Working Class Junkie

“The problem with addicts,” said my aunt, “is they have no will power. If they had any sense at all, they would stop using. They all need to grow up and learn that life can’t always be one big party.”

            I was too dope sick to argue. It wasn’t really worth arguing, either. No amount of logic would change her mind; she was committed to her ignorance. I wiped the sweat from my forehead and pulled my black beanie over my ears. My Carhartt jacket was warm enough but lacked a hood, and it was a frosty, mid-November day in Nevada. The dawn sky was fretting gray and threatening snow. I felt a chill creep up through my bones as I stepped into the garage to leave, but that didn’t keep a steady stream of sweat from forming on my face. I was faintly sick and hungry. Even if I’d had money for food, I wouldn’t have eaten. Who knew if I’d be able to cop before I started puking?

            Anxiety gnawed on me like an abused dog—my thoughts chased each other in useless circles despite my attempt to breathe deep and calm the fuck down. I just had to keep it together until I could fix. What choice did I have? It wasn’t like anything was going to get better if I rested a bit. No, I’d be immobilized sick for a week or more if I went cold turkey now, and I couldn’t afford to miss that much work. There was nothing for it but to soldier on.

            The Aveo wouldn’t start in these temperatures without a blast of starting fluid, which meant popping the hood and unscrewing the cover to the air filter, then putting it all back together. First-world problems, right? It wasn’t my car, but I’d been driving it long enough to have become more or less efficient at the starting process. The need for me to find my own vehicle now that I lived far out of town weighed heavily on me, joining the wolfpack of anxiety running down my sanity.

            I drove the unregistered car thirty minutes to Reno, quietly thanking God for letting me pass undetected by highway patrol. I made some phone calls as I drove. It was too early for many drug addicts and dealers, but I might catch some still up from the night before, some may have even been up for days. The ones who worked construction, like me, were already at work for the most part. I had been laid off for several months, but had managed to stay busy with a friend of mine hustling side jobs for cash while drawing unemployment. My drug habit had grown quite expensive. Coupled with the sky-rocketing cost of gas, food, and especially rent, my life was completely unsustainable financially if something didn’t change. Yet another wolf in the pack. Some party, huh auntie?

            I showed up to Jimmy’s house, where we met each day before work. I went directly to the garage, where he was lighting the wood stove.

            “Morning,” I said. Jimmy looked up.

            “Morning. Not feeling well?”

            “Is it that obvious?” I asked.

He chuckled and returned to his fire.

Suddenly, my stomach heaved, and I gagged. I snatched up the wastebasket and violently dry-heaved over it, producing only a few tablespoons of frothy, yellow, evil-tasting bile. It was like a stain on my tongue. Again I grew hot, started sweating profusely, yet as soon as I slipped out of my Carhartt, the moisture on my neck and face seemed to freeze into ice, and a chill washed over me from the inside out. I yawned, suddenly feeling completely enervated.

“Can you get anything?” Jimmy asked. He knew what I needed. I always tried not to let dope sickness keep me from working, but once it got bad enough I was useless as a carpenter. Just as I was about to answer in the negative, my phone sounded a bamboo knock, indicating I had a new text. Thank fucking God!

“Tito’s gonna front me some blues. I’m gonna bounce and pick them up. I’ll meet you at the job.”

“Okay brother, see you there,” he said.

On the freeway, my nausea returned. All my symptoms were intensifying. I couldn’t pull off the road, and I didn’t want to puke in my lap, so I rolled down the window frantically, holding my vomit back with straining lips.

Belly mustard exploded out of my mouth, but at freeway speed it blew instantly back in my face—covering my sunglasses, cheeks, hair, and both the inside and outside of my buddy’s car door. At least I didn’t crash.

I arrived at Tito’s, feeling less nauseated, but boiling over with anxiety. My body ached like I had the flu. Walking up his shoddy porch steps winded me and left me with fever chills. I was soaked with sweat.

Tito sold fake pills made to look like 30mg Oxycontin, but which were actually fentanyl. That’s why I wanted them: they were strong enough to overcome my tolerance. They were also killing people who didn’t know what they were taking.

Tito served me up, and I promised to pay him on Friday. He still fronted me because I’d never burned him. A lot of dealers won’t front, especially the ones who serve fiends. And I don’t blame them. But Tito and I had a solid dealer/junkie relationship. Hell, he used more than I did, and that helped me feel less taken advantage of then if he strictly sold them.

I loaded one on a square of foil and melted it down, sucking up the burnt-popcorn smoke through the cut-off body of a Bic pen—a “tooter”. I held that sweet, savory smoke in as long as possible. By the second hit, I felt worlds better. My nausea vanished; I stopped sweating, and my anxiety lessened, one predator at a time until only the echoes of wolf hounds drifted into a soft background static. My body aches dissipated. I actually felt a smile emerging. I was ready to go to work. A sense of relief washed over me. I thought about my aunt, then, as I left Tito’s to work for the day. I thought about her enjoying the kind of party I’d had that morning so much she wouldn’t be able to stop, and I laughed for the first time that day.

On Addiction

I don’t know if I’m more irritated by the trite, common sense advice well-meaning yet ignorant “normies” hand out (e.g. “pull yourself out of it” and “change who you hang out with”), or by the fact that they’re right. What most lucky, non-addicts, point out is, well, kinda fucking obvious. Yeah, I realize my life is a burning car crash. I know it’s better not to be on fire, believe me. But I also understand your confusion when you see a person who you thought was mostly brilliant (I kid, but the smartest people I know are addicts) keep burning his or her hand on the metaphorical stove top. And there’s the rub…. addiction is a fiendish motherfucker. I wish I had better answers. Imagine playing a nasty, manipulative game–the prize is your life and sanity–against someone who is exactly as smart and trickerous as you, all while you’re high as giraffe pussy.

I’m not trying, I don’t think, to defend addiction. And the normies are right, fuckers. All I guess I’m saying I think I’ve said before: if you have an addict in your life, before you give ’em the ol’ buck up, stiff upper lip there lad (lass), maybe educate yourself a little about how truly difficult living with addiction is, and be compassionate. Junkies got it tough enough already without the tough love. I raise a middle finger to that kind of love. Don’t need ya.

I love all you folks who have to deal with my stubborn, addicted lot. I know it’s not easy. Real love rarely is though. Thank you to those who stuck it out or are in the process of. Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up. That goes for everybody.

Just kidding

Wow, God, it’s a good thing my sense of humor is as robustly sick as yours.

You’re writing your autobiography. What’s your opening sentence?

A Product of My Environment

Kamikaze Love

The fight was bad. Angela asked when she could come get her stuff. I told her the sooner the better, then made sure to box up any gifts she’d given me along with the handful of personal items she’d left there. I thrust the box at her when she pulled up.

            “Oh, that’s real nice,” she hissed in that quietly venomous way she had when she was monstrously angry. I raised an eyebrow and attempted to maintain a mask of boredom, like she wasn’t tearing my heart out of my chest by leaving me. She took the box, dropped my one-time gifts in the green, driveway trash bin, and hopped back in her car to drive out of my life for good. Or so I thought.

            A few hours and a several Coronas later, my cell phone rang. It was Angela.

            “Hello,” I answered.

            “Hey. I’m sorry, but I didn’t know who else to call.” Her voice was softer, shaken, not at all the way it was when I’d last seen her.

            “Why? What’s up? Are you oaky?” All the trite bullshit surrounding our argument dissolved in the face of whatever real-world tragedy must’ve prompted her to forget her initial anger and call me.

            “I’m okay, just a little shook up. I was over at Joy’s house when her husband came home drunk and started yelling at us and punching the walls. He threatened to hit me and Joy, but he didn’t. I knew he was a pussy.” She spoke tough, like she always did, but I knew she was no match for Joy’s husband, who was a pipefitter and supposedly some kind of martial artist. I’d met him once, and the thought of him threatening my girlfriend, whether or not we were currently together, filled me with rage.

            “I’ll be right there,” I said, any trace of resentment toward her gone. I jammed my car into drive and kept the needle at ninety all the way there, the possibility of a DUI never entering my thoughts. I pulled into the riverside trailer park that Joy called home. Her husband’s absurdly lifted truck was nowhere in sight. I located the girls.

            “Thanks for coming,” Angela said as she hugged me. Joy stepped forward to hug me as well, but I turned abruptly away, pretending not to see what she was doing. Angela’s hug felt like absolution from our earlier hostilities, like there were too many people against us in the world for us to waste time fighting each other.

            Joy’s husband had been drinking with his friend, who’d left his Volkswagen Bug parked in the driveway, so we knew they’d be back. We had convened to inside the trailer, and busied ourselves with passing a glass meth pipe between us. I felt my beer buzz retreat in the face of the stimulant. My previously dulled senses sharpened right up. I was ready for a fight.

            I waited outside, partially concealed in shadow, while the girls took a loop around the park in Angela’s car. They let me know via text that her husband and his ridiculous truck were headed my direction. I felt relatively calm despite the ice I’d smoked, and the possibility of impending violence. The girls beat him to the trailer, but not by much. Two men stepped out of the truck, one about my height and wearing coveralls and a beanie, the other slouching and goblin-like, his hair springing from his head in greasy curls. The taller one, Joy’s husband, stomped straight at me, while his sidekick wormed over to my left, attempting to flank me. I could hear Joy yelling something behind me, like some kind of evil cheerleader.

            “Don’t come any closer. Just turn around and go home.”

            He didn’t slow his advance in the slightest.

            “Don’t come any closer man, I’m telling ya.”

            He started to say something, but I was too busy closing the distance and hitting him on the side of his face to listen. I heard Joy yelling something like “not so tough now” and “kick his ass J—”. He staggered and fell, and I followed him to the ground and kept hitting him in the head. Joy’s cries changed to “stop, stop” and “don’t hit him anymore”. Many people think violence sounds like a good idea until they see the reality of it. His buddy was still slinking off to my side, getting closer to Angela and Joy than I cared to have him.

            “Watch that fucking guy!” I yelled and pointed at him. I was up on one knee perched atop Joy’s semi-conscious husband. Believing the sidekick to be more dangerous than he was, I decided to finish Joy’s husband as quickly as possible by driving my knife into the base of his skull. I reached for my knife, which I always kept clipped to my right-side pocket. Luckily for me, it had fallen off in the tussle.

            Before I could figure out what to do, Angela menaced the sidekick with a self-defense spike she kept on her key chain and shouted, “Back up motherfucker or I will fucking stab you!” I believed that statement more than anything she’d ever said up to that point. He took a couple steps back, obviously he was a believer as well.

            I’d been in plenty of fights because of girls before, but this was the first time one ever had my back in a street fight. The moment I heard Angela’s promise to ventilate that dude, I fell instantly in love. If we weren’t both divorced and disgusted with marriage, I may have proposed to her then and there.

            I let Joy’s husband up, and the two headed back into the night, a little bruised about the face and egos. I found my knife laying in the driveway. I picked it up, shaking a little as I realized how close I’d just come to spending the rest of my life in prison over a dumb-ass fight. Angela and I left Joy there and went back to my house and fucked each other silly. I always thought that was the best way to make-up after a fight.


She found him hiding in the far corner of the back yard where the brush had overgrown the barbed wire fence. He’d fallen asleep in the dusty, pungent shade beneath the deep azure of the Nevada sky.

            “Wake up,” she trilled, her voice envenomed with sarcasm and disdain. “What kind of man sleeps out in the weeds like a dog? What a loser. Sitting out here all alone in the dust when you should be inside spending time with your wife.” He felt himself growing more insubstantial, as if her words were heating up and cooking off the very essence of his being. “You know, most men prefer to spend time with their wives. They don’t try to hide from them. You are such a child. How old are you?”

            He staggered to his feet and thought for a moment he might lose his balance. He opened his mouth to assert himself, to warn her not to speak to him in such a manner, but his voice cowered in his throat. Was he getting shorter? Though he stood at his full height, his gaze was level with her mouth. Jesus, her mouth—the fleshy portal issuing forth a constant miasma, the toothy gate to his personal Hell.

            “Nothing to say for yourself?” she continued. He didn’t lower his gaze, yet he was sure he was staring at a lower point on her face than he was a moment before. What was happening to him? “Go on. Explain to me what you’re doing out here. At least be man enough to tell me that much to my face.” He opened his mouth and shut it like a fish gulping air. He brandished his shaking forefinger to no avail. His face reddened, growing hot with his impotence, and he turned a stomped back toward the house. Dusk was approaching now, and he was glad. Perhaps the darkness would hide his shame. His wife called after him, “Great! Yeah. Just walk away. Keep ignoring me. Now you want to go inside. Isn’t that convenient? What kind of man did I marry after all? Are you even a man?” She was still taunting him when he slid the glass porch door shut. He jogged up the stairs, grateful for the reprieve of silence. He went straight to the bathroom and shutting and locking the door behind him. A moment later he heard the whisper of the slider opening.

            He looked in the mirror, determined to find out what kind of man indeed couldn’t stand up to his shrew of a wife. He was shocked when he realized he could barely see his eyes reflected because he was so short. He hadn’t seen a mirror from this elevation since he was a child. Even more disturbing than his lost height was his growing insubstantiality: he was becoming steadily less opaque. He squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head, hoping to clear this hallucination from his vision, but when he gazed upon his reflection again, only the barest outline remained, like God had lightly sketched in his existence then gave up.

            She let fly another verbal volley of abuse. He knew now he was a goner.

Minding the Garden

      I find when I tend not
to my mind
It grows unruly
with thorn-tangled branches
      I must ceaselessly uproot
sprouts of anger
seedlings of negativity
lest the whole garden
within my skull
be choked and strangled
by the virulent weeds
of black apathy
whose perennial bloom is Death

A Question Worth Considering

How do I be a dad, when I grew up with such a poor example? My mother, God rest her soul, did all she could, loved so much sometimes I wonder if that’s what really killed her, yet a mother can’t teach a boy to be a man, much less a father. And my father? I don’t want to inflict that example on my sons; I love them too much.

So I draw from the behaviors of my male mentors who guided me through my troubled youth. I observe life as it interacts with my heart, and I learn what I can. I stay as steadfast as I can in practicing what I believe. When I fall, I get back up. I promise myself I’ll never give up, and sometimes that promise is the only hope I know.

I tell my children the truth–I’m transparent in my parenting–perhaps I tell them too much at times, forgetting they are children. But I love them above all else, and I feel my unconditional love perhaps makes up for some of my many shortcomings as a parent.

I embrace labor as a sound foundation for a flourishing life. I continually cultivate positivity and happiness within my mind, knowing how bleak life can appear when experienced through the living lens of apathy or stagnant sorrow. I fill myself with buoyant laughter to avoid being pulled under by swirling currents of black depression. I refuse to drown in that too-familiar sea.

I strive to always do the next right thing because I know I’m being ever studied by my pair of sons. Children will brook no hypocrisy, nor should they. When I teach them to question authority, I can hardly grow angry when they eventually question mine.

Mostly I just follow my gut. I follow the Tao as best I can and parent accordingly. Perhaps no example was the best example after all.


Cold ashes swirl in the hearth
Animated by a frigid gust
ghosting through an unlatched door
from the moon-haunted night without
Feeble, they spiral uselessly in a pantomime
of living energy
as if recalling their burning dance
in an ecstasy of warmth and light
Again they fall
to gather on the concrete slab
and silent
as the heart within the grave

Why I Hang Out with Hippies but Still Can’t Seem to Get Laid

It’s graduation time: students from preschool to high school are transitioning to something new, exciting, worrisome, just to name some of the host of emotions. I remember feeling both relieved and benumbed by the surreality of no longer having to contend with the complex and, to me at least, socially terrifying juggernaut that was public school.

            I watched my youngest son graduate from middle school. I noticed there were a group of students who received wild cheers, like they were returning victorious heroes or some shit, and mostly this behavior irritated me. My irritation soon gave way to thoughts of how proud my mom would’ve been of her grandsons, but she’s dead instead. It was one hell of a sucker punch. I kept the sobbing back just long enough to get out of there.

            A good friend of mine also noticed this phenomenon of greater applause for some, but the experience triggered an epiphany for him. The thought occurred that the withholding of applause (or love, resources, protection, food, whatever) for “me and mine” is one of the reasons our culture is so diseased (if you don’t think it is, I doubt you’ve been paying much attention.) He then made it a point to clap and yell as much for every student as he did for his own. Perhaps this changes nothing, right? We’re talking about applause after all, but if we apply the same principle to things other than just applause and treat all people as we would our beloved (and this is where it starts getting difficult for me), then perhaps we could help more than hinder.

            I have a gnawing misanthropy, which seems to be growing more savage as I age. I try to give people basic respect, at least until they piss me off. When my friend spoke of his experience, it resonated so strongly with me, I actually felt my total disgust with most humans receding.

            Yet, as I sit here writing what I hoped would be an optimistic and possibly even lightweight inspirational piece, I can’t shake 47 years (fuck I’m getting old) of experience. That’s why “Shoot, Knife, Strangle, Beat, and Crucify” is in my liked songs list and “Age of Aquarius” or whatever the fuck is not.

            Try, I guess, and so will I, to be brotherly or sisterly. Believe me, I know not everyone deserves it. But, then again, who are we to judge anyway?