Ever been kicked in the groin by a horse? Neither have I, but it seems that might be a lot of fun compared with the effects of heroin withdrawal.
I hit the road quickly to escape temptation. The first ride hitchhiking on the interstate highway went about fifty miles. It left me on an entrance ramp in rural Illinois during one of October’s colder and wetter evenings.
Twenty minutes later, a red pickup truck loaded with fencing wire and driven by a friendly farmer stopped to pick me up. It was good to get into that vehicle with that friendly farmer. He was an older man. Older folks use their heaters more than younger folk do.
As low as the temperature was, I felt a lot colder than the weather. Half an hour in the truck with the heater blasting made no difference. The air continued to feel just as cold as the outdoors. Sensations were getting strange. The feeling was something like that of an intense flu with psychedelic overlays. Very weird. An aching throb seemed to be coming from the center of each cell in my body. A sharp stinging pain that was mobile joined it. This pain seemed to be having just as much fun attacking me at whichever point in my body it decided to land its surprise.
Deep throbs saturated every breath as the cold bit my lungs. The floating sting was so sharp that it shortened my breath even further. A runny nose, inflamed sinuses, and swollen throat added icing to the pain cake. My own body was the enemy and my brain was sick enough to think it could do battle with it. Emotional malfunctions sprayed themselves everywhere. No thought in my mind was any happier than my body was.
“Are you sure you’re going to be OK out in this weather, son?” asked my host.
A light freezing rain had already begun as he reached his exit. The kindly old farmer was honestly concerned for me. Recognizing human kindness made me feel better—for about two seconds.
“I’ll be fine,” I lied. “Another ride will be along soon. Thank you, sir.”
“Take this, son,” he handed me a joint of ganja so fine that the smell cut right through my condition, “I’ve been growing this shit between my corn rows for nigh on fifty years now. I think you’ll find I’ve got the hang of farming weeds down pretty good by now. Well—fuck their laws and God bless you, son. Good luck.”
“Thank you,” I squeaked.
As soon as that wonderful man pulled out of sight, my knees hit the ground. The air was now something that had patterns and colors running through it. The substance and thickness of it were visible, as if the atmosphere was made of polyurethane that hadn’t quite dried. Hot and cold flashes borrowed occasional space from the stinging and throbbing pains as these elemental agonies each took their turn beating the life out of me.
What looked like a deserted pickup truck in a field pulsed in and out of my vision about a hundred yards away. It felt as if living through this experience might be possible, if I could just get inside of something like that truck. The freezing rain had turned more intense and was coming down faster. Traffic had stopped. Just as well. It was not a good time to get into another car or be in another person’s company.
Clutching my gift from the old farmer in one hand and my travel bag in the other, I wobbled toward the truck and prayed that it was neither a mirage nor locked. The freezing rain collected in my hair formed a solid mass. This icy hat added numbness to the equation, which might have been a blessing if not for the fear that my brain would fatally freeze. My stomach wrenched and left its contents on the icy grass.
“You’re a fucking idiot,” I mumbled to myself with a giggle. The giggle itself froze as it realized that absolutely nothing was funny anymore.
Something swooped by and struck my numbing scalp. Within seconds its large teeth and claws were gouging my body. Feeling as close to a heart attack as ever in my young life, I tried to beat off the figures of three flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz movie. They attacked ferociously.
The hallucination disappeared as quickly as it had arrived.
Reaching the truck brought faith and gratitude. It really existed, wasn’t locked, and still owned its windows.
This bit of luck didn’t change the bigger picture. This whole experience might not be worth the trouble. Death might actually be preferable.
Donning every piece of clothing from the travel bag, I chased the thought of death away by lighting the old man’s gift and smoking the whole thing.
The Crawl Before the Walk Before the Run
Thirty-six hours after crawling into that abandoned truck, I crawled out of it. Much of that period had been spent focusing on and mentally repeating the message that my old mentor, Uncle Sourcie, had given to me many years earlier. He had directed me to base all my decisions upon doing the most good for the most people, and to look for every opportunity to “establish positive counterparts to the negativity in the world.” The irony of focusing on this lofty intention while suffering the decision to become a junkie was not lost on me. I nonetheless set my attention as far on the bright side as possible. It was a lot more fun than focusing on pain and psychosis.
Much of the time, it didn’t matter what my preference of focus was. It was painfully out of my control. But the focus on Uncle Sourcie’s words, as sporadic as it was, seemed to pull me through. It had driven me right past the death wish. The repetitive thought of helping to create a better everything for everybody had accomplished itself in the microcosm of my personal situation. Things work like that sometimes.
By now every molecule in my mind and every atom of my body felt like it had been on a ten thousand mile trip through God’s worst nightmare—but I also felt as if the worst was over.
I thanked the vacant truck and started to make my way back toward the road. A smile joined the thought that health would return in a few days.
That old farmer’s ganja had helped. As far gone as things had been, the weed was still strong enough to cut through some fraction of the agony and get me back in touch with survival. It had helped me to realize that everything, including my severely wretched condition, was indeed temporary. Being a sick puppy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a dying dog.
My trip back to life was not, however, complete.
Some details have been forgotten and some particulars may be restructured, but this is a completely true story—except perhaps for this piece here. You may call it real. It may be real! Maybe not. Then again, who knows what the word “real” actually means?
A lot of folks think that real is what materially exists and can be registered by the five senses. If you can see, feel, taste, smell, or hear it, that’s real to most people. There are other schools of thought on the subject. Some folks think that our material definition of reality is no more than a collectively agreed upon hallucination. Please read on and make your own decision.
By the time I had crawled out of that abandoned pickup truck, the threats of permanent insanity and possible death seemed to be gone. The float in and out of what is commonly called “reality” lingered. There were sensations similar to an LSD experience—that celluloid look about everything, ultra-vivid sensations, crossover sensing (tasting colors, seeing sound, and so on).
There were also some noticeable differences between what was going on presently and my old LSD experiences. It was obvious during each of my five hundred acid trips that the responsible agent was a drug that would wear off. Simply waiting would definitely change things.
Under heroin withdrawal symptoms, it is a lot harder to remember that the situation is temporary.
Withdrawal symptoms also have that very pronounced and nasty physical torture component included in their repertoire, in addition to the psychosis. With every molecule of your body screaming for the dose that’s missing, the odds of having what in LSD parlance would be called “a good trip” decrease drastically. There’s a very small chance of having fun with heroin withdrawals. Sometimes you get lucky.
I wobbled away from the abandoned pickup truck like a drunk. My mind’s circuitry was a long way from completely reconnected. Brain function worked well enough for me to remember to hitchhike, but my timing was off. Any person in their right mind gets to the highway and then sticks his or her thumb out. My thumb went out before ever reaching the road. Welcomed laughter accompanied the thought: “No cars here. Maybe I’ll get a ride from a blade of grass or something.”
This is what happened next. Maybe.
… To be continued.
The Author: Albert Einstein said, “Once you accept the universe as being something expanding into an infinite nothing which is something, wearing stripes with plaid is easy.” Doug “Ten” Rose has metaphorically worn stripes with plaid all his life. He was born a hundred years too early but is trying to catch up. See amazing biographical and other important information at www.fearlesspuppy.info