Since just about everybody has a special day set aside each year, i.e. secretaries, siblings, military men, parents, grandparents, postmen, union men, just about everybody has a special day, junkies should get their own day too! We could have colored ribbon pins too. You could wear a pin if you are a junky, have been a junky, love a junky, or have lost a junky who was a loved one. This way all the people who think that opiate addiction is something that doesn’t affect them would be able to see just how many junkies there are in the world. In addition, we would encourage people who don’t know any junkies in real life to approach us and get to know what a junky is really like. Being that junkies are such an enigma to much of society I think many people would appreciate being able to ask a junky questions. We could strip away all of the hysterical stigma about it, cut through all the glamorization of greatest forbidden taboo, and shoot straight. There is a lot of misconceptions out there, and a lot of people are curious because they’ve never even seen heroin in real life and even though they would never actually try it, would probably still like to question and honest-to-god, living and breathing junky in the flesh.
Now, obviously I can see where this could potentially go all totally wrong. Many junkies might be afraid to participate, fearing persecution, legal ramifications and potentially even physical harm. But it’s interesting to note, it’s not the scum-bag, low-life, self-absorbed, child-corrupting, criminal dope-fiend who would potentially cause a problem. No, the junky would probably enjoy an opportunity, even if it’s just one day, to share his life story to those who would listen, to have the opportunity to tell his side of the story for once. Because no one ever wants to listen to him. Sure, they’ll listen if he goes to NA and talks about how wrong he was and what a terrible person he became because of drugs. Then he can talk. But he tries to say that it wasn’t all that bad, or that his experience with opiates maybe did lead to some positive things in his life, everyone will say he’s just in denial, not being honest with himself or out-right lying. People will feel sorry for him because he’s so delusional. They’ll hope that one day when the law finally steps in and takes control of his life for the better, he’ll be able to see the error of his ways and regret every minute with satin in a syringe. They’ll write him off.
But think how much we could get accomplished if both sides could agree to just one day. One day a year to Get to Know a Junky. It probably wouldn’t change the world. It wouldn’t bring an end to ineffective and inhuman drug policies, it would release the thousands of prisoners who are serving sentence disproportionate to their crime. It wouldn’t stop people from spreading AIDS in dirty needles or convince politicians to provide federal support to harm reduction programs, it wouldn’t suddenly make addiction pleasant or okay. But it just might help reduce the hysteria that the word junky causes. It might help people see how widespread heroin use is. It might help users have better relationships with their family and neighbors. It might help people understand the importance of harm reduction facilities and overdose prevention education. It might make people reconsider what or who a heroin addict is. If all the junkies were forced out of the closet, can you imagine the hysteria it would cause at first? Loved ones, family members, co-workers, bosses, employees, classmates, teammates, neighbors. It would be outright pandemonium! But if we could all agree to set aside one day to get to know each other, I’m sure both parties would benefit significantly from the experience.
I hate to put my family in the center of this controversial issue. But they are a perfect example of how a lack of understanding and a drug education that’s derived solely from new stories can causes fear and judgment and unintentionally. When my parents found out I was in IV drug user, they were absolutely floored, like it had come completely out of the left field and knocked them in the head. Even though it was just about as obvious as it could have been with me living 3,000 miles away and only visiting four times a year. They suspected, I couldn’t probably go so far as to say they knew, I was on other drugs. But their daughter? IV? No, no way. Until the evidence was irrefutable. When I was home a while afterwards, I told them they could ask me any questions they want and I would be completely honest. After all, they are a happy devoted Mormon family with little to no exposure to a real live junky, until their daughter became one. So they had to be a little bit curious at least. We covered everything from how black tar is packaged, to the fact that LSD isn’t addictive. They asked if IVing was similar to cutting in a “wanting to cause self-harm” kinda way (it isn’t… at all. but I still thought that was a very astute question), to all the different drugs that we able to be mainlined. And even my views on addiction, quitting and whether I thought recreation use was even possible. (I said I thought recreational drug use was definitely possible, but recreational IV drug use? I’m not too sure about that. Maybe, for some.) When the issue of price came up, I said something like “When I go through my dealer, it’s usually X amount. But if for some reason I have to buy on the streets, it goes up to X amount.” The reaction I got was a wide-eyed, jaw dropping mixture sheer, bugged eyed horror and legitimate shock and obvious fear. For a second I thought, “What could I have just said?” The conversation seemed to be going fine up until that point.
Can you figure out what caused it? The shock and terror was in response to the fact that I would ever buy drugs off the streets, especially in Downtown Los Angele’s Skid Row. They were complete aghast that their young white daughter would risk putting herself at risk and interacting with these dangerous, villainous people who do not care about my well-being. It’s such a common, everyday experience for me that is wouldn’t even occur to me that someone would have such extremely thoughts and reactions to what I do. I mean, my therapist is right in the heart of the Skid Row, as is the Needle Exchange, a pot dispensary and a place where I buy essential oils. Now I’m not going to pretend that copping drugs on the street doesn’t have some inherent risk, but I’ve been doing it for so long, maybe I’m a little more cavalier than I should be sometimes. And that’s something I should work on it. I admit that. But while I understand why they think the way they do, it still made me a little sad for the people who live down there. My mom things that everyone down there is evil. She said the word evil. But like in most situations where general stereotypes prevail, that’s not the majority of the people. Most people down there are down on the their lucky, many are desperate addicts who have hit rock bottom, most have been in the social services system their whole life, from foster care on up. Many are disabled. The drug dealers are just about as small time as they come. But most of them, almost everybody (with some notably bad exceptions that explain my mom’s concerns) would be happy to get to know you, share a beer or a joint and are overly generous with the stuff they do have. I’ve never walked down the street without someone striking up a conversation. And it’s sad to me that so much of the country immediately writes them off as not worth getting to know or trying to help.
When you dabble in illicit activity like drug dealing, it allows you socialize with a whole new group of people and learn a little more about the world and other cultures, while building relationships with people who wouldn’t necessary be in your social circle. I’ve met some great people. I’ve met some losers too, not going to lie. But overall I’m really glad I’ve been exposed to the people, places and situations that I have over the year. Man it could provide volumes of good stories. There’s some really interesting people out there that much of society has just written off without further consideration. Closed their chapter of the book and moved on to more “sophisticated” people. Well let me tell you, the sophisticated people are rarely the more interesting people. Spend enough time with them and you’re guaranteed to have some crazy adventures. I get a long great with almost every drug dealer I meet. Not just because I’m giving them money or because I’m pretty. Because I’m comfortable around them. And many times, white women from upper-middle class homes in the Suburbs who were raised Mormon, don’t act comfortable around ghetto dwellers and homeless drug addicts. But I’ve been buying drugs off the street for over a decade. I have no judgment towards them at all for doing what they’re doing, rather I appreciate it. I feel comfortable around them and that translates. They aren’t used to that from a lot of society.
Perhaps I’m a tad more sensitive to the judgment and false conceptions of a group of people sight unseen based only on hearsay or rumor alone. After all, it’s an area I know something about. But I don’t blame my mom for thinking how she thinks. How would she know any better? And she was just thinking about my safety and what’s best for me. I would like her to be a little more open minded. To realize that if she talked to them and heard their stories, she would find them to be much more human then she thinks. But I’m asking a woman who has never touched a drug or alcohol in her life, was a virgin until the day she was married, converted on her own at 14 to the Mormon religious, had three kids by the time she was 25, never moved out of the house she was raised in and works with cub scouts for her job – to be more open minded than she has been after watching her daughter stray from the church, move to California, go through a string of boyfriends and girlfriends, then sudden received an email from a random stranger with that daughter in sex positions with new boyfriend that would make porn stars blush with accompanying photographs of her mainlining every drug known to mankind and then watched her suffer through addiction, without ever tuning me out, shutting the door or mandating rehab and even being accepting when I brought drugs in the house because she knew I was addicted. So, there’s no way I could ask more of her than I already have.
What I would like is an overall change in the way society classifies and pigeonholes groups of people who think, act or look different than the norm in white-bred suburbs. An acceptance of people who are different than us and a general belief in personal liberty and a celebration of the things that make us different.
If for one day, every junky and ex-junky would make themselves known, and be honest with those who question them, I’m sure it would go a long way towards showing the masses that we’re much different than they had been led to believe and that no two of us are alike.
Maybe we can have fun with the ribbon design too. Like put a tiny little red syringe on a white ribbon or something like that. Nah, the needle stigma’s just not going way. Better not try to push my luck 😉