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I've been all over the place lately. At the beginning of the summer I was plowing through the Needles, Names, and Numbers drafts, ultima...

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Grey World of Suboxone

I really suck at not doing heroin.

I suck so much that I need to take a drug that renders me physically immune to opiates. I’ve been on Suboxone for a month now. The first week was wonderful. As that first strip dissolved in my mouth the monkey on my back slowly retracted its claws from deep within my shoulder blades. For the first time in over a year my thoughts weren’t dominated by heroin. It felt like I could breathe for the first time in ages, like I finally had my life back.

Now I’m not so sure I want it back.

That’s just like me, isn’t it? I never know what the fuck I want. I’m always caught up in how things used to be, watching movies of the past while the present slips by behind my back. Suboxone is not like other opiates. Initially it offered a slight high, but that quickly faded. It offers the same irritability, excessive sweating, pinned pupils, and low sex drive as other opiates, without any of that pesky euphoria or contentment. I’m stuck in drug purgatory, a grey world between sobriety and withdrawal where I’m just sort of… Ok.

“We’ve got a bit of a problem here, Harry…” Dr. Matthews says as he opens up a manila folder. My heartrate jumps but slows back down as I notice he already has my next script written out on his pad. “Your urine tested clean, so I know you haven’t been using…” He continues as he thumbs through page after page. These cocksuckers run a tight ship. I’m tested weekly for any and all drugs, including alcohol. Can you believe that shit? I certainly can’t. But like any good junky, I came prepared for this kind of fuckery. My tests are every Friday. Alcohol is out of my system within three days. Alcohol is far from my weapon of choice in the fight against my head, but it’ll do.

“The problem… Hiccup! Ugh, excuse me…” Dr. Matthews grunts. Dr. Matthews is an obese middle aged man that stinks of cigarettes. The whole concept of fat doctors is one I’ve always found funny. The jokes really do write themselves, don’t they? But hey, I’m a junky, I get it. He’s got a double chin, I’ve got track marks. Neither of us want to be here right now. I wonder what poor choices led him to his side of the desk. Dr. Matthews circles two numbers on a sheet and slides the folder towards me. “See this? That’s your urinalysis. Every week we send your urine over to a lab, and they tell us exactly how much Suboxone is in your system each week. I’m not gonna bore you with the details, but your numbers are very low. You’re only getting about 40% of your medication at the rate you’re going, which means one of two things… There’s a problem with ingestion, or… You’ve been selling your medicine.”

I haven’t been selling my subs, though the thought has certainly crossed my mind. Once I saw how hard these guys go, though, I decided against it. I got bitched out by Dr. Matthews last week for having low numbers, and knew I’d hear the same shit this week. My subs come in an orange film, not unlike the Listerine strips that dissolve in your mouth. I have to take these god damn things sublingually, by letting the strip dissolve in my mouth over thirty minutes. Thirty god damn minutes. Why they can’t just give me a fucking pill is beyond me…

I sigh and look at the floor. I’ve rehearsed this in my head all week. “I figured this would come up. The reason my numbers are low this week, is because, well… I uh… I’ve been experiencing some… Embarrassing side effects.” I begin. Dr. Matthews furrows his brow and nods for me to continue. I pull a pill bottle out of my pocket with two unused Suboxone strips inside. “I skipped my dose on Saturday. I was really, really, constipated. It had been over a week since I, uh… Had a bowel movement. Obviously having been addicted to heroin in the past this wasn’t anything I hadn’t dealt with before, y’know? And what I used to do is just wait ‘till withdrawal set in and it’d usually, y’know… Come out.” I sell my story well. Dr. Matthews opens up the bottle, checks the contents, and nods. “Well, that’d certainly explain it. But you really shouldn’t be skipping your doses, Harry. That withdrawal sets in and the cravings will come right back, tenfold. You have to be vigilant. Don’t let this happen again, alright? Take a stool softener or a laxative next time. Here’s your script.” “Thanks Dr. Matthews, my numbers will be higher next week, I promise.”

The same pharmacist that once sold me my syringes now fills my Suboxone script. I must admit, being a legal drug addict is pretty cool. I can go right into the pharmacy and get my goods instead of waiting around for hours for a phone call that might never come. I sigh as I put a strip in my mouth and the tongue-numbing chemical citrus taste burns my taste buds. I extensively researched any and all methods of abusing these damn things to no avail. I did try shooting them a few times, but it did little more than harden my veins.

I don’t know what I expected to get from this shit. I thought it would finally free me of the heroin cravings that haunted me whether awake or asleep, and it does. I’m numb, but not the numb I’d like to be. Without the euphoria to supplement the numbness, I’m just sort of… here. Not happy or sad. I’m used to either being in a state of chemically-induced bliss or crippling, suicidal depression. I’m not used to being… normal.  

I miss boners. Masturbation has gone from one of my favorite pastimes to a chore. When I do decide to go clean out the gutters downstairs, it’s nearly impossible to finish, and if I do, the payoff is minimal. In my previous attempts at getting clean, the real world would rush back at me at full volume and ultra-high resolution. My emotions would come back too. Music would give me goosebumps, sad commercials would make me cry. It didn’t always feel good, but I felt alive. I guess that’s what life is for most people.

And now I’m here again. Why am I still surprised? I can go ahead and add Suboxone to the long list of drugs that can’t fix me. It may keep me off heroin, but I have to get off them eventually, and when I do… What then?

The depression is coming back. Ah, who am I kidding? That bastard never left. He leaves little clues around my head to let me know he’s still there. I spent all of Sunday in bed, rising only to piss, take another Sub, some Benadryl, and some whiskey, which when taken together, induces a deep slumber. While I’m no longer technically a heroin addict, I still do heroin addict shit.

I sit on the toilet, but nothing comes out. I sit at the computer, but nothing comes out. E-mails pile up, but I’m too anxious to check them. It’s been so long since I’ve written anything, and when I do write, its shit. Fuck. I thought this would make things different, but it’s more of the same.

Unable to take more of the same, I call one of my few remaining links to the craziness: Middle Man Mike. He doesn’t answer. Stan just got out of jail. It figures that I’ve gotten out just as he’s gotten back in. He asked me to help him out, but I decline. Juanita is on vacation, back home in the Dominican Republic, not that she’d ever meet up with a stranger anyway. The tables have turned while he was away, and I could become his middle man. But it’s hot out there, and I’m fine inside.
I text Middle Man Mike looking for blow. Maybe coke will help me get this fucking book done. In the meantime I head over to the liquor store. A group of kids wait nervously outside the door, just out of view from the owner. I smile as I get out of my car, walking slowly past them before one finally gathers the balls to ask me…

“Hey, mister?!”

The other kids burst into poorly-controlled laughter. “Yeah?” I reply. “C-could you, um… Get us something? Please?” I take a peek into the store. The owner’s busy. These kids can’t be older than 14, should I really do this? Then again, 14 year olds can’t drive…

“Alright, alright, what do you guys want? Quick, I don’t the guy in there to see us…” I say to the group. Each kid fishes around in their pockets hurriedly and hands me a few crumpled dollar bills. “We want a handle of Rubinoff, and two packs of Marlboros.” One says. “Grape rubinoff!” Adds one of the others. “Ruby, huh? Alright guys, tell you what, wait around the other side of the store. I’ll be right out, ok?” I tell them. I grab their Rubinoff and a fifth of Jameson for myself. I thought I smelled weed while I was out there, so I decide to spoil them. “Yeah, can I also get a pack of Game cigarillos, too? Thanks brotha.”

“Thanks man!” One of the kids says when I return. They look at the plastic jug of vodka like it’s Crown Royal. “No problem guys. No driving, alright!?” “Aww man he got us blunt wraps!” I hear one of them say as I walk back to my car.

I check my phone as I set down my bag and crack the bottle of Jameson. No messages. “Fucking Mike…” I mumble to myself. I aggressively pour a stiff glass of Jameson, admitting defeat to my coke cravings. I pick a random episode of The Wire and get my buzz on. Suboxone makes drinking less pleasurable too. The drunk feels almost dirty, more sedating, and I fight a losing battle against sleep by chugging Monster energy drinks. I’m really starting to hate this shit…

I wake up to a news feed full of RIP’s and old pictures. A former classmate of mine passed away, apparently of an overdose. That’s the second one this year. This fentanyl shit is out of control. Rest in Peace, Alex. Another one gone too soon…

“You heard about Alex, right?” Jack asks me over the phone.

“Yeah, I heard. Fucked up, right?”

“Yeah, I didn’t even know he fucked with that shit. Guess there’s been a hot batch going around or something. Must make you happy to be off that shit, huh?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah. Yeah, man. Absolutely. Glad to be done with that bullshit….”

Though I’m no longer a heroin addict, I still lie like one.