Life Stories

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I have half-finished blog posts about important topics like the refusal of jails to continue medication-assisted treatments during incarcerations, expanding access to buprenorphine and methadone treatment, and DUI arrests for patients on stable doses of methadone. And yet, today I feel the need for narrative.

Patients with addiction are fascinating survivors. They come from all backgrounds, and many have been through hell and back. Often, I’m amazed at how they make it through episodes of sheer destruction. Occasionally, I hear such weird stories that as soon as I get home, I write them down. I feel these stories should be recorded, for some reason. They are entertaining, they are peculiar, they are poignant, and they can be sad. These narratives describe the demolition of life, due to drug use, in an almost casual way.

Here’s one I just had to share, due to its weirdness. Names have been changed, but nicknames are the same. There’s some mention of drug use, of course, so don’t read this if you are triggered by such. However, the negative consequences are also described, so maybe that helps reduce any cravings.

“I remember my friend Billy. He had a snake pit. He’d go out on the river with a croaker sack and a light and catch water moccasins. He sold the venom, and made hat bands from the skins. He also robbed Indian graves.

“Mae and Billy lived together; she was his mama. Every year he’d root for the Crimson Tide University of Alabama, and she’d root for the Auburn War Eagles. U of A and Auburn would play every year around Thanksgiving.

“Mae was with her nephew Bob that year, watching the game on TV at his place, drinkin’ and smokin’ dope. Bob lived on a place near the Tuskegee National Forest. He grew tenth generation Pakistani/Afghanistani reefer there. People came all the way from New York for that reefer. It was so bushy that a pound went into a grocery bag. He had a barn, and would pull it up by the roots and hang it upside down in there. He fertilized that reefer with shit from his fighting roosters. He had Ruble Neck Red fighting cocks. He’s been in prison for a long time. Married a girl from Trinidad, had two beautiful children. Got on a bus with a suitcase full of meth, geeked out, got arrested, and got federal time of 46 years.

“Anyway, Mae was watching the ball game, raisin’ hell and getting’ drunk. Alabama was favored to win, and Auburn, who had been losing all season, actually beat Alabama. You never know.

“Now Mae and Billy lived in a little house in East Tallassee. Billy watched the game, got drunk, and passed out on their living room floor. Mae came back home from the forest, playfully kicking Billy, shouting “War Damn Eagle!”

“Billy kept a 410 shotgun in the corner of the living room, like the majority of people living in Tallassee do. Billy woke in a drunken stupor. He and his mama were alike and would get in your face and holler, and have big verbal altercations with no follow through. But this time he got up, grabbed the 410 shotgun, pulled the trigger and blew his mama’s head off. Duck shot, squirrel shot. Bits of hair and skull and brains splattered all over the wall. Billy set the gun down, called the Tallassee police, and said “Come get me. I just shot my mama’s head off.” He was sentenced to forty years and died a few years ago.

“He’s the one that turned me onto Mepergan red capsules.

“That boy would shoot anything. He used those jelly reds, Placidyls…they had a terrible taste. You’d pull that thick syrup out, try to mash the plunger, but it was so thick…

“One time Billy and I were cruising around, and he pulled the keys out of my car, trying to be funny. I lost power steering and skidded to a stop, mad as hell. I pulled him out of the car, and told him I was gonna whip his ass. So he pulls a knife and cuts me on my left arm, aiming for my head. I grabbed the knife and started chasing him. I was high on a combination of Budweiser and Placidyl and I got mean. My hand was bleeding but I wanted to catch him. Somebody grabbed a hold of me and took me to the hospital, or I’d have bled to death. Billy came to the hospital to see if I was OK. He thought he’d killed me.

“Billy didn’t carry a knife for a long time after that because I told him if I ever see you with a knife again I’m gonna kill you.

“We were both young then, about nineteen or twenty. You may think we were bad kids, but we weren’t. We got into our share of mischief but it was all in fun. Except that about his mama, but he was at least forty years old by then.

“I don’t think Billy meant to kill his Mama. He loved his mama.

“Sissy opposed his parole. She was one of a group of four people who stole gold from a gold show at the civic center. They were arrested at the Florida border. They looked suspicious, with their Uhaul draggin’ the ground. She flipped and got a little jail time.

“She was with two guys and another girl when they were caught. Benny the bondsman was the other girl’s father. He probably masterminded that gold theft. He was a shady character.

“When I was in jail, a guy got busted in Montgomery for trafficking coke, and it turned out he was in a car owned by Benny. Benny was actually a Montgomery police officer for years before he became a bondsman. I think he might have been in the Klan. Benny was 5 foot two and bald. My initial knowledge of him was through my ex-brother in law. Benny financed part of his cocaine business.

“My ex-brother in law was called Hatchet, because of his face. He always had a whole bunch of pretty women following him around with his Corvette and boats. I went to his houseboat once and there must have been a dozen beautiful women. I don’t care what anybody says, that money will bring them in.

“Anyway, Hatchet ended up in prison. They seized all his houses. He had a little bit in his mama’s name, but they ended up seizing millions of dollars of property.

“It turned out that he became the warden’s boy at Kilby. That means he did yard work for the warden, washed his car, stuff like that. But they found a big plot of marijuana close to the swamp by the wardens’ house. They couldn’t prove it was Hatchet that planted it, but…he couldn’t go back out to the warden’s house after that. He served five years of a fifteen year sentence and got out. I don’t know if he’s ever worked. He gambles a lot.

Hatchet’s the one who turned me onto IV cocaine. I hauled dope out of Miami a few times with him. He’s the one who taught me how to shoot coke. After I shot that cocaine for the first time, I got sick. I was runnin’ around in the back yard, puking and gagging. Me with this long hair, in the middle of the night. Hatchet says “Come on back in here, man. You’re gonna call attention to us, makin’ all that noise out there.” It was loud.

“Most of those guys I ran with back in those days are either dead or in prison. There’s a few like me who were lucky enough to find recovery.”

…and more from the same recovering addict…

“Uptight Miller was an old heroin addict form the Vietnam era, and he could play some blues on the piano. He worked at the Coates’ funeral home at night and we’d all go in there and do dope and drink. I assisted with embalmings. You had the needle thing that busted the organs and you suck all the organs out, poke the big needle and the hose in, and put formaldehyde in them.

“And of course anyone who works in a funeral home has to pass out in a casket at least once.

“Uptight went over there one night and a friend of his, Wade, was there and they were acting funny. I don’t know why, but Wade blindsided me and I turned around and grabbed him, and fell on the coffee table. It broke and I got that leg and bopped Wade in the head with it, and got out of the door. I got away.

“Well, I rode around for a few hours, and got to where we hung out up at the Big Bear shopping center, and Eddie Ray came by. He was a real badass. He could take down somebody twice his size. He just went crazy.

“He’s the one that was trying to wire some dynamite under his girlfriend’s hood and it blew his hand off. I don’t guess he liked her. He could still play the guitar by wrapping a clothes hanger around his nub and picked the guitar that way.

“Anyway, I told him I was at Uptight’s and he jumped on me. Well Eddie Ray went ballistic and said I’m gonna whip both their asses. He knew Uptight’s bed was beside the window. He went thru the window, grabbed him up and beat the hell out of him right there in his front yard.

“Eddie Ray, God rest his soul, died diving off a bridge into a creek. He jumped too far, landed on a stump, and broke his neck. It’s crazy for him to die by jumping in a swimming hole.

“Upright and I made up. I had a date with a girl named Rita, but I wasn’t really impressed. Then he went out with Rita, even though he was married. I don’t know what Rita did to him but it was a week and his wife was told to move out and he moved Rita in and they got married. Undoubtedly she did something for him.”I did not make up any of the above; I’m not that imaginative. It all came from recovering addicts.

Personally, I can’t get enough of the crazy stories of active addiction. Some people may call them war stories, and I guess that’s what they are. However, I think they can serve to teach us about the insanity of addiction, so long as we remember the endings, like the arrests, violent deaths, and fatal accidents.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Neil Goldberg, M.D. on August 1, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    Hi Jana. I just finished the ASAM review course. During my free time, I did some “research” at the bar with psychiatrists, who were well represented at the conference. Many are burnt out; disinterested in spending high quality time with patients in treatment/therapy. Understandable, but dissappointing. Makes one consider carefully who they should refer patients to, since although we may think it’s like Starbucks, all treatment is not alike. The stories are compelling. My 1gm/day pretty nursing assistant by day, Heroin seller by night just left town after she heard the feds had a 1000 count indictment for her. I don’t think the indictment even included when she tried to kill her husband with her AR-15. All near the cozy confines of Charlotte. The stories are compelling. The Review course emphasized that the treating physician really has to be engaged (care) about the patient for treatment to be highly successful.

    Reply

    • Thanks Neil,
      I went last year. The review course is always great.
      thanks for the insights. I felt it was more of a challenge to avoid burnout when I was in primary care. In Addiction Medicine…never a dull moment. And the successes are soooo wonderful.

      Reply

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