Everything I Needed to Know About Kicking Junk, I Learned From Trainspotting

2ee2f574e2d4971c3e5a224d86f78b98A few months after the events described in “My Near-Death Fentanyl Experience”, I left Montreal. New town, new job, I had to decide what to take with me and what to leave behind. One of the things I decided to leave behind was a multi-gram a day heroin habit. Two grams a day, minimum, just to maintain an even strain and three or more if I actually wanted to get high. I bet most people, once they found out their smack habit dwarfed their smack dealer’s habit, they might think that was cause for concern. I’m not most people. I didn’t get it until my dealer expressed that concern, clearly, directly and to my face. When my own smack dealer tells me I’m overdoing it, I have to allow for the possibility she might be right.

OK, so decision made. I am going to quit. But how to do it? No shortage of God and group therapy where I was going, but that ain’t me. There’s methadone clinics too but that ain’t me either. I’m from the generation that was taught methadone was the instrument of the Devil. It only prolonged the agony and made the problem worse. There’s this new stuff, buprenorphine, supposed to be a one-shot cure. There’s like a hundred doctors in all of the United States allowed to prescribe it and they’re only allowed to have like a hundred patients each. The waiting list is a million years long. What am I gonna do? And then it hit me. I’ve seen Trainspotting (1996). I know EXACTLY what to do. I know Ewan MacGregor’s speech from that scene almost by heart.

“Relinquishing junk. Stage one, preparation. For this you will need: One room which you will not leave. Soothing music. Tomato soup, ten tins of. Mushroom soup, eight tins of, for consumption cold. Ice cream, vanilla, one large tub of. Magnesia, milk of, one bottle. Paracetamol, mouthwash, vitamins. Mineral water, Lucozade, pornography. One mattress. One bucket for urine, one for feces and one for vomitus. One television and one bottle of Valium.” Every item on that list serves a purpose.

In other words, mostly what I was going to need was time. I looked up the figures in a quick consultation with Doctor Google and understood that I needed to give myself a minimum of a week before I’d be anywhere near capable of showing up for a job. And out of that week, I could expect the first three days to be the worst. In the end, that was the key. Knowing the timeline and knowing to the hour exactly where I was on it. It is a quirk of human psychology that a man can endure quite a lot if he knows exactly when it’s going to end. The sharpest stomach pains, the inability to keep even water down, the constant vomiting of yellow-green bile—that ends after 72 hours, give-or-take. In that time, dope has to be impossible or at least very hard to get. I do not advise trying to do this part with dope in the house, chances are you’re going to reach for it. The next bit, the inability to take solid food (this is where you’ll be glad you laid in the ice cream), the desire to claw yourself out of your own skin and the generally being too weak to get up out of bed and do shit, that ends in another three days, four at the most. Non-narcotic tranquilizers and sedatives won’t help you to sleep, don’t hope for that, but enough of them can put you in enough of a fog the hours go by a bit faster. I’m not going to say how many heavy-duty tranks I took or how much whiskey I washed them down with to buy six hours of almost-not-misery on the last day. Some fool will try to replicate it and die in the process and I’m not having that on my conscience.

Distractions are the meaning of life in those last three or four days. Binge-watch that eight season TV series you were always meaning to check out. Play an audiobook or better yet, a whole series of audiobooks, the cheesier the better. Anything to knock out one painful hour after another after another.

After that, the last two lingering effects—and these last a month—are that during the day my brain and body were running at a fraction of normal clock speed. By taking lots of amphetamines, I was able to boost that to a higher fraction. Half. On a good day three-quarters. Never full speed. And at night, I was never able to sleep, not one minute, not for a month. The morning I opened my eyes, realized I’d slept four whole hours for the first time in a month, I shit you not, I got up and did the dance of joy around my bedroom.

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