Dhaka, Bangladesh
An addict's perspective

An addict's perspective

By Dr. Fourkan Ali

It's 10:34am and I've now got my hands on a paper bag full of the single drug I can't use reasonably.rstock I'm writing this, as I don't have a better tool of expression to grab the moment. I made a call at about 9:23am to refresh my pain meds. As you know (though have misspoke without me correcting you), I have Norco prescribed every week. You've called them Lortabs, and I just nodded. Subtle difference, but that's at best, my desire to be right (read: accurate), or at worst, some undiagnosed OCD. Addiction isn't a question. It's fairly obvious. So, as I think about it, I've gotten exactly nothing done. All I'm attempting to do is distract myself from the want. I'm trying to not think about 11am, and the time I get that little piece of paper that I get to trade for my personal vice. I'm thinking about the ritual: the arrival at the office, the walk to the desk, that blue, monogrammed, security-protected little sheet that I get handed. Playing cool to the desk receptionist. "Oh, your husband's name is Dick Johnson? Hilarious." She speaks softly, wears scrubs, wears that lingering smile. I notice she's not wearing her wedding ring. Neither am I, but I have safety reasons. Perhaps her, too. That's a story for another time. I take my golden ticket, crease it in half, and slip it into my eternally-occupied denims. It's a "thank you," a nonchalant dismissing of this red-headed gatekeeper I've kept charmed, and I'm hobbling back to my car, maybe embellished, maybe not. I feign strength more than I feign pain, but I always knew as a kid, pain got sympathy. It took these last few years under the iron and the bar to learn strength gets a certain respect I've come to appreciate as well. Maybe I let the leg drag a little more; I wonder if keeping the show going is necessary. Maybe I don't hurt like this right now, but I will at some point. I'm sure to make them, and if need be the security cameras, aware. I'm in my car now in this story. It's 10:05. Maybe a quick dash to get some coffee. Caffeine only makes the mind race harder, but it's a motion, an action, to dispel my thoughts for a few minutes. 10:08. That didn't go as fast as I hoped. I took a few moments to think about this as I walked away. I'm driving towards my pharmacy. I've got my comfort blanket creased in two in my back left pocket, opposite my wallet. It sits under my ass, metaphorically propping me up as I pull into the lot. I park, double-check the wallet and script, then lock the doors. They thunk hard as the motors engage, pulling them down. A little light flash and honk confirms all the operations went through without a hitch. 10:12. Once inside, I turn the corner, past the workout supplements, protein shakers, and Tylenol. One of the over-fat, under-height women there will take my comfort blanket, unfurl it, and ask what my birthday is, as if they didn't know. As if we haven't done this dance weekly, 30, 40 times already. I'll answer, smiling, and she'll proffer the question of whether I'm waiting, or coming back later. Woman, I'm addicted to these things: of course I'm waiting. If she's new, or one of the not over-fat, under-height techs, but an actual pharmacist, I'm told "at least 30 minutes." If they know me (and most all of them know me now), it's 15-20. It's almost always 15. I have a pattern of checking the clock about every four minutes during this narrative, but it takes another three to drink my coffee, refresh Facebook, and get around to actually writing this. If I'm lucky, Sheila will give me my prescription. If Sheila wasn't 250 to 270lbs, she has a pretty face I'd probably have talked to in the days before my wife. She's kind, pleasant, and remembers me for my graciousness. I'm always nice to my drug dealers. That's not to say I wouldn't be otherwise, but Sheila makes that extra effort to get my prescription out to me a little faster, and if that, in some alternate universe, required a pity fuck, or some sort of friendly getting-to-know her, then hey, what's the harm in that? I'm writing from a callous place. I know this. 10:21am. It's just brutally honest in a way I can't be anywhere else. I'm sure Sheila is a sweet lady with dreams and aspirations, desires and cravings. I'd be kind to her outside the store, but there's a particular saccharine that comes from her being the second gatekeeper to my preferred drug. It's 10:24, and I'm feeling bad about writing this about Sheila. I can hear the rattle before it's said. I can have my head down, lost in my world, and the bottle will shake in a way that is neigh unrecognizable. Sheila, if I'm lucky, will tell me "Clark, it's ready," and I'll walk up, smile, thank her, sign my life away, pull out my card, pay my $5.14, and walk away with a paper-wrapped, receipted pile of 25 pills. I don't like that last line, so I'm reflecting. I'll leave it. 10:27. I'm considering changing the names to protect the innocent, and sending this off to somewhere like The Fix, just so people can get in the mind of one addict. Self-doubt and dreams of narcissism make me more cautious. That, and being exposed. The last thing I want is that, not on the Internet. Maybe I'll create a fake email address and a pseudonym, and send my work in that way. Names are staying for the moment changed, upon editing. (I am no mild-mannered reporter by day, alien superhero with a Jesus complex by night. I'm simply a man, addicted, writing under a pseudonym for some perceived anonymity.) It's 10:30am on a beautiful Monday morning. My back is gradually tightening up more as the clock continues to countdown. I've made the inevitable realization that I've left my wallet at home, and will have to belay my relief by a few. I'm probably going to miss the 12pm meeting of Narcotics Anonymous (NA) in exchange for picking up my wallet. Ironically, I can probably scrounge the cash up in the form of quarters from inside my car, then walk in and bypass the ID showing by using my face-to-face relationship with Sheila. If she's not there, I'll rage out. Quietly, of course. No sense acting out. Internalize, and deconstruct. So, if you've been keeping up, it's 10:34am in real life, and in this parable, I've now got my hands on a paper bag full of the single drug I can't use reasonably. Before I've left the pharmacy, I've also purchased a drink and disposed of the bag. The orange-and-white bottle is rattling in my pocket, but I have my finger on the cap, fiddling with it, consciously and subconsciously. Now choices, bargaining has to be done. I have 25. This is designed to get me most of the way through seven days. That hasn't happened since week three. Twenty five. If I eat five right now, I'll be pain-free, a little high, and extremely motivated to finish out the day. If I eat five, I just shaved Monday of next week off the schedule. I can handle that. So, I'll eat five when one to two are prescribed. That's gonna get me through about four hours. Then, there's the gym. So, I eat another one (or two; you know, this injury hurts), and I'm at seven for the day. I'm moving dangerously close to my daily acetaminophen limit. Each pill is 325mg; a human should stop at three grams. I can, I tell myself, eat 8-10, and stay within safe limits for my liver. I'm done at the gym, and, of course, I went too hard. I have goals I want to meet, competitions to crush, sporting accolades late in life I should have been collecting 10 years ago. I need the gym as much as I need air and water. Fuck it. Two to three more pills, because in my mind, I'm a failure. I don't even consciously recognize that I ate them; I just know that I need to stay up until midnight to get the most out of them. I started at 25, and now, less than 12 hours after I picked them up, I have 15 to get me through the week. At four per day, I have a little under four days left. I can get through part of Friday. If history is any indicator, I'll probably make it to the end of Wednesday, if I'm frugal. Thursday morning, the drug-seeking will begin. If I'm relatively broke, I'll drop $40-50 on over-the-counter opiate analogs. I won't share it here, but it's known in the community who uses. If I'm ahead, and I recognized early in the week I was going to bend under my crushing lack-of-will, I'd have reached out and had a friend secure a few high-powered meds he gets from God-knows-where. I just know at $20/pill, they're relatively cheap, and highly effective. Besides, if I break them apart, they can last longer. Uh huh. I'm totally going to break them apart and make them last until Monday. I justified and brokered this deal with myself, so it must be true. I buy five. They're gone in under two days. By Friday night, I'm out, until Monday afternoon. Again. It's 10:50. It takes three minutes to get to the doctor's office. It takes seven minutes from there to the pharmacy. It's only 20 minutes after that that I could have my script. My mind is now so scrambled, I can't write with the cool efficiency I had a moment ago. It's 10:56, and I'm not sure how to pay for the script. I could ask a coworker for a 10-spot, but that'd be weird, considering I just about hate all of them, and wouldn't want to be in any of their pockets. A smoke, here and there, sure, but money? Fuck no. Looks like I pick up the script, drop it off, drive home, get my wallet, come back, and miss my first Narcotics Anonymous meeting for the day. I know there's a good one at 7pm, led by a wonderful, tortured soul, so that's what I'll do. By 7pm, I'll know if I'm serious about this, or if I'm just going to repeat the cycle for another week. The writer Teacher & columnist

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