The Unlit World of the Heroin Junkie.


We walk to the back of the fairgrounds and look for a spot in the fence to squeeze through — a classy date I am.

We find a hole in the chain-linked fence and make it safely inside. We stagger around the fair with a swag of indifference, hang onto one another like a couple of falling-down-drunks, stopping every 50 feet to ravel our lips into oblivion. Anyone and anything, other than each other and our ode to Sid and Nancy, are non-existent.

The people at the county fair despise the sight of two junkies, who stumble on the hay-covered floor and exhibit a fervid love and lust for each other.

The eyes of hatred bore holes in our leatherbacks as the people at the fair try to imagine themselves in our amorous shoes, just one last time — two lovers who still enjoy the bliss we share in a new-fangled relationship, when the lovers are still with the person their new soulmate pretends to be, not the person they really are.

But until our true colors shine, these moments are invincible, and on this summer night, we are invincible. Because there is no antidote for this sham inception. We all learn by riding through the storm.


This is the world we live in, the unlit world of the heroin junkie.

A world where death is the ultimate romance, where we lurk inches away from an early demise. We junkies share the illusion that we are chic, sexy, and cool. But really, we live in a world where we manipulate the people we love most in our lives, all for the smallest, most pathetic fix, so our skin doesn’t feel like tinfoil, and our bones don’t pop through our metal skin from fits of dire restlessness.

Our muscles, toenails, soul, eyelids, and eyebrows hurt like nothing else in the world. Anyone who was once your friend, lover, or even family member, is now gone — some only temporarily, some forever, some from death, but mostly from the junkie being exiled.

This is where Zooey and I lurk — a  mean and dirty hell, and a hell that, no matter the situation — it can be good or bad, a celebration or a time to mourn — the answer is always to go shoot into our throbbing, tracked-up jugular a turkey baster full of the strongest heroin we junkies can find, so our heads are buried in the deepest, most helpless nod the hype can ever wish for.

And this is the paradox.

The initial pain may temporarily vanish, but the junkie has now created more pain than originally existed. The junkie is sensitive, impulsive, hopeless.

A junkie will walk away from the  hospital — name bracelet and gauze soaked in red from a recently popped abscess — or a best friend’s funeral to look for their next fix, if they haven’t fixed already in the bathroom of the church where the funeral was held, while the mother and father cry and wonder what they did to raise a now-dead junkie.

This is the world Zooey and I ultimately share.

A world where the junkie gets fired for being on heroin but still doesn’t see the mid-shift nods as strange, or even a problem at all.

“I’ll get clean tomorrow,” the junkie often says. But for some, tomorrow doesn’t exist. Some junkies lose their soul while they hide from tomorrow, wading through darkness only heroin can fix, but that at the same time generates more isolation and devastation than ever before.

The junkie lives in a vile world they will do anything to get out of — anything but stop shooting dope: our only tool, our best friend, our wife, our lover, our mistress, our God, our favorite bastard child, our zeal, our holiday, our twisted everything.

Now here comes the real ball-buster, the reality that makes us hate God.

The fatal overdose — yes, you can overdose and still live — almost never happens when the junkie is shooting every day. The fatal overdose almost always follows a mere mistake, like a celebration for being clean. Just one time, then I’ll never do it again, the junkie thinks, and nobody will know.

One minute the junkie basks in their sober  glory — six months, three years, 60 days, I’ve even seen 20 years of sobriety turn instantly fatal — the next minute they are dead from a shot the size of a match-head, one-fourth the size they shot before, and just to celebrate, this one, last time. The sober junkie is the most dangerous kind — when the tolerance is gone, the relapse is deadly.


Jon Vreeland is a writer, poet, journalist, and playwright. He is the author of The Taste of Cigarettes: A Memoir of a Heroin AddictVreeland grew up on the shores of Huntington Beach, and is now a Santa Barbara resident. He is married to Alycia Vreeland, SB native and professional artist. Addiction and alcoholism are the essence of Vreeland’s words — a mirror to reflect and improve his uncouth and addictive behavior.


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