The Past, The Present, The Future of Prohibition

I’m driving the red pickup truck through the snow. It swirls around and it is so cold that it just blows off the road like dust. Sooner or later I know it will start to stick but I don’t care. I’m sick. That’s an understatement. Tears spill from my eyes and my nose is running.

I don’t know if it is because I am crying or just afraid of everything. My wife Sascha and my fair-weather friend Richie are in the truck and we’re all in bad company. My stomach is cramping from the lack of heroin but that’s just the way things are.

No one in their right mind should be on the road in this storm. On the radio they are telling everyone to stay home and there are only fools, police & junkies on the road right now. We ride the back highways from New Hampshire heading for the Great Brook Valley Projects in Worcester. It takes an hour on a good day doing about 75 miles an hour but today it will take an hour and one-half.

I want to turn the truck around and just go home because I’m sick and scared. I lost my license to drive last year in November; just about the same time of year it is now. Thanksgiving is right around the corner but that doesn’t mean much to Sascha or me right now.

The storm rages, the radio is blasting, the truck holds the road well weighted down with sand bags in the back. No one speaks. There is nothing more miserable than a truck full of sick junkies.

We hit the main highway now, Interstate 290, and within twenty minutes we are coming down the exit ramp by Great Brook Valley. The road is slippery now and I’m trying to use caution, but God, I’m in such a hurry. I just want to get well and feel that heroin coursing through my veins.

It won’t be long now. I know the snow won’t keep the dealers in; their sickness drives them to work too. I’m thinking that on the way back Sascha will fix up my hit and bang my big vein while I drive. No sense stopping anywhere. The bathroom we used to use in the McDonalds is too dangerous and you can’t just sit still on a side road. It’s much too dangerous.

There are only two roads into the Great Brook Valley Projects. You’d think they could keep the dope out if they tried but that would put them out of work. Ever since Prohibition for alcohol ended the police switched jobs. This is the new prohibition and it’s 1987 and nothing has changed.

The roads in the Valley are snow-covered and I slow a little but not too much and then all of a sudden this dumb cat who wasn’t looking opens his car door right into my path and I try the brakes but I’m losing control and I take his door right off.

“Jesus”, Richie says, “we have to stop.” But I see the dope man just up the road and we’re holding needles and hypodermics so if we stop we’re screwed anyway. I say we go for it and pull right up to the guy with my hand out the window holding five fingers up with the money showing.

The dealer waves to a little kid and the kid comes running over and hands him the dope—he hands it to me and I give him the money and we take off in the big red pickup with a smashed right fender.

Sascha says, “Go, go, go” and I do, whipping out the other road to get free from the Projects. Two blocks away I see a shopping center and I don’t want to wait anymore. I pull in between two cars and we all get out our gear and pour water and there are three spoons cooking with Bic lighters filled with dope and a bit of a cigarette filter to draw up the stuff.

And then it happens. There are blue lights all around us and I whip up my sleeve to shoot before they can grab me because there’s nothing worse than going into the holding cell dope-sick.

But I’ve run out of time and they’re on us like blue pit bulls—Richie got his shot in and I drop mine still full and we have one extra bag that will be the coup de grace.

They pull me out of the truck and slam me against it while they use those nasty plastic handcuffs and crank them tight. My hands will be numb from blood loss and we’re all down for the count.

I can’t believe that guy opened his door right in front of me but that’s a whole different story and this is just a bad memory now. It’s November of 2013 and everything has changed.

I’m coming out of a meeting, and I’m talking to a friend of mine who works Worcester as a Probation Officer. Just for the heck of it I ask him about Great Brook Valley Projects. He says, “It’s still the same. People coming in and out to cop and now they are all young white kids. It’s hard to believe that nothing has changed but, for me, it’s just job security.” And I laugh. Because I can laugh now; the old days are just nightmares and stories to tell.

I’ve been abstinent a long time and instead of living on the streets, where I wound up after doing some time in prison, I’m happily married and I treat my illness with meetings, a social worker and an excellent psycho pharmacologist who prescribes Suboxone for me.

I’m a member of the Board of Directors of the Spare Change News, the paper I sold when I was on the streets—my first honest job that helped me straighten out my life. One of the other Board members, Bob Woodbury, sent me an article about Suboxone from the New York Times that focused on much of the negatives about the psychiatric medication and he had this to say, “Suboxone (like methadone) is a miracle drug for people who want to get off heroin or other opiates — and, like methadone, it’s subject to abuse by physicians looking for a buck and addicts looking for money or a high.

I think the [date] “New York Times” article takes the therapeutic benefits for granted (limited news value there), and focuses on the abuses. But I read the message not as “this therapy is bad” but “we should manage distribution of this potent drug better” — a concern I believe you’d agree with.”

I did agree, to a point, but I had this to say,” I think we should manage all potent drugs better–including alcohol.  I don’t know if you saw the movie Traffic, based on a European series called Traffik, but you see all these hotshots of the drug war drinking like crazy while their children do drugs.  And everything goes bad–except for one Mexican cop who sets up a deal with America behind the scenes–a great actor named Benicio Del Toro–and makes it work for his people.  The U.S. drug czar is Michael Douglas who always has a drink in his hand–while his daughter gets hooked on chasing the dragon(smoking heroin).  Great movie.

Prohibition is still with us–and it’s getting worse all the time. They are even selling drugs on the internet on sites like Ebay—one of them is called The Silk Road, which was shut down for a short time when one of it’s founders was arrested for conspiracy to murder. But that’s the rarity when it comes to the internet. Opiates, steroid, and other drugs are available and one one site goes down, others go up.

I’m just glad that I’m treating my illness and I don’t have to be afraid anymore.