My First Trip to the Methadone Clinic
My shift at the bar had finally ended, as the sun came up over the beach in Hilton Head Island. My stomach was beginning to rumble with dope sickness, and I had just used up the rest of my high. My skin began to crawl, and my insides began to shake while my mind obsessed about only heroin.
I walked out onto the beach, while the wind whipped through my hair and the clouds began to light up with pink and orange as the sun came over the horizon. The wind whipped fiercely, with colors of the sky reflecting and refracting on the choppy surface of the ocean. The clouds danced across the horizon, and a slight chill came up just before the morning sun, finally relieving me from summer humidity. I felt the wind across my face, and I took a deep breath, inhaling the salty ocean air, before exhaling long, slow, and quivering.
My stomach churned that morning, as I walked away from the ocean. My throat grew more dry and scratchy, and I realized the dope sickness was already here. I slowly lumbered through the beach path, covered in palmettos and pines, hovering over the path to shield it from the summer sun. The trees provided me with the cover of night that morning, just before the sun came into full view over the ocean behind.
My mind raced, as I opened the door to my Jeep. I climbed in, and I noticed the sky had already graduated from black to grey, spotted with streaks of orange and pink. I fidgeted behind the wheel, as I turned on my car and adjusted the radio. I slowly pulled out of the parking lot, turning away from the ocean.
My vision had grown fuzzy with the beginnings of dope sickness, and I focused on the road in front of me and the mission ahead. My mind spun with thoughts of heroin, and my veins pulsed inside of me, craving more, more, and more. As I drove past the turn to the dope man, I thought about turning around. “I could wait another day,” I tried to convince myself. After all, I had started this trip before. But this particular morning, I just kept driving.
My crawling skin, scratchy throat, and churning stomach tried to convince me to turn back around, but they also reminded me of this hell I had been living. In New Orleans, dope was everywhere. As long as I had money, I could get my dope each day. Since moving to Hilton Head, it seemed like I was constantly dope sick.
So many days, it took all day just to get my fix. Some days, we rode with the old man off the island on all kinds of excursions, deep into the Gullah country, searching for heroin. I thought about pulling over on the back roads of the country, while I puked on the side of the road shaking and sweating in my sickness. I thought about waiting around all day, while I puked in back corners and back bushes. I thought about my arm, swollen from the abscess right before the fever set in. I thought about the much needed rent money, and I was reminded of all the financial bullshit I had encountered since getting hooked on heroin again, this time in the coastal back woods of South Carolina.
I drove off the island that morning, headed for Savannah. All my insides were beginning to turn inside out, while I barreled down the Highway. The sun rose slowly in my fuzzy gaze that morning, and the clouds seemed to carry an ominous warning. When I finally crossed the bridge in the city, the orange streaked sky faded to grey.
I flew past the industrial beginnings of this city, just across the bridge. I did not know Savannah very well at this point, and I often glanced down at my hand written directions, scrawled nervously out as they were slowly repeated through the phone. While I meandered more slowly through the city, the clouds covered the sky, sprinkling my windshield with the commencement of rain. The acid of my stomach rose pushed up on my throat, and I hoped I got there soon so I could finally start puking.
My eyes scanned the left side of the street, finally resting upon a small and nondescript sign that I could barely read. I pulled into the gravel parking lot, hoping to find a spot isolated in the back. I leapt out of the car, leaning on my hood a little for support, while my guts were wrenching from me excreting all their poisonous puke. Thin yellow bile, burning my throat on the way up, splashed all over the gravel as I watched it sink in the rocks and dirt below. My forehead dripped with sweat, while my body shivered. The tiny raindrops coated my bare arms, and the cold chill set into my brain and my bones.
I stumbled towards the front door, groaning in the agony of withdrawal, as I pushed to see through the fuzziness of my dope sick vision. The red brick building stood in front of me, and people seemed to spill out from the insides. I opened the solid red door, and stepped inside. The smell of desperation emulated from my skin, and I hoped relief was not long in site.
The waiting room was packed full of people, sitting and standing and milling around. I walked up to the glass window at the front, announcing my name and appointment time. The lady behind the desk gave me a clipboard full of various papers. The pen tethered to the clipboard hung limply from its wood backing, while I reached for it as I sat down in a vacant chair near the front.
By this point, I could barely see the words and boxes on the papers, and my eyes blurred and my mind chattered with the sickness that took over in my head. I groaned in agony, thinking only of abandoning the mission to get dope. I stuck it out, though, convinced I would leave here dosed with methadone.
As I waited, I puked again and again in the bathroom centered in the long and narrow waiting area. I fidgeted, bumping my legs up and down with a pained manner. I sighed heavily, and I groaned in pain and sickness. Dope, dope, dope…the thoughts invaded my head.
The waiting room was mostly empty when the nurse finally called my name. By this time, the dope sickness raged through me and I sniffled with teary eyes. A big, black nurse sat behind the desk, and I immediately asked for a trashcan to puke in. I sat on the edge of the old metal-legged chair, shifting my weight back and forth. The nurses fired question after question towards me, and I occasionally dry heaved in the trashcan.
It was Friday, and I knew I would have to wait all weekend before starting the program if I did not get dosed today. The nurse handed me a cup to piss in, and I slowly walked to the bathroom.
I sat down on the toilet, staring at the old tiles on the floor and the drab walls around. I tried to relax, but my veins were still screaming at me…all my insides were screaming at me. I groaned in agony, and I shifted back and forth, unable to pee.
The nausea took over my brain, and I turned over with my head in the toilet. My gag reflex struggled against me, and I wracked with dry heaves. Finally, my stomach rumbled even worse, and liquid yellow bile shot out of me. I still held the pee cup underneath me, and I heard a little piss splash in the cup. Sweat dripped from my forehead, and I moaned and cried from the pain of the sickness. I knew I could not take this much longer, so I hitched up my pants and returned to the nurse.
Not enough pee. I just could not do it any longer, and the nurse had grown impatient with my moaning and whining. She looked anxiously at the clock, before she informed that it would soon be too late to send the drug test off to the lab today. I realized then, through my desperate and foggy need, that I would not receive my fix there today.
The nurse watched the desperation behind my eyes while it pleaded with her. She suddenly turned sympathetic again, and her voice became soft and slightly soothing. She told me to come back Monday, and I could be dosed by Tuesday. She lowered her voice a little, and told me that I should probably try to keep myself well this weekend so that I could make it back on Monday. Her voice lowered to barely a whisper, and she subtly suggested that I ask around in the parking lot. It was Friday, and a lot of people sold their take homes.
I left the clinic that day, while the rain outside poured down. The parking lot was empty, and I slowly headed back to the island through my fuzzy vision and raging dope sickness. The 45-minute drive back was excruciating.
This time, when I returned to the island, I went straight to the dope man and spent the rest of my money on heroin. I shot up in the car, right outside a trailer, while my hands shook and my veins pulsed and screamed. Relief spread throughout me, and I drove home to rest in the rain.
I did not make it back to the clinic on Monday, but I found myself there sick from withdrawal on Tuesday, and then I began my march with methadone.
by Eliza Player