Addiction, medical anthropology, mental health, PSYCHOLOGY, Taoist philosophy, Truth

DISTURBANCE AT THE HEROIN HOUSE – Michael Downing (Blatant reshuffle of the title of an R.E.M. song, “Disturbance at the Heron house” based on the book “Animal Farm.”)

          Robert Downing was my brother. We were thick as thieves, before we had become actual thieves.  Bobby had been a super star high school football player. In his senior season, he was cut down by a “crack back” block, now illegal, that left him a knee that could be reconstructed, but not resurrected. The college scouts thinned out. The Friday edition of the Decatur , Georgia newspapers forgot his name. It was a tough adjustment for all of us. On the outside, he looked fine. His muscular body and handsome face hadn’t changed, but he had. I knew it, and so did he. There was a sense among us that loved him, that our golden boy, had peaked in high school, even though I had no earthly idea what that phrase even meant. But I would learn.

     Those who knew him were familiar with his no bullshit assessments of any situation. (“Hey, they fucked up, they trusted you.”)  He was slow to panic and quick to formulate plans. I loved him. He could also be reckless and impulsive to the point of putting himself (and at times me) in mortal danger. That being said, what I remember most about Robert was that stupid fucking laugh. That laugh came from somewhere where the rest of us are only granted limited access. I can still see him with tears rolling down his face, body in near convulsions, totally silent. A laugh beyond sound. A dog whistle laugh, punctuated by a kind of sobbing noise. Jesus, what a freak.

     So, there was a period where we had two solid options for copping smack. One was an old black man who lived in a decent neighborhood who dealt “Mexican mud”. Brown heroin. Fairly cheap and packed a real wallop. The other was a white woman, around sixty years old, that lived in what was at that time, a run down section of Atlanta known as “Cabbage Town”.  She sold the old standard “China White” heroin and the little yellow K-4 dilaudids at sixty bucks a hit. Keith Richards once said, “Heroin is pussy. Dilaudids are the shit.” I won’t say I didn’t like them, but to me they were a pain in the ass. You had to crush them , dump the powder into a syringe, then draw up really hot water and shake the shit out out of it before you could shoot them. If they didn’t break down all the way, it would jam the syringe and you would have to pull it out of your arm and try to free it up with more hot water. We were well known at pretty much every convenience store between Decatur and Cabbage Town, due to a constant need for hot water we would get from the coffee makers. Anyway, this lady,  (Her name was Janice), always had a bag of a hundred or so dilaudids she kept in her bra. Her son kept dime bags of  heroin in the pocket of a windbreaker he wore year round.

     One day I left work early and made a run to go cop. Janice’s place was closer to my job, so I went there. Her son let me in. He told me to sit down and wait for Janice. I told him I wanted a few bags of smack and was in a hurry to get back home before my wife got off work. “Just hang on.” he said and left the room. There was defiantly a weird vibe going on. As he walked out of the room, I noticed he had a pistol stuck down the back of his pants. It’s different now I think, but back then, full time dope dealers rarely carried guns. If you got busted by the police, and you were carrying a heater, it was an automatic additional five years in prison for possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. It was known as “five to the door.” That meant in addition to what ever time you got for dealing the drugs, you were gonna do five more years,  period. No parole. So most of the folks I dealt with didn’t carry weapons. I think this guy was already on parole, so it surprised me he had a gun.

     In a minute, he came back into the room with Janice. He took the pistol out and laid it on the table in front of me. “What the fuck?” I asked. He took a couple of steps back and Janice said, “That belongs to your brother. You need to find him and have a serious conversation.” I was confused. Robert never carried a gun. He didn’t even own a gun, so I’m looking at this Beretta nine millimeter lying on the table and I say “I’m not following you here. Believe me, if Robert had a gun he would have pawned it for dope a long time ago.” Janice shook her head. “He had one last night.” she said. “He showed up here about two a.m., kicked in the door and stuck that gun to my head. Took my dilaudids. Like about a hundred and thirty of them.” I didn’t know what to say. Robert could be impulsive for sure, but he had never been violent or crazy. “He was wearing a ski mask” she said. “Scared the shit out of us till we realized it was Robert.” “How do you know it was Robert?” I asked. “He had just been here to cop about twelve” she said. “He was wearing a Betty Boop t shirt. Had the same shirt on when he robbed us.” I thought about that for a minute and it made perfect sense. It made me laugh. “It’s not funny Michael. He’s lucky some of the guys that were here earlier had left. They would have killed him.” Not so funny anymore. But still a little bit funny. Janice went on, “I said, Robert if your sick, I’ll give you a few D’s.  “I’m not Robert” he said. Give me the bag out of your bra. Michael, I’ve been around junkies all my life. Sometimes even good one’s do really crazy shit. He had a gun. I gave him the pills. Soon as he had them in his hand he dropped the gun and took off running. Jimmy (her son) ran out after him but Roberts a big guy, so he wasn’t sure what he might do if he caught up to him.” I was very confused. “Your positive it was Robert?” I asked again. “Oh yeah, it was him. His car actually drove by the house about a minute after he left with the dope. Plus, when Jimmy came back in, he picked up the gun. Weren’t no bullets in it.”  Damn. Defiantly Robert.  “What do you want me to do?”

     Janice surprised me. She didn’t want blood. She just wanted whatever was left of the dope he stole returned to her. Then she surprised me again. She gave me a hundred bucks worth of heroin. “I know you can get him to do the right thing” she said. Then she hit me for the third time by sliding the gun across the table to me. “Don’t want that fucking thing around here” she said. “Find out who he stole it from and give it back. I’m pissed at him, but I don’t want somebody else to kill him.” We both laughed. “Stupid mother fucker” she said, shaking her head. “Just tell him to bring back the pills and we can talk.” I took the dope, the gun and split. When I got to Robert’s house, (this was in the time that we both still had houses) the door was unlocked. I walked in, he was asleep on the sofa and there was a whole bunch of little yellow K-4s dumped out on the coffee table, along with a ten pack of u-100 syringes, the AK-47 of the junkie wars. 

     I turned on the lights. I couldn’t help it.  I started laughing. His car keys were lying on top of a waded up black ski mask on the floor and he was wearing a Betty Boop t-shirt. I woke him up, “All I want to know is where you got the gun” I said. “Oh shit” he said. “Did that really happen? God, I bet she’s gonna have me killed.” He sat up and ran his hands through his hair. “Shit, what am I gonna do?” I laughed and shook my head.   “I browed the gun from Scott.” (His next door neighbor.) he said.  “Shit, he’s gonna want to kill me too. Did she tell you I dropped it?” “Yeah” I said. “I’ll give it back to him.” “She gave you the gun?” His mood brightened. “Yeah, and she wants her pills back.” “I’ve shot about ten of them.” he said. “I’m sure she knows that.” I told him. “So let’s shoot ten more and I’ll take the rest back for you. Your lucky, she knew it was you.” I said. “God I’m an idiot.” he said.  ” Your a thinker Bobby.” I said, and went to the kitchen where I flipped the hot water on high.

      Janice knew where Robert lived, but had no idea that I lived about two miles away. We moved operations to my house, to avoid detection, just in case Janice sent some muscle to take back the dope.  We shot dialudids till we were saturated., then counted out another ten apiece for later. When I got the pills back too Janice, there were 80 left. Again, to my surprise, she wasn’t angry. I think she had it in her mind that I would never come back. 80 wasn’t 130, but it beat the hell out of none. In another week, everything was back to normal, but remember, normal for a tribe of junkies is like Wednesday on the Micky Mouse Club. It’s anything can happen day.    md

********* Robert died from “complicated circumstances” some years ago. Yes there was dope, but it was more than a overdose. I was there. By far, the most painful moment of my life thus far. I’ll tell the story, but not here, not now. I just want to smile right now, and think about how much I loved that silly ass child, hiding in a man’s body. md





Addiction, medical anthropology, mental health, Narcotic addiction, Truth, Uncategorized

“The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. King James Bible. “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”- William Blake. “Sorry, what was I saying?”- Michael Downing


“It’s hard to be all you can be,  with junk jammed up in your energy.  It’s hard to walk in dignity, with throw up on your shoes.” – Michael Stipe

So I know I run long.  It’s a pill, I get it. However, as my dad use to say, “If you gotta eat shit, best not to nibble.”  Now strap in, and let me take you on a guided tour of current events in dope, as seen through the eyes of the fourth estate.  md

     Junkies and their mischief have have been prominently featured in the news as of late. In Hollywood, they say “any press is good press”,  and I suspect their right. This first insanity , I caught off N.P.R.  in Boone. It was an interview with a lady who was identified as an expert in the field of addiction, who was also “in recovery” from some vague substance abuse issues which we, the listeners, were assured was” as bad as it gets.” “Ok. You now have my  attention” I said out loud. “Teach me something.”

    In a deceptively sweet voice,  the women launched into a near psychotic  rant about her belief that the government should make methadone and suboxone available at low to no charge to anyone who wanted it. She went on to explain that junkies who get on one of these “maintenance medications”, quit using recreational drugs, get jobs, take care of their children and contribute to society. Then, as if that’s not enough,  she tells us that these drugs don’t get them high. Which, according to her, is perfectly fine with the junkies, because these drugs work so well, that the addicts no longer crave any alteration of their consciousness.  I sat with that for a moment, just letting it sink in. Once I was centered, I focused all my telekenetic powers and launched into a tyraid of profanity as I projected a death ray of chi, like a bullshit seeking missile that would follow the radio waves back to their source, causing her head to explode so violently that Charlie Manson would detect a slight vibration reverberating throughout his 8 by 10 foot cell in the basement of Pelican Bay prison in upstate Cali.      


      This fantasy that drugs are the junkies salvation, is not only false, it’s dangerous.  This shit gets sold to addicts by a similar narrative. It goes like this, “You won’t feel high, but you won’t crave drugs either. You pay like $15.00 a day. Drop the dose around 6: 00 AM   and your good for the next 24 through 48 hours . No withdrawals. No spending the rest of the day chasing dope. 15 dollars and you become just another regular person.  To a junkie that sounds like a cool way out. Briefly. But reality, as is often the case, is a bit more complicated. My first thought was, “I’ve never known a using junkie whose goal in life was to become “just another regular person.” Even at the marginal cost of 15.00 a day. The second was her conviction that these drugs don’t get you high, which is perfectly fine with junkies, because this witchcraft works so well, they no longer crave any alteration of their consciousness. WHAT? Junkies suck air as a secondary physical process. Given a choice between breathing or getting high, well, there’s a lot of dead junkies. I can personally name quite a number off the top of my head. If methadone did not get you high, it would have gone the way of the Neanderthals in short order. On the streets, methadone sells for between one to two dollars a milligram. Different states have different maximum doses allowed by law. In Georgia, it’s been 12o milligrams for some time, and may be higher by now. If you have clean drug screens, you can receive up to 30 take home doses and only come to the clinic once a month. That raises the potential for a lot of loose cash. I’m hearing methadone advocates saying, “But hold on, we can and do call them at random times and they have 24 hours to bring in all the doses they should have. One bottle short and they go back to daily.” I have gone through this inspection on a number of occasions. Any junkie that can’t fuck with a paper seal to extract the dope, then refill it with cherry koolaid, simply doesn’t deserve to name themselves among our kind.      That’s a skill you need weather your selling your doses or not. Taking multiple doses a day is standard operational procedure for dope fiends. Of course that means it’s back to the street towards the end of the month. No problem. As I said the profit margin for methadone is crazy. Sell off a few doses and buy enough scag to see yourself through. Drug screens? We don’t fear no stinking drug screens. My God, the technology for beating the most advanced drug detection systems in the world can be had for thirty dollars from hundreds of sources, many from people in the clinic parking lot, others from the internet.

     “You should take drugs to keep you off drugs.”  Speaks for itself.  Fact is, if the drugs your taking to get you off other drugs were not more potent, what’s the point? Here’s some Junkie mythology. Almost any addict that has been a regular methadone patient,  will tell you methadone was created by the Nazi war machine to feed their need for a morphine substitute, when the supply chain ran into problems. They say the Nazi medics could take a guy with his arm shot off, dose him with 100mg’s of methadone, tie off the stump, then send his narced up ass back into the fight. Super soldiers kind of thing. True? I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. The point is junkies on methadone believe it.  Dr. C. G Jung said that myths within a culture carry truths in the language of symbols.  What does it say about methadone that people who take it believe it floated downstream from the heart of darkness? It says everything you need to know about what that shit does to you. Heroin withdrawals are a vacation to the South of France compared to the Turkish prison of methadone. I know of what I speak. I was on methadone for around 20 years.  Longest lasting, best buzz on the market. Holy God people, this drug is legal. One more thing. All the members of my tribe that died, (which is all but me) had methadone in their system. Other things as well, but methadone was present in every case. It also bears noting that my only head on collision with the D.E.A. came from me attending  different methadone clinics under different names. Would have gone on  till it killed me, if one of the counselors had not switched clinics. She knew me as Kelly, they knew me as Michael. Oh dear. Oddly enough, the D.E.A. agents were actually funny when the clinic people were out of the room. One said “Oh my God! A junkie figured out a way to beat the system and get more methadone. Let’s stop the fucking presses.” The lady agent said, “Michael, could I have bought a dose of that shit from you for a thousand dollars?” “Fuck no” I said. I can get toasted on  i20 mg’s of methadone. I’d have to work to find a thousand bucks worth of something else.” “Bird in the hand?” asked the man agent. “Correct sir.” I said. “Are you gonna take me to jail?” Both laughed. “First time we’ve come across this.” lady narc said.  “Technically not against the law, but now that the doors open, we’ll probably see 20 cases a day. Besides, your being kicked off from all the clinics your attending. Your going to suffer a long and painful death. Jail would just be kicking you while your down. ” Even the D.E.A. knows methadone sux. But they did put the fear of God in me. But God is just not scary enough. Junkies are generally not afraid of anything that’s not going to happen in the next hour or so. I was fairly convinced the Lord was not coming all this way to smite me for coping methadone in a shady, if not outright illegal, fashion. I started at a new clinic the next morning.

     So enough of that. Let’s talk about suboxone, which also travels by the name subutex, among others. “No, no, no. This is a new drug called suboxone. Nothing like methadone Michael”   my psychiatrist told me. I had just been released from a 30 day vacation in Spalding county lock up, where I went cold turkey off a three to four hundred milligram a day  methadone habit. I had prayed to die. Long story short, suboxone was methadone’s evil twin, who dressed better, and was new to town. Took me a while to figure it out though.

     The psychiatrist I trusted switched me from methadone to suboxone. “It’s a new age.” he told me. “No high, no sick, tons of energy and mood elevation.” “When you want to come off, we step it down for a month or two and your done.” He put me on 16mg’s a day and off I went. I was sick as hell for the first three weeks. Lived my life between the bed and the couch. Once I got use to it, things seemed fine. Good mood, tons of energy. One morning, after I had been on it for years,  my daughter called me and told me turn on channel 2. I did, just in time to see the good doc being dragged from his office by the D.E.A. He was accused of killing 36 people with drugs they didn’t need. As of now, he is charged with 3 counts of murder and some number  of counts for improper prescription dispensing without due cause. My supply lines disrupted, I was sick for six months everyday. then another year with P.A.W.S. Post acute withdrawal syndrome. Incompacatating  sickness that comes in waves several times a day.  Federal law states that doctors who have a special license to write scripts for Suboxone can only carry 100 suboxone patients on their case load. Obama is raising that number to 200 , so more addicts can have access  to this intervention. YEA!!

     Suboxone sells on the streets for around twenty bucks a pill, yet we are assured it does not get you high. Junkies won’t pay five bucks a pop for percodan because it takes too many to get a buzz. So we should trust these do gooders, when they say suboxone has no psychoactive effects. I would like to ask N.P.R. lady, and the President, to do a couple of things. One- pick several methadone clinics in your area and get your ass up, go sit in the parking lot at 5:30 a.m., till they close  at 10:00 am. It’s a fucking open air drug market. 2. Put yourself on one of these drugs for one year then quit. Then tell me again that these people don’t get high, or that most, or even half of these people are working, taking care of their kids and being productive citizens.   If you can survive the withdrawals without blowing your brains out. Do that and we’ll talk. md




This came off my local radio station while I was driving my son to the store.

       When I was using heroin, once in a while we would hear about people cutting the scag with fentanyl.  This was cause for celebration within our ranks. Fentanyl is a fairly new narcotic on the streets. Only takes a smidgen to wipe you out. Cheaper than heroin, it’s now being used to boost volume and potency of street scag. We spent days trying to track down this mixture. Sometimes we did and sometimes we didn’t, but the effort was worth it. It’s like cutting TNT with weapons grade uranium. Much more bang for your buck. Most of the dealers I knew, would get a gram or two of fentanyl and use it to cut ounces of high grade heroin, then they could add in filler like baby laxative and double their profits. Hard as I tried, I could never get them to just sell me the fentanyl without the heroin. So, I switched to creating my own scripts for fentanyl, and started copping it from Kroger pharmacies. (I carried on with this for years, until another personnel change tripped me up. A pharmacist from store A, which I had scored from earlier in the day, went to work a second shift at Kroger B, where I came in about 6:00 to get another script filled. Narcotics officers arrived within minutes.)

       When I worked for an Atlanta crisis rehab center, I got a call and went to a  guys house. To my utter amazement, he was in possession of several cases of fentanyl transdermal patches, made for people who were dying of cancer, who could no longer take meds orally. I quickly convinced him I needed to destroy it, so it didn’t get into the hands of the wrong people, or give him an easy out by o.d. So being the guy I am I loaded the fentanyl into the backseat of my car, along with some 10,000 tablets of 100mg blue morphine, and several hundred 4mg dilaudid (hydromorphone) The next day, I was working in a hospital E.R. assessing crazy people. I had made friends with one of the er docs, so I asked him how many 100 mg duragesic patches it would take to kill somebody. He thought a minute and said ” I think  L.D. 50 (lethal dose for at least 50% of people who take it) is like 200mg’s. So I’d say three patches and their dead.” I had 8 strapped around my abdomen, held in place by duct tape.

    So my boy and I are on the way to the store, when I flipped the radio on and we caught this story. 85 kilos of pure fentanyl was confiscated from the back of an old pick up rolling down I-75 which about 30 miles from my house. 85 kilos of 100% pure fentanyl. That’s enough narcotic to get everyone on the east coast knocked out for days. I mean it’s a shit load. They traced it back to Mexico and the carteals. Turns out these boys have learned to cook up their own batches of this stuff.   The fact that these chemists in Mexico can now make their own should scare the fuck out of everybody. Think of it like a very large and well organized group of nut job terrorists learning to make hydrogen bombs out of water balloons. You may recall that this was the dope the Russians weaponized and employed against the Cheznian rebels, who had taken several hundred hostages in a theater. When the rebels began killing  their captives, the good boys of Speznatz took action. They dumped an unknown amount of fentanyl, that  had been converted into aresol, into the ventilation system. It was extremely effective. When they stormed the theater, almost everyone was unconscious, both rebels and civilians.  Success beyond hope. At first glance at least. As medical teams started evacuating the hostages, they discovered people were dying by the dozens from over dose. Killed pretty much everyone. The rain fell on the just and the unjust alike.There’s a whole new day dawning my children.  It’s cheap to make, and a little goes a very long way. There was 85 kilos of it passing within a few miles of my house in Georgia. This was not the only truck full of that dope on the roads of America that day.

      I’m thinking, give it a year, and your kid will be able to buy a dose of fentanyl from the lunch lady. You think pain pills and heroin are causing a fuss, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Mark my words, this drug has game changing  potential. Kick in the fact that few people on the streets have any idea of the overdose potential (as witnessed by the skyrocketing O.D.rates for heroin cut with it) and “Houston, we have a problem”, becomes dead air. Believe me folks, this will be more destructive than Godzilla strolling through downtown Tokyo. The best, cleanest, more powerful narcotic ever invented is about to get it’s big moment on stage. We’ll all be pining away for the good old days when oxycontin was killing kids by the basket full. People are going to die  with this shit. Already are. Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.


     Mexico. Beautiful white sand beaches. Drunk kids on spring break. Danny what’s his name, the mean ass looking Mexican bad guy actor, that sweats cool. Those guys with the sequined suits and hats that wander to and fro playing that God aweful music with horns. Mireachi? Something like that?  Donkey shows, and let’s not forget the drug cartels. I’m sure there’s some good people involved, but maybe not. These guys are psychopaths on jet fuel. Do not doubt me. Once you have endeavored to set people on fire during the course of your employment, there really is no going back. Tiajunna is now the official  murder capitol of the world. These folks will cut off parts of your body, slide a tire over your head soaked in gasoline, light it and go out for breakfast. No country for old men.  So we know that. What most don’t know is that many of the pills people are popping from North Carolina to Washington state, originate in the border towns of sunny Mexico. For example, an 80 mg tablet of oxycontin will cost you around $80 to $100 bucks in Kentucky. Cross the southern border and any pharmacy you can find (which will be almost every other store front), will sell you as many as you want for around twenty bucks a pop. Load um up boys! we’re heading north. The more you buy, the cheaper they come.

     Mexico has pharmaceuticle depensing laws on the books that state you must have a valid script from an M.D. to get drugs from a pharmacy. But like many things in that economically strapped country, these laws are more of a recommendation than an actual must do. So now we have lines stretching around the block at these places, filled with people from all over the United States buying dope at wholesale cost. There are actual busses traveling under the guise of look see tourist trips, which are just a front for the great pill migration. Think about it. Sixty dollar per pill profit. If you cop 100 tabs there, you can pull up a tidy profit of $6,000 bucks per trip, twice a month, (if my admittedly poor math is correct). You don’t even have to worry about the border cops. The pills are in your suitcase. Not hidden in some secret compartment that opens by the mirror adjustment button. Just a bus load of sightseers glad to be back on U.S. dirt. “Nothing to see here boys. This? Why this is just my medications sir. Cheaper to buy them in Mexico in bulk.”  Cops understand these situations. Shit, he probably buys his wife’s xanax the same way.


From the Griffin Daily News


     The wrath of the Lord descended on my small town Friday morning, leaving no rock unturned in the relentless search of druggies looking to spread their poison across our fair city. “Operation Shuttin’ ‘Em down”,  (The people who name these operations should have to take classes in the proper naming of large scale round ups.) I’m thinking something along the lines of “Operation You Fucked Up”, or something equally ball twisting. Because as we all know, nobody has shut down anything. The Griffin, Georgia drug trade will solider on. The biggest shock to me was that I didn’t know a single one of them. Not one. I should be happy and I guess I am, but it just seems like I have become totally disenfranchised from the world of dope. But, truth is, I’ve never done business in this town. Sure, I cracked a script of two, but crack has never been my cup of tea. So ok. Let’s be honest.I’m trying to get the stats but I’m willing to bet sight unseen that these caseloads are chock a block full of street level crack , methamphetamine and nickel bag weed dealers, mostly from the “flats”. The black housing neighborhoods.

     I have been slow to jump on the “War on Drugs’ is racist bandwagon, but the statistics are hard to argue against. I’m not a numbers guy, so I look at the big picture. Studies show that blacks and whites use drugs at very simular rates, yet you are many more times likely to be stopped and searched if your young and black. You are more likely to be arrested for possession. You are more likely to do more jail time before your trial and your more likely to be sentenced to prison  if convicted. Go to jail sometime and look around. I have. Many times. I was always in the racial minority in every jail in which I’ve had the pleasure to find myself. I realize this is not proof, but proof is there if you want to take the time to look.



      This brings us to a man named Banard Nobel. Banard is in prison in Louisiana. He has served around five years of a 14.5 year sentence. His crime? He was riding his bike down the street, when two cops thought he looked suspicious. They stopped him, detained him, and they arrested him when they found two joints in his shirt pocket. Now Barnard was no angel, he had been arrested twice before. Both previous arrest were also non violent drug violations. Both were from the nineties. His first judge gave him 6 years in county lock up. The D.A. was pissed so he took it to another judge who agreed with the first Judge and reconfirmed his sentence of 5 years.  Several judges later the D.A. filed Barnard’s case under the 3 strikes rule. This took any sentencing discretion from the Judge and gave it to the D.A., who overturned Barnards sentence and conferred a new sentence of 14.five years. He has lost three appeals, based on the punishment being grossly harsher than the crime. Cruel and unusual. Even Obama refused to commute his sentence. Problem is, Barnard is not alone. There are thousands of men and women in prison across the country, but especially in the south, who are serving long prison time for bullshit charges involving pot.

     In comparison, I have been arrested 15 times or so throughout Georgia. Three of my arrests were felonies related to obtaining false prescriptions or using false ordering numbers to procure narcotic schedule 2 medications. My sentence for the last one, which should have qualified me for habitual offender status , was 30 days in county lock up and five years probation. That does not make sense. Come on people. ` This is our country and we’re allowing ambitious D.A.’s who must run for re-election on an anti tolerance platform to dictate to Judges what sentences to hand down. Did I miss the part where the D.A.s were given the right to overrule a superior court judge’s opinion? I don’t care if you smoke pot or not. You know this man has been wronged. Oh yea, when sentenced under these guidelines, there is no such thing as parole. You get 15 years, you will do 15 years. Many prisons in the south are privately owned – for profit businesses whose best product is poor people busted for possession of grass. The state gives these for profit convict warehouses around $57-00 a day per prisoner. The lock ups spent around $8.00 – #18-00 per day keeping them. The rest is profit. This same system is used for these counties to house state prison inmates in their county jails, with the profits going to the sheriff departments. And you thought incest was dead. I said this kind of bullshit was gonna be abused when cops were given the power to confiscate the cars of people who were caught trying to buy pot from….the cops themselves, using “reverse sting” operations. You own your car. Someone flags you down in a bad neighborhood, your an addict. He says he will sell you a fat little sack of bud for five dollars and he shows it to you. You haven’t smoked in months, but hey, why not? You hand him five bucks. It’s a cop. He now owns your car. They will sell it at auction. The money gained comes directly back to that department. Sure seems like monetary incentive to arrest people. But maybe it’s just me. I’m not anti cop. I’m anti profiteering by law enforcement. You should be too. Next time your around somebody smoking weed, think about Barnard Nobel. This man owned a business, has a family, liked to go fishing. Think about what it would mean for the legal system to take you away from everything you know and love for fifteen years because you chose to smoke a joint.













Addiction, medical anthropology, mental health, Truth

This is your brain on Chinese Medicine – E- mails from the abyss Michael Downing

     Well, well, well. Been a while. Sorry about the skip, but there was serious work to be done. Namely, getting my ass out of school. Turns out, this whole Chinese Medicine thing is complicated..  Every day I worked in  the intern clinic, I ran across things I thought I understood, only to realize I didn’t know shit. In fact, if I had   been made to work one more week , I’m certain  I would have left, realizing  I knew nothing at all about Chinese Medicine. Well, anyway, it’s done. Four years gone. To be fair, I never thought I’d live through four years of it. I thought I would die and people at my funeral could cry and say, “He had really turned a corner. My God, he was in acupuncture school.” Now, I’m faced with expectations of actually doing something. Expectations can be tricky. Blow them away, and people come to expect it. Fall short, and there’s disappointment. Either way, they whisper behind your back. I do know this, be weird. Then people have no idea what to expect from you. If your more or less harmless, the’ll call you eccentric or “artsy.” Just make yourself happy. Happiness is not something you find. It’s not a “condition.” Happiness is a fucking choice. Too many of us think, “I’ll be happy when… ” Fill in the blanks with whatever. Relationship, money, house, sobriety, job.  Basing your happiness on external events in your life is fleeting at best. No victory, girl, gu car, money, whatever will ever be great enough to sustain you for the long haul.  You don’t need the Dali Lama to tell you that. It’s true. You can feel truth in your body. Make the decision to be happy now. Then just be. Doesn’t mean you won’t have shitty days. Doesn’t mean you’ll never cry.  A truly happy person is not numb or immune to any emotion. They just don’t get stuck there. Anyway, be happy. It makes you more interesting.  Nobody expects that kind of mischief in this world.

     So, I’ve had a bit of time to think. Drugs are fun to write about and I have a thousand stories that need to be told. But, there’s so much more. I have had some requests to post some of my signature emails. I look at the email as a great  untapped potential to screw with people’s heads. A new form of interactive short story if you will. People try to be so straight forward with electric conversation. They just don’t expect long rambling gibberish to leap out of these machines and grab them by the imagination. We’re gonna get back to the dope, no worries. But  even here, we haven’t strayed too far afield. There are many who remain steadfastly convinced there is  a pharmaceutical  influence evident in my writings.  I won’t say there is, and I won’t say there’s not. I’m not here to prove myself clean to anyone. I’m just trying to talk about truth, which is odd to say when your writing about taking the art of bullshit and stomping the accelerator.  Enjoy them if you will. The names have been blocked to protect the guilty. The innocent can damn well take care of themselves. I like to think about  someone having a slow day, and in the middle of the afternoon fog, they check their email and this insane pointless babble starts firing the neurons. For security and legal reasons, the responses are not included. Usually, they were funnier. md

>>>>>>NOTE: >>>>>>>After publishing these jabberings I was contacted by Clinic Supervisor Julie Barefoot L.Ac. who insisted,ok, demanded I identified her as the recipient of many of these emails as well as being patient x who told me she missed her appointment due to a very heavy traffic jam, brought on, somehow, by Billy Joel, the piano man. She had other involvements as well, also wrote up a few snappy responses and in general was guilty of egging me on. Once, she asked me “what is wrong with you?” I explained to her that one morning a weird guy was sitting at my table when I got up. He lay out two pills. A red one and a blue one. He said if I picked the red one I would go back to sleep and remember nothing. My life would go on as it was. But, if I chose the blue one I would wake up to a new reality, seeing the world as it really is. I told her, Shit Barefoot, I’m a junkie. I took both of them.

SUBJECT: STAND DOWN STANDING UP (Note to clinic supervisor for missing an acupuncture appointment with me while telling me with a straight face that it was Billy Joel’s fault for causing a traffic jam)

DATE: Tuesday,08 December 2015 14:11

From: michael downing  ,<>

To: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Oh really? You stand me up and blame it on Billy Joel? I think we both know what’s going on here. But first, I know Billy Joel. He often hooks me up with a weird brew from Brazil known as Ibogaine. It’s a psychedelic concoction used by great healers throughout the back woods in that dark land. Due to our usual Sunday morning psychic dialogs, I happen to know that Billy was on a flight to Denver that morning and no where near the alleged site of the traffic jam you drummed up as an excuse to escape what you had to know would be a transcending experience in your young life. You see, it was all planned very carefully. I had fasted and meditated for days in preparation. I had made all the necessary calls. Not an easy thing, I had to call in some hefty chips, some of which I had been waiting for years to collect on.  What I’m saying is, the board was set for heavy movement. Then I heard it. A raven, croaking nevermore from high atop the Jung Tao School of Acupuncture. You can’t fight the tao, price of moxa be damned. Still, I’m willing to forget the whole thing if it’s made right. I have the capacity to pull it all into play again, maybe even have that deranged bastard Billy Joel playing Captin Jack just for you on a 1979 era church organ as I plunge the needles into the points fortold to me in my wanderings through the i-ching. All I’m asking for is a bit of cooperation on the patient end of the whole thing. I’m gonna have my people contact yours. With any luck, the planets will align, and we can make this treatment happen next year sometime.  Merry Christmas xxxxxxxxxxx, if that is your real name. You better not write me back, there are people monitoring these types of transactions. Best not alert them unless absolutely necessary.   Michael D


Subject: Greater and lesser window of heaven points

Date: Thursday, 31 December 2015 14:16

From: Michael Downing <>

To: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (Conference on a window of heaven points, also called sky window acupuncture points, for an assignment they had given us “week one” clinic interns to determine why some were called “grand” WOH points vs. “lesser” WOH points)

Hi XXXXXXXX, Having a bit of a time with the “grand” WOH points vs. the “lesser” ones. Just wanted to make sure I’m on the right track. Here’s what I think, These “grand” window of heaven points are the ones to watch out for. Their mean drunks who sport about town in flashy red sports cars, getting in your face with their fashion forward attire and silk pajamas. At parties, they get loud reliving their glory days playing high school football. They can name every Victorias Secret supermodel by name. Their notorious for being poor tippers, even when the service has been remarkable. In youth, they were cold hearted bullies, often making the lesser WOH points eat dirt on the playground at recess. In the end however, poetic justice prevails. The lesser points save their allowance and invest in dot com startups, where they employ the greater points in the mail room for minimum wage. The lesser points now not only know the supermodels names, they stay out till five a.m. dancing with them at New York’s neo punk clubs, so exclusive that Bill Gates couldn’t get a table on a Tuesday night. I could go on, but I think you see where I am with my research. Don’t worry yourself. I’m gonna work it all out. Lash together some Native American folklore, some deep south “Uncle Remus” type iambic pentameter and a smidgen of Hatian voodoo spirituality, then top it off with what ever government conspiracy JW is worked up about this week and bring this thing together just under the wire.  Michael D


Subject: Class 14 Memo from the Downing Southern Command Center

Date: Monday,21 March 2016 19:35

From: Michael Downing <>

To: Class 14 (One of my usual drive home rants-There have been many. This one just happened to include some clarification about graduation.)

So, I’m driving home., in the rain and I’m thinking, this is the 54th trip home I’ve made. Seems like 53 have been in the rain. Even though Grand Rounds was fun and cool and maybe the most interesting thing that’s ever happened to me at Jung Tao,  my mood was dark.Nothing but heavy metal radio through the badlands of South Carolina. When I crossed the Hartwell Reservoir at the state line into Georgia, the clouds parted and the sun broke free. Taking it as a sign from God, I knew it was time to raise my voice to the people once again. I hit the tuner and the first riffs of the Stones “Gimme Shelter” came clear as a bell ringing through all 30 or so speakers in my experimental Volvo wagon, which I can speak no more of here. Anyway, my grim mood lifted and my thoughts turned to graduation. That feels weird to say. Let it roll around your brain for a moment. G-R-A-D-U-A-T-I-O-N. Cool right? So here’s the deal. Somehow I landed the job. Now let’s be clear, everybody knows I’m the least qualified person, not just at Jung Tao, but in the whole of the civilized world to steer such a mighty ship, all references to “Michael rowed the boat ashore notwithstanding. Therefore, I have enlisted the help of my spiritual advisiors and nutritional consultants, Chris Williams and John Bell. I  would like to point out that both serve at great personal risk and professional liability. Here’s what we have so far.  A potential keynote speaker who we think everyone will love. A big ass tent. A p.a. system. A stage. Bring your own food, what ever your tastes and allergies will permit. I will provide a tub of ice cold cokes, and two dozen Krispy Kream donuts (at my own expense). I’m willing (as is my reputation) to entertain most any idea. Can’t promise anything. John Bell says under promise and over deliver. See, he earning his money already. To make the rules clear, I have put up some limitations. Here are some things which will not be tolerated at graduation.

1. Extreamism

2. loose talk

3. small dogs in cute sweaters

4. Soft drugs

5.loin cloths

6. Tap out shirts (The Michael Downing “I Surrender” shirts are fine)

7.Hard knocks

8. bluetooth

9.Yoko Ono records

10. Old concert tickets from any Boyz to Men reunion shows. Any complaints should be forwarded to Chris Williams via Facebook. That is all for now. Thank you.


Subject: Because I can

Date: Friday 15 April 2016  0400

From: Michael Downing  <>

To:  XXXXXXXXXXX  (email to clinic supervisor, asking for help with treatment strategy for the month of april’s case study

Well xxxxx xxxxxxxxx, haven’t messed with you in a while. Sorry, I’ve been in the Republic of the Congo working with a crack anti-poaching team made up of Russian trained Congolese special forces. Jezze, their such babies! It’s always “I’m thirsty” or “We haven’t eaten in a week” or “It’s too hot” whatever. Anyway, between hanging folks and throwing them out of helos, I don’t have time to jabber about acupuncture. Running down an elephant killer today. When I catch him, and I will, I’m gonna cut his tusk off, if you get my drift. Sorry to carry on, but saving animals is my life’s work. What about your man, what’s his name XXXXXXX? I could use another good man out here. A big one that’s not afraid of a little “wet work”. Hope this finds you well and comfy. Before I forget, there was something else. I can smell we’re close. Oh Yes! The case study. I need to see the emerging theme. I believe you said, “I should come down to Georgia and fix that man.” While I don’t anticipate that panning out, I would like some straight up advice so in three or four years, when I get a license, (and if neither of us is dead), I might could save him and finally make up for giving xxxxxxxxx that windowpane acid two hours before she met my family. All of them. On a beach in South Carolina. It was like “Saving Privet Ryan” with a bit less shooting, but possibly  more psychological trauma. How’s the big guy? Good fellow. Must be something very cool to pull down XXXXXXX XXXXX. Best to you. I cry to baby Jesus every night at 4 a.m. for the light you have brought to my darkness. I now fully understand the whole “Chinese Medicine” thing. Everything Jon Eric looks sideways at me about, (it’s a lot) , I shrug my shoulders and say “That’s what xxxxxxxxxx told me.” Works like a charm. Overtime. Who would have the oranges to question you?


Subject: E Tu brute?

Date: Friday,April 2016      15:23

From: Michael Downing <>

To:   XXXXXX   XXXXXXX  (This was my attempt to explain why I had shown up at school on the wrong week to attend Grand Rounds, with my son in tow, and some 90 pounds of fishing gear and a BMX bike crammed into the back of my car. Figured we should stay anyway and make it a fishing expedition. Actually overheard a fellow intern from that week say,  “The longer we go on  (with the program?) The crazier Michael gets. I think it might be amphetamine psychosis.”)  Maybe. But in my defense… Ok. Shit. If I saw myself jerking about, totally soaked in sweats, bad shakes, wearing mirrored Ray Bands and speaking incoherently about “Temple of the Dog” going out on tour,  I might be tempted to try to hang  it on amphetamines as well. It’s a less frightening and cumbersome explanation than entertaining the idea that one could get into such a condition without drugs.)


So it’s come to this has it? I guess you know the truth about me by now anyway, and my role as deep cover operative for the board of regents. Let’s lay our cards on the table xxxxxxxxxxxx. I cried bitter tears at my last debriefing in Brussels. Bitter tears. I sobbed with my head in my hands. “Not xxxxxxxx!” I cried, but my handlers from the board sadly shook their heads. “yes” they said. “Go see for yourself.” Indeed. But how? Obviously, to come when I was expected was no good. You blood thirsty heathens seem to have things just so when I blindly stumble into town on my regular week. So I was put in touch with agent J Bird, a thirty three year old master of disguise from the Board of Regents Cambodia division, who would pose as my 11 year old son. And let me just say, it hurt my heart that so many people would buy into the idea that I would just throw my child into the Volvo and head for Boone at  top speed without any clue as to when “advanced grand rounds” was being conducted. How irresponsible do you people think I am? None the less, it tore a hole in my soul when I saw your car in the Jung Tao parking lot. “Maybe that earringed degenerate Greg stole her car” agent J Bird speculated. But I knew better. When you pulled up as we were installing the high gain antennas made to look like fishing poles, I had to gather myself before turning to face you. I had rather you plunged a dagger in my back than greet me with that big white smile. Agent J Bird whispered “A smile is just a frown turned upside down” as I turned to face you.  That night, as we listened to the goings on in the secret underground bunkers below the clinic, my nostrils flared with seething anger. Every little detail you put together was perfect I must say.  A lesser mind would likely have never noticed. Like the fact that it’s the same two people riding their bicycles past Tom’s house all day.  Different colored spandex suits. Different little pointed helmets. Different bikes, but always the same two people. Skinny girl and dude with stubble, nodding their heads at me with contempt dripping from behind their fashionable sun glasses from disgust at my lifestyle choices. Where the hell are they going? Up and down that road a thousand times a day. God xxxxxxxx, how far up does this thing go? Barry? Business dude Ray? I loved that man like a father. To think I almost drank your koolaid, or green shit from a blender, or whatever it is that you people toast the downfall of Western civilization with. Christ, you people had me poking old women with needles and warming their kidney belt with burning leaves rolled into big spleefs for fun and profit!  How could I have been so blind? I mean, y’all make no bones about the fact that your running experiments on these poor mountain folks telomeres or telephones or what ever in the hell you and your comrade Niki (or should I say Nikita) have put me up to.  “Oh Michael, everything from China is great! America sux! Quit drinking cokes and join us in the revolution! Someday I’ll have to answer for my crimes against humanity, but I can roast in hell knowing that you and your ilk have been thwarted by the good, decent, God fearing people from the Board of Regents. As we speak, I’m filing my report from a shallow above ground pool behind a double wide trailor somewhere outside of Macon Georgia.  Jezze xxxxxxxx, they fill this thing with a garden hose, and their happy to have it. You people have failed to grasp the essential decency of American values.  But the good lord has his own way of dealing with your kind, as evidenced by the “rasslin” show agent J Bird and I saw there Saturday night.  I wept with joy as fat guys in way way too tight costumes, pretended to beat each other senseless as a crowd of 5 or 6 cheered them on. Could you smell the apple pie and homemade jerkey they were selling at the broken card table that doubled as a concession stand?  That’s the America I love! I hope it was a foul stench to you and your brothers of the sharpe needles. By the way, tell your boss Jim xxxxxxxx that I’ve never understood his miniacle ravings about what happened before the big bang. I said I did, but I didn’t. It’s confusing and hard. He loses me in the first ten seconds when yin and yang had yet to separate. And that goes for your friend Tisha from third year as well. Truth is, I don’t know anything about the nine palaces.  Christ, I’m a poor dirt farmer from south Georgia. I’ve never even seen a palace, and now I’m supposed to know about nine of the damn things, along with some turtle that climbed out of the yellow river with a bagua on it’s back. What the hell is a bagua anyway? Is it a compass? A dance? Tai chi movements? No body can give me a straight answer.  I think y’all make this stuff up as you go along. Maybe after ingesting halluucinogenic mushrooms. I’ll tell you what I told Tisha, “Sure, I know palaces. Big places, drawbridges, moats, towers with pointed flags. Occasional dragons and what not.  By the time you read this it will be too late. Justice and coca cola will have won as we always have. I’ll send you a card from my next assignment from the board. I hear their opening a school for Classical Central American Yak Bleeding in Bunos Aries. Adios amigos. 



Subject:  Oh my

Date: Wednesday, 22 june 2016 14:36

From: Billy Joel

To: XXXXXXXXX  XXX  clinical supervisor

XXXXXXXXXX, like Kurtz in the Heart of Darkness, I’m the first to admit it when I’ve gone to far. Funny story actually…ummm I’m sure you are aware of Michael’s annual summer solstice party in Jurez, Mexico. Well…ahh…Me and the boys thought it would umm… you know, be entertaining to spike Michael’s absenth with some freshly harvested human telomeres. I guess I don’t need to tell you how crazy he gets on that stuff. Anyway, we got separated, and when I got back to the hotel room, I found him there, his shaky, nicotine stained fingers banging out totally insane emails to all kinds of important people like yourself. Wow. Really quite sad. He now refuses to talk to me until I contacted you and explained the situation What we did was all meant to be a joke you know. Payback  for a little prank he played on us several months ago when he and several  officers from the Republic of the Congo’s elite anti- poaching unit, snuck five fully grown wildebeest, dazed by pcp onto our tour bus in the middle of the night. Jesus, those things gave us fits when the drugs wore off. Anyway, Michael would like to extend sincere apologies for the following;  Implying that you, or the good people of the school were in any way unpatriotic or anti-American. Pretending to be a deep[ cover operative for the Board of Regents. (He quit doing that more than a month ago.) Accusing you of toasting the downfall of western civilazation.  His atrocious spelling. (But let’s speak freely, he is a product of the south Georgia public school system.) Calling  the week three interns all eating together on the table in front of the school “A last supper on acid.” (Wait, did he say that? No? Well he said it to me. ) Implying that Barry and Ray the business dude were involved in some grand plot and crimes against humanity. (He knows that’s Kim’s thing.) Besmirching classical Chinese medicine. (He has nothing but the highest regards for that gibberish) Implying that you, personally were “making this stuff up as you go along.” Implying that you or your fellow teachers eat hallucinatory mushrooms. His admission that he has never understood XXXXXXXXXXX thoughts on what existed  before the big bang. Michael has a deep understanding of the esoteric structures the theory is based on. (But you have to remember , Michael almost went to prison for telling the police officer that he had no authority to issue citations, because he only existed as a corporate entity in the Libery of Congress.) Implying that Tisha from third year was obsessed with the nine palaces    There’s seems to have been some confusion on Michael’s part in terms of castles and palaces. Good to report that he now has them clearly delineated. (Michael is very much up on the whole palace concept. I believe he has personally visited several of them already.) Now, I tried and tried to get him to apologize for calling Greg a earringed  degenerate, but he says he stands by that statement in it’s entirety.  Hope this clears things up! Yours in service, Billy Joel.


   There’s more, but why play all my cards at once? If your searching for a point, I’ll save you some trouble. The point is to  make those receiving them  or just reading them shake their heads and smile. I’m an easy person to please. md



















Addiction, medical anthropology, mental health, Narcotic addiction

Junkie rules. Jail’s hard. Details and cars evaporate.


A quick word about my tribe. There was Robert my brother,  Jackie V who was the old man of the team in his fifties, Jack D who had gone to high school with Robert and I, and me, a college educated fool who had no clue what I was getting into until it was too late. We took care of each other when shit was bad. We chased dope all over America, and in between, we had some fun. But being a junkie means you suffer. I had a pride about me that I knew what it meant to suffer. God hates a pride in men, so he took me through hell fire and water, took the lives of my friends right before my eyes and left me cut and crazy living among the spirits. There’s a Monty Python skit where a group of villagers brings a woman to the village Judge screaming “Burn her! She’s a witch!” The Judge says “How do you know she’s a witch?” A man steps out and says “She turned me into a newt!” The Judge says “You don’t look like a newt.” The man says “I got better.” I got better. I can tell you how, but first you have to understand. To understand is to grow. Addiction makes people crazy. If you can understand crazy, the whole world starts to make sense.

It was my brother Robert who stuck the first shot of heroin in my arm. He was the medicine man of our tribe. Every member has his place. Robert was a man of the people. He looked after us. He put his ass on the line when things were bad. We all did, but Robert always took it ten steps further. Anyway, There was no pressure for me to do it. I wanted to do it. I had been wanting to try mainlining for a long time. I had been snorting scag for a few months when Robert finally said ” I hate to see you wasting that shit. If your going to do it, at least do it right.” I did.  Nothing I had ever experienced warmed me up for that. I could try to describe it, but you still wouldn’t understand. “Comfortably numb” by Pink Floyd gets about as close as anyone can. After hitting up for the first time,  I sat in a chair watching the world drift by, Jackie said, “Did you tell him the rules?” “No” Robert said. “He’s smart. He’s not gonna get strung out.” Jackie laughed and said “Look at him.  He’s already strung out.” Then he started telling me the rules. The rules are the inescapable truths of the junkie existence. You can try to fight them or ignore them, but there is no escaping the laws of God and man. Use long enough and you’ll see. Jackie was only doing what humans are hard wired to do, what we’ve done since the beginning. Sharing information with the younger members of the tribe. Passing along experience so the new guys don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Help them avoid the pitfalls as it were. Here’s what he told me that day.

  1. No cop lasts forever. Cop means where you get your shit. No matter how secure you think it is, no matter how well you know the guy, there’s gonna come a day when your knock will go unanswered. Your phone calls will be met with silence. No matter how much cash you have, you will have to find a new cop. Note: This is most especially true if your cop is a doctor. I have been around long enough to see them come and go. Several months ago I got a call from my daughter telling me to turn on the news.  There in full color was my psychiatrist being hauled out of his office in cuffs by the DEA. The agent in charge of the “operation” actually called him “Dr. Death” while claiming he was responsible for some 36 deaths by way of prescription overdose. I’ve known him for over ten years and he never offered me anything worth speaking of. We’ll see what comes of it. Anyway, my point is, don’t depend on your doc for dope. It may be all academic at this point anyway. The DEA has doctors so rattled it’s hard to get an aspirin out of any MD with good sense these days. Of course that leaves a lot to work with, just don’t get too attached.
  2. New cops are hard to come by. For obvious reasons, heroin dealers  do not like to sell to people they don’t know. This is in stark contrast to what you may have been told about scag “pushers”,  hanging out beside elementary school playgrounds. Oh, were it so easy. Real heroin cops, like the tribes they belong to, try to fly under the radar. They don’t want too many people coming by at odd hours. The more people they sell to, the more chance somebodies gonna get jammed up by the police and put in a cell, sick as shit, until they give up their cop. Happens all the time. As you might imagine, the courts do not look favorably upon heroin dealers, even if their not caught beside grammar school playgrounds. The assumption is the’ll get there sooner or later. Within all that is a hidden truth of heroin addiction. You don’t need to sell to many people, once their strung out. The’ll buy plenty.
  3. You will get sick. A lot. Refer to rule numbers one and two. That’s not even taking into consideration the times that you are short on cash.  Smack sellers are loath to hand out dope for nothing. Again, despite what you hear about “The first ones free” bullshit. That takes us into dark territory children. Imagine your a seventeen year old girl who’s sick and can’t steal twenty bucks out of her mom’s purse anymore. Right? Nobody rides for free. For guys, the options are somewhat more limited, but you will find a way to get cash. In those days I could scrape up a hundred bucks a day. Every tribe has a twist to get cash. Breaking and entering, selling their methadone, shoplifting, whatever. Our twist was lawnmowers. Riding lawnmowers. We had a magnetic sign we would put on the side of Jack D’s truck that said “Jam’s lawnmower repairs” with a fake phone number. Then we would ride around until we found a house that looked like no one was home with a riding mower in the carport. Back up to it,  roll it up and be gone in thirty seconds. We were never challenged. Not one time. Sold them to a guy who took them to South Carolina to sell at flea markets. It was a good system. Today,  I couldn’t choke up an extra hundred if my lights were about to be turned off.  Let’s talk about sick for a minute.

Being sick with narcotic withdrawals is as unimaginably bad as shooting up is unimaginably good. Every bone in your body hurts. You feel like you’re running a fever    of 105, alternating sweats and chills, and your legs feel hollow. It’s the legs that usually get people crazy. You can shake them, you can hit them (and you will), but nothing helps. And don’t even think about sleeping. I once made it through 30 days in Fulton county lockup with a total sleep time of a just few hours. That was on methadone. You will not get help in jail. You will be placed in cell, given no meds, undergo no detox and left to lie in the floor and cry. We can cover that later. With heroin, you can expect to be sick for five or six days if you “jump” off the boat. We used to call it the “jones”. Now I understand, we should call it jumping. Doesn’t matter. It’s hard to cope with sick when you know that there’s a guy less than 30 minutes away that can make you feel good again. There’s something about feeling like death in full blown withdrawals, then doing that shot that makes it all go away like some dark cloud that breaks to reveal the sun. Pure magic.Like salvation to the soul. Understand that, and you will understand the greater part of the puzzle.

So with scag, five or six days sick. On methadone or suboxone, think in terms of months. Can you grasp how difficult it is to be inside out sick for a full month without slipping off to score? It hurts. It hurts bad. If I was a girl or a woman, when I was sick, I can tell you, I wouldn’t have hesitated to give my dealer a call to work it out. I’ve seen it happen a thousand times. And worse. Anyway, Jackie V. told me another truth that day, he said “In the long run, you can expect to be sick a minute for every minute you spend high.” He was right. By the end of my twenty year run, I had two states of existence. Sick or high. I was sick so much, I got confused about which I was chasing. Really.  Junkies get comfortable with that feeling. You’re gonna feel that way a lot.

4. Stay off the bluff or you will go to jail. In Atlanta, the bluff is J.P. Brawley street about two miles from the campus of Georgia Tech. Every city and most small towns have a bluff, in the little town I live in now, it’s called the “flat”. It’s an open air drug market in the worst part of town. What ever you want. Drugs of every kind, girls, women, boys, exotic pets, guns, the list goes on. In Atlanta, there is a law that you will break by just being there. It’s known as D-6. Being in a known drug area. Back in the day the bluff was the stomping grounds of the infamous “Red Dog” squad, Fulton county’s street narcotics interdiction team. The streets may have belonged to the dealers, but their ass belonged to Red dog. I was terrified of them. So were the people who lived there. With good reason. I once was down there in a run down house shooting scag and cocaine (speedballs) when the squad made one of their sweeps through the alleys and side streets all around the house my brother and I were sitting in. These were big guys and they took no shit. I watched through the window as they they slammed people to the ground with no warning or probable cause. Many of their victims were young kids. Before God, I watched in horror as one of the team stood on the head of a boy maybe 16 to conduct his investigation. The kid was hurt. It became clear to me that the bluff operated under different rules than anywhere else on earth, except maybe  some shithole third world ghetto. Rumors were that they would thrown down evidence on people, when they had found nothing. Beatings were standard practice and payoffs were routine business. I always thought it was exaggerated.   Several years ago, the untouchable Red Dogs acted on a bullshit warrant and kicked in the door of an old lady who was loved by all in the neighborhood.They were looking for coke. There was none. They shot the old woman several times, she had a gun in her hand who’s origin was unclear. What was clear was that they planted  coke in her house. They killed that old lady sure as shit. She was around ninety. It took the informant to come forward to give them up. The squad was split up. Some were fired and some resigned. Not sure anybody was actually charged. People had put up with their bullshit long enough. The real problem with the Red dogs was simple. They had been there too long and gotten too cozy with the locals. Some members had been working there for years. Now the officers must rotate out of street narcotics every two years and they have oversight. Maybe it’s better now. Maybe not. But the bluff has it’s upsides if you know how to play it. You can always cop dope, 24/7 if you have the nuts to go there. You have to have a plan going in. Jackie explained to me that everyone needed to have a contact there. He introduced me to his. It was only to be used in extreme situations, when all other avenues had been exhausted. It was no different that an elder tribes man taking a youngster to a place where the hunting was always good. A sweet spot where I  could always score game if all other avenues had dried up. You haven’t lived until you pull up to some hard core gangbanger thugs standing around on a corner in the bluff in the middle of the night, being a white boy driving a Volvo station wagon. Once you cop, your ordeal has just begun. If you cop without getting killed your next move is to  get off J.P. Brawley before the cops even know your there. Sometimes it’s clear and you can slide out of there unseen, avoiding the apex predators by getting the hell out of there. Sometimes, there’s several cops at both ends of the street who will pull you over and hassle you. Usually they will find some reason to jam you up. My first felony bust was at the bluff. I should also say here that there are times you must go to cop at the bluff. Your sick. Your hurt, You know there’s dope there. You go. Out of all the people I knew that got busted, a great deal of them caught it at the bluff.

The first time I caught a case (felony possession of heroin) I thought I was following the rules as they related to the bluff. I kept my drug bundles in my hand so I could swallow them if the police showed. It all happened very fast. Before I knew it there were officers surrounding the car with guns out screaming. I shoveled the seven or eight bags of scag into my mouth and tried to swallow, just as they were pulling me out of the car. They handcuffed me and leaned me against the trunk of the car. One of the cops searched me, another searched my car. “You forgot something?” The car cop said, holding up a twenty dollar bag of brown heroin.

Jackie had warned me. He had told me, “Just keep the dope in  your hand and if you get pulled over eat it. I had tried, but I was so nervous that I dropped one  of the little baggies with Mexican mud onto the floor as I tried to swallow them, my dry mouth and amping sympathetic nervous system refused to coroperate. In a matter of minutes I was on my way to the Fulton County pretrial detention center for possession  of heroin. A felony.

Here’s the trick with jail. The plan is to put you in lock up to await the next step. Most of the time your looking at 30 days or more before your case comes up, unless you can convince your family to go your bond. Let me tell you, 30 days in Fulton county is a long long time.   It starts with abject humiliation. You are forced to strip, shower with fifteen or twenty other guys, then you stand against the wall and are hosed down with lice spray. Finally you are made to bend over and spread your butt cheeks while they examine your cavity for contraband. Good times. Next your walked naked down the hall to a window where they hand you your orange jumpsuit. Your placed in a dorm with two man cells built to hold maybe 60 men. There are dozens more. Most are kids who feel like they have something to prove. Many belong to gangs. For the most part, blacks and whites don’t mix well. There are people sleeping on the floor. The floor guys will fight you for a bed if they think your a pussy. Your days are spend sitting on your bunk, trying not to make contact with other races or get in somebodies way.

There are fights. All the time. My first observation of  this ritual came when  a white guy changed the channel on the t.v. in the “sitting room”. They were on him like a rabid mob. No guards came. After the boys had beaten him (including breaking his teeth on the stainless steel toilet) They dragged him out into the upstairs walkway and left him there bleeding and simiconscious. Twenty minutes later still no guards. I realized I was on my own. I decided I might at some point take a terrible beating, but I’m a third degree blackbelt in Chang Moo Kwan and a second degree in hapkido. I screwed my courage to the sticking place and committed  myself to hurting as many as I could before I went down. People, this was the big city. It was a matter of survival. I sucked it up and went to parle with head of the gang who called themselves the “Black Gorilla Militia Movement”.They ran the dorm. He was a reasonable man and it turned out we had grown up in the same neighborhood some years apart. He gave me his word that nobody would touch me as long as I didn’t interfere with the program. My cell mate was another matter. He was afraid and was not a man used to confrontation. At one point three guys came into our cell and were gonna beat him. I cited my truce with the head guy and told them if they came into my cut with the intention of violence I would have to get involved. By the grace of God they left. That’s jail in Fulton county. Somewhere around that time several prisoners filed a class action lawsuit against Fulton County. The Feds took over the day to day operations and tried to clean up the conditions. The next time I went in nothing seemed any better.

The real horror of jail comes when you get jammed up while on a long methadone run. The jones from heroin or oxycontin can’t hold a candle to methadone. There are signs at every methadone clinic that tell you. “If you are incarcerated while on methadone maintenance you will receive no dose so long as you are in jail.” We all saw it  but no body gave it much thought.We should have. Methadone is a long acting narcotic that can keep you right for a full day, maybe two. Now stay on it for a while and then kick, and your in for a whole new understanding of pain and depression. As I said, the sick is intense and lasts for well over a month or two. Maybe more. The depression can hold on for another six to eight months. We will speak more about this later.

Now nobody at the meth clinic is gonna tell you how bad it can be. Their gonna say, “With a proper step down you might feel a little uncomfortable. But it’s nothing you can’t deal with. Ask them if they have any personal experienced with that. Know what sux most about jail when your sick? Two things come to mind. 1. There is no soft place to sit, and 2. You can’t sleep so the days and nights run together and it feels like your doing twice the time everybody else is doing. The beds are iron with a two inch exercise mat laid on top. All the stools are stainless steel with no cover. Stay there for a month or more and your sole focus becomes the cold hard steel. That’s outside of the predators trying to rip you off. They want your lunch, your dinner, your bunk,and your ass. Most of these guys are not gay, they just get off on violence and humiliation. The whole trick is, never show any sign of weakness. If they fuck with you…smile. I have had to tell a gang of boys “I’m too old to fight, but I’m hard to kill. I have done things in my life that would give you pause. You might hurt me but nobodies leaving here without severed arteries. I’m fully willing to die. Are you? They woofed for a moment then moved on. It’s a law of nature that predators  will look for the weakest in the heard. Weather they believe you or not doesn’t matter. It all comes down to the look in your eyes. The point is, their unsure if your bluffing or not. Look them in the eye. Feel yourself meaning your words. Everybody is scared of crazy people. Enough of that. Suffice it to say jail comes with it’s own set of issues. Remember Jackie V’s words, “At some point, you will go to jail.”Play with dope and you will find that out for yourself.

My advice if someone you love goes to jail, leave them. Let them work it out on their own. They may get beat, they may just get bored. Leave them. Addicts must learn their own lessons. Freedom is a beautiful thing when ir’s earned. When it’s given, it goes unappreciated. I have been to jail a lot. There is no better lesson. Leave them. No matter how much they beg.

Unless you’ve killed a judge while selling smack to nine year old school girls with pigtails, chances are you might have to sit out for thirty days, but if it’s your first brush with the criminal justice system, your gonna skate with probation. This issue is that probation is stacked against you from the start. Drug tests, probation fees and fines are hard to come by without a job.  It’s revolving door. No money for the payments and sorry, back to jail. No job, sorry, back to jail. Plus they automatically take your license for a year. Now we all know junkies have to get around. Smack, crack and meth don’t grown on trees in the front yard. Therefore the majority of people on probation are only out for a short time before being rearrested.

After my first bust for heroin possession, I was commiserating with Robert about my bad luck. “It’s the details.” he said. You just cannot keep up with details and be a dope addict. “The devils in the details?” I asked. “No” he said. “The devil’s too busy hassling regular people. He doesn’t have to fuck with junkies. We have no room for the fine print of life.” “I don’t understand” I told him. “You will” he assured me. Robert wasn’t right most of the time, but Jesus was he right then. See, when your energy is tied up in chasing dope, details like getting the tag for your car,  keeping your license current, maintaining shit like tires, mufflers, and oil levels tend to slip right by you.   No matter how nice your car was when you started using drugs, in a very short amount of time you will be the proud owner of a junkie ride. Now this ,in and of itself, will cause you problems with the police. A seasoned cop can spot a junkie ride from three miles away. Your car may as well be painted bright jailhouse orange with big targets on the sides.  I have experienced this first hand. I was once riding cautiously through the bluff, looking for some scag when I noticed a cop car rolling up on my back bumper. My heart pounded as he hit the blues but since I hadn’t yet scored dope I pulled right over. The officer got out of the car and walked up to my window. I gave him my best “nothing to see here sir” smile. He took a deep breath and rubbed his eyes like he was very tired of idiots. After letting out a big breath he bent down eye to eye with me. “Your tires are unbelievable” he said. “I doubt you’ll make it a mile.” I started to explain I had lost the ability to cope with details, but he held up his hand to cut me off. “Your here to buy dope” he said. “Oh no sir” I said, but again he cut me off. “Bullshit bullshit bullshit” he said. “This car is a piece of shit” he said matter of factly. I could not argue. “Your gonna break down on this street and somebody is going to kill you. That makes it my problem.” I had been prepared for the dope thing, but this line on mortality caught me off guard. “Get this fucked up dope addict car as far from here as it will carry you. Now.” There was nothing for it. I had to go. This guy could have taken me in for being aimless in a known drug area. I went home sad and empty.

Cars I lost

1. Nissan Maxima- ran up under a d.o.t. dump truck high on black speed and percodan.

2. Chevy Blaizer- totaled sliding into the methadone clinic sign trying to get in before closing time.

3. Aerostar van- totaled when I fell asleep driving home at four am.

4. Toyota pick up- totaled driving to Atlanta to cop dope. I was in a hurry trying to beat my wife back to the house.

5. Buick Century- totaled when I pulled out in front of an off duty cop leaving the methadone clinic. I was the one leaving the methadone clinic. I have no idea where the cop was headed. I was giving another junkie a ride home and when I pulled out in front of the cop and was hit, other junkie jumped out of the car and took off running. Made me look bad. They took me to jail purely on principal. Bad thing was, I had just gotten out of jail the night before. That fact didn’t work in my favor either.

6. Mustang I sold for 200.00 dollars to get home from Casper Wyoming when Robert and I were stuck there. Long story.

7. Saab 900 convertible I drove to Atlanta to cop with no oil in the motor.Did make it back home before the engine seized up. Beautiful car, sold it for scrap. Got 200.00.

8. Porshe 914- Gave it away to the mechanic after six months of trying to get it fixed. I flew to Ohio to pick this car up for my boss. It had no breaks. The break pedal wasn’t even attached to anything. I drove it from Ohio to Carrollton Georgia with zero stopping power. Did I mention the three hits of windowpane acid I dropped before I left? No? It was a very strange ride, but damn I loved that car.

9. Saab 900- totaled in a blackout. Woke up in a Kroger parking lot in a mangaled car. Walked away and never went back to get it.

10. Volvo 240- I gave away rather than replace a 200.00 part

11. Red Volvo wagon that broke down so I left it in a church parking lot and never went back.

12. Gold Volvo wagon I gave away when the transmission went out.

13. Silver Volvo wagon I parked in a handicap spot to go into a store to buy needles. When I came out a cop was having it towed so I walked off. Never called the wrecker company to get it back.

14. Black Volvo 240 I left parked in front of Robert’s house. It just disappeared. My thinking is Robert may have sold it.

15. Jeep Grand Wagoneer- Parked it in my ex-wife’s driveway. Her dad towed it away and it was never seen again.

16. Honda 250, Honda 550, Honda 175- unclear exactly where these bikes ended up.











Addiction, medical anthropology, mental health, Narcotic addiction

Heroin, recovery and other bad ideas

  Michael Downing

      As of this posting, I’m 56 years old. I have spent a lifetime chasing bad ideas. Some of them I came up with myself, some were passed to me by others. For the record, I’m a retired junkie with over ten years clean. I have been adjudicated incompetent and irresponsible by the United States federal government, and  I’m a three time convicted felon in the state of Georgia. All over dope. I am  also the world’s leading authority on life in a junkie tribe.  But I transcended. I don’t claim to BE transcended, but Goddamn,  I do UNDERSTAND the process.  I  started smoking pot at age 12. By 14 I was dropping acid and most any dope I could get my hands on. Still, I got out of high school and went to college. Continued to use, but ended up with a B.A. in psychology and  a Master’s degree in clinical counseling from West Georgia with a 4.0. That was in 1985. Three months from now I will graduate from a four year post grad program in Classical Chinese Medicine. I say all that only to lend perspective. One needs perspective to properly gain an understanding of the big picture at hand.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  On April 13, 1986, on my mom’s birthday,  I was initiated into a small tribe of American narcotic junkies.  It wasn’t much of an initiation, all I did was stick out my arm and close my eyes. One of my most bad ideas ever. What happened next changed everything. Before long, nothing else mattered but scag.
       Junkies have always existed as a subtext of a subculture. Like any tribe trying to stay hidden in the foliage and cut off from the “civilized world”, junkies hunt together, have their own mythology, language, customs and diseases. They tend to shun outsiders and they also occasionally eat people who wander in their pathways. Even junkies have rules.
        Some cultural perspective. By 1986 the grand psychidelic “drug culture” of the 60’s and 70’s had died. It’s hallucinogenic based movement had been beaten back by narcs and yuppies, and it’s followers reduced to meeting up at Grateful Dead and Wide Spread Panic shows. Cocaine and barbs had taken the high ground, creating a generation of fast talking but well rested frat boys and lower case sorority girls. But behind the headlines of the “cowboys” in Miami and the great Quaalude drought, narcotic dope (pain killers, heroin, oxycontin) were sneaking up behind the whole fucking world, posing for an assault that would make them the gods of the drug scene.
       Some saw it coming from a long ways off. In 1971, Hunter Thompson wrote “They are still burning the taxpayers for thousands of dollars to make films about the “dangers of L.S.D” at a time when acid is widely known- to everybody but cops- to be the Studebaker of the drug world…The ghetto market has mushroomed into suburbia… For every speed freak who drifted, for relief, into smack, there are 200 kids who went straight to the needle…”  You go Doc. Now it’s more like 2,000,000 kids, who were themselves on speed like Adderal or Ritalin. But who could have foreseen that? Aside from the dated reference about “thousands of taxpayer dollars”, as usual, his facts were straight. Heroin is the new first beer.
       Jeez that’s a lot to chew on. Tribes of maurauding junkies, the counter culture in chaos and heroin crossing the tracks. Who’ll stop the rain? Shit y’all, this is America. If you can’t beat um, make money off um. Enter the twelve steps in thirty days rehab with the promise of a “recovery”, and all the cottage industries that came with it.. P.T Barnum once said “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Not surprisingly, the rehab boom’s real victims were, and still are, the families and friends of the addicts. These were the folks that “treatment” centers were aimed at anyway. They sell hope. I once heard a junkie say, “Thirty days? I can hold my fucking breath for thirty days.” His name was Jackie V. and he was a member of my tribe. His family was trying to force him into rehab. He never went. I did. More than once, at great expense to me, my family and my insurance. Came out after 30 days and was using again within a week. I tried. If treatment worked for you or someone you love, fantastic. It just didn’t work for me. My experience is that they get you on the way down, hopefully, while you still have something they can leverage against you. And insurance. Before your family quits giving a shit about what happens to you.
       I tried. I tried treatment centers, psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health centers, clergy, twelve  step programs, religious fanaticism, meditations, medications, methadone, suboxone and an ass load of other bad ideas that promised some form of hope. Not only did I try them all for myself, but I also worked at almost all of them at one time or another. Now that’s perspective kids. I couldn’t make any of it work. The whole concept of “recovery” baffled me. It still does. I’m not a fan of recovery. It feels fear based and artificial to me. Now transcendence, that’s an idea I can get behind. And it’s not just a matter of what you call it. It’s not just semantics. Addiction teaches real lessons that can be used to move out of the shit and into the light. It’s not black and white.  I’m not alone here. The real stats on relapse from recovery are dismal. Maybe that’s in part because recovery teaches that relapse is part of the process. Fuck that.
       There’s others making a tidy buck off junkies as well. Pharmacutical companies, syringe manufactures, even your hometown pharmacies are cashing in. After all, folks are not cooking up dilaudids or oxycontin in their bathtubs. Three weeks ago the President of the United States was in Atlanta for the national conference on heroin and narcotic pharmacuticals abuse. Their plan? Throw a billion dollars at it, see what sticks. I’m sure that will do it. The great billion dollar race is on and there’s no shortage of people in line to get their share. Some well meaning, some not so much.
       Anyway, my plan is to flesh out these dry bones as I go. There’s a lot worth talking about here. I’m going to cover exactly how I came to be clean, how I use what I learned from addiction to live without dope, what life in a junkie tribe is like and other related stuff.  If you are a junkie, you will know what I’m saying is true. If your not, maybe i can help you understand what it’s like and why they do what they do. Some of it is terribly sad, some of it is terribly funny. Most of it is both. I believe that only a man who has lost the ability to laugh at himself can truly say he’s lost everything in the world. To me it comes down to good ideas and bad ideas. And one last thing. What I’m telling you applies to addiction in general. I don’t care if it’s meth, heroin, oxycontin or crack.  It all washes out the same. Stay tuned y’all. Thanks for checkin it out. Leave comments. MD