Sunday, September 29, 2013

Elixer of Death

You know somebody's having one of those days when he blurts out “God, I need a shot of dope!” the moment you inform him that it isn't Sunday but in fact Saturday. The building's black market bicycle dealership paid a surprise visit to my floor yesterday morning, sniffing coffee through my cracked-open door and asking me if I had any to spare; I didn't have much but I gave him a the rest of the Folgers® I found by the side of the freeway offramp the day before.

As funny as that sounded at the time — or scandalous, if you're not inclined toward morbid humor — substance abuse is rampant in subsidized housing. Just a couple weeks ago someone on the fourth floor overdosed on either some kind of barbiturate or benzodiazepine, possibly taken with alcohol. So far as I know, since I moved in here a little over four years ago we've had three deaths by overdose and two from health complications directly caused by substance abuse: just months after I settled in Thunder Dan on the fourth floor died from an overdose on the fourth floor, I don't know of what but it was rumored to be meth; about a year-and-a-half after that I found myself offering a lady police officer a bandana sprayed with lavender essence to keep her from vomiting all over the coroner examining the remains of one BCK, who had overdosed on alcohol and pills and was melting into his mattress (I'm the one who discovered and reported the unmistakable stench of death wafting out from behind his door); and, not long after that some poor guy who had just moved in a few weeks before and was trying to kick his habit was found dead from an overdose in one of the common bathrooms on the third floor. I've lived through six deaths, which averages to about one-and-a-half per year, five of them resulting from alcohol and/or drug abuse; over eighty percent.

It's pretty damn sad, when you stop chortling over the gallow's humor aspect of it and look at the stark situation with open-hearted honesty. I wish Zyklon B on the assholes in our society who self-righteously revile substance abuse and its terrible effects on people's lives; people who treat a tragic and insidiously ubiquitous reality like it's someone jocky boxing in a parking lot. News flash: for every dope fiend sleeping in a doorway there's a score of "respectable" members of society drinking themselves down the drain or gobbling prescription drugs like honey-roasted peanuts, putting the lie to the lingering misconception that substance abuse is chiefly the domain of the hopeless lumpenproletariat. I personally struggle with alcohol dependence, and I can tell you — just like any other honest addict, be they abusing needles and pills, lines, or nickels and dimes and wines — that I'd love to go back in time, even if it meant becoming an unrecognizably different person, for the chance to have made a few decisions differently and to not have this damn crow perched on my shoulder barking into my ear.

What started out as being funny ended on a bleakly personal note, and frankly it's cast a pall of gloom over my day that paints the rain-swollen heaven outside my window a balmy July noon in comparison. I don't want to go out like those guys; there's better ways to die than slumped over a toilet with a needle in your arm or melting into your floor next to a half-empty bottle of vodka.

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