Heroin's double side

I remember very well when my father found out that I smoked and told my mother that nothing will prevent me from getting into drugs because I had already discovered the most dreadful vice. Perhaps my father was right because when a couple of years later searching in my pockets one night, he found a packet of Rizla he claimed that I was on my way to perdition and that nothing absolutely nothing will stop me from becoming a heroin addict.

Those words had a big impact in me because I could not understand why he was saying such a thing without bothering to listen to my story. It was true that at that time I smoked dope in the weekends and it is also true that I used to drink a lot, snort the occasional line and take some pills but in a way I was no different from the rest of my friends, who like me were young and looking for a good time.

Heroin was not in our plans, first of all we had no access to it, the dealers lived in the most dangerous parts of our town and nobody wanted to risk their reputation. On top of that we felt that there was no glamour in it because knew very well what heroin had done to previous generations and we did not want to finish like them. Nobody wanted a junkie as a friend and nobody wanted to try a substance that was clearly against our weekend plans.

My friends talked about earning money, spending it on drugs, designer clothes, fast cars, skiing trips and night clubs. With those ideas in mind who would have time to think about the heroin related crimes, the detox programs  or simply the marginal population living on the edge of our town where illiterate children lived in the most absolute poverty?

Cocaine was the chic drug. I remember very well when I invited a friend to smoke a joint with me and he told me that he did not want it because it was cheap. Coke made you feel the king of the creation and all the rest was simply irrelevant. It was all about power and control. Baring that in mind I decided that that drug was not from me and gradually I withdrew from the local club scene and moved on.

It was not until some years later when I was introduced to some AIDS epidemic survivors and heroin addicts in their sixties that I began to understand what heroin should have meant for people who were young when I was not even born. Janis Joplin singing Cry baby, the need of sexual liberation in the gay scene, the 70’s free and relaxed attitude towards drugs and finally the music industry promoting all sort of messages against authority, conventionalism and tradition created a culture of anti-consumerism and revolution that had nothing to do with the plastic hedonist capitalism inherited by my generation.  

Maybe because I met all these people in London I have a more reflective attitude towards heroin, maybe because I run away from an area in Spain where the traditional industries were closing down at the time I was growing up and young people who were not privileged as me were forced into mass unemployment and social depravation I can distinguish between those who had the choice of making heroin their way of life and those who were trapped in a no way out situation. 

A relative of mine was a heroin user and she died of AIDS. Her husband, HIV+ as well as a user moved to London and began a career dealing in clubs. When I met him, by coincidence, in a party he was selling crystal meth and he asked me if I wanted some. I felt that it would have the same effect to say no as to remind him that we have some relatives in common. At the time of writing this I do not whether he is still alive or not but for what I heard he has not gone back to our country.

 Having seen what I have seen and having heard to the stories I have heard about death and addiction I do not think that I shall try heroin in my whole life. Only a couple of days ago a friend of mine told me how a girl she knew died in the middle of the night after having taken heroin, apparently she choke in her own vomit and apparently that was a common cause of death thirty years ago.

I do not have any problems to confess that I am scare of heroin, that I would never want to try it because I heard that it is so strong and intense that you cannot resist trying it again and again. Then there is the cold turkey when you try give up and the sense of loss and knowing that your life will never be the same again. I met people who went through detox following very weird programs based on spirituality and the idea I got was that they had left behind a life style to become involved with sects. I also think that my perception of those recovering people was very much a mixture of my own fascination with the forbidden and the dangers of  spiritual indoctrination.

The first recovering heroin addict I met was a son of one of my father’s friends. He was young, he was relatively quite well off but he did not have any education, by the time he was eighteen or nineteen he was already hooked and that brought the stereotypical sense of shame to the family. I remember how the son was scared to go out on the street by himself and how his father sent him to a rehabilitation farm far away from where they lived in order to start treatment and keep him away from his friends and habits.

When I saw the guy in one of his permitted and escorted visits I could not believe what I was seeing. The discourse of having been guilty and being looking for redemption was so deeply ingrained in his brain that I assumed that in reality there was no way out from heroin, that addiction and recovery were long journeys with unclear destinations. To complicate things even more I even heard that in some farms physical violence to treat patients was quite common. 

After that I had other experiences with recovering addicts following similar therapies. In my hometown there was a chapter of a national charity specialised in furniture restoration. The way it worked was very easy, users collected old furniture, they restore them and then they sold them for a gratuity. Usually, attached to the deliverance there was a little postcard inviting you to pray for the recovery of all the users and an explanation of the principles of the organisation.

Maybe because I am an atheist I cannot see the point in involving any sort of superior being in the recovery process. For that reason I think that becoming an addict should not be morally condemned as long as no other people are damaged. After reading William Boroughs’ Junkie I was under the impression that, although dangerous, heroin could become a productive way of life for some artists. The critique to my thoughts, I know, is that not everybody has the talent to become an artist and also that heroin is so highly addictive that users would do anything in order to get their doses.

So my real problem with heroin is whether I stand for defending the rights of those who know what they are doing and want to continue doing it or to inform of the dangers of the things I have seen and heard in order to prevent mistakes. The solution does not seem to be easy as the damn heroin legend keeps feeding its users’ stigmatisation without any possible trace of redemption