Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dear Friend

My heart
Is heavy
With all
My regrets.

Looking at pictures,
Old friends
Gone missing
For real
Or just
From my life.

The past
And all
I missed.
Old friends
Old places
So, so long ago.

Full of regret
When I see
Your face
Only in pictures
Memories flooding
Back to me

Dearest friend,
How did
I let
It all slip away...

I am blessed
You are
So forgiving.
Love is real.

Drugs are not.
Is the test...

Sad Song

Country song
On American Idol
Brings tears
To my eyes...

I cannot
Remember when
I cannot
Remember why
It all faded.

I remember
And tears.
I remember
And madness.
And I remember
Nothing at all.

My heart,
Still broken.
My bones
Still aching.
My memories
Still flooded
By you.

Once upon a time,
Long, long ago
Seems like
A foggy dream
A hazy vision
I only

Now, I see
A little smile
That looks
Just like mine
Smiling back
The dark.
Why is it
That the smile
Turned out
Not to be
Just like yours?
That our lives
Turned out
So different
Than we planned?

It is better
This way.

Missing NOLA

Overtakes me
As I look
At old pictures

My heart
For the way
It used to be
At least

I miss
All my friends
All over now
By the winds
Of a hurricane.

We must
Grow up

I miss those days
Even though
I know
I don't want
To go

And fearless

My friends

Missing NOLA...

Sunday, April 25, 2010


The first time I got an abscess, it was as big as a golf ball. It was right at my elbow, right at the spot where most people begin shooting up. I am shitting, it was as big as a golf ball.
It was one of the most painful things that I have ever experienced. I was not sure what to do about it at first, so I really did not do anything. Like every junky in denial, I just hoped it would go away if I ignored it. But, it just kept getting bigger and bigger. It hurt so bad that I could not even move my arm.
Finally, I went to a doctor. You should have seen how horrified he was when he looked at it. He was pretty cool, though. He did not touch it. At the time, I thought he was just being sensitive because it was obvious how bad it hurt. Now that I look back on it, he was probably afraid of catching something. He did prescribe me ativan as well as antibiotics. Ativan was to help me get off the drugs...lotta good that did.
After I finally went to the doctor, I was thinking I might die from the excruciating pain. I got an incredibly high fever. I remember taking a bath, praying to Damballah to take this burden away from me, to take this poison out of me. I was so insane from fever, that I started hallucinating. I was speaking in tongues. I saw people that were not there, and it culminated with the arrival of a snake. To this day, I believe those visions were much, much more than just the hallucinations from the fever.
The next day, the fever broke. And just a few minutes later the abscess erupted. The pressure was released, and the pain just melted away. So much pus came out of it, that you could ring it out of the t-shirt I had wrapped around the wound. It is turning my stomach just to think about it.
After that, (and several other less severe abscesses) I became somewhat of an expert on the treatment of an abscess. The key is to catch it early. You have to have had one to know that pain as soon as you feel it. The best thing to do is take a washrag and drench it in hot, hot water. Put it on the abscess just before you are going to bed. Next wrap a heating pad around the washrag and hence the abscess. Tie the heating pad on so that both the heating pad and the rag stay in place all night. And just go to sleep.
When you wake up in the morning...it is usually gone. This is the best way to treat an abscess that is from shooting up intravenous drugs. Heat...never ice!! Trust me, it works.

Cotton Fever Facts

Did you know that cotton fever as actually caused by a bacteria that is in the cotton?

Cotton fever happens shortly after you have taken an intravenous shot. You suddenly get uncontrollable chills, like you are freezing in the Arctic. Often a person also gets very nauseous and tired. You are shaking and chattering. You will doze off most of the time, and wake up feeling very worn out.
It is very scary. I had always heard that it is caused by injecting a tiny bit of cotton. But, I now think that injecting cotton will cause a lot of pain, rather than the chills. And I recently read cotton fever is caused by a bacteria in the cotton.


Losing it
One piece
At a time...

I guess
It has been slipping
For years.

Dead bodies
All around.

And refuse
Its all
The same
To some.

At least
That's how
We feel
Way,way down here.

Reach up,
Hold on,
Just a little
Bit longer.

Still dying
Years later
Just smaller
At a time.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


To the corner
To only
And wait
Some more.

On the corner
Hours pass.
Seems like
An eternity.
Seems like

The dope man
He is right
Around the corner.
It takes

On Esplanade
And Dauphine.
My guts out.
I think
I am dying
I feel
So shitty.

So much
Of my life
Spend waiting.
And waiting.
And waiting...

To finally
Be free.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Thinking About Jenny...

I don't see with my eye...
I perceive with my mind...

God, I miss you girl!
No one understands me here!!!!!!
Sometimes it seems like no one in my new life understands...
And I am left flying solo....

Here and Now

At first,
It was
Daring and fun
Back when
It was
Still innocent...
Just a little
Just dabbling.

I loved
The feeling
It gave me .
All warm
And carefree .
So fucking good
That all the bad
To just
Fade away.

Could I have known...
I would
End up
Poking around
To find a vein
In a dark alley,
In an abandoned
Dancing for money,
Crashing in
A sleazy motel
I think
They may rent
By the hour,
And scars
On my arms,
My hands,
And even my neck,
And loveless,
And homeless,
And so damn Broken.

I do not
Wonder though...
If I had
I am
Pretty sure
I would have
Done it

When I was there,
I fucking
Loved it.
Even now,
I miss it
But not as much
As I love
My son
Not as much
As I love
My life

We all
Have regrets
And mine
Are deep and wide.
There are
Things I
Would change
And things
I would not.
I am happy
To be
Blessed to be
And oh, so glad
To be free.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Thinking about old friends, and places of so long ago. So many of you did not survive the storm we lived in...many of my old friends are dead and gone. A tribute here to a particular one....

I always think of rubber duckies when I think of Jenny. She had two of them tattooed onto her chest. I loved those tattoos. They were in the old sailor style, where the colors were so bright and vibrant. Two little rubber duckies, facing each other on her chest.
Jenny had one eye that did not close all the way. You hardly noticed that about her because her eyes such a different color, falling somewhere between green and brown. If you watched her sleep, though, you would notice the one eye did not close. It is kind of creepy to watch someone sleep with one eye open...like she was watching you.
I can credit Jenny with introducing me to Shay, who was my loyal dope dealer for years to come. Unlike so many junkies I knew back then, Jenny was not greedy. She was not trying to make a buck off me every time I needed to score, so she just introduced me to Shay. I am sure there were a few people out there who would have been outraged, especially since I had quite a habit at the time.
Jenny had a son that she did not have custody of. I believe her mother had custody of him, and there was some kind of heartache involved there. Jenny was strung out when I knew her, so I now know why she did not have her son. It was better for him. But, it often broke Jenny's heart that she could not be a mother to him.
I see this scenario all too often, especially in mothers who have their kids fairly young. I am thankful that I went through the ringer before I had my son. Now, I know where it leads me...and I know to stay away from that shit. Sometimes, you are taken by surprise when the addiction gets its grips into you.
Jenny and I used to work together at Big Daddy's. Those were the fucking days! Heroin reigned supreme, and we had a tight little crew of users on the day shift. In to work by noon, and out by seven or eight...leaving plenty of time to party and get high.
I always think of her when I hear the Gorillaz, "Clint Eastwood" because she played that a lot on stage. We used to share a particular dress that actually belonged to crazy Jen. We called it the pin up girl dress because it had pin up girls on the black A-framed dress. It looked good on almost everybody. I can still picture Jenny wearing it, with the rubber duckie tattoo peeking over the top.
We had a lot of good times, back in the day...just before things got really hairy for us all. We had some insane shit go down with Jenny's best friend whom we called Crazy Jen. (She was nuts!) We had some good times with Reese, and Johnny, and also Jessica. We were all a tight crew for a while. Reese will always mourn the loss of his dear sweet Jenny.
The addictions in our little group began to mount, and as always with addiction...things got out of control. Jenny decided she had to move away. I cannot remember all the details of where she was going and with whom...but I do remember seeing her just before she left New Orleans.
I had stopped by Reese's apartment in the Treme to tell her good-bye. Chances are I was also bringing her some dope, but again I do not remember many of those details. I remember how much I loved that apartment. It had those archways, and all hardwood floors. Reese's bed looked expensive and comfortable. Reese always did seem to have some really nice things.
When I hugged Jenny good-bye, I had no idea it would be the last time I would ever see her. In those days, I did not think much about consequences, the future, or reality. I knew Jenny would come back to New Orleans, just as soon as she could handle it. I can still see her feet, with her toe nails painted, and wearing a black pair of heels. Jenny had tiny little perfect feet.
I think she was in California when she died. Again, I am not sure of all the details. My life was such a blur then...
The strange thing about it all was that there has been a rumor several years earlier that Jenny had died, maybe from an OD. That is how it goes with junkies, especially in New Orleans...there is always some rumor about a fallen comrade. I know that many people thought I was dead once because Candace for some reason had decided to start that rumor. When Jenny showed back up in New Orleans just before we started working together at Big Daddy's, many people felt like they were seeing a ghost. There was much rejoice that Jenny was alive and well! (As well as an addict can be, that is.)
After she left New Orleans the last time, she got clean. She left to get her life back together, probably in hopes of getting custody of her son back. She got clean, and she was taking medicine for depression and anxiety. That is how it happened.
There was debate if her death was accidental or not. I am not sure even now what to think about it. I would like to think that as a mother, she would not take her own life. But then, I would also like to think that as a mother, one could overcome addiction for their child...such was not the case with Jenny.
She had a few drinks one night, and she supposedly took her medication just as prescribed. But, for some reason, she did not wake up in the morning. I am fairly certain that she at least took more medication than she was supposed to. She may have done something else. She may have just been ready to give up.
I remember talking to Reese one morning in a bar on Conti street, as the sun was coming up about Jenny. Reese had gotten the same rubber duckie tattooed on his hand, in her memory. Tears welled up in his eyes as we talked about her passing. Reese just kept hoping that like before, it was all just a rumor. He said he half expected her to just walk through the door any minute. But, we both knew it would not happen.
Reese had spoken to Jenny's mother, and she was dead. She had passed away in her sleep. And all the strange circumstances that go with someone who is not yet 30 passing away mysteriously swirled around. I am not sure what happened, or where she was in her head at the time...what I do know is that I miss her.
I like to think that if she had survived, we would still be in touch today...if only through the computer. I like to think we would laugh about the old days, while we relish together in our sobriety. I would like to think she had regained custody of her son, and that she had finally become the mother she was deep inside. I would like to think we could now trade sober stories of motherhood now.
But, we cannot. A life was cut way too short. A story is unfinished. So many things yet to do, and she was just taken away. Poor Jenny...I loved her very much.

Now...It is Better

In a whirlwind
Of activity.

My life
Has never seemed
More busy

I know
It has been
Much, much more hectic.

To find
The time
And trying
To find
The stories
I know
They are there...
Just need
A fucking minute
To myself.

It is better...
Than trying
To find
Some dope,
A vein,
Some money,
Or just about
To make it all go away.

It is better
Much, much better.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Ritual

The ritual begins. First I go to the bathroom and fill a tiny glass of water. I retrieve my kit and my dope, placing all three of them on the table in front of me. I open the eyeglass case and reach for the syringe. I take the orange cap off the syringe, revealing the needle…shiny and new. Oh, how I love a new needle. The numbers on it are dark and unscathed, and the plunger glides smoothly. I just know the point will slide right into my vein today, like slicing a warm stick of butter.
As I dip the tip of the shiny needle into the water, I pull back on the plunger. I watch the water as it steadily climbs into the syringe, swirling ever so slight. I set the spike down on the glass table, and take a tiny piece of fabric from the case. Its edges are tattered and worn, and the light pink color is tarnished with black soot. My spoon comes out next, and I set it soot side down onto the tiny piece of cloth.
My glass of water sits waiting, as I check to make sure I have a lighter. I set the lighter next to the spoon. I take a Q-tip from my kit, pulling off a small amount of cotton. I roll the cotton back and forth in my fingers to create a tiny little ball. You have to be careful with the cotton, if it is too big it will be hard to get the dope out of it. If it is too small or too loose, the cotton will not hold the dope. The cotton filters out the impurities, but you have to get it right. I set the cotton down next to the lighter and the spoon.
I pick up the foil, carefully unwrapping it so I do not spill any of the precious powder inside. I dump the entire contents into the spoon. Next, I take the syringe and push the plunger to extract the water onto the dope, as it makes a quiet and steady squirting sound. I gently move the needle around to make sure the water mixes with all the dope.
Even more carefully, I pick up the spoon in one hand and steady it so that nothing spills out. I pick up the lighter with the other hand, and hold the flame under the spoon. Gently, I move the spoon back and forth, swishing the liquid around so that it cooks more evenly. A tiny stream of sweet smelling smoke rises from the spoon. You do not want too much smoke or else you may be burning all the dope away.
The sweet smell of a shot cooking up. It smells earthy and sweet. When I smell it, I can almost taste the dope in my mouth. I know when I smell the sweet smell of dope cooking in a spoon; it will not be long now. I inhale, long and slow. I relish these quiet few minutes of ritual. Everything is serious. Everything is going to be better real soon.
Gingerly, I lower the spoon back onto the cloth. The smoke still rises a little, and then fades into the air. I drop the cotton in. The cotton expands, almost seeming to explode, as it absorbs the liquid. The tight round little ball of cotton turns from white to brown. It won’t be long now!
My hands are shaking a little from anticipation and the fact that I need them to be steady right now. I look at the shiny metal point of the needle, focusing on the tip. I push the tip into the cotton, bending it slightly from the pressure. My hand immediately steadies. The needle rests in my palm, and at an angle, I use my thumb to slowly pull back on the plunger. The chamber fills with a luscious brown liquid.
The liquid looks dark today, which means my shot will be potent. After all the dope is extracted from the cotton and air bubbles begins to flow back into the chamber. I turn the point up towards the sky. Holding it steady at eye level, I tap the edges to get all the bubbles up to the top. Very carefully, I let the air out of the chamber. I am careful so that I do not let any of the precious liquid out.
The chamber of the needle feels warm in my hand. I think of a Beatles song…”Happiness Is a Warm Gun”. I put the spike into my teeth, and take off my belt. Cinching it around my arm, I pump my hand several times. My veins stand to attention. Not like they used to, but the still stiffen and pop under the pressure of the tourniquet.
I am almost home, I think as I hope I do not have any issues with hitting a vein. New needle, and veins popping, I feel this will be easy. I angle the needle into the vein. I steady my hand, prepared for the way my veins like to roll back and forth.
I am right! Just like butter, the needle breaks my skin without any resistance. Poking it slightly to the left, then slightly to the right, I pull back just a little. I see a flash of blood! The blood jumps back into the needle.
At first, my blood looks like a string as it flies to the top of the chamber, mixing with the sweet and inviting brown liquid. When the string reaches the top, it curls back down, almost as if gravity is pulling it back to the ground. I pull back just a little more, and the blood blossoms like a poppy flower at the end of the chamber. Got it! I push the plunger in, slamming the dope into my veins.
Ahhhhhhhh, I pull the needle out as a little blood spurts out of my arm. I loosen the tourniquet, and lift my arm to my mouth. I suck the blood there, attempting to get whatever dope may have seeped back out. It tastes metallic and bitter like dope.
My eyes are cloudy, as a warmth spreads throughout my body. Starting at my neck, a relaxing warmth spreads down my shoulders and then towards both my head and feet. My eyes get foggier still, and I tip my head back towards the sky. Mouth gaping, I taste the dope in the back of my throat. I am perfect now.
I take the belt off my arm, and put it back around my waist. Nodding so slightly, I pack my works back up. I discard the cotton, leaving the residue in the spoon for a rinse. I pick up the tiny piece of light pink fabric, placing it in the bottom of the case. I put the spoon on the fabric, soot side down. Beside the spoon, I replace the Q-tip. I close the case triumphantly, and just sit back and relax. I feel so fucking good right now.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Thoughts on Recovery

Thinking about the process of recovery...
Let us not be fooled that recovery is not an easy process, and rehab is not simply a quick fix. Recovery is a long and bumpy road at times, and relapse is unfortunately all a part of it. It takes an addict years and years to become addicted, and it takes even longer to recover. It is a daily battle, and at times I still feel like I am in the midst of it. As a addict, we will have both good days and bad days in recovery.
Sometimes the hardest part of recovery is taking a good hard look at ourselves and our lives. Counsellors like to delve into all the reasons that one might use. Counsellors like to think that if we can just get to the bottom of our problems, then our addictions will simply disappear.
This is just not always the case. For many addicts, it is not our life that drives us to addiction. In treatment, someone was always trying to delve into the reasons that made me use. I just liked to get high...bottom line. And after years of graduating to substances like heroin, a lifelong addiction has its grips on me. It is not because I had a bad childhood or because I suffered some kind of trauma. To me, it is more simple than that...I just liked to get high.
I will acknowledge the fact that addiction runs in my family, on both sides. I do believe I am genetically predisposed to addiction. I think that genetic disposition and years of using have lead me to where I am much more than any trauma may have.
When I was still immersed in my addictions, I made all kinds of excuses for my addiction. An addict is always looking for some kind of justification to use. An addict will look at the world differently sometimes if it enables him to use. I used to tell myself(and believe) all kinds of bullshit excuses that made it okay for me to use, at least in my own mind.
It is only now that I can look back and see the fallacy of it all. I was not well when I was on methadone, or any other replacement substance...but I was better. An addict does not get well over night; an addict does not get well in 90 days...it takes years and years for an addict to get well.
There finally came a day when I realized that I woke up in the morning, and my first thoughts were something other than drugs. This is when I felt like I was finally free. As an addict, I spent at least ten years where the last thing I would think about before I went to bed and the first thing I thought about when I woke up was drugs. When I was on methadone, I would wake up and think about getting to the clinic...the cycle was not broken, but the cycle of recovery had begun.
It is important to remember that recovery is not an easy process, and it involves a lot of ups and downs. I was a heroin addict for two years before I tried to get any help. Then, I spent another eight years bouncing back and forth on the rubber band of recovery. I tried methadone. I tried NA. I tried cold turkey. And I even had court ordered intensive outpatient treatment.
I think it took this trial and error to finally get it right. Each time I would get better, I would stay clean a little longer, and my using times would get shorter and shorter. I had to figure out that once I got clean, I could not use just one time...it always ended up the same, in addiction. It took me a long time to get my life back on track.
Now I feel like my life is so good, that I would not risk it by using again. I also know that I cannot just use once or twice; my makeup does not allow this to happen. Now when I think about the old days, I just look at the new and I know I am happy. I am proud of where I am and what I am doing...finally.
I do feel like I have wasted a lot of years. But, I also feel that I have gained a lot of insight into myself. I feel that I have a lot of stories to tell, and as a writer this is a blessing. I feel that I am much stronger than I ever would have been without my trials and tribulations. I know that I am blessed to be where I am today, and in many ways...I am lucky to even be alive.
I am now a mother, and I have a renewed hope about the possibilities in life. I am back in school, and I am furiously writing it all down. I am steadily working on a book, and I have confidence that I can do it. I can have everything I want, but now I have to work harder than most. I am thankful for my loving family, and I think my addictions have helped me to appreciate them much more. Today, I AM VERY BLESSED.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I Find Myself

I find myself
Once again
Looking in boxes
That have been
In the back
Of the closet
For years.

I find myself
Again and again
Through poems
And paragraphs
And stories
And legends.

I find myself
Once again
To old tunes
And thinking about
The old places.

I find myself
Again and again
Thinking of when
The way you
Used to be
Before the storm.

I find myself
Once again
In the visions
Of my dreams
Like it was
Before the floods
Of life
It all away.

I find myself
Again and again
To be
Not that different
Than I
Have always been
I did not run
At least
And I always
Stayed true
To what
I felt.

I find myself
Too much
Too much...
And don't even
Try to tell me
That I
Am not missed too.
A city is
Meant to be
Will rise again
From the ashes.


Nightmarish visions
Awaken me
One night...

I see you
I see him
I see me
I see us
And I see them.

I wonder
What is pulling
On the other end...

This string
I am connected to
Though far behind
And long ago
I still know
We are
All connected.

My dreams
Waking me up
These past few nights
Visions past
And visions future
Through my head

Somehow I know
Someone is tugging
From the other end
Where we are
Still connected
Souls that will
Always be
Even when...
We have not
In years.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Scenes from the past
Flash in my mind
From time to time
Emerging out
Of nowhere
To send shivers
Up my spine.

A back room
In a bar
Closed down
For the night
A strange man
I have never
Seen before

What the fuck
Am I doing?
How the fuck
Did my pants
End up
On the ground?
I am so wasted
I am not sure
What is going on.
All I know
Is I am pissed.
Is this how
I seek revenge?

A darkened place
Where I cannot
See much of the interior
I never really
Bothered to look
Hands all over me
Feeling helpless
And afraid
To say a word
In desperate need
Of my fix

I will do
As need takes over
My already wasted

I see not the danger
I care not of
Of the consequences
I know not
That I could die
From any number
Of tragedies...

It is only now
Years later
And miles away
In my mind
That I am struck
With fear
Fear so strong
That it racks my brain
And quickens my heart
What the fuck
Was`I thinking?

I guess I was not
Thinking at all.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Junky Johnny

Hurricane stories are flowing in and out of me these days. I am finally making an effort to get all of this down, and I have been going through a lot of old journals. Those days remain so clear in my memory, burned there so that I will never forget. Yet, my mind was so hazy the entire time that these stories seem to have this glossy sheen over them in my mind. When your mind was riddled with drugs and alcohol...one knows ultimately that their idea of reality may be somewhat skewed. Yet, looking back on those dark, dark days of Hurricane Katrina my heart still begins to quicken with fear and dread.

The water had begun to recede. I was not sure at the time how long we had been immersed in those waters, and it was not until after I left New Orleans that I even realized it had been two weeks. Sometimes in my mind, it seems like we were only in the flood waters for a couple of days. Other times it seems like we endured months of survival in the wild.
The water finally had begun to recede, and most of the Treme was dry. We are full of alcohol and pills most of the time. I swear, we had enough pills to start our own pharmacy once Liam and I teamed up with Johnny and Linda. And eventually...it all got to be too much.
Liam and I had decided to evacuate. I was out wandering through the Treme twelve days after the storm. By this time, the streets were almost vacant. There were not many people left wandering around, save for the mighty few who refused to leave. Liam and I were among those mighty few for some time, with no intentions of leaving. As I wandered down by the I-10, near a hostel where Liam and I lived for a couple of months.
I had not seen any one around as I wandered around. The streets were now covered with mud and silt, and tree branches were everywhere. Leaves huddled around corners as if they were waiting for the man to pass by and bring them a package. The buildings of the Treme were spotted with dirt and water damage. And there was not a soul around as I aimlesslessly wandered about.
I remember rounding a corner, and I was suddenly face to face with a large military vehicle. The vehicle stops, and fear strikes my heart as several men rush out. I must have looked a mess because I had not showered in weeks, and my clothes were probably covered in filth from wading through the murky waters. I had been wasted on pills and liquor much of the time, and I was most certainly wasted as the vehicle came to a stop.
Several men rush up to me, checking to see if I am okay. The past few days we have spent avoiding the military for fear of being arrested. We did not want to leave the city, and we felt if we stayed under the radar...we could stay behind. And then, this military vehicle just appears out of no where.
As the men rush out, I am suddenly afraid. I know I should not just be wandering these deserted streets. The men have a harsh and accusing tone. They demand to know what am I doing. They want to know why I am still in the city. And then, I am told that I must get into the vehicle with them and be evacuated right now.
Panic sets in as I feel like I am being accosted by the police. What about Liam? I cannot just disappear. Liam would be in a panic if I were not to return, and who knows how long I would be away. I cannot go right now. I need to at least pack up some things. I cannot go right now, I keep telling these uniformed men. I am afraid they will simply arrest me and force me to go with them right now.
It may just be that I am afraid of authority. Or that I have been avoiding police for all these years that anyone in a uniform is scary to me. I do not know what kind of authority these military men have...it has been obvious the past few days that they have some authority over this city. Maybe I was just too fucked up to think clearly, but I was definitely afraid of being drug away in handcuffs.
The military men tell me I have no option...I MUST LEAVE THE CITY. They agree to let me go for the night so that I can gather a few things. They ask where I am staying so that they can pick me up in the morning. I reluctantly tell them. I am still afraid of getting arrested. The men warn me that if I do not evacuate, I will go to jail. I am presented with two choices- evacuate or jail. I promise to be ready in the morning.
I head back to Johnny's tiny little apartment on the corner of Ursuline and Treme. I was only about ten or fifteen blocks away when the military stopped me. I still do not want to leave the city. As I walk home, I am pondering my choices. We could just hide out somewhere. I do not want to end up in jail...and all the fucking pills and liquor we have are sure to get us in more trouble. But, where will we go?
I am not even sure at this point what the whole evacuation thing entails. Would we end up going home? Would we have to go stay with either my parents or Liam's parents for a while? That does not seem like a good idea to me. Liam and I were strung out, and in need of a drug supply...going home is not a viable option to me. But, then could we stay and dodge the police, dodge a jail sentence? How would all this work? I would have to see what Liam says about all this. We have always made big decisions together, so I knew this would be no different.
At the time, we had no idea how much damage Katrina had caused. We could only see the flooded areas around us, and by this time all the water had practically receded. I honestly thought things in the Quarter would be up and running again before much longer. It was not until we were finally evacuated that we were able to see the extent of the damage on the news. At the time, I honestly did not understand why we were being forced to leave the comforts of the city I loved so dearly.
When I got back to Johnny's, Liam was there. I cannot remember if Johnny and Linda were there, but they probably were. I remember looking around the tiny apartment, realizing that it was chock full of looted items. Johnny had made it his mission to go out looting computer equipment and such for the past two weeks. There were CPUs, monitors, and television sets all over. And there was so much liquor, it seemed like hundreds of bottles. And let's not forget all the pills...we had enough pills to start our own pharmacy. There were hundreds and hundreds of syringes as well. I did not want these military men coming in here to find all this.
There was no discussion with Liam about leaving. He was over it all, and he was ready to go anywhere but here. So, it was an easy decision...we would leave in the morning. We packed up our stuff that night, adding all the huge pharmacy bottles full of pills to our luggage. I don't think we even thought that anyone would take them away.
Johnny and Linda were not leaving. They were dead set on just hiding out in the tiny apartment as long as they had to, and Liam and I were perfectly fine with that. We went right on drinking and getting high the rest of the night.
We were shooting the last of the fentanyl that night. Johnny had gotten a ton of fentanyl patches when he raided some pharmacy. He had the really good patches, I think they were 100mg and lasted three days. I had fentanyl patches all over my body, but they were the smaller ones that you cannot cut open. Johnny had the good kind that could be cut open and shot up. Liam and I had been doing his dirty work all week to trade for these patches.
After two weeks, these patches were getting more and more scarce. Shooting fentanyl is the best high I have ever known. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin, and it really packs a punch. This last night was somewhat of a blur, as we shot a lot of fentanyl. On top of all the pills and liquor we consumed, it is a wonder none of us overdosed.
Liam had fallen off the porch sometime that week, and he was in a lot of pain. Even all the drugs did not completely numb the pain. He was ready to get out of the city, and get somewhere that was more civilized. Our last night together in New Orleans was not different than so many nights before because we were completely wasted. We passed out on the porch, and awoke as the sun came up.
It was much cooler sleeping outside. The heat and humidity were stifling in the tiny little apartment with all four of us holed up in there. The smell of death and decay was everywhere. The breeze outside at least helped to keep the stale air circulating. But, when the sun came up before six in the morning, it got so hot that it was impossible to sleep anyway.
This final morning, we woke up early. Johnny and Linda were already awake. Linda was already on the nod, and she retreated inside for a while. Liam and I piddled around, packing last minute items and shoveling a handful of various pills down our throats. Linda, irritated because we were making so much noise went outside to join Johnny. Liam and I raided their pill stash, hiding some of it in our suitcases. Then, we went outside to wait.
We walked out onto the porch to a typical scene for Johnny and Linda. Johnny's head drooping forward, as he was on the nod. Linda could barely keep her eyes open. Liam and I just shook our heads at the insanity of it all. Not that we were any better off, but these two had always been extremists.
Then, Johnny slumps over and falls out of the chair. Johnny has been known to nod out often, but this was extreme even for him. Linda, who is always watching Johnny like a hawk when she is coherent enough, rushes over. She lifts up his head, and his fucking lips are blue. Linda starts screaming again for what seemed like the millionth time in a week.
She starts slapping his face to wake him up. Liam goes over to him, and helps to sit him back up in the chair. Linda jumps off the porch, searching for the water hose. ( Thank god the water was never turned off because of the storm.) Johnny lifts his head up as he starts to breathe again and opens his eyes ever so slightly. We had finished off the fentanyl last night, but a needle was sitting right next to Johnny. Liam starts shaking him, asking what he has shot.
Johnny slowly points off to the side. There, beside him is an open clonidine patch. You have to be fucking kidding me, I think. This motherfucker was shooting clonidine! Clonidine is a blood pressure medication that helps to alleviate symptoms of opiate withdrawal. But, everyone knows if you take too much clonidine, even orally, your heart will get so slow that you can die. And this stupid, desperate junky shoots the fucking stuff!
Linda starts spraying him with the hose, screaming the whole time. As the water hits Johnny in the face, he lifts his head slightly every time. Linda is screaming, "Don't die on me, asshole. Wake up, Johnny. Wake up!" He is coming in and out of consciousness.
After a lot of screaming and squirting, Johnny's lips stay a red color. Before they kept turning blue, as he would stop breathing. He still cannot really hold his head up, but it seems he is out of the woods. He is teetering on the edge of the chair, in constant danger of falling out again. Liam and I help Linda drag Johnny back inside to the nasty, dirty bed.
The cats are crawling all over the place. They are probably starving. We put Johnny in the bed, ans he seems to be peacefully sleeping. Linda swallows a handful of pills, and she curls up next to him. I am shaking. Saving a life can be a stressful event, especially when you do not know what you are doing. Liam and I grab our bags, and head out of the apartment.
We are in a hurry to get out of there. At this point, we have had it. We are ready to get the hell out of this insanity. Liam and I sit outside on the stoop, waiting for the military men to come pick us up. We have no idea where we will go or how we might get there. Anticipation fills our hearts as we watch the sun rise up above the city. The heat begins to rise as well and the smell of dying decay gets stronger and stronger. As an ambulance pulls up for us, we ponder the situation we just narrowly escaped.
The evacuation process was long and crazy. We sit in the hot sun on the black asphalt, and our conversations keep drifting back to Johnny. At the point when we left, we knew there was a possibility that he would not survive the day. We felt pretty sure that we had revived him for the moment. What we did not know is how clonidine taken intravenously will affect him in the coming hours. We also knew that Linda was probably in too deep of a sleep from the last handful of pills she swallowed to keep an eye on Johnny's shallow breathing. We prepared ourselves to one day hear that he had died that day.
Thankfully, that is not the fate that awaited Junky Johnny, although it would be months before Liam and I heard anything from either Johnny or Linda. We ended up in Rhode Island after a long and arduous evacuation process. We often wondered if Johnny had lived through that day. I could not tell you how many times that morning came up in conversation, but it was frequently.
I returned to New Orleans almost four months after the Hurricane. This time I was alone, as Liam had decided to stay in Virginia with his mother. i returned to New Orleans because it was the only place that anyone would have me, and I will always be grateful for Quentin and Barbie for taking me in when I needed it the most.
I ran into Linda after several weeks back in the city. She looked a mess, as usual. Her legs were still covered with bruises and open sores. She was still strung out, and now she was smoking a lot of crack. Johnny was in jail for some bullshit.
Johnny had survived that day. Linda told me that they were so fucked up that they did not even realize Liam and I had left. They were apparently still talking to the two of us for several days after we left.
At one point, Johnny ventured out in one of his Hawaiian shirts that he so often wore. He was so fucked up on pills that he thought Linda was with him. The cops and military were still looking to evacuate every single person who was left behind, so Johnny and Linda tried to stay off the radar...which is not easy when your mind is completely twisted on drugs and alcohol.
Johnny sees a couple of police as he is wandering around. Fearful of evacuation, he jumps into the bushes to hide. These cops must have automatically thought he was a nut job. The approach the bushes and order him out. Johnny reluctantly climbs out to face the music.
Only, he thinks Linda is with him. He thinks she has jumped in the bushes as well. Johnny starts yelling at her to get the hell out of the bushes. I am sure the cops were amused as they obviously did not see anyone else with him. Johnny threatens her, "Linda, if you do not get out of the fucking bushes right now, I swear I am gonna piss on you!"
No one comes out of the bushes. So Johnny whips his dick out and starts pissing all over the bushes. If I know Johnny, he is bitching the entire time. The cops must have been shaking their heads in disbelief. They did not arrest Johnny, but sent him to whatever make shift hospital they had set up. Obviously, this man who was pissing all over an invisible person was off his rocker.
Linda was at the apartment, worried when Johnny did not return. She said several days went by. Then, out of the blue, Johnny shows back up. He is no longer wearing his Hawaiian shirt and shorts, but he is in hospital scrubs. Relatively sober, Johnny relays this crazy story to her. He said the cops took him to a make shift hospital. He was not even sure where it was, although he had apparently walked home from there. They had sobered him up and sent him on his way.
To this day, I sometimes wonder what happened to Johnny and Linda. A large part of me doubts they ever got clean. These two are lifers. I often wonder if they are still alive, knowing there is a good possibility that they are not. Bless them both, wherever they may be.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

On Death and Dying

Another old journal entry....this one more poetic

Death is constantly all around us. "We have to decorate this dying day..." Death walks in and out of my mind almost daily. Fallen brethren, family members deceased, and all the other unknown souls, too, seem to haunt my brain at times. Sometimes I also wear the expression of death. After all, we all really are dying...our lives speeding like a rocket towards the unknown planet of Death.
Falling away from life. Obsession with death...and dying. Keeps one in the wake of disaster, and keeps one from really living. But, what is living anyway while we are surrounded in the atmosphere of dying?
Death has a particular scent, and once you smell it...you will never forget its odor. You can sometimes see death in its victim's eyes. "His eyes had a dead expression, cold and unfeeling." looking into dead eyes, a shock wave runs up my spine. I know the reaper lurks close behind.
I guess I have worn the expression of death long enough to recognize it. I spent years and years trying to die, yet somehow I lived through it. The presence of death is always around us. The expression of death, worn like a mask. A foreboding future is all we see when the mask of death presents itself.
We are all dead or dying. Death is merely a part of life's continuum. As the sun and moon turn each day, we are catapulted closer and closer to death. Every one's ultimate ending is death...there are no exceptions.
Have you ever touched a dead body? It is a horrifying experience that one is not likely to forget. Cold, lifeless, and blue. More shocking to me was the stiffness as rigor mortis had set in. The body is stiff as a board, although not light as a feather.
Lifting a dead body during the Hurricane, I was surprised how heavy it was. I guess that is why they call it dead weight. I never felt anything so heavy in my whole life. It took three of us to lift the body and move it even a few feet. Cold, blue, stiff...and heavy as a motherfucker.
The smell of death filled the house for days. The stench of death wafted around the city of New Orleans for months. Sometimes, in certain places, I swear I can still smell it. You could always feel death in the city, even more so after Katrina.
The totality and finality of the situation did not really set in until I returned to the city months later. Immediately, I was met by that distinctive smell of death. The immanent smell of death and decay, lingering, becoming all to familiar.
Already, there was too much decay in the city of New Orleans. The city stands as a perfect example of decay, built on crumbling ruins where the old city remains with its renovations and improvements. Bright neon lights of Bourbon Street contrasting with the old architecture.
A city already crumbling to ruins by debauchery. Its people decaying faster than most, filling themselves with drugs and alcohol. A city built on the soft, swampy land of Southern Louisiana. Land that is barely stable enough to support all this life...so the city is sinking far below sea level while buildings shift and we are faced with crumbling decay.
Just look around the streets, and the evidence of decay is seen in so many eyes. The strippers trampling through the Quarter wear the placid look of death and addiction. The bums begging for change also wear the mask of death behind their sunken eyes. Circumstance causing death and decay to accelerate to great deterioration. Junkies gather near Iberville, the look of death often pervades the sickness as they sit and wait for a cure to their incurable disease. Tourists, blind drunk, have a dead look in their eyes...their brains deadened by alcohol. The smell of rot exudes from the Quarter from spilled alcohol, puke, and leftover food. Now, the smell of human death tops the smell of the Quarter.

The Aftermath

Today's entry comes from another old writing I discovered when going through some tattered and torn notebooks I found at the back of my closet. This piece was written in the weeks following one of my last kicks. I like these old entries because they are so different from where I stand today, yet there is a vein that will always be the same...

"In this modern day of pills and prescriptions-it is a fact- drugs are all around. A little slip into the illegal, and what is the difference, anyway? Today, so many people smoke weed that it is commonplace and rarely ever a shocker. Go ahead- get some pharmies from the pusher- what is the stretch? These pills are legal pills anyway.
Next stretch-snorting cocaine or even heroin...it is not really all that different from an Oxycontin. The buzz feels exactly the same. Start with morphine-graduate to heroin. What is the stretch? Especially once you've copped a habit from the morphine- the leap to heroin is made out of necessity, eventually. When you need your medicine and your prescription has run out too soon, and heroin is all that is available...You are sick as a dog now, and you will do anything. What is the stretch?
Of course, this is not the case with me. Oh no, I tried heroin before I ever really messed around with pain pills other than a few Vicodin here and there. Oh no, not me...I was into the illegals. Maybe it was the thrill, maybe the image, maybe just the death sentence.
That was always a part of it for me- my morbid obsession with pain, suffering, and ultimately suicide. I knew that heroin was suicidal. I knew that the needle was definite suicide. There was never any doubt about that. At the time I began mainlining, I had already been a heroin addict for years...and there was a part of me wishing to die. This part of me that wanted to commit suicide lacked the conviction to push the razor blade deep enough into my wrists. But shooting heroin was a eventual death...slow and painless. Suicide by pleasure.
Since the day I began shooting heroin, I lived with the ever changing roller coaster ride of a needle habit. I have been high, I have been sick...really,really sick. And I have also been well. I have been on methadone. I have taken suboxone. I have been in and out of detox and rehab. Just recently, I kicked another minor heroin habit.
Don't plan on getting back on that nasty stuff...but, then again, I have said that before. Often, IT IS ALL I CAN THINK ABOUT. Desperate cravings rack my mind, body, and soul. The old obsession is sometimes all I can think about.
I wake up and go to work in the greasy little cheeseburger joint, lethargic and dragging. I cannot seem to move my ass fast enough. My mind starts wandering back down those same old and worn roads. Obsessing about the only thing that will make me feel better. Namely, I dream of methadone at this time. I know methadone is the only thing around this stupid little town. Heroin is so scarce and shitty here, and my mind wanders to what I can get. No use thinking about something I cannot obtain, then the obsession would be more like a dream.
I am over the worst of the withdrawals; my mind and body have somewhat returned to normal. I am sleeping through the night again, although I wake at the crack of dawn. I am working hard to pay back everything. I fucked shit up this time while I was strung out, but then that is part of it all, isn't it? Right now, the idea of getting high is not so appealing as I am about to be homeless.
Almost evicted, no where to go...Liam has disappeared again. The apartment is such a wreck I do not even want to start packing. The stench of old garbage, stale beer, and cats surround me. I know I do not have enough money for another apartment, and I do not want to go back to living in cheap hotels. But, still my mind wanders to the world of possible relief. After all..."all pleasure really is is relief."

It is hard to rewrite these writings without editing. I am amazed how my writing itself has improved since these old pieces. I am not sure if it is because my mind is so clear now, or that I just have a lot of practice under my belt. My writing has become not only more clear, but more refined.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Island

Afternoon sun
Finally peeks out...

The ocean is still cold
Salty and sandy
Children delight
In the beach

The moss hangs
From the draping trees
And pollen covers
Changing the landscape
From green
To yellow.

Lagoons winding
Full of fish
And brackish water
Teeming with life

The air is fresh
And salty
And I am reminded
Of seafood
And summer.

Bask in the beauty
That before
I never noticed.
Too caught up
In the circle...
Too sick
To even look.
Too busy
Looking for the man
To even see
The beauty
Of this place.


Friday, April 2, 2010

A Visit

Riding through
This island
We used to live...

Marshes and lagoons
Where the sun
Meets the land
And the sunset
Meets the sky

Where the trees
Are all twisted
And the moss
Hangs low

Where the air
Is muggy and warm
Salty to touch
And salty to taste

I look back
And remember
I look back
And I remember

We made love
On the beach.
We shot up
In the bathroom
We took a turn
Down that path
How could we know...

It would end
In destruction
In heartbreak
In ruins.
How could we know...

That we
Were paving the path
We walk today.
And alone.

If I had to choose
If I had
To do it
All again.
I swear
I would choose
A very
Different path
From the one
I have known.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lucien's First Birthday

A year ago, in about 30 minutes, my son was born. He was born at 11:55 pm on April Fool's Day after three days in labor. In a way, I cannot believe it has already beeen a year. And in a way, it seems like he has just been here forever. In honor of his first birthday, I am going to post one of my "Dear Lucien" letters. ( I am building a series of these to give to him one day.)
April 1st, 2009...my life changed forver. Today, I am so blessed.

My grandmother died before my son was born. She had cancer and she was allowed to come home to die. She died in her own bed, with her husband and all of her children there with her. It is exactly how she wanted it. She loved that house so much, she used to tell my grandfather that if he tried to take her out of it, she would be kicking and screaming while digging her heels into the gravel driveway in complete protest. She left the house for the last time in complete silence, as she was carried away to the funeral parlor.

Dear Lucien,
You never knew your great grandmother, Gammy. She was married to Pop for over fifty years. Like most marriages that last that long, they had their ups and downs. Like most people that live as long as she did, she had her own personal ups and downs. After Gammy died, Pop came to Charlotte to live with your Maman and Popere. I believe everything happens for a reason. Gammy passed on when she did so Pop could be closer to you, even though you were not even conceived when all the decisions were finalized.
This letter is to let you know a little something about the great grandmother you never met. You would have been an apple of her eye, just as you are with Pop. Gammy and I had a special connection as well, only we did not realize the strength of it until I had become an adult.
Gammy had a drinking problem. I did not remember this about her, although Maman tells me it spanned years that I was little. Your Maman remembers growing up in a house with an alcoholic mother, often embarrassing her at different times. When Pop finally threatened to leave her, Gammy got help for her addiction. After she quit the final time, she remained sober for over twenty years.
That is something that Gammy and I have in common. We both have conquered addictions. After I returned to North Carolina from New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina, my grandmother and I talked about it once. She did not have much to say on the topic. She did let me know, however, that she understood. And she was proud of me for taking the steps to change my life. Addiction is an inherited disease, and so often these words will go unsaid. I do not want any of your family history to go unsaid, dear son.
Gammy used to cook huge Southern meals whenever we would get together. When I was little, ham was my favorite. For years to come, ham was always an important part of the holiday spread. Even when I spent a short stint as a vegetarian, Gammy still made ham because it was my favorite. I remember eating it even then, just so I did not disappoint her.
She was an excellent Southern cook. She made her own bread. She called it sourdough, but we all called it Gammy Bread. It was not sour, but instead very sweet. It made the best toast, buttered and broiled. I remember Gammy making huge baking trays of that toast on holiday mornings when the whole family was there. Gammy Bread requires a starter that must be feed for weeks. It is not an easy process, but it is so delicious. I have the recipe, and I hope I can one day duplicate this wonderful bread so that you have the chance to try it. I fear it will never taste as good as when Gammy made it.
She used to make the perfect Southern dressing, with cornbread and onions and celery. Pop loved that stuff, and he missed it every holiday after she died. No one could make it quite like Gammy could. Your Grandpa Doug, on the other hand, did not like this Southern style dressing. He claims it was part of the reason that him and my mother, your Maman, split up. Now that I am an adult, I realize it was much more than that.
Gammy used to love to shop. Your Aunt Alex must have inherited that gene from her. I remember when I was little, Pop and Gammy always took me shopping. We would take the blue Cadillac to “town”, which was about thirty minutes away. Pop and Gammy lived in a small town called Ninety-Six, and they would drive to Greenwood to shop.
Gammy would spend all day shopping, and Pop loyally tagged along…carrying her bags. Gammy had hundreds of shoes, which is a trait I must have inherited from her. When she died, Maman was amazed at how many pairs of shoes were there. They gave away hundreds of pairs of shoes in the days following Gammy’s death.
Gammy was not a very solid sleeper. She only seemed to need a few hours of sleep to function, and she often would wander the halls of the house at night unable to sleep. This is another trait that has been passed down in our family. I definitely have this trait. Your Uncle Mason and Aunt Alex share this trait with me as well. We chalk it up to another inheritance from Gammy. Granted you are only a year old, but I think you, too, have inherited the trait of sleeplessness. You are one of the most restless sleepers I have ever known. At almost a year old, you still have not slept through the night. You have not even come close, as you get up to nurse all night at times.
One time Mason slept with Gammy. I cannot remember why he shared the bed with her that night, but the story goes something like this…Mason kept Gammy up a lot of that night, which was difficult because she never seemed to sleep anyway. Mason is a cuddler, and he was cuddled up close to Gammy all night. In the morning, Gammy reported she did not get any sleep because Mason t-boned her all night. To this day, your Uncle Mason makes no bones about wanting to be cuddled all night long.
Pop and Gammy used to spend summers at the lake house. Mason and I would often join them there. Those days at the lake were always some of the best times in my memory. I would sit in the hammock with Pop, pulling a string attached to a tree to swing. I would climb up in Gammy’s lap as I got tired at night. Her lap was always so inviting to me. It was soft and warm. She would wrap her arms all around me, where I felt protected from the world.
Gammy used to sew when I was little. She could make anything! Your Maman inherited this skill from Gammy. Gammy made me all kinds of dresses, and she made Mason cute little sailor suits. She made curtains, and bedspreads. The bed spread that you always love, cuddling up to it at the Mountain house, was made by Gammy. It made me so happy when you were drawn to that blanket when you were about six months old. You kept looking at it, and squealing in delight. You would cuddle right up to this blanket, and I swear you slept more soundly under that blanket. Gammy used to sew all the time, until her eyes got so bad that it became too difficult for her.
I can still hear Gammy’s voice in my head sometimes. Now that she is gone, I wish I could hear her voice just one more time. She had a beautiful southern accent, and she talked with almost a regal tone. Her voice did not sound red neck, but instead very southern and dignified. Today, I think your Great Aunt Becky sounds almost like Gammy…but not quite.
The night after Gammy died, I had a dream about her. It was so real that I do not believe it was really a dream. I think she was visiting me to say her final good-bye. I had not actually seen Gammy in years when she died, as my addictions had kept me away. That night, I dreamed she came into my room. She crawled into bed with me, and we cuddled. Then, she told me how proud she was of me for overcoming such powerful addictions. She knew first hand how difficult that could be. Then, she told me that she had just lost her best friend, and she did not know what to do about that. I knew she was talking about my beloved Pop. We lay there, cuddling up in a single bed. I did not want to let go because I knew when I did she would be gone. In the dream, I tried to stay awake in that tiny bed with my grandmother for the last time. Eventually, I drifted off to a dream inside a dream. When I awoke, I was alone. And that was the last time I saw Gammy. I knew when I woke; she had been there that night. Her spirit had made a special stop on the way to heaven to tell me good-bye. To let me know that she loved me, and I think now she was asking me to take care of her best friend, my Pop.
As you well know, my son, we have honored that last wish of hers. We visit Pop at least once a week. We make special trips over to Maman’s just to visit with Pop. I promise, Gammy, I will take care of Pop for you as long as I can. And Lucien just loves him. Gammy would be so tickled that your first word was “Pop.” I know she watches you from heaven my son, and she probably squeals in delight every time you get so excited at Pop’s image. I know she is giggling in heaven every time you say “Pop” in that raspy little voice.
Son, I am sorry you were not born soon enough to meet Gammy. I wish you could have tasted her cooking. (Another trait I inherited from her.) I wish you could have sat on her lap just like I used to when I was little. I hope that these stories you hear of Gammy will suffice, even though I know there is no substitute for the real thing.

Love, Your Mother