Corey: Truth be told, I've only been sober four or five months. I went on a lot of three to four year rolls. I'd kick and seem to be doing pretty well and something would knock me back into it. You've got these demons that you wrestle with. I just read a quote that the opposite of addiction isn't sobriety, it's connection, and I have to agree. You grow up in an abusive environment and you don't have that nurturing that you see some friends have in their homes.
BW: What was it like growing up for you?
Corey: My parents separated when I was young. I ended up growing up with my dad. He took me because my mom was real abusive. I had a half brother that was sexually abusive. My dad was a severe alcoholic, but a really nice guy. Never laid a hand on me, but I was unrestricted and took off at an early age.
When I was a teenager I was a punk rock kid. I was in San Francisco on the streets in the Tenderloin and that's where I got into heroin first. I quickly figured out there were a lot of horny old guys out there and I could just unbutton my shirt and wear a pair of shorts and stand out on Polk Street, get picked up, and let some guy suck my dick for $40, buy myself a burrito, and a fix of dope, and be good for that whole day. That was my ticket to staying well for several years.
I kicked dope when I was about 25. I got arrested. I went into withdrawls really hard and they put me in a county detox. After I got released I stayed clean for about four or five years. I learned how to climb trees and I ended up becoming a certified arborist. I was doing really well until I started getting back into heroin. I started bouncing back down here (New Orleans) and as soon as I got back on the dope my life gravitated to the Upper 9th.
I met a really neat woman who helped me. She's never been into drugs and was an awesome person in my life. I got pressured through family and friends to marry her. I didn't feel connected to her that way, sexually or intimately, but we were best friends. We got married but it blew up after a couple of years and we got divorced. That divorce catapulted me back into hardcore using. I felt like everything I had gained crashed down and the last seven or eight years had been a nightmare of straight use.
Then I got raped really severely last year by two guys that I met on Grindr. That threw me into my last hardcore strungout period. I woke up one day and I was crying my eyes out. This is not what I wanted, man. I had been staying in an apartment, strung out, and I walked past this Adventist Church. I'd seen that they were holding NA meetings there, so I went. I was sitting there, chin on my chest, nodding out, and they just didn't give a shit. These guys took me right in. That was the first time I'd ever sat down and talked to recovering addicts. They told me that I didn't have to surrender myself to this life.
I can't say I stayed clean. I'd relapse and kick and relapse and kick, but the kicking got a little easier. I probably kicked a dozen times in a four month period.
When I came back here to New Orleans, the memories rushed back. I didn't have a sponsor or anyone lording over me to keep me clean. The first thing I did was pick up. I used for about a week straight and then I kicked again. It's been about four or five months. I'm doing really well. I'm pretty happy about it.
BW: But you haven't reconnected with anyone in recovery here. How long do you think you'll last without that connection?
Corey: That's a good question. It's probably just a matter of time. Something will kick my ass and I'll go back, so I'm in a position where I do need that connection. I feel myself fighting everyday. It doesn't go away. The heroin talks to you and it's a bitch, a mistress, a demon. It's a hell of a fight just to get through each day clean.
On 3/9/2018, Corey died from a fentanyl overdose. He was a beautiful, kind man. I'll miss his warm smile and his stories about Humboldt and climbing big trees. He lifted my spirits every time I saw him on Decatur Street.
We spent some time together recently and he had a new tattoo above his right eye that simply read "Saint".