Vergil Smith
4 min readMay 25, 2021




I met W on the streets of New Orleans … specifically the French Quarter. I cannot remember exactly where and when, but it was definitely on one of my many trips through the quarter looking for excitement.

As soon as I saw him, I knew he would get high — walking through the Quarter by himself around midnight … looking at every passing car. He was the type of person who even smiled and seemed easy going and well-mannered. Even as we caught each others attention, he must have known immediately what was happening because he moved towards the car. I stopped and the usual happened:

Me: You get high?

Them: Weed?

Me: Naw … rock.

Them: Hell yeah! (pause) You a cop?

Me: No … you?

Them: No.

Me: You know where to get some?

Them: Yup, right around here too.

Me: You got a pipe?

Them: Yup … Got that right here.

He showed me the pipe and I immediately got excited. I gave him some money to buy a couple of hits and he got out of the car and went around the block. It seems it was always important that whoever sold this drug should not see my car. Later on, I learned that he did it this way so he could control the amount. He surely received more than he would bring back. I sat in the car hoping he would not run off with my $40. (I always gave only $40 when I didn’t know the runner … even though I had more in my wallet … because if he ran off, I could still get more.) I often told myself if he ran off, it was not meant to be and I would just go home. It is amazing how I lied to myself. I never went home if I had any money left.

I waited and even prayed. When I finally saw in the rearview mirror that he was coming back to the car, I got excited again. Immediately, I set up the pipe (which I convinced him to leave with me as insurance), he got in and I would load a mega hit and then … iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinhale …… hold it! hold it! hold it! hold it! …… exhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal!!!! Then, almost immediately …

“Can we get more and do you know any freaks?”

(I am writing this at seven months sober and my stomach is shaking. I can feel the nervousness and fear. The fear of crack is so very strong. I have to take a break from this writing because it is becoming too much).


I had met this guy somewhere in New Orleans near the Treme and we went to an abandoned house to smoke crack. The twisted and sick irony here is that this house was in the exact neighbourhood where I went to elementary school. As and adult, I found myself buying and using drugs in the same area that I grew up in. This thought wasn’t lost on me at the time. There was a real sadness and fear that settled in as I used drugs there. I was at a bottom and didn’t want to see it. All I saw was that I had sunk so low that I am using crack on what should be “sacred” grounds. When I graduated from St. Peter Claver School, I never thought I would grow up to become whatever monster I had now become through drug use. I don’t think anyone at St. Peter Claver thought that of me as well … at least I don’t think they did.

It was in the middle of the day and the only place we could go that was free of charge and safely indoors was a lot or some sort of abandoned building. We saw a run-down house and managed to get in through the backdoor. On the floor were needles, condoms, crack pipes — this place was clearly used by other addicts.

Then the usual routine: enter, load pipe, huge first hit, off with my shirt. Crack makes you very hot and sweaty (among other things). The first hit off the pipe always made me feel crazy and wild. For sure this is why I liked it so much. I crave freedom after that hit. I want to take off all my clothes and just walk around. On several occasions, I did just that. I felt that urge come on this time and reached down to take off my shoes when … the floor below me gave out and I fell through it. Luckily, or so I thought at the time, I only had a scratch on my knee, which in no way would stop me from getting high. I just stood inside the floor and continued.

A few days later, my knee was swollen and red. I thought it was a bug bite of some sort, but it was getting worse. It had swollen to the point where I could not bend it. At the time, I belonged to a recovery group that included a nurse. Although I was using crack on a regular basis, I continued to go to this support group. The nurse looked at my leg and told me I had better see a doctor as soon as I could. She had a strange look on her face as if this was a very serious issue. The next day, I found out I had a staph infection. The relief as the doctor drained it is indescribable. I had no real idea how much danger I was in with this infection. Nonetheless, I continued to use drugs that same day.

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