The Thinman Affair

They had been found dead in cars, slumped in doorways, crouched on their haunches in telephone booths and flat out at the bottom of stairwells; men and women, young and experienced addicts alike. Eleven deaths in North London, seventeen in Scotland and multiple others dotted around the UK. Other addicts were turning up in Accident & Emergency rooms, often taxi'd in and dragged to the front desk, terribly ill and on the point of death. From the very early news reports it seemed that the only common denominator tying all the casualties together was that they were all intravenous heroin users and they had all shot up just prior to going over.

“Lucky fuckers,” said Thinman, reading the news report, his filthy stained index finger, which had been running under the words, now jabbing at a certain part in the story. “Says here it's a suspected pure batch that's doing it. Apparently some uncut gear has found its way onto the street. Un-fucking-cut! Wouldn't half mind getting me hands on a bit a that.”

I didn't respond. I sat watching Thinman as he read, as his eyes lit up and different expressions moved across his face like changing weather patterns. Heroin addiction had all but destroyed the man, eaten every morsel of fat from off his bones, bleached his skin a deathly yellowish grey hue and somehow faded his tattoos so as they looked liked processing stamps from the mortuary. There he was, sat in the lounge of the local needle exchange, looking like he'd been air-packaged, and still salivating over the thought of one last great fix, of something that would relieve him of the fear and knowledge of an impending and premature death.

In the cramped store cupboard of the exchange the key worker bagged up my usual fifty pack of 1ml needles along with a button bag of citric acid and a handful of sterile water bottles. “Now, be careful,” she said, “what with that bad batch going around. Take these guidelines and have a read through them on your way home.” She handed me a leaflet, a list of bullet-pointed directions. I cast an eye quickly over them, over the casual, childish font which had been used. “You're up,” I said to Thinman as I came out the supply cupboard, “I'll wait for you outside.”

Late morning, the air fresh and floral in the residential streets; the sky deep and blue and clear. From behind floated the subdued rumble of the high-street, the cogs of the day turning into lunchtime. I walked with Thinman up towards St Stephen's Church, to loiter hidden in the damp shade under her arch for Danny. Heroin was burning through our lives. I felt good in my habit, not yet tired and jaded and all shot out. As we walked I read Thinman the needle exchange's counsel to avoid dying that autumn.
“Smoke it!!!” Thinman yelled, repeating what I had read. “Well, they know that's not likely gonna happen, is it? I'd need two hundred dollars a day to smoke it. And how'd they figure that? Like the only time real serious shit hits the streets and we smoke it! Fuckin' jokers.”
“They're talking toxic gear here.... not pure. Says it's maybe laced with fucking anthrax or botulism. Advice for those hellbent on injecting is to make absolutely sure to vein it... under no circumstance go intra-muscular.”
Thinman laughed and flicked his hand out, as if batting away an annoying fly. “It's all just more anti-smack propaganda, more lies to scare the shit outta us, scare us into quitting. I've heard of bad gear... but toxic gear??? Do us a favour.” I balled up the leaflet and tossed it down in the street. Even accepting the reports were true, barely fifty addicts in the entire country had died and so you'd have to be pretty unlucky to come across the contaminated heroin. And anyway, Thinman was correct: no-one seemed to really know what was going on anyway – maybe it had nothing to do with the heroin at all.

A week later and the so-called toxic heroin was the main talk of the IV'ing community. More junkies had dropped dead up North and the first rumours of addicts round our way turning up in hospitals with sorely infected limbs and skin necrosis had surfaced. As is always the case, the rumours never concerned anyone who one knew personally. They were all mostly third hand reports, gossip blowing around in the waiting rooms of methadone clinics and needle exchanges, people with very little going on in their lives and wanting to fan the fires in their dying grates.
On the street, the talk and rumours affected little. All it did was add an extra ounce of danger to the practice of shooting up, supply us with another element to use to blackmail money out of anyone who cared. Nobody cared. And so we hobbled on as ever, taking our chances and hoping our chances were good, not having the luxury of playing it safe for a while. We shot first and dealt with any consequences later. We scored and used as ever, more tales that week reported of addicts blowing out and toppling over, others staggering into A&E and put in intensive care having bloated up with some kind of bacterial elephantitis.
That's when Thinman disappeared.
Thinman's disappearance was strange. I was in his debt for two rocks of crack and only something terribly serious would have had him not be home to collect. But he wasn't home, and neither had he returned when I did another pass later on that evening. On the second day when he still hadn't turned up I called in on his brother. Together we travelled over to Thinman's, spoke to the downstairs neighbour and then forced the door. Thinman's flat was a shithole, a mattress on the floor surrounded by syringes and shooting paraphernalia. But there was no Thinman, and no sign that anything untoward had happened. Thinman's brother left a handwritten note on the mattress and said if there was still no news by the following evening that he would report him as missing. He said his brother often laid low for days at a time. That was true, but never when in credit for crack.
Later that evening I received a call to my mobile, a soft female voice asking me if I knew a Mr Saul Messinger. That was Thinman's real name. I said I didn't think I knew anyone by such a name and asked why. She explained that she was calling from the hospital concerning a recent inpatient who had been admitted with no contact details and that my number had been found amongst his possessions. I thought for a moment before telling the hospital assistant that I didn't know him very well but knew his brother. I gave the details of Thinman's brother and put the phone down. It was late. From what I could gather Thinman was in a poor way but still alive. I pondered over all that may have happened to him. It was impossible to know.

- - -

“No Saul Messinger here,” said the fat receptionist, sat there in her XL mint hospital uniform. She returned back to her Sudoko puzzle, wishing me to go away and leave her alone.
“Will you look again, please” I asked. “He's definitely here. It was the hospital which phoned me saying so.” The receptionist froze with her pencil on her puzzle. When I didn't disappear she let out a little huff of air, snapped her pencil down and took up the mouse. She clicked the cursor into a blank field and started to type a name in. After no more than four letters she stopped and without raising her eyes to look at me, said, “What did you say the name was?”
“Messinger,” I said.
She hit the back space rapid-fire and typed in the correct name, giving her return key a good whack to show me how pissed off she was that she had to work. She sat staring at the screen with an expression of contempt on her face. A few clicks of the mouse later and she said, “He's in the infectious disease unit.”
“Infectious disease unit? Where's that?”
She pointed to a plan of the hospital on the wall over near the lifts. Then she raised her eyes and looked at me for the first time. She looked like a cow that had been interrupted while grazing.
“Are you family?” she asked, hoping I wasn't so as she could deny me access to the ward and possibly have the security come down and sling me out.
“Yes, I'm his brother,” I said.
She didn't believe me but had no way to say that I wasn't. She lowered her eyes, going back to her game of numbers, brooding all the while, knowing her fat arse would be disturbed again soon.

The infectious disease unit looked like any other ward. I had expected to see isolation rooms and quarantine units, but there was none of that here. I wandered down through the ward, poking my head in rooms, looking for Thinman. Just as I spotted him a nurse came rushing down the hallway, calling after me. Thinman looked up. He was lain back in a bed with the right sleeve cut off his hospital shirt and his upper arm heavily bandaged. He looked awful; worse than usual. He widened his eyes in greeting.
“Excuse me, sir, who are you looking for?” the nurse asked, stopping.
“Him,” I said, pointing to Thinman. “I'm his brother.” I said that a notch louder so as Thinman would hear and confirm it if asked. The nurse told me to wait just there. She entered the ward and spoke to Thinman. As she left she gave me the OK to see him.
“What the fuck happened?” I asked Thinman. “We all thought you were dead!”
“Nearly fucking was,” he replied, “got some of that fucking bad smack that's going around... almost had me. Wound botulism or some shite.”
“Fuck! How d'you know?”
“Fuck all else it could've been. Ate my arm away right where I struck up. Was that little cunt Jay's gear.” I thought of Jay and of his two cousins who also dealt and must be all holding the same stuff. I wondered how many more addicts in the area I knew would drop. It was a scary thought, and even more terrifying was the thought of how many unrelated dealers may have picked up from the same batch.
“Has your brother been around?” I asked.
“Passed by this morning. Was here when I fully came around. Was out of it for almost 36hrs. Not pleasant, mate... and was sick to boot. They dosed me up on methadone but still feel like crap.”
Thinman shuffled himself up in his bed. He had a catheter in his neck which was dripping saline and antibiotics into his system. He began picking at the bandage covering his upper arm, his face creasing up in pain as he slowly pulled the dressing free from the wound.
“What the fuck are you doing,” I asked.
“I wanna see what fucking damage I've done... ain't seen it yet. It stings and burns like fuckin' hell... I know that much.”
As Thinman pulled the bandage back it first revealed a sore red swelling. Then the first wound was exposed, a small drawing pin sized hole in the skin.
“Fuck,” Thinman said. He then pulled the bandage free, exposing the full extent of the damage beneath. It was a sight straight out of a medical book. His entire upper bicep was cratered in open wounds of various sizes, all through to the flesh and seeping a sticky, yellow, sap-like puss. The craters of the wound were raised and cracked. It looked like he had had sulphuric acid thrown over him. Thinman looked at his wound in horror. Then he looked at me. “All that from a fucking shot,” he said. “What the fuck!” He studied his wound some time more, his eyes searching out the most rotten parts of flesh and squinting in on them. Now accustomed to the horrific sight he seemed to take some kind of sadistic pleasure from exposing his injury, like it was the embodiment of a life that was eating him alive. After a moment he replaced his bandage, grimacing and wincing in pain as it settled down once more against his wound.
For a moment Thinman closed his eyes. I watched his sickly transparent lids, thin and taut over the balls and run through with purple threadlike veins. I had the distinct impression that he could see me looking at him through them. With his eyes still closed, he said: “Mate, you still good for those two rocks you owe me?”
“Of course,” I said. “Though I don't know anyone around here.” He opened his eyes and looked at me like he was in pain. “I need something right now. D'you have credit on your phone?”
I nodded. Thinman said that he knew a user called John Lacey who lived in the flats behind the hospital and as long as he was still alive and well that he'd be able to score. Thinman called out the number for me to key in and call. When I'd finished, I handed the phone to Thinman.
“You've got ten mins,” Thinman said to me, smiling. “He'll meet ya just round the back of the hospital... and try and be quick... I'm half fuckin' clucking here.”

* * *

I met John Lacey in the grounds behind the hospital. He was dressed in a loose woollen top and piss-stained nylon tracksuit bottoms, walking around holding his stomach and cursing.
“How's Thinman,” he asked, still partially buckled over.
“Not bad. Will be better after a shot, you know.”
“Sure. Sure I fucking know. God, so will I. ”
“Must we go far?”
“No, not far,” John said. “Come on.”
Barely had we been walking a minute when John stopped abruptly and said, “I need to shit... me guts are gonna fucking drop on me.” He reached out and rested his hand gently on my forearm. He paused there like that for a moment before giving a little squeeze and rushing off, ducking into the nearest bush. The foliage barely covered him. I saw John yank down his tracksuit bottoms and underwear and a flash of dirty white thigh as he crouched down in haste. I turned around, staring over at the back of the hospital in disbelief. And as I watched the air-conditioning units, observed the odd rags of tissue which hung from the vents and ruffled in the out-blowing warm air, the sickly sweet smell of excrement floated up over my shoulder, John Lacey squirting his rotten junkie guts out onto the ground behind the bushes. It was the smell of London; the smell of those days and that time. Illness, shit and decay. Soiled clothes and pale unwashed skin. Doing things on the fly. The filth of a generation, dragging something dead and decomposing into the new millennium. God, the world had changed. But in the back hangouts, in the shadows of impoverished estate-lands, where the buildings block out the sun and the mildew grows up the walls and moss stands in for grass, it could have been any time in the last thirty years. I turned back around to see if John had finished his business. Almost. Still crouched down the bush was now being tugged and leaves being yanked free. When he finally emerged from the bush he was pulling up and fixing his trousers, the smell of shit hanging to him like it were his soul peeping out.
“God, that was violent,” he said, smiling. I looked at his hands and didn't want them touching me. I thought of the bags of heroin he would have to soon hand over, and I didn't want to touch them either.

Back at the hospital I gave Thinman his four bags of smack. He was itching for a fix, only now he realised just what a chore it would be to cook one up in the open ward. As he lay there looking at me, his face miserable with sobriety, I knew what was coming.
“Mate, could ya do us a last big favour? Sneak in the bogs and cook us up a hit?”
I didn't want to, but I agreed. Thinman gave me a bag of his smack. He told me to cook the lot up and split it between two needles so as he had another fix for when I was gone.
In the toilet cubicle I went about doing as Thinman had asked. Halfway through mixing up his dose, just about to cook it down, I heard the main door of the restroom creak open and someone enter. I stopped what I was doing, the spoon in one hand and the un-struck lighter just beneath in the other, and listened. Whoever it was was just standing there, maybe listening too. I gently laid the spoon down on the top of the cistern and sat on the toilet. After a moment the person outside washed their hands, dried them and then the door creaked again and then creaked close. I wondered if the person was really gone or whether it was a bluff and they were still standing in silence in the bathroom, listening to what I was doing in the cubicle. I peeped under the door. No-one. I quickly sparked my lighter and finished cooking Thinman's shots. While sucking the second shot up the door squeaked open again and once more a presence entered and seemed to loiter in the room. So as to give the impression that I was just finishing up, I pulled some toilet paper free and then flushed the chain. Masked by the sound of the rushing water I hurriedly gathered up my cooking utensils, capped the syringes for Thinman and pocketed them. I composed myself and left the cubicle. There was no-one in the bathroom. As I made my way back down the ward the duty nurse surveyed me with narrow, suspicious eyes. I kept my casual. “Fuck You,” I thought, “you'll never stop this.”

Barely had I given Thinman his two capped and loaded needles and he had concealed them beneath his blanket, than the nurse came wandering in from behind. She acted as if she were there just to prop Thinman up and take care of his comfort. Thinman was anxious and flushed hot. He didn't want her messing about too much down besides him. The nurse didn't speak a word but it was obvious that she knew we were up to no good. When she finally left Thinman was eager to shoot himself up, bring himself back in from out the cold of the sober light. He told me to go and distract the nurse, ask in private about his infection. He was already sitting on the side of his bed, his hospital trouser leg pushed up and prodding for veins down his inner calf.
I left Thinman that afternoon when his brother came to visit. Thinman said that he was feeling much better; he could barely keep his lids open. His brother stood there watching him with a look of absolute disgust on his face. Thinman said that if he was not given the all-clear to leave by the following morning that he would sign himself out. I nodded in agreement. That was heroin. I would have done the same; just about every junkie would

It's a weird feeling arriving at a hospital and not expecting the person you are visiting to be there. But on that autumn morning, on my second visit to see Thinman, the form of the distant sun reflected in the murky waters of the fish pond in the hospital grounds, I somehow knew I would find his hospital bed empty and Thinman gone.
Thinman was gone. Only he hadn't shot through. The young ward nurse who I had located to ask about his whereabouts informed me that he was in intensive care. She said he had been found waxed out with a syringe under his bed cover and had gone down with septicemia. I stood looking at her in shock, my mouth unhinged and hanging open. In the past 18 months I'd known two junkies dead of blood poisoning and knew how serious it was – especially so with the contributing health factors, like hepatitis C, that which had affected Thinman's hue so visibly.
"Is he conscious?" I asked the nurse.
“I don't know his present condition,” she said, “you'll have to go on up to the intensive care unit and see the doctors there... they'll be able to tell you more.”
The intensive care unit was a place of death and detergent. You could smell and sense the empty spaces in wards where people who used to be no longer were. It was a kind of factory, where people were trolleyed out covered on their backs, taken down to the morgue and then divided up amongst the competing vultures of the funeral parlours who'd wheedle the last pounds of worth from the corpses and sell them back to the family for burial or cremation. I could see it all; the start of the clean-up operation at least. This was a place where you went from being of the utmost importance to that of utter worthlessness in a second. And this is where Thinman was. I guess it was pretty serious then.
It was a youngish looking blond doctor I found. He looked like he was just coming to the end of a 48hr shift, like chunks of his own existence had departed with each death he had called. He pulled a hand down his face in an attempt to liven himself up to my question, but it only served to make his eyes look even more tired and baggy. Just the concentration needed to retain and think of the name I had given him seemed to drain him some more. He walked on a few steps, the smell of cheap hand soap hanging in his slip stream. He poked his head into a small, badly lit room full of supplies. “Do we have a Mr Messinger with us?” he asked to whoever was in the room.
“Saul Messinger,” I reminded the doctor.
At those words there came a noise from a nearby ward and out came Thinman's brother. When he saw it was me who was asking after his brother he approached, shouting: “Get him the fuck outta here!” And then directing his words at me: “You here with more fucking heroin to finish him off? Come on, speak up you poisonous, selfish cunt!”
I had no words to reply to that and it would have been pointless besides. Thinman was in his mid 30's and if he wanted smack in the hospital then that was his call. As a friend and addict, knowing what withdrawals were like, I was obliged to do that for him if it was what he wanted. Seeing the anger rising in Thinman's brother, the young doctor stepped in front of me, blocking the route.
“Don't worry, I'm not gonna fucking hit him! But you need to get him the fuck outta here NOW. He's not family... he's not Saul's brother as he claims. He's just a low-life fucking junkie, out for his own gain and not fussed about who he helps kill in pursuit of it.”
“I came to make sure Saul was alright,” I said.
“Yeah, sure ya did. Alright for what? HEROIN? That stuff almost killed him, you imbecile.”
“Dunno what you're talking about,” I said, “I didn't bring him any heroin.”
“Well, there's only been two visitors and I sure as hell didn't bring it in to him! Now fuck off. You're not wanted here.”
I didn't argue. Sure, I was curious to know exactly what had happened to Thinman with the heroin I had brought him up, but the last thing I needed was the police turning up, shaking me down and pulling me in for half a day. And so I gave no response, just turned and left from the way in which I had come. Thinman had my number. If he needed me he would call.
Thinman never did call. It was almost a month before I saw him again. Even then I barely recognized him. Pacing around outside the Texaco garage, waiting on the same contact as I, he looked like he had shrunk in half. He had only been out three days.
“What the fuck happened?” I asked.
“Fuck knows. Feel like shit, like I'm dying. Got no appetite, fuck all and what I do manage to swallow I bring back up. Feels as if my bloods still sick or something.”
“And the arm?”
“What's left of it is Ok... doing better than me. Still infected but is on the mend at least.”
“And you're back on the gear then? You didn't think it was maybe better to not start up again after those weeks without?”
“You know how it is. I've done so much fuckin' damage now it seems pointless to stop. It won't save me any days now. At least it takes the world away.”
I looked out into the world that Thinman was talking about. It was a shit one, alright. Autumn was on us proper and the city was damp from rain, a mist of vapour hanging in the distance below drab skies. In times gone by they would have piled corpses up and carted them away on days like this. I breathed in the air, wanting to extract some freshness from it, some cool that would unclog me of the smog and pollution and poison for a moment. But all I could taste was petrol, that and Thinman, mixing together and making me feel sad and ill, cars with rain speckled windows crawling by every now and again. Thinman was dying, that was obvious. Whether it was the botulism and septicaemia that was the cause, his liver, or just the life we led, who knew? What I did know was that the world which turned Thinman's stomach also turned mine, and together, on a low-hung autumn day, we stood outside the Texaco garage, our eyes flitting about this way and that, waiting impatiently for the only cure we knew.

- - -

Thanks as ever for reading, Shane. X


louis365 said...

Powerful passage...the madness of Heroin Addiction.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shane,

Great post, as always.

I have a question for you regarding your portrayal of fat people in your writing. Of everything I have read of yours I can only recall you describing 3 overweight people in your writing - in this post, in your 'Another trip to A&E' post and over on So Dog We Were when you wrote about the very portly publican your mother was associated with. It seems, that for someone who writes about other marginalised groups with honestly and such an open mind, this is not really the case with fat people where your descriptions seem to be used as a bit of an insult. My question is, have you just used the fatness of these characters as a device to help to describe their meanness, and maybe other people you have written about may have been overweight too but you didn't describe them as such because they were polite? Or do you actually have something against fat people?

I would be very dissapointed if such an open minded person and brilliant writer actually did have something against fat people.

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Anon, anything I describe comes from the life that stood or sat or floundered in front of me. I will never round my words off to be politically correct; the truth isn't politically correct, and if you write with the fear of not offending people then your words will end up as bland and as poor as just about every other writer in the library. Alan, the landlord, wasn't 'portly', he was a huge, monstrously obese shit of a man who used the little power he thought he had, and the cash he did have, to get what he wanted. He was despised by all his bar staff, family and just about everyone else who came into contact with him. Often (not always) what we are physically... what we have become, is an insight into who we are, and the fat of the nurse I described was that, it had become an essential part of her character, who she was and how she behaved and interacted. I will not tame that down. These truths are what make writing. As an artist I wouldn't want to paint an obese person thinner, or tame the truth so as he/she felt better about themselves: that's not my job. I've equally described junkies in very terrible but truthful ways, myself included. I've also described handicapped people, some prostitutes, dogs and thin hotel owners in the light of their characters. These things are not made up: it's what was before me and I will describe that as it came to me and as I saw it. If you've read my words carefully you'l have also read how I describe the fat and bloatedness of methadone users... how I have described my own weight increases (and it was not in a favourable light, but a truthful one). People are never judged here by anything other than who they are... it is the personality that I attack or cherish, and if the physicality of someone is relevant to their character then I will incorporate that into the description so as I get across just what a vile or beautiful soul was before me. Just about everyone on the planet could read my writing and come running to me with accusations of some ridiculous bias or another, but the truth is most people (fat, thin, tall, short, midget, lanky, handicapped, queer, straight, male, female, etc) are treated harshly because most the world are selfish, bitter fucks and it's not so often you meet real good people. And of course, what you don't see in my writing are the overweight people who I do not describe - not describe because their weight has no bearing on anything. So where you say that there are three overweight people in my works, in fact there are many more, but there are only three whose weight was a contributing factor to who they were. Off the top of my head I can think of at least five other examples of overweight people in my texts who have not been described as such, they did not get a physical description because their physical appearance had no bearing on things. The truth is, I have actually portrayed thin people in exactly the same way in which those who want to could take offense... even in this post. You have remarked about how I described the fat nurse, but the main charter was called Thinman and he went under a much harsher and vile description than the nurse.

eaten every morsel of fat from off his bones, bleached his skin a deathly yellowish grey hue and somehow faded his tattoos so as they looked liked processing stamps from the mortuary. There he was, sat in the lounge of the local needle exchange, looking like he'd been air-packaged,

For a moment Thinman closed his eyes. I watched his sickly transparent lids, thin and taut over the balls and run through with purple threadlike veins.

Pacing around outside the Texaco garage, waiting on the same contact as I, he looked like he had shrunk in half. He had only been out three days.


Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...


Throughout my writing, thin people (whose thinness has become a part of who they are) have been described in equally unflattering terms (like they'd been "air_packaged"... "got lucky in the morgue"... "looking like something you'd find slumped in a mass grave"... "mouth like a puckered anus", etc etc etc.

My last words on the subject are that I don't ever judge anyone on their physical appearance and just a quick scan of my friends and readers will bare that out. Just about every minority group one could think of make up a part of the people surrounding my writing and life. People are judged here purely on their acts... what they look like or what their sexuality or perversions has no bearing on things. X

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your quick and lengthy response. I have indeed taken note of your honest descriptions of others. I'm certainly not suggesting that the truth should be altered for the sake of political correctness, and in fact enjoy that your writing is always so real and honest. I am in no way trying to take offence (and probably wouldn't read your work if I was the kind of person that took offense to things easily).Thanks again for another great peice. X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

That's OK anon... everyone is of equal worth here. Our external physical appearance in never what's important but who we are inside... deep down and at our core. X

Anonymous said...

Another great post Shane many of the bloggers have stopped so yours is always welcome in the in box , fat or thin your writing draws a picture of every junkie type we know so well shifty sly stupid and smart we know them all , hope you're traveling okay .Tony

lucky said...

Hi Shane
Great read...reminded me og when I was in hospital for 4-5 days with some kind of gastro bug, I was on a saline drip for the whole time as I was so dehydrated but use to drag it to the stair well where you could smoke.I met a man there in his 50's or at least looked that age who had fallen of a roof while trying to rob a house and had smashed his legs up really badly he opened his hand the first time we met to show me a mulyti coloured assortment of pills - most of which he didn't even know what they were but the junkie in him couldn't resist palming them after spitting them out. he looked like your thin man , with a death mask and eyes that had no soul. The second day I met him he had called a dealer to come to the ward and wanted to know if I wanted anything -daft question .All went well and when we were in the stairwell he started smoking the gear as he couldn't hit his groin due to his injuries I was lucky as I had a line in to just punctured the tube with the saline...But it was the sadness I felt for this man who talked about getting out and getting an adapted car from the social as he would be basically crippled then moving to the coast to live a 'normal' life away from gear, but even as he spoke the words we both knew that as soon as he left the ward he would be out, probably grafting, and back on the heroin express.

lucky said...

Hi Shane
Great read...reminded me og when I was in hospital for 4-5 days with some kind of gastro bug, I was on a saline drip for the whole time as I was so dehydrated but use to drag it to the stair well where you could smoke.I met a man there in his 50's or at least looked that age who had fallen of a roof while trying to rob a house and had smashed his legs up really badly he opened his hand the first time we met to show me a mulyti coloured assortment of pills - most of which he didn't even know what they were but the junkie in him couldn't resist palming them after spitting them out. he looked like your thin man , with a death mask and eyes that had no soul. The second day I met him he had called a dealer to come to the ward and wanted to know if I wanted anything -daft question .All went well and when we were in the stairwell he started smoking the gear as he couldn't hit his groin due to his injuries I was lucky as I had a line in to just punctured the tube with the saline...But it was the sadness I felt for this man who talked about getting out and getting an adapted car from the social as he would be basically crippled then moving to the coast to live a 'normal' life away from gear, but even as he spoke the words we both knew that as soon as he left the ward he would be out, probably grafting, and back on the heroin express.

Anonymous said...

Reading your words are such a treat - never boring but shocking, humorous, witty, sad and fun. Thanks for sharing them as I always look forward to your next post.

KATY! said...

I'm in a new town, cut off from all my old dealers and hook ups. Thank you for your brilliantly written blogs, I've been binge reading on them for days. They make me feel connected to the heroin world again.

Just wondering, whereabouts are you living now? (I know you were in London, then France, did you move back?)

I hope you are taking care of yourself and I look forward to reading more of your work.

Kind regards,
Katy x

JoeM said...

Wow, one of the bleak ones.

It's funny I always find really thin people scary. Probably because most of us in Glasgow – the unhealthiest city in the (Western I presume) world – are so fat. You don't get a lot of thin people round here and none of them look like they're that way because they eat properly and exercise!

I got a prescription recently for Potassium Citrate which I threw away. Supposedly it was for a kidney stone. But I didn't like all the side-effects I read about and warnings about how you shouldn't take it if you have heart problems and so on, which I do. The junior doctor also was half-hearted about it, only mentioning it after he'd spoken to the head guy then saying we think you should 'probably' take this. Anyway I said this to the next doctor I saw who said 'Oh most people take that for 5 weeks and hate it. You're just as well taking lemon in water'.

Which is why I don't trust doctors.

Everything you say here - I mean the entire blog - reinforces that feeling. Oh to believe all the doctors and nurses are angels.

To believe in Santa Claus again...

Do you know what happened to the Thin Man?

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Tony, good to see you here! Will pop you an email across to catch up properly... X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Lucky... well, many constantly babble on about some ideal existence or dream of a better life they have. I guess it at least feels like 'something', like they're not just collapsing in the shit and accepting it, even though everyone knows, they know, that there is no dream and there is no escape and the words are now just what fall out when they open their mouths. I think what Thinman said, about having done too much damage to stop, is true of many addicts and so they continue down the only path they know until there is no path left. But it's not only addicts who have such flimsy hopes of escape... where I came from everyone was crazy with them. And the sad truth is that the only real escape, the only way to a life of less suffering, is to be zipped up and trolleyed into the morgue where all the worries and pain stops. As is blatantly obvious, I'm going through one of my highly optimistic stages! X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Anon... a treat... then hopegully there will be many more. Thanks for reading. X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey KATY & welcome!X

I'm still in France but will hopefully move back to the UK early next year. X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Joe... Yeah, a pretty bleak one. It wasn't really supposed to be put up here as it's a text I wrote for an australian magazine and normally I'll not post them ohere as well or wait until they've been published. But I had nothing else finished for this site, and as my last post was a while back I took the liberty of putting it up.

Not sure what happened to Thinman. Though I've a hunch that it wasn't anything too good. Like many on the scene one day he was there and the next he wasn't. His time in hospital kinda disrupted his habit and he was never around like he used to be after. The one that shit in the bush is still going strong though... probably why the flowers are so healthy around that way! X

Unknown said...

I stumbled upon this at 5 am, Not being able to sleep and in withdrawals. You're stories are so well delivered and descriptive. Each character is so cleverly portrayed that I can see them all clear in my head. Brutally honest. 12 years going now with only two sets of 90 day cleans. I've become so good at " telling stories" , manipulation, and lieing my ass off that I now consider it one of my talents. My poor mom just decided to try and accept me for what I am. Maybe because her brother that she disassociated from finally died from fall and broken back after being a junkie for 40 years. I feel bad that people have to accept " pain" in order to love me. She wonders where my bottom is. I don't seem to have one. I'm very private and don't rub my addiction in people's faces. I've always wanted to write about my experiences since I know I got a ton of crazy fucking stories but I can't get the words out. I admire you. -g

Unknown said...

Also, just out of curiosity. It's really not my business but if wanna let me know how you support your habit everyday Id like to know. I began with scams of all sorts. I've gotten so good at stealing that I steal all the necessities of life and all the cash goes to dope. I don't enjoy jail or running so luckily I found a few guys that have been in love with me for years. It's a more comfortable and quiet life now.

Unknown said...

Haha ^ that's exactly why I don't write. All disconnected sentences.

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Gray mantis, thanks for reading and welcome... X

I'll reply here and leave your other comments on the poetry site stand alone.

I don't believe in this bullshit of rock bottom. I always say: rock bottom isn't where this thing ends; it's where it started!

I think the idea of rock bottom forces many parents and lovers to do very cruel and harmful things in the false belief that helping someone descend to the depths will ultimately help them (when the reality is that doing that, 9 times outta 10, will kill them). So I'm against the idea of rock bottom ad have seen with my own eyes that some will get clean when they're having their second leg amputated, some will get clean when they can no longer buy their cat litter, some will clean up when they are about to lose their house and job and lover, and some will carry on, rotting away with all kinds of diseases and viruses, limbless, glued to a skateboard and shitting out a hole in their stomach and still not ever consider stopping. So the bottom is like that saying "half a hole"... there isn't half a hole, same as there is no bottom to the bottom.

I always supported my addiction by working and nicking whatever I could from the firm I was employed to be exploited in. The entirety of my daily addiction i funded in that way. Right now I don't have a daily habit. I'm on methadone and stick mostly to that but use when I want to and can afford to which is once or twice a week... sometimes more, but never everyday. I've been using like that for the past six years now... I could never write as I do with a daily habit. Heroin is not good for writing. Not the drug, but the nodding effect. On heroin I just write pages of "aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaffffffffffffffffffffsssssssssssssssssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhh....etc to infinity) where i nod out on my keyboard. So I don't ahve a daily habit right now and fund I use through selling little works of art and little pieces of writing. As my writing becomes more and more known I get more and more offers where I can earn a little with it. Nothing fantastic but it helps keep me numb enough to want to carry on. X

Unknown said...

Hahahaha yes. Nodding out while typing. Then you snap out of it for a min, look up and that's exactly what the screen looks like! ( aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa mmmmmmmmmmm

Unknown said...

I already asked but not sure if it went through. I have two questions. 1: can you post of photo of yourself that I can see? 2: what site do you use for all these writings? And do you know any good free ones where I can share thoughts, stories, nightmares, and dreams?

Anonymous said...

Wonderful as always :)
I never feel that I have anything worthwhile to comment on posts but rest assured that I devour them as soon as they go up and thoroughly enjoy all of your work you extremely talented man!
Vee Purdie

Unknown said...

Ya know for a while after reading these I thought the author was a female because of the poetic nature of it all. Very cool to know its a man.

annastacia said...

Really enjoy your writing, I've been reading for several months. You're very talented, glad to see a new post :)

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

Wow I'm so glad I found this site. I love reading your writing because it always seems to describe my situation with heroin perfectly. Even though I live on the other side of the world in California, I can relate to so many things you write about. I look forward to reading all your old posts

AustinTX said...

Truly amazing, not sure how I stumbled on your blog but I am glad I did. I also do a bit of writing (all fictional stories) and I enjoyed skimming over different works you've done over the years. I liked seeing how similar using heroin is everywhere while at the same time different (external and internal factors and such). You truly are a gifted writer and I like your resistance to stereotypical societal notions on heroin use (i.e. rock bottom, it's all grey skys, etc.) I personally got busted with .02 (not .2 but 2/100 of a gram) and was facing being a convicted felon and 2-10years of prison/probation (despite no criminal record) so I was happy to see you have avoided making the biggest mistake a heroin lover can (getting caught). Anyhow ended up in drug court which is a nightmare but haven't banged in 8 months and all it has showed me is yes I do have the ability to not use, but no I don't like it or enjoy it and will always chose smack. I identify with heroin, hell it's all I think and talk about, it's my absolute most favorite thing in the world. It's a real shame I didn't chose big tits and McDonald's, pack a smokes and a tallboy, *sigh* this is just a pointless rant but all in all I like ya man and keep it up.

Matthias said...

Just found this blog & really hope you keep posting more. I live in the Western States. I've been off Black since Dec of last year. I got off Methadone a week n a half ago & have been on Subutex since. I fuckn hate it. It's a hard transfer going from M to Subs. It's the "speediest" opiate I've ever tried & I hate going fast & being amped, I like to slow down bc I've always had anxiety. I've been thinking about going back on Black. Fuck. I love & hate it. My city is flooded w Mexican Black, I could get it in a sec. I'm still fighting. Just wish I could feel normal on these Subs. Nice n slow. Please post more. These posts help me stay try n stay sober.. by reminding me what life was like, heaven & hell. Now it's just hell halfway. Keep writing. Peace

Shane Levene said...

Gray Mantis...

excuse the delay in repying...

Photo: there's already one up on the sidebar of this site. If you want to see the full wreck of my dispute with life then pop over to my facebook page where you can find many more.

I use Blogger. It's free and one can get started immediately. X

Shane Levene said...

Annastacia... thank you, Darling. You keep reading and I'll keep writing... in fact, I'll keep writing anyway - I can't stop now. X

Shane Levene said...

Hey ya MHO & welcome! X

Oh, there's so much stuff on this site now that it'll keep you occupied for some time. So, read at your leisure and leave a few words whenever you get the urge. X

Shane Levene said...

Hey AustinTX...

I always try to portray the reality of smack addiction... the reality of life and sadness and sometimes joy and death. So many writers fall into junkie cliché and bravado, self-pity and blame. They portray a cinematic version of heroin and addiction and leave out the humanity and life. There's a small amount of truth in that representation, but the truth of addiction is neither so romantic nor so dark and depraved. Mostly it turns like any other life on the planet... only sometimes it don't. X

Shane Levene said...

Hey Matthias... I'm still on methadone (been on it over ten years now) and wouldn't relish transferring to subutex. I started my opiate addiction on buprenorphine (subutex) and though never found it a speedy opiate I now have a huge immunity to it and it just doesn't seem to work on me as it should. So good luck going that route. Usually they taper you down to 5ml of meth a day and then ween you off with sleepers or tranquilizers for a week. Seems the best way to me... but I always was too logical to be a doctor! Let me know how you get on... X


Great story, but also sad. One thing that struck me while reading is the fact that us addicts are some of the biggest liars on earth. However, survival lies as I liked to think of them as being. But, when we are honest we are brutally honest. An honesty that turns people off just as much as our lying does. And that makes me angry. It seems people claim to value the truth, until that truth is something they cannot handle. Then they would love for us to remain mute. Glad you wrote this!!! It was Profound Truth!!! I am sure non-addicts have no idea what I meant, but I am sure every addict will. This is some of the best writing I have ever read about addiction.

Zac said...

Hello Shane just want to say I do appreciate your work and loved receiving the book, just nice to own the physical copy like still buying the occasional CD and nice to know your supporting the artists.
What's with Thinman talking dollars? And telephone booth and restroom doors?
Seems odd for an Englishman to say these words? Maybe.
Also I think if you ever make any movies or videos, the sounds of King Krule would be quite fitting.
Do you like music much?
Look forward to the next piece,

Shane Levene said...

Hey Zac...

My vocabulary choices are often based on sound and rhythm and what is required or serves best the feel and flow of the sentence. I sometimes use very familiar americanisms to avoid repetition of vocabulary where there are no other (or poor) alternative synonyms on offer. restroom was used for that reason as if I recall I had already used the wword toilet a couple of times in that passage and another repetition I felt would kinda kill the prose in an amateurish way. 'Booths' I used in the opening paragraph as the sentence at that point required a single not double syllable and the poetry of the opening paragraph far exceeded any other considerations. We also use the word booth in the UK and so it's an absolute valid choice even on that basis. Thinman talking of dollars... just common street talk. People in the UK often talk in terms of dollars and bucks, just as much as they may say quid or cash. Certainly in London that's the case, anyhow. But the real reason I used it in this piece is that it was written for an Australian magazine and of course the Aussies have dollars over there and so it was the best choice all round. In more general terms concerning modern writing I think we are so used to reading/hearing both American and English English that the very common Americanisms are absolutely valid to use in one's prose and allow for a richer choice of words. Writing online makes it even more valid as the writer's audience is multi-national which contrasts greatly against a small book released solely in one's own country amongst one's own countrymen. As a writer the last thing you want is confusion over your words and their meanings and so you always have to be a little careful with such things and not overdo it.

Music... yes I love music but am very fussy and it's not easy to find new stuff. When I like a band I obsess about them and it becomes a life long love. The Tindersticks... The Smiths... Morphine... The Pogues... Leonard Cohen... Nick Cave... there's a few more, and I love all the early punk stuff and what was happening in London and New York in the late 70's and early 80's. The Heartbreakers and Television... Patti Smith and Talking Heads, etc. Was just a very special time for art and music and culture. Though I'm always on the look out for new and interesting bands and music to listen to. I like searching out new stuff and new art and new writing and music, etc. It's very rare I find anything decent but I look on regardless... an artist's time can be anytime and they usually appear just when you're on the verge of giving up the ghost. X

Jonathan said...

Awesome read, you are very talented Shane. I've been on-off-mostly-on with H for 5 years. Hold down a stable job, but I love the occasional too. I'm on mmt, 35ml a day. Despite having access to strong brown, I rarely feel it due to the meth. I smoke it mostly as I am shit at hitting myself. Do you have any suggestions for getting high while on a script. I know 35ml isn't a huge dose, but it certainly dulls the high. Keep up the great work Shane, a true pleasure to read you.

Mo said...

As someone who is very close to a heroin user I feel that sometimes you glorify using!!! I have read up on so many sites and in general most of it is negative on people getting clean, like there is no hope. I find it upsetting, I have been lied too, stolen off and have a fear of never seeing a loved one again, that knowing one day I shall perhaps need to cut all ties and wait for that knock on the door!!

I have even come to an understanding, I understand why they continue to use, but what I don't understand is why take it in the first place? I was born and raised in a council estate, heroin all around me, society can not be blamed!! I never had the perfect childhood, many problems there but I chose to stay away, I chose to have the life of working to make other people rich, although yes that bothers me but I grin and bear it like most. I heard about heroin, was warned about it, not as much as I feel should be but still enough to stay away! Everyone knows it ruins life and when you see a heroin user and know one, what possesses people to go yeah, that's the life I wish to live?

I have watched so many documentaries on this. Sometimes if I am honest I feel scared after watching them, as a mother with two young children I fear for their future, I know all I can do is my best and let them live their lives but to me that's not good enough!

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

You're talking in absolute and idiotic cliches. If you think you know why people continue to use then you are a fool - not even the user understands why he/she continues to use and billions are spent throughout the entire world trying to figure it out and no-one can... but you have. Well done. You've obviously read absolutely nothing of my writings here, and you've obviously not even read this text you're posting under as the descriptions of the addict are anything but glorifying: one almost shits his pants and squirts out liquid diarrhea behind a bush and the other one is wasting away in hospital with wound botulism. But of course you haven't read the text, it is a good twelve pages long and people like you can only skim read for 30 seconds before typing out your ill and preconceived ideas. You think you know what every addict is going to say, but you got it completely wrong this time and every commenter here will be sniggering at how utterly foolish you look. Take your cliches elsewhere. You know fuck all about heroin addiction. You say society cannot be blamed, that it's not a social problem, and then in the next breath admit that your poverty stricken council estate had a fucking heroin epidemic. So what the hell is that then? Why are there not heroin epidemics in Oxford or Wimbledon or the great mansions along the river?

What you want is everyone lying and writing up anti-heroin propaganda. But that is false and is more damaging than anything. The truth is that many people get a lot of relief from heroin and so when I write about that and why, it is not 'glorifying' it but telling the truth and shitting on the myths. If it was as bad and as dangerous as you would want to have everyone believe then no-one would fucking use it. That you admit there was heroin all around you must surely tell you something? People are getting some release from this drug. The real question is why do they need relief? What are they trying to escape? They are trying to escape their environments, the hopelessness and psychological pain. And until there is a far more just world, where people are not exploited and hammered down into the ground and abused for 9 hrs of every fucking day, heroin will always be an epidemic in poverty stricken places. You've proved you know nothing of the social nor psychological reasons why many turn to heroin (or any drug). You have come to the most childish and naive conclusions based on your own experience, because that is the only reference you have. It's an extremely disastrous methodology to reach any conclusion on. I'll not be replying nor reading anything else you type. You're obviously totally brainwashed by the system and the media. My mother was an outrageous drunk, but I'd rather her as a mother than you. I can see two children with a very very bleak future brought up under your tutelage. X

Mo said...

Wow!!!! Ok perhaps I never worded my text right, for that I apologise, I meant that in the world I grew up in and my experiences as a child/teen then I would of been a perfect candidate as a heroin user, I chose a different path, so no I don't blame society, I blame the person. Yes often I have wanted an escape, would love to shut my brain off from the constant shit that runs through my head and doesn't switch off. You don't know what I have went through in my life, you chose to share I don't. I also never stated that you glorify I said sometimes I feel like you glorify it. That's the impression I get, like through your art work, some young kids may stumble across it and think that it's cool, and am not slating your art work at all here neither!!

I had been on your site years ago and read your blogs but after things were sorted for years I was able to break away from that world and then came crashing back into it, I came on hoping that maybe you yourself had managed to steer clear, and maybe that was a little bit of hope. But to slate me as a mother, that is a low blow. I don't take drugs, hell I hardly even drink, I cook, clean and clothe my children, when I pick them up from school/ nursery, I ask them how there day was. You put your life on here for people to comment on, you write blogs telling of experiences you have had so you've put yourself out there for people to comment on and if you don't like someone's else's opinion you hurl abuse and spit your dummy out. Fair enough we are from different generations, my fear is for the next generations which will be my children's.You can that I was here criticising you all you want when all I was after was a little more understanding and perhaps more hope that people can stay off.

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The working class hero said...

This is brillIant, Mr.Levene, Your tales of debauchery and realism allow me the pleasure of being able to dip my toes into the occasionally warm and inviting waters of heroin use without drowning! Thank you.
The working class hero.