Roxicodone (Roxy, for short) comes in tiny blue pills. So tiny, in fact, that I would often lose them in my room and not find it until weeks later. Misplacing your drugs is always the worst feeling, but you could take solace in knowing that you would find them again when you were least expecting it and it would be the best surprise ever. That spec of blue would come in the corner of your eye on a Monday afternoon and you’d start jumping for joy. “Could it be?! Oh my god! I’m so lucky!” Right. Lucky.
Roxies weren’t my favorite though. I only took them when I started to worry about my liver. Unlike Percocet, which was my drug of choice, Roxies contained no acetaminophen, so it was “better for you” to ingest them, less harsher on the body. Most of the drug users I knew would freebase Roxy. I would come over to their apartment and watch them get the tinfoil together. The smell of the smoke was reminiscent of cloves. Sometimes they would offer it to me but I declined every time. In fact, during the entire nine months I was seriously abusing painkillers, I never once did anything but swallow them. This rationalized the problem for me. I was just a patient taking his special little vitamins. Freebasing? You’re nuts! Let me just swallow six pills at the time at this restaurant though. So much more normal.
“How many milligrams is it? How much Tylenol? I can’t do 750 milligrams. It gives me a stomachache and I need to be able to take four at a time. You only have Vicodin? Weak. Vicodin doesn’t even cure my headache. Who can even get high off Vicodin? Seriously. You’re charging ten dollars for a Norco? That’s highway robbery! I’ll take five.” During these nine months, I learned the ins and outs of painkillers. I could tell you which pills did what, what kind of milligrams you needed (10 mg of Oxy and 325 mg of acetaminophen was my favorite combo), and which pills were a waste of your time and money. I fancied myself to be an expert. Whenever I would hear someone say something totally inaccurate about painkillers, I would say, “Well, actually…” and correct them with this bizarre smugness. I got off on being the one who knew everything about them. It made me believe that the last nine months had amounted to something. I could put this on my resume. “Painkiller enthusiast/expert. Hire me.”
You meet strange people when you’re fraternizing with drug dealers and addicts. You go to some strange places, some strange apartments, and have some strange interactions. You meet pretty girls in expensive dresses you want to sleep with (but ultimately don’t because you have no sex drive), and lots of jittery men in sneakers. You meet the good drug dealer, the one who doesn’t even do substances except maybe smoke weed and take the occasional E pill. If you happen to find someone who doesn’t actually do the drugs they’re selling to you, you hit the jackpot. Because usually drug dealers are addicts themselves and therefore totally unreliable. They’ll take hours to get back to you and sometimes days to meet up. Meanwhile, you’re just waiting for the sound of a text message being received on your phone so you can go meet them somewhere. Anywhere.
When you abuse drugs, you start to believe that you never really knew yourself at all. It’s like having an extended out-of-body experience. You’re not going to meet someone on a street corner at 1:30 in the afternoon to buy drugs. You would never. That’s someone else. Oh, wait that IS you? Crap. Um, okay. Let’s just get high. The points of desperation you reach are quite mind-blowing. You didn’t know you had it in you. Well now you know. Now you’ve learned.
On the flip side of that, abusing drugs also makes you aware of your own strength. You only realize it when you’re at your weakest and most unrecognizable point. You never had to know how strong you were until you needed to survive. Then, at the last moment, you toughen your grip and latch on to something to come back out.
Or you don’t.
Some people never toughen their grip. They just continue having an out-of-body experience until there’s nothing left but a body. A sad little body that once belonged to you but now belongs to It.
The things you learn.