If you were to meet me in my everyday life, you might find it a little unusual and even slightly off-putting that I bring up the fact that I have Hepatitis C within the first 24 hours of us hanging out. I do this intentionally so that there are no awkward moments in the future, either in an intimate situation or where people are sharing drug paraphernalia. Although I’m frequently designated to prepare everyone’s shot, I always keep my stuff separate. I always use fresh needles to prepare the shots, fresh cookers and fresh cotton, and I don’t let others use mine, even they also happen to have Hep C. Everyone I do drugs with knows not to fuck with me and my harm reduction practices and that I will irrefutably take down a weak ass attempt at an argument against my practices in a fairly humiliating manner if they press the issue. I can have a sharp, yet eloquent tongue when needed. Though you’ll never hear a curse word cross my lips (in these situations), I will reference a dozen scientific studies that support my actions which only serve to mitigate any unnecessary risk in an inherently risky activity. Why compound the issues? Yet still, even my closest friends who know this about me, and love to see me in action against someone else, try the same dumb things when they feel sick. And if there is one card that will never get my sympathy, it’s the sick card. Yes, I get dope sick the same as everybody else. I feel just as bad as the next junky when I’m sick. But you will never hear me call every person in my junky network begging for free dope because I’m so sick. Sure I’ve had a few select friends over the years who have always had my back and I their’s when one of us was in a jam. But for the most part, when you decide to be a junky, you take on all the highs and lows that come with it. If you can’t deal with being sick, quit the game. Because sooner or later it’s going to happen. And it’s nobody else’s responsibility but your own to take care of yourself. So get over it and don’t you dare come begging to me to cure your junk sickness, especially when it jeopardizes my harm reduction standards.
I’ve now had two of my closest friends attempt to use my cotton because they were too sick to move. Granted, both were friends in the aforementioned category of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”. One of them, I found out after the fact, I pretty much turned on to heroin, so that always made me a little sad. He was a crackhead when we met and was so proud of the fact that he got off crack, but last I heard before he disappeared off the planet 6 months ago (after 6 years of talking just about every single day) he was a full-fledged junky. He just traded one addiction for another. Although his teeth might be in better shape, his arms certainly weren’t. But that tidbit of information aside, he came over to my place two nights in a row, over Thanksgiving of last year if I remember correctly, and once he found out I was dry, begged me for my cotton. I must have been out of dope for sale and no doubt down to my last dime or dub or I would have given him some. But I wouldn’t give him my cotton. He even went so far as to tell me he had cotton fever, no doubt thinking this would wrangle my sympathy. I didn’t have the heart to give him a lecture on what cotton fever really is and that it’s not cured by injecting more heroin, which took a lot of self-restraint on my part. But I wouldn’t give him my cotton either. He did not know if he had Hep C, but it wouldn’t have mattered either way. I have a rare genotype of the virus, type 3, that’s not often found in the States. So even if he had Hepatitis C, I still wouldn’t have shared my cotton with him. I’m not sure what the exact repercussions are when it comes to cross-contaminating the virus, but I know it can’t be good. Even if you have the same genotype, it’s still not recommended that you share equipment. It can only make your situation worse. So I had to sit through two night of him acting more and more dope sick in some sort of junky stand-off. When I tied to explain my rationale, his comeback was, “When I’m dope sick I don’t think about things like that.” The whole ordeal made me very sad for him. It was not the festive Thanksgiving feast I had imagined when I invited him over.
My other friend knows my position on the matter very well and has heard my harm reduction rants about 1,000 times, on top of reading my blog. So I was a little more surprised to hear it come from him. But maybe I shouldn’t have been because he’s one of the biggest dope sick pussies I’ve ever met. Regardless of my expectations, it still infuriated me when not only did he beg for my cotton, but also my dirty needles to inject with since he was out of his own. And to make matters worse, we had only been out of dope for mere hours! He was smart enough to not bring up cotton fever but should have known better than to try the sick card with me when he knows how little sympathy I have for it. But a part of me also felt bad, because he has gotten me well numerous times and I’m sure will again numerous more times.
I don’t like being the bad guy in these situations, I hate it actually. But if you are friends with a junky, it’s not your job to make sure they never get dope sick. It is your job to help them make wise decisions when it comes to their health and practicing good harm reduction, which includes denying them access to your needles or cottons, or whatever it may be. Don’t let them play a potentially fatal game of chicken with their lives! They may curse you and scream at you and blame you for the way they feel, either verbally or in their head, but by not perpetuating these poor practices can only do everyone in the junky community good in the long run.
I know it can be really easy to cave in these situations. You don’t want to see your friend in pain, but you have to remember the greater good. Whether you are the beggar or the begged-at, try to think of the larger picture and what’s at stake. Is an extra few hours of dope sickness really worth jeopardizing you or your friend’s long-term health? Every single one of us who has contracted a serious disease like Hep C or AIDS will tell you that we would love to take back the moment we let ourselves slip and ultimately sealed our fate. I know everybody seems to want to learn this lesson on their own, but do we have to have another generation of heroin addicts plagued with communal disease, especially now when we have so many resources available to us to secure fresh supplies? I know this post is a tad on the lecture-y side. But I’m not asking of anyone what I don’t already do myself. I just want us all to remember that heroin is just a recreational activity we do. It shouldn’t be the most important thing in our lives, and it should never compromise our health in such a severe manner as we let it when we shoot dirty. We all know that it already comes with risks. Let’s just make it a priority to do our part to minimize those risks as much as possible. In fact, we could even make that a… New Years Resolution?? 😉