It was a just another day in my dark and lonely world. I remember waking up shivering and cold, sweating and burning up…..I felt electric to the touch. Doctors say dope sick is a little like having flu like symptoms, so I did not really know what to think of what was happening to me. My brain felt fuzzy and I almost felt as if I was in a video game. I knew when I woke up that morning having an orgasm it did not mean that I was excited, or about to have sex, it meant I was sick from not having enough heroin. I did not know what to think of such a strange side effect, in fact, I was pretty horrified by the whole thing. For years I referred to myself as the prude slut! I think this description was pretty spot on because i had lots of sex, but never talked about sex. I guess I got that nutty shit from my momma, thank god I grew in that area…. but anyway… When I tried to open my mouth to say anything about this strange sexual side effect…it was like nothing would come out. I would ask girl friends if they had any weird sexual side effects but nobody ever came out and said anything. I was horrified and felt like some sort of weird sexual deviant. The sicker I got the more electric and orgasmic I would become….so I would be hot and cold, sweating, legs cramping and hurting, nausea, diarrhea, and then multiple orgasms…over and over. UGGGG…this felt dirty and disgusting to me. I dared tell no one. It was far too horrible.
My world had become completely drug centered. There was nothing in my life but drugs and process of getting drugs. I had alienated everyone and everything that mattered to me. I was sick. I mean for real sick. I did not know what was wrong with me, but I was too scared and too embarrassed to find out. How had things gotten this bad. How had I allowed my life to come to such a difficult and terrible place. There was no way out that I could see…..It was too painful to live and I could not figure out how to die. I felt trapped in an existence that I loathed….I was too far in to find my way out and I dared not ask for help because I had never experienced any help that did not feel like punishment and believe me, punishment was the last thing I needed right now. I needed love and compassion….I did not think I could handle one more look of disappointment or one more person shaking their head in disgust. No one had to say one thing to me, I felt as low as a person can feel.
I tell you this bit of my story for one reason. Too often people are terrified or ashamed and embarrassed to discuss things that are going on with their bodies, especially when things are happening and the person fears it is because of something they are doing that society says is wrong or bad. This creates shame and fear which often exacerbate the problem causing people to stay quiet and silently suffer instead of talking to someone about what is happening with them. They know something is wrong, very wrong. They are scared to talk to anyone, and so they don’t. People walk around with all sorts of terrible problems watching them get worse and worse yet doing nothing about them because fear is a powerful force. Fear can immobilize a person and imagining all of the terrible things that can happen to you is overfucking whelming to say the least. Unfortunately many people never talk about some of the frightening and bizarre experiences they encounter while participating in behavior that is either stigmatized or illegal.
I am now a health educator. I teach people who are using drugs how to stay safe from disease and overdose. I talk to people who are scared and feel ashamed and stuck in chaotic use. I show them how to start taking care of their selves. I remind them that they are human beings who deserve love and respect. We talk about and tackle all sorts of difficult subjects and embarrassing topics. I tell them they don’t have to be embarrassed when they are talking to me and I share my stories. They can strive to be healthy and make positive changes in their lives. Just because they use drugs does not mean they have to resign their selves to being unhealthy and having diseases. I do not focus on the drug use….I focus on the person. That is so important.
Harm Reduction does not tell a person where they need to be it allows a person to the room to set their own goals and decide for themselves what recovery looks like.