Today I awoke to a glorious sky. It was 6am, the sun was halfway up and the feint hum of traffic was a constant below. I opened the apartment window and the delights of the city wafted in on a breeze. All the flowers from all the gardens from all of Lyon had released their scents.The café on the corner opened it’s shutters and set out its chairs for another day of business. I was up for business myself.
For the last four days I’ve been solely on methadone... not out of choice, but because this city is dry. 4 days is the longest I have been without dope in three and a half years. I don’t feel bad for that... I just feel bad for the wait. It’s been 4 days of piss-stained stairwells, broken promises, unanswered phones and last trains home. Where I come from this doesn’t happen. Where I come from heroin is a 24/7 shop with no shutters. In London, if you’ve got the money and you want to kill yourself, you can. There’s little wait and there’s rarely disappointment. I would hate to be suicidal anywhere else.
Anyhow, I was up with the sun this morning as I was on a promised promise... “Get your arse to Croix Rousse for 10am sharp... it’s sure, sure SURE!!” Normally when I receive a message like this it is genuine... it means the dealer has the gear in his pocket. I hoped so, because not only had I no gear, but due to this little drought I had almost drunk up my entire supply of methadone. Apart from the dose I swallowed early yesterday evening, I had just one left and after that.... well, I didn’t even want to think of it. So my meeting today was more important than usual... It was to score methadone and heroin, to buy my well-being.
I arrived at Croix Rouse just before ten and made the short walk to a pre-arranged spot. On arriving I was horrified... there must have been 15 or 20 junkies circling or lurking around the block of flats where the meet was... half of them dope sick. This is a residential area... people live here with their children and they quickly notice a strange group of sniffling, filthy and poorly dressed adults hanging around. What’s worse is, as no-one is sure from where the dealer will appear, we are all constantly up and down, searching in every direction imaginable for a sight of him. Whilst tyring to act inconspicuous we do ourselves no favours. The only direction we don’t look is up... God has yet to drop a bag out the sky. I distanced myself from this bunch and went and sat alone at a nearby bus stop.
At 10.30 I received a text. “I’m there... I’m there.. 10 minutes...” At 11.00 I was still waiting... at 11.15 the same. Finally, at 11.20 there was some movement. I watched as one be one the circling junkies slid out from nowhere and filed slowly into the flats. Someone must have gotten the call... our man must be here. I crossed over and went in with the rabble, past the elevator and through the door to the fire escape. Imagine the scene: 20 junkies sitting hushed in a stairwell, the dark only lit up by burning cigarettes and the screens of our cell phones. Suddenly my own screen lit up: ‘30 secs’. I let everyone know and we got our money ready. After 8 minutes and 3 unanswered calls the bottom door opened, the light flicked on and someone came running up the stairs. We all stood up ready... but it wasn’t him! Rather, it was a motorcycle courier using the backstairs instead of the lift. He slipped through us suspiciously. “That’s police!" I said to one of the junkies... "That was the police!” He just shook his head... “Calm down... it’s just a courier. We’ll be gone soon!” Well, courier or not I was not comfortable with this... it was just too hot. And not even for us... we were clean... it was the dealer who arranged this that would have all the problems...it’s he who would be in possession of the gear.
I tried to phone the dealer twice more and then I made my decision to up and leave. One other addict decided to part with me. On the way back down the stairs I mentioned Methadone. By pure chance this guy had two bottles of 100ml in his pocket. I bought them both. We left the darkened stairwell and headed out. Just as we were leaving someone was coming in... he stopped us. “What are you doing here?” I didn’t answer. The addict alongside me said something about waiting for a friend. “Who? What floor?” From that question and the way my entrance from the building had been blocked I knew this was more than just a nosey neighbour. “Do you know who I am?” the man asked raising his head slightly “I am the police” he finished, now poking at his chest and grinning. With that he had his ID produced and then strapped an orange police band across his left bicep. Four others entered in behind him and rushed into the stairwell.
We were led outside where there were two more policemen... standing either side of our dealer! I could only imagine they had caught him in full possession... his sullen face and drooped head told me that. Out in the forecourt we were soon joined by the rest of the rotten bunch and just as 15 minutes ago junkies had slid from nowhere out the shadows, now the police done the same. There was soon at least one policier to each addict. We were made to strip down to the waist and remove our hats, shoes and socks. Whilst doing this another police man walked the sorry line of jaundiced, hollow cheeked, scarred and bruised junkies and left with a handful of ragged ID cards and passports. We were told to empty our pockets and lay the contents on the little wall where we were standing. It was here that I remembered I had just bought 2 bottles of methadone. Fuck! I seriously considered just ripping them open and swallowing the contents. I was going to be arrested (it’s a class A drug) so I might as well make sure I’m not ill as well. But I didn’t do that... instead I took them from my trousers and laid them on the wall... the wall that had just turned into a chemists top-shelf! Along it now was a booty of drug paraphernalia and every possible prescribeable drug . There were bottles and strips of pills, amps of morphine, packets and boxes of syringes. There were tourniquets, blackened spoons, pen-knives and razor blades. In fact, there was everything EXCEPT heroin.
After a moment a policier confronted me. “Where did you get this from?” he demanded holding up the two little bottles of methadone
“It’s mine... I get it on prescription.” I replied.
“Where’s your prescription? Can I see it?”
“I don’t have it on me.”
“You do know that this is a class A stupifiant without a prescription, don’t you?”
I nodded, “Yes, excuse me.”
“Who is your doctor?” he asked. I gave my GP’s name, address and number. The policeman went away.
We were all properly searched and then ordered to get dressed. On being questioned everyone said they were “waiting for a friend” though no-one could remember this friends name, address or telephone number. When they asked me I told them what they already knew: I was here to score heroin. They asked me off whom and I said I only know him as ‘D’ (this wasn’t true).“Is that “D”” a policeman asked pointing at the dealer. “No... that’s not him.” I replied. I can only imagine that my broken french and little bit of honesty had helped me, because after a moment of conferring I was suddenly hit in the stomach by my passport, handed back my two bottles of methadone and told to “Fuck off!” I left at a quick trot with about ten others. Our dealer was kept behind.
We were all in shock... me especially. How I left & with the methadone was unbelievable. The other addicts all agreed I had been extremely fortunate. We walked on quickly... we just wanted to get away from this place. 5 mins down the road my phone rings: “It’s me... I’m ready!” Well, we couldn’t believe it... only minutes ago 'D' was being held by police and now he was ready to serve us!? We were sure it was a police set-up to catch us in possession. Even thinking this, not one of us backed out of the deal... we all still took our chances. We met 'D' five minutes from the same block of flats we had just been searched in and we all left untroubled with our orders. As we made our way back down to the Metro the other half of the rag-tag junkie army were making their way up, joking and laughing about the police. We let them know that ‘D’ was waiting and everything seemed in order. By now we were laughing and joking too.
And it is a joke... because 20 police men had been surveying us. They had watched us circle about for nearly 2 hours and had probably listened to our phone calls. They knew who our dealer was and had followed him. If they would have waited five minutes longer they would have got us all on possession charges & the dealer on trafficking... bang to rights. Instead they busted us with nothing to bust... and how they never caught the dealer in possession remains a mystery! So it’s a joke... it’s a waste of junkie time, a waste of police time and a waste of god knows how much public money. What the neighbours must have thought as they saw us refill our pockets and bags with drugs and needles and then be set free I cannot even imagine. I wonder if they saw it as effective community policing or not?
And so it was, I arrived home a little before 1pm, though a little later than planned. I was still half expecting the police to jump out and nab me as I exited the metro... but no, their brains couldn’t follow a smacked-up drug dealer through a block of flats, so there’s no way they’d be able to organise an arrest through the maze of the underground system. Instead, I was once again left to my own devices... to enjoy the tranquillity of the afternoon. I did what I had to do and I laid down on the sofa. I closed my eyes and opened my ears to the noises of the day. I listened to distant sounds and voices... to the chipping away and shouts of workmen. I listened to the afternoon screams of school children and to the echoes of high heeled shoes . I let this day wash over me as I sunk in & out of a self-induced sleep. Today I had been lucky - it had been a close one, but I had made it home with my gear, my methadone and free of any drug convictions. This means I can still get a US visa... that I can continue to dream New York dreams. It means that I can still make good on certain promises.... that I can still one day visit my homie sKILLz and kiss the Brooklyn Dogs.
Best wishes everyone & stay safe, Shane.
Yes I do requests... hows a Heroinhead to survive if he doesn’t turn a few tricks now and again? This one’s for Lou over at http://brokenheartedmom.blogspot.com/ .
The Heroin Addict Vs The Junkie*
Within heroin culture there are myriads of different people one will encounter, and as with many other parts of society these groups tend to stick together. There are smokers, snorters and shooters, those that snowball and those who wash their smack down with downers and booze. There are the depressed, the oppressed and the repressed, the mentally ill and the mentally sane. There are the young, the old, the dead and the dying. We are all in one house and we are all junkheads. We all crave the same drug and we all double up in illness when it comes a knockin'. But some of us accept that illness before others. Some of us do not break certain rules, and some of us are lucky enough not to need to. We are all dope fiends but we are not all junkies. In this post I will try to explain the difference.
I will start by saying that I am a heroin addict. I am not a junkie and never have been. I have crossed that road and I’ve assisted in it, but I have never taken it. There are many things I am just not willing to do for a bag. In contrast, my father was and many of my friends are junkies... out and out. When you’re in their company you’d do well to glue your shoes to your feet and padlock your trouser closed, because if there’s anything that can be stolen and sold, it will be.
A junkie is noticeable. He/she is the visible side of heroin addiction. The junkies habit is out of control and has led to a certain lifestyle. This lifestyle is of cheating, lying and stealing to get their dope money. A junkie scores on a day to day basis and from waking up doesn't quite know where that days drug money is coming from. He is open to most ideas, starting small and getting progressively more desperate as the day wears on. The point when he retires and accepts withdrawal is when he is sick. Until that point almost anything goes. The junkie is the scruffy, unkempt jack-the-lad that will wish you well as you leave on a shopping trip and then scramble up your drainpipe and in your window as soon as you turn off the street. He will ask you for money and if you refuse he will steal it. If you do lend it to him you can be sure you’ll never see it again. If you do it will be a symbolic gesture: “I have your money... but can I borrow it again until next Tuesday?” Next Tuesday? Well, we all know Tuesday never comes.
But junkies are not bad people, they are the creation of an addiction that has gotten out of control. Being a junkie is an economic problem, not a fashion statement. Not one junkie I know enjoys thieving, and all have a conscience. If they could fund their addictions without resorting to theft or underhand activities they would. No-one enjoys that kind of pressure and the last thing a heroin addict needs for a bad day is an arrest, or the police knocking down their door. When people talk of losing a loved one to heroin they are in fact referring to the junkie lifestyle.
In contrast to the junkie is his cousin: the 'stable heroin addict'. Stable heroin addicts are almost undetectable (unless you live with one). As long as they have their drugs they will perform and remain a valuable asset to society. They will work and pay taxes, do their shopping and pay their rent. They will hold intelligent conversation and will give you their undivided attention. The heroin addicts priority is in planning their addiction, in making sure they have their dope well in advance and not scored on a faily basis. They are able to buy bulk and ration properly. If funds are tight they will adapt their usage to that. Your Director, bank-manager or author of your favourite blog may be a stable heroin addict... you just wouldn’t know.
I am sometimes guilty of joking around this subject, but there is a real serious side to this distinction. Because junkies have a hard time supplying their habits they will often be using other opiates or downers and alcohol. Downers, anti-depressants and booze on top of heroin are lethal. Between 90-95% of all fatal overdoses are due to a concoction of drugs. The junkie runs a much higher risk of heroin death than the stable addict. Junkies also run an increased risk of contracting HIV and/or hepatitis. They are often in the position where they have to share equipment. Not so much needles, but spoons and water and citric and filters. The reason why heroin is shared in the spoon and not divided by hand is that former is an exact division (sucked up in milligrams) and the latter a division by eye. When done by sight, each party always thinks they’ve had the bad deal. So for peace of mind, its all into the spoon and then everyone draws up equal amounts of equally diluted smack. That's how it works. But in that draw, all it takes is one infected needle, one microscopic bacteria, and everyone is playing Russian Roulette. The junkie walks a fine line each day, and it is one that I couldn’t keep my balance on.
As this post was from a request by Lou, it is only fair the last paragraph is about her.
Lou has a junkie son. He is called Andrew. Unfortunately Andrew is ‘out of bounds’ at the moment. Lou has experienced the lot: the lies, the scams, the stolen money and missing jewellery. She’s had her car stolen, her bedroom ransacked and probably her video recorder pinched. She’s had the early morning police calls and the bail charges. Her son Andrew made a road trip of US prisons and then went back for more. He has been in and out of rehab and jail for a long time. Lou loves Andrew, but Lou thinks she has lost her son. She has, but not forever. I tell Lou this whenever I can. I have to, because if Andrew is lost then so am I.
Keep heart Lou... It was never your fault.
Ps: Andrew's release date is in 239 days 1 hour and 10 minutes. If that doesn't seem long imagine being Lou, and if it still doesn't seem long try being Andrew.
Come swish around, my pretty punk,
And keep me dancing still
That I may stay a sober man
Although I drink my fill.
Sobriety is a jewel
That I do much adore;
And therefore keep me dancing
Though drunkards lie and snore.
O mind your feet, O mind your feet,
keep dancing like a wave,
And under every dancer
A dead man in his grave.
No ups and downs, my pretty,
A mermaid, not a punk;
A drunkard is a dead man,
And all dead men are drunk.
My favourite poem of Yeats was pinned to my bedpost from the age of 18 - 22. .. I think it served me well.
Thanks for all your comments & "Hello and Welcome!!" to all the new followers. Due to the activity in the comments section, 'Memoires of a HH' is no longer only my blog... It has become much more than that - It's a joint venture. I have realised that there are many more wonderful people in this world than I ever imagined. If the blog has become successful it is because of your input and not mine. That's not a statement of negative worthlessness... it's just my way of saying "thanks".
There will be a proper Heroinhead post for you all tomorrow... excuse the delay, but its been a hectic week.
I hope you're all well & I send you all my very best wishes.
As far as I have memory in my head I have always been a juvenile delinquent. My school years, from 5 – 13, were a history of vandalism, busted noses, twisted arms and broken windows. I spent my days smart-arsing teachers and my nights prising off car badges and defacing bus-stops. I was a tearaway. Still, despite these things I was top boy in class and advanced into the above year. At the age of twelve I won the London Schools Poetry competition*, and less than a year later I was expelled from school and banished for good from the British educational system.
My final day in school was as memorable for my smartness as it was for the bunch of keys that hit me in the temple, knocked me unconscious and split my brow open. Looking back I still think I was unfairly dismissed, but probably it was my just deserves for something else.
It was one of those hot, dusty afternoons where the tarmac burns through the shoes. A bedraggled bunch returned from a lunchtime of football, hopscotch and cigarettes. Our chewed and eaten ties were in our back pockets and our shirts clung miserably to our bodies. All pupils, boys and girls, were three buttons open from the collar. It was in these conditions that our eccentric music teacher Mr Ward Jones decided to test his theory: xylophones are indestructible. To prove this he sat a xylophone in the middle of the music room and challenged each student to break it. “Kick it... punch it... clatter it,” he said, “it cannot be broken.”
One at a time, pupils were called out off the register. Each scruffy body offered up an attempt to break the unbreakable. Kids kicked and tumbled the xylophone. Some clattered and struck the metal keys together. It was rolled, bounced and jumped on, and each time Mr Ward Jones would smugly replace the keys and return to his seat. Watching this procession I couldn’t help thinking that somehow this was designed with me in mind. it was a lesson for all, directed at one. Finally Mr Jones summoned me to the job in hand. I knew what I was going to do, I had it all sussed. I walked confidently up to the xylophone and lifted it up off the floor, high over my head. I turned and faced Mr Jones. he gave a subtle nod and smile which said: “Go ahead, do your worst”’. With that I brought the xylophone crashing down... straight into the piano. For the umpteenth time in my life I was surrounded by carnage, this time playing out to a discordant tune. Yes, the xylophone survived, but the piano wouldn’t be playing Beethoven’s ‘Sonata in C minor’ ever again.
Before the dust from the sackcloth had settled Ward Jones had me. His violence was so thick and so fast that it seemed like he scooped me up and climbed the four stories of stairs to the headmaster's office in one stride. He had the devil in him.
The quiet of the 4th floor was eerie as only empty school corridors can be. The headmaster's office door was closed and locked. Ward Jones crashed me down onto a table, holding me by the shoulders. He stared directly at me and through me. What I saw in that look, in those eyes cannot be described. They were the eyes of a man that was no longer there. His body was acting independently of any brain. I was a tough boy, but that isolation with that man scared the shit outta me. I somehow knew the perverse was once again at my door.
Mr Jones began: “You fucking little...” I gave a smirk. Not a smart one, I just didn’t know what else to do. Well that smirk was the second from last thing I remember. The last was seeing Mr Ward Jones unclip the huge bunch of keys that were hanging from his trousers and hurl them. When I came around the keys were laying on the floor next to me. I could sense a half closed damaged eye and I caught the sour taste of blood as it curled into the corner of my mouth. Jones then had me by the arm and was dragging me off, back down the stairs, me scrambling to find my feet. How I escaped his clutch I am not sure, but on hitting the heat outside I was free, running across the concrete school yard and out the gate. My stepfather, an ex-borstal boxing champ, wouldn’t stand for this. Mr Ward Jones would be history.
My stepfather must have seen me coming, for before I even had time to open the door I caught his thump in the side of my head. That was for bloodying my new cheesecloth school shirt, in addition to fighting and disturbing his afternoon peace. And with that punch, with that reaction, he lost a part of me forever. I also realised he wasn’t as hard hitting as he liked to make out.
For the piano incident I was suspended from school, and 28 days later the Board of Governors convened and permanently excluded me. Mr Ward Jones denied everything and got off scot free (though later he would be fired for making indecent remarks to a 13 year old girl). And that was it (save for two months of 'one on one' tutoring), that was the end of my education. I had been abandoned to run loose with the wolves.
What’s strange is that the moment I was expelled I immediately acquired an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. I passed the next 5 years in public libraries and university canteens. This wasn’t a conscious effort to do something about my situation – I wasn’t that smart, it was just a natural thing. Libraries were full of books and I enjoyed reading. After reading I wanted to discuss and I found I could do that in university canteens. I don’t have a complex about my lack of education, in fact I’m proud of what I’ve managed to learn and study of my own back. Nevertheless, there are still many things I missed out on. The biggest was the lack of second hand information coming my way. When you’re within an educational system you don’t only learn what goes in your head, but also what goes in your fellow students heads and then comes out their mouths. Second and third-hand knowledge is coming at you from all sides. I didn’t have this. For me it was a chore. One book seemed to lead to a thousand others. And so that’s what I did, I followed an endless trail of words, blinking each sentence into my memory. I read some books so quickly I missed them.
The second, and more serious consequence of my expulsion from school, was I had too much freedom. Freedom, youth and the White City Estate are a bad mix; it can only lead to mischief. It soon happened that if I wasn’t in a library I was in the back of a police car. Nothing serious, a multitude of petty crimes. The most ridiculous of which was throwing a grapefruit through a neighbour's window.
But this post isn’t about my schoolday antics, it is more about who I was before heroin and the direction I was already heading in. It’s about the wildness, the dingo that has always been in me. I am a very shy, introverted person, but I have a need to impress. Because of the shyness I never took the eyes with a loud mouth, I took the eyes with my actions. I distinguished myself with danger. I was always the one to push on, to take one step further than anyone else. And this behaviour has a huge rapport with my drug use, because the feeling I got from doing heroin was the same feeling I got from destroying pianos and the same feeling I got from having the neighbours watch me being led away in handcuffs. It was for the eyes, always for the eyes. But where delinquency gets teenage eyes, heroin gets adult ones... just not in the way you'd imagine.
Over the years my youthful problems and needs have all mellowed. I’m not so timid anymore, yet I prefer to avoid strange crowds. My need to take the attention has also tamed, but there is and will always be a streak of that in me. My last fight was at the age of 18, and I no longer vandalize bus-stops or destroy pianos. I do however still throw the occasional grapefruit, but that’s not too bad. I’m getting better every day. Yesterday I was bad, today I am good and tomorrow I may very well be You.
Take care people... keep well & keep heart, Shane.
PS: Here’s my winning poem.
As I walked into the yard
A mummy was a nasty guard
Watching every step I took
Then a spectre popped up to look
Running, running I was scared
“Boo!” a ghost jumped up and blared
And this is what I found
Skeletons were in the ground
Worms and maggots in their hair
Even they started to stare
They jumped on me and took my soul
Threw me in a fresh dug hole
So this is what I done you see
I haunted them instead of me.