Monday, May 19, 2008

Court ordered drug treatment part 1. The life of a junkie

Imagine for a second you are someone else. No longer safe behind your computer, you now are in the body of a heroin addict. You wake up every morning sick. It starts with just the sniffles and the shivers, but you know it will progress rapidly into the worst flu you can imagine, until your legs kick involuntarily, preventing sleep, until the bile burns your throat from the endless vomiting, until your body aches with every move, and every minute is sheer torture, until your mind screams for either death or the one thing that can instantly end your suffering. Heroin, beautiful heroin.

And so when you awake, your priorities are different than the common man. While others shower, shit, and shave, brush their teeth and break their fast before continuing their productive lives, you have one and only one thing on your mind. Getting the next fix. If you have the money and live in a major city, your quest can be as easy as walking to the corner. But if you live in a minor city, or a rural area, suddenly things aren't that easy. Besides being charged 2 to 8 times more (when I was in active addiction, a bag of heroin sold for $5 to 10$ in Pittsburgh and Philly. The charge in Altoona? $30 to $40) than you would in a big city, dealers in the small cities and rural areas can't set up shop on the corner. So you start making phone calls, hoping at least one of your dealers woke up before you and has your poison in stock. To keep this mental image moving, we'll assume someone actually answered their phone. (Most drug dealers have no respect for their customers. When you move away from the city, less competition leads to worse and worse treatment. Drug dealers don't have normal hours of business. Their hours are "When I feel like it," to "When I don't feel like it.") So now it's off to meet your dealer and get your drugs. If you are lucky, you know someone who lets you come to their house. If not, expect to stand on a random street waiting for someone. When that someone actually arrives, 9 times out of 10 it isn't your dealer, but a runner (drug addict who earns his dope by delivering the drugs, thereby lowering the risk to the dealer while putting his own freedom on the line) who probably pinched (took a little bit out for himself) your bag.

So now you got your dope. You are probably late for work, or cutting it close, you haven't showered, but at least you can function....if you had the money. In the big city, a one bag a day addiction is comparable to smoking a pack or more a day. But it never stays at one bag, because of tolerance. At my worst, I had a 14 bag a day addiction, and from talking with a lot of addicts in my time, my addiction was minor. 14 bags a day is a $70 to $140 dollar a day habit. If you are paying rural/small city prices, we are talking up to $560 a day. Where does the money come from?

It comes from stealing. It comes from running into Wal-mart, filling a shopping cart with dvd's and electronics, and running out the door with it. It comes from crooked pawn dealers, from bad checks, from selling every item you own. It comes from ripping off fellow addicts, or if you want to put your life on the line, ripping off your dealer. If you don't live in the city, the cost is just too much. So you begin driving to the city to get your drugs. For one 4 month stretch, I drove the 4 hours to philly 5 times a week. You start to pick up drugs for your friends while you are their, and then you may start to sell the drug yourself. The legality doesn't matter. What matters is heroin, and to get that you need the cash, so getting the cash becomes an "at all costs" propisition. For some, even their body is on sale.

But heroin costs much more than just money. Your friends disappear because you either stole from them, ripped them off, or just stopped calling. Your new buddies are all heroin addicts. Your girlfriend is now either addicted or gone. Kids? Ha, you just spent their diaper money for a bag of dope. Your teeth are rotting, veins collapsing, chances are you have Hep C now, and if you are really unlucky, HIV. Eventually, you are going to fuck up at work or school. Can you have a heroin addiction and still get good grades or be a good employee? Sure.....for a while. I carried a 4.0 for two semesters while using, only to have to withdraw after I started driving to Philly. I was head bartender/head trainer of a Don Pablo's until I walked out one day because my dealer couldn't deliver. Eventually, the house of cards you built will come crashing down.

And then it happens. The police kick in your door at 6 am, guns drawn, and they drag you out of bed, to a holding tank with 20 other addicts. It's a drug sweep, and they don't care if you don't steal, if you don't sell. All they care about is the fact that you use, and they have a confidental informant that they paid with money to get high, who will swear you sold them dope. In your boxers and t-shirt, you go in front of a magistrate who sets your bail, say 10% of $50,000. If you are lucky, you have someone who will bail you out. If not, get ready to go to county jail. If you can hire a lawyer, he may be able to get your bail reduced before your court date. Or you can sit in jail, innocent or guilty, until you take a plea bargin or take your case to trial, 6 to 10 months in the future. They will ask you to be a confidental informant, offering to keep you high as long as you get busts for them. They will lie to you about the evidence, overcharge you, and threaten you with years if not decades in jail. No matter how suspect the evidence, they will not drop all the charges. The plea bargins will get sweeter and sweeter as time goes by, because they don't want the case to go to trial. C.I.'s have a habit of not showing up at trial. Of course, you don't want to go to trial either, even if you are innocent. A jury trial in front of 12 non-heroin users in a town where the newspaper has trumped the drug problem up to be the end of the world as we know it? "We find the defendant Guilty!" "But sir, we haven't even started the trial!" A trial by judge can be just as bad, as they were all elected to be tough on crime, especially drug crime.

So you take a plea. If you are a non-violent drug offender on your first offense, and they don't have evidence that you are a major dealer, you are probably looking at probation, some minor jail time and drug treatment. Yeah, you probably have a felony on your record now, closing many doors in your future, but it's not the end of the world. Except you are a heroin addict. And one of your stipulations of probation is to not use drugs. You better hope the drug treatment works.

1 comment:

kyle said...
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