VICE: How long have you been an addict?
Jen: I’m 44 and I’ve been using heroin for 30 years. It makes me feel me safe and smart. At this point I’ve used it so long I think I perform better on it than off. Without it I feel really lost and alone and naked and frightened. I know if I stopped using that feeling would go away with time, but it’s a battle that I am unable to take on consistently. Heroin feels like my good friend. It’s always there to return to when I feel lonely. But when I started at 13 I didn’t see myself as being a 40-year-old drug user, and I still don’t see myself being a 60-year-old drug user. And I have spent some time clean.
So what else do you do besides heroin?
I’m getting an advanced degree in the sciences and I work with a sex-work advocacy group. When I was young I used to go to an outreach program for sex workers on the West Side Highway run by a community church. The people there were kind and good and Christian in the best sense, and they became role models for me. Now I’m studying to work in a similar field. I’m a straight-A student.
I don’t know many junkies who are getting science degrees.
I actually might be a pretty average drug user. The ones you would recognize as users are normally a mess. I don’t think as a society we have a very clear picture of what an average drug user is like. Because of the political and social climate these days people don’t brag about these things. I have a feeling that a lot of people use drugs regularly but we don’t know it. I know a fair number of people like me.
What is the story with these black holes in your groin?
They are called communicating sinuses. A sinus just means a hole. The vein that I use every day in my groin is about as thick as my thumb. Since it’s so large the chances of damaging it are small (although if I did damage it, it would be very bad). The sinuses are like dimpled scars, little pits that form from repeated use. The continued use makes the scar form a channel. It bleeds very little but that’s because my technique is good. New needles cut rather than tear. I used to be horrified watching people develop these injection sites, but now—and I know it sounds gross—it just makes things easier for me. I’m less scarred up than other drug users because I’m careful to use a new needle every time and an alcohol pad to clean the site before and after. I’ve been using these sites for about 15 years now, but they didn’t start looking like little buttholes until about four years ago. I’ve seen it happen faster with other people, especially people who use liquid methadone, which is more corrosive. I definitely wouldn’t recommend to a new user that they inject into their groin. And if you are going to inject drugs, use the smallest possible needle.
Underwear by Agent Provocateur, vintage dress from Lyell
Underwear, camisole, and shorts by Passion Bait from Lyell
Underwear by Agent Provocateur, vintage jacket
Underwear by Agent Provocateur, top by Dior Homme by Hedi Slimane
Underwear by Agent Provocateur