Every Other Person

Every Other Person from User’s News, Australia, Issue #44, Spring, 2005 “About my relapse in February 1998 after being clean since March of 1994.”*

As I run out into the street with three bags of heroin clutched tightly in my hand, I remember the relapse group in the detox center near Worcester, Massachusetts (Adcare). I recall everyone sitting in a circle when the counselor asked us to shut our eyes and said,”Everyone who thinks they will stay clean after they leave here, please raise your hand.”

I raised my hand, determined to be one of the people who stayed clean. Then he said, “Leave your hand up, open your eyes and look around the room.” Almost everyone had their hand up. Could it be that everyone was as determined as I had been? Then the counselor said, “Look around you. At least every other person in this room will relapse, according to the statistics.”

A part of me wanted to throw the bags of heroin away. A part of me never wanted to go back to the old haunting ground, yet if felt as if a strange, inexplicable and powerful force guided my feet back to the fateful place where I knew the connection came. I told myself I just wanted to see how my friends were doing. I told myself I just wanted to check in at my old hangout. I told myself I wasn’t going to get the stuff; I was strong enough. But inside my stomach was crawling, craving, the hunger hit me like a moving stone wall racing faster than my thoughts. Now here I was skittering down the street toward my room, my bowels turning to jelly as I anticipated the relief of that first shot.

Just this time, I pleaded to some unknown deity, just this once and I’ll be all done with it. Into the rooming house. Up the stairs, two at a time. I feel so excited, I want to scream, to yell, to dance. My hand shakes so much I can barely get the key in the door. Open. In the room. Shut the door. The telephone. It starts to ring. I get out the hypodermic needle I saved from my last run “just in case”, take a spoon out, place it on the edge of the sink. My hands tremble so much I can barely get the water in the glass.

I rip open one bag, shake the powder into the spoon. Cotton. Where the hell is some cotton? I am frantic now. I tear the edge off a filter on a cigarette and throw it into the spoon. Danger! I know the filter is made of something related to fiberglass but I just don’t care about anything right now. The needle bangs against the bottom of the spoon over and over from the tremors in my hand as I draw up the potent liquid. The telephone rings again, incessantly, like it is someone who knows what I am about at this moment. I place the needle above my vein. Someone starts knocking at my door.

I hold my breath. Maybe they will go away. I plunge the needle in and, like magic, a spot of blood appears at the bottom of the syringe. I draw back the plunger, redness flows up the barrel, and then I slam slam slam it home. Nothing can hurt me now. There is someone knocking at my door. I will tell them to wait a minute, put everything away in a drawer, light a cigarette, swing the door open. It is one of the recovery people, a guy named Lenny, who I met while in detox.

He says,”I was just swinging by to see if you wanted to go to a meeting.” I look at him, slowly reaching up to scratch my nose. “Tomorrow,” I say, “How about tomorrow?” He looks at me. I suck smoke from the cigarette, look back at him.

*”The relapse lasted from Feb. of 98 until April of 1999.”