The First Hit is Always Free
My fascination with drugs came long before my first hit of weed. There’s something about how one – or many – little substances can lure a person away from reality and, like a siren, and lead to danger or even death.
Heroin interests me the most, and how it devours the majority who travel down that road.
I’ve tried a lot of drugs, but heroin and speed are two I’ve put in the, “Never in My Fucking Life” list to avoid. No judgment to those who have, because I absolutely understand in my own way how uncontrollable addiction can be. (As read here).
Gutter Dreams in New York City
When I moved to New York City in 2005, my interest in the drug culture was even more intense. I’d play the Velvet Underground on repeat while buying weed from a dealer I met at a bar in the East Village. I’d read books on Andy Warhol and Eddie Sedgwick while smoking Parlament Lights on my balcony and glancing towards the Empire State Building. I’d walk by CBGB on the regular (it was still open then!). I cut my hair above my shoulders and died it jet black. I even wore a leather jacket and striped shirts.
I was a poser. But at the time, it felt so damn good.
In that spirit, here’s a list of some of my favorite books with an overlining theme of heroin and drug addiction. I am no way suggesting someone try drugs AT ALL. But, if you want to see what it’s like, pick up one of these from your favorite local bookstore and dive in.
In Case We Die by Danny Bland
I met author Danny Bland at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference in 2015, and basically fan-girled him like a douche. It’s a fictional story based on his life in Seattle, working at a sex shop while falling in love with a girl and heroin. His humor and self-deprecation naturally roll off the page, and the way he describes Seattle and rock ‘n roll in the 90s makes you want to put on a plaid shirt and Doc Martins while rolling a cigarette to read it.
Junkie by “William Lee” (Pen name of William S. Burroughs)
This was my “subway book” while I lived in NYC though, I read most of it with one eye closed. The descriptions are vivid and GNARLY, but describes the life of a drug dealer and addict to a T. It’s a short read, less than 200 pages. I highly recommend, but not for the faint of heart.
The Diary of a Drug Fiend by Aleister Crowley
My current read which I found last fall at a Henderson Books, a used bookstore in Bellingham, Washington. Chris and I were on a road trip to Mexico to cruise on our sailboat for a second season, and I put $100 bucks aside to spend on books at this specific shop. As I was paying for a stack of new reads, I saw this one sitting on the shelf near the register and threw it on the pile. I thought it was would be perfect research on how to explain drug addiction since I was willingly about to go into my weed addiction again to do the same thing. “It’s for research!” I told myself and Chris when I bought a few joints in San Francisco a few days later. (Well, we know how that turned out.) By page sixty, the guy’s tried coke and heroin for the first time. A page-turner ensues.
*I should note that after reading a quarter of the book, I did a little research on old Aleister Crowley: A widely known occultist – who has been celebrated by The Beatles, Ozzy Osborne, and Led Zepplin – he is a man with a rich history that could write an entire blog post on, but I’ll refrain. For your interest and curiosity, here’s a quick study of the man for your reading pleasure.
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
I can’t get enough of this book and I read it in two days while sailing in Mexico (It’s over 900 pages long). Gregory’s depictions of India are mesmerizing. You’ve got drug deals, slum lords, prostitutes, heroin addiction, love…it’s so damn good. It’s the first novel that truly felt like an ongoing movie in my head; my body was in Mexico yet my mind was in Bombay. I read somewhere that he wrote the first draft by hand while in prison. Then, after a prison guard destroyed his first draft, he wrote another by hand – AGAIN! Don’t let the length of the book intimidate you. It will go by faster than you’d like. I recommend reading with a cup of hot Chai tea.
Candy by Luke Davies
Another book about heroin addiction and love between two junkies. I read it over ten years ago and loved it. I haven’t seen the movie, but I’m sure the book is better. Also, heroin does not make your skin pink, from what I understand. Not sure what’s going on with this cover.
Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis with Larry Sloman
A #1 New York Times Bestseller and #18 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s 25 Greatest Rock Memoirs of All Time, you can’t help but fall more in love with Anthony Kiedis. The last line of the book to gives you a clue of his past and hopeful future: “And when I do think, ‘Man, a fucking motel room with a couple of thousand dollars’ worth of narcotics would do me right,’ I just look over at my dog and remember that Buster’s never seen me high.” It’s tragic, hopeful, and filled with sex and celebrity cameos. (i.e. Cher once babysat him as a kid.) Don’t worry, I didn’t spoil the book. That’s just one small nug to get you started.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
Thompson’s artistry as a writer may actually promote drug use. I mean, I drove through Barstow when I moved from South Carolina to California BECAUSE of this book. (Opening line of Fear and Loathing: We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold.) I even stayed at Circus Circus to mimic one of the scenes. But to make a list of books about drugs and not mention this would be un-American. I love the movie. Read the book if you haven’t already. One of my favorite desert scenes in the book is not portrayed on the silver screen. It’s a classic. And to think this man was able to produce great work while on drugs is unbelievable and unrepeatable. Don’t worry. I tried.
The moral of this story? Don’t do drugs, just read about them! You’ll save yourself a lot of heartaches, emotional pain, and guilt. Plus, you’ll save a shit ton of money.
Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Do you have others you’d recommend? I’m all ears! Please leave your suggestions and thoughts in the comments below!
Here are a few stories of my own drug dependency: