First Time I did Heroin


Me on Fent
This is what I look like when I’m truly strung out bad.

I remember the first time I did heroin through rose colored lenses. This was before I ever faced felonies, incarceration, disease, or violence. To tell the truth, I don’t look back on this experience as a bad time or the beginning of a nightmare. Drugs, dope specifically, is a zero sum game. For the beautiful highs you pay an equal amount of pain in withdrawals, loss of sex drive, loss of muscle, so on and so forth. But when it all balances out I can hardly complain and if being a dope fiend was just that I would never quit. The worst things about dope that make it not worth it are all outside factors from society, specifically the criminalization of addiction and the high retail cost of heroin due to the black market. But let me get off my soap box and get back to the story.

I was 16 years old and selling Oxycontin on the internet for $1 a mg when I purchased it for under 50 cents a milligram. I lived in mid-Michigan which happens to be one of the cheapest markets for pharmaceuticals in America. While the rest of America was paying $40-$80 for an 80 milligram Oxycodone Continuous release pill (OXYcodone Continuous) I was getting them for $30. Combine this with the fact Oxy sold on the internet for the Appalachian Mountain price of a dollar a milligram it meant I was more than doubling my money. The main problem became securing enough pills to meet the demand. People only get prescribed so many pills a month, and those who cut decent deals typically have a lot of customers buying up the monthly allotment quickly…

I had one lady who legitimately had Lupus but went to a known quack doctor, an over prescriber basically. She sold her 80s for $30 and they went quick. Through a friend’sfriends girlfriend I met another supposed source for 80s who was supposedly a heroin addict. Although I wasn’t really scared of heroin as I was already basically an opiate addict I had never met an actual heroin user though. Back in the mid-2000s heroin hadn’t really hit the suburbs hard yet in mid-Michigan and to be a heroin user was looked at as lower than crack smoking. The connection’s connections name was “Buddha”… classic.

I picked up Buddha in a decent part of Saginaw that wasn’t known for drug activity. Looking at him you couldn’t immediately tell he was a user. He was decently plump and had color to his face that was visible through skin that was dark for a half Latino. He spoke with energy and enthusiasm and didn’t make a solid impression as being in a whole lot of despair for being an addict. In retrospect I can see he was just in the early days of addiction, before you see a lot of “The Darkside”. I had a true enthusiasm towards opiates and drugs in general for many years as well. At first I loved the experience in its entirety, then I loved it despite the consequences.

We were to pick up the 80mg Oxies for $35 apiece through his mother. This was another point of difference between me and many involved in the heroin scene back then. Never in my life could I imagine trafficking in Oxycodone with my mother. I just didn’t grow up in a family like that. I’ve used the phrase “charmed” to describe my upbringing to numerous therapists and probationary parties. I was lucky enough to grow up in a family that was so good anyone but a Mormon would have to say I had very little social disposition towards addiction. My father and grandfather both like alcohol a little too much if you ask me, but I never cared for drinking in the slightest and my substance abuse problem so totally eclipses their drinking I don’t even consider it a factor.

The pill buy went off in a bank parking lot without any problems. After handing me the pills Buddha asked if I could take him to meet his heroin dealer. Obviously he had made a few dollars of the deal. I was snorting Oxycodone at the time and never really considered heroin that scary. One justification I told myself was that I was selling the Oxycodone, right? But I’m going to snort –something-, so instead of wasting a whole pill I’m supposed to be selling I just buy a little $15 pack of heroin? Buddha was more than happy to oblige. He rang his dealer and we set the meet for Kroger parking lot.

As we traversed towards the Southwest part of Saginaw Township we passed the edge of the west side, when it was significantly nicer than it is now. Poverty had yet to creep this far into the west side back in the mid 2000s.

“Ah, see that guy there” Buddha jumped in his seat and pointed his finger towards a dusty looking white guy walking into a dustier looking house in a busy corner.

“I used to shoot 80s with that dude all the time”

Dopefiends and felons are like construction workers when it comes to pointing out local landmarks they have a particular history with. I’m guilty of this as well, referring to the Steak and Shake on 14 Mile as “A bathroom I’ve thrown up in 100 times inside a business I haven’t spent a cent in”.

“…and buy valium at that house,” Buddha continued.

We arrived at the Kroger in an extremely white and moderately affluent neighborhood. It did not seem like the spot heroin deals would take place. A creepy white van, that you could just tell was not street legal, pulled in the parking lot and towards us. I could see it was driven but a tall lanky white guy in his mid-twenties who resembled Shaggy from “Scooby Doo”. White dealers are always users themselves, something like the Hairclub for men where they are both the CEO and client.

The dealer exited his vehicle and lumbered into ours which is something I’ve never seen a black dealer do. He brought eagerness, pep, and friendliness into dealing schedule 1 narcotics the way only a white addicted kid from the suburbs can. When you do something you truly love you never work a day in your life and by that standard this guy was living a life of leisure. As he opened the rear passenger door the bells of the car door dinged away in the summer afternoon. My plump sixteen year old face gave a thousand yard stare out of the windshield. I couldn’t make eye contact, this guy was a heroin dealer! Who knows what might set him off!

“What’s up, man, I’m Travis!” the dealer said in a voice that was both raspy and artificially energetic.

“John…man, Johnboy” stammered out. I had tried to say “John, man” but also decided to say “Johnboy” at the same time, causing a response similar to the undiagnosed autistic 4th grader who gets called on to popcorn read Huckleberry Finn. Thankfully this guy didn’t seem too hung up on social norms and clear articulation.

I noticed for the first time the dealer’s trackmarks, dark lines on the inner crooks of his elbows denoting needle damage. The tracks stood in strong contrast to skin so pale it can only come from both lack of sun and lack of nutrition. Buddha was an IV user as well but you couldn’t really see too much damage with his dark skin. Despite this neither of these two addicts looked all that bad. They certainly did not look like what school programs and movies had told me a heroin addict would look like. These guys looked like any other min-wage working twenty-somethings who lived on the west side. What I’m trying to say is that my first views of addiction weren’t all that forbidding. These two didn’t seem to be any worse off than other directionless people their age working dead end jobs and drinking on the weekends.

The dealer’s voice snapped me out of my thoughts.

“How much did you want, man?” he asked me.

“Umm, just like fifteen dollars’ worth,” I answered, not understanding how peculiar it is to buy $15 worth of narcotics.

Dope is sold in $10 and $20 increments, the only place you’ll find $5 packs is deep inner city Detroit. Hell some places even have $3 folds for the true homeless panhandling junkies. A $1,000 deal isn’t worth the risk of selling heroin to me so imagine how cheap life must be to take that risk for $3? Most serious dealers don’t even meet for less than $40 and for anything under $100 they sure don’t move very quick. I’ve never met a true white heroin dealer though. At the end of the day they’re all glorified middle men that risk their freedom and safety to get their girlfriend and themselves high for free.

So many of my friends have been smeared by the newspaper as “heroin dealers” when they were at most middlemen. There’s a certain class of addicts who don’t know real dealers,either through fear or social ineptitude, and are forced to cop their dope through other users. You can get a gram for $100, use half, and sell the remaining 5 one-tenth-grams for $20 each to make your money back. It’s a bleak groundhog-day like existence where every day is the same… until it isn’t. Because when it comes to dope it always ends bad all the delusional opiate haze in the world can’t blur the writing on the wall. You know you’re living wrong and you’re just waiting on the other shoe to drop.

I didn’t know any of this at the time though, I was 16 years old and Opiates had nothing but positive connotations in my mind. I hadn’t seen the darkside, let alone lived there yet. I don’t think my two drug companions had seen much of the darkside either yet. Although they were much farther graduated in their addiction than me neither of them done any real jail time or faced any real loss. They had a true enthusiasm towards the drug still.

The dealer handed me a square of standard lined paper folded into a paper envelope. Little did I know these origami paper folds would come to dominate my life. The feeling of the crisp paper and folded corners inside my hand is a feeling like none other. There’s a strange sense of calm that comes once you have the drug in your hands. I can be in full blown withdrawal, throwing up and shaking, but once I get the bag in my hand the darkness flees my soul and the walk to the nearest bathroom or alleyway to shoot up is brisk and easy. I hadn’t developed this pavlovian response to drugs yet though. I was so normal back then I didn’t even check the size of the package.

The dealer thanked us for our patronage and returned to his felonious looking van to depart to a life I couldn’t and didn’t want to imagine.

“That kid needs to ease up on the dope,” Buddha muttered without a hint of irony. “You mind driving somewhere reclusive to do some of this?”

I drove to an apartment complex near by and parked in the car port. Coincidently this would be the same parking lot I shot up for in the first in. The complex wasn’t particularly ghetto but it wasn’t nice enough where two strangers sitting in a car would warrant an immediate response.

“You wanna shoot up, man? I got some cleans,” rummaging through a backpack Buddha pulled out a ten pack of BD brand syringes. Use once and destroy. Most people would be abhorred at this question but it hardly offended me. I didn’t want to use a needle but it didn’t really seem that far outside the realm of reality. I could see myself with a needle in my arm before I could see myself in the Oval Office or working on the space station. I never wanted to be an addict… but I never really wanted to be much of anything.

“No thanks,” I replied as a I unfolded the paper bindle of heroin and eyeballed the penny sized pile of tan powder. The powder was fine and a color tan so deep it could almost be called yellow. I scooped about a quarter of the powder out and lined it up on a CD case as the man in my passenger seat fumbled around with a spoon in his lap. The line of heroin on my CD case was tiny, truly the size of a toothpick. There was no way a tiny pile of powder could kill me, I was used to snorting piles of pill powder ten times that size. I raised the rolled up dollar bill to my nose and leaned over to snort the tiny line of heroin.

The first thing I noticed was the taste. I learned later that what you’re really tasting is the cut. Heroin is at most 20-30% pure by the time it hit the streets so what you taste is the vitamin powder it’s stomped on with. The strange medical taste of vitamin b12 hit the back of my throat along with the smell. I would later become so habituated to this taste that the sensation alone would get me high before the drugs could even kick in.

I leaned back and snorted, attempting to clear my throat as Buddha tied a belt around his arm and searched for a vein. It’s impossible to look anything but pathetic when injecting drugs so I decided against watching Buddha inject to save him this shame. I knew he was done when he breathed a sigh of relief and his entire posture relaxed as the warmth krept up his arm and through his body. We both sat in silence for a moment as we waited for the drug to take over. Once it kicked in life would be like a roller coaster, a life-on-rails, where I can look around, maybe even interact with my environment, but my overall path is predetermined. An addict like me doesn’t stop until finally runs into a wall he can’t break through or crawl over.

The first thing I noticed was the change in colors. The summer day slowly took on a instagram-filter type haze where all the colors just seemed… warmer and the edges were soft yet more defined than normal. A sense of safety, wellbeing, and motivation crawled from the meaty part of my legs up towards my brain. I suddenly felt the strongest sense of appreciation for my traveling companion. I eagerly thanked him for hooking up both deals and insisted we shake hands. Thankfully he had the same delusional enthusiasm of friendship for a man he just met in a parking lot that only opiates can bring. I suddenly wondered what other experiences this man might introduce me to.

“What do you have up for tonight?” I asked shyly.

“I was gonna meet up with my girl if you could give me a ride”

I quickly agreed and put my ‘98 Durango in gear and drove out of the complex. The sky was orange and the sun was suddenly beating down harder than it was previously. Despite the moderate temperature I felt a thin film of sweat growing on my face. My shoulders and arms itch and nothing felt more divine than giving in and scratching. The scratching of the itch would sum up the hedonism of opiate addiction well. Still everything was filtered through a lense of positivity and even the side effects of the opiate felt amazing.

The biggest part of heroin, the part you can’t put into words, is simply the euphoria. Euphoria isn’t the right word because unless you’ve truly abused opiates you don’t understand what pure pleasure is. The flooding of dopamine in the brain cannot be replicated in regular life cannot be represented accurately in film or writing. No longer did I stutter my words or second guess what I just said. For once in my life I spoke and felt confident. If perception is reality then was it really fake?

I held nothing but love for every subject of God’s earth. As I drove down Bay Rd I looked at my fellow drivers, people on the sidewalk and Buddha and felt only appreciation and love. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to live in Saginaw, what an authentic place to grow up. To live in a place with both affluence and a ghetto, truly the best of both worlds. I wanted to call my family and thank them for raising me. I considered the possibility of volunteer work in the future as thoughts of altruism and love of my fellow man pulsed through my brain. I was god’s own creature and could do no wrong and neither could anyone else.

I really hate drug cliches but the idea of chasing your first high is pretty true. Although the first time was particularly amazing and overwhelming the second and third were just as good. The first year of truly abusing opiates I got a knee-buckling euphoria from them without much of the side effects. I didn’t nod out or slur my speech much. The biggest tells were the rasp in my voice and the tell tale itching. My family wouldn’t be able to tell when I was high until years later.

I’m not sure when or what exactly changed with using Opiates but I have a theory. I believe my mental tolerance to the euphoria increased more rapidly than my tolerance to the depressant effects of the heroin. My brain grew numb and it required more and more heroin to release dopamine, but my body wasn’t developing this tolerance as fast and as a result the downer effects of the heroin became more pronounced. Now a days I have to be basically dead just to get one tenth of the euphoria I used to get in the early days.

I was unaware of my surroundings yet totally focused on driving. Yet I was also having a meaningful conversation, or so I thought. Who knows how I really sounded, how I was really driving. Through the lense of heroin everything seemed fine though and I was truly excited to meet Buddha’s girlfriend and learn more about him.

“Yeah, man, that guy, uh, Travis, he drives down to Flint to re-up. Him and his girlfriend are totally strung out,” Buddha claimed as he leaned back in his seat and scratched the side of his neck. His beady dark eyes were visible through thin slits, obviously the heroin was affecting him stronger. “You know Saginaw used to be a big heroin town in the eighties, and it’s definitely coming back. The Oxy, man, there’s only so many and people want too much for ‘em. You know in Bay City an 80 goes for fuckin’ fifty bucks! Sometimes more! A fuckin’ twenty pack of dope is stronger than that.”

“How many people do you know with Oxy scripts? I need as many as I can get.”

“Not as many as I used to. My mom, she knows a lady that gets bottles of them. Here, turn right on this this road,” Buddha jabbed his finger towards the window.

I turned onto a residential street in the township where the houses were significantly smaller and cheaper than all those surrounding them. It almost seemed like an enclave of mild poverty in the middle of an affluent neighborhood. Towards the end of the street Buddha gestured for me to park in front of a white house with a fucked up cheap looking screen door. He picked up his flip phone to call his girlfriend but before he could the screen door creaked open and out she came.

I was surprised at how attractive she was, Buddha wasn’t exactly God’s gift to women. It was impossible not to notice that she had a slight aire of being strung out. Despite the make up her eyes looked just slightly sunken, a lack of color shone through her foundation. She was just a little too skinny and her skin had that slight lack of tautness that suggested it was recent weight loss. Despite all of this she was still beautiful with an angular face like a model and healthy dishwater blonde hair.

“She lets me put my finger in her butt,” Buddha quickly whispered right before she opened the rear passenger door to hop in. He clearly found it very important to let me know this. She climbed into the back seat of the Durango and leaned forward to give Buddha a kiss.

“I was in there with Mark and them and they just got an eightball and they were like ‘you gotta do a line’ so I did,” the girl said as she turned towards me and I saw her saucer like pupils expanded from the cocaine. Her eyes held a welcoming and warm look. Looking back these were the eyes of a predator, a girl who eats men alive in terms of dope consumption.

“And who are you? I’m Amber,” she asked.

“John, nice to meet you,” I replied as I raised my hand up to shake it but she lurched forward and gave me a quick hug before I could.

“I’ve got a spot we can go not far from here and get high. Real secluded and private,” Buddha quickly interjected, breaking up our hug party. “Go back that way and head left on Center.”

As Buddha and his girlfriend caught up I quickly came to the realization that this wasn’t a real relationship as much as a using relationship. This girl would give Buddha sex and affection but dope was always part of the equation. There was no set amount of price discussed but it was unspoken that he should only show up if he has a significant amount of drugs to share with her. I would learn about this unspoken arranged myself years later and the paradigme of supporting women with drugs would dominate my future relationships.

They led me to a secluded dirt road on the outskirts of the suburbs that appeared to be some sort of service drive for the county. I listened to the soft crunch the Durango made against the dirt and it was intensely pleasurable. It felt as if it was scratching an itch in my ear, hearing that strangely satisfying sound. The truth is everything and everyone felt good to me from the strong effects of the heroin. I felt like I couldn’t have better traveling companions for the night.

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