD than to find real heroin around here.  This fentanyl is lethal. From my experiences in San Francisco in the 1980’s, where Fentanyl was called China White, the high was never as good as real heroin.  Additionally, it’s much easier to shuffle off this mortal coil with a careless bang of fentanyl, which is really a synthetic narcotic.

It takes Mother Nature to make the real thing. I’m not recommending anyone to go out and try it.  I truly believe that narcotic addiction is a one way trip to hell whether or not you get to live through it.  They call it junk for a reason, you know. And it will cycle back. It always does.

Actually heroin came by the name junk because, in the way back, junkies would strip the copper pipe out of abandoned houses and sell it to the metal man as junk for money to score dope.  It also has the nickname “dope” because if you fall for the false promise of heroin then you become the dope you shoot.

Sorry about that.  No insult intended.  I just don’t want anyone to fall for the illusion that took me down that long road.  I was one of the lucky ones. I lived through it. At least, so far. Like my doctor says, “just because you don’t want to pick up, doesn’t mean that you won’t.”  And he has wisdom that doesn’t come from my monkey mind, for sure.

Marc D. Goldfinger is a member of the board of directors of the Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change news. Formerly homeless, he serves as the paper's poetry editor.

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