Seeing Justin Dead

“Wanna see a picture of me dead?”

I nonchalantly shrug. This counts as icebreaker in Recovery. Seriously, nothing phases me.

His name is Justin, a weedy Horse addict new to the Program. He’s so strung out on suboxone, he tends to nod off in Group. Doctors think he’s actually overdosing on dopamine, which is a thing, so he has to micro-dose his meds. Like, razor blade the milligramage he keeps wrapped in a tin foil packet. It’s ironic: watching him med up on the cure is like watching someone tie off their arm. I’m not surprised he’s been dead. If only briefly.

He thrusts a. cell phone my direction. There he is, slumped down, chin to his chest. He has a blue pallor and a rivulet of saliva trailing from his mouth.

“I took some heroin. Didn’t know it was cut with Fentanyl.”


“My friend was annoyed. Wanted to take a picture to show me how stupid I look when I’m strung out.” Jenny’s done this, too. With me passed out on the couch. I’ve never been dead, though. Just Amy Winehouse close.

Fentanyl killed Prince. Would’ve been his 64th birthday today in fact.

“What’d you see?” I know to ask.

“’S true what they say about the tunnel. Light, man, just orbs and orbs of light. Like a whole galaxy. I’ve written about it.”

Of course he has. Justin’s an artist. Also a computer hacker. He breaks through firewalls with alacrity and is attempting to get into Sharp’s mainframe. For fun, he says.

“They resuscitated me, obviously, but I was dead for a good five minutes.”

Wasn’t the first time. He hanged himself when he was twernty-one. Had sold off all his DJ equipment for the Habit and had taken to a degenerate amount of thievery. A junked out Prometheus. Tired of it, and mortally ashamed of himself, he swung from his parents’ tree by a hangman’s rope.

Justin went through months of rehab to learn to walk again. Then he killed himself a second time over. He’s now only twenty-four. Were he a cat, he’d be thirty percent exeunt.

We became friends, me and Justin, though I haven’t heard from him in a while. Don’t know if he’s gonna make it. He relapsed while in Recovery a week in. The bupe wasn’t enough and he had found a vial of powder in his knapsack. Wanted to see if he could take it like a gentleman. Against all odds he wasn’t kicked out of his sober living; I used to drive him home and would wish him well.

“Good night, Justin. Don’t do drugs.” Or something to that effect.

Fentanyl is a scary motherfucker, and it’s in everything. Mexican cartels had to market something new in the vacuum legalized marijuana left. And, unlike H, Fentanyl doesn’t require acreages of poppies or serious manpower to produce. It’s synthetic. Cheap as hell. My current roommate? His girlfriend died during COVID trying to get a cocaine high. Whatever happened to cutting street triturate with baking soda?

Just stay away from the powders, People. Don’t get dead.  


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