(As I re-read this entry, I notice I even start to phrase my own thoughts in a British accent or style. It’s common for me to inadvertently pick up an accent when talking to someone, I’d never noticed it in writing before. Huh.)
After coming home from our hike and our first in-depth conversation with Sid, I asked about this image of Johnny Sid would show me, a tall guy, brown hair. Larger than Sid, for sure. Sweetie replied, “Yeah, that’s Johnny Rotten, his friend and bandmate. They started the Sex Pistols.”
“Oh, I’ve heard of that band!” I exclaimed. Sid shot me this incredulous glance, and Kurt’s voice chirped I told you, she knows NOTHING about music! Sweetie and many of my friends have often said, “I just don’t know how you managed to grow up not knowing ____ (insert name of band, musician, actor/actress, movie etc.)” Often I find that when I investigate the band, I have heard the songs on the radio, I’d just never linked the name of the band with the songs I noticed or liked. I didn’t have a music collection because I preferred reading and Star Trek.
Rambling aside: I *do* know a lot about star trek, but not as much as someone who declares themselves a trek fan. It’s just about the only pop culture thing I brought out of the 90s, along with the Simpsons, the Fresh Prince, and a few Canadian, female musicians like Alannis Morissette, The Sarahs (McLachlan & Harmer) Biff Naked etc. I was also familiar with Pink and Courtney Love, but not so much as to be able to pick out their songs from the radio.
It just never stuck in my brain.
Maybe this blank slate I bring to these readings with “famous” people is part of the reason I just don’t absorb a lot of pop culture.
I had a laugh anyway, Sid playing in a band he and his buddy named for their wieners. Nice!
Sweetie & I have been talking about Sid, and she said, “You know, I think Sid has come in to help teach us about addiction.” I’m inclined to agree.
One phrase that really stuck in my mind after listening to the Cobain biography was Courtney’s tearful and angry declaration that “Tough love is bullshit! We just should have let him have it.” She was in anguish, wondering if she had accepted Kurt’s full-throttle descent into drug overdose death, that maybe she would have had him for a while longer. Maybe he wouldn’t have killed himself with a gun in what she imagined must have been a moment of pure anguish, brought on by the ultimatums of loved ones hoping to snap him out of something that was completely beyond his capacity to control.
In Sid’s story, we learned about a much swifter, more brutal version of heroin addiction.
Sid & Nancy were already addicted to heroin when they met each other, but they were functional and the addiction seemed like a love affair than a torment. They embraced it and each other. They never thought about tomorrow.
Sid, would you like to tell us more about how you were going up and down at the same time?
Well, just as the band was on the verge of making it, just as we began to tour and it seemed we’d become these sex and punk icons, the addiction began to blot everything out. All I thought of all day was Nancy and the Needle. Nancy, Needle. There was barely room for the band. I felt like a shit, I knew I was ruining it for the rest of them (Johnny, the crew.)
It (the addiction) hit a frightening new level when I used heroin from New York. (He gives me the sensation of surprise and shock at how this heroin acted upon his system in fierce, ravaging rush. The sensation of ice water travelling from my arm through my veins, knowing where every vein in the body was, exactly where the drug was travelling in my body, the paralysis that followed in the drug’s wake.) Oh shit. I knew I was in trouble, there was nothing I could do.
He showed me the difference in the drug microscopically. It was like the American heroin had little shards or chunks in it, that shredded his veins. He knew it was so much worse for him, but the withdrawl began to set in with ten times the force of the U.K. drug he had used. He felt helpless, tricked, and would have felt panicked if he wasn’t high. At the first sensations of withdrawl he became single-minded, focused on the next hit, anxiety setting in immediately, fear of how much worse it was going to get, helpless to do anything but find his next fix. Nothing else mattered…
Except for Nancy. Even in the throes of the worst withdrawl, he was always focused on Nancy first. Nancy’s withdrawl symptoms seemed to be worse – maybe her addiction was more progressed than Sid’s, maybe she had a lower tolerance for the drug or a lower threshold for pain. When Nancy cried and suffered in withdrawl, Sid could get outside his own head and focus on her needs. He would always make sure she had her fix before he took his own.
Whenever I ask Sid about the Sex Pistols and Johnny around this time, he just shows me black. I don’t know whether this means he wasn’t cognisant of what was going on, whether he doesn’t want to talk about it or look at it. Maybe he’s still processing it, I don’t know. I don’t have any information on how Sid got from being in love with Nancy in Europe to begging for heroin from a sadistic dealer in the Chelsea Hotel.
While talking about my sugar cravings, as I ramp up to my 3 month no-sugar-no-flour stint, I can begin to imagine the preoccupation of drug addiction. I’m hypoglycemic, and there is a chemical dependency and addiction factor with sugar. It’s worse for us with the oddly-fuctioning pancreas. Observe the diabetic patient in hospital, foot ulcers, going blind, eating cinnamon buns smuggled in from outside. Obviously sick. He *knows* the cinnamon buns are making it worse. But he can’t stop the whisper in the brain for cake, cookies, icing, sugar! Sugar! Sugar! I understand why the diabetic eats sugar. I *never* stopped craving sweet things, even after being free of sugar and flour for two years. I would dream about donuts sometimes. It never went away.
Because food cravings are something we experience personally, I feel it is colossally unfair for one person to judge another’s food choices. Of his addiction, Kurt said, It’s like a monster in your head, whispering “You know you’ll feel better.”
The guy from Guns n’ Roses, who sat beside Kurt on his flight back home from escaping rehab, who was among the last people to see Kurt alive, talked about his own heroin addiction. You get high, and you look at each other and you say “This is the last time. Tomorrow we’ll get clean.” And you never do.
How many of us have done that with sugar? This is the last chocolate bar. Diet starts tomorrow.
Sid chimes in, Yeah. The only difference is, no one is going to make you beg for cheesecake. They’ll fucking sell it to you whenever you want. Begging for heroin was beyond humiliation. You don’t care what they make you do, so long as they give it to you. But there is this part of you that floats up out of your body and watches you beg, and you *know* that’s you there, that pathetic junkie, and how did it ever come to this?
In the last weeks at the Chelsea Hotel, Sid’s dealer had them caged in. He knew Sid was going down, and he wanted to wring as much money from him before the inevitable overdose. He forbade any other dealers from selling to Sid or Nancy, so Sid was unable to score on the streets. Everyone knew who Sid was, thanks to the Sex Pistols, and all the dealers knew that Sid’s dealer would kill them if they sold to him.
The deal was, Sid and Nancy were supposed to wait in their hotel room. The dealer would bring them their daily delivery, and get paid cash. For a while, it worked beautifully, and Sid & Nancy felt the panic abate. They even felt cared for. The dealer always got to them before withdrawl set in. He gradually sold them larger amounts, the amounts he knew would make them desperate if they didn’t get their fix.
Then he started to up the price. They were rapidly running out of money, the dealer gave them excuses. Said his suppliers were screwing him. He began to be late with his deliveries; ensuring Sid & Nancy were desperate enough to pay whatever price he wanted.
Sid couldn’t stand to see Nancy suffer. They had difficulty keeping track of time, in the dank room they never left. They were trapped, for sure.
We asked Sid what he thought about the “tough love” strategy when confronted with addiction.
If you see a junkie, begging on the street, and you know any money you give ‘em will go straight up their arm, just give them a five spot. Just give it to them, grant them the humanity.
Echoes of lessons we’ve been hearing over and over, when dealing with people who hurt you, or who hurt themselves. Reach out in friendship. Reach out in compassion. Communicate love. Set aside judgment, as much as you can. If they sit in the smoke, there is nothing you can do. Offer what help you can.
Courtney, We should have just let him have it.
I was lacking in compassion a couple of days ago when I sent an unintentionally harsh email to a dear friend. I worry she’s pushing herself toward insanity, quite literally. I’ve seen this before, with friends and family. Having survived the emotional fallout when a friend commits suicide, or is committed, still alive, to psychiatric care, I think I hit an empathy limit with her, and in a few minutes I banged out an impulsive email with, I’d later realize, poor choices of words such as “making your friends crazy on your behalf” and “psychotic break” and “husband would sure as hell come home then.”
When she sent me back an email with the equivalent wording to “ouch.”
And then I went home and cried about it, and agonized over my feelings of frustration at seeing a friend behave as though she were trying to destroy herself, and not doing anything but wait for the end results to happen to her. I didn’t mean to hurt my friend, but I was also angry and felt entitled to say those things I’d been thinking.
And Sweetie kept talking to me about compassion. “Imagine how you’d feel, hearing that, were you in her position.”
I wondered whether all this psychic work is turning off some of my social filters. In this work, you have to train yourself not to question or filter the things which flow through your mind. You let them flow out your mouth, or out the pen or keyboard, unedited. I wonder if some of that is happening with my *own* thoughts, as though I need to retrain myself to think before I speak when speaking as myself.
Anyway, as I agonized over it that night, Sid told me, in his own special way to calm the hell down:
Have a bath. Have a cup of tea. Eat some cheesecake – who gives a fuck?
We’ve been laughing about that one for days. It’s the answer for everything! Eat some cheesecake! Who gives a fuck?!
A friend of mine sent me these questions for Sid:
Do either one of them have any regrets?
Of course I’ve fucking regrets.
Would you care to share any?
No actually, I wouldn’t. I’m still dealing with them.
Okay, that’s okay.
Did Nancy expect to die the way she did?
We both knew we would die young.
Did you have a suicide pact?
Yes. (So much sadness he’s sharing right now.)
Better save that for the next entry, love. I’ll think about it, meanwhile.
What is their relationship like now?
Sid has Nancy with him, but she has yet to speak to me. Sometimes she appears as a very young girl. Sid has said she’s preparing to go back in.
Sid, are you going back in?
(shudder) No, I’ve no plans to go back in at present. I don’t believe I will. Not with the world as it is.
Will you go back in during the earth’s healing phase, maybe?
I can help from here. I haven’t made a decision on that front.