A System Without a Clue
A man’s first mistake shouldn’t be waking up in the morning. Most people would say that’s a blessing. It wasn’t no blessing to me.
I am not saying I wanted to die. What I am saying is–if I could have slept right through detox hell and come out the other side as a non-addicted somewhat normal functioning part of society–I surely would have…in a heartbeat. This, unfortunately was not to be my fate. My fate was the opiate addict’s worst nightmare. A purgatory of sorts, trial by fire, where every passing moment inched me closer to the blazing hot cauldron of the inevitable.
Getting arrested probably saved my life–a fact that meant very little at the time. The first night I slept. That was Friday. Every addict knows getting locked up on a Friday is the worst of scenarios. Local police departments won’t do anything for you–except watch you suffer. You won’t see the judge until Monday, by then your hair will be dirty, you will be unshowered, and stinking of sweat and detox. You will probably be suffering from horrible stomach cramps and have either diarrhea or be vomiting…or both. If you were a heroin addict this would be your story. I was such an addict and my story was much worse.
For the last year my habit had gotten completely out of control. Not only was I putting more dope in my veins, but the dope I was getting was of such high quality it’s hard to believe it came from Hartford. Hartford, for the most part, is not known for the high quality of its narcotics.
When I woke up Saturday morning the gravity of my circumstances began to set in. I was alone. In two rows of old style barred cells separated by a thin hallway, others were also held. Their incessant clamor didn’t change the fact…that I was all alone.
The good stuff I was getting made it so I wouldn’t start to get seriously ill until Saturday night. When I woke up that morning on my flimsy, lumpy cushion, separating me from the hard steel, and glanced over at the grinning stainless steel commode, I began to panic. I spoke out loud to myself “I am so screwed…so, so totally screwed.”
The cops on duty would occasionally come through and throw us Mcdonald’s hamburgers, which I could not stomach. I slept again for several more hours. That is when I woke up violently ill. My body was screaming “where’s my shit man?” and began the process of purging itself of toxins. I would become a hostage of the stainless throne while in my mind I could hear the echoes of it’s laughter. It was when I went to flush the monster that it pushed me over the edge, overflowing and disgorging its contents all over the floor of my tiny cell. I stood up on my rack and surveyed the landscape of filthy water and fecal matter strewn across the cement floor. I began to vomit. I yelled. No one came. I kicked at the bars and made loud noise. No one came.
It was obvious I needed a hospital. Why do we treat people this way? Why do we pretend this is okay? An addict is a person who needs help, not mockery and torture.
I knew if I had a seizure or started choking, I would be dead as a rat that drowned in a cesspool before anybody came to fish me out. In my desperation I decided to do something completely out of character. I thought if I could cut my wrists, not too deep, then the camera might catch it and they would have to send me to the E.R. I stood atop my steel bunk groping at the sprinkler head. The shiny piece of metal looked like it would make an ideal razor. I started to bend it back and forth. Before I could get it in my hand the entire sprinkler blew open with such force it knocked me over and filled my entire cell with high pressure, alkaline-infused water. The vent was designed to pull out the oxygen in the event of a fire. I had no air. My screams were a faint whimper. I was suffocating.
The fire department eventually came and rescued me while berating me the entire time. I did not get to the E.R., only into another cell with a much lumpier bedding mat. At least the toilet worked. All my clothes were soaked, so they draped me in a stylish white paper jumpsuit which I would wear for the rest of the weekend.
Monday on the trip to court my dry heaving did not go over well with the others I was shackled to in the boxy little prison transport known as “the ice cream truck.” As I stood before the judge, gaunt, chalky white, draped in paper, it was none too obvious I needed medical care. I would receive none, not even a blood pressure check. I now understand why some addicts prefer intentional overdose to a forcible cold turkey detox.
This is part of my story, read more in the upcoming memoir “Confessions of a Scrap Metal Junkie” do out in 2017.