‘It’ll get you well’ is an expression used by heroin addicts and dealers to indicate that a ‘brand’ of dope will not get you high, but it will stave off dope sickness, thereby making you well.
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 shit, oh shit,” 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 bluish purple. Your nail beds lose their pink softness and 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 was eight years older than me, and I let him stay with me simply because he asked. He was homeless, so he said, and I invited him in as some sort of lonesome alliance. Vic was tall and stocky with blonde buzzed hair and husky blue eyes. He once was a talented chef working for the Hilton, but God knows what happened to him since. He was quiet. We attempted to be romantic, but in reality he was my drug dealer for those few months we knew each other. For real for real, I wouldn’t even call him a dealer. He was more like a drug leecher. For the price half your drugs he’d hook you up with the right dealers to buy the fire dope from.
“Black tar” is a type of heroin that is less purified than China White heroin. The come on isn’t as strong, but the effects last longer. 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.
I bought a whole gram and shared it with Vic. He did half a gram in one shot and fizzled out like a balloon losing air before me. Cold to this world on the floor. I’m always surprised how quickly a person dying loses color, Vics lips faded to blue in less than a minute. I started to panic, desperately pulling my hands through my unbrushed blonde hair, the knot in my stomach growing the size of a baby. I had seen other friends revive people who were overdosing. I slapped him in the face over and over again. I pounded on his chest. Losing my own breath from fear, I 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 literally kill me.
When you’re caught up in the drug life there’s a prevailing attitude of disdain for police, hospitals, ambulances and rehabs.
For fifteen minutes, I splashed water on his face while pounding on his chest and screaming at him not to die. I tried to follow his friends’ suggestions on the phone. I gave him CPR. Counting breaths and compressions. As soon as his friends arrived to help, we dragged him outside onto the back porch to continue this violent coldwater revival. I don’t know what finally breathed life back into him, but in a flash Vic was awake, on his feet with his rough hands wrapped solidly around my neck.
“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 it away after he overdosed, or I did the rest myself. Did we already 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 rework the cottons when you completely run out of dope.
Vic was psychotic in his rampage for the missing dope, pillaging my house, screaming the lamps off the tables, smashing them into the cherry floors. He was determined to find the dope the way a desperate hound searches for a dead bird in the woods.
I fled my house, disappearing into Charlotte’s dark winding streets. My Ford Explorer dangerously weaving in between the cars on I85. Cry-singing to Katy Perry’s least detestable song, Black Horse. It kills me when the song gets to the part in the song where Juicy J raps, “lil mama’s so dope I messed around and got addicted.” I cry-sing harder. Heroin is everywhere. It’s touching every part of my life. This thing I need, hate but love so desperately has infiltrated to my last holy altar, the radio. Not even bubblegum Katy Perry is sacred.
Overdose was always a possibility. Although I was terrified of overdosing, I pushed the limits of what any person should be able to handle. A gram of black tar or a bun a day was my primary diet.
A bun refers to a bundle of heroin, which is the sum of ten small white rectangle wax bags holding .1 grams of heroin in each bag. China white and brown powdered heroin-or baking soda, if it’s fake-come in the bags which make up a bundle.
Dope is expensive. Like, really expensive. Easily $120 to $200 a day to get high. I couldn’t come up with that kind of cash every day. After I had pawned every instrument that was near and dear to my heart, and then anything of value I could get my hands on, I decided to find a benefactor. A game as old as time, I discovered my greatest resource was my ability to hustle love, or the appearance of love. I flirted and intellectually entertained much older men who were potential revenue streams for my habit. I had loads of sugar daddies throughout the span of my drug career. Shopping excursions, medical bills, rent, cars, guitars, equipment and of course, heroin were mostly provided for by lonely men well past my daddies age. I justified my talent for finding rich broken men by constantly reminding myself that their intentions weren’t exactly pure. I was well aware of their attention and not so subtle advances.
The winter I lived in Charlotte, North Carolina I was teaching in a music store in South Charlotte. I was living with a waiter who had one blow up mattress on his floor and nare a stick of furniture in the entire apartment. Tom was sweet, motherly almost. Until one evening when we got into a terrible fight while we were drinking. I don’t remember a thing about it but I landed in the ER. I was prescribed opiates, upon my request, and from there the thick fog of dope clouded each step I took. I had been sober for about 7 months when I relapsed on that prescription of hydrocodone.
Within two weeks I was hooked on oxycontin again, I quit school and the lights and water in my apartment were shut off.
I remembered an older student of mine who offered me gifts that I continually denied. One afternoon in desperation, I called him in tears, my sob story perfected. Within one hour he met me in a bank parking lot and handed me $500. Over the course of the following weeks he deposited fifty thousand dollars into my bank account. I rented a beautiful home in South Charlotte with the intention of bringing my children down there once I was healthy.
Healthy never came. Instead it became a house of horror.
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 are threatened?
For the tortured, lost, and ragged, for the ones struggling to heal: Tragedy weaves itself into our existence. Thought patterns you were either raised with or you developed in response to your environment, result in your current mindset. I discovered it was my responsibility to trash mynnegative thought habits and replace them with healthy behaviors which serve to create new neural networks in my brain. We sew and manifest our 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 the consequences these limiting thoughts will make 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. 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. Promiscuous behavior coincided with the misunderstanding that my value lie in being attractive. The world delivers messages to us about our worth. What messages have you learned? Are they messages worth retelling yourself?
I believed I was separate from everyone, and fiercely alone. I was so isolated spiritually, from my family and my community that I couldn’t see my value. I had no belief in God or a power greater than myself. I was destroying my body with heroin daily. I hated myself. I could see no evidence of divinity present in my life.
During one of my rehab visits, I was placed in 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 traumatic experiences. In the lowest of valleys, I met my Creator.
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 your life can thrive.
It happened to me.
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.
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 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 industry. Amanda’s mission on Kingdom of Rock is to create dialogue surrounding feminism and music.