WORKIN' FOR THE MAN

WORKIN' FOR THE MAN

Being an injecting drug user and holding down a job can be pretty difficult. But on occasion, it can also be a cause for amusement and bemusement.

Being on methadone generally makes things a lot easier when you are working. That is until you get a job where your start time is before your clinic or chemist opens. I was working in a wine warehouse of all places, surrounded by alcohol and feeling sick for my dose. Like many opiate users, I despise alcohol. So at lunchtime I would bolt to the train station, get the train to my chemist and then run from the station to the chemist and get dosed. Then I’d repeat the process in reverse with about 2 minutes left for lunch. At least the afternoons were pretty cruisey once my dose kicked in. But the mornings were awful.

And I know I am not the only one to do this. At one clinic, I tended to get dosed at the same time each day and inevitably this guy would come running in, dressed in workboots, hardhat under his arm, wild look in his eye and begging people to let him in on the queue as he had just run away from his work site and if he was discovered offsite, he would get the sack. And of course all the non-workers at the clinic would tell him to fuck off. I didn’t mind, as I could relate to his dilemma, but you have to have everyone in the queue agree to let someone in.

Injecting at work would have to be one of weirdest experiences in my life. Locking yourself in the toilet and mixing up while you can hear all your colleagues filing in and out of the bathroom around you is pretty strange.

And then, of course, you never find a vein first time in these circumstances. So you’re digging around and then the next thing you know your manager is banging on the door “hey! Are you ok in there?” oh fuck!! “Yeah, I’m good” you say. And then you think ‘do I need to explain myself through the toilet door?’ So you make something up “Aahh…..just having a quick spew,” or “Stuck on a sticky wicket in here.”  That’s a joke. I have never said that to my boss while banging up in a dunny.  

I did have a dirty shot at lunchtime once. I was packing bottles of wine into “mixed cartons” and then that nasty feeling starts. “Oh shit..” Literally. Before you know it you’re spewing out both ends, your head feels like it is going to explode, you are dripping with sweat and your manager is saying “are you ok? Do you need to go to hospital?” And you say, “No, no, I’m ok, I’ll just go home and have a lie down.” But the problem is that you look like you are going to die and your manager wants to take you to a doctor at least. So you INSIST. “Honestly, just a tummy bug..” when you really feel like yelling at them “Can’t you see I just had a stinking dirty??”

And then you start getting OLD. Gone are the days of using every week night and then up and off to work the next day. First your veins fuck up. So it’s onto more risky spots, such as hands, then legs and feet- which was when the trouble really started for me. I ended up with DVTs in my feet and all sorts of bad shit. Couldn’t stand up without my feet going puffy. Lesson there kids is don’t inject in your feet. They carry your weight all day! Then nasty cellulitis and infected injecting sites all over the place.  The biggest problem for me is these days is being generally sick all the time with colds and flu. All this illness over the past few years has resulted in multiple days off work on multiple occasions and getting sacked twice. 

Obviously trouble at work is depressing and not good for my self esteem, I feel rather proud of the fact that I have managed to hold down a job at all. I know deep down that I am doing all right — all things considered, and I know there is a good reason why I got sacked twice. It’s just that I am not allowed to talk about the reasons.

And while that sucks, it’s important for us to not hold ourselves to some ridiculous standard that society expects of us. We will never live up to that standard so better to just fuck it off and live by our own standards. Unlike the rest of society, we have all had our morals sorely tested and most of us can hold our head high and sleep soundly at night knowing that we have done the right thing by ourselves.

TOASTS, TASTES AND TESTS - SOME USEFUL INFO ABOUT WORKPLACE DRUG AND ALCOHOL TESTING

PASSING OFF THE PAST - CHRIS'S STORY