Heroin addicts will repeatedly inject into the same spot until the vein collapses from repeated abuse.
When addicts run out of veins to hit in their arms, hands, legs, and feet the only thing left is usually the neck.
I remember sitting in a stairwell of the Millbrook projects when I saw this for the first time. The addict’s name was Omar. A member of the Latin Kings and a lifelong heroin addict he was notorious for shooting coke and heroin in that stairwell. He would sit with a CD in one hand which he used for a mirror and a syringe in the other as he lined up the next dose of heroin for his jugular vein. I spent a lot of time with Omar. I knew everything about him.
I would listen to his internal struggle with addiction and recovery as we both nodded out on that stairwell day after day. We had this sort of sick street loyalty to one another. Omar was a series of contradictions. He would talk about how he wanted his life back, and then in the same sentence mention how we should go hustle the commuters down at the subway for money. In all honesty, I spent more time with the man then I really wanted to. I was stuck. Bonded by the chains of heroin I could never venture too far from that neighborhood. At the time I thought I couldn’t learn anything from this man. When I look back on the time I spent with Omar nothing could be further from the truth. Omar showed me a glimpse into my future. Omar had no teeth, no veins, no family, no home, no money, no prospects, no clothing, no retirement fund, and no future.
Omar was all in with this heroin thing. He was a lifer. Heroin had me flying high for a long time too, but I wanted off that flight. I was just waiting for my next parachute to arrive and I was going to pull the cord. Omar made it crystal clear to me that heroin wasn’t the life for me. One day I asked God to get me out of that stairwell. A few hours later a man intervened and strapped a parachute to my back. Before I left I told Omar my plan and that I was going to get clean. He looked me dead in the eye and said, “You know where I’m at man if you ever have a change of heart.” My friend who intervened pulled the cord and dropped me out of the 14th-floor window of the Millbrook Projects that day. I floated down slowly through the air passing different moments of regret in my life as I landed in recovery. I never saw Omar again after that….
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Kevin, your words are powerful, honest, and sincere. Thank you for writing and putting into words what a lot of people feel. There is a certain amount of healing to be gained from simply reading your words. Thank you.