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How I Became a Junkie

A guy I met in rehab shot me up for the first time. And then the needle and I had a love affair all our own.

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“Hey, hit me!” I demanded.   

He was high and distracted and snapped that I needed to wait a second.

I didn’t want to wait. Drug addicts aren’t known for being good at deferring gratification.  

“Aw fuck it,” I said aloud to no one. “I’ll do it myself.” 

Almost without thinking, I drew up the syringe and plunged into my arm. Immediately after, I slid off the chair and had a massive convulsion. He, meanwhile, was outside throwing up, having a moderate heart attack. What the fuck was in this stuff? Turns out, nothing beyond drugs; sometimes throwing up and convulsions are just going to happen.

As I thrashed about on the floor, I kept repeating, “I’m gonna die. I’m gonna die.” Clearly, I didn’t: I came to with wet hair because he had thrown water on me in an attempt to bring me out of the seizure.

I wish I could tell you I got clean after that frightening episode. But I didn’t. The thing with most drug addicts I’ve come across is that when we overdose, we just chalk it up to experience and try to be more careful the next time. It certainly didn’t scare me into getting clean. If shooting coke was going to give me seizures, I decided, well then I’d shoot coke in a helmet in a pit of pillows—my own version of harm reduction. Looking back, it seems ridiculous and suicidal and of course it was: passive nonchalant suicide. 

I jumped around to Santa Fe and Ashland and then came back to LA, pulling geographics as I tried to get clean. But now that I’d been properly turned out, I was a junkie and it was a whole new hell. With needles, you don’t only become addicted to the drug but to the whole ritual of shooting up. One of my most frightening memories: me crouched in my sink with the belt of my robe tied around my throat like a tight scarf, poking a needle into a swelling vein in my neck. There were spray marks of blood on the ceiling, brownish red splatters on the wall. I tried to wipe them off casually as I trembled and tried to shoot myself up again. Shooting coke makes you desperate and willing: the rush is gone in minutes so you shoot up again and again and again to feed the monkey. I became a human pincushion and had track marks all over. I also tried to shoot up in my groin, feet, breasts and everywhere else I could think of.

I went to detox twice in Mexico over one summer. There was a clinic in Tijuana that espoused intravenous amino acid therapy for addiction. I was still very resistant to AA at this point so my parents were willing to pay for me trying everything else: shamans, biofeedback, therapy, exorcisms, acupuncture, herbology. But every time I returned to LA, I promptly relapsed.

Shooting up is a loner activity. Show up to a party with a six-pack and some syringes and you’ll really freak people out. There was this Texan kid I used to smoke crack and have sex with and even he was tripped out by my new habits.

As my addiction continued, most of my friends fell away. They were frightened and didn’t want to watch me kill myself. But I had one friend who would talk to me: she’d call every morning to see if I was still alive, which I found annoying but sweet. One day she asked casually if I would talk with her friend who’d had a stroke from crack at 23 and was now clean a few years.

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