When I was in the heroin study at Columbia Presbyterian in Manhattan, the first two weeks were dedicated to detoxing, just to get everyone involved on the same page. With two clean weeks under my belt, after taking cognitive tests on a computer in a lab with a double mirror, along with three other participants, I was about to be given a sample dose.
This dose could have been of three possible strengths: placebo, medium (which basically meant placebo mixed with the real stuff), and strong. After the sample, there was another computer test. There were scales on the screen, of the type Lady Justice bears, though she was absent. Instead, on one side there was a stack of cash, and on the other a pile of powder. If we wanted more of the dose after the sample, we would click on the side with the powder. The more we clicked, the closer we got to the maximum. If we didn't want more, we would click the stack of cash and we would get paid up to an extra $20 for the session. If we had the same amount of clicks on each side, we could get half the extra money and half the extra drugs.
Either way, a lot of frantic clicking was involved. I eventually developed my own technique, where my hand just vibrated on the mouse. The first time we did this, just before the sample, I assessed how I felt and decided that I didn't want to feel any different. I supposed if the heroin was real, it would just add another feeling to the contentment I felt. It was real, and I was wrong. After I sniffed it and it trickled down the back of my throat in the lab, much like after I shot it in the hostel in Vancouver and tasted it in the capillaries of my tongue, one thought came to my mind. The thought was:
"I feel so much better."
"Better than what?" I would ask myself. Just before the fix I had been off smack for long enough torealize that I was content. That realization, however, was suddenly as distant as a childhood memory. The sole drive in my life had become to feel better, again. Better meant for my eyelids to perpetually be relaxed, for dream and reality to blend, for a perpetual massage to crawl through my body, especially when I let my head nod. It seemed like it was what every other experience in life had led up to. I had heard people speak of a certain unreachable something that life leads up to, a mysterious forward drive that goes beyond children and a secure family life. For me it was heroin. And it would constantly go beyond itself when I wasn't high enough. Everything else served to bring it out. To highlight it. To create a drama around it.
Once addicted to drugs, I was sure purity was unattainable. To me, as an addict, heroin was practical because at least it seemed attainable. I would just pretend I did it once in a while to keep life interesting. Often it would fail to keep life interesting, which is probably why I was frequently moody on heroin. I would not have any tolerance for anybody, including myself, who implied that I did not feel better than before while on it.