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About ten or so years ago, Tasha, now a fortysomething grandmother and recovering heroin addict, was shot in the calf while looking to pick up on the west side. The bullet hit a major artery, she told me, raising her pant leg to show a fearsome scar, and by the time the ambulance got her to the ER, she'd almost bled to death. She was in a coma for six and a half months, in the hospital for two and a half years. During that time, she became even more addicted to opiates—morphine, Demerol, Tylenol 4.
"I felt like a guinea pig," she says. "My shoulders was so swollen the stuff would come right back out. My booty cheeks was so swollen up I had to lie on my stomach."
After her release from the hospital, she resisted prescription drugs. For three and a half years she went straight, living out in the suburbs with a truck-driver boyfriend, reunited with her children and "fat as a duck on a pond." ("Well, not fat," she adds. "Thickalicious.") The blood loss to her brain had left her legally blind, and unable to drive, she was separated from her old haunts. Then she called a friend to take her to the west side, drawn back to the street trade.
"It's cheaper and more accessible," another recovering addict told me. "No doctor to deal with, no copay."
Now Tasha, who freely admits she's tried detox "everywhere," is an inpatient once again, determined this time around to kick using once and for all. Despite her chronic pain, she still refuses prescription painkillers: "I ain't takin' none of that shit, neither."