A Modern History of Rotten Teeth

It was the summer of the year before last. In a bar in Paris, in the early afternoon heat, Tony O'neill and I were swapping books, scars, track marks and missing teeth. Tony gave up his arms and narrated furiously their scar history, recalling marks where great veins had been blown out and where abscesses had once tried to eat him alive. I followed suit, showing off the purple tracks running down the centre of each hand and a few fresh needle welts from recently missed fixes. At one point I had my trouser leg hitched up and my sock down, showing Tony the pen marks for where I'd marked off a sure fire vein so as there'd be no fucking around if we were holed up in a toilet somewhere with no more than shitting time to get hit up. It was a circle around the entry site and an arrow pointing in the direction that the needle needed to go. Above the arrow I had marked the letter 'T' - my Tony vein. O'Neill lounged back in his chair, right hand around his beer, dark shades hiding an important strip of his life beating. He'd not been using for 9 nine years and was mostly all healed up and out of shape. But some things never heal nor can be scrubbed clean, and hands hit repetitively with needles over many years become addicts hands – chunky, swollen, corn-beefed.

Come on then, let's see ya teeth? I said

Tony opened his mouth and pulled his gums up at each side showing gaps and pointing out dental work and screw in teeth. I watched, smoking, one eye squinted over like a man who is about to lay down a hand of aces. With Tony done I didn't wait for him to ask to see my teeth. I sucked the last bit of death out my cigarette, and scrunching the butt in the ashtray, I raised my head flashing him a gritted smile, turning in profile so as he could see all the hideous carnage of 35 years of dying. O'neill raised his shades as if they weren't helping him to see. He peered into the rotten, rusted, fortress of my mouth. I only had 10 teeth left, and of them just two were undamaged, and one of them was false. Mostly my mouth was a jagged trap of broken busted and missing teeth, black and brown bits of stained enamel sticking out my gums. My bottom front teeth were the only ones with any neighbours. It was an honesty that gets you deputised immediately in this game.

And how d'you feel about that? Tony asked

Well I'm not proud of it, I said. And I don't like it. I don't smile or laugh anymore and try to speak without opening my mouth. I've never been into junkie chic... could never afford it. And of course, when it's free, when you are it, when you can no longer put it on or take it off, it's not so much fun. Still, if nothing else, my mouth's at least honest: a true reflection of the life I've led. My body, covered in half decent clothes, isn't honest at all.

It was a truthful answer. It would have been easy to say I'm proud of the decay and hold it up as some kind of success, especially to Tony who would understand either response. But I never got into this to look like death. I got into heroin to look more like one of the living. So on that hot summer day, outside a Parisian bar, Tony sat looking over my shoulder and I sat looking over his, him with a view of the street behind me and me watching the waiter dance between the afternoon clientèle with trays of drinks and salads and bottles of wine and water. To my left and right tall, narrow streets littered with bistros and restaurants broke off and run like sewage into the rest of the capital. People sat around smoking and watching and being watched, and tapping messages into their phones. That was Paris then, and it was right in the middle of the last days of our lives.

I left Tony that day by kissing his daughter on the top of her head and watching his little family walk away in one direction as I headed off in the other. But as I kissed his little girl's head, and felt the lightness of her being, I was overcome by a great sadness. It came up off her scalp and entered me like a spirit; a sadness of innocence, of people going away to lives and joys and comforts which I've always wanted but never had. I walked away holding in tears, trying not to think of anything, trying to lose myself in a labyrinth of streets and footsteps. But my existence was present and inescapable - a sadness drifting six foot off the ground, completely conscious of its loneliness. Feeling detached and nervy with emotion I phoned my girlfriend:

Well, I've made it to Paris, I said, and I've sent you two postcards and I Love You!
 Why two postcards? she asked, surprised I'd even bothered to call
 In case one gets lost, I said.

When she put the phone down I found a shop, and really did buy two postcards and send them. And it was in that moment, scribbling out poor poetry on a two euro postcard, that I became aware of a lower side tooth, throbbing away, a heart beat of pain, forcing me to exist even more.
I had a few hours to kill in the capital before my train back to Lyon departed. I had wanted to meet up with another friend but finally I preferred to be alone with myself rather than be alone in company, put out even more by my inability to express myself orally in the flesh. As I wandered around the same small quarter of the French capital I tongued and pressed on my tooth, sometimes purposely annoying the pain further by sucking cold air onto it. The sun was just the other side of its highest point now and the heat was burnt into the day proper. Sweat had seeped through my shirt and dampened my jumper, making me feel dirty and irritable. I must have walked around the same set of streets 15 times, not wanting to get too close to the metro for fear of bumping back into Tony and his family, and have them catch me wandering around alone, with nothing to do and nowhere to go. I pressed on the almost full bag of heroin that was in my little pocket, a comforting bump, an emergency exit for days like this. I thought of the relief of arriving home, just as the evening light faded out, of tying off the rest of the day and forcing along tomorrow. With still over three hours before my train departed I sat on the cool stone steps of the church St Michel. I closed my eyes and thought of the train journey home, willing time to hurry up. I thought of the innocence of Tony's little girl and the sudden and immense sadness I had been struck with after kissing her goodbye – playing and sucking on my tooth all the while.
* *
On the train I stole somebody else's seat. One with more space and near the window, and positioned so as I could look back on the things which passed and not see what was coming from up ahead. As we moved off I watched Paris's long goodbye, the city shrinking into the hub of the central station. The ghettos on the outskirts, a Manhattan of tower blocks, was my last view of the capital and then we were speeding at 200mph through countryside, and then through nothing much at all.

My tooth twinged again. This time a long, sharp pain which levelled out with the speeding train. I pressed around the outside of my mouth and could feel the beginnings of a swelling right below the tooth. I pushed on it hard, hoping I could force it down, but it just made the tooth throb ever more and left me massaging the same spot of mouth and pressing my warm palm against it which seemed to help. I was out of sorts, a burrowing sadness then deep within me, many things converging at once and meeting at the apex of that exact point in time. With my hand still on my mouth I thought back to when I'd lost my first tooth, 16 years ago, that horrendous wintry morning after I'd been up all weekend rocking and crying in pain and overdosing on aspirin and paracetamol. How the only thing that'd ease the pain, for seconds at a time, was filling my mouth with cold water and swilling it around. How I'd staggered into the hospital A&E at 5am in the morning, white as a ghost, my head floating in and out of reality due to all the painkillers, how I'd threatened to smash my skull in if I couldn't see the emergency dentist. The receptionist told me he'd be there at 7.30am, but it'd be much quicker for me to go along to my own dentist who opened at 8. I remembered how I vomited warm water in the bin in the waiting room and again outside in the icy car park, and how the morning didn't feel real and I thought I would die in the street.

I pressed up around the tooth that had given me so much pain that day, all those years ago. Just gum now. Good! A tooth I'm still relieved is no longer in my head. A tooth that had me collapse into my sister's flat, with the morning light not even up, groaning and pleading for help. Then, in pain induced psychosis, how I'd stripped down to just my pants and lay down on the ice cold bathroom tiles, shaking and humming and waiting for 8am. How I half ran and half staggered down to my dentists, and after more than two hours of waiting and four local anaesthetics I was finally in the dentists chair with my mouth open and my eyes streaming tears of agony.

I can save it and cap it or take it out, she said. What would you prefer?
Get the fucker out, I said. I just want it gone!

And so my first tooth was drilled and pulled and wrenched out, dropped into a little plastic container and given to me. I learned on that day that pain is the most exhausting thing that anyone can experience. That pain and its relentless assault on the central nervous system wears you down like nothing else is able. With the tooth out, my gum stitched up, and the hurt gone, for the first time I felt the pleasure of post-pain fatigue. Back home, on that winter's afternoon, with the fire murmuring and the TV humdrum in the room, I slipped into a deep, pure sleep and recovered from the exertions of chronic pain.

On the train I woke up. I'd been daydreaming, falling forward and drifting off as the french countryside flashed by. It was just that period of summer where the temperature really drops in the evening, and just that hour in the evening where the sun saturatess the countryside in dark gold, like everything has found God and belongs to the light. I shuffled up in my chair, tight against the soft felt seat, wondering how far away Lyon was and thinking of the injection I'd have once home.

My second tooth was the last innocent one I lost. Again it was a top right molar. I had chipped it opening a beer bottle and almost a year later, decaying from the inside out, cold air was snaking in and I was back on deadly doses of painkillers. A week later I was once again sitting in my dentists, with no appointment, and in just as much agony as before. She removed it in pretty much the same fashion as the first one, though this time replaced it with an artificial screw in replacement. She told me that if I didn't start brushing my teeth regularly that by thirty I'd have none left. I explained that toothpaste and powder makes me gag as my step-father used to sometimes shove a spoonful of powder or paste in my mouth and made me chew it around, froth it up and spit it out. She said: Well, if it's just the taste of mint you can't bear??? And then flogged me a strawberry dental toothpaste, three times as small and three times the price. As I've never let any woman rob me twice, it was the last time I saw her.

For a while I looked after my teeth. I brushed them at least three times a week, which was a mighty improvement from once every six months. The brushing lasted about a month, just long enough to forget the agonizing pain and for the strawberry toothpaste to finish, and then it was a story of neglect and toothbrushes being used for other things, growing bald and mouldy, and never being replaced. The nearest I came to brushing my teeth was rubbing my index finger back and forth across them, and sometimes, wiping over them with cheap toilet paper.

The sun was balanced on the horizon as we hurtled through central France. Small flocks of birds were heading off west and in the fields the cows were gathering for the night and the last tractors were turning out and chugging slowly away. The low golden light hit upon rocks and grass and fence and bushes and cast long shadows that split up the light. Way over, there were streaks of bubblegum pink in the sky. The evening was sat just waiting to come in. I thought of Tony and his family, back in the hotel and all settled down, working off the exertions of their day. I thought again of his little girl Nico and remembered back when I was that age, how the coming evening felt as it wafted in, in that fantastic period between light and dark when the day is done and the magic of all young fantasies and dreams arrive. Then in the window I saw a darkness. It hung like a spectre of death over my far shoulder. Monsieur, it said, Ticket, please. I gave the controller my ticket and turned away as he stamped it. My tooth gave a buzz of pain. Have a nice journey, he said handing the ticket back and smiling. I took the ticket, nodded at his teeth and said, Merci.

I had good teeth like that once, I thought, even after the first two losses. I ran my tongue over all the sharp and broken teeth in my my head, trying to work out in which order I had lost them. It wasn't easy. It's rare whole teeth fall out. They normally come away in bits over months or years. I had lost so many that it'd become nothing, just something that happened while eating or kissing too hard. I'd spit the pieces out like melon pips. What I did know however is that it wasn't heroin which had lost me my teeth. It maybe hadn't helped, and the negligence to dental hygiene through them years had probably helped set up the conditions, but on arriving in France, after seven years of unbroken heroin addiction, I was only four teeth down and a bottom incisor rotted in half. That wasn't bad. Still, during the last 18 months in England I had suffered from chronic toothache and had become something of an aficionado on how to relieve dental pain. Over the next seven years, as I lost more teeth, I would live with extreme toothache on a daily basis and pass months on end swallowing, what to most would be, fatal doses of paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen. Only once more in my life would I need to visit a dentist, finally indulging in self-surgery to relieve myself of even the most chronic of pains.

When I first started proper, high doses of daily methadone the doctor warned me to pay extreme attention to dental hygiene, advising that I rinse then brush my teeth thoroughly for three minutes after taking my dose. Of course I reassured him I would and as soon as I had my script he became just about the least important person on the planet and his words about as memorable as a morning shit. Rather than brushing my teeth after drinking my methadone I let the sugary syrup fill my mouth and run over my teeth and lips, taking pleasure up to an hour later from the sweet spots my tongue would find, a reassurance that I had at least taken something. A year later, a year too late, I learnt that methadone often destroys even the best kept teeth, it's ultra sweetness somehow penetrating all that it comes into contact with, marinating teeth and bone. After just over a year on methadone my teeth were stained a yellowish grey colour and there was hardly a tooth which wasn't either decaying from the base or from the top in. This was the period before any had fallen out and was the start of four years of intensive toothache.

On the train I held my mouth and rested there like that with my eyes closed. I heard snippets of the other passengers conversations and them ordering coffees and sandwiches. But the world, when filtered through pain, seems so bland and drab. In such times none of the artificial or commercial things matter. All that matters is a pain-free existence, and you realise that that is the greatest joy... living without hurt or suffering. That's what we should settle for. Fashion, high cuisine, fantastic ways to waste time, new computer games, what the cousin or sister or brother has done are not important. Just to be pain free is enough. It's why a painful death isn't as bad as it may at first seem. In fact, a painful death is probably the best death one could hope for, because finally death/unconsciousness comes as a welcome and wanted relief from the pain. A long slow painless death on the other hand gives us time to reflect, to see how unfair it is that we're dying yet not even hurting, making us begrudge death and wanting to live more than ever.

I stared at the wall, my eyes streaming tears. Not sad tears, tears from an unbelievable pain that had been raging in my gob for weeks and had over the last three holiday days become intolerable. I was going to do it: smash my head furiously off the brick wall, really putting in fast, hard cracks with all my body weight behind it, to knock my brain into nowhere so the agony would stop. Death really isn't a concern at that point of suffering. My last piece of logic on that bank holiday Monday involved a small steak knife and a pair of wire snippers. I'd only the previous month had a tooth removed by students at the the free university dental practice, which again, for the third time, had been a pressure pain. I'd learnt that unbearable toothache is always pressure pain. All other tooth ache is manageable. Even exposed nerves can be calmed with pain killers and the hurt masked until the nerve is accustomed to the raw life around it. But combustible pressure inside the tooth, where the pain shoots up into your brain and twitches around your face, and doesn't come in throbs but is omnipresent and constant, when the tooth feels like the inside is packed to bursting point with ice, and the pain makes your eyes sear... that pressure there can ONLY be relieved by surgery: by relieving the pressure. I had learnt that. And as no dentist was open, and nowhere free to go, I opened my mouth and trembling, worked the sharp point of the steak knife into the small cavity at the bottom of my tooth. I'd thought about doing it for two days but was petrified that I'd make an insupportable pain worse – and if that happened I'd have become insane. Now I could take it no more. With the tip of the knife in the tooth, and the icy tapped pain feeling like the universe before it imploded, I worked on opening up my tooth. It was a slow procedure as I gingerly twisting the knife around to chip off layers of rotted and weak enamel. Now and again sharp pains would shoot out so violently from the tooth that I'd instinctively sling the knife away as if I'd been hit by a sudden bolt of electricity. When I had worked a big enough hole I closed my mouth and tried sucking out the build up in my tooth. Nothing. Back in with the knife. I worked the tip up and down in the cavity until the hole was big enough to receive the underside pincer of the wire snippers. I positioned the snippers on the tooth, got a firm grip, and with three hard crunches I cracked the tooth in half. An enormous pain shot though my jaw. Barely had I jolted back and tensed up than it was gone and in its wake was calm. I stood staring in the mirror, still holding the cutters, thick stringy black blood drowning my gums and running out my mouth from where I'd accidentally sliced a huge cut in the gum with the knife. I stared inquisitively at my reflection, making sure the pain had really stopped. And it had. Just like that it was gone and the world seemed to shrink back inside me. With the pain gone I became insanely hungry. I was ecstatic on relief alone. Opening my mouth once more I wriggled out a good half of the broken tooth and washed it with the blood down the sink. Then the post-pain fatigue crept in. I felt like I'd taken some extra-strong sleeping pill. With the morning on low, I ate and then slept for 14hrs straight.

Pain makes you sad. It does. I thought that as I stared at the other passengers on the train, as I held my mouth and pressed against the latest toothache. It's not really the pain which gets you though, it's that it forces you to fully exist. It wakes you up and leaves you somehow feeling as if this is deja vu, as if you've experienced it before. It also make you realise that maybe existence isn't fun for everyone. I thought of physical and mental pain and for the first time in my life kinda understood the suicidal... realised what a burning hole of shit suffering is and finally, if it goes on long enough, leaves you looking for the nearest exit . But it wasn't just the toothache which had me thinking over such morose thoughts. I was still reeling from the sadness that had came from Tony's little girl, a multi-layered gloom comprised of physical suffering, longing, wanting, regret, hopes, dreams, nostalgia, loneliness, exile . They all somehow drifted along those tracks with me that day, all of it condensed and concentrated and shoved deep inside a rotten tooth.

The countryside wasn't so dispersed or cut off anymore. Now we'd pass little groups of houses and small towns and factories and electrical plants. The sky was mauve and street and station lights flicked on. Passengers were getting irritable in their seats and some began putting their magazines aside and slowly clearing away all trace of their presence. We were getting near the city. I could sense it: an awakening: something in the air which said that there was a huge dirty bustling sprawl of life not far off. The light was almost done for now. The ticket man was sat alone down the end of the carriage counting his ticket stubs and tapping something into an electronic machine which hung around his neck. Reflections now joined the window, ghostly apparitions superimposed over the world outside. I looked at myself in the glass, my eyes, my mouth which wasn't as wide or as full as it should be. The ache in my tooth throbbed a little more intense but it was hard to understand pain in my reflection.

After being on methadone some years my teeth rapidly deteriorated. It was no longer one tooth here and there; they all began to rot at once. Some turned black and others became brown and soft and porous like wet tree bark. Often (and without exaggeration) when the tooth finally snapped away I could actually chew it down and eat it. Some teeth rotted extremely fast and others very slowly, starting off a small arch of plaque at the base until finally it ate through the enamel and left a little cave entrance into the tender inners. It's at that point there, where there is a small one-way cavity, that you are most vulnerable to come down with severe and debilitating toothache. Food and liquid seep in, weigh down on the nerve, and have no way of getting back out. During those mid years of methadone decay my mouth would seem to me like a big dirty rotten hole of pain. I remember through one sustained bout of toothache how I'd tried to paint the pain, and could only smash black paint onto a canvass and then scratch all thin red lines into it. Chronic toothache is one of those rare pains that can drive a man clear out his mind. After a while the agony becomes so taxing you're no longer even sure what tooth hurts. The pain loses origin and is everywhere: in your head, and up your nose, and shooting through your eyeballs. There was one four month period where I was using 36 ibuprofens a day, everyday, and still squirming around in agony most the time. Every 3 hours I'd swallow six tablets, they'd fully relieve the pain for 30 mins and then it would wear back in. An hour later I'd wake up with my mouth roaring again and have to count down two hours and pace around with my eyes watering before I could re-dose.

Those years, inbetween having teeth and not having teeth, were horrendous times with barely a week passing pain free. Of course, to get toothache you need to have teeth, and as each tooth rotted and crumbled down to the gum it was a degree of beauty lost but also one less place where I could hurt. Now, today, I only have eight full teeth left. Of those eight only one is undamaged and that's a screw-in molar from a previous paragraph. If the downside of this rotten history is losing my Hollywood smile, the upside is that today severe toothache is a rarity. But toothache isn't the only discomfort or consequence of of life-styled teeth.. Rotting teeth means rotting gums, and unsterilised self-surgery means infections and swellings and root and gum abscesses. In conjunction with the tooth ache I also, and still do, suffer regular gum, mouth and throat infections, sometimes the entire side of my mouth swelling up so badly that it affects my vision. Other times the swelling would affect my jaw, a huge burning sensation prickling on for days and leading to throat and gland problems. The gums themselves, at one point, became a huge sore problem. Liquids and food would get down through the missing teeth and pop out as little spots on the gums. Each morning, and after eating or drinking, I had to go through the ritual of pressing along the spots until they popped and then wiping the liquid pus away. Often the food residue just sat trapped along the gum, and when it finally found a way out it smelled of putrid, ulcerated flesh. On other occasions the gum itself will grow over a shard of broken tooth and become torn, swollen and tender and prevent my lips from closing over. Apart from multiple times I've self-operated and cracked open and extracted pressurized teeth, I've also cut and sliced through gum and bled out litres of rotten build up. But more than gum and mouth swellings and sores, the greatest secondary consequence arriving from the years of dental decay was the cosmetic problem it posed. After not even four years of methadone use my teeth were in such awful shape that I had to be careful how I spoke and pronounced words for fear of people seeing. Soon they could catch glimpses no matter what, and sometimes, when I laughed, I'd see people suddenly change and become horrified, wondering what sordid secret life I was leading. Finally I stooped laughing al all and began speaking like a ventriloquist to all but a few very close people in my life.

When the announcement came across the Tannoy that we'd be arriving at Lyon Part-Dieu in two minutes, and hoping that we'd had a pleasant travel, it was dark outside. People began standing up, stretching and yawning and pulling down their bags and cases from the overhead compartments. The controller, now stood up near the far end of the carriage, looked done in as he prepared for his last 30 minutes of shift. I imagined I looked like him, only a little paler. With the toothache annoying me something rotten, and thinking of the bag of heroin in my pocket and the relief it would afford me, I was first one off the train. As I stepped down onto the dark platform, back on familiar terrain, Tony O'neill seemed so far away and I wondered had I really travelled to Paris and back or was it some weird daydream I'd had. The memory was already fading and the emotions of the day trailing off with so many others. In the night, as I walk the length of the platform to the exit, I smoked a cigarette. The smoke drifted up through the light chill in the air, mingled with the night, and then, like rolling mist, was gone.

Sometimes you put so much onto what a fix of heroin will do, that when you finally get your shot it's a disappointment. Naked on my bed, after having emptied almost a bag of gear into my 'Tony vein', I felt next to nothing. There was no gouch, no artificial closing of the day, no magic escape from the sadness or pain that the trip had left me with, no end to the toothache, just a creeping feeling of nausea where my system had slowed down. To get anywhere near the relief I had imagined I’d need at least another two shots. But there were no two shots – I was all out and shot through. For a moment I wallowed in disappointment and then rose and swallowed a good dose of methadone and four painkillers. It had been a long day and returning home to a dark, quiet apartment had made the loneliness seem even more pronounced. In that atmosphere, I closed the light and got in bed with one of my last few teeth a beacon of pain in the dark

And as the night finally killed the city and left just a whirring silence and a few drunken shouts, I lay in my bed, thinking of the day and Paris and how busy and rotten the capital would be just about now. I thought of miles and miles of train tracks and countryside and weird journeys across the heart of America. Sleep was coming and the pain was dulling down. Tonight I couldn't escape myself but tomorrow would be here soon enough. I thought of history and sounds and old legends and stories. I imagined laughter and trips to the moon, childish things as the dark played tricks on my eyes. And soon the pain must have gone, finally been beaten back, as for a moment, in the last days of my life, I thought nor hurt no more.

- - -
 Thanks for your patience... Thoughts and Wishes as Ever,


Anonymous said...

What winsome and tender phrases: that of the ghost of sorrow entering you when you kissed the child's head, the sad poetry of watching the city in reverse. The contemplation of miles and miles of journey and railroad tracks and...America? I'm not sure why, but that was powerful.

Good to read you, as always, Mr. Levene. Wishing you well.

Stacy said...

Another incredible post, Shane…reading it put me through the stages of the toothache. Just a shadow of pain at first, the type you kind of press on, building to almost unbearable (I literally had my mouth clenched and my tongue pressed against my teeth) and back down again. I suppose that is not such an astute observation, but what I am trying to say is this is another beautifully written post.

Thank you so much…hoping all is well.


PS - I remember the first time I emailed you, your reply talked about a horrible toothache you had and the dangerous amounts of ibuprofen you were taking.

Absolut Ruiness said...

I'd never thought about the relief of a painful death and how pain will somehow validate death in one's life. I will hold on to that thought if such an occurrence ever takes place in my life or in somebody's close to me. Your post, as always, took me through your journey so intimately that I'm feeling the same sort of sleepiness which comes after tremendous pain. Not that your post was a pain...oh screw it! I know you understand what I'm trying to say.

Wildernesschic said...

Oh Shane what an amazing post..
Although you had me writhing in sheer horror at the story of the knife. I have had a few tooth issues myself this year and they are not fun .. Yet nowhere near what you have been through.

Even in all that darkness the beauty of your words shine through, I loved the part about Terry's daughter, how you felt and the two postcards to your girlfriend ..

You have been quiet for too long .. but this is so worth it off to share it now

Love Ruth xx

bugerlugs63 said...

Brilliant writing, Shane, as always.
I can relate well to all of this tooth rot. I have eight teeth left and only one is solid. I'm all too aware of that horrified look; I'll be queueing in the supermarket or some such, with my kids and trolley load, looking almost normal . . . The lady behind will start up a conversation and before long I'll see her just wishing she hadn't. True junkie teeth, a real give-away.
I did go and have a top denture made up, but the sight of it worried me.
O well, A great post, well worth the wait. Love to you x x x

darren said...

hi shane. you still never replied to my email (or my last comment) ;) but you're forgiven. do try as i am interested to read what you wanted to say back under the last post.
this entry, i don't know where to begin or what to say. it has a lot of themes and was very tragic in places. why "the last days of my life" at the end?
from a selfish point of view i wish you would post more often. it feels exciting being around as your writing comes through, like i've (we've) found something before anyone else. i know you tip your hat to other writers, i've read them and honestly, not one of them holds a candle to what you're doing.
please try at some time to finish our thread on the last post. daz

Laura said...

shane, thank you for this piece. i felt that pain with you. i've also known that imense feeling of loneliness and pain. the feeling of not smiling and speaking freely, afraid that someone will discover my secret or just be plain repulsed by my appearance. the feeling of lost innocence and the overwhelming need to escape the pain...everything. you're writing is an amazing gift. thank you for sharing it

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

hey Chef... Why America? because in my life there has been so much of that and I've read and watched so many journeys across your country. So sometimes when you express something, you're expressing the general idea and image of it, and those long journeys across America, sometimes just travelling through miles of nowhere or canyon, expressed exactly how my journey had felt as I lay in bed with sleep creeping up on me. Sometimes the best way to express something is to say something else. Just plant an image and a thought within the text.

Love and Thoughts, Shane; XXX

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Stacy, XXX

yeah I think I may at some other time write a much smaller post concentrating on one severe toothache and the journey to and from pain. Because the pain is so relentless and inescapable and rages on for days and sometimes weeks, this post didn't really get to that and was more a history of losing teeth. I'd like a couple of pages dedictaed just to the pain of toothache and nothing more. Kinda give the reader no respite from the agony and the boredom of just laying there suffering.

That's weird, but not surprising about our first mail and the ibuprofen. Still, even now, I must take 50 times the quantity of any normal person. Paracetemol or aspirin no longer works.. so ibus have become my over-the-counter pain-killer of choice. I don't know what my chemist thinks I must be doing with them... probably shooting them as I take clean needles as well! X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

hey Absolut Ruiness... X

Well pain's never pleasant... though a lot of pain is bearable. A broken leg or arm is not torturous but hurts. In a way I think pain, where death is involved, is a natural way of allowing us to accept and welcome death. It's finally a relief. And I think it's true, to die painlessly, over weeks or months or even a day, it must be horrendous psychologically and very hard to accept that it's the end because you feel just like any other day. So death, even when it's there, seems like a huge injustice. The problem is that severe toothache is a pain of existence... there's no death at the end and we know it. It forces you to exist fully at the very moment you don't want to. Oh, it gets complex when I think too much of it and here's not really the place to contemplate pain... such a happy house it is! hahaha

Hope you're well A.R.. I think for the other site I may at some stage tell the story of living with an Indian chef and him introducing me to authentic Indian cuisine and ingredients, etc. Though at some stage I tell people I'm gonna write on just about everything and then never do... X

Stacy said...

Yes, I meant the history of your tooth loss followed the rise and fall of a/the severe toothache…anyhow, even though we were lucky enough to just get a post, I am very much looking forward to the next. XXX

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Ruth... yes, a while back we mailed about dental problems. I think one severe toothache in life is enough... you never forget it. In that way my hurt is no greater than anyone who has experienced it.

I've repeatedly said here that writing isn't a pleasure for me and I despise the process and really can think of so many things to do which is so much more worthwhile. The final, finished piece is the only thing I enjoy, but getting there is a chore which I often put off. last week I did just about anything I could so as I didn't have to write.

I kept saying: "Right, now I'm really gonna do some writing."

As soon as i opened the document I said, "but i'll just tidy the room first." In the end, to get out of writing, I tidied the apartment, mopped the floor, washed the dishes, went shopping, played inline snooker, washed my clothes, ironed them, picked at scabs, cleaned the fridge, did sit ups, jogging, played the guitar, watched films, sowed stuff onto my jeans... I even scrubbed the toilet!

"Oh, I'll jsut do this first and then I'll really get into it!"

I always have to force myself to write past the first draft. The first draft is quick and painless but shit and unreadable... just kinda locking ideas and natural poetry into place. Then the hard work begins. Writing seriously exhausts me... doesn't take me away to the fantastic and relaxing places many writers claim it does. Normally after writing I sleep. But... but... something compels me to do it. I always have and suspect always will. It finally has some kind of worth when you capture something that no longer even exists. I suppose it's like saving yourself. Though I suppose if you're paid a few hundred grand per book it'd become much more pleasurable. XXX

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Online snooker... not inline snooker (that's something else!) X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Bugerlugs... 8 teeth, then we're pretty even. I may go and pull one out after this just so as I'm still winning. I want to be the junkie with the least teeth here! X

Oh, I would wear dentures.... i think of them a bit and even tried to make a pair using wire and chewing gum. But seriously, if I could afford the dental work I'd do it, but here, as in the UK, dentistry is a side of healthcare that is very expensive. I don't overly worry about it... what is, is. But I never wanted that and would happily change it if I could. At least if I hand dentures I would have the choice. Maybe I'd just remove them if I wanted to impress a girl or something! X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey darren... Oh, yes I'll reply to your comment but I really felt I had a lot to say and so prefer to say it when i've the time to say it properly. One day it'll be there... i'll drop you a mail when I do so (or you can subscribe to the comments and get it that way).

The last days of my life...

Well, I'm not thinking of dying, if that's why you ask. I always write with one eye on the passing of time and in the context of it all I suppose these really are the last days of my life. In 100 years it'll make much more sense and mean more. I also used that phrase earlier on in the text and it was a nice way to end playing back on something that'd almost been said before. It's like if you paint a picture and use blue up in the top left corner, you can always use a touch of the same blue down in the bottom right corner.. to finish things with a balance.

The opening line was actually with time in mind too. It wasn't two years ago I met with Tony but last year. So 'the summer of the year before last' will only be the case next year. But it makes the time a little less definite and in two or fifty years from now it'll be a much better opening than specifically talking of a certain year which will date the piece in the wrong way. I'm typing fast so that may not all make total sense.

Anyway.. hope you're well darren... all my thoughts, Shane. X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

hey laura... and welcome if it's you're first time here. I think in many ways a woman with bad teeth gets it even harder than a man. We can kinda scar and bruise and swell and have our teeth knocked out and almost get away with it, but for a woman, it's got to be so much harsher. Well, at least Hollywood never got us... at least it represents something real. X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

hey again Stacy... Oh don't worry, it's me. I read the comments and then reply without a record in front of me and sometimes go off on one thought which often ends up not really having anything to do with the original comment. X

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, as always... And well worth the wait. Only you could craft tooth pain into such a piece of art.

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

There's a new post on So Dog We Were

Who's Uncle Now?

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

hey anonymous... maybe that's you Jim??? But i'm not certain of that...

Whoever, thanks for your words and time... These posts are just for us... X

Unknown said...

Thank you again sir :) enjoyed it! There is something intoxicating about a little kids hair/head, ain't it? Especially a clean one. And the teeth, wow. Spot on. I've taken a razor blade to my gums myself out of desperation. Made for a funny story, the next morning when my husband woke up to see my face swollen up for no reason he knew of. "You did WHAT?!"

Wishing you a pleasant day,

Graeme W said...


Another great post. Your writing style is so visceral and really bristles with all the acute observations you make about your life and surroundings.

I've pretty much read all of your posts on this site over the last month or so. I want to thank you for sharing your life in this way. Some of what you have said has touched a real nerve with me. I'm a relatively 'new' H user. I started 6 months ago. I'm a snorter and have not graduated to the needle. I guess I'm too scared to as I figure that would be the downhill path I'm not willing to take, plus I value the life I have with my partner and don't want her to find out as I'm sure it would devastate her. Also, I'm holding down a well paid job and am relied on for support and paying the bills.

I know I'm an addict and am being selfish but at the moment I don't want to quit. I love H but I also loathe it and wish I'd never decided to dabble in it. Familiar story I know but at the moment I have no idea how it will end.


JoeM said...

God, parts of this were like watching one of those surgical operation documentaries – except with writing you can't look away from the screen!

I liked the way it was supposed to be about teeth but really wasn't.

I left Tony that day by kissing his daughter on the top of her head and watching his little family walk away in one direction as I headed off in the other.

There were a whole load of touching metaphors like that. I recognized I think the American reference - we must have watched the same Road Movies, the sense of endless space.

Just to be pain free is enough.

I'd settle for that. Four corners of the chair.

So heroin doesn't work for toothache? I thought it was the ultimate painkiller.

I think if you continue to take 36 ibuprofen you won't have to worry about suicide! I didn't think you could survive that.

Oh well Bowie and Johnnie Rotten had terrible teeth. All you need to do is sell your anarchy like they did theirs. And Hollywood dentists will taken care of the rest. Easy!

Did Tony try to talk you into quitting?

Anonymous said...

Sorry - not a Jim. Not even a male. Just too lazy to log in to comment. ~Desiree (anon)

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hiya Joe... Yeah that post seemed to encompass quite a bit and was maybe the most complex post I've written here. Complex in format and how there's multiple themes running through it. It took a while to write and was nearly abandoned on at least three occasions.

I think one of the most telling lines I've written is in that post... where I say about sitting on the train watching what is past and not wanting to see what's coming from up ahead.

Heroin vs Toothache

It's complex. I did initially explain this in the post but removed it as it took the post way off sideways. heroin/strong opiates do not relieve ALL pain. Opiates will NEVER take away many headaches. It has something to do with the types of pain we suffer: central nervous pain and .. er... well, there's another but I forget what it is. Opiates only work on one of the types of pain, and stuff like paracetamol and ibuprofen work on the other. They do crossover on some pains too. So, for a headache, two paracetamol will relieve it but no amount of heroin will... infact it will aggravate it. Saying that, toothache is a pain which opiates can relive, and if a non addict took a shot of heroin it'd probably relive even chronic toothache. BUT, when you're an addict you body levels out after a while and pain and sensation rise above the drug and effect you as they do when you're straight. So as an addict with toothache you've already got huge doses of heroin in you and the pain has already pushed on past it. To take more heroin will have no effect as it only serves to normalize your body and sensation. In the post I put my hopes into the heroin I had in paris relieving the pain when i got home. That was because I was half and half on methadone and heroin in that period and so heroin still worked as a painkiller. It still never took the pain, which I finally cured with four ibuprofen. I wish I could find an od article I read as it was very simple and clear. I researched it years ago wondering why the hell a huge dose of heroin wouldn't take my headaches away and yet paracetamol did.

No, Tony never tried to talk me into quitting and I'm sure he never will. He's one of the rare addicts who doesn't push what worked for him (not totally though) onto others. He also observed heroin and it's affects and his own self under it's influence and knows it'd be a huge waste of time in him (or anyone) trying to convince someone else to get sober. I instantly lose respect for any ex-addict who preaches sobriety... for me it says way too much about them. I will support it in a non-user as they've not the self-experience to know better. But no, Tony's not like that and Iv'e also never read an article or text of his where he has ever tried to convince anyone else or preaches about the benefits of sobriety. Where being clean may benefit in some ways it will always damn you in others. However, I did try and talk him into retaking up old habits! hahaha


Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Desiree... I know an african transvestite who goes my that name. Oh, but that's besides the point... WELCOME! X

Faith Bookworm said...

Hi! Just writing to let you know that I love your entire Memoires blog and the Love's Down Tango post on your latest other blog! I look forward to reading more of your work and consider it a crime that your work isn't yet available in book form. I'd most definitely buy your book. I wouldn't even wait for the paperback version - I'd spring for the more expensive hardcover! I hope some independent press like either Sun Dog Press in Michigan, Akashic books in Brooklyn, City Lights in San Francisco, Chiasmus Press in Washington run by Lidia Yuknavitch or maybe a French publisher or the literary agent Carrie Kania now in England or a major press with actual integrity gets in touch soon. Your work is too good and as a reader I appreciate the thought and care you put forth.

Faith Bookworm said...

Oh yeah I also meant to mention that this post wigged me out about my own tooth situation. At present I have all my teeth - 32 total & I really need to get rid of 4 wisdom teeth but I keep putting it off because I'm scared to go & get it done. I dislike getting needles in my gums & am scared of having to endure being stuck sitting in a chair with my mouth open or my mouth bleeding/getting swollen cheeks & pain/stitches etc. My mouth is crowded & I have a small mouth to begin with. The last time I went to the dentist he said my teeth are pretty cavity resistant (& he seemed disappointed at that lol) & that I have TMJ & got fitted for a custom $600 mouth guard to wear at night to stop involuntary teeth grinding & clicking but I stopped wearing that because it was annoying. Today I went to the drugstore & bought 8 tubes of toothpaste - whitening, w/fluoride & w/o, sensitive, organic, children's, various flavors - orange mango, vanilla mint, wintermint, sweet mint, soothing mint, tea tree oil extra fresh, aloe vera mineral & herbal, 6 different types of flosses - unwaxed, waxed, unflavored, flavored -icy spearmint, cinnamon, mint & one made of silk, 3 types of mouthwash - plaque loosening, a restoring anticavity w/fluoride & an alcohol free mild mint antiseptic one w/ hydrogen peroxide, 3 new soft toothbrushes - one even claims to be a whitening one. Luckily I saved $15 by using manufacturer's coupons. This haul should last me a good while. Tony O'Neill has a poem in I think it was his poetry book Songs from the Shooting Gallery a line I liked about brunette girls with crooked teeth. Tracey Emin writes a lot about her various tooth problem saga in her books. OK a little TMI. Ciao for now.

Gravediggin' Under the Mancy Way said...

Hey Shane,
I've been on four tubes of Colgate a day since reading this.
Depending on poetic license, you should be eligible for dental implants if you wanted extra teeth, or could bare it. Sometimes, dental students do them for free. Then again, I have a feeling they want people to give up smoking to qualify...hmmmm....if you're anything like me with the cigs, that's unlikely. And they sound more painful than toothache.

I remember one particular drugs worker refusing me methadone (method one) and opening his nearly tooth-free mouth at me to illustrate his point.
That was one of the best things I got out of rehab: forced dental appointments. There was this dentist just down the road who did teeth for all the rehab inmates. First thing I noticed when I arrived was all the people who had been there a while had at least one gold tooth or gold filling.
Being the curious kind of bird (though not a fan of flossing or dentists), I made enquiries. Turns out this dentist's giving everyone gold on the NHS for reasons of "self esteem". Bridges; crowns; fillings; veneers.
So I go to the appointment, get 3 gaping holes drilled, get 'em filled with that mercury amalgam crap.
"Eh, eh!" I say to the geezer, through my numb mouth, "That tastes disgusting. I think I'm gonna be sick: I can't stand the taste of this stuff in my mouth. My mate told me you did gold."
"Ahh, why didn't you say so before?"
So I had to fill in the forms about the amalgam giving me low self esteem and worrying that the fillings were poisoning me or some such stuff. And I got gold.
Funny thing with dentists is that I really can't stand injections in my mouth. And why the Victorian-lookin syringe? It's macabre. I always thought they should encourage more people to visit the dentist by offering a shot of the good stuff to alleviate the fear.
You probably do better self-operating. Last time I visited the dentist with toothache, the woman drilled and filled a tooth that was perfectly good for no reason and lied (?) that the one that was hurting was fine.
Anyway, I'm going on with myself as usual, and nearly forgot to say thanks for another great story. I hope you're well, Shane.
Right, going over to So Dog We Were to check out what's going on with uncles...
Love,inspiration& long life,
Vee X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Graeme, thanks for reading and the time and all...

Graeme you must never forget that H is an inanimate rock/powder. You can neither love nor hate or despise 'H'. There must be something else which you love and hate but are focusing that onto something which is quite blameless. Heroin can't get in our bodies by itself.... so maybe the evil isn't the smack?

Anyway, I hope you don't get lost in your addiction... many do.

All My Besy, Shane.

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

hey Faith & Welcome... X

You know, forgetting publishing and books and all, i'd be content if a publisher just paid me to write and took all the rights and did whatever the fuck they wanted with them. I'd settle for that. Enough to live and write and continuing on posting online. I wouldn't turn a book down and would of course be excited about it, but I don't write to get into print... I write to be read and so see the internet as a great publishing tool.

But I think something will eventually happen.

Wisdom teeth... I don't want to scare you even more but wisdom teeth extraction is usually done under general anaesthetic by a dental surgeon. You have to go to hospital for that not your dentists. I forget why and can't be fucked googling, but I know a few people who've had their wisdom teeth removed and it meant a full morning in the hospital with a general anaesthetic. God knows how they'll ever get out whats left of mine. My wisdom teeth are four big holes leading into my gums. There's still bits of tooth left way down and the roots, but I imagine would be a hell of a job getting them full out.

Oh Well... thanks again for reading and showing yourself... All My Best, Shane. X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Vee... Oh, there was no poetic licence used there.. I've really only 8 teeth left. I'm not sure implants are an option as before that they'd have to fully extract the teeth which are gone and get the shards and stumps of root out. I've one implanted tooth, a back molar, and the things are great and are even sensitized. You honestly cannot tell that it's not a real tooth. I looked into getting some dentures, but wanted them without having any dental work done and the dentist wasn't having it. It's also very expensive and so at the moment isn't an option. Dental work here is just as expensive as it is in the UK.

When I went to the free students dentist they were so shocked at the decay and the self-surgery I had performed that the professor who observes each student working asked if I'd mind allowing the other students to have a look. I said No, and then had 8 or 10 masked assassins peering in and around my mouth. One had very beautiful eyes though... I almost fell in love looking into them with the morning pain all gone.


bugerlugs63 said...

Hi again, I was just reading the comments and replies and wanted to add. Yes, I've had the upper denture made and it's sat in my cupboard . . . To get it fitted I have to go into hospital, under general anaesthesia, to have my remaining top teeth (the main two front ones, and canines) removed, along with any remaining roots and shards. They refuse to take these out whilst I'm awake . . Oh well.
The only time I've found junkie teeth to be an advantage, is when trying to score in a new town/city!
And you're right, I'm sure womem are more harshly judged because of it.

Faith Bookworm said...

Hi again Shane. Yeah here they do wisdom tooth extractions with an oral surgeon. The last time I went for a dental check up was in 2006. The time before that was in 1995. I wait too long to go just for checkups. In 2006 I had gingivitis - my gums were bleeding every time I brushed or flossed or got a poppyseed or sesame seed from a bagel wedged in between teeth. Your attitude on publishing is a good outlook to have. I'd be happy to have the privilege of reading your words wherever they are either via the Internet or the printed page. I don't have one of those e-readers and I'm not too sure how I feel about them personally. I spend too much time looking at a computer screen as it is. There is a piece that the working class poet Eileen Myles wrote on her tooth/dental history you might enjoy:


Anonymous said...

Love your blog, so poetic and elloquant (spl? I'm dsylexic and using phone so no spell check). I wish you hadn't surcumbed to the depths of heroin addiction that you have. Your talent in writing could get you far. I too am an addict. 6 years now, with crack being my DOC. I take subutex (only 0.6mgs a day, which i use about 0.4mgs of for maintenance and sniff larger amounts when I want to smoke). I was addicted to brown for years 2-4 of my addiction. I've only ever smoked it in a spliff though, as I'm rubbish at chasing. The other addicts I know (around 6) also only smoke mainly in spliffs, most often along side crack. I've always wondered why people more addicted had bad teeth. But I guess there are three factors explaining why. 1) being crack heads, we would have the energy and motivation to clean their teeth. 2) only smoking b meant you were rarely nodding (which is kinda like being half unconsious to those who don't know) for hours and 3) we were on subutex not methadone. I've wanted to comment for ages. Bless. Cat Woman x

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Thanks faith I'll pop over and read the link tomorrow and get back to you. X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

hey Ya cat Woman and Welcome! X

Dyslexic is cool... it's a more evolved way at looking at and using words. If I was a publisher I'd publish dyslexic writers without using a spellcheck.

I don't think the addiction affects the writing in any way - good or bad. heroin (or any drug) cannot make you a good or bad writer... we're either it or not. Some drugs can make you write a whole lot of shit, sure... but iy's still either well or poorly written shit. Personally I NEVER write on heroin... I can't. So for the past four years, as I've taken writing more and more seriously, I've kept to a three day heroin habit and four days on methadone (which allows me to get my writing done). The heroin days aren't wasted, I still get ideas and thoughts down and work around the periphery of writing, but I never (or very rarely) write anything. It also gives me a break from the texts which is very important... and I think, I probably write just as much (maybe more) than a non-using, tee-total writer. because writing is a big passion you learn (have no choice) but to make room for it... you make it work regardless. The same as someone staving would do... you work around the bouts of hunger.

I had a huge crack problem while I was living in London. It was actually a real, unwanted addiction... where I wanted to stop, tried to stop and couldn't (which has never been the case with heroin. I've never had the inclination or desire to quit.) So crack for me was an addiction I really didn't enjoy but couldn't stop. Finally, on coming to France, a place where crack isn't available, I lost that addiction and haven't smoked or shot crack for over seven years.

I think long term heroin addiction, especially if your habit is not financially stable, changes your priorities so much that brushing your teeth just isn't a concern when your entire well-being is at stake. So priorities change and if they are changed over so many years there will be consequences. But we musn't forget that junkies with bad teeth are memorable and junkies with hollywood teeth are not so much. But I know just as many long term junkies with good teeth than I do with bad. Mostly, those with bad teeth are not only long term users but have also been on and off methadone their entire adult lives. The methadone really does eat right through teeth.

Anyway, it's all life Cat Woman and in the context of history it really matters so little. Whether we're saints, angels, junkies or bank clerks,w we're all gonna get it. Our fate is a common one separated by years... We just have to try and live with ourselves and learn to accept what is coming our way.

Thanks for your words and touching base... All My Thoughts, Shane. X

Gravediggin' Under the Mancy Way said...

Hey Shane,
Hahaha, that's one type of anaesthetic: beautiful eye therapy.
You never know: some of the shards and stumps may be useful. They may be able to make prosthetic teeth and fix them in on metal rods. That procedure's free in the UK, so may be in France.
And as opinions vary considerably from dentist to dentist, you may have to shop around. I've seen teeth saved that had been pronounced unsaveable. Call them Lazarus teeth. Yeah, the shards and stumps sound more useful than the empty sockets. Good luck.
As for writing on heroin...never?
I wrote some real cringe-factor poems on heroin: the usual romanticisation bullshit which will stay in the notebook it was scrawled on.
And I wrote all but the last two chapters of my book on heroin. Maybe that explains the ridiculous time it took me to finish. My not-on-heroin writing is debatably better, but I blame time, not heroin. I was younger then.
I wrote some ridiculously elongated and barely readable stuff on weed. Stream of barely-consciousness flowing like diarroeah.
Love&Inspiration and one-day-to-be-happy teeth,
Vee X

Gravediggin' Under the Mancy Way said...

Yeah, it's definitely the methadone. Heroin does not rot your teeth, but I admit teeth were not a priority for me and my teeth are imperfect. I avoided methadone. Long story, but would avoid it again if possible. A lot of people complain that they were never warned about the tooth-loss side effect before being prescribed methadone. I wonder if anyone's ever been successful in getting free dental implants after sueing the NHS for tooth loss. X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey vee,

No, I never write on heroin. I mean, I sit in the same position, I put fingers to keyboard, I type a few words, but a few words become no more and without fail finish like thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii (sometimes for 50 or 100 pages).

It's not that heroin takes away my desire or urge or creativity, it doesn't, it's just that to write, and to write something worthwhile, that really gets to heart of what you want to express, that takes a lot of mental energy and you need to have a period of sustained consciousness for that. To keep nodding off and losing the feel and the atmosphere of what you're writing leads to loads of distinct and unmarried parts. Each small paragraph may be good or great, but it ends there and the piece as a whole becomes a mess.

So I do a lot of mental writing and note taking while on heroin and get the texts done while on methadone/straight. So heroin allows you to create mentally but really hampers production... nothing gets done or is very very slow.

In Londo I was writing on paper, in notebooks. In seven years of writing I didn't even fill one notepad, and what was in it was short descriptions on all and everything and off course the pen pulled down the page until it was off the bottom. I've written poetry on heroin. That's possible. Have you never realised how many addicts write poetry? (all small one page at most poems). It's no coincidence. The poem is like an egg-timer of consciousness for the addict... he has time just for that before the sands run out.


Graeme W said...

Hey Shane,

Thanks for your reply. And your wise words:

"There must be something else which you love and hate but are focusing that onto something which is quite blameless. Heroin can't get in our bodies by itself.... so maybe the evil isn't the smack?"

You're quite right. The issue isn't the H which is harmless of itself. The issue is me choosing to abuse it because of the fact that I want the self loathing and feeling of low self esteem to dissolve, just for a little while. H helps me do that. It helps me feel the nothingness and stop the ridiculous, endless chatter in my head. I think Dave Gahan said this when he was addicted. I don't want to end up like him though! Speedballs aint my thing ;-)

Thank you for your concern. I don't want to get lost in my addiction either and counselling is helping me.

I'll keep reading.

Graeme W

Dan said...

Dear Shane,

I've been reading your blog for about two years now, and I've always wondered one thing, well, not always, but still: What does this blog mean to you? I try to put myself in your shoes, which is, a difficult task, and what makes me wonder every time when I imagine myself in your life is "What is keeping me alive?"

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

hey Dan, as you've been reading for two tears I take it it's not a veiled insult and will answer as such.

Life keeps me alive. The same as what keeps you going. And even though the end is hopeless, existence is ultimately hopeless, there is something rooted in us that makes us carry on regardless... my instinct of existence is the same as yours. My writing is actually one long answer to your question, so if you've been reading closely you'd have maybe had no need to ask. You'll repeated see the words 'hope' and 'hopelessness' side by side here, juxtaposed... that's why.

I think you maybe mis-understand, or have been led astray by certain things other heroin users ofte say and rumour about themselves. They talk about heroin as if it's their way of escaping life because it's so shitty. They myth make and talk of a dance with death, and constantly moan on about living. They propagate the idea of the tortured soul... of someone so wild and self-destructive that life means nothing and they just want death. It's a myth - a myth many addicts peddle so as they can revel in that image and idea. It's marketing. It's how they want the world to see them when they are not really it. If they were it, tehre's a very quick and easy way out. To continue living is never an accident. The real truth is this:

1) Addicts take heroin because rather than wanting to dir, they want to live. If you wanted to die why would you numb the pain? Numbing the pain only helps you to live life, no? So life maybe shitty, but they want to live and they use heroin to make that easier.

2) Addicts are not wild, self-destructive people. Wildness works against addiction. In contrast, addicts become the safest least wild people you'll ever meet. Anything, any small chance that could lead to them being ill is a no-go. So the addict tiptoes around his day, trying to be inconspicuous, safe, take as little risk as possible. That's the truth right there. It's the truth for me. Many will deny it because that's not the image they want. But when you look at it, what addiction is, there can be no denying it.

So I use heroin to live. In the past it was needed, now I do it because... well, I don't know why... addiction evolves and becomes something else.

I think you could ask your question to anyone who works 8 or more hours a day. eats, sleeps, works, is paid peanuts, 75% of their entire life spent working for nothing. What forces them to carry on living? Scrubbing toilets or shovelling bricks for 50 years? Packing boxes? Adding up numbers? Organizing team bonding exercises? Replacing train tracks? Installing lifts? Spraying cars? 8 or 12 or 16 hours a day, every day, until 65... by which age illness becomes a problem. Do those people have any real, intelligent reason to carry on living??? Do you? Heroin is no bigger waste than anything else... it's just more life-filler... something to pass the time and ease us into the big nothing.

Thanks for reading and commenting... all My Thoughts, Shane. X

Gravediggin' Under the Mancy Way said...

Hey Shane,
I was speaking with a friend today who was asked the same question and told "But you're killing yourself! Why, oh why do you do it to yourself?"
Do people go up to steel workers, coal miners:
"But you're killing yourself! Why do you do it to yourself?"
I worked in an advice centre once. People with illnesses from working in the above jobs needed help filling in DLA claims and suchlike. Six months to live. Eight weeks to live. Chronic pulmonary obstructive disease and suchlike. For what?
I've been reading up on theories of heroin addiction.
They talk a lot about identity being somehow "vacated".
I don't see how heroin addiction necessarily cancels out identity or becomes a person's sole identity as many suggest. Adds to it if one wishes to identify as a heroin addict, but why should it cancel out the other qualities?
The chaos that can ensue with having to support and maintain a habit can sometimes leave little time for other things, but this isn't always the case. The majority of heroin addicts are the hidden ones eh?
Even the times I was totally fucked, I didn't suddely just disappear inside my own nothingness and forget "who I was"
I think non-addicts create their own supposed version of an addict's "identity". How THEY see US. External vs Internal identity. There was a time when I loved parading my junkiedom. Depending on the audience.
There's more often than not a shock, horror reaction. Parents disown children. Children disown parents.
There's that "tough love" nonsense.
I knew people who sold all their parents' things and were disowned; people who worked to fund their habits and were disowned; a mother who injected her daughter; a mother who went scoring for her son: she kept him home and paid for his heroin and crack. Every story's different.
It's always the same though. Heroin's an oxymoron.
When you say "lose yourself in your addiction" I remember being told by non-heroin using people:
"Do you never talk about anything else but heroin?"
There was one article about people who became abstinent without treatment. They did research on 101 addicts around identity before, after, during. Stigma stopped many from being accepted, so most kept their past secret.It's exactly this anonymity which feeds the stigma.
Here's an excerpt from cyn.com:

"Life Addiction Has Great Personal Emptiness

A person with drug addiction or alcoholism
has great emptiness in their life. That’s more than likely why they begin drinking
excessively in the first place. They may have felt the need to block some of their self understanding and emotions as a child or young adult. Sexual abuse, divorce, mentally ill parents, family chaos – any of these things may have disrupted their process of self understanding. When the emptiness becomes too much, drinking and drug use cover up the pain. This blocks even more self understanding and personal growth. Their identity has been fuzzy and disrupted for such a long time, their drug or alcohol use becomes the most obvious element of their identity"
There's something patronising about it somehow.
What do they mean by emptiness? By "fuzzy" and "disrupted" identity?
Obvious to the outsider or to themselves?
With me, there's a pride there.
Another common identity thing is the "recovering addict" identity, the "My name's * and I'm an addict" identity...
I'm not getting along so well with that one at the moment and to be honest I never have.
I got told in rehab that I'll always be fifteen if I don't heed their program because I "never grew from that point". Great! I like being forever fifteen. Shame about the body. Bloody liars!

Vee X

Gravediggin' Under the Mancy Way said...

Hey again Shane, Geez, that message kept not posting because they said it was too long so I had to chop it down a lot.
I was also interested in Tony's thoughts on being a father. I often wonder how my heroin addiction will affect my kids as they grow up. Like Tony, I've not had that active addiction stuff going on whilst my kids have been around, but I make no secret of it.
I talk about it, write about it, discuss it.
The drugs education in schools is good for nothing.
Classic quote from my daughter:
"Mummy, in school, when they do drugs education, do the teachers give the children drugs?"
Do I worry about my kids becoming addicts in the future? Anyone can become an addict, not just kids of addicts. What will be will be. At least I wouldn't disown them if they did!
I was reading this Dalai Lama stuff last night, how suffering is necessary to make us compassionate. I like that.

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Vee... excuse me I'm not ignoring you was just caught up with some other writings and haven't had time to give a proper reply. When I do I'l drop a little email your way letting you know that there's something to read..

Love and thoughts, Shane XXX

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MOnique said...

The perils of a toothache... Lol.. However, taking to my mouth with a knife?? I could never.. Just too many painkillers and an anxious wait at the dentist!
Love love... Xxxxx

NickTheLick said...

Hello man,
Just started reading your fascinating blog... I must say I can relate to a lot of the using (I mark sure-fire veins with pens too!). I've been using for 13 years now... Got battered hands and arms, scars, missing teeth... The pic I've got is of an old wound from shooting, it was about 2cm deep, there's a joint hanging out of it!
My health is just now starting to get a bit, well, iffy shall we say?!
Anyways, just sorta saying 'Hi' basically, and will be reading more of yer stuff. I'm gonna be posting up old stories of my escapades soon... at the mo there's just a half finished trip report (which is quite fun to read)...
All the best,

Kill the Sun said...

This post has made me start brushing my teeth more. For almost a year now, so your writing has power. That disgusting brush still makes me gag... tooth-past flavor makes no difference for me. For some reason I thought you would like to know.

I don't think I can relate to that amount of tooth pain... the worst that I have experienced was a dentist drilling my tooth without anesthetic... Luckily I've only had contact with methadone in pill form.

I will be in Paris in about a month... maybe I will see you... probably not.

Tatiana said...

Beyond anything i can say.I cried. Im still crying. Fuck you. I mean thank you. Thank you. Reading your words i feel parts of my own pain and ugliness redeemed. Reading your words, i feel ok to sit with my brokenness without having to stuff it down with false feel good palliative phrases or vacuous activity. You are a true artist and though your body may be in shambles, you are a jewel.

Shane Levene said...

Be warned crying before me, My Girl... I kiss tears away and drink them and become a living dying poet in such tender moments. In that embrace there exists no pain or ugliness, just darkness and warmth and dreamy passions. Many people don't know how to cry.... They look ugly and selfish through it. But real, wet and honest tears are beautiful and I'm a sucker for such passions. So cry, My Darling, and I'll drink and like that we'll become stronger together. X

Anonymous said...

Morning! It's sunny in Sunny old Swansea today. Has your page layout changed recently - or have I accidentally stumbled upon a different version? Anyway.... I like it. My memory for stuff like that is awful. I'm sure it has changed. If it has, let me say something nice about it.. I can't think of the word im looking for - all I know is that 'congratulations' isn't the one. "Congratulations on your new website" just seems so wrong. I read this story following the one about a brother and sister (Shelley?) alongside yourself as kids. I was sat in the waiting room of the dentist, uncannily, and found myself looking at my kids play in the corner, wondering what life is going to throw their way.
We weren't at the dentist for myself. I luckily will never have to endure dental pain ever again, but a simple check up for my daughters. I terrify them both into good oral hygiene. I too, suffered the delightful tooth decay and disease that methadone brings. Within eight years, I went from not having a single filling (due to sheer luck) to a mouth of a geriatric. I have no teeth whatsoever. I have a full set of false teeth - that get pulled out and flashed at the kids whenever they try to avoid brushing their teeth. I loved reading this. It's such a taboo subject, nobody wants to talk about it, so reading your words has filled a space in my brain where a memory of a conversation should be. I thank you for this! Really! People will happily speak about their constipated shit or their runny shit, their abscessed groin but teeth? Never!
I ended up having my beautiful broken brown stumps and root pulled out three years ago. I have never been so pleased. I cam smile 😊, I can laugh and talk to anyone I feel like. Ultimately, the best bit was the pain. Knowing that unless I got some kinda gum infection I would never have to go through that pain EVER. It's also a nice plaster which covers up the only (apart from ageing quickly) visible unwanted gift leftover from my affairs with heroin. I relapsed for a few months earlier on this year, but am back on the straight (apart from methadone) and narrow.
I think you've been sent via a cyber angel (or the World Wide Web's Big Brother is more likely). Your writing has helped me so much recently
I need to remember the pain, the daily grind, the empty promises and pockets. The hours waiting for 'twenty minutes', the death, the dirt, lighters broken and revived using multiple parts from each one... People who have 'sorted' (I'm nowhere near sorted..but) themselves out just won't talk about it. Strange...as they are all very good at telling people about how clean they are when they aren't. I need to talk about it. Or I forget
I need to remember. I need to be halfway through the door. I'm not sure why. Safety net? Do you know what I'm on about?
Thanks' to you again.
Lots of love...Kate from Sunny old Swansea.
P.S...have you made it back to the UK yet?

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Kate... just a very quick reply for now to let you know i've seen your comment and will reply properly just as soon as i'm at my computer (probably this evening).

Until then...

All My Best, Shane... X

Anonymous said...

Morning Shane (or whatever time you read this)
It's Kate in AGAIN sunny Swansea. How exciting eh? Two days in a row!
Well. I figured out the 'new website'. Oh how silly I am.
I thought I may start the day off by finding something to read on the 'new website, as I found loads of links to other stuff on there, only to be sent to another site. A site I recognised! There, I saw a link, reading 'web version'. I have seen this link before but have always ignored it. Today however, I was devilish and pressed it and hey presto! The 'new website'. Hmm...dozy twat!
Anyway, that's enough of that and I'm off for a read. Thanks for replying and hope to hear from you soon. Wishing that your day is a good one, at least half decent? Hope so.
Kate xx

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey again Kate... no, as you've already figured, the site hasn't changed. It is always being slightly modified and added to but the overall look has been like so since its very beginning.

I don't think it's important what life throws your kids way, it's more important how they leave their childhood and enter adulthood... how they'll be prepared to face the challenges that life poses them. We're all gonna face our equal share of good and bad events - they'll arise regardless of anything - it's how we deal with them events which is important and which will shape our lives. All you can do as a parent is try your damnedest to spare them any severe emotional or physical abuse and have them enter adulthood with the least amount of trauma possible. I think that's the best start they can have.

The teeth... well junkies don't mention it because it doesn't have any cool stakes attached to it. And for all the moaning about the myths and stereotyping of addicts, it's often the addicts who are the worst perpetrators of them all. As with you the heroin didn't affect my teeth, it was the methadone which rotted them away and very quickly too. There was a time when i was on 30 ibuprofens every day for months... my mouth constantly felt like a hole of pain.

No, I've not made it back to the UK yet. I should be there before the end of the year... I hope so at any rate. This country I've come to detest and most the people who I've met too. It's a nice novelty for a while but people are people wherever you go and none are better or worse than any others.At least in the UK I'm on an even and fair footing with everyone.

All My Thoughts, Shane.. X

Anonymous said...

Morning Shane.
That makes sense. (about my children)- thanks.
Teeth. I love them! Over the counter in the UK you can buy lidocaine gel. Brand name of one is oragel. If you get a mouthful of spit combined with a drop of gel and swoosh it around your entire head seems to numb. I must have gone through at least a tube a day when I was in pain. I've fallen asleep with the tube in my mouth, or my finger inside a cut open old tube. They're only 5mls when full. One time I was refused to be sold any... The jobsworth of a person frowned and just said "N. Not for you, Kate"...Cheeky bitch. I could have argued and got myself thrown out. I don't know what she was thinking. I know that she's not my greatest fan as I got her daughter incredibly stoned as a teenager. I walked her home, white as a ghosts and covered in puke. At least I helped her home! I think she was imagining me in a meth lab type place, going all Breaking Bad with my toothache gel and making coke...somehow! I wish I was. Arghhhh. I'm imagining it now. It's horrible.
One bonus about the UK is the wonderful NHS. As I'm sure you only know too well. Can't you get basic treatment done as a European in France, or am have you been there for too long to get this?
Kate xxx

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eyelick said...

Oh, teeth! It's unfortunate how we are brought up by society to be so judgemental about them! Especially in the US, home of "refrigerator white teeth" held up as the ideal. Used to judge people myself. Now just feel so bad for them & feel like repayment is being given to me for judging. There are definitely some cavities. But my issue is mostly derived from receding gums, and the consequences of teeth exposed in places not designed for it. "Long smokers teeth" in your text about Katie describe quite a few. Then there are the "gaps" only recently discovered that those are *not* "painless base cavities" but gum disease effects. Some decay from there, especially what grew from a small chip. Suppose at least some of that can be hidden by careful speaking, but sure sucks that most of the worst is on top, in front. One front molar is a bit loose! Fun discovery after about 2 months of pain, occasional blood clots of mysterious origin in the morning, then 3 days of no pain. A lifetime of hard brushing, rare periods in my whole life of flossing - hated the gum bleeding & discomfort as a child/teenager, ten years of heavy smoking, and about 9.5 of full time addiction & resultant sweet tooth, interspersed with periods of depression & neglect has led me to this. What seems unfair is the more diligent, the more problems, it seems! Noticed the "gaps" last May. The chip was December 2014. Wisdom tooth issues and roving gum pain from February to May, and then noticing more & more "cosmetic issues" since. A little spot of infection on my gum near the loose one, resulting stinky breath. Sigh, bought the special mouthwash for gums, then the toothpaste and it's taken a few weeks & one entire tube to get it to where that goes away completely for any length of time. Methadone juice would doom me! Only ever considered it during a few brief periods, now that's just going to be "no," forever! Plan to quit heroin fall/winter 2019. Not out of not liking it, or any personal qualms with myself being on it, just wanting to stop before it gets too hard to support & before it makes it too difficult to do other things with my life. The "age out," option, but a pre-made choice vs a truly getting tired of it. Unless that does happen by then. Timing it with moving away as to lack a source. Only have one dealer here & only know a few people. Never made some big (or any real) effort to find contacts. So won't. If it had been hard to get, my habit wouldn't have started!

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