Max Getting off Drugs
The Toronto Star
Monday, July 10, 1972
'I wanted off drugs or I'd kill myself'
-Star photo by Harold Barkley
MAX IS TRYING TO GET OFF DRUGS AFTER BEING AN ADDICT FOR 6 YEARS
He's attending a residential treatment centre in Toronto which used no medication of any sort
How does a young man become a heroin addict? What is life for him? Is there hope for him? Here is the story of one such addict.
By SHEILA GORMELY
Star staff writer
About all Max cares to remember about the first 13 years of his life is that he was depressed and his mother and father fought and screamed all the time.
The best he can say about his next six years is that when the heroin and cocaine were doing a proper job on him, he felt pretty good.
At least he thinks the drugs made him feel pretty good, sometimes but 19-year-old Max started dealing with the real truth only a month ago as he lay in yet another hospital bed with another set of doctors trying bring him out of a cocaine funk.
"I was sick of going to places and not getting help." Max told The Star. "I didn't want to be given more drugs. Some places shot me full of morphine or tranquillizers. Another place gave me methadone. I decided I either wanted off drugs completely or I was going to kill myself."
Fortunately, Max hadn't the guts to kill himself.
Max spent six hours recently in an interview, trying to patch together some of the years he spent working at being the archetypical "hippie" of Yorkville Village, during the 1968-69 period when the village bloom was on, kids were trying to close the street and were professing peace and love and a harmless intoxication with soft drugs.
Max can't help it if some details don't add up. Drugs have burned out some of his memories and virtually all of his conception of exact time.
Until he was 13, Max thought of himself as a quiet and kind of nice kid, living with battling parents in Weston with his brother and four sisters, running with a gang of 30 kids who eventually began sniffing glue on weekends in a park beside a cemetery.
"I don't remember why I started glue but I did it for three months until the cops caught some of us. My mother thought I did it because of problems at home. I even knew a Weston kid who died sniffing glue, but that didn't throw me off. I told myself it wasn't the glue that killed him. It was the plastic bag."
Max laid low for a while and then, in his next drug period, moved into LSD, marijuana and hashish.
"I was going to school but I hated it. I got good marks and they always said I could do better. A friend and I used to smoke hashish on our spares, sitting in someone's car. I felt I was a hippie. I wanted to play the whole role. I got kicked out of school just before I was 18 because of my chest-length hair. There were only two of us in the school with blond hair. We really stood out.
"My mother thought it was herself to blame. I don't really blame her. Nobody pushed me into drugs. Maybe if I had a father who cared and took me fishing but I can't say if it would have made a difference. I have friends who use drugs and they have good fathers.
Paid no attention
"My father didn't pay any attention to me. He showed his love with money and bought me more stuff. All that mattered to him was my hair and my clothes. He kept saying he was going to take me for a haircut. As if that would change me. As long as nobody knew I was taking drugs, it didn't matter to him."
Max says he felt he always hated his father, and his parents are being divorced now. He keeps trying to make his mother realize that she's not to blame. She constantly talked to him about his drug involvement and right up to a month ago was telephoning around trying to get some agency to help her son. Max says she cried a lot and got mad at him.
A few months after he was kicked out of school, Max moved to Yorkville and it was a long time before his mother knew a half of what Max was doing with drugs.
"The day a couple of us packed my car to take off for Yorkville, mom chases us in her car. She told me to get back. She said she'd phone for the police. I just kept making faces out of the back window."
Max moved into a Scollard St. house with a friend and the two got front men to lend them money and they went into the LSD business. They had runners selling for them and they sold on the street themselves.
Sold to friends
"I started to sell to friends at school. I started them on drugs. I didn't feel bad really. They came to me. I didn't go to them. They said their parents were going away for the weekend.
"One day this guy wanted some acid (LSD) but he didn't have any money. He said he had some speed and I said, 'What am I going to do with speed?' We went to his place and I shot it (injected) and I liked it. I was into it pretty heavy for eight months."
Because of his good reputation as an acid dealer, Max says it was easy to be introduced to a man who dealt cocaine and heroin. Max says he can't say why he went to any particular drug except that if you're heavily into drugs you try all that's available.
He went into cocaine selling and admitted to himself eventually that he was hooked on cocaine and heroin. He liked them equally and his mood at any given time determined which drug he used. He says he was stoned all the time or else coming down and feeling sick and depressed.
"There's no such thing as a heroin addict. Not any more. There's so much stuff around you take anything. With junk (heroin) you don't feel active and you don't want to do anything. You just sit in a corner nodding and mumbling and not seeing anything. When you want to be active, you use cocaine.
"It's called the rich man's speed. Plus it'll a love drug because it has MDA. also morphine because it's a pain killer. When you shoot it, you can't stand up right away and you do turn a funny color, sort of like green. After a half an hour, I could go and shoot a game of pool. It was fun.
"It's just funny thinking back. Most of the time when I was stoned, I was having some fun. But a doctor scared me once. He said my body was run down and I wouldn't live very long. My liver's still a bit hard and I had poison in my system and water on my lungs."
In real trouble
Max's "fun" was causing him some real trouble. He wound up in Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital three times and several times in hospital emergency wards because he was either cracking up mentally, or coming down from a high and feeling sick, or he was starting to withdraw from heroin or cocaine and was getting those nasty cramps and chills.
"One time I was sent to Lakeshore because I was freaked out on speed and somehow I wound up on a roof 15 floors up, sitting with my feet in the chimney and blisters all over them. The third time I admitted myself. Why? I took a look at myself in the mirror."
Besides selling cocaine, occasionally heroin, and using $200-worth of cocaine from his own supply, Max supported himself by fencing stolen goods that addicts gave him in exchange for drugs.
His social life was the rather desperate togetherness a bunch of junkies feel sitting around in corners together. But, incredibly, Max got out of the scene enough to impregnate his girlfriend of five years -- "We used to sniff glue together as kids" -- and marry her a month after their daughter, now 2, was born.
His girlfriend wasn't using drugs, was living at home, and had the kind of parents who ordered Max to cut his hair or leave their girl alone. Max cut his hair. He married her too, after she bugged and bugged him.
It didn't turn out to be any favor. Max was always away on "business" and one day she got so mad she dipped into Max's cocaine stash and wound up addicted for six months.
Knew the problem
"She knew the problem I had and she knew I was taking drugs. I wasn't there the first time she used it. I sure got mad at her. I felt guilty and felt I had hurt her. But she knew how I was when she married me."
The child was in a foster home throughout her addiction which came to an end one night.
"My mother came over to our place to see me and she could hear my wife screaming and she couldn't unlock the door. The police came and unlocked it. My wife told my mother she was cleaning blood off the wall. My mom thought she's actually killed me. But it was just the red lights we had in the house."
Max and his wife split up and three weeks ago she told him she had an abortion as the result of his last visit to her. "She didn't think we'd get together again, so she didn't want two kids."
He got himself another address and went on getting his supply of cocaine and heroin from the Peterborough-Rice Lake district.
"My dealer was about, 45 years old. We had a good relationship, but I felt I was dealing with organized crime."
Heroin at dealer's
He shot up heroin the first time at his dealer's place a year ago. "He was putting heroin on a scale when I came up to his place. I helped him cap it and then I just did it. I puked my guts out."
Max says you're usually always sick the first time, the next three times you keep waiting to see what happens, and then the fifth time, for him anyway, you like it.
Twice he has managed to come off drugs by going cold turkey in a hospital. He is convinced you don't need any drugs to get you through the experience. You just have to bear up under the chills and stomach pains and depression for four days and then you'll be all right.
After one "cure," he managed to hold three jobs for a short time, mostly because the courts ordered him to. Max was never arrested on drug charges but he was charged four different times with possession of stolen goods. He got suspended sentences or probation.
Max talked about what his six years on drugs had done to his family and he said he felt guilty often.
"My mom cried a lot. She'd get mad because I came home when I was coming down from heroin or cocaine and she said I was bitchy all the time and so hungry that I'd eat the fridge out. I was never nice at home. I've had police come and bodily take me out of my married sister's house."
"Everyone was coming on to me all the time, even my little sister, which made me feel stupid. But all this did was make me want it more.
"I had one uncle who stuck with me and was sympathetic. Another uncle was telling my mother to throw me away and lock me up. He's really against dope addicts but his son uses drugs and he won't face up to it."
Max faced up on May 2 when he received some news that sent him on a murderous rage and was the reason he decided to kick drugs.
"My older brother committed suicide, or we think it was suicide. It was an overdose of pain killers. But he was mixed up in the syndicate and I wonder."
He says his brother was a "heavy" and collected debts, but he loved him in his way. Max went "bonkers" and tried to kill two friends with a crowbar at the funeral parlor. He wound up in a hospital and after his release he and Joanne, 17, a junkie friend of his, went to Narconon.
It's a residential treatment centre on Hallam St. which has five permanent counselors, most of them ex-drug users. They use "drills" which teaches people to be trusting and to communicate, and to put their past away. No drugs are used in treatment, not even a headache tablet.
Max has been there a month. "I can get along with mom and all of them really well now. They feel great. Even my dad. He came to see me here and bought a television for Narconon. It's the first time I felt he was interested in me. I'm hopeful that this is going to be it. Right now is the best I have felt in my life.
"I never felt there was any good in the future for me. I know a lot more of life now. I know it can be pretty bad, but in another way it can be okay if you go the right way. I know my brother had the dirty end of the stick."
The last thing Max said was: "I feel it's okay to be straight."
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