The addicted city

By RIC KAHN  |  April 3, 2008

He’s tried to quit his habit, going through the runs, the runny nose, the jumpy nerves, the throwing up. But there was always somebody around to entice him back. One time he went to Florida to get away from the crowd, ran into a Gloucester girl who turned him onto some Miami dope. Another time, he was clean three months and a friend came around, said, “Yeah, I got something that’s really good.” Bill says, “The hardest part is the mental, knowing that there’s something that will make you feel better just like” — he snaps his fingers — “that.”

He was busted a few more times, once found himself facing a loaded gun, but always managed to get out of doing time. He’d gotten off with many of those who’ve died from heroin in Gloucester. Now he wants to get off the juice. There’s the AIDS thing — “I stopped sharing needles a few months ago, the majority of us in the late 30’s group never took AIDS seriously, and some still don’t.”  The DA and his manslaughter bit: “If I made you sell it to me, I don’t want to put you in jail,” Bill says. The cops are knocking down doors. A rat pack of informants is running around town. He slipped a few weeks ago, drove to Lowell, where they’re selling clean works for $10, did two bags of $25 dope in a parking lot, and threw out his works so he wouldn’t be carrying when he got back to town. So now he’s going to Narcotics Anonymous, going to NUVA for counseling. After 20 years he figures it’s time to leave the heroin hustle behind. “There’s a whole other world out there,” Bill says, “and I’d like a crack at it.” But the temptation in town is all around. While he was telling his story, he had to answer the door twice. One guy was banging on the back door, wondering if he wanted to shoot some coke. Later, another guy was knocking on his front door asking if he wanted to hang out with Sir Smack.

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