(From a post on Diary of a Junkie)
14 years off the needle, off heroin, off cocaine, from 20 years in a losing game of trying to stay high forever. Pretty sure it can’t be done. I renounced myself to the bottom of my hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, lying to everyone I knew, clawing for spare change and other people’s money, stealing from people that offered me help. I did deplorable things to pure, real souls. I shot heroin at my grandmother’s funeral (I’ve never admitted that to anyone until just now). I eviscerated a hard-earned career and ended up homeless, squatting in an abandoned building in my hometown, and living on the streets of Cleveland, surviving on spare change from a bullshit story about an empty tank on an imaginary car that was always out of gas. I Impaled myself on my bad decisions and destroyed my life and still… it wasn’t anything that twenty dollars wouldn’t fix.
The geographical cure only works if you’ve had enough, otherwise you’ll just keep seeking out the same misery wherever you go, and now you’ve got to do it in a town where you know no one. After nine times in rehab, several scrapes with the law, and after getting everyone around me strung out on heroin, I escaped the tar pits of addiction on a plane to Seattle, leaving all I owned, and all of those friends whose lives I helped to destroy behind me.
By my third day sick, I’d already found a job washing dishes, and I spent that night dopesick and slogging through the greasy filth of a dirty dish pit and loving it, because I wasn’t back home cycling through downward spirals. What I did to stay off dope, was to replace the opiate with something I loved to do, something that no one could take away…. and then just do the SHIT out of it. For me it was writing. I would teach myself to work the word by sending a decade’s worth of prison letters to all those friends back home who I’d introduced to the dead weight of a drug that would pull them all to their own separate bottoms. My letters and stories were naked proof that it could be done, and I explored Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, free of chains and writing it all down, and mailing it to a dozen different prisons. To someone with nothing but time to read, sitting on their rack with 24 months left to think about what they’re going to do on their release date, they were words of freedom. I’d get mail from people I’d never know, “I’m locked up with your buddy. The whole pod read your shit. It really speaks to me. He’s getting out next month. Can you keep sending me stories?” Some of those people I still keep in touch with today.
Now with the ease of self-publishing, (and with no more friends in prison to write) I can send books instead of letters to prison pen pals all over the country, and reach a whole new, and vastly wider, audience that may resonate with the passion for change in the pages within.
My gratitude comes in waterworks anytime I read the stories of addicts in social media addiction groups online. “I’ve got 30 days clean… 3 months clean. 3 years clean,” and I’m wiping tears from my eyes before my girlfriend sees me crying. Today I’m a writer, in that I write. Yet in the writing world, I’m a nobody, with no name and no following. I’ve got several books on my struggles in both heroin addiction, and recovery, that I’ll send into prisons — even as I’m writing them — and reach more people in my demographic with one single book being passed around, than many best selling authors can reach through traditional publishing avenues. My fourteen-year rehab-high is kept alive by the discipline of the focus it takes to learn a craft enough to hone it to a fine tune, and by extending a hand to help an addict out of the same tar pit I just crawled out of. Somewhere along the line it changed from, “God, how am I never going to do this again,” to “Thank God I never have to do that again,” and it’s gratitude that keeps that rehab-high alive.
The mailing list is currently down. For now, email me: Jacobgnarley@gmail.com
Stand up… Stay standing… Move forward
Book #1 of the Slowicide series
It’s a dope story. Addictive, hard to put down.
Jacob Gnarley has whittled himself down to an empty hotel room. His pockets are blank swaths of cloth. His veins are hungry, having funneled his whole world down to twenty-dollar increments of death, stuffed into baggies and sold in handshakes. Jacob Gnarley drags his chains of addiction through the mud at the bottom of the bottom: Youngstown, Ohio in the final decade of the twentieth century. Street carps and sidewalk philosophers, bottom-feeders bottom-feeding… with friends like these, who needs a kick in the teeth? Based on a lifetime’s worth of true stories, The Elvis Loop examines the gravity of decay that pulls at those flailing in the tar pits of heroin addiction, whose quicksand shoes lose footing when they’re pulled under. With junk inside, we commit to slowicide. Jacob Gnarley scrambles to make it out alive.