back to the Black Table

I am a normal person. I wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night. I come to work and I read the paper. I know what's going on in the world and I clean my house. But this is not really me. This is my new life. Synthetic normality is where I have ended up.

I have not been born again, and I didn't die of an overdose and come back to life. I simply decided that if I kept shooting heroin everyday I

  would eventually become a serious junky. What most people don't understand about heroin is that there are two kinds of heroin addicts. First there is a "junky", which is what most people think of when they think "heroin", thanks to Nancy Reagan and the War on Drugs. A junky is someone who will sell their (or steal your) TV for a shot. They'll rob the pharmacy without considering getting caught, and they'll sell their bodies for one more sweet shot. Junkies are everywhere, but you probably think they're just homeless people. They're not so hard to recognize if you just look for tinny tiny pupils, needle scars, or a ferocious hunger.

Enter the second type of heroin addict, me, the functional addict.


If you think junkies have a ferocious hunger for heroin, consider spending every single day pretending not to be a junky. It's incredible work. You see, junkies live outside the law; they need heroin, period. A functional addict needs heroin more. A functional addict doesn't rob and pillage for heroin because there is a risk of being caught, and if you are caught you don't get a reduction cure, you get sick and are then forced to quit. So instead the functional addict gets up every morning and goes to work. They work overtime. A functional addict operates the same way as a junky in regards to needing heroin. The difference is that a functional addict has the ability to wait.

For a functional addict time is something that isn't shown on a clock. Before I quit heroin two years ago, I got up twenty minutes earlier than I do now. I never needed an alarm clock because I knew that it was time for a shot. I never hit snooze and I was never, ever, late for work. I would open my eyes and be in the bathroom fifteen seconds later. I went to work until lunchtime, when I would speed home for a midday shot. That shot would send me reeling, and I would head back to work to make another half days worth of pay so I could buy more junk that night. When I was at work, much like anyone else, I would look at the clock and count the minutes. But as a heroin addict, not only does time slow down, time stops if you need a shot. Working in a world where heroin is generally considered bad stuff is a bit tricky; you can't exactly be high.

A functional addict has to have the ability to separate themselves from heroin enough to appear to be completely normal. Hiding my addiction was not very hard because most people have no idea that someone can be a heroin addict and have a job. People don't recognize heroin addiction in a functional addict. The best way to hide your heroin addiction is to blame your symptoms on something else. A functional addict is a Hollywood film crew rolled into one person. I am an actress, a makeup artist, a director, and an editor. When people noticed I never ate, I acted as if I had an eating disorder. When I had done too much on my lunch break and had to throw up, I blamed my rush to the bathroom on my period or diarrhea or a vaginal problem. I didn't give a fuck what people thought of my hygiene, as long as they thought it was a physical issue.

As a functional addict you must be very proficient with make up in order to cover track marks. Do you really think Aunt Sally and Cousin Susie aren't going to notice if you're wearing long sleeves in the summer heat? Of course people notice that kind of shit. You'd be surprised at how often people see things that are out of place. Being functional means not getting caught and not getting caught can take some creative measures. When people would notice something askew about me, I would change whatever they were noticing. I never had anyone pinpoint what, exactly, was wrong, but people came close. I had to play director in my own life. I had to be able to see myself as other people saw me, and edit out all the things that might jeopardize my supply of heroin. An addiction is a sickness in itself, but being sick because you don't have whatever you are addicted to is infinitely worse. So I worked at being an addict.

Being a functional addict gave me an entirely different perspective on life. I mean, besides the fact that I didn't have a savings account, looking into my life you would have thought I was just a girl. I wasn't just a girl though. I did something everyday that no one ever knew about. Who I was at work and socially was my alter ego. I was pretending to give a shit about life because I needed and wanted my heroin supply to be constant. I was not an addict that surrounded myself with only other addicts; that's dangerous business because junkies are much more common than functional addicts. In fact, I've only ever known one other functional addict. Most of the people I knew and talked to and hung out with had no idea I was addicted to heroin. I faked my entire existence just to maintain my addiction. If I lost my job: no heroin. If my family or friends found out: instant intervention and no heroin. If I didn't pay my bills: no place to shoot up. Suffice to say that besides paying my bills, all my money went to heroin. I didn't buy new clothes and I didn't go to the grocery store. My secret life was flawless, and quitting wasn't because I couldn't afford it, or someone forced me.

Whenever I think of heroin, I think of it fondly, but then I'm lucky. I was a functional addict, so I knew when enough was enough. I knew I couldn't continue shooting heroin forever, and I know now that I can never be addicted again. I've seen what heroin can really do to people, and while throughout I've been saying it's possible to be a functional addict, it is not possible to be a functional addict and accomplish anything. In order to be a functional addict forever, you cannot have dreams. You can't think of a better life. You cannot be successful at the same time. You have to go to your crappy job everyday, and no matter how much you hate it, you can't quit. You can't look for a new job because you have to buy junk today. The best you can hope for is moving up within your company. With heroin it's either all-in or all-out. Whether you are a junky or a functional addict, heroin runs your life. There is no time for anything else.

I hate myself for missing heroin, but I just can't help it. Every summer I wonder if anyone notices my faded scars, to which I no longer apply makeup. Every morning I think about that purple Crown Royal bag I used to keep my works in. Every afternoon I wonder if Josie has oxycontins, morphine, heroin, or diladid today. I don't remember every shot of heroin I ever took, but I remember taking a fucking shitload of them. I remember shooting up with a plastic spoon and saliva in the parking lot of a bank. I remember spurting blood all over a hotel room before a Jane's Addiction concert. I remember using the electrical cord from a curling iron in my moms' bathroom to tie off. I remember heroin. I remember how fucking great it made me feel. I mean, there were some bad points too, but the bad don't add up to that one perfect moment; that moment heroin addicts live for.

It's been two years since I shot up, but there are a million reminders everyday. These little insignificant things that my mind associates with heroin are everywhere. Walgreen's and I have a very special relationship thanks to their acceptance of my bullshit diabetic card. When I can't turn left, I always check to see how long the street is, and if it isn't very long, I go the wrong way, just out of habit. I run red lights even though I'm no longer rushing to buy heroin, and I shake with excitement when I see confederate flag stickers on the back of trucks. I've spent more time waiting in front of a 7-11 than you've spent riding the subway. With all the time I've spent waiting for, chasing after, or shooting in heroin, I could have written twelve books.

I wish I could videotape myself writing this because I am shaking. It's been two years since I last did heroin, but I know if someone were to walk in with works and a bag, I would have that needle in my arm before you could say HIV. I miss it. Sometimes I wonder how I have gone this long without even dosing once. And I look forward to a time when I can dose again. I even know when that day is, and I am counting down. It's not until April though, so I have a while to wait. You might ask, "Why would you quit for two years only to take another shot?"

Well the answer is obvious. I miss heroin. I miss the routine. I miss waking up everyday and knowing exactly what I need to do that day. I didn't even realize how much I missed it until just now. Just now while trying to put into words what I think about when I think about H. Besides, you don't get addicted in one shot. I figure since I haven't had one for two years I can have a couple, and be ok. But that's a saga for another day. Actually I'm pretty interested to find out what it feels like after all this time. I'll probably puke my guts out.

I'm not going to pretend that heroin is okay -- most people who develop a real addiction to heroin never quit. I don't know the exact statistic, but I know this previous statement is true. I am lucky to have been born with the willpower I have, and as stated previously, I only know of one other functional addict. I'm lucky to remember what I wanted before heroin. And what I want from life is much bigger and better than one small moment of heroin bullshit. But that one small moment of bullshit is something that I can't get out of my head.


Laura Lang is a freelance writer.