People must wonder what dope sickness feels like. It is different for everyone, but excruciating for each addict. I always puked. I felt like I was going to puke. I kind of wanted to puke so I would feel better. All I could think about was feeling nauseous and all I could think about was dope. Round and round in your head…dancing images of pills, and powders, and prescriptions, and pandemonium.
I puked through the flashing images. Diarrhea…gushed out like burning liquid acid…and the images kept flashing, rolling like the same old movie reel of distorted obsession. The same image hammered my brain for a while…a pill…a particular pill…a particular girl with that particular pill…oh, I might know where I can find her. And my Sickness entertained the thought of going to the bar she is probably in with her pocket full of pills. Her pills that I want, that I need. I think there must be someone staying at this hotel that has an injury. Surely, someone here has some morphine. I vaguely think about asking around, but I know I am too weak to stand. Uncomfortable. Everything hurts.
I puked up yellow bile. I believed that it was pure liver toxins being aspirated from my stomach. Yellow bile, acid diarrhea. Coming out of every pore sometimes. Pure anguish mental, physical…I never felt worse. Never before, and certainly never since.
Dope sickness is the worst feeling in the world. It is what all addicts fear. It is what keeps us sick, in so many ways. The avoidance of the Sickness and the pains of withdrawal are what really keep us sick with our addictions. Dope Sickness is fucking unbearable. Three days of pure physical hell coupled with an insanity plea to the distorted judge. Thoughts overriding your already dark, dark mind, the sweating, the tossing, the pacing, the water, the running water that soothes. Cold, cold air soothes. I was absolutely insane in withdrawal, most of the time.
I had this water thing. Running bath water felt so good, running all over my body, distracting me from the pain. I sat in the tub for hours, until the water had run cold for quite some time. Many later baths were taken in various junky infested motels around New Orleans. I remember one particular room in the Empress Hotel where the tiles of the shower were falling into the dirty wall behind it, revealing a maze of plumbing and ancient dirt and rot. I was a little fearful of what could be lurking in those moist, wet chambers between the walls of the dirty old hotel. My fear was far outweighed by my Sickness, and I just lay there in the tub with water running for hours, as the tiles fell out one by one until at least ten of them lay in the bathtub with me.
The good thing about living and kicking in a hotel is that they have a lot of hot water. I eventually got out of the tub, exhausted, and I climbed into bed soaking wet, with the air conditioner pelting me full blast. Shivering insanely…I was somehow able to finally fall asleep like that. For three days, in and out of the tub. My bed was soaked, and the faint smell of mildew always hung around the motel room as those three days of hell drew to a close.
A few brief moments of sleep, intermittenly spaced throughout the longest nights. When you kick dope, it is almost impossible for me to sleep. The insomnia really killed me because the whole time my mind ran through the gamut of insanity, like battling a gauntlet course in your own head. I would have done almost anything for a few moments of sleep…a few moments of reprieve from this hell. For just a small handful of minutes, my brain would shut down in its feeble attempt to rest, until moments later I tossed and turned once more in the utmost uncomfortable feeling.
Three days later, you rest. You sleep. You wake up feeling a little better. You wake up moving very slow because you are completely exhausted. You wake up, thinking about dope. You think you are over the worst, and you are no longer contemplating running to the man for relief. But, the thought of dope is still all pervading. It takes more than three days to get rid of something like that. The first three days are physical hell, but the next few months are the real hell.
Thoughts of dope constantly running around in your head. Images flashing of needles. Blood squirting back, blossoming like a poppy and taking your breath away. You think about where you got it, where you did it…how you could get it, and where you might do it. Insanity in the form of obsession. Involuntary obsession. Oh, did I mention pure madness?
You feel a little crappy for months, not the hellish crappy of the first three days when you can barely move…but crappy just the same. That is why it is so hard to quit. It is hard to quit because it is just so much easier to be high…even in the most desperate times. Being high is avoiding the impossible. Staying high, you avoid the painful kick. Staying high, you also avoid responsibility…and you definitely avoid the law. You avoid society, at least the respectable parts of it. It takes a lot of effort to be a junky, but it takes even more to get clean, and an insurmountable effort to stay clean.