Essays On Major Mental Illness with A Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorder or What Came First: The Chicken or The White Horse


Marc D. Goldfinger beats the hell out of most writers working today.

— Sara Gran, author of Dope, published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, a member of Penguin Group Inc.

For those of us who made it back, for those of us who did not return, and especially for those who loved us no matter what.Dedication to Spare Change News, 1151 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138, because they helped to bring me back from the dark, lonely streets of homelessness and heroin addiction.

Marc. D. Goldfinger

Table of Contents

An Introduction of Sorts To My Life and This Book – page 6
Out Of Despair, Hope – page 9
The Junkie – page 12
Chains On Her Wrists – page 13
In The World Of The Addict – page 15
The Edge of Relapse – page 19
I Am A Heroin Addict – page 22
Strategies of Harm Reduction – page 24
Heroin: The Road Back – page 26
Heroin Addiction, Overdoses and The Use Of Naloxone – page 32
Addiction Is An Illness, Not A Crime – page 34
What Would You Do For A Fix? – page 36
San Francisco Musings – page 41
How I Found Out What A Detox Was – page 47
For Addicts Only – page 51
When The Enemy Is Me – page 55
Some Addicts Get High. Some Addicts Die – page 57
In Memory Of Tim Kelleher – page 61
In The Dead Of Winter – page 68
The Voice Of Addiction – page 71
The Benches In Front Of Libby’s Liquors – page 74
Living With Depression and Addiction During Winter – page 77
Trust, Confidentiality, & Compassion – page 79
Clean Needles, Saving Lives: The Cambridge Needle Exchange – page 82
The Hotel Central Square – page 86
Resiliency: A Moment In Addict’s Time – page 89
Recovering From The Disassembly Of My Life – page 93
One Man’s Story of Domestic Violence – page 98
Seasons of Denial – page 102
Early One Morning – page 105
Suboxone: A Positive Alternative For Heroin Addiction – page 107
The Flower Days – page 110
Collections – page 114

An Introduction of Sorts To My Life and This Book

In March of 1993 my wife and I were drifting from place to place, hopeless and hooked on heroin, looking for money anyway we could make it. I hadn’t worked an honest job since March of 1989, when I was escorted off the grounds of my last full-time job, because I had fallen apart emotionally and was hopelessly hooked on methadone, heroin, using benzodiazapene to boost the highs of both of them.

They call the mix of major mental illness and drug addiction “Double Trouble” in some quarters. What came first, the chicken or the egg? For me, it was major mental illness, not addiction that came first. I had been seeing psychiatrists and social workers since I was 7 years old and was constantly in trouble in school. At various times I was diagnosed with Major Depression, Severe Panic Disorder, ADHD and PTSD because of traumatic events that occurred during my life, both in childhood and as an adult.

I found myself totally disabled by my multiple disabilities. I was begging for money at Porter Square with a cup when I saw someone calling out “Spare Change, Spare Change, buy a copy of the homeless newspaper and help the homeless help themselves.” It was a woman and I walked up to her and asked her what she was doing.

She explained to me that I could go to the Spare Change News office, sign up as a vendor and get ten copies free to sell, then turn that money around and buy the paper at ten cents apiece, making 90 cents on each sale. Since then, because of printing costs and the price of paper, the price has gone up to a quarter a paper for vendors but the price to the public remains at one dollar.

My wife and I went down to the office, signed up, and we began our first honest work in four years. That was in March of 1993. The first issue of the paper came out in May of 1992. When I first began selling the paper James Shearer, who currently does a regular column for the paper, was the Managing Editor.

The paper has gone through many changes since then, and so have I. When it began it came out once a month. When I started selling it I was hopelessly addicted to heroin. Soon after I started selling the paper, I began to regain a sense of empowerment about myself because I knew it was honest work. I was giving a product for the money I was receiving.

Sometimes people would say to me, “Get a job,” and I would say to them, “This is a job. I’m selling a product, not begging. And if you don’t believe it is hard work, try it for yourself.” Sometimes people would say, “Here’s a dollar, keep the paper.” Politely I would ask them if they approached The Boston Globe vendor and said, “Here’s fifty cents, keep the paper?” Some of them would smile, take the paper and read it, and in that way I would build my customer base.

In March of 1994, I kicked heroin for the first time since 1964, and stayed off, with the help of support groups, for almost four years. During that time I became the Editor of the paper in September of 1994 and, with the help of Linda Larson and Cynthia Baron, changed the release date to twice a month in November of 1995. At that time Linda was my right-hand person and Cynthia was a contributing writer for the paper.

Due to my disability I left the editorship in March of 1996 and worked part-time as a vendor and continued to write for the paper on a regular basis. In the beginning of 1997 Linda Larson became Editor of the paper and, soon after, Cynthia Baron became Assistant Editor. Linda had the longest reign as Editor of the paper ever, remaining as editor for over five years. Cynthia Baron worked diligently as Assistant Editor for longer than that.



Twice more I became Acting Editor, once for two months and once for ten months after Linda left to pursue a different path. During that time Cynthia Baron was the glue that held the paper together and we made a wonderful team. After I left again, due to a brief heroin relapse, Cynthia continued on until cancer made it impossible for her to continue.

I will always remember her courage in the face of adversity and how she didn’t understand the word “quit.” Although she has passed from this mortal coil, her Spirit lives on in me and in those others who loved her.


It is 12 years later since I first started as a homeless Spare Change News vendor. I am still associated with the paper as a writer. My life has changed in a multiple of ways. I separated from my wife in 1994. We traveled different paths but always kept in touch. She died suddenly in December of 1998.

I remarried in 2002 to a wonderful woman named Mary Esther, who has become the light of my life. I am comfortably housed today, yet I have not forgotten where I came from. I am treating all aspects of my dual diagnosis and have had my ups and downs. I am actively engaged in therapy and attend support groups regularly.

I will always be grateful to Spare Change News for being a major part of my life and a stepping stone towards becoming a contributing member of society.

Since I worked at the paper I went back to school and worked for a time as an addictions specialist. At this time I am just writing poetry, fiction and commentary while I focus on treating my illness. I never know what tomorrow will bring so I do the best I can to stay in today. Today is all I have. It is enough.

Copyright 2006 by
Burnt Hippie/Flower Day Productions
76 Unity Avenue
Belmont MA 02478
(617) 290-7638
(617) 484-5598

The complete 114 pages essay on format  pdf. After your payment is done I will send you the pdf to your e-mail address.