David Neff shares another excerpt from a memoir he is writing about his experiences with drugs. This excerpt describes what his dealer was like.
[Read Part I]
After my first experience with heroin, I realized that it was an answer to my problems. When I was high, my anxiety disappeared. All of a sudden, social interaction wasn’t an insurmountable task. I could talk to people and make friends. When you’re done nodding off, it’s like a secret that makes you charming, articulate, and, in my case, willing to open myself to emotions that might otherwise be suppressed. Never have I felt as in touch with humanity as when I had heroin coursing through my veins.
If you have always felt an artistic inclination, heroin is the perfect panacea to fear of rejection. Where alcohol has a tendency to precipitate sloppiness, opiates somehow make sensations more intense. When I had nothing in my body but coffee, nicotine, and drugs, I wrote, painted, and created with an entirely new perspective. After all, there must be a reason so many influential artists and musicians have shot up. In a sense, heroin lets you join their ranks. At least in your mind’s eye.
The reality is somewhat removed from the fantasy, and the consequences more profound. The process of acquiring a morphine derivative is unsettling at best. Even if you know your dealer, you aren’t always spared from awkward, sometimes terrifying scenarios. I was introduced to “Steve” by a mutual junkie friend and told he was happy to deal to me. Steve was a burly man with a shaved, tattooed head and what was most likely undiagnosed schizophrenia. For some reason, he hated shirt sleeves, so he always cut them off and wore tank tops. The better to show off his patchy, upper-arm hair. The man had pornography playing in his room 24/7 and was known to hold his clients hostage if he thought they had stolen drugs from him. Thankfully, I was never subjected to his mania. One night, he made our mutual friend stay in the house for hours, while he looked for a bag of meth that someone had “taken.” I was the driver that night and had the good fortune to be outside smoking cigarettes and wondering what was taking so long.
After scoring, you still had to have the equipment to shoot up. I always purchased new rigs and spoons for the sake of decorum and sanitation. I certainly wasn’t going to contract hepatitis or HIV. I was smarter than that. The wisdom of using in the first place is hardly debatable. However, the memory that has lingered with me isn’t using a belt to tie off veins or the needle in my arm; it’s the noxious, vinegar smell of heroin itself.
Imagine a mixture of vitamins, antiseptic, and coffee. Once you have experienced that sensation, it will stay with you. Even now, I get bouts of nausea when I encounter certain smells which trigger both revulsion and craving. I still associate certain foods and drinks with using heroin and have to avoid thinking about them. Relapse is always a foreboding possibility.
In retrospect, the smell shouldn’t be such a big deal. The product itself is inherently dirty. Even the name evokes thoughts of grime and filth: Black. Tar. Heroin. Nothing about those three words sounds even remotely safe. We never knew what our sticky chunks of miracle drug actually contained. We had to rely on the word of our dealer, who wasn’t the most trustworthy character I’d ever encountered.
When questioned about the purity of our heroin, he would say something like, “Hey, it’s the same stuff I’m using, so I guess we’re all in the same boat.”
That’s hardly reassuring.