Charlotte, NC 2014
How can I describe the particulars of what it takes to revive a dead man?
The ‘coming on’ of a black tar heroin overdose feels like a flood of tingling in your entire body, especially behind your eyes. “Oh God, oh God,” you think as you begin to panic. Too much, I shot too much. Your heart slows to a crawl in your chest. You can’t keep your eyes open or your head standing on your neck. Your bobblehead falls to either side of your body, hanging low like a child who falls asleep in the car once the wheels start to turn. Color rapidly drains from your face and turns an unsettling hue of blue and purple. Your nail beds lose their pink softness and also become cold and lifeless.
He was dying in front of me on my kitchen floor. My drug lover whom I housed and supported in Charlotte, NC. Victor, aka Vic, was a few years older than me, and I let him stay with me simply because he asked. He was homeless, and I invited him in as some sort of lonesome alliance. We attempted to be romantic, but in reality he was my drug dealer for those few months.
‘Black tar’ is a type of heroin that is less purified than China White heroin. The ‘come on’ is stronger. Black tar is a sticky brown goo that is carefully folded into wax paper. With a street price tag of $120 a gram, Black tar is an expensive poison.
Vic did half a gram in one shot and collapsed directly in front of me. I had seen other friends revive people who were overdosing-I slapped his face over and over again. I pounded on his chest. Losing my own breath from fear, I frantically called two of his friends for advice. Calling the police wasn’t even an option. If Vic did wake up and the cops were there, he’d kill me. For 15 minutes, I poured water on him, pounded on his chest and screamed at him not to die. I tried to follow his friends’ suggestions on the phone. I gave him CPR. Counted breaths and compressions. I searched for his faint heartbeat. As soon as his friends arrived to help, we dragged him outside onto the back porch to continue this coldwater revival. I don’t know what finally breathed life back into him, but in a flash he was awake and choking me.
“WHERE THE HELL IS IT?!” He began screaming and shaking me by the throat. “Where’s my dope?!” I think his friends intervened, but I can’t remember. I was also high. I either threw away the dope, or I did it myself. Did we do it all? We each had our private, secret stashes that we lied to each other about (you can’t be a good drug addict without keeping secrets). Most dope addicts save even the cottons from burnt spoons, hoping heroin still lingers in its fibers. It’s a junkie move. You only resort to reworking the cottons when you have completely run out of dope.
Vic insisted this is the only time that he had ever put his hands on a woman. He didn’t have an excuse, and he actually appeared rather embarrassed by his actions. This doesn’t change the reality that Vic overdosed, died, and came back to life INFURIATED. He was determined to find his dope like a desperate hound searching for a dead bird in the woods.
Vic later became a pimp, selling prostitutes and dope out of two adjoined motel rooms in Charlotte. At the height of his entrepreneurial prosperity, he expanded his business to include three girls. Trust me…you don’t ever want to be a heroin dealer-addict-pimp selling “discounted erotic services” out of a $40 motel.
Eventually, Vic cleaned up and stopped his hustle after both of his kidneys and liver failed. He is now 2+ years clean and has a 10 month old daughter. By all accounts, both are doing well…but it’s a hard row to hoe.
Why do some of us need to experience extreme danger and lose everything before becoming well? And, by well, I mean whole. Why do we value our lives only after our lives themselves are threatened?
For the tortured, lost, and ragged, to the ones struggling to heal: Tragedy weaves itself into our existence. Thought patterns you were either raised with or were developed in response to your environment, resulted in your current mindset. It’s likely not your fault, but it is your responsibility to change. It is your responsibility to trash negative thought habits and replace them with healthy behaviors which will serve to create new neural networks in your brain. We sew and manifest reality with our thoughts,“I’m stuck. I’m poor. I’m ugly. I hate my body. No one loves me. I owe too much. I’m evil. I’m worthless. I’m hopeless. I’m stupid. I’m sick. I’m an addict. I’m homeless. I’m a felon.” Imagine what constant thoughts like these will manifest in your life. No matter what your path has been, or is, know that you are intended to prosper by the very nature of being a creation within this world. Just by thinking something is so, that something can become real. If you’re going through a struggle, take a moment to consider that your struggle is the shaky ground upon which your testimony will stand.
First my thoughts had to change.
Internally, I degraded myself constantly. I believed I was worthless. I had been told my whole life that I was pretty or - my personal favorite - hot, and I thought being attractive was my sole value. Promiscuity coincided with the misunderstanding that my value lay in being attractive. The world delivers messages to us about our worth. What messages have you learned? Are they messages that are worth retelling yourself? The messages I received from my adoptive and biological fathers were unified: ”I am worthless.” I struggle everyday to fight that internal programing. My identity came from my dysfunctional familial relationships instead of the knowledge deep within that I am a child of the Great Creator of the Universe.
I was a staunch atheist. I believed I was separate from everyone, and utterly alone (This isn’t necessarily what all atheists believe, this is only my experience being atheist). I had no belief in God or a power greater than myself. I was destroying my body with heroin daily. I hated myself. I couldn’t see any divinity present within my life. During one of my rehab visits, I was sent to a wilderness experiential treatment program called Four Circles (a.k.a Treehab) in Asheville, NC.
Somewhere in the woods, while hiking 8 hours a day, I brushed up against The Creator. It was a magnificent whisper that I attuned my ears and heart to hear. The trees suddenly became alive and swayed to the rhythm of my soul. With the haze of heroin diminishing, I was finally able to recognize God’s perfect presence breathing energy into every living thing.
Gradually, and all at once, I shifted from living in fear and believing that nothing but pain was real, to experiencing a feeling that everything in life is connected. Life is unfolding in perfect order: INCLUDING my use of heroin, and INCLUDING my experiences of emotional, physical, sexual, and mental trauma. In the lowest of valleys, I met my Creator.
There is purpose to our pain.
I know where the darkness hides. It hides in our repressed anger and in our self-loathing. It hides in the secrets we take to our graves. It hides in the grief we feel and don’t express. It hides in the trauma that others inflict upon us, and the trauma we inflict upon others. Darkness hides in the idea that we are not capable of becoming whole. It thrives in the idea that we are separated and have no access to the energy which created us. However, there is something that is very useful about darkness.
A seed grows by being buried in the darkness of soil. It first receives nourishment from within itself. Before becoming strong enough to bust through the soil into the sun, the seed pulls nutrients from the soil, while bearing roots down into the rich dark ground.
The darkness we experience can become the fertile ground through which recovery and life can thrive.
It happened to me.
I relapsed again and again, even after coming to experience perfection in The Creator. But each time I got back into treatment more quickly than I had before. I began learning how to become honest with myself, accept my faults, and try again. Always try again. I’m learning how to love the parts of myself that are inadequate and forgive myself for destroying my body and soul for so long. But I don’t walk the journey of life alone. I never walked it alone, I walk with God.
My agony is being relieved, and my heart is full.
Organ Donor is the title of my upcoming sophomore record. It is the music memoir encompassing the music I wrote throughout a decade of heroin addiction, but due to the nature of addiction, I was unable to record the album until now. I am finding my way through the darkness.
If you’re reading this, and you’re still suffering from addiction, keep trying. Keep asking for help. Go to Narcotics Anonymous (818.773.9999) or Alcoholics Anonymous (212.870.3400); go to rehab for the 30th time; go back to the hospital. Stop trusting street pharmacists to heal your pain. Addiction is a symptom of a greater problem. I believe the true problem is rooted in spiritual, mental, and emotional trauma, and it can be healed.
About the author:
Amanda Bocchi emerges from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia as an Americana soul artist. She marries together jazz harmony, roots music and a soulful voice to create her own brand: Americana Soul Flood. Her lyrics swing from the sweetness of motherhood to the death rattle of addiction. Organ Donor, Amanda’s sophomore album, is a memoir of her experience through heroin addiction and her transformation into the light of recovery. Cereal Box Murder, Bocchi’s debut, was independently released in 2006.
Amanda is also the co-host, along with Matt Gibson, on the Kingdom of Rock podcast for DIY musicians. Kingdom of Rock podcast is centered around shaping musicians into music entrepreneurs. Amanda and Matt interview authors, legendary performers, independent musicians, social media guru’s, marketers, and influencers that are slaying it in the new frontier of the music business.
Alys Sink @ email@example.com
Rachel Kathleen Shaffer-Moore @ Rakmoore@gmail.com