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[Nettime-bold] Diary of a dot-com junkie

Diary of a dot-com junkie

I have a high-paying job at an e-commerce site. I have stock options that
should make me rich. And I'm a heroin addict. I just wish I'd never been
introduced to this drug. 

By Anonymous

I AM JUST like you. I have a pretty secure job at an e-commerce site that
pays me extremely well. I have stock options that should make me rich. I
have a hip apartment in Nob Hill. I have a cute girlfriend, who also works at a
dot-com. And I have a healthy heroin habit. 

I'm not alone. On July 16 Aaron Bunnell, an executive at high-powered
Internet news site Upside.com, was found dead of a heroin overdose. He was using
the drug regularly to unwind from the 10-hour days and all-nighters that
are so common in dot-com life. Hard drugs are a growing part of the Silicon
Alley-San Francisco dot-com experience. According to an October 1st article in
the Los Angeles Times, the San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force seized 173
percent more cocaine in 1999 than it did in 1995, while the quantity of
seized methamphetamine jumped 678 percent. 

Moreover, the idea of working and drugging isn't new. In 1991 research
analyst Charles Winick published the results of a multidecade study in Milbank
Quarterly that demonstrated, in Winick's words, that "a considerable
proportion of regular [drug] users continue to function effectively at work and in
other areas of social life." 

"Normal" people are no longer afraid of heroin. The purity levels are up,
so it doesn't have to be injected, and the cost is down. For years heroin
has been making its way into suburbs and higher-income homes. Kurt Cobain and
high-fashion models were my generation's William Burroughs. They did damage
as only true media icons can. 

Heroin use has gone so mainstream that there is a public service message
on TV featuring a man in a business suit smoking foil in his living room.
Heroin is a cheap drug. The high lasts longer than coke. High school kids are
now experimenting with the still taboo drug. People from all walks of life do
heroin. Hippies, punk rockers, jocks – it crosses all races,
ethnicities, cultural groups. It slips across all barriers. And no matter how much
you might want to quit, it is always there. 

Before heroin I used to wish for great things: to own my own dot-com, to
be a CEO at a multimillion-dollar firm, to be a rock star. Now my only wishes
are to get through the day and to never have been introduced to this drug. 

The first time I tried heroin I was 17 years old. An older friend offered
me to it, like a sacrifice. All I remember is wanting to throw up all night.
I was in the bathroom with some guy I barely knew, just trying to puke. I
don't know why I did it again, but I did. And the second time was amazing.
When you first start doing heroin you get great nods. It's like you're
dreaming while you're awake. You can lay around for hours and just hallucinate. I
loved it so much I kept doing it. By that point I was in college, and my
habit grew and grew until I ended up in rehab at age 20. 

After my release it was a few years of minor fallbacks and a few major
ones, including my current state. I am now 28. I have been struggling with my
heroin addiction for more than a decade. 

Being a junkie
Heroin has taken over my life. It is the primary thing, the only thing,
worth anything. Getting high and not getting sick are my number one
priorities. My job, my friends, my family – nothing overshadows being dope sick.
I will do anything to stop it. And forget pride. My pride and self-respect
disappeared a long time ago. 

I don't think anyone at my work knows that I am a junkie. I look normal,
act normal. I wear long-sleeve shirts, even if it means I have a fan blowing
full blast on my face. I'm probably the only one cursing the fact that we
had a beautiful San Francisco summer. 

I can get by at work because I rarely nod out anymore. I am just
maintaining and can live my life normally (if I'm on the drug). I have called in sick
to work only when I have been truly dope sick. I have been late for work
only because I had to wait for my dope dealer to show up. If you want to be a
functioning junkie, here is your first unspoken heroin rule: you are always
waiting for the man. 

To prevent this, I have to make sure I have dope the night before for the
following morning and afternoon. Otherwise I'm going be stuck at home
waiting for the man all morning, being sick, or I'm going to have to leave work to
procure the dope. Both of these scenarios might put my job in jeopardy and
raise suspicion. I have had to stand on the street corner across from work,
waiting for a Mexican guy in a beat-up car to drop off a half gram of dope.
And this is after sitting at my desk with sweat pouring down my face, my
skin clammy, and my muscles twitching. 

My veins have gotten so bad that I have to shoot up in my hands, my
fingers, my ankles, my feet. If I've been shooting coke, then big, hard knots form
in my veins; sometimes it takes weeks for them to go away. If I've been on
a good run, and I know I'm out of options, I'll muscle it – just
plunge the needle right into my ass and let it go. Muscling dope is different
– the high takes about five minutes to come on. But the effect is always
the same. 

Here is my schedule as a working junkie: wake up, get high, shower, go to
work, get high during lunch, go home, get dope, get high, do some more work,
get high, go to sleep. Sounds exciting, right? My entire life revolves
around maintaining. Maintaining my well-being (i.e., not being dope sick) and
maintaining the ruse that is my life. Struggling to make sure my work is done
on time and my friends don't think I have gone insane. 

Buying dope
The most popular place to buy dope in San Francisco is the intersection at
16th Street and Mission. This is where they sell one-and-ones (heroin and
coke) for the ready-made speedball. A bag of one-and-ones costs around $10.
Black tar heroin is commonly referred to as chiba. The coke on the street is
low grade. 

But I have to be careful – the gaffle risk is high. I've been sold
actual street tar by other junkies. It doesn't matter how many times you go
out to the street – there is always the chance of getting ripped off.
And it doesn't matter what you look like. Once you've started doing dope you
can shed that dot-com facade and be like any other junkie. You'll have the
proper gray tone to your skin, and if you're shooting you'll be able to
proudly show off track marks to prove your addiction. 

16th and Mission is also where you can buy rigs, or works – that is,
needles and syringes. (You'll never hear someone whispering "syringes" as
you walk by.) Syringes cost $2 each, or you can get two for $3. Cheap. And
then there is the Needle Exchange, where you can stand in line to turn in your
old ones. 

Needles only last a few shots, and then they become dull. The more you
shoot up, the fewer veins you have, and the easier it is with sharper needles.
Ways to do tar heroin include smoking it off foil, heating it up with water
and dropping it down your nose, and, of course, shooting it. I started out
this time around by smoking it on foil, thinking I could handle it that way.
You don't get the same tingly rush as when you shoot it, but you can still
get really loaded. But later it just seemed logical to start shooting it. I
had to smoke so much foil just to get high that my throat was hurting, and
shooting it got me higher and lasted longer. 

Once I graduated beyond a casual habit, also called chipping, I also
graduated to my own personal dealer. Most addicts have at least three who will
hand-deliver the dope to their door. This is the ultimate luxury for a junkie.
You barely have to move to get your fix. And most dealers, when their
favorite customers are trying to get clean, will try to get them back by offering
them deals. Or calling to "make sure you're OK." When you have someone
willing to drive over to you and deliver relief from the sickness, do you really
think you're going to travel across town to wait in line at a methadone
clinic? A half gram of good tar heroin goes for $20 to $25. And the delivery
services are always a better deal: the bags are bigger, the dope is better. 

How do you get your own dealer? Sometimes if you buy on the street enough,
one of them will offer you a phone number. Or you find someone who already
has a number to introduce you to his or her dealer. I have a friend who has
Kozmo.com deliver dope. In New York the bike messenger industry thrives on
delivering drugs. If you hint around to most delivery people, there is a good
chance you'll find one who deals. 

How to spot a junkie
Most people would be shocked at how many heroin addicts are living,
functioning people. And how many heroin addicts work at good jobs here in San

They are the ones at the bar not drinking, or barely drinking. They are
drinking milkshakes and eating sweets. Heroin gives you a huge sweet tooth.
You crave it. I've poured packets of sugar down my throat when I've been sick.
I don't know if this is because heroin is actually cut with sugar. 

Once you start doing dope you start meeting people who do dope. You
recognize the look of the people on the street or in your office. And once you are
on the drug, you enter into a life that revolves around getting the drug,
and you can't help but run into other people just like yourself who are
running in these same circles. 

Tips on getting high at the office
Find a couple of public bathrooms nearby. I don't recommend getting high
in your actual office, especially if you have to cook up your dope, because
it smells. If you have it ready in your syringe and your veins aren't that
bad, you should be able to go into the bathroom, quickly shoot up, clean your
syringe, stand there for a minute and walk out just fine. Make sure if you
are shooting up in your office that you wear long sleeves. If the shot is too
hot, you may get weird bumps all over your arm, or there may be blood, or
the spot you hit might swell for a minute. I also recommend not doing too
much when you have to go back to work. There is nothing that gives away a
junkie more than nodding off at his or her desk. 

I have found a few public bathrooms close to my office where I can run in,
fix, walk around the block, and then return to work. I have to walk around
for a bit to get over that initial rush. The main reason I can get high at
work is because I am in maintenance phase. The rush doesn't last long. And
now it's to the point where I can't work if I'm not high. Being on heroin has
become my normal state of being. 

The dot-com culture lends itself to heroin addiction. Heroin is a
mind-numbing loner drug. Working on repetitive tasks in a cubicle in front of a
computer is perfect for that. If anything, heroin makes day-to-day computer
tasks much easier: time flies by, and you can get absorbed in what you're doing.

In today's workplace not much is expected of workers in return for a high
salary. With telecommuting, many dot-commers don't even have to leave their
houses, or they only have to go into work a few days a week. It's really
hard to tell if someone is high just by reading an e-mail. Thanks to the
Internet, I have friends and work associates I've never even met, people who would
never know I was a junkie. Virtual life makes it so much easier to get away
with things. And if you don't like your job, or office politics are bad,
then heroin is a total escape. You can deal with anyone. Nothing matters

A sure sign of someone high on dope is the pinned eyes. Speed, coke, and
ecstasy all make your pupils big, while heroin makes them pinpricks. When I
first started kicking, the weirdest thing for me was to look into a mirror
and see my pupils so big. I looked strange, like my eyes had taken over my
whole face. 

Going out
The danger of getting high at work is that no one can know what you're
doing. And if you go out, there is no one there to save you. When someone goes
out (dies) after a shot, you have time to revive him or her. Death is rarely
instantaneous, except in the case of a hotshot (when a junkie is found with
the needle still in his or her arm, usually when the dope has been cut with
strychnine). Punch them, smack them around, put them in the bathtub with
freezing cold water to start their heart. Mouth to mouth, CPR, and then the
saline shot. Shoot the dead or dying person up with a mixture of salt and
water, and he or she should come back. 

But I have to recommend calling 911. The paramedics will give you a shot
of something called Narcan, which immediately takes away all of your high.
After getting a shot of Narcan, most people bolt upright and are in pain. Your
high is gone, and you rarely remember what happened. 

Kicking dope sucks. The best way to do it is to get some methadone and go
away. Go someplace where you can't get to any dope. Lock yourself in a room
in the middle of nowhere, and be prepared for the worst. Kicking makes you
not sleep, makes you lose your appetite, makes you shit uncontrollably, makes
your bones and joints hurt from the inside out, and makes your muscles
scream. You may have insane crying fits, muscle spasms, and hallucinations. 

This is normal. It's just the drugs leaving your body. You can also go to
a methadone clinic. But if you are like me and are very busy with work, this
is hard. You should try to find some methadone pills through the black
market and stock up. Get enough methadone to hold you over, and then get some
Valium to calm you down and help you sleep. Kalonopin is also a great drug for
kicking. This may seem like replacing one evil with another, but a big part
of kicking is breaking your ritual of getting high. If you can get out of
your normal schedule, that will help, and you can deal with getting off one
drug at a time. 

Methadone is extremely hard to kick. Most clinics put most people on more
than they need. Methadone will give you an appetite and help you to feel
normal, but it also detracts from your bone mass and makes you extremely pale.
A methadone junkie literally looks like a walking ghost. Start bringing
yourself down quickly. Drop 10 milligrams a day. Get off of methadone as soon as
possible, or you may find you're never able to beat it. Many junkies I know
will have to be on methadone for the rest of their lives. 

Cold turkey is a good way to kick but dangerous for a hard-core junkie.
There is the danger of the shock to your system. Your body is used to living
off of the drug, and the abrupt change can actually kill you. The safest
thing is to go into rehab or talk to your doctor. 

But if you have a respectable reputation, this might not be an option. The
government is looking at making some methadone over-the-counter medication,
perhaps hoping this will help yuppie or suburban junkies get off without
anyone knowing. Expensive treatment programs are on the rise. And dot-commers
are paying big bucks to safely, quickly, and quietly get off smack in
outpatient rehab programs. There are also the "immediate detox" ads you see in the
back of the weekly papers. But this is dangerous, as it is an extreme shock
to the system. 

Many countries, such as England and Australia, have mandated government
programs for addicts. There are places where you can go shoot up. You can buy
clean dope and clean needles. They do not treat junkies as the very scum of
society but instead treat heroin addiction as the disease that it is. 

Heroin is one of the last taboos, even though pure heroin is actually not
that bad for you. If you are clean about it, your major health problems will
be constipation and collapsing veins. Whatever they are cutting heroin with
is more dangerous than the drug itself. Heroin is in fact safer than
alcohol, and most people can function more normally on heroin. Going into the
office drunk is far more obvious than walking in high. 

Being a highly functional junkie is possible. But no matter how much dope
you have, it will never be enough. You will always need more, and you will
spend more money. The dot-com industry fuels a heroin habit by offering large
salaries. But no matter how big your bank account, you will start to watch
it drain. There is only one road that doing heroin leads to, and that is
addiction. And then either you are addicted forever or you have to go through
kicking. It's not worth it. And it's true: once a junkie, always a junkie.
Every time I kick and get through those first few weeks of hell, I never think
I will be going through this again. But every time you start doing dope
again, it's like you pick up where you left off. 

I've been steadily getting high and successfully working at my job for the
past year. No one has said anything to me about suspicious drug use. No one
seems to know. My girlfriend knows, and although she's worried, she doesn't
do drugs. She just gets angry at the amount of money I spend. But she has
her own vices. And she spends more money at the North Beach bars she hangs
out in than I spend on dope. 

I don't recommend doing heroin. In fact, I wish I never had. But now this
is my life. I work, I get high, and I sleep. I can get more work done now
when I'm high than when I'm not. It has become so that I'm afraid of kicking
because I'm afraid I will be so sick I'll lose my job. 

I am lucky that I can support my habit. But I want to stop. I want to be
able to get up and stretch my arms and feel normal. I'm on methadone now,
writing this with cramping fingers and screaming muscles. If I can stick with
the methadone program this time, then I'm looking at three weeks until I feel
almost normal. And probably months until I'm naturally happy again. 

To be honest, I don't know why someone smart and successful like me keeps
going back to heroin. I ask myself that question daily, and I have no
answer. The drug itself is so hard to get over, and I truly believe it permanently
affects you. Something in your mind, in your body, has changed. You have
most likely seen people at their very worst – spurting blood from
collapsed veins, groveling for a fix – and that does something to you. It
makes life seem warped, surreal, ugly. 

Look at the man or woman in the cubicle next to you. I wouldn't be
surprised if in every dot-com in this city there is a highly functioning junkie
working with you. And most likely doing a damn good job. 

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