When I first got hooked, it was as if I had been Swiss cheese and heroin filled up all the holes. I felt complete, invincible, and my body felt good. That hadn’t happened since I was…I didn’t know the last time my body felt good, whole.
Was it before the addiction? No. I had post-partum depression for TWO YEARS. I was going on regular temp jobs in downtown San Francisco but when I wasn’t working, I was languishing in bed, staring, staring, unable to move until I absolutely had to.
Was it before the depression? No. I was pregnant and had morning sickness for the first 5-1/2 months.
Before pregnancy? Perhaps. There was a period of time during college where my body wasn’t hurting all the time. The ache. The muscle pain.
It started after we left Detroit and had moved to Honolulu in 1976. I had been the most adorable, most obedient student you could imagine. I was the child that was always picked to take a note down the hall from the teacher to the principle because I was going to go straight there and come straight back, and I was not going to read the note in between.
The move to Honolulu was supposed to be a summer vacation but sometime in July, my mother sold Bobby the Baby Grand piano, packed up my sister and a large piece of carved stone named Rah, and came to Hawai’i. Once it had turned into a permanent vacation, something changed in me.
Without my knowing it, the long-suppressed trauma of growing up in Detroit began to surface. No, not just surface, but heave, like that first desperate breath you take after you’ve been held under water just a lit-tle too long.
I started acting up in class. Typical stuff: talking out of turn, making the other kids laugh behind the teachers’ backs, bouncing or throwing things. I had this one trick with a safety pin where you position the sharp side up against--oh never mind! My internal self was manifesting emotional drama and, in turn, my external body was manifesting its own.
I started getting ear aches. I got five in a two-year period, each one progressively worse. At one point, I accidentally brushed my own arm on my own left ear during a game of volleyball on the playground and collapsed in pain. At another point, the ear ache had spread to my eye. I was on five different types of ear drops, eye drops, antibiotics, what have you. I have a picture where you can see the medications poking out of my pocket. I looked pitiful and I felt pitiful.
Maybe that’s when the pain began. No, I’m not going to elaborate on the trauma that caused it except to say: The dead were forgiven in life and have been made at peace in death.
During that last trip to jail, I noticed an interesting thing. Every time I talked about the past with any depth, the old body aches would surface. I’d spend two hours in a group either talking, listening, offering, or receiving support then practically hobble back to the dorm, hoisting myself onto my bunk where I could practically see the trauma running over different parts of my body. After about the fifth time, I finally put it together. From that point on, even if I wasn’t able to control it, I was at least aware.
The amazing thing about those first few months of addiction was, I didn’t have to go through any kind of introspection. There was no dredging up the past and none of my sentences started with, “When I was a child, my mother….” It was instant bliss. No, not bliss. Gratification? No, not quite.
The head had been killed for a few precious moments.
I enjoyed the feeling of wholeness and vitality. What I did not enjoy were the extreme consequences that are the hallmark of heroin addiction.