If I made funny noises and ran around the room, I wouldn’t have to tell the therapist anything. I know my mother told him I wet the bed all the time. But no one else knows about the boy who said he would play doctor and stuck the stick up my rectum. And no one else knows about the babysitter who had a boyfriend who did things to me with a banana. I was only nine and I lived in my head. It wasn’t safe.
My mother went to therapy too. When I asked her why, she told me it was because I was sick. She told me I hated my father. I remember crying when she told me that and I made up my mind that I would hate her too.
But most of all, it was me. It was me that I hated most of all. I just wanted to shut my mind off but the dials were inside my head. It was 1954.
If someone had said to me, in June of the year of my graduation from high school, that I would have a rat’s chance at being alive in the year 2005 I might have swished my tail at them, pulled at my whiskers and said, “The lifespan of a junkie, dipped in a vat of heated depression molasses, struck hard with a severe anxiety disorder that stimulated heart attacks is guaranteed to be shorter than a man with a heart condition shoveling snow while gasping for breath in between drags of a Camel non-filter cigarette whose idea of a rest break is a quick shot of cocaine and heroin administered intravenously, and then back at it again.”
So then, the question is, “what kinds of events have been most stressful for me,” has many answers.
There is a knock at the door. I go to it, see that it is a policeman, run to the bathroom with my two grams of pure amphetamine, think about flushing them because I am already wired tighter than Harry Harlow’s dangling monkey in the pit of despair, but I snort them rapidly instead.
Two hours later I am hooked to an intravenous flow of Valium. I sleep 36 hours, eat for the first time in days, then fall back asleep again. I wake up 20 hours later, they tell me I need to go to a drug program, I sign AMA papers (that’s “against medical advice”) and leave. Customers have been waiting.
Angela is loaded on codeine based cough syrup and Doriden, just like me. We are sitting on stools at a diner in West Orange, New Jersey. I watch her as she eats two more Doriden. Suddenly she falls off her stool, she can’t stand up, everyone in the diner is watching us, she is attempting to tell me something but I can’t understand her. A string of drool spills from one corner of her mouth onto my shirt as I lurch for the door of the diner. Bearing her weight is a terrible chore, I can barely bear my own, so I drop her, and she giggles as I hoist her up on my shoulder again.
We are almost at the door. I stumble and Angela pulls some more pills out of her pocket and attempts to eat them. I say “hey, you’re going to get us busted,” and just then the plainclothes dicks burst into the diner with a bunch of bluecoats.
I try to explain that my girlfriend (she’s not my girlfriend, in fact she prefers women) just got sick and we’re going home, we just need help to get to the car and all of a sudden the handcuffs are on both of us, Angela is calling the cops “a bunch of pig-motherfuckers” and I realize that we’re not going to be able to talk our way out of this.
I have been eighteen years old for three days but I’ve been high on pills and cough syrup and heroin for almost a year and a half without missing a day. Seven bottles of Robitussin A-C, a blank stolen pad of prescriptions and a pocket full of seconals and Doriden and all I’m going to get is a back-room beating and a phone call seven hours later.
Angela lights her mattress on fire in her cell. It is 1964.
I’m weaving down Interstate 91 with 70 bags of heroin and nine bottles of methadone with 90 milligrams in me in my pick-up truck. I side-swipe a car and I hear the horn blowing and I’m wide-awake now with my foot pressed to the gas pedal. I can’t even look at the speedometer because I’m swerving in and out of the traffic so fast. I’m in the moment because I know that if I get caught I’m going back to jail faster than you can say, “you’re busted motherfucker” and I’m still in Connecticut but I’m turning off 91 onto Interstate 84 and I slow down to the speed limit and I’m so frightened that my foot on the gas pedal is doing the bounce-bounce beyond my control.
I’m not high anymore, or if I am I’m not aware of it. I pull into a rest area and run in, piss, grab a coffee, and head into Peterborough, New Hampshire, where my wife works the night shift at a group home. The four older, developmentally disabled women are asleep, and my “buddy” Ritchie is waiting in his truck outside. I told him not to wait, that I would call him, but you know how it is. I had
asked him to keep me company for the ride to New York City, but he had other things to do, but he’s been waiting for me right there for hours.
Twenty of the bags are his. He gave me the money in advance, his money paid for his twenty and twenty of mine.
The women are sleeping and Sascha tells us to keep it down; everybody is dumping dope in the cookers. I tell them to only do one because the dope is killer, the best on the streets of the city and now the best in Peterborough. Sascha sneaks a second bag into the cooker, and I’m feeling the rush and finally leaning back to relax, when I hear the death rattle and Sascha drops to the floor.
“Richie, Richie, help me,” I yell, and I pick Sascha up and she’s not breathing as Richie grabs his dope off the table, looks at me with heavy-lidded pinned eyes and says, “I’m outta here,” and he is.
Cold showers, beating on her chest, wiping the puke she’s choking on from her mouth and trying to get a breath in her; she wakes up, says I’m all right and her eyes roll up all white as she drops to the floor again.
I pick her up and shake her, throw the door open and drop her in the snow; she jumps up, she knows she’s in trouble and starts to run around with a wild expression on her face but then she drops again like a beheaded chicken and I drag her back in. I don’t even notice the cement walk is ripping her nails out of her bare feet until later. I do CPR and pray. I can’t call for help with fifty bags of heroin on me, and I’m not gonna flush them.
It’s three hours later and she’s breathing normally. She looks at her feet and says, “Fuck, what the hell did you do?” I just look at her and say, “I told you to only do one, but you never listen.”
“Why didn’t you just let me die, it would’ve been easier,” she says and I tell her “You didn’t act like you wanted to die.”
It’s 1984 now.
I skipped the part in 1986 where, twisted on methadone and benzos, I flipped my pick-up truck and Sascha broke her back. I had a major head injury.
In 1998 on Dec. 7, no one was there to bring Sascha back. They found her alone in a bathroom with the needle still in her arm. On Dec. 8 I turned 53 years old.
I didn’t skip 1991 where I got hit by the pickup truck doing 65 miles an hour on the shoulder lane while I worked on my motorcycle. That’s in another story I call Getting Fixed in South Carolina. The guy holding the flashlight for me died instantly. I smoked a Camel non-filter while I waited for the ambulance.
I’ve had one or two really good counselors, quite a few that didn’t really measure up, and some that just filled the room. I’m a counselor myself now. There are those that say I’m good. I don’t know what they say behind my back. I hope I help.
I still remember what I used to think when I was sick. Actually that helps me as a counselor because when you say you’re not ready to quit shooting dope, I know exactly what you mean.
The biggest obstacle I ever faced was my mind.
What makes me hopeful about the future is how much I have changed in the face of adversity. What scares me most about the future is what I can’t see yet.
I can count on my fingers. I can count on my teachers. I can count on myself, but only if I’m there. It’s 2005 now. It’s almost 2006, but I’m not there yet.