The Sinner's Eye - The Culture of the Needle

The first time I ever saw a needle I was five. It was being pulled out of my father’s arm by my mother as he lay slumped and motionless on the floor. We had found him like that one evening when my mother had care of me. I remember her slapping and rubbing his face before frantically running off in search of help. I stood outside in the warm dark night, petrified and alone, looking into the distance for my mother to return. She soon did, her distressed silhouette picked out the dark by ambulance lights. Twenty years later I too would be laying slumped on floor, and in a hideous repetition of history my mother would also be withdrawing a needle from my arm.

In the following post I will detail my own romance with the needle, why I did/do that, and the places and people it has led me to. In my travels I've seen and experienced an underbelly of city life in all its perverse glory. It was never beautiful, often sickening, yet always fascinating. This is the story of The Needle as seen through The Sinner’s Eye.

Like the majority of injecting drug users I did not start off that way. For me it was an economic decision I took one year into my heroin addiction as a means to keep the job that was funding my habit. My first dalliance with the needle took place one blustery autumn afternoon in a homeless hostel in West London. It was a place with anti-suicide bars fitted to the windows and emergency alarms in each room. I had gone there in search of a beggar girl I knew named Katy and had burdened her with the responsibility of fixing me up for the first time. With intent junkie eyes she would hold the syringe up to the fading light and flick expertly on the barrel. Seconds later she would slide it painlessly into my mid-arm and press. That plunge would send me down a one way street of self-abuse and would be the precursor to over 50,000 (and rising) shots of heroin. But I do not regret the needle and I neither damn nor curse it: as it killed me, so it saved my life.

After that first shot I wandered home with the remaining needles of the pack. I had closely observed Katy and had questioned her as how to cook up, hit a vein and inject oneself. Later that night, after an entire evening deliberating over it, I decided to have a go myself. I was petrified. But not at the prospect of overdosing, more of the inknown, of what lay beneath my skin that I could hit, tear, puncture or damage. Still, I went ahead, cooked up a fix and then naively tried to inject it. Oh, it was a disaster! What had looked so straightforward in the hostel and at someone else’s hand, now seemed ridiculously difficult. Every time I tried to hit a vein I only managed to puncture it and leave large blue bruises in my trail. Even in my hands, with veins the size of a thick bootlaces, I could do nothing but damage and bloat them double. Finally I gave up and for the last time in my life I smoked myself to sleep.

Come the following morning I tried again. This time I did manage to hit a vessel, but each time I pulled back on the plunger I also pulled the needle out the vein. On about the twentieth attempt I succeeded in drawing blood and in an awkward amateurish manoeuvre I repositioned my fingers and emptied the syringe into my bloodstream. For a few seconds after, surprised that my fist hadn’t bloated up, I sat in shock and kind of moved my eyes from side to side, up and around registering things. When I was absolutely sure I was still alive I relaxed... and then it hit me. Up my arm and itching through every small blood vessel in my head. My pupils contracted as the pressure built and suddenly I was there, nodding over onto the table without even having time to withdraw the syringe. But that wasn’t the end of my injecting debacles... it went on for weeks before I could get a clean quick shot and months before I had experienced all the little lumps, bloating and swelling of missed and bad injections. But no matter how terrifying or hairy it got, I somehow enjoyed the process. And more than that I enjoyed the marks that I was imposing upon myself. It was a thrill, and finally I had some visible mark for the invisible pain I was trying to tame.

But being on the needle entails a lot of work. That is if you intend to stay alive. One of the first things you then learn is where you can pick up free, clean needles, vitamin C and filters. This invariably leads to the local Needle Exchange or some equally anaemic, bleached and sanitized place. I turned up at mine (The Old Coach House, Devonport Road) on the second morning of my IV life. I registered and went through the rigmarole as a soft spoken counsellor masquerading as an ex-user went through the perils of shooting and gave me a leaflet on safe injecting. He also sat me down and with picture cards of the venal system pointed out where the body’s main arteries and nerves ran. He said I must NEVER inject around those areas. He explained that if I was ever unlucky enough to hit an artery, and supposing that I survived, I would wake up sick in hospital with limbs the size of tree trunks. Of course, more than anything this freaked me out and my hypochondriac brain suddenly (and against my desire) jumped to attention. In a few nervous seconds I had blinked and memorized every image into my head and it seemed that just about every site was loaded with potential peril. For the first few weeks I poked around gingerly convinced that I would hit the nuclear button. Of course, I never did and since then I’ve stuck a needle in all those dangerous places, every junkie has. And thats another thing you learn, injecting isn’t quite as hazardous as it is made out to be.

The local needle exchange was open 3 days a week from 9am to 5pm. During that time users could walk in and collect up to 50 clean works a day, sterile water, vit c and small yellow returns bins with the bio-hazard sign printed menacingly on the side. That is the idea of the ‘exchange’. One is supposed to fill his/her small bin and return it. In ‘exchange’ he/she gets to take home new needles. In reality, not many addicts make use of this service and the exchange program doesn’t strictly enforce it. What they are more concerned about is having users not share. Like most addicts I know, I never really made regular use of the return bin either. Instead I’d let the needles pile up until my place was stacked with boxes and containers of syringes. Three or four times a years I’d have a clear out and overload the returns bin. Other than the Needle Exchange, addicts can also pick up clean works in chemists or some clinics. Chemists usually have a limit of 2 packs (20 needles) a day, and disgracefully often don’t have ANY in stock. The Needle Exchange, Chemist and clinic schemes are all free. However, if really desperate or if the chemist is out of free needle packs, you can also buy them. That would cost £2 for a packet of 5 1ml insulin points.

But needle exchanges and pharmacies, although not unpleasant places in themselves, do give the first hint of what lays in store for the intravenous user. I remember sitting waiting in the needle exchange one day with two skeletal junkies sitting opposite. Both were as pale as chicken skin, both looked crippled and both were covered in cuts, rashes and sores. They were resting head to head and drifting somewhere very far away. They looked like something you’d find slumped in a mass grave. It was only when one opened the eyes and drooled: “Have you got a cigarette, mate?” that I realized it was female. Her hands shock as she took the cigarette and she stood outside in the cold, sucking in huge lungfuls of smoke and looking like the future didn’t exist. It was a small thing, but something which stuck in my mind and scared me. I had not seen such people amongst my smoking friends. They had all been younger and fitter and frankly, more alive. This was something else... a different kind of addict altogether. And though it repulsed me, such people would soon replace my old smoking crowd and make up my circuit of friends and contacts.

There are a couple of reasons for this, but probably the most relevant is that the smoking addict and the injecting addict are two different types and clash too much. For example, the smoker may be sickened or disgusted to have someone inject in close proximity to him/her. The injector sees smoking as sacrilegious and cannot bear watching plumes of smoke disappearing and wasting into the atmosphere. Also there is the message that injecting gives out... that you are not only addicted to drugs but self-destructive and reckless in its pursuit. It is almost as if there is no hope after heroin and so you kill yourself before it kills you. But no matter what the reason, my smoking friends were soon all gone. They passed by me as if on some conveyor belt into history. With their hands over their mouths they receded into the distance and as they watched me advance to the place we’d promised we’d never go they cried: “Oh, Shane... how could you!”

Well I don’t know? I just could. That’s all. And very quickly I discovered that the universe of the intravenous user was a world apart from those which I had served my apprenticeship with. The haunts were darker, the misery worse, the addicts older and more pronounced. Everything was 2 shades darker black. I suddenly found myself in a place full of mirth, dirt and disease. For the low of heroin I would journey to and through that darkness. I would meet the diseased, the dead and the dying and have numerous acquaintances go down with AIDS and hepatitis. Amongst the army of junkies that I would cross would be the armless, legless, toothless and reckless. I would see men injecting in their penises and women bent over, peering through the legs into a mirror in order to hit a vein on the back of the thigh. In one homeless shelter I would sit and watch as half a dozen groaning addicts cooked up in a single spoon and then all poked their blunt dirty needles into the same cotton filter and drew up and shot together. They would look at me in bemusement when I would shake my head at the offer of joining in.

But by far the worst place I ever had the misfortune of entering was a junkie squat on St Stephens Avenue. It was a second floor flat in a partly demolished building and was literally held together by needles in a twisted ongoing sculpture that all the users living there collaborated on. One could not take a step without having to dodge an open spike and blood and blood graffiti sat an inch thick on every wall. It was inhabited by such a squalid bunch that the consequences of even stepping foot in there would terrify me. Unfortunately, these people were my friends... well, kind of. A typical household would be something like this: Firstly there was Nick. A tall, medium built addict with horrendously crusty skin. He had thick black greasy hair which showered dandruff in the light beams. Nick would take an obscene pleasure sticking and twisting needles recklessly into himself. He had such a crude injecting method that the tracks on the rear of his forearm were huge purple scars the thickness of an index finger. Next there was Grace. Worryingly thin with the skin on her face stretched taut over the skull. She had taken on a kind of translucent jaundiced appearance and made her way around with the help of an old walking cane. A 25 year dope veteran, it took her up to three hours to get a fix. Two weeks after me leaving London she died of liver cancer. Then there was Scamp the resident amputee. He was as grey as the London pavement -. only much dirtier. His left hand had been removed after a huge abscess had all but eaten it away. He now had a useless, half-paralysed and withered left arm which hung down like something that shouldn’t be there. He was HIV positive. Along with Skamp, wrapped up on the same filthy mattress, was his HIV buddy John. This man was so dismally wasted that he resembled but bones vacuum packaged in skin. He was forever in and out of hospital falling foul each week to a new debilitating infection. Miraculously he is still alive... well in theory anyway. Finally there was Jo, a Portuguese addict with not a single tooth left in his head. His mouth resembled a clenched anus that was attempting to suck all his features in. He had the greenish yellow tint of a depressing bar. A paranoid schizophrenic he would eventually be imprisoned for beating his girlfriend to death. Of course many more passed through the house or stayed a night or two but these were the regulars. On a good night this crowd would sit around a syringe strewn table with a huge mountain of melted wax burning away in the centre. In the low light they’d shoot dope and squirt their blood sizzling onto the flames. It was one of those rare occasions where the people were scarier than the shadows they cast.

And that was just one small group of addicts in one West London squat. But the more I got into the injecting side of heroin the more such users became visible. At one point it was all I could see. Ghosts which had once skulked by unnoticed were now everywhere. Bus stops, doorways, street corners, parks... I couldn’t walk five minutes without passing some distressed type with swollen bloodstained hands and looking like Death with the flu. The city became like a Kirchner painting: long, dark, oblique shadows lurking and hanging ominously against walls. It was a nightmare town. And then I’d traipse home, shoot up, and scrutinize my own face in the mirror looking intensely for any signs of disease or decay. But don’t get me wrong, not all injecting addicts look as I’ve described. And for everyone that does there is another that shows absolutely no obvious signs of drug or needle abuse at all. I don’t quite fall into that camp, but if I keep my mouth closed, and wear a nice pressed shirt, only my mother and lover would know.

No, the diseased emaciated junkie is a consequence of lifestyle and what he/she is forced to do to maintain a habit. And the junkie collective that I described earlier were all just that. Their lives and addictions were very hard on them and only by pooling their money, scoring and using together were they able to keep themselves supplied in heroin. There was literally no money for anything else. They ate what they found and smoked from the butts they’d collect in the streets. They usually used clean needles, but if they didn’t have them at hand they’d be all too quick to pick up the gun and wager their lives on shooting a blank. Whilst sticking needles in their groins, armpits and necks they all slurred the junkie spiel of getting clean, getting washed and getting a job. But they talked with infinite sadness and there was not hope in one syllable of any word they said. I think they knew they were The damned and getting clean and talking of what they’d do had like everything else become a little part of their fixing ritual. In truth, the strain of getting clean would probably have finished them off even quicker.

Still, regardless of how squalid some of the people and places were, or how much it appalled me, in different ways I was just as trapped within it. Ok, I did not live like that and I’ve never shared a needle, nor a spoon, but my needs were the same and even if my arms were cleaner I was still sticking the same needles into them 5 times a day. And it was that which kept me a familiar face amongst these crowds. Against any genuine desire to become friends I kept a contact and a presence amongst other users for very certain reasons: they were good contacts and as an addict you can never have enough numbers. But there was one other reason, and that wasn’t half so callous or calculated: sometimes I just needed a little company... another human besides me so as not to feel so hopelessly alone. Sometimes it was just a pleasure to fall asleep and wake up with someone else in the room. And that is why, no matter how dirty some places were, or how foul and rotten some addicts seemed, at least they were there. They understood without question and had an agenda more or less the same as mine.

But intravenous drug use goes further than clinics and junkies and palaces of needles. It even goes further than the administration of drugs. That’s its primary motivation but it also touches upon issues of self-harm, obsessive compulsions, and needle fixations. As I got more experienced with the needle I started to realize that I actually enjoyed inflicting these marks and scars upon myself. That outside of getting heroin quickly into my bloodstream I took other pleasures from it. Often I’d be standing on a bus or train, holding the overhead rail and leaving my shirt sleeve fall down to reveal an armful of tracks and bruises. On occasion I’d even jab a needle into myself a few extra times just to highlight the harm. I know some addicts who even when clean continue keeping their track marks fresh and visible. But this self-harm is not a call for help, it’s more a call for recognition... for the world to recognize you’ve been hurt, punctured and broken. It’s a cry for attention without the tantrum, the tears or the breakdown. I know very few injecting addicts who are ashamed of what they do... on the contrary, they are proud of it. And I understand that, because in that act, in the marks and scars it leaves behind, there is a bizarre sense of fulfilment and achievement. In it the addict has found a means to show a hurt or trauma that is not expressible in words.

It’s now almost 10 years that I have been living life on the needle. During that time I’ve shot up in parks, cars, toilets and on buses. In addition to my arms, legs, stomach and chest, I’ve also injected in my fingers, toes, palms and forehead. I’ve hit nerves, arteries, joints and bone, and have suffered every imaginable lump, bump and swelling. I’ve poisoned myself 4 times with ‘dirty heroin’, had abscesses the size of golf balls and I’ve Od’d twice. On my entire body I have only one visible vein left. In my determination to self-medicate I’ve lost family, friends, lovers, two Cockatoos and a dog. My bank is in the red and so after 34 years I have less than nothing.

As I write this it is 24 hours since my last injection and that seems a long time. Previous to that it was 72 hours and previous to that 7 days. The longest I’ve ever been heroin or needle free is 5 months. But I do have some qualities and I use them to convince the few people left around me that I’m changing... that I’ve finally seen the light. And as I sit there with my perforated escape plan laid out, I busk and dance my way around all the awkward questions. At one point I even promise to stop smoking and cut down on the chocolate. It’s then I realize I’ve gone too far, that I’ve said too much. The place kind of deflates with disappointment and without even looking up I know what they’re all thinking, “He’s not getting better... he’s getting worse!” And I can’t blame them for that... I’m thinking exactly the same myself.

Thanks as ever for reading...

Thoughts & Wishes, Shane. x


Shane(I'm a girl Shane though) said...

Shane, I have been reading for awhile now, and never commented. Mostly because you are different than me, yet I feel a draw to check on you, and make sure you are ok.
I just want you to know your writing crosses boundaries to people different than you, but that strive to understand your life and choices.

Sherry said...

Shane -

I'm able to transport myself into the places you write about. I've never realized that for many heroin users it is a way, as you say, "for the world to recognize you’ve been hurt, punctured and broken".

I'm not sure why you think you're getting worse. I'm adding you to my daily prayer list!

Anonymous said...

i am speechless…which probably means i shouldn’t be typing anything at all, but i want to say…something…just don’t have the right words. i don’t think you can, ever again, be accused of luring someone to try heroin. the post was well worth the wait…thank you for sharing your incredible talent with us. i wish i had better words to give you back.

Stacy said...

sorry...i am a spaz and don't know what i am doing...didn't mean to be anonymous...

Stacy said...

your body mail makes me want to cry...

Wildernesschic said...

Shane as a non addict .. of heroine anyhow.. I can only feel you are wasting your life, as you are a talented intelligent lovely man..I think x.
But, I am also a fan of choice and I think this your choice and how you want to be and as long as that desire continues, you are not getting worse, you are just doing what you have chosen to do and enjoying it .. it makes you what you are.
The minute you decide, this is not what you want to do anymore and decide to seek help or to change your life ..then I think you should do it and get all the help you can to achieve it because then you would be wasting your life if you were to continue.
Sending you love and great to see you posting again
Love Ruth xx

kim said...

you are an incredible writer.
i don't know why, but ever since i was about eleven or twelve i've been sickly fascinated with junkies, and still am.
But it's also so sad. Any junkie I ever knew, there seemed to be no light (life) in their eyes. Is that the price you pay for numbing the pain? Well, I hope you are getting better, not worse.

XXX, Kim

Anonymous said...

Hey Shane

Well I didn't last very long on the wagon either (I commented on your last post when i was doing my rattle). Just had to say, I hit an artery for the first time a few weeks ago. I only got the tiniest bit in and MY GOD did it hurt. It freaked me out sooo much. All my muscles in my arms and hands turned to stone...needless to say, I will never inject in the crook of my arm again, never ever!
Fabulous description on the change of administration method! haha it is extremely annoying watching someone smoke it, especially when they aren't chasing it correctly, it riles me to no end!

"knuckle bump"
Leanne x

Longy said...

Another great read Shane. Hell I've said it before and I'll say it again,I really feel guilty for enjoying your blog. I shouldn't I know but you are suffering here - well thats how I read between the lines today.

I don't see addiction as simply a choice. When you are that fixated,it takes over your life and the only way to get better is with help and more importantly,if you really really want to. This is why I still have my wanking addiction :)

You certainly don't glamourise the use the needle and the way you describe your "friends" well its horrendous to even think about but a great reality check too.

I hope you actually read your own blog sometime ALL OF IT that is. It might actually help you. I'm not trying to be patronising here,I'm serious.It might help you gauge whether you have gone backwards (or forwards) and help you choose your next step. Sometimes I wonder if you want to stop using but are afraid of saying so for some reason. I dunno,you tell me. Either way,your readers are with you unconditionally I feel and like myself,they keep coming back for more dozes of the life of Shane.

Anyway Shane,I've babbled enough bollocks for tonight. Take care mate.

Laura said...

Wildernesschic took the words right out of my mouth about choice and all. I am also like Kim, Iv always been "sickly fascinated with junkies".

My mum has worked with Heroin users and she used to tell me that they are as much into the needle as the heroin, so I always think it becomes a type of self harm, like cutting, annorexia and bulimia.

I also think that the junkies in the squats are stuck in a terrible "rut" and just need to take the step. I always feel this way because I never manage to cut down on food, fags and booze ... despite feeling awsome for 1-2 weeks when I manage to pull it off. So we're all the same, stuck in our ruts, strugging to take the step no matter what our weakness is.

Thanks for the post shane XX

Laura said...

Hi Longy,I think wilderness chic was trying to say that she did'nt want judge or patronise, by using the word "choice" I think she was trying to say that its your own business what you do with your life. Of course, addiction is not a matter of choice until a person finds the strength x

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hiya Shane (the girl)...

Thanks for reading and looking out for me... that's nice. Yes, I'm OK just going through a bit of a strange time here.

I think mostly my writing touches on basic emotions and no matter who we are, or what we live, we can all relate to them. As for understanding life choices, I think this blog is that even for me. It's a place to put all my thoughts down and hopefully gain a little more insight into why I do what I do. Though at this point it's still a mystery! lol

Anyway, thanks so much for stepping out the abyss & hopefully we'll speak more soon...

All My Best Shane. x

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hiya Sherry,

Yeah there's many reasons why someone will go as far as injecting drugs and that is one of them. In a way it's very pathetic, but there is always a reason as to why seemingly sane people do certain things.

When I say about "getting worse" it's just a little joke, and dpends on which timeframe you view my life from. For example: in the last month I have used less heroin than anytime in the last 3 years (i'm getting better). However, in the last week of the month I used as I was doing 2 months back (I'm getting worse). So it came from that thought.

Thank you so much for reading and writing back...

All My Best Thoughts & Wishes, Shane.

Malcolm said...

This is incredible, the first time I've ever had the opportunity to really understand the process of this addiction. My only close contact with IV drug users has been as a nurse in the 70s and that's not generally a sympathetic environment. I may well have been one of those hypocrites crying "xxxx How could you?" having tried to hide from my admittedly serious problems with alcohol and dope from the age of 15. There but for some obscure grace go I?

In a strange coincidence I've very recently re-read A Scanner Darkly and your story has added a personal dimension to what was inevitably a slightly impersonal and distanced understanding.

Thank you for sharing this amazing account


Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hiya Stacy...

Yeah it took a while, but if you hang around here enough you'll get used to that. When I told you in a mail the other day that "I was just edting", it was the truth, but between the edit, spellcheck and posting... well, I got a little distracted! lol

Some have accused me of gloryfying heroin, but I think anyone who has really read my words knows that is not the case. I do not glamourize it and on the same score I do not turn my posts into anti-heroin propaganda. I try to give the truth as I know it. When it's dirty I say so, but I also try to explain the attraction and what it does give.

The body mail made you cry! lol Try not to take them in that way, they're done just for the shock of the image and what they represent. For me they're photo's that will eventually make up a little exhibition.

Ok, I suppose I better get on with my next post! :( I hate writing!!! lol

Until soon, All My wishes, Shane. x

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hiya Ruth,

I understand exactly what you say, but when I started using I felt that "life was wasing me... wasting me away." In that sense heroin gave m something and allowe me to heal in a strange way. Of course now I use purely out of habit and my addiction is probably more complicated now than when I first started. At least then there was a distinct and understandable reason why I was using.

But you're absolutely correct when you say: when it is against your choice/desire and you still use, then yes, it's a complete waste in every way.

I think i will ineviteably get clean at some stage, but whether it will be through choic or the mortuary attendant, I just don't know.

Anyway, I here and as I am for now and as I can at least string a few words togeher I'll continue doing that for now.

Hope you're well over there... All My Love & Thoughts, Shane. x

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hiya Kim,

I was always obsessed with junkies also. In a small way starting to use drugs was me carrying out that fantasy... becoming famous. I remember first trying heroin and then staring in the mirror saying "That's the face of an addict... a heroin user!" It thrilled me for a moment. By the time I really was an addict all heroin chic had gone out the window. My clothes were ripped and dirty because I had no others, my hair greasy because I hadn't washed it. When it's not a choice the romance of it completely disapears. It may be cool to look like it, but it's not cool to really be it. No-one really stayed around once they knew it was for real.

Anyway, thanks as ever for your words. It's always wonderful to see peiople still reading and returning for more.

Until soon, all my very best, Shane. x

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Leanne,

Yeah, the wagon's a hard place to keep your footing on. The bloody horse is always stopping abruptly. But never mind, a junkie with a circus trick is always entertaining! ;)

I've hit a couple of arteries. One going in my wrist down below my thumb. There was a lot of opposition to the needle and I physically heard it pop the vessel as it penetrated. But the pressure was so great that before i even had time to press my body had expelled the needle. It literally flew out my arm. But by far the worst accident I've had is hitting a nerve... god, it's excruciating and scary as hell. I hit one in the back of my finger and pain just fizzled like electricity through my entire hand and arm. Then it felt like I had tied of the blood circulation and then my arm tripled in size. I was terrified it wouldn't stop. After a few hours it had gone down and by morning I could inject there again.

Even when someone smokes it correctly, you know that the bit they just smoked in half an hour could last you half a day. when I went from smoking to injecting I cut my consumption by 2 thirds and the hit alwyays pacified me in the needle. Often smoking i would just think "What's this shit!"

Ok, that's enough junk talk for a night... i'll start rattling again if I keep on!

Until soon all my thoughts and wishes, Shane. x

JoeM said...

I knew we’d have to pay for the last funny one!

God this was bleak. Funny, my hangover nightmares are full of bloody deformed hu-monsters and until now the only place I’d seen them made flesh was in the Hellraiser films. But this comes close:

They were resting head to head and drifting somewhere very far away. They looked like something you’d find slumped in a mass grave. It was only when one opened the eyes and drooled: “Have you got a cigarette, mate?” that I realized it was female. Her hands shock as she took the cigarette and she stood outside in the cold, sucking in huge lungfuls of smoke and looking like the future didn’t exist.

It would be interesting now if you did a post talking about The Good Thing(s) About Heroin. I remember Matt Dillon (love those eyebrows) saying he thought Drugstore Cowboy was good because it showed that taking drugs wasn’t all misery - otherwise why would people do it.

Like, on heroin do you watch films,listen to music,read etc. I can't imagine just being drunk and sitting there slumped, doing nothing. That would be boring. Or is H just enough in itself? It's really the most mysterious drug to me - you don't see H bars, with folk all jabbering away having intellectual/stupid conversations and all that.

Or maybe it’s just, like Lee Remick at the end of Days of Wine and Roses, the world is just too grey without the drug (alcohol in her case. And wasn’t that a startlingly honest ending, admitting that for some folk a sober life just isn’t enough. And didn’t she look like the loneliest person ever, walking away from Jack Lemmon into the night?)

But when that one vein finally goes that would be the end of injecting I suppose. Then what - back to smoking? Methadone?

It's funny the smokers v injectors division - how sub groups break down into further sub groups - it's not enough for Scots to hate the English, Glasgow has to hate Edinburgh, Glasgow Catholics hate Glasgow Protestants etc. I remember Rupert Everett being sniffy about injectors - 'Yes one has been a heroin addict but I never injected!'

The alcoholic writer Jeffrey Barnard (one of those Francis Bacon type Soho bar flies) deliberately gave up drinking for two years (1)to see what it was like and (2)to shut up those that said if you’d only just try you'll see how wonderful life can be. Well he went back to drinking, lost a leg and died from it.But he could say well at least I tried!

So maybe if you stopped, but didn’t think of it as stopping, but just as an experiment, which would allow you to go back if it didn’t work, that would be easier. I mean unless the five months off was that experiment. Or were they Methadone months? I mean that doesn’t really count. (In my non-expert opinion).

Anyway, I think the fact you’re writing this book (as I think of this) proves you see a future ahead, even if you don’t even know it. In fact the very writing of all this, getting it all down, is itself an exorcism, laying it all down as a physical thing that you can eventually walk away from.

Social Drifter said...


I've been following your blog since I first saw your artwork on DA, and am in love with your writing style. The section of this post were you talk about self harm really struck a chord with me, and I just wanted to thank you for giving structure to the abstract thoughts and feelings I've felt for the 5 years I've been addicted to self-mutilation. Hopefully there we'll be hearing a lot more from you.


Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hiya Longy,

Maybe I'll see you in wanking therapy sometime... if we're not both blind by then! lol

No, i'm not really suffeing here, just going through a bit of a strange time. There are so many incentives for me to stop using, but I don't really feel it. Also it's a little difficult to use at the moment. I'm not at home and my financial position isn't the same as what it was in London. So now I have to struggle each time knowing I really shouldn't be spending money on smack when I've not even paid the rent. Personally i find it very difficult to live like that, avoiding people and having them demand only what is due to them. I think my pride will curb my useage for the next few months at least. As you know I already pass half my time on methadone so it will not be so difficult to make that transistion.

Yes I do sometimes read my own blog. I'm proud of it for the honesty of my emotions bt not sure if it really helps me???

As for wanting to quit but being scared... no, I don't think I feel that. If I did I would say so, but I don't have that struggle. I know wht yu mean though. As I say, I have a little struggle at the moment but it's more my situation rather than I've seen the light. When I see the light, all that means is I'm on my back again (no not wanking! lol)

Anyhow, wonderful to speak to you again & I hope all goes well your end.

All My Very Best, Shane.

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hiya Joe,

That's a really interesting comment and will surely be the inspiration behind one of my nexts posts. Maybe it'll even be the next post so as the two run together.

I like to change the feel of the posts around. I love writng in a much more humourous way, but sometimes that gives the wrong feel for what the subject is. Also, I really enjoy trying to get certain dark images down in words.. to try and allow me to relive them.

Your idea for having a break is really what I am trying to do just now. mentally I have told myself "You're not quitting, just stopping for a few months" That's time to get the book done and sent off and maybe time enough to realize I enjoy being clean. At the moment "clean" will always mean "using methadone". I am very far from being able to think about quitting opiates for good. Methadone allows you to be straight but without the months or years of boredom and frutration that quitting entails. It's still hard sticking to it, but can be worth it. My last 5 months clean were the most productive of my life, and my time in france alternating between heroin and a subtitute has allowed me to at least get many projects off the ground. So, I'll start of with three months and see how I go after that.

One thing I will say before leaving (you've started me off now!) is that heroin is not like any other drug you can imagine... except for maybe anti-dpressants or tranquilizers. It's not a fun drug and I do not know anyone who does H for 'fun'. It's enjoyment doesn't come in what it gives you, but what it takes away. It takes away feeling and makes hurt or trauma or stress bearable. It doesn't solve it, but it numbs it enough to allow you to accept it. Buying heroin is like buying relief. Imagine having huge personal troubles... maybe a death or a broken relationship. Add to that feelings of depression and work and living worries. Well when you take heroin these things all part and suddenly there is a clear path through all the mess and torment. You can walk through and for a moment, just enough time, you can forget all that lays to your left and right. Of course, heroin soon wears off and not only do you have all your original problems but also the extra burden of now needing a drug. But I will explain all these things better in the post.

Well it's 3am here and my bed is calling. With no disastrous mattress fires I should be back here soon...

Until then, thanks as ever for your words...

All My Thoughts, Shane.

Dusty Rose said...


I have been clean for the longest stretch in the last five years,
it's been eight months,
and i've come to this point where
the idea of it is consuming.
It's bizarre, cause it's been so long
but it never goes away.

Also, the other day I was thinking about making a zine that was dedicated to presenting
different subsets of the
"dregs of society"
the outcasts and misfits
and junkies and trannys
and whores and fetishists.

This, reminded me of that idea.
I really enjoyed it,
as always.


Longy said...

Hi Laura up there ^^^^^^ I'm with you now. Thanks for explaining. I'm not the sharpest tool in the box but I do try x

Morning again Shane

Sorry for reading you wrong (again!) Not suffering is good though so I'm glad I am. Its a shame you are not "feeling it" I think you know what I mean. Perhaps your situational circumstances are good for you!

What I mean't by reading your own blog (and yes,too bloody right you should feel proud of it) is it can gauge where you are. I once had to write a daily journal (which actually lasted for 4 years) when I was going through a tough time (addiction,grief,major depression,relationship breakup ect)and sometimes when I feel down I revisit it for a read. It helps me focus on how far I've come or how far I'm slipping. Hope that explains what I mean. Those years were all about "feelings" which brings me my next question.

How do you actually feel when you are not H'ed or meth'ed up? This blog is wonderful and very descriptive and last night when I read,I was almost in that squat such is your talent. But what about the feelings of Shane? I don't mean in the past but I mean now - in the present. I would like you to explore this sometime if you dare. Call it homework if you want. Your Longy challenge for the month!

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hiya Laura,

Yes your mother is correct, though not all injecting addicts have needle fixations. It's one of those things that I cannot explain simply... maye not at all. I can tll you many reasons why it's jut as hard to forget the needle, but none are the real azswer. It's a combination of many conflicting wants and needs.

Yes it's a self-harm, and like taking a razor blade to the chest it can b quite shocking and certainly takes peoples attention.

I agree what you say abut being stuck in a rut... we all have one and they can be very similar no matter what the vice. One thing with the needle is that the addict often picks up disease in the irst few weeks of injection: HIV or hepatitis. After that they see no real benefit of geting clean... they're already dying. I suppose it is like the person diagnosed with lung cancer... at tht point it's too late to stop smoking. It's one of the real tragedies of the needle.

Anyway,thanks so much for your words and time...

My Very Best wishes, Shane. x

Stacy said...

lol..just to let you know, i did read the disclaimer on the b mail and believe i understand the message...yes, the image is shocking (and, i think, sad) maybe i am too sensitive, but the fact that it evokes strong emotion leads me to believe you got your point across.

JoeM said...

I really like the mixture of funny/bleak - or rather ‘funny’/‘bleak’ .

I remember your making that point about heroin being a sort of stabiliser - the great analogy I think you made was that it was like putting the missing inch on the short leg of a chair - just making it normal.

I think other drug users might use their drug to do much the same thing - like some cannabis users feel more functional on that. And some drinkers don’t binge, but drink slowly all the time, not for fun, but just to feel as stable as everyone else apparently does - functional alcoholics. Of course the bingers often don’t see themselves as alcoholics and look down on the ones who ‘maintain’.

These weird one up manship games remind me of Woody Allen’s skit about his adolescent time at a boarding school for neurotics, where sports teams were divided into Bed-wetters versus Nail-biters.

I understand about the Methadone. If its possible health-wise to stay permanently on M then why not. Most people in Western society are on something - drink, nicotine, food, prescription drugs etc.And even on H and M you’re producing so much and not just volume but incredible quality. If you came off you’d probably explode with productivity and creativity, as often happens with artistic addicts.

Though like Longy I wonder what you’re like totally ‘clean’. Maybe you’d be functional but depressed, in which case, maybe the right anti-depressant would work - you mentioned that H was similar. It would certainly be safer, less expensive and less hassle (To say the least!)

Going by your self-awareness and replies on here I think you’d make a great drugs councillor. Though maybe once you’ve finished downloading all this into a book and had a spectacular world tour with it you’ll want to be totally sober and write about something completely different.

'Stoopid Slapped Puppies' said...

Amazing stuff, amazing because I admire dedication in anything whether I agree with the principal or not.
I just can never fathom how you get accused of encouraging heroin useage, when I was 15 I started having these incredible cravings for heroin (although I have never taken it) they started with the liquid being drawn into the syringe, the pop of my vein and the calm, these cravings haunted me, haunted me for years, some days I shook thinking of it, no longer my friend, I know now I do not have that dedication and whatever unknown it is that drives that dedication and its reading you and getting to know you that has made me realise that.
The other thing you have taught me is that it is possible to walk beside someone (maybe someone you don't understand fully) and the learning, the life experience is in the walking and NOT the understanding.
Still here..still walking beside you man
and Thanks
Nick XX

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hiya Mac,

Firstly thanks for reading once again, that means a lot. Even more so as you've had no close contact with this addiction. 90% of the readers here are in that boat and it's oe of the things that delights me the most.

In many ways I can understand the frustration o medical workers when dealing with addicts. There are people seriously ill and bed space is taken up because someone decided to inject themself with a lethal quantity of drugs. It's understandable.

i've never read A Scanner Darkly but I googled it and will certainly order it when I've the chance. I'm not a huge reader of dope/drug literature. I think because I am living that I get my escape elsewhere. It was like before I moved to france I couldn't get enough french and foreign films. I'd leave the streets of england and imagine myself in bars and cafe's. Of cOurse, once I got here and it became the everyday reality the last thing I then wanted to do wa watch films about the bar on the corner. What did I do? Well, I rented and bought a many British made films as I could and escaped life in france that way. It's funny really!

Anyway, my thanks once again for your time and words...

My Love returned, Shane. x

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hiya Katie & WELCOME & Thanks so much for your time and words!

Yeah, self-harm. it can be embarrassing and it's very hard to openly admit some of the reasons behind it. Sometimes we do things,and they seem pathetic but they're not pathetic, and they help us. i've stopped worrying about saving any kind of face and I write what I feel and the reasons why i do certain things. And I'm not a unique star... my emotions and reasons for doing things are pretty much the same as everyone else's.

Anyway, thanks once again and I'm gladyou enjoy my words so much.

All My Thoughts, Shane. x

Ps: DA..

They weren't too happy with certain pictures I uploaded and removed them all from my page. At the last count I had 106 policy violation warnings. I've not been back since.

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hiya Dusty!

God, I've been where you say you are... it normally consumes me after only 48hrs. You've done well to last out until now. I think it all depends on the reason why one quits as to if it ever goes away or not. My mother quit because she was bsolutely sick of heroin... she had come to hte it. Quiting was a huge relief to her and sh has never had one slip or ever used again.

Your Zine sounds interesting and if you get i off the ground and would like me to write something for it I'd love to. You let me know.

Great hearing from you Dusty... try to keep well and not become completely consumed by thoughts of using.

All My Best as Ever, Shane.

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hi again Longy,

No, you never read me wrong! I think the things you ask and query come from a wise place and from someone who understands what they speak about.

I think you're dead right about my situation maybe helping me. I've thought of it myself and in some ways I was relieved when I went to take money and was refused. It takes the temptation of using away as it makes it impossible. But I can pay my rent... don't worry about that, just thee will be nothing left after that (well not for H anyway). yes, it's a good thing at this time.

Ok, I understand what you meant about rereading the blog now. No, it doesn't really help me in that way, but somthing does. On coming to france I wrote a daily journal that wnt on fo nearly a year. Well the first 5 months were filled up with me being clean for the first tilme in years. Reading those journals helps me... they remind me that I've stop for a period before and I enjoyed it.

For your question:

How do you actually feel when you are not H'ed or meth'ed up?

I will do as you suggest and write a post about that. It will be nice homework and will keep me out of trouble for a day or two! ;)

Anyway, until soon, keep Well and keep wan... (no I won't say it! NO! LOL)

All my best shane.

Cathleen said...

Hi Shane,

I work with kids both as a volunteer and in my profession. Some of them are troubled due to terrible experiences. From reading your blog I can't help thinking that someone like you might be able to do great work with kids like that, or doing something similar - if you were clean that is! You are very intelligent and seem sensitive and passionate about a lot of things. I really hope you will quit one day ... Wishing you all the best.

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hiya again Joe,

Again on funny/bleak. It's also important to have humour in the blog because in real life that's what I am. My observations come mostly from a humourous place. I never wanted the blog to show me as some kind of tragic figure and it would have been easy for that to have happened. But neiter can I allow it to look like I laughed my way through very traumatic things. That did exist, but it was more a survival technique. And of course, many things even though comical still hurt me very much. Really I suppose I just want to show that I am human and still enjoy life (which I do) even after all the events.

Yes the analogy still stands. I think I wrote "it gave an inch to an unbalanced leg." It stabilized me... stopped the chair from rocking. It's a very subtle thing.

Yes, functional alcoholics can be viewed almost the same as heroin addicts... you're correct. So if you have trouble unerstanding what heroin gives that's very close to it. Alcohol is also one of the only other drugs (not prescribeable) that you actually withdraw from. My mother suffered terribly for three days every time she went sober. Though my mother wasn't a functional alcoholic... she was a dysfunctional one!

being totally 'clean'. You know what, I don't think you would notice any difference. Being on H or being clean yes (a little), but being on methadone or being 'clean' it's almost one and the same thing. Methadone sounds heavy because it is a 'heroin substitute' In reality it is a synthetic opioid which stops the addict becoming physically ill but has no other common opiate effects. It's why it's very unsuccessful as a treatment. It's not easy to convince people of this. The best I can do is: If I was to pour my dose of methadone in your morning coffee you would not feel a thing. It's been purposely made that way. But then if it's the same why not stop methadone and live totally 'clean'? There it gets very complicated and although methadone has no opiate effects it still effects the metabolism the same and so quitting methadone is akin to quitting heroin. It's why it is a long term treatment. The addict passes years living without the psycological or phsyical benefits of heroin until he/she is finally ready to live life drug free. I will try and go over all this in the post.

A world tour! If it ever happens be sure I'll be stopping off to see you along the way. the reaction of people towards this blog has made me want to write... to even enjoy it. At times in my life it was a chore and only the end product was satisfying (not that I ever finished anything! lol) And yes, there are many other things I want/need to write. I've spent my life observing the world I've grown up in and heroin is still only a very small part of that. I'm actually creating another blog for that purpose at the moment.

Ok, I think that covers everything...

Until soon, My Wishes as Always, Shane.

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hiya Nick,

Oh I'm so glad you have the sense to see it that way... that you don't have to actually go there to learn about it. As you say you can become just as knowledgeable walking alongside observing. That's the real art Nick.. the true eyes of an artist. Not living it but seeing it... and if you're living it, seeing through it.

I think I get accused of encouraging heroin use, not because of anything I write that is pro-heroin, but because my words are readable and enjoyable (some say! lol) Some people lose sight within that and think it is enjoyable because of the subject and not the way it is related. But I have no qualms about that. I know I've never tried to put anyone onto heroin and infact have only ever tried to discourage it (as I done once with you). As long as I feel I've told the truth, at least my reality of it, my expression is complete and I'm satisfied. There's no use painting a picture for someone else... even if it is commercially more marketable. I know you will totally understand that.

I feel your shadow man... & My Love returned... Shane. xxx

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hi again Cathleen,

That's nice work you do and I hope it rewards you well. I think it must, though I imagine it can also be very frustrating at times.

I'm sure I'll quit one day Cathleen, I just cannot give a date to it. But even if not, I will still do certain things in this life, good things, and things which many without a drug problem wil never do. My situation is I'm an addict... I can't let that fact ruin my life. I won't.

Thanks so much for your time and words & hopefully we'll speak more soon...

All My Best Thoughts & Wishes, Shane.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Another compelling post, my friend. If I smoked heroin, I sure as fuck would have moved onto the needle. I have no doubt. So I won't judge.



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Anonymous said...

heroin is like the best hug you've ever had in your life x

Unknown said...

Glad to see you're still writing. A great piece, as always. I hope you are doing better Shane.


MomIC said...

thanks for this post. I can write here now, as you know, with no bad feeling.
thanks for still writting this way, for still being the same wonderful and talented person i've always known.
whatever you do from now, i wan't you to know i'm sticking with you. I'll always be there for you, whatever happens, whatever people think. You're my best friend.
Shane, i'll never forget the six years we've spent together, they were, in a strange way, the happiest of my life. Because joy with you, through the darkness of our lives, has always been pure to me. It still is.
I just want you to know i'll always be there for you. Whatever.
I love you

MomIC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MomIC said...

just to add something more reliable to the post.. I remember that first time i took heroin. It was as if my whole childhood was coming back to ife with just great moments, without the alcohol, without my mum going to prison for murdering someone... it was feeling like heaven, like 'normal' childhood.. I remember also the first injection. You took it the wrong way as you didn't know how to inject on someone else. i know i've insisted so much about trying it that you ended up doing it fucking annoyed...I remember you was trying to get the vein the wrong way as you wasn't used to inject someone else. You know, in a way I could regret ome thgs, like trying heroin for the first time, but i don't.. you know i still enjoy it. You know i still find this life enjoyable. You know i'll always be the one to blame for my own misery.
All my loving thoughts,

Shivi said...

Hey Shane! Hope you are well. Been a long time since I visited your blog. Well everytime I read it, it makes me realize how better my life is , it only makes me fall in love with my life more! What else can I say .
Best Wishes,Shivi.

Dizzy Giggleflix said...

You are a lovely monster, I wish you peace before the grave and happiness, you need not even share it with us just feel it.

Anonymous said...

I always had a bizarre fascination with the needle. I remember being 12 years old and finding a syringe on the street. I wasn't using any hard drugs at that age but for some reason I was transfixed by it. I kept it for a year in a small case. I am not really sure why i kept it. I had no notion how dangerous it could have been or how relevant a needle would become in my life a few years later.
My first experience injecting drugs was not heroin. I started on the path as a I.V cocaine user. You want to talk about fucking up your arms try attempting jacking up your first time by yourself after a gram of high grade yayo in your system.
When I read about your "pride" of bruised and tracked arms I was stunned. I thought I was alone in that. Not today but back then for sure.

Peace and love to you Shane.


Stella said...

Well, I am quite new to your blog but over the past two days I went back and read and read. Ah. I've seen here in your comments that I am not the only one obsessed with junkies. My obsession goes far back to childhood. I remember seeing that German movie about Christiane F like 5 times. And reading Junkie by Burroughs even though I was a bit too young to REALLY get it. Never did heroin myself, but probably would like it. Read this great book once called: How to stop time: Heroin from A-Z by Ann Marlowe. Check it out!

Best, Stella

Gledwood said...

The only thing that surprises me ~ because I was well aware from the start that anyone fool enough to keep taking heroin would get a habit ~ the only thing that surprised me about my "journey" if you wanna call it that was that I ended up on the needle... and it was basically down to saving money.
Because whenever I'd had hits people had made me cook up my own, I already knew what to do. And because people had left works, citric etc behind in my room I already had the accoutrements. I think I'd have felt weird turning up at a needle exchange knowing I was planning on crossing a bridge like that. but as things were it was easy.
Thinking I couldn't get a vein I skinpopped for months, then one day when I only had £5 I bougt a lump of chalky white heroin base off a travelcard salesman I knew (remember ticket touting?! those were the days!)... took it home and cooked up and hands a-trembling stuck the needle in the crook of my arm... Every hit I'd had up till that had been tiny because no-one wanted me to go over. So I remember the first time in my life the prickling feeling, like running through stinging nettles naked and then I was out of it.
Looking back at the hits I used to take ~ 3 points in one go on a baby habit ~ I'm surprised I didn't kill myself... ah, but I'm still here all these years later.
And how are YOU Shane. Long time no hear!

Anna Grace said...

You put into words what I could only feel and show in the marks and brusies on my hands, arms, and feet.

You can use my skin to bury your secrets in, and I will settle you down.

I'm just in the background all the time. I miss the comfort in being sad.
Anna Grace


Anonymous said...

Dear Shane, 
I've never hit the needle, or even smoked heroin, nor do I think I ever will, but I am still an avid reader of yours. I've been reading your blog for about a year now and will re-read your blog 4 or 5 posts back everytime just because I can't get enough of your writing, but that's not why I posted here. I'm an independent film maker located in Dallas, Texas and throughout the last year of my filming career, I've wanted nothing more but to make a movie about of your experiences you've written. I have an indie style of film making, generally making movies centered around drugs or psychological disorders and think that if I had the funds, I could make a pretty good film. Unfortunately for the time being, starving artist seems to describe me most, but don't take me wrong, I'm not asking for money. What I am suggesting is that somebody, a fan or someone, should pitch the idea to a larger film company, or somebody with more money than I. Perhaps there's another reader out there who happens to also be an independent film maker that would be willing and able take up the task. I hope that one day I will be able to shake your hand and talk to you face to face. 


JWatts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JWatts said...

Hi Shane,
Just got back to reading your blog again. Loved this post, but had to stop reading last night, as I am trying to stick to the methadone for awhile and your writing had me scanning the numbers in my cell. I loved the part about the toothless man whose mouth resembled a "clenched anus trying to suck in his features." You have a way of describing heroin addiction, that frankly, I envy.

Stay well,

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hiya Tray,

Thanks so much for your comment and all the time you've passed reading my words!

I think if anyone here had the contacts or connections they would have already come forward. But if you can ever get funding for that yourself, or raise some funds, the gigs yours.

Ifyou've a mail or would like to talk further (about anything) send me a message:

Failing that, I hope you keep reading and I'll se you back here soon with a new post.

All My Thoughts, Shane. x

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hiya Jdub,

You know it's exactly the same for me! Tht's why there's been no HH post for a while. Sometimes writing about it and going over all that again, makes me crave a fix.

Until soon, All My Best, Shane.

FI0NA said...

I have been reading your blog transfixed for about 1.5 hours. You need to write a book. You are an excellent writer and this is completely compelling.

Paul Curran said...

Brilliant, intense post, Shane. The way you articulate situations like these is incredible. I never tried smoking heroin (ha ha ha). Much love from the bush.

Tonyoneill said...

hey shane

beautiful post, as always. i always get the shock of recognition when i read your stuff. we shared so much of the same stomping ground, and yet you have a much better recall of a lot of it - especially names, etc. the needle exchange you mentioned, i am 100% sure, is the first one i went to when i landed back in london, and met my uk connection at. and you write with such poetry about the needle. ive often wondered about the romantic nature of fixing. its been almost 8 years since i shot up, maybe a little longer as i switched back to smoking towards the end to try and wean myself off. but in a certain light the tracks are still visible, and i have to admit, i dont really want them to go. i think a little part of my identity would vanish if i woke up one morning with healthy looking arms. it is a bitch when im at a dr's office and they try to take blood, and cant hit anything. especially as i cant be straight with em as im usually asking for painkillers or uppers or something, ha ha.

but i would often just shoot up water if i didnt have dope. i dont know if if was so much a self harm thing, as a protection against boredom. if i didnt have the drugs, at least i had the routine, and when youre sick you'll take whatever kind of comfort you can get. i get hooked on any kind of ritual, so long as its drug associated i think. i still swear my heart beats a little faster when i have to buy some tin foil from the shops.

anyway, i wont blab on, but i will drop you a line sometimes as i kinda disappeared then, got really caught up with life, work and all of that. but yeah, i loved this one, and i dont know how you keep up the quality and the quantity around here. youre definitely one of the most productive writers ive ever known.

take care...

Gledwood said...

My new and very annoying druggieclinic made SUCH a big deal out of the fact that I still inject, as if I'm some kind of freak for doing it.

The crackheads round my way started up this tradition of smoking heroin on the end of a crack bottle. Which is fucking ridiculous when you think about it. Heroin is run along the foil precisely because when the flame is applied directly to it, it frazzles up, wasting even more of it than smoking normally wastes. I shared a house once with crackheads in the room next to me smoking gear like this. The one who really thought he was Da Man was acting like a big baby one morning "I'm sick I'm so sick".. then he took a £10 bag, scooped less than a fifth of it on to the end of this pipe, inhaled and was all smiles! And the methadone clinic give these people just as much as an addict on a minimum gram a day IV. How ridiculous.

I had exactly the same problems as you when I started injecting. In fact I was convinced I couldn't hit a vein, so I skinpopped for a good 6 months. Then one day I only had £5 and knew I wouldn't feel that, so I hit it up in my mainline and never looked back.

I'll never forget how much my hands shook. And my mainlines had vanished within about 6 months.

Did you know many people getting inejctables on the NHS and if so was it methadone or diamorphine or what? I just checked the NTA guidelines and found out basically anyone who's been on methadone for years and using on top should theoretically be a candidate for injectable methadone at the very least. They piss me off these clinics, they really piss me off. I'm cleaning up for myself and nothing they say will ever influence me.

Your descriptions of the grime and squalor really bring back the good old days. I miss the crusties so much. They're nearly all dead now. Every one of them. Same age as me and dead. Thanks to a system that didn't WANT to help them. Thanks to a country that never cared ...

Gledwood said...

And yes you did manage to put into words something I never managed to say. I'm glad to have the scars I have. They are souvenirs of a journey to the Dark Side.

If I had no scars, I'd have nothing bar my memories to show I had ever been there ...

I'm not a great believer in emotional scarring. I think most people can go through almost anything with little or no damage to the psyche. Which is why I love my barb burns so much. They're a map of where I've been and where I never want to go back!

PS the looks on the nurse's face who had to "aspirate" the enormous blisters on my leg. She stared at me with utter blank incomprehension when I told her I'd never seen a barbiturate in my life, that the barbs were mixed into dodgy gear. It's only that I nearly walked into a lamp-post after taking the stuff and then got endless results from googling "barbiturates" and "blisters" together that I realized what I'd actually taken. Apparently tissue necrosis is very common indeed near the site of barbiturate misses ... Frankly I'd rather take my barbiturates in pill form. I could do with a good sleeping pill now and then ...

Anonymous said...

it's a lot, no? I like it, your writing. Your life not so much am I liking. I am an addict to heroin, but is not why I read your blog. I have heroin and all its innards in my life daily why read about it, tu sabes? It's good, no, that's why I read. So much to say but not really anything as once you've taken the needle it's the same as the next needle user and the next and so forth. All our stories are the same, all the dirt disease heart ache and often do we hear a new tale? Who'se heart ache surpases that of his or her couch mate? There's little new experiences under the sun where heroin is involved. But a good good writer you are, with or with out the days or seven hours since your last shot. I like it a lot to read you with or with out heroin I will continue to read you while you post and I breathe. And it helps with my english jaja!!

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hiya Paul,

you never smoked!!?? Straight into acupuncture? I'm shocked... really! lol

When I started injecting I was so so terrified. There was no sleeping in a bed full of syringes then... my own used needles terrified me as much as anyone elses. I couldn't quite believe that had been inside my body... in the vein and had put stuff in it. It was weird. Now... you know what, I don't even see needles anymore. That's how normal they've become. If my landlord comes around I know the chances are my eyes wouldn't have spotted every needle in the clear-up, whereas during the first year I could spot an orange cap or plunger miles off.

Oh, The Bush... I kinda miss it, bu in a beautiful way. It feels like I left a younger more vibrant self there. X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hiya T, my recall is only as good as a Google search. If it's not there, I've forgotten! haha (really)

More than details and dates I remember atmospheres... it's that which sticks with me. My life has been very atmospheric and my young years are absolutely trapped in certain lighting, and radio, and shadows and smells. I can revisit days by capturing the feel. When I realised that as a teen I began paying specific attention to it... and even now, whether I'm just sitting in a bar or writing this reply, I will be consciously taking in the amosphere and the feel... focusing in on the details which everyone see's but no-one ever remembers (until they're told back).

I don't have a needle fixation but certainly think that my willingness to jab a needle full of smack into myself does reflect a part of my personality which I kinda enjoy the world having of me. Yes, it's all pretence and bollocks, but of exactly the same kind as wearing 501's; carrying a Luis Vuitton handbag or waxing your hair into dreads. We are all image makers... we're all trying to fool the camera.

You disappeared??? I thought it was me who went AWOL! Oh well, we'll have to fight that one out in Paris! maybe stage a huge punch-up at one of your signings?


Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Gledwood, I'm just out of time and as their are many thoughts i have on yout comments I'll do you the respect of replying in full tomorrow and not half-arsed now.

All I will say is that I actually started off smoking heroin in cigarettes!!! and then off a crack pipe as you describe. Then i progressed to foil and finally the needle.

Gina said...

Hey Shane, as always, well worth the wait.
Lots of love.

Cadan Henry said...

crazy, man. crazy. clampton thought he had to cook his brain too in order to be creative and live good but he changed his mind down the road.

my brain is a nice medium rare; i stopped when i kept smelling cooked meat all the time. now there's just bright light and a spiritual sunscreen i had to invent.

love ya bro,


Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hiya Gleds, as it was a long comment I've copied it here and am answering it as I reread, so please excuse any brash subject jumps.

Smoking heroin on a crack-pipe: that's how I first started using, well, that and rolling it in cigarettes like joints. I done that purely because I had no-one to show me how to chase it correctly and I knew i could get it into my system that way. Yes you lose an awful lot but the high is the same, you just need more of it. I wouldn't get annoyed over it, if they want to spend quadruple the money for the same down that's their business... you're probably pissed because all that heroin going into the air you would prefer being wasted on yourself. Haha. Wouldn't you honestly have preferred to have wasted a lot of heroin smoke in the air than going in the vein with all the perils and health effects that has? So to me it's nothing terrible... they may even be saving their lives in their stupidity.

I never skinpopped, only when desperately trying to save a fix which had taken too much blood and had congealed. Then it was in the top of my arse, but I always had to have an IV fix after as it just didn't feel like i had used.

Diamorphine on the NHS:

This is what I know: You have to be HIV+ to have a chance of getting it. That is a little known and unwritten part of the prescribing requirements (scandal), but I know from three good friends and who got on diamorphine and numerous others that didn't, that it is one of the overriding factors in the decision to put a patient on injectables. Another ludicrous one, and equally true, is that you must still be injecting in the arms. You will NOT be prescribed injectables if you are injecting in your legs (FULL STOP!) There are actually nine criteria you must fulfill. I can't recall them all, but the majority of others were things like having failed MMT at least three times; have adverse affects to Methadone (and now also subutex) etc. It's very very difficulty Gledwood and you really need to be dying to get a diamorphine script in the UK. The real fucker, and what I've been trying to tell everyone is this: diamorphine is not 'street brown' and you get nowhere near the effect that you'll get from scoring illicit smack. They are two different drugs. maybe in triple the quantity than will ever be prescribed you may get a heroin gouch, but <IO doubt even that. All my three friends who were on IV scripts (agreed it was the nearest and best substitute, but)they all sold their ampoules and scored smack with teh cash. Why? Well I know why, because I bought some of those ampoules: it is nowhere near the same drug. My experience was almost identical to the person i bought it off: I got a headache, felt a bit drowsy but not a heroin nod, and finally I slept (not gouched) woke up and immediately wanted more, but not because it was good because it wasn't enough. I'm not a pharmacist and have no knowledge of chemistry to explain why diamorphine is not the same as street smack, but it's not... these are not the same drugs. Still, DM is similar enough (if prescribed properly) to be a hugely successful substitute (as we all fucking know). The last thing I will say is 'official guidelines' and the prescribing practice behind that are two very different things. The guidelines kinda cancel out immediately 90% of would be applicants and the prescribing criteria takes care of another 9%. It's all geared towards making it look attainable while discretely filtering out almost everybody. (cont'd below)

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

I can never think of the grime and squalor of shooting galleries as 'the good old days'... they just terrified me and still do. Yes I still have to go through them, my gear no doubt passes through a couple (and places worse) but they scared me and I saw nothing good about them - not even in a romantic way. I have stories around this subject which I won't disclose here, but will explain just why I despise these places and most of the addicts who frequent them. As for who's to blame? I don't believe in blame... it's life Gledwood and we make our choices and must live with them. It's no good pointing fingers once we're all diseased and fucked and saying "You could and should have done something!" That's too easy and also kinda saying we're helpless and brainless in the decisions we take, but someone else isn't. Life kills everyone, Gledwood... the junkie and the monkey. The only thing anyone can ever blame (even the healthy) is life.

Responses to comment 2:

Yes, I agree, the scars are marks to show where we've been and as i said: visible marks of invisible pains. Sticking the needle in is an expression, and the marks of that expression tell us more about it than we can probably say ourselves.

Concerning emotional scarring I disagree and I think people are very easily scarred emotionally, that's why love hurts. To be scarred for life is another matter, but that also exists and isn't uncommon. But I do think it is the little things that scar and not the huge bizarre traumas. I think a broken heart can be more painful than a childhood of abuse. I've known the two and the broken heart was the real fucker...

I think that's it... Sorry for the delay in replying but it was a long one. Hope you're well and hope the new clinics not fucking you around too much. X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hiya Cadan,

I am the complete opposite to Clampton I don't believe drugs makes anyone creative or gives anyone anything they haven't naturally got artistically. I state throught the writings here that I cannot produce anything under the influence of heroin, and 99% of my online writings are done sober. Heroin doesn't stop one from being creative (the mind still works the same) but it does affet production and nothing ever gets out. So I do not peddle the myth of 'drugs and creativity'... I don't believe it and would give anything but drugs the credit for my creativity.

Love returned Cadan...

You take care and I will too, Shane. X

Anonymous said...

Great story Shane. First time I saw a needle was when I stuck 30 mg of pharmaceutical methamphetamine in my arm at 22 years old, and its the only time I ever encountered God, and it was me.

Don’t worry about the crazy email a few weeks back, as you may have guessed by the tone, I had taken a 'Fear and Loathing' amount of substances (it takes my mind off heroin) and was heading for Paris with a friend and an arse and cunt load of heinous drugs (methoxetamine anyone?), and really didn’t know what the fuck I was on about, no recall of it. That wasn’t even my mobile number. Hallucinogens takes you to strange places, including some fucking big church on a hill next to the Salvador Dali museum in Paris, where we got thrown out because I screamed FUCK OFF THERES NO GOD ANYWAY at some little French shit who kept telling me to shush, Rude bastard. If he only knew how many drugs I had taken he would have been praying to his dead god not telling some kaleidoscope-eyed tourist with NOTHING IS WORTH DOING on his t-shirt to shut up. My friend dragged me away from the area quickly, and I got back to England in one piece(ish) eventually, though slightly lighter on brain cells.

But next time I cross the Channel I will take you up on your offer, and this time will wait till I get to France before I start getting intoxicated. Maybe. Keep on giving up giving up. Relapse is a natural part of recovery, why fight it? Great words for a gravestone. Au revoir - Heftman, the Impostor

... said...

I am not sure how I found your blog but I bookmarked it a while back and just discovered it again.
Your story is incredible. I love how fluid your writing is.

Gledwood said...

Interesting what you say about pharmaceutical versus street heroin I knew someone on a diamorphine script who constantly sold it in favour of street heroin; also the addicts in the late 60s early 70s when Chinese heroin came into Soho would sell their "jacks" in favour of the Chinese stuff which was much stronger.

The guy I knew on diamorphine (which I never bothered to try) said it held you nowhere near as long as street gear.

Yeah I looked up the criteria for injectable prescribing and there was a strong preference for "low risk sites" ie NOT the groin. How the fucking hell anyone's supposed to bang up street gear long enough to "qualify" for their shit arse criteria and yet somehow have veins left in the arms is beyond me. I've been injecting almost solely in my legs for the past 3 or 4 years. I've never done my groin or my neck but only for medical reasons.

I'm half tempted to try and get it together to come off just so I can go back on the shit again with less tolerance and all... know what I mean. I can't see any point living without heroin. Methadone does fuck all and my new clinic really annoy me by parroting on about 110mg (down 30mg) being a "very high dose". On Mars, maybe. We all know they give methadone because it's ineffectual and can be dosed once daily under supervision. Why the hell they don't give morphine or hydromorphone or something else in sustained release beats me. Oh no it doesn't: methadone is cheaper. I just cannot wait to get off the shit then I'm fully intending to jump in front of a train. Sad but true. I don't want to be on gear. I don't want to die a junkie. Gear was the only thing that made life seem even barely OK. So I've seen things for what they are and I'm glad because unlike the unopiated masses, I'm not deceived.

The Pseudo-Impostor said...

You're so right Shane about drugs and creativity. But lets spell it out: (1) drugs do not make you creative; (2) abstinence does not make you creative.
So what does make you creative? Creativity! Tautologies, yum - if they were sausages, I would cook and eat them. With creativity sauce on.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Your writing is soul-piercing. You are unique and beautiful in this common, ugly world.

Anonymous said...

you took me right back to my first hit. if i hadn't had a naltrexone injection i'd have been out the door by now, scoring.

i used around fulham while you were there, i think. we probably crossed paths at some point!

once, while about 25 of us were dotted around munster rd trying to look inconspicuous, an old women spotted all of us and asked me what we were all doing :-|

at the time i thought it was a serious question and said something, i don't know what? while looking through her, up the road. but, thinking back now she was more likely politely saying - buy your heroin elsewhere!

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hiya Anon Fulhnam,

Fuck, I knew at least ten dealers around that small square mile and when I first started there were no tenner bags, just twenty's (though . You did get a proper .6 for your money).

Yep, munster road, wyfold estate, Fulham palace road (lillie rec), Eternit Wharf, Clematlee Est, West Ken Est, North end road (mcdonalds)... oh it goes on. All meeting points... all stories... an exciting time as I was new to it all and couldn't believe just how rife it was. I remember being sick so often in work and in my lunch hour hobbling, sweating down to eel brook common after having borrowed a score of someone. Having a boot in the free public toilets and just sinking back in relief as the smack hit and all the bad effects vanished. Fulham... I've lived at least three lives there...


Anonymous said...

i just saw you replied :)

did you ever meet at 'the chicken shop' fulham? lol

hello, mate it's (me). are you on?
have you got 2 b??
yeah, chicken shop. (puts the phone down.)
ok, i'll be there in... oh.

if you got near to anyone else waiting you'd hear them complaining about how everyone else stuck out apart from them.

people would sit at a bus stop, the bus would stop, drive off, and everyone would still be sat there. someone up the road would be in a phone box, someone else studying the pavement - everyone with a big flashing sign over their heads saying "waiting smackhead" thinking they were well camouflaged lol

you brought back some funny memories...

Anonymous said...

i remember the 20 bags too - total nightmare. and all the problems with loose change... but, once the 10 bags arrived there was no going back :P

Anonymous said...

Mate, what you wrote about the pleasure from injection, the pride in doing it and having marks, that's just spot on... Though I thought I was probably the only one to really feel so good about needles & the scars in my own fucked up way. I remember 6 months after I'd started using needles I showed off my track marks (took a while to get them proper) to some friends just to shock them,dunno what I was trying to prove...

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