The Pain of Painkilling

It didn't hurt at all at first; or I just enjoyed the pain. Whatever, the mythical damage supposedly caused by the needle was so disappointing in those early days that during my first two years of intravenous drug use I took to jabbing myself with empty needles so as I had at least some bruises and track marks to show for my suffering. That's something that is never quite dealt with in any drug therapy, something most users would keep to themselves. But regardless of what anyone says, the marks left behind and the beauty of the damage done is an important part of the allure of the needle. It was for me. I'd never felt so sexual. 

15 years on, 60,000 plus intravenous injections later, things have changed. Those early years of easy to harpoon surface veins, being done in minutes, often not even a pin-prick of blood to show for the injection, are a thing of the past. It's the body: it falls to fucking pieces. Veins collapse and disappear. They get burnt out from the citric acid used to cook the heroin up with. They cower and flatten out when constantly pierced and prodded by sharp points. It happens to the prominent surface veins at first, those in the arms and hands and then the legs and feet. Soon there are no big veins left at all and you are obliged to go in the body blind and deep. That's frightening to begin with. Different gauge needles come into play, some two inches long and as thick as valve adapters used to pump up footballs. These things hurt and leave holes in the body that are big enough to become sorely infected. It becomes easier and more frequent that shots miss the vein. The citric acid seeps into the muscle or sits under the skin for months, severely damaging the surrounding tissue. With the main veins all gone the blood circulation must take a different route around the body. It now uses the smaller vessels, which as a consequence stretch and inflate. Veins which were never visible before suddenly appear at the surface and so the IV drug user thanks his lucky stars and then proceeds to blow them out too. Once all the main veins are burnt out and collapsed the junkie next attacks the small capillary veins in the wrist, hands, fingers and feet. The capillary veins are the small dark purple and blue thread like ones. It's often painful shooting into such small veins but not as dangerous as going into the deep blind veins alongside the main arterial system where fatal blood clots and infections and ulcers so easily occur. If the junkie decides on arterial shooting he will probably get enough years use out of them to ensure he dies before ever needing to shoot into his capillary system. But many, like me, will not take to the femoral vein or jugular before having exhausted every other single possibility, before seeking out every working vein and capillary in the body. Injections for such veteran addicts can take anywhere up to four hours and are always sufficiently bloody. 

- - -

Today I'll be using a standard 1ml orange capped insulin needle. Whereas before I'd have had no qualms about drawing up a diluted 0.7ml shot, now I cook the same amount of smack down to 0.4ml to allow me more control over the needle and have more room to thin the shot down and possibly save it from congealing in the event that I draw too much blood and cannot make the injection. For now my needle is up on the side of the sink with the cap removed. It's a needle I've used at least a half a dozen times before. It's blunt but not jagged. A vein will be a little harder to spike but not impossible. Before attempting to stick myself I remove my trousers and socks and sling my foot up on the edge of the sink. I start by fingering all over my leg, thigh and calf, searching out any soft springy areas in the flesh which could mean a vein lying deep below. I go from my left leg to my right, marking out any possible injection sites with a biro pen. I inspect both feet, along the instep, the inner heel and the arch. The outer ankle I no longer check as I know I've not a working vein remaining that side. In my inner foot I spot a couple of prospective injection sites and jab myself a few times with the needle. I don't mark these sites as they're tiny capillary veins which I can see and I will either get them or damage them. It pains sliding the needle in this part of the foot. I try four times before giving up. I don't draw a single drop of blood. Not drawing blood can get insanely frustrating after some time as it means one is not even close to getting a vein, but it's better drawing no blood than to keep drawing only to not make the shot. There are two good reasons to avoid any unnecessary blood in the syringe: 

1: blood congeals and congealed blood in the barrel of the syringe equals a ruined fix. 
2: blood darkens. One is left with a black shot which makes it  difficult to see if a small vein is giving blood or not. 

For the moment there is nothing working in my legs or feet. With my foot still up on the sink I strip off my jumper and shirt and twist my body taut in various directions so as to spot any veins which are showing up in my sides or belly or chest. I have a few jabs in my flanks, at veins which resemble flat linguine spaghetti. These flank veins always appear very promising but are notoriously difficult to spike. As soon as I hit one it bursts and leaves a spreading bruise up that side. It's a no go, but I did draw blood. I remove the needle and holding it up I draw the plunger back a little. I shake the blood into the shot so as the aperture of the syringe doesn't become blocked at a crucial moment. For the sake of at least trying I take a few pot shots in my chest, inserting the needle almost flat before slightly withdrawing it and re-inserting it at different angles. I don't tap any blood. I place the needle back down on the side and recommence with the visual inspection of my body. I examine my face in the mirror. I check around and under the eye, along the temple. Injecting in the face is a real last-chance-saloon shot. The only three times I've shot in my face was to save a fix on the point of congealing. I'm no where near that stage just now, but I know that if I find a face vein that I'd at least have a banker to go in if I'm really up against it. I find no vein in my face. I check my shoulders, my armpits and finger all over my biceps. I twist my arms around and crane my head trying to spot any veins running up the backside of my arms. I spot a couple and mark lines along either side of them. Veins in the backs of arms are only possible to get with the use of a mirror, yet in the mirror it's difficult to see the vein and so the penned guides help, knowing that if you cast the needle between the guides then you are fishing where the vein is. It's awkward positioning to get these back arm veins. The risk is that even if I hit the vein I won't have sufficient control over the needle to manage the fix without the syringe slipping back out. This is where having cooked up a 0.4ml shot could pay dividends. Looking in the mirror, with my right arm bent flat back and raised, I insert the needle and pull back on the plunger. Nothing. I let the plunger suck back down, twist the needle around and try again. Zilch. On maybe the 8th attempt I draw blood, not a lot but enough to know I'm in a small but good vein. I try to manoeuvre my body so as I can keep the needle steady and inject. As soon as I unload some of the heroin a small lump begins rising under the skin. It stings. I pull back on the plunger to see if I'm still in the vein. There is no blood. As I feared the needle has slipped out the vein and now I have damaged and bruised the surrounding area and the vein will not be hittable again. 

With the blood I've taken my shot is now up to 0.5ml. That's half the maximum volume of liquid the needle can hold. I shake the new blood into the fix. It makes the shot darker and will make it that much more difficult to get. I go back downstairs, to my legs. I take a few pops in my inner thigh where sometimes I get lucky on old veins which have risen for one last hurrah. Nothing doing. I badly bruise the inside of my thigh. At one of the attempted injection sites, dark blood, almost black, streams out and will not stop. I wipe the blood away, over my leg and then lick my hand clean. The injecting addict gets used to tasting his own blood. There's rarely tissue at hand and so the blood gets wiped and sucked and licked clean. Next I check to see if my left foot is still swollen from a failed injection three days ago. If it's not still swollen there is a deep thick vein that is hittable right at the top of the foot, a vein which seems to disappear somewhere deep, up along the shin bone. It's a big vein, only accessible from that sole point, but is extremely difficult to hit as it is not bedded on anything and moves and pushes away when the needle tries to puncture it. My foot is still very slightly swollen but I can feel the vein. It squidges and moves out the way even as I finger it. Due to the bluntness of the syringe I have to force it in, almost screw it in through the skin down there. It hurts like hell. I twist the needle a little more and a terrible pain shoots up my shin and makes me tear the needle out and scream. I have hit the bone or gone into tendon or something. The crux of my foot swells up like a pensioner's with water retention. The skin and flesh is so tough there now that I couldn't get a needle through it if I wanted to. If I'd had been using a new, sharp, clean needle I'd have made that shot. I curse my blunt needle and want to dash it into the wall. I won't do it with a blunt works today. I need new spikes. 

 I interrupt my injection to run to the pharmacy. I quickly dress, wash the blood off my hands and fingers and rush out. I buy three steriboxes which contain two needles a piece. As soon as I get back I transfer the contents of the blunt syringe into a new one. Normally I'd remove the plunger from the new needle and squirt the liquid from the older one straight into the barrel. But today, because my hit has taken blood, I want to dilute it a little and so I squeeze the mixture back into my spoon. I add 0.2ml of fresh water to thin it down with, give it a quick stir with the cap from a syringe and then filter it back up into the new needle. With a fresh spike I am feeling optimistic. Tiny veins I could not even contemplate trying earlier are now possibilities. I strip back naked, get my right foot back up on the sink and inspect the inside of my heel. I find a cluster of weak spidery veins but nothing remotely bold enough to withstand a full shot. They're strange those filo-veins. Often they'll continue to draw blood even when damaged, even when the syringe is obviously no longer inside. Sometimes it'll take the shot at the site of injection only to blow out somewhere else along its course. Whenever injecting into such delicate veins it's necessary to release the shot real slowly, sometimes as slowly as a degree every ten seconds or so. The problem with slow release drip-shots is that the heroin reaches the brain just as gradually, and although you get the full effect eventually you do not get the initial shock of the hit. Ignoring the cluster veins I inspect the back of my foot; the heel. There is one vein, small but not a capillary, running across the back of my achilles heel. In my entire 15 years of shooting junk I've only ever hit this vein once. Every other attempt, just the mere fact of inserting the needle there, had left me literally weeping in pain, whipping the needle out and furiously rubbing warmth into the site to alleviate the soreness. I eye the vein suspiciously, run my finger over it to judge its worth. The room is cold and the vein is flat. I couldn't hit it without sticking my achilles tendon and bone. I decide against inserting the needle there just now but make a mental note of it as a possibility if I get desperate. 

Desperate? If the needle takes too much blood and is risking to congeal. When that happens it's surprising what veins suddenly become an option and how little regard one has for pain or injury. In fact, at that point, one rebels against the pain, screaming at it and telling it to fuck off while driving the needle in again and cursing and hollering. I give up on my legs once more and instead search all over my hands. I find a possible hit in the far side of my left hand. It's a small, delicate vein and so I change the needle again before trying. I load the new syringe, push out the air, and slide it into the side of my hand. It is extremely sore inserting the syringe, but once in the pain subsides. I pull back gently on the plunger. Nothing doing. I withdraw the needle a couple of millimetres, pull for blood again and draw nothing again. I slightly withdraw the needle a final time, so as now it is no more than a few millimetres under the skin. I pull. Home! Blood pulls back into the needle and not just a trickle. Before pressing the shot home I must steady my hand so as the needle does not flap about and fall out. I reposition my hand and manage to support the needle with my thumb while getting to the the plunger with my middle finger. It's an awkward and tentative hold as the needle is now up to 0.7ml. I put pressure on the plunger. I can feel resistance due to the thickness of the liquid and the plunger doesn't budge. I increase slightly the pressure and one of my fears when going into such a delicate vein is realized: the blockage suddenly clears making the pressure on the plunger all too much. Before I can stop, the plunger shudders down a full step and unloads a good point of the thick liquid into the site. Where I panic I push the syringe deep into the flesh. Instantly my hand burns up and becomes lumpy and white and numb. I'm through the vein, I know it. I'm so sure I don't even try drawing blood. I withdraw the needle and now I do have trouble as I took too much blood. Once again I shake the blood into the fix and push the air out. I huff and brace myself to try some more. 

The shot is now black and thick and the clock is against me. I have no longer than 15 minutes to get the shot. Now my search for veins intensifies. I look over my body and have a pop with the needle at any and every possible injection site I can find. I figure that at least if I'm sticking the needle into myself then I am actively doing something. 

On the index finger of my left hand is a small intestinal coloured vein. It's the last blatantly visible vein I have left in either of my hands. It's still there because it seems to be attached, or extremely close, to a nerve. The twice I've managed to hit it in the past, the moment I squeezed even the weeniest drop of liquid into it, it had sent a burning shock of what felt like fire shooting all throughout my hand and up my arm to my neck. I don't try the vein but add it to my emergency ten-second-countdown list. I turn my hands over and stretch my fingers so as my palms turn white. I hold my hand up to the light but the only veins I can see are too small and too deep into the palm. A needle in the underside of the palm is excruciatingly painful, and the deeper one must go the more painful it is. You can sense you could do an awful lot of damage prodding about inside that part of your body. Through experience you know it is a hotbed of nerves that deep down. The only place which is more painful than the palm is the underside of the foot. Even my successful injections there had left me limping for a week. 

The fix in the needle is now dark black and as thick as syrup. It's hard to even pull the plunger back to allow blood in. To get the shot I'll need a half decent vein as I'll never be able to see if a small vein is giving blood or not. At the base of my belly, descending into the groin area, there are two long veins each side. They're the same kind of long flat veins which run up my flanks. I carefully insert the needle into my lower belly. It stings but the pain is just a nuisance now. I try in all four veins. One I think gives blood but as soon as I push a small blue lump rises at the point of injection. I remove the needle and the site bleeds profusely. Blood streams down my body, runs down my legs, and collects in a small pool on the tiled floor. I decide to change needle again. I will also dilute the fix some more in an effort to try and buy some more time. I squirt the thick, partly congealed liquid back into the spoon and dilute it with 0.5ml of water. I now have more liquid than can be sucked up in the syringe. I will have to take the shot over two injections. I suck up half the fix. It's still thick and almost just as dark. With a fresh needle and now almost out of time I begin poking recklessly about in my calf, the front and back. It doesn't hurt so much here and so I can be quite brutal with the needle. Each time I give up and remove the syringe dark blood now flows. I smear it away and continue. I'm getting annoyed and cursing, making growling frustrated noises every time I fail. And then, just like that, it happens. It's so easy that even I'm surprised. The needle is pushed deep into the inner side of the calf and takes instant blood. I'm so taken aback that I pull the plunger back twice to make sure it's real. Each time I pull back blood begins filling the syringe. Without further hesitation I unload the shot at good pace. I feel the heroin travelling, itching up my leg, my sides, my shoulder: and then the taste of it in my mouth and sinuses. I begin feeling good, like a cloud has uncovered the sun. I let the empty needle dangle in my leg. It's a deep hidden vein, a good vein and I must mark it. I mark lines either side of the dangling jack and draw an arrow at the bottom to indicate the exact angle to insert the second needle. I've been lucky. The vein is well up to taking multiple shots. If I thought it couldn't take even the second fix I would piggyback the next shot: leave the original syringe in the vein but remove the plunger. With the needle acting as an in-line I'd fill the barrel with the contents of another needle. It's a hazardous practice due to the amount of air you can accidentally inject, but once you've piggybacked a few times you learn quite proficiently how not to kill yourself in the process. But there is no piggybacking today. I remove the needle, suck up the remaining half of my fix and with the vein already marked out the second shot takes less than ten seconds to administer. Now the cloud moves back across the sun, and in this low hum-drum afternoon, marinated in my own blood, I sit down to write, and I'm full of incredible words, but not a single one will get written.

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Anonymous said...

Hello, I've always found the bit about shooting blanks interesting. A friend of mine who is an addict does this constantly with insulin needles filled with water, even when it is hell to find a vein, a situation you've well described here! I think I get it. In other types of addiction, there's "past-timing," which is roundly forbidden in various recovery circles, but which nonetheless is engaged in constantly. I guess shooting blanks is just another, more visceral form of this? Also, given all your body goes through to get a hit, as you've described here, I wanted to ask something else: Do heroin addicts have a particular propensity for home surgeries? I've seen and read abut countless things done at home to deal with anything from tooth problems to tattoo removal, and even the cutting away of necrotic flesh. So is it a consequence of the regular use of heroin, these home surgeries, or do you think it's something already in the heroin addict's behavioral traits that steers them to these type of home medical interventions? Thanks very much!

Bella said...

Hi Shane,
I've been reading your blog since January, when I found it after coming back from a trip to Hawaii. I somehow managed to sneak particular items on the plane so I wasn't sick, but when I got back I couldn't find these particular items - which is when I bought H for the first of only two times I have ever done it. Like you say in other posts (I think I've read them all, now!) I wasn't immediately impressed and certain, er, legal things happened to the dealer which scared me off. I'm a college student, so if I did try to buy that kind of stuff from someone in my town again I know all my friends would know and would panic and probably tell my relatives, which is no bueno.
Anyway, I'm an opiate addict, but with pills. Before finding your blog I was really ashamed of it, and the people around me made me feel like a dirty junkie for it (even though, as per your definition, I'm an addict, NOT a junkie). However, since reading your writings, I've felt ten times better about myself and I am not nearly as depressed as I used to be, and I realize the ridiculousness of it that I'm not able to buy and/or be prescribed what I consider to be my antidepressant. I'm a wonderful student, I have friends, a life, I'm a functional addict and I rarely take enough to "nod" - just to fill up that black space in my head that makes me so depressed I do not want to move. I'm going to have to quit very soon, though, as I'm graduating and I will only be able to get a much lesser degree of what I need after my connects bounce. I also want to move to Hawaii, so I have to be clean to do that!
This particular post I couldn't finish. I actually hate needles and medical things and blood, and I can't imagine how frustrating it must be for you to have "gear" (I'd call it dope, although I like the name "gear) and not be able to feel it! I usually snort or pop my pills.
Anyway, I love your writing and, coming from a student of literature, I really think that your blogs should be published. In fact, I'm pretty enamored with your work. I'm planning on buying a painting (hopefully soon) and I will treasure it because of not only how amazing your artistic work is, but also because you helped me realize that the myths surrounding opiate use are wildly overblown and demonizing people that use them is wrong and untrue.
I've never posted before, so here's my hello, and sincere THANKS!!

With love (as in, I think a little bit of me is in love with you even though you're older and I have my own drug-addicted lover already, although is thing is Pot and booze) Bella from the US of A xxx

Bella said...

P.S. the fact that you try to bust the myth that "drug addicts are self-destructive" and aren't all depressed and glamorizing of your addiction really sits well with me. I feel like people that talk like that think they are really "cool" for their addiction, and I really doubt their addictive status - in my opinion, having a true addiction to something, especially with the looming fright of dope sickness always a day away, really takes that mythical rebelliousness some users like to boast of out of it. I'm a misanthrope and I really hate how certain people try to place themselves into that stereotype if they use, because it perpetuates the myth that drugs need to be eradicated, as people only use them for death, self-destruction, and to rebel, rather than legitimate mental health reasons (I consider my opiate use an anti-depressant, as I stated before).

Again, with much love, and don't jab too many veins as I will sorely miss your writings,
Bella xxx

JoeM said...

My God if I ever thought of taking up Heroin this would really freeze me in my tracks (as t'were). Too much like hard work!

Maybe that's part of the thing – you have to feel you've worked for the high: all that vein-chasing palaver and all the scoring back and forth before it.

Which ties in with Esmé's home surgery comment. I can see the reasons why it might be necessary but it sometimes seems a tad masochistic too.

I just open the bottle and pour the wine, Cointreau, Malibu – feels soooo decadent dahling!

Soon there are no big veins left at all and you are obliged to go in the body blind and deep.


I don't think I'd be good at needling myself even though I've never been squeamish of needles. I recently had loads of tests in hospitals - CAT scans, bone scans, X. Rays, and blood tests. Lots of blood tests. They found I had a kidney stone (small), too much Calcium in the blood (which may be to do with an over-active Thyroid for which I might need an op but will try to avoid) and - this is the point, given what you say here:

With the main veins all gone the blood circulation must take a different route around the body -

I have this congenital heart condition called Scimitar Syndrome, which causes the blood not to flow up and round the lungs but only some of it – the rest just goes back down or along some other route or something. I always knew I had a heart murmur because I always get breathless after little exertion, but knowing I have an enlarged heart and that one lung is smaller than normal sort of makes the grave seem a lot closer.

Aren't I morbid!?

Brilliant title.

And perfect last line.

Shane Levene said...

Hey Esmé... oh, I've never shot blanks. for me shooting water would be so disappointing that it'd wind me up further. Most addicts who do that have a needle fixation and that is the real reason behind it rather than using water as a kind of placebo in place of having no smack. What I did was not take an injection but just sat there ramming the needle into myself so as I'd get obvious track marks. It's pathetic but it is a part of it, especially when addicts are younger and want to advertise their use of such a taboo drug.

Home surgery. Yes, it does happen often amongst addicts (and you'll hear many addicts talking about how there like doctors and chemists, etc) but it is not really the fact that they're addicts which is the cause. There are a few reasons:

When you are constantly taking injections... when you can do it better than trained medical staff, after you've come up against every bruise and lump and weird reaction from the body, you become something of an expert of your own body and see it in a new light. Progressively, as we go through all the problems which injecting can bring about, gradually learning how best to take care of them, how to look after and heal an abscess... having veins explode and hitting nerves... you do become something of your own medical carer and things which would normally have others rushing to hospital, you deal with yourself. I've extracted three of my own teeth, drained huge abscesses and looked after them (abscesses which could lead to amputation if they get infected). I've reset my own broken bones. but being overly familiar with your own body and certain reoccurring problems is just one reason why self-surgery becomes an easy next step. Also, because of the addiction we often avoid hospitals and doctors (unless we're dragged or stretchered there) and so you take care of all these things and only get medical attention if they really get out of control. I guess in the US, with the private healthcare, the addicts, having spent every penny on dope just have no real choice and so are kinda forced in to doing self-surgery. But no, there's nothing inherent in the addict himself. Before heroin we didn't really do that.. we would go to the doctor or dentist. So it's to do with circumstance and acquired knowledge, and once you've successfully extracted one tooth or cured one abscess, they the next time you don't even consider a medical help as you know you can look after it yourself. X

Shane Levene said...

Hey Bella from the US of A... welcome and thanks for your words! X

I'll stick to your second little comment, Me darlin'... the 'cool stakes of self-destruction'. Let's get things straight: I only know and can write of such myths and nonsense because i've done it myself. When you're young you do kinda get off on how unhappy you can be and how much you don't want to live. That said, most addicts who peddle the self-destruction myth (and most do) are not young but supposedly mature adults. Heroin addiction isn't self-destructive... it's the opposite. We use for self-preservation. We are not courting death but courting life (bt that isn't cool to say). Though f we look at what heroin does and why people use it becomes abundantly clear that what i'm saying is correct. People use heroin to numb pain... to numb life to a point where it is acceptable. So if you're using heroin so as life is bearable, then it means that you want to live... you want a life that you can appreciate and enjoy. That isn't self-destructive. If they were self-destructive they'd not use heroin and let whatever trauma or grief completely consume them. Yes, heroin addiction damages the body, and intravenous addiction really damages the body, but that again just shows how desperate someone's desire is to live. It is so desperate that in order to live they will risk killing themselves.

Many addicts often go on about myths and stereotypes, but they're often the worst perpetrators. Only they don't mind pushing certain myths that will earn them some 'cool chips'and maybe a split of a bed with some passionate company. As lonely as I am here I may have to start doing the same! X

Shane Levene said...

Hey Joe... everything just builds up, and of course, when you first begin injecting it takes literally seconds to get a vein. It is only years later when it get horrendously difficult and messy. No, it's not a part of the process and enjoying the effect more becasue of the pains it took to get it. The time it takes is extremlely frustrating and leaves you murderous with rage when it's not working. It's not a pleasure in any way. In fact, the only time i ever considered completely stopping was when it was taking 4hrs to get each fix. I was falling into illness and withdrawals when i had money and junk but couldn't get it in my system.

Well I hated and was terrified of injecting for many years and didn't think i could do it. But once you start getting so ill and realise you are not going to quit, then it becomes easy to take that step. And once you do, and it is so quick and painless... often doesn't even bleed when you withdraw the needle, it becomes such a small thing. Like anything, if we're exposed to it often enough we become desensitized and as we see in everything from horror movies to war, once we are desensitized it's easy to do monstrous things in its wake. Just the only seem monstrous to the onlookers.

An oversized heart and mis-matched deformed lungs!Not the best chat-up line in the world, Mr. Mills! It sounds as if you'll end up as lonely as me... and just as unhealthy. We may have to pool our bad lots and have twice as much misfortune together. Which reminds me of a line from WFJ:

“How did Luke die? Was it a terrible car accident where his head got pushed right down into his chest cavity and a broken rib punctured his lung? Young people normally die like that. Something really macabre. Is that how Luke went?”
John kinda woke from his state of arousal and slowly turned his head. For the first time I saw that look in his face that wondered “Who the fuck is this guy?” and “Is he dangerous?”
“You mean you REALLY didn't know him? I thought you was joking!”
“Oh, It was no joke. I'm a tragic figure. My name, Triste-ram, means sadness. Now, would you like me to put my fist in your arse?”
John gave me a look so curious that I've never seen one like it since. Then he rolled over onto his back and parted his legs wide. He looked like a beetle on its back. “Cancer,” he moaned, scrunching his eyes up and pulling a face like he was in pain, “it runs in the family.”
“Coronary heart disease, flatulence, and water retention for me,” I said. “What a wonderful future we have!”


JoeM said...

I'm glad there's no masochism or anything involved. Hope you can switch to smoking or something if the veins become impossible.

I understand about getting better than the 'experts'. I spent so much time getting tests I started to get irritated with those who weren't up to scratch. Some blood-takes left nothing, others left huge bruises. I think people at work were beginning to wonder.

I was just glad it wasn't cancer in my case – which I was convinced it was. I think we both have a propensity for episodes of dramatic hypochondria. I now feel curiously 'safe' having had all those tests. And I intend to get them to repeat them all every year – I'm making up for decades of doctor-avoidance.

Oh I'm well past chat-up lines! Though some folk love the idea of being a carer in love: mostly women though – so you've got that advantage over me!

Truth is we'll probably see out the lot of them – if strength of will has anything to do with it!

I'm a tragic figure. My name, Triste-ram, means sadness.
Tristram was such a Drama Queen!

karl said...

Hi Shane
After 20yrs of iv using & not going down the groin road I've often spent 2 or 3 hours persevering with ten plus pins discarded on the floor, often going back to the discarded ones to find a sharper one. These days when I'm using I'll only have the one hit per day but I make sure it's a hit worth doing, going through the rigmoral for a bag or even worse a wash just aint worth the trouble I'd rather swallow my meth. Although with the quality of the gear these days I sometimes get more satisfaction from achieving the hit than from the gear itself, because when that blood finally flows into the works it's pure relief and as soon as the plunger hit home I always repeat "thankyou" 2 or 3 times out loud even when I'm on my own to bring me luck for next time.

Shane Levene said...

Hey Karl Me ol' mate... (going back to me cockney routes for this one!)

Ten plus pins... i hear ya. Even worse when you're out of pins and going through your old needle bags, pulling the spike backwards across your arm to test how sharp it is and it's not jagged. i still cringe thinking of the feeling of trying to hit up with a jagged needle, in your head you can hear and feel it rip and tear the skin and flesh. I've spennt evenings trying to get fixes, and because of all the messing around you only get maybe 2/3 of the shot and so need todo the same all over again once you eventually struck home. I mentioned to Joe above how it was the only time i've ever seriously wanted to quit. Squirting away fix after fix, covered in blood... getting ill because of the time it's taking and just sitting their, staring at my body and having no idea where the hell i could try next. I've been smoking or snorting recently. I fix the starter for ten and smoke to top it up. Where I'm not using everyday I can do it and just about get away with it, but on a proper daily habit smoking just wouldn't be an option. As with you, I just prefer swallowing my juice most days. It's nowhere near the same but allows you to do different things... things you'd never get around to doing on H... like writing this comment! X

Claudia said...

I'm surprised people who aren't addicts are able to read this post without feeling ill. It's ridiculous how comfortable we become ramming needles into ourselves, all over our bodies, again and again. Even in my early days I had more trouble than most and had to be creative in finding a spot to hit, so that even after all this time I have no track marks in the tell-tale spots like the crook of the arm. I've never been able to hit there and learned early on to not even try.
Now, years into it, I'm lucky if it only takes me the better part of half an hour to get a successful shot. It's crazy how I (and many addicts I suppose) take a grotesque pride in being able to pull off injections in tiny veins in strange places, like the ankle, in between the fingers, and of course the calf!
Reading the end of your post felt so victorious, particularly because I've found unexpected salvation hitting in my calf before. The moment where you're thinking "This will never work, I don't even see any veins here", then boom- the flowering of the blood into the barrel and you can't believe your luck as you push it home.
As usual you capture it brilliantly... the beauty of our disgusting desperation. Thank you.

Peet79 said...

Hi Shane,
As I suffer from a terrible phobia of needles, blood and such things, this was by far the most difficult post to read on your blog. I cringed and covered my eyes every second, but it was worth it! I really loved this post, and for some reason this whole heroin culture really interests me, even though I have no drug history other than occasional pot smoking. Keep writing great stuff!
By the way, why haven't you released any sick Jesus story for 3 weeks? I really like it :)

Speedy said...

Wow thats pretty scary. Ive been using H for 1 year and only snort. I dont think I will ever jump to the needle (never heard that one before)
My main drug for the last 11 years has been amphetamine. I can see myself quitting H but not speed.
Anyways great writing, my favourite story is the black house. Must have been a crazy experience.

Shane Levene said...

Hey Peer and thanks for your words. Sick Jesus. I had to put it o

n temporary hold as I began the very final rewrite of my novel Waiting for John and it was impossible to flit between the two worlds. But WFJ is all but completely finished now... Just one or two pages of rewriting left. I was also writing new stuff for here, some of the best stuff I've done for a while. But Sick Jesus will continue very shortly. X

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

Hey Speedy... The Blackhouse... Here's what I say about it in a soon to be published interview with The Fix magazine:

It was extremely frightening. We were surrounded by perverts and paedophiles and deviants of all kinds. It was also a place of chronic substance abuse and those people are very volatile and unpredictable. So it was terrifying and yet it was enthralling and ultimately inspired a great literature within me. X

Anonymous said...

Hi Shane. I've been reading your blog for the past few months, and I just want to thank you for your posts. I've been using for 5 years, hooked on opiates for 9, and I've been vascillating between trying to quit and relapsing for the past year or so. I'm lucky to have a family who supports me and wants me to get better...I know this...but I catch their looks of disgust from time to time and feel so fucking alone. So, thank you for being there, your posts mean a lot to me.

I'll write again,

eyelick said...

Oh my, this is very familiar. Getting undressed, the time spent, false registers, veins blowing, the frustration and cursing, etc. During periods of time that it tends to be hard every time, it leaves me more willing to stay in bed sick for a couple of hours in the morning, rather than have to go deal with the most difficult shot of the day. It's quite obnoxious, and sometimes end up just shoving the shot in a larger spider vein or trickler, just due to being so damn sick of looking. My veins started out as shit - small, rolling, deep, hard to find. Was given injections by my bf during most of my first couple of years, he just offered right away, then one day he was done. And picked up the bad habits of a long-term user (such as following veins til they're done) and none of the skills. But have less fear of using certain places than some people who've used for longer (but had access to exchanges.) However, am aware there are some spots where the vein is just too small or do not have the skill to hit it. The marking of spots - position and angle - do that too, as well as making sure to leave lots of room for blood. You're lucky to be able to remove the needle from the syringe. Clots are awful. Have never mastered that piggybacking thing at all.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shane, its Kate from Sunny Swansea AGAIN.
I read this a while back and decided to read it again just now. I've never injected, only ever used foil.
I'm wondering something, about getting a good vein whilst clucking.
It's bad enough opening the bloody knotted plastic glove finger tip bag open! I understand (I think anyway) the draw to injecting as opposed to smoking....economics obviously play a part but I assume it's just a harder hit.
Reading about your frustration in finding a vein etc...being on the edge of sickness I was wondering if injecting addicts with problem veins have a little smoke first to sort their heads out a little bit before hand? I get it that it's not feasible if you've only got a ten bag or something..but is it done?
It may seem like a stupid question to ask. I'm just interested. The people who I know who inject sneer at foil users like we are they've climbed up some junkie hierarchy and they know best so shut up!
So, I'm asking you. Cos I know you would give me an honest and sensible answer.
Thanks!'s been sunny again.

Anonymous said...

That's just nasty. Stop. :/

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