The Instruction of Losing Years

Blake Carrera

The following is a list of items necessary for successful addiction to prescription opiates:
1)    An injury of some type. It doesn’t have to be major - an ache or a pain can suffice.
2)    A doctor without scruples, one that doles out pills regularly.
3)    If possible, insurance. This allows for you to have as many pills as your body can handle without going broke. At least at first.
4)    An old student ID. Hold this over the pill before crushing it to prevent a spray of useless crumbles. Popping pills will no longer be sufficient. You will resort to snorting them.
5)    The pill bottle itself. Enough pressure on the student ID and the pill will fragment. You will crush it into small pieces and eventually into a powder just fine enough to be useful.
6)    A dollar bill. This is rather self-explanatory.

Other items, while not necessary, can be convenient.
1)    A straw. This is in case of a lack of a dollar bill.
2)    A razor to gather each stray speck.
3)    Nose spray. The more that you put up your nose, the more that your nostrils and your septum will deteriorate and bleed.
4)    A stash box. Do not use a sock in your sock drawer. You will forget, and when you forget, the withdrawals will be too unpleasant for you to try to remember where you left your pills. Find a cigar box or a Tupperware container. They will suffice.
5)    A knife. Enough pressure exerted by your fist on the knife allows you to crush the pill enough to blow a line. You will only use this in desperation when you are too desperate, or your normal routine cannot be followed.
6)    OTC laxatives. Eventually, you will tire of the never-ending constipation of addiction.

The first time you will take painkillers will be purely for recreation. You will be on the way to prom, and your girlfriend will tell you that she brought you a gift. She will be younger than you, but you are afraid of her. She is the first person you will do drugs with - besides weed that is. Inside of a small plastic bag, she will hand you three small white pills. Tramadol, she tells you. After you smoke a joint with her, you will pop the pills and walk into prom.
It will not take long before the strings of lights outside of the country club where the prom takes place will suddenly start to buzz. They will begin to resemble fireflies, and you will laugh. The floor is less stable, and you will feel yourself moving slower and slower. As everyone else dances around you, you will find yourself slowing moving back and forth with your girlfriend. It is as pleasant of a feeling as you have experienced. Your rented tuxedo will soon be soaked with sweat.
At the sanctioned after-event at the bowling alley, you will walk past the police at the door. Your eyes will be heavily dilated, and you will be worried only for a moment before someone’s mom comes to talk to you. There will be a short conversation, and you will not be sure why this woman is speaking to you with so much familiarity.
“Who was that?” you ask your girlfriend.
“That was Andy’s mom,” she will reply.
You will feel yourself flush. You have sat at her dinner table, red-eyed and smelling of Febreze, while she asks you how your classes are going and if you are taking any AP tests. You and Danny, her oldest son, are smoking buddies. You also smoke with his younger brother, a freshman.
You will mill around the bowling alley. The lights will be too bright, and you will want to take off your jacket and leave it somewhere. You won’t because you know that you are too fucked up to remember where you left it. Finally, your girlfriend will move you towards the caricature artist. As you both sit, you will try to keep your eyes from wandering. When he smiles and hands you the drawing, you will be angry, at least initially. Both of you look fucked up. Your eyes are giant, and the pupils are inflated black circles.
When you go back to your girlfriend’s place, you will worry about how you are driving. The pills are wearing off, and for the first time, you realize how stupid it was to drive. Watching Futurama on the couch, you will fall asleep. When you wake up, your girlfriend will tell you that you have to leave before her mom wakes up. Driving home at 6 am, you will open the car door at a stop sign and throw up.
This will be the first time. You will not retake pills for another year and a half.

  The next time you take pain pills, it will be because of an injury. You are naturally clumsy, and so you have the misfortune of fracturing a kneecap. It will be the worst pain you have ever experienced, and when you ask your friends to take you to the hospital the next morning, they will say they are still drunk. You will hop to the car, and the doctor will tell you that you will need surgery. You will see a specialist and find out that you will not need surgery. Instead, you will need a full leg brace and a prescription for hydrocodone.
The first time you take hydrocodone, it will be the most pleasant sensation you have ever had. Your knee will stop hurting, and the ice that you pack around it will seep into the swelling. A feeling of warmth will flow through you, and your nose will start to itch. At first, this is a common side effect, but the strength of even one pill will be enough to make you not care whether your nose itches or if your knee hurts. You will, for the first time in your life, sleep heavily through an entire night.
It will be winter, and one day, the heat will break into the house you’re living in.
Your leg will be in a full leg brace. You will have so many pills that it will be excessive and rude not to share them. You and your friends will grab blankets and a bottle of Svedka and sit down to watch movies. This will be the first time that you snort hydrocodone. A friend who used to be addicted to cocaine in high school will tell you that it’ll work faster if you crush it up and snort it. You and your friends will place a student ID over the pill and crush it with the pill bottle, over and over. The crunch will be satisfying. You will run the card back and forth over the pieces of the pill once they are small enough then you will roll up a dollar bill. While you will be nervous, you will also be excited. When you snort a small line, it burns immediately. There will be an acrid, chemical burn down the back of your throat. You will take a shot, and all of you will laugh, slowly and sluggishly, while you watch the movie. This will not be the last line of the night. You will go through many lines for many days and many nights, even when the heat returns. Your habit will have begun.

The first time you will feel afraid will be on the drive from Austin to Houston to see your girlfriend. You will have already met the parents of the girl you are dating. Neither she nor her parents will be aware that you are slowly developing a problem. Your left leg will still be in a stiff brace so you will drive uncomfortably, balancing heavily on your right hip. To cope with the discomfort of driving, you will take a double dose of hydrocodone. You will think to yourself, it’s night and I’ve done the drive a million times. I’ll be fine, you will say to yourself.
By the time the pills kick in, it will start raining. The rain between Houston and Austin that night is some of the heaviest you will have ever experienced. As the edges of your eyesight go fuzzy, you will turn up the music in your car as loud as it will go. The car will hydroplane, and you will wonder if you’re about to die but it won’t bother you as much as you should. You will think to yourself, I’ve taken enough that at least if I die it won’t hurt as much.
Somehow you will make it to their house, and when her father will open the door and greet you with a glass of whiskey, you will smile, crutch into the house, and have a drink with him. After many drinks, both parents will go to bed, and you will go to the bathroom. You will be much faster at cutting up the pill and crushing it into lines by now. You will be slurring, but your girlfriend will attribute it to drinking with her father rather than hydrocodone. She, at this point, will not be aware that you are developing a heavy addiction of four to eight pills a day.
The next day, the pain in your stomach will be excruciating. The lining of your stomach will feel burnt, and there will be an awful twisting feeling like someone has put a clamp on your stomach. You will realize how long it has been since you took a shit and after a day of squirming, you will beg your girlfriend to take you to Walgreens for laxatives. You will then decide that you don’t even know how severe the pain in your leg is anymore and that you will try to get clean.

The following is a list of items necessary for the successful purging of opioids from your system and the withdrawal symptoms that will follow:
1)    A bedroom. You will not leave this room for approximately three days.
2)    A bottle or a cup for water. You will never be thirstier. 
3)    A change of clothes and a change of sheets. You will sweat through all of it within a day. There is nothing worse than twisting and turning in soaked sheets.
4)    Gatorade. The amount of fluids you will lose through vomiting, diarrhea, and sweat will be one of the most dangerous parts of the experience.
5)    If you can get a decent amount of weed and a friend to roll joints or pack bowls for you, it will help. Anything will be better than the achingly terrible sobriety after extended abuse of opiates.

The main thing to keep in mind will be that though you can die, you likely will not. That is the most important thing to say to yourself, over and over. But you will know, in that part of your brain far back and hidden in a haze, that you could die. That you could.

The worst of it will last two to three days. During this time, you will tell all of your friends that you are busy. You will make up an endless amount of excuses. You will say to them that you’ve been feeling sick. That you have the flu. That you have mono. You will tell your girlfriend that you are sick so that she will not come to Austin to see you. You will tell your mom that yes you are fine and no you do not need to see the doctor. You will lock yourself in your room, twenty years old, and you will fight for sobriety that you do not want.
You will roil in terrible agony, one that seems like it will never end. You will scream at the wall, but no sound will come out because it will be too hard to take a deep breath. You will puke in your trash can and stumble outside to wash it out with the hose two, three times a day. You will chug bottles of Gatorade, and your body will feel utterly empty. The panic attacks will take hold, and you will shake and strain. Sweat will soak through your shirt and your underwear and your pants and finally through your sheets. You will change the sheets after a day and hang them over the closet door to dry, and when you put fresh sheets on the bed, there will be a heavy wide spot of wet.
You will hate the sound of music. You will hate the thought of television. Your hands will shake while you grind up weed to smoke. You will think about the bottle of whiskey on your dresser and think about whether getting drunk will make you feel better, but your body will be in such agony that you’ll throw up.
You change your underwear twice a day and hide each pair deep in your hamper, embarrassed despite your agony.
You will try to eat, but you won’t be able to keep it down.
You will scream for the thought of relief. Finally, you will be able to truly scream, and you wait to do so until your house is empty.
Then it will get better. The physical agony will slow down, and you will realize that you aren’t going to die.
But you will think about that high every day.

  Being clean lasts a few months. You will eventually tell your girlfriend about what you have gone through, and she will understand, but there will always be a strain on the relationship as she rightfully watches and waits for you to relapse. Eventually, you go your separate ways. Without someone to tell you to stop, you find yourself eventually in a room with a couple of friends. After several beers, one of your friends will take out a bottle of pain pills. He will have just had major surgery, and doctors will prescribe him more pills than he can take. Before you can stop yourself, you will do a line of hydrocodone. Then another. Then another.
It will start again.
Your roommates will watch you. They will sit at the table with you while you crush pills up and cut them into lines. They will walk into your room in the morning and sometimes accept your offer to share a line. They will be concerned, but they have their own substance abuse problems and will not say anything. You will go to parties on your favorite prescription speedball - a mixture of hydrocodone and Adderall cut up together to form a perfectly orange and yellow mixture. It will become beautiful to you, and it will become regular.
Eventually, you start to crave these pills so much that one day you will sit in your room with your hand on the bedside table. In the other hand, you will hold a hammer. With a broken hand, you will think, you will surely be prescribed more. You will raise the hammer and will be about to bring it down until there will be a knock at your door, and you will shove the hammer under the bed. It will not come to that, because you will soon have your own script from injuries worse than any you have ever had:
One night, at a party, you will be on a mixture of hydrocodone and Adderall as always. More and more people will know you are doing this. No one will have overdosed yet. You, somehow, will be the only one who is not failing classes. A girl you only vaguely know will walk up to you, stumbling, and tell you that she is afraid of four men who have been hanging around here. She will say that she doesn’t know what they’re trying to do and she is too drunk to handle the situation herself. You will ask them, as politely as you can, to leave. You will be afraid because you will know what is going to happen, if only faintly. Outside, they will jump you. They will tell you that they are going to hurt you and you will know that you have no chance.
You will hold up your hands.
You will tell them, “Do what you’re gonna do.”
They will first break your nose and blood will spray from your nose. You will waver but continue standing until another punch lands, and you black out. You will wake up covered in blood in an ambulance. At the hospital, they will tell you that you have a fractured skull, a fractured cheekbone, a perforated eardrum, and a severe concussion. You will be lucky because the only diagnosis that will be proven true will be the last. You will be given an IV of Dilaudid and sent home with an extensive script for hydrocodone.
While the pain is intense, you will be happy - you have a seemingly endless script. The pain from the concussion will be so intense that you will write your capstone paper in the library wearing sunglasses to help with the light. You will live, by twisted necessity, on a combination of hydrocodone and Adderall - one to help with pain, the other to keep you awake.
When the headaches slow down, and the pain is almost gone, you will lie to the doctor and say that you need more hydrocodone. Because it is Texas, he will not hesitate, and you will be given a script with more and more refills.

That summer will be the turning point. You will show up to your summer job at a liquor store too stoned all the time, but your managers will be alcoholics and too hungover to notice or care. One night, you and your roommate and another friend will stand over a table in your house and try to come up with the greatest and most satisfying combination of drugs. You will all be very drunk, but it will not matter - the high will be what matters.
Three eight inch long lines will be cut on the table. They will be tall and still a little chunky because you are all lazy and in a hurry. There will be a mixture of orange and yellow and blue. You will have decided that Xanax was the missing ingredient. You will all make it through the lines - it takes two tries. Then you will mix gin, lean, and orange juice into cocktail glasses. Your friend will stumble home. You and your roommate will sit on the couch, and you will both realize that your hearts are not beating with any regularity. It will feel like uneven drumbeats straying across time signatures.
You will decide to keep each other awake. It will be three in the morning, and you will stumble around your college campus. You will feel simultaneously as if you are running and as if you are walking through jello. You will see things that are not there. You will climb onto the roof of one of the dorms and you will tell your roommate that you really have to stop this time.
You will eventually go to sleep when the sun comes up. The week after, you will prepare your room once more for withdrawals.
You will, every day, look in the mirror. 

Blake Carrera is a graduate of Southwestern University and attended the MFA program at Northern Arizona University, where he was the co-fiction editor of Thin Air Magazine. A native Texan, he lives in Austin.