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I was addicted to OxyContin for 7 years, but my story starts well before I ever touched a pill.
I was 17 the first time I smoked chronic. It did something to me I’d never felt before.
It freed me.
Something in me had always been coiled, some gear wound too tight. It stopped my tongue from speaking in groups. It told me I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, handsome enough.
It told me I should fear everything. It told me I should die.
Bud washed that away. By 18, I smoked every day, but it wasn’t working anymore.
Alcohol wasn’t enough. It did not uncoil—it dissolved the entire ego. Too much id, too much chaos.
OxyContin was the beautiful middle. It softened the broken edges, but it left logic intact.
I found it when I was 20. I’d tried it before. But my best friend, who had been addicted to it since he started cancer treatment for childhood leukemia at 13, told me he had enough to last us all weekend.
And the next weekend.
And the next.
By the fourth, that piece of me that always wanted to smoke now only wanted pills.
But it was stronger than I’d ever felt before.
When my dog smells food, it doesn’t matter what’s in the way. It doesn’t matter if I say “no.” It doesn’t matter if it ate 20 minutes before.
She wants the food, and she will never be satisfied until she gets it.
And after that? She will eat again the first chance she gets. She will eat until she pukes, and she will eat the puke, and she will eat again.
This is my experience with OxyContin.
First we stole them from his stepdad, fifteen 40s a month. He wasn’t willing to try to find a seller.
The first time I bought some, I spent every dollar in my bank account. The plastic baggie that held them was so small, like little bag of yellow pebbles.
I thought I knew what love was before that moment, but I had no idea.
Everywhere I went, I searched for them. I couldn’t get up without them. I couldn’t sleep without them. I would start withdrawing during the night and wake up, snort a pill, go to sleep. I bought only cereal and milk because it was the cheapest way to keep from starving while spending every cent on OC.
I started selling it. It didn’t take long. I found dealer after dealer. Most of them were in their 50s or 60s, people with sickle cell anemia, fibromyalgia, fused discs in their spine, mangled limbs. I could never outsell my appetite. I lost every job because I ran out, got dopesick, and quit.
This carried on for years.
I don’t remember the things that happened. I remember the images.
A man the size of a small whale and a voice like a child laughing, his fat jiggling as we drive past the Kansas river. He’s 65. He’s telling me about all the 20-year-old girls he fucks, asks me if I want any of the Axe Body Spray he has them steal out of Walgreens.
It takes me a couple years to realize he’s a pimp.
I tell him I just want the pills.
He sells me sixty 20s, little pink circles. I catch my breath when I see them, feel something release in my stomach. I have to crush up 4 or 8 of them to feel anything.
They used to taste bitter, at the beginning.
When I blow them in my car, I smile at the sweetness.
Year after year I tell myself I’m going to quit. I make it six months once, drinking every day, smoking every day. I get a DUI. I tell myself this time will be different.
It’s not different.
I buy an 80, sea green, it’s paint tasteless on my tongue, my mouth dry in anticipation. Somehow I’ve come across name brand—they’d been gone for a year or two. The pill crushes slow into a waxy powder. I roll up a dollar bill.
I feel an explosion somewhere in my skull.
I feel like I’ve been born again.
So many times I detox because I run out of money. Dozens of times I get clean of the oxy, only to go back in a day or three. I stop cleaning my apartment. I stop cleaning my body. I lie in bed all day snorting pills and waiting for other addicts to stop by so they can buy what I don’t want to sell. I double and triple the price, but it doesn’t matter—I can’t sell more than I snort.
It’s not long before the cops catch on. The raid feels like a robbery. They take my pills, they take my money, they take my gun, and they leave.
I buy a pistol a few days later. It’s not for protection.
It will be years before I get sober. I convince myself that I can just smoke weed, that it’s the oxy that’s the problem.
I smoke weed for months. I hack so bad I sound like a 70-year-old smoker.
One day I wake up, I look at the weed, and I text a dealer.
“Can you get any OC?”
And like that I’m back on, and everything gets worse.
I can’t sell anymore. I can’t afford oxy anymore. I switch to heroin. I go to Kroger and buy powdered milk, chop the black smudge of tar into little shining cubes, toss them into a coffee grinder I stole from my parents.
I scrape powder the color of burned wood out of the grinder for days. I don’t stay away much anymore. I always do too much. I watch the beginnings of dozens of movies, nodding out before the ends. I stop looking for jobs because the only ones I might get drug test.
My parents are wealthy. I beg to go to rehab. I am so tired of it all. At the end, I need heroin and Xanax and chronic and meth and alcohol just to feel normal.
Rehab is strange and beautiful and awful.