“if we strain thought clear of impulse slowly, slowly the day scream subsides to ordered lust”

82ndThe thing I miss the most is always knowing exactly what to do at any given time. The single-minded purpose. The last time I relapsed on heroin, there was about a two-hour interval between when I decided to buy heroin, and when I actually got it in my hands and got high. I had to pick up M’s friend Emil, way up in the SW hills at his dad’s, and then drive clear out to the other side of Portland, to SE 157th and Stark, where his dealer lived, and then even further out to Troutdale or one of those faraway suburbs, where the dealer’s dealer wanted to meet.

Gentrification — driving the criminals out to your suburb!

Anyway, throughout this long tour of the Portland sticks, talking to Emil or just driving silently as he chain-smoked all my cigarettes, I felt this sense of calm that I hadn’t felt in months.

My ability to concentrate completely fell apart after I got clean. And procrastination is a million times worse than it was pre-heroin. Prioritizing what I have to do and actually doing it apparently uses some of those brain cells I murdered during my 50+ overdoses. How did I get five A’s last term? (humblebrag alert!) I think doing well in school is one of those few times in my life when being booksmart comes in handy. But it was a fucking struggle.

You know what I really fucking miss about heroin? Never having to choose what I’m about to do next. I might have been losing my mind on a daily basis about where the next $300 was coming from for that day’s 2-3 gram supply, but I knew exactly what I needed to do to get that money. Even if everything went wrong, clients cancelled, whatever, I had a series of other ways to make money: pawn my guitar/camera/etc, overdraw my bank account, sell my books/records (it hurt…), call various people trying to borrow money, and last resort, call my dealers begging for a front… None of that stuff was fun. It was nerve-wracking and made me feel awful.

But I can say one thing, I never had a single problem concentrating on the task at hand. The threat of imminent heroin withdrawal is better than a pound of Adderall for making you focus.

Even on my days off now, even when my homework or whatever is done for the day, I get anxious about my fucking free time! I should be reading more books… taking more walks… cleaning the house… I should be writing freelance or some shit… I need to work on my memoir… but I’m afraid. 

Portland is a very East-West oriented city, at least the routes I used to drive daily. I’ve done that long drive out to the boonies of Southeast thousands of times. 200 blocks sailing down Powell, Division, Stark, Burnside, or Glisan… the dealers must have a pact to always live as far as possible away from the customers. Make you work for it. I guess I built up an association with that drive.

When I first started using, I had barely ever gone east of 39th St. The area past 82nd was a blank spot in my mind. Chris would drive and I would stare dreamily out the windows as the Douglas firs got taller and taller and the houses got tinier, shittier, and more run-down. That’s how you know you’re almost to Gresham.

Of course, back then, the heroin still felt good. The last few times I relapsed, I knew it wasn’t going to feel good. I knew even if I got a momentary rush, I would come down quickly and then have four days of withdrawal from just using that one time. My body, it tries to tell me not to fuck with it anymore. Do I listen? Hmmm.

Waiting in the parking lot for the dealer with Emil, at some nameless strip mall, a crappy dive bar with guys wearing Semper Fi t-shirts, a Mexican restaurant, discount cigarette store… Emil was freaking out, pacing around (he’s a pacer, it’s very nerve-wracking), chain-smoking, texting the dealer every five seconds and reporting back to me, coming up with a creative succession of theories as to why she was taking so long.

But I was blissfully content. When you’re not strung out, the craving goes away as soon as you decide to score. I was just enjoying that feeling of not having to make any decisions, not having to try to concentrate on anything. Deciding to fuck up takes a moment and then everything is out of your hands. Living in ‘reality’ entails billions of decisions, practically every single moment you have to think about what to do next.

Today I was sitting on my porch when this random guy passed by, walking through the alley. Just then, a beat-up car pulled up and the guy hopped in the passenger door, and they drove away. I had this flash of pure, unchecked desire, like a shock wave passing through my body. If you’ve never been addicted to drugs, picture how you felt when you were most in love, and when you saw your beloved after a long absence.

It took me a second to comprehend why seeing a random guy get in a car had made my nerves sing like that. It was one of those associations my brain holds onto just to fuck with me. I apparently associate hopping into someone’s car with going to buy drugs. And that set off some other shit in my brain that reminded me of that single-minded feeling that I miss so much. I had this vision of the driver and passenger driving off to some far-flung part of the city to meet their dealer, that tense but focused journey… Fuck, they were probably just going to a movie or something. What the fuck is wrong with me?

Sometimes I wish I had a religion or something. A person, or a set of beliefs, or a god, or SOMETHING that would give me a sign, tell me what to do. Just take me in and tell me something that makes sense and tell me I don’t have to be in this war with myself moment to moment. Give me that calm. That’s what I miss. Not the drugs. The relentless need for those drugs that kept me from fragmenting. That’s what I miss.

“What are these ceremonies and why should we take part in them? What is this language we have got backed up into on long worst fire nights like a bad translation? It is important to keep recording the dialect forms, tracking the idioms. Yes there is a violence in it.”
[A.C.]

* * *
ps. Why do I always write the most depressing entries when I’m happy?

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Dies irae, dies illa, solvet saeclum in favilla

I’m sitting at a teahouse in Eugene listening to Mozart’s Requiem in my headphones… really loud. I’ve had trouble getting myself to write lately. Writing makes me feel so naked, I’m always afraid my underlying emotional volatility will spill out like a genie from a bottle, and I won’t be able to cram it back in again.

I have a separate peace with myself… I’ve figured out how to stay clean, but that’s it. Maybe I was naive to think that the same brain that forced me to shoot heroin for 11 years was a functioning brain in any sense of the word.

I’m not “better.” Will I ever be “better”? I am just BARELY able to keep the surface of myself from falling apart, keep up the facade that I am just like any other student going to class and sitting at cafes writing. The reality slips through every now and then, I say strange things in class and then kick myself later. I still can’t make eye contact. Talking to other humans is always an adventure… depending on the day, I might come across as a capricious eccentric or as a seriously disturbed basket case who can’t follow a simple conversation.

I remember 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 years ago, all the way up to January 2014, I prayed to a god I don’t believe in with the force of a million suns, that if I could just stop doing heroin, everything would be perfect, forever. Did I really believe everything would be easy after that? I think I had a hard enough time picturing a version of myself who was able to think about something other than heroin for longer than a few seconds.

You are shipwrecked in a stormy sea, thrown into the drink from your shattered hull, drowning in dark water. Suddenly you come to a tiny island and drag yourself coughing onto a rock. You kiss the ground and sob from joy. Then you look up and realize your tiny island has no fresh water and no source of food, and the ocean stretches out on all sides.

Life is change. That time I had an ego-melting mushroom trip in 2003, when I became the entire universe, I looked into the heart of everything that is, and saw the nature of reality. Exponentially increasing strangeness. That’s what I saw. I saw the infinite complexity of everything, laid out before me, and just when I would start to comprehend what it meant, it would jump up a dimension, get stranger still, strangeness squared, cubed… The strangeness is eating itself, is what I thought at the time, as I rolled around on the floor and bit Eva’s thigh so hard I drew blood. But that’s a story for another time.

I suppose things do improve, slowly. Remember when I wrote about my door last year? I think that was in my old blog, maybe? How relieving it is to have a door that locks, to have control over my own space, to have no one in my personal space who is touching me without my consent. I don’t stare at my door so much anymore. I still think about the door when I’m feeling extra panicky. The door tells me no one can hurt you here. Do I sound crazy enough yet?

Now I have more anger than fear. I imagine that every guy on the street is going to catcall me or try to grab me… even though that never really happened much in Eugene, it’s more of a big city thing. But I’ll see some guy on the street who is about to walk past me and imagine that he’s about to say something, and I involuntarily picture kicking him in the balls, scratching his eyes out, and this wave of rage flows over me just as I pass him… then he says nothing, walks past, and I try to take a deep breath and keep going. Not every guy is a scumbag, I try to tell myself.


There is this scene in Top of the Lake, maybe my favorite TV show, ever. It was a mini-series, six episodes. Directed by Jane Campion, who directed The Piano. Anyway. It’s a dream-nightmare of gorgeous, moody, blue-tinged cinematography. The main character, Robin, is played by a beautiful Elisabeth Moss. She’s a detective who comes back to her hometown and gets involved trying to find a missing girl in a town full of secrets. When she was 16, she was gang-raped, and one of the rapists is still around in the town. She has never dealt with the trauma, and being back in this town that time forgot, where misogyny is rampant, dredges up her memories.

One night Robin’s drinking at a bar and her rapist, Sarge, sidles up to her and tries to pick her up with a lame joke that serves as a metaphor for the whole story. He doesn’t recognize her as the girl he raped some 10 years earlier.

Random guy: Hey! – Do you know what the perfect murder weapon is?
Sarge: No, get fucked, that’s what I do.
Guy: Go on, you tell her then, Sarge.
Sarge: An icicle stalagmite. Ta-da! Cause after you stab them, it melts. It self-destructs. … I know you from somewhere, don’t I? You’re not a Sydney girl, hmm? Too classy for you to be a Sydney girl. I reckon it’s like a picnic races or something.
Robin: You don’t remember me, do you?
Sarge: Probably the royal easter show, I’m thinking.
Robin: No.
Sarge: Yeah? Did we fuck or something? We fucking did, didn’t we?

Robin is trying to control herself but a millisecond after he suggests that maybe they had “fucked,” she calmly, in one fluid motion, smashes her wine glass against the bar, stabs him with the broken glass, and starts screaming:

You remember me now asshole? You remember me now, asshole? Do you remember me now? Do you remember me now you motherfucker? Fuck you, piece of fucking shit! Fuck you piece of fucking shit! Fucking remember me now? Do you fucking remember me you piece of shit?
…as her boyfriend drags her out of the bar and throws her in a puddle, and she falls into the water, sobbing.

The first time I saw that scene, I had the most intense emotional reaction to anything I’ve ever seen in a movie or TV or read in a book… the whole show was very emotional for me, but that scene reached into the darkest corner of my soul, where all my hate and anger had been hiding, and pulled it out to the surface in the span of a minute. The scene comes out of nowhere — most of the rest of the show has a slow-build feeling — and then suddenly there is this flash of pure cathartic rage. I wanted to BE her, I wanted to be stabbing that guy, I wanted to be stabbing him continuously for the rest of my life. None of the drugs I’ve done even come close to comparing with the rush I got from that scene.

I didn’t even realize I had that much rage in me before I saw that. I would complain to M. or whomoever was around, telling them stories about my sick, horrible escort clients or my abusive exboyfriends, sure, I had anger. But that scene sliced through any defenses I had left. I felt like I was the one who had been stabbed, but it felt fucking good.

For days, weeks, and months after I watched it, I thought about that scene every single day, many many times a day. I would play through it in my mind in the shower, as I got dressed, in any downtime at school, lying in bed at night. No matter how many times it ran through my mind, it never lost its power.

Last Christmas I was home at my parents’ house. I had the DVD, and decided to watch it again. I watched the whole series from episode one, but the whole time all I was thinking about was getting to that one scene. It’s in episode four. I knew I was going to feel something when I saw it again, but I wasn’t prepared when I started sobbing, loud, ugly, with tears streaming down my face. I skipped back and watched it again. And again. And again. Probably 20 or 30 times, mouthing along with Robin’s words: YOU REMEMBER ME NOW? Then I pressed stop and just sat there rocking back and forth and wiping my snot off my face.

Those outpourings of emotion are good, I think. My therapist told me that people with PTSD don’t start feeling the fallout of their trauma until the trauma is over. While you’re still in the horror, you’re running on adrenaline and pure survival instinct. Whether that’s for a momentary attack or years at war or a decade of incremental abuse and violation…

I didn’t start having those emotional breakdowns until I got clean “for real” in January 2014. Before that I would have freakouts and panic attacks but the pain didn’t cut into my soul, it was surface pain. It was, how do I get through this moment, how do I get through this one situation… or usually, how do I make $300 today so I don’t get dopesick again. I wasn’t really FEELING the weight of everything I went through. It feels good, now, in a way. It feels good to cry, like I’m working through all that shit. I don’t think I ever cried about it — I mean REALLY cried, about all of it, not just about whatever was happening at that moment — until the second time I watched that Top of the Lake scene.

This entry probably makes it seem like I’m losing my mind… well I’m always losing my mind… but things have been good. I graduated, for one. I got an internship up in Portland, probably at WW. (It’s through a program, so I still have to be placed at a publication.) Just when I thought I was through with Oregon and Portland, 100% ready to move to New Orleans, I get this dream internship. “Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in.” ha. I can’t really handle Portland anymore. It’s always been perfect, well now it’s too perfect. I can’t handle being around people who have never had any real problems. I know I’m irrational and that people in Portland have problems too. Well, I’ll see if it feels any better now that I’m clean and (possibly) employed, or at least interning.

There were places where the luxury dropped away, where I waited. I saw something flash open then lost it.

XOXOXO