Rough Draft

 Chapter 7   -  The  Letters con't

Jan. 1964 - April 1964  (plus a final 1984 letter)

January 1, 1964

Dear Carrie,

Well, Carrie, it is the first day of the new year and I’d like to start the year off with a letter to you. I keep forgetting that it is now 1964 and I almost put 1963 in the corner of the page for the date. It’s always hard to get used to writing the correct year for the first few weeks or so of the new year.

I decided to write to you tonight instead of going out because it is raining, and I did go out for a while but I very promptly got soaked to the skin and so I came home. It’s funny, but I really didn’t want to go out in the rain in the first place, but for some reason I just had to go out, even if it was for only a short while, before I could sit at home and relax and be contented with the fact that I’m not going anywhere.

I never could really understand this facet of my makeup, I mean as far as not feeling right unless I intend to go out of the house at night, but maybe it has something to do with a very unhappy home life. I know that I’ve told you before that one of the things that I want most is to have someone to stay at home with and be happy staying at home and not having to go out all the time.

I’ll bet that you don’t miss the weather back here at all. For the last few weeks it has been very cold, and yesterday morning it was below zero. Today it is around 40 degrees and rainy. It really started off snowing earlier in the day and was very cold, but after the snow changed to rain it warmed up considerably. Maybe the rain will get rid of all the snow on the ground. The less snow that I see the better I like it.

I think that when you called me Sunday that I misunderstood you about something. I thought that you asked me if I got your package and since at that time the only thing that I had received from you was your card, I said yes that I had received it, thinking that you were talking about your card. Well, yesterday when I came home from work I found a large package on the table and it was the one that you were talking about. 

I want to thank you for the present. I think that it is such a pretty gift and it made me so happy to get it from you. The wreath that the goodies were packaged in is so nice that we’re going to pack it away until next year at Christmas to  hand on the door. I really mean it when I say that anything that I get from you means a lot to me and I really treasure things from you that remind me of you whenever I look at them. 

Isn’t it funny that even though I have never met you that you mean so much to me. I really can’t think of anyone that I know who means more to me than you do. I don’t know if this is good or bad for me, but this is the way that it is.

I don’t know how much of a letter that I’ll get written tonight because I don’t want to leave this one to finish later in the week. I started writing around 9:30 o’clock and I’ll probably write for a few hours. I have been thinking about calling you tonight about midnight and I probably will give it a try. I hope you’re at home. I’ll probably talk to you about some of the things that I’m writing about in this letter, so don’t mind if when you read this letter you discover that we’ve already talked about some of the items in it.

Of course, the most important thing to talk about at the moment is the situation concerning drugs that I’m now involved in. Actually, this situation has a lot to do with the fact that I’m writing you a letter tonight. I’ve talked to my friend and he has agreed that we are going to make a sincere try to break this thing over the weekend. It sounds easy on paper, but believe me, when the time comes it’s going to be rough. 

I won’t go through any real physical agony, but I’ll be sick. The hardest part is really psychological. Maybe your concept of kicking a habit is that of physical torture. For some people with enormous habits, this may be true, but with me it is mostly mental torture. Of course, I dread the part of being physically sick, but this is something I can bear if my mind will only let me alone. It is the longing and desire that does the most harm.

You see, Carrie, by now I have established a pattern that consists of a daily ritual of administering the drugs. When I attempt to stop using, this pattern is broken and a big void is present in place of the daily ritual. This void is a terrible thing and must be filled in with something else in order to be successful. Since this thing has progressed to the point where my life revolves around the daily use of the drug, I actually feel a great fear at the thought of removing this thing around which my life revolves. It must be done, though, because I hate the way I am living and I hate myself for living this way. 

Maybe I shouldn’t be telling you all this, but I want to be honest with you and I feel that you should know everything about me so that you can understand me and decide whether or not that you want to let yourself get involved with me. I want to be the kind of guy that is good for you and can help and please you. 

In short, I would like to see us attain a real love in which we both have no secrets from each other and we both understand each other and accept each other completely. Oh, how I wish that I had you now to help me and to love me. Maybe someday we will mean everything to each other and will be together so that when either of us needs the understanding and love that only someone who loves can give, this understanding and comfort and love will be always there.

I wanted to get this letter written to you tonight because if I do successfully break the habit this weekend, I know that for a period of time, maybe even weeks, I won’t be able to be interested in anything and will have all I can do to go through the motions of living, with the aid of a higher power, until my pattern of living changes and I begin to regain interest in life and living. 

You see, Carrie, this may mean that I will be so apathetic and emotionless that even perhaps I won’t find it possible to think of you and feel the same burning interest that I always have. This will be a period when I probably won’t be able to sit down and write you a letter because my emotions will be so confused that even the thought of you won’t interest me. This will be a passing thing, though, and when it passes, you can bet that I am going to regain my interest in you stronger than ever. 

I just want you to know that this apparent loss of interest in you will be something that I can’t help or control, but it won’t last for more than a few weeks at the longest. I know how these things work because I’ve been through them before. I hope that with the help of AA and you that this will be the last time that I ever find myself in this mess.

There was one time, not more than a few years ago, when I saw no hope for myself and resigned myself to the fact that I must live my life coping with the drug problem as an active addict until my dying day. Now I have found hope in AA and I have a chance.

I wanted to talk to you about one other thing before I close. You have told me that you find yourself losing interest in things and perhaps would like to come back here even sooner than June if you can arrange it. What I want you to discuss with me in your next letter is this: If I can pull myself out of this situation and get back to normal, will you let me help you to get back here? I know that the word “if” is a big word to me right now, but if I can get straightened out, it naturally follows that I am going to attempt to build a new life. It’s going to be very important to me to meet you. 

In a few months the weather will begin getting warmer here, and it will be spring. I know that you hate the cold and just want to remind you that spring is only a few months away. Once I am off drugs, I will have quite a bit of money to spare out of each week’s pay, and between the both of us we can get together enough to get you back here and hold you over until you get settled in a short time. I know that you have bills to settle like your car for instance, but you really don’t have to worry too much about how you are going to get money saved to come back, because I’ll take care of that. 

I’ll help you as much as possible once you are back here also as far as expenses, etc. are concerned until you can get a job. You can really count on me for thingsforon things like this because I’d never let you down. Of course, everything depends on my success in getting off drugs, but I know that I can do it if I have the incentive. Both you and AA are part of the incentive to me and you both are very important. 

Really, Carrie, I have often wished in the past that I could have used all the money that I have been spending, just keeping myself amused, to help you with your bills and to get things that you want, etc. Even when I was going with Nancy, I used to think of how much I would rather have used all the money that I spent on her in nightclubs, etc., to help you with if you were only here to be a companion to me instead of her. You see, if I had you for a companion, I wouldn’t have to throw money away to keep amused like I have been doing. We could do a lot of things together and buy many things that we can enjoy together if only I had you with me. 

Please write back and let me know how you feel about all this. I don’t want you to feel awkward about letting me give you money to come back with and I also don’t want you to feel obligated to me in any way. This is something that I want to do and you know how happy it will make me. It is something that we really should discuss fully, and I want you to think about it. Remember, though, everything depends upon my success in getting off of drugs. Wish me luck. Bye for now, and be good.

Love, Joe.

January 5, 1964 (Sunday)

Dear Carrie,

I received your letter yesterday and I was so moved and touched by what you had written that I must send you back a letter immediately. No letter that I have ever received before from anyone has ever so affected me. I guess that this is really the first time that you have really told me how you felt about me and have written with such feeling. I know that you are depressed and unhappy, and I am also. I wish the simple solution was just for us to get together and be happy, and it might have been if I hadn’t been such a fool to complicate matters by getting myself addicted to drugs. 

I see by your letter that you really didn’t understand too much about the drug situation that I am in and it’s really my fault because I didn’t realize that you knew nothing about drugs and I never explained too much to you about them. I have a lot of explaining to do to you in this letter because I want you to thoroughly understand everything.

At least now, after receiving your letter, I feel that I have something to live for and a goal to strive towards. If it wasn’t for you, I would have given up a long time ago. The fact that now you would like to come back here in a few months has given me the drive to really want to do something about my drug problem. I really want you more than anything, and I know that I have to get off of drugs before I can even consider having you come all the way back here. 

I am giving myself, and I hope that you’ll bear with me, two weeks at the most, to be free of drugs. I can’t take this mental torture much longer and I don’t think I could last much longer than two weeks anyway before I would voluntarily admit to my parole officer that I was using and let him do as he saw fit with me. Now, your letter has given me the incentive to make the supreme effort, and the purpose of this letter is to tell you the whole story. 

First of all, I was not able to stop using this weekend as I planned for reasons that I will explain later. Right now, I want to start from the beginning.

Around the middle of September, I was feeling disgusted with my job and was depressed and looking for an escape. I was ripe for using drugs and didn’t see the danger. I got the opportunity to use it and I reacted, thinking that just one time wouldn’t hurt me. I should have known better, but maybe at the time I didn’t care because I had no incentive for living. I had you to think of, but at that time you didn’t plan to come back until June, and to me this seemed an eternity and made me very unhappy. 

I used drugs for a few weekends and then started to progress to daily use. This lasted until the middle of October, at which time I could see that I was building up a habit and that my health was becoming very affected. If I used my usual amount of drugs at night, I was beginning to find that I was sick by later the next morning when the stuff wore off and so that meant I needed more each day, and it scared me. I was becoming physically sick and was white as a ghost and so I went to AA for help and some members took me up to New Hampshire for the weekend where I spent 3 miserablea miserable sick 3 days and then came back. 

I was not working then, and also really didn’t have a goal or incentive for life, and I didn’t last. What made it really difficult for me was the fact that a friend that I have known for 10 years lives across the street from me and I started using with him, and the fact that he didn’t stop when I did caused me to have him on my mind, and when we got together again a few days after I got back from New Hampshire, I started using again with him. 

I feel very sorry for this friend, and if you met him you would, too. His body is covered with the scars of abscesses caused by injecting drugs into himself and missing the veins. His hands are swollen to huge size and have been like that for years. He is the same age as I am, and I feel like crying when I remember him from 10 years ago as a handsome, full-of-life youth. When I first got out of Walpole, he didn’t let me know that he was still using. I thought that he had quit when I was arrested, and it wasn’t until September that he admitted that he was still on drugs, and that is when I started again. Maybe you can see that he is one of the main causes that I have had such difficulty in quitting. It is very difficult to quit when someone you are very friendly with who lives across the street from you is using. Part of the answer for me is to get him to quit along with me.

I also don’t think that you understood the fact that I have been using every day, either. You see, Carrie, I am what is known as a “mainliner.” I inject the drugs into a vein and it’s getting progressively more difficult, and I have no veins left to speak of. The reason I use every day is not because I want to, but because I have to. If I don’t get the drugs into me each day, I will become so sick that I wish I was dead. The sickness is just too miserable to describe, so I won’t even attempt to. 

In a way I am lucky right now because I use only once a day. Before I was arrested 3 years ago, I was using 10 times or more each day, and my whole life was nothing but drugs. Right now, I use a respectable amount each day, but I have an advantage in the fact that I have built up a resistance to drugs, and this amount that I use each day only keeps me normal and does not get me loaded. This is important because when I first started using drugs, I used a small amount, but this small amount got me so loaded that my body screamed for drugs when I stopped using, and it was hell on earth to go through the physical part of withdrawal. When I stop now, it is going to be bad, but nowhere as near as bad as years ago. 

My worst enemy now is fear. It takes an alcoholic or another drug addict to understand this fear. I was unsuccessful this weekend because of this fear. I also made the mistake of trying to do it alone, and that was bad. I had a fix Thursday night to carry me through Friday, and when I was in work Friday, the fear started torturing my mind. It is a fear that is hard to explain. It is a combined fear of being sick and being cut off from the chemical upon which you have placed such great dependence for a feeling of well-being and security and companionship. 

When I got out of work Friday night, although it was relatively warm out, I was freezing and my nerves were jangling and I could feel that I was going to be very sick this time. Maybe this is what defeated me mostly. But now something has happened that I hope and pray will allow me to be successful this coming weekend. 

First of all, as I told you in my last letter, I didn’t go to the N.A. meeting last Monday night because I had to resolve a situation that was bothering me. I didn’t know it at the time, but the people at the meeting missed me and were quite concerned. They have been trying to get in contact with me for a week and they did Saturday. I have a chance to get some help from them, about which I will tell you in a little while. 

The other thing I want to mention is that I have a second chance at what I consider to be a “miracle.” This “miracle” happened to me about a few weeks, or a month ago, and I blew it because I was so stupid. This “miracle” concerns a drug called Methadone. A month ago, I managed to obtain some Methadone. I used it in place of my regular narcotics for about a week. I had heard that this Methadone would help to take a person off of narcotics, but I didn’t believe it. 

At the end of the week, Friday night to be exact, I used the last of the Methadone. When Saturday night came, I still felt good and I was afraid because I thought that I was still high from Friday and that when the drug finally wore off that there was going to be hell to pay. When Sunday came, I still felt good and then I knew that the miracle had happened and I had withdrawn from drugs without being physically sick. I was stupid and didn’t take advantage of the miracle because I ran into my friend across the street and we both used that night and I was hooked again. 

I want to explain about Methadone before I go any further. Methadone is a synthetic narcotic developed by the Germans during the second world war when they couldn’t get morphine. It is, in reality, synthetic morphine.  It is a drug that is slow to addict and addicts in a slightly different manner, as far as body chemistry is concerned. Don’t misunderstand me by thinking that a person can use Methadone and not get physically addicted. A person can get very badly addicted on Methadone. 

The reason Methadone can remove a narcotic addiction is this (as I have found out): If a person using narcotics substitutes Methadone for his regular opiate, the Methadone will take the place of his regular drug and keep him from being sick. While he is using the Methadone, his opiate habit is disappearing, but he doesn’t notice it because he is high on Methadone. If he stops using the Methadone after a period of four days to a week, his narcotic habit is gone and he has not had enough time to build up a habit on Methadone and so he can stop using drugs and not go through the horrors of withdrawal. 

The thing that I want to tell you is that I am almost positive that I am going to be able to get some more Methadone Wednesday. To me, this is like being given a reprieve from the electric chair. I have made all the arrangements to get the Methadone, and it wasn’t easy, and maybe I’ll get another chance for a “miracle.” If I use Methadone Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, I should be able to stop Saturday and feel very little, if any, ill effects. To me, this means that the hardest part will be taken care of. 

The other thing I want to tell you about concerns my friends in N.A. They want to help me, and I need them. What I would like to do is when I get out of work Friday, I want to pack a suitcase and go to Salem and check into a hotel near where they live. They can be with me constantly over the weekend and give me the moral support I need to get over the psychological part of it, which to me can be as bad as the physical. I know I have to have them near me because on a few past weekends when I tried to stop, I would be sitting home Saturday sick and all of a sudden, the phone would ring and my friend across the street would ask me if I intended to use anything today, and if I said “no,” he would tell me that he would like to have one last party and my mind just couldn’t hold out and would give in.

If I can get away from him and West Lynn this weekend and be with people who are trying to help me, I know I can make it. I will be constantly thinking of you also because you have given me the incentive to go through with this. I need you, Carrie, and I must get myself straightened out if I want to get you back here and be happy with you. Once I am straightened out, I can easily save 30 or 40 dollars a week to add to your money to get you back here. Right now, most of my money goes for drugs and it is futile to try to save any. At least after this weekend I will feel that I am working for a goal, and that goal is to get you back here. This will give me the drive that I need to stay away from drugs and feel that I really have something to look forward to.

I really felt touched when you wrote that you are praying for me and I don’t want your prayers to be in vain. I will need to do a lot of praying myself and ask the God of my understanding to help me to help myself to get through this thing.

I felt very sad when I read what you wrote about New Year’s Eve. It sort of reminds me of my own past New Year’s Eves. I can’t remember even one in the last 7 years or so when I have had a good time. I know just how you felt not having anyone to have a good time with because I didn’t have a good time either. I think that I went home about 10:00 and just read your last letter over until it was time to go to sleep. It doesn’t have to be this way for either of us anymore if everything turns out all right.

You said that you called me up Sunday hoping that it would make you feel a little better, but instead it made you feel worse. You wondered if I really felt better since you called as I said I did. The truth was that I felt better while I was talking to you, but afterwards, I became depressed because I wanted you with me and you weren’t there. I know that we’re both in a bad state of mind and are miserable right now, but please, honey, hang on and bear with me for a short while until I can beat this problem that is making a mess of everything right now.

You don’t know how it makes me feel to have a girl that is really interested in my welfare. When you told me in your letter that you are concerned about my health and well-being, I really almost felt like crying myself. Up to now, I’ve never run into a girl that really was interested in my life or in trying to help me. They were mostly only interested in being with me and having a good time. A relationship must go much deeper that this to really mean something. When you wrote that you needed me, it made me feel funny inside and I know that I just can’t let you down. Please don’t give up on me, and pray that I can get through this for us. 

Bye for now.

Love, Joe


January 16, 1964 (Thursday)

Dear Carrie, 

I received your pictures and letter today and I was really happy to get them. It’s a shame that only two pictures came out, but it’s nice to get even two. At least these two came out beautiful. You really do take some cute pictures. I love the one of you standing at the door of your apartment (at least I assume that it’s your apartment). You are a girl that looks wonderful dressed in casual clothes. Most girls have to dress up to look good, but casual clothes were just made for you. I guess that you’re more or less the “nature girl” type. That apartment of yours is really nice, and I can see why you hate to leave it.

I really didn’t intend to write you a letter this soon because I didn’t want to look like a sap if I wrote you a very optimistic letter soon after stopping drugs, and then falling apart later. 

My mother has one of her idiot friends in the house now and their incessant babble is really distracting me. I’ve tried to give them a hint by shutting the door to the living room where I’m writing, but to no avail. The woman who is here is what you would call “slightly eccentric,” which to me means she is just plain nuts, and she’s blabbering something about how she is going to go down to the draft board and give them a piece of her mind because they dared to send her son a draft notice. I wish that she would shut up or drop dead or do something. Ah! They’ve just noticed that it’s getting hot in the kitchen because I’ve got the door closed. Maybe they’ll get the hint. I should have gone down to the “Stage Door” to write in peace.

Well, anyway, I’ll tell you about how I have been doing since I called you Sunday. I made it sound as optimistic as possible Sunday so that you wouldn’t worry any, but it hasn’t been easy. The biggest trouble is not the physical part of it, but the psychological part. I probably wrote you in the past about the “void” that occurs when a person stops using drugs. It’s a good thing that I kept my fixes down to one a day because I don’t think I could stand more than one “void” a day. Maybe you’ve heard it said that a “mainliner” has the world’s worst habit. The reason for this is the fact that he gets psychologically addicted to the needle. I’m glad that I have been going to AA and NA because I wouldn’t have known how to combat it if I didn’t.

I had an experience Monday that made me aware of what I’d heard at NA and I was able to put it to use Tuesday. On Monday, I got up like any other day and went to work. Now that I think of it, I remember that Sunday night, you told me that you saw on television that New England and Mass had a heavy snowfall. I don’t know or understand how you heard it Sunday because it didn’t start to snow here until Monday morning. It was a full-scale blizzard and it started about 10 o’clock in the morning. When I left work, there was about 6 inches of snow already and I almost froze waiting for a bus. Before I got halfway home, although I was all right all day, a terrific desire suddenly struck me to stick a needle in my arm. 

This compulsion was so strong that I was thrown into a panic. I couldn’t control it and I remembered that the day before I was with my friend when he had the “works” (“works” is the needle and syringe, etc.) down the Saugus River under an overhang on the bank. The Saugus River is in back of my street and so I struggled through the snow to the river bank. It was about 5 degrees below zero and the wind was howling down the open river and the snow was blinding. I couldn’t remember exactly where along the bank that the “works” were hidden, but I knew that they were under a board about a foot long that was beneath a small overhang in the banking. 

The snow was blown up against the bank and I couldn’t even see where the bank was hollowed out. I began to clear away the snow along the base of the bank and work my way down the bank where I thought they were. Although I had gloves on, it was so cold and windy that I couldn’t even feel my hands or my legs and I had snow and ice sticking and freezing on my face, but I wouldn’t give up. I dug through snow until I couldn’t stand the cold any longer, then I gave up and went home. 

I swallowed a couple of Methadone pills hoping that they would help, but the terrible desire was still there. I thought about going to see my druggist to get some works if the buses were still running and I had all kinds of thoughts in my mind. I was really in a panic and was scared. Then the time rolled around to about 7:30 and as suddenly as the compulsion had come upon me, it left completely. This is when I was able to sit down and think things out. This is when all the things that I’d heard in AA and NA came back to me. 

I realized that for the past 4 months or so I had been using drugs once a day, always between the hours of 4:30 and 7:30. If I stopped using drugs, my mind would automatically scream for them between these hours. This is the “void” talked about in AA and now I know what they mean. Maybe you can understand what I’m talking about if I make an analogy to when you stopped smoking. Let’s say that you always had a cigarette right after eating lunch every day. When you stopped smoking, you would get a terrific desire to have a cigarette right after lunch. 

It’s similar with drugs. With me, the desire is not for the drug itself, but for the needle. You see, Monday I had the Methadone that would satisfy any physical need for the drugs, but yet I went into a panic trying to get a needle to inject the Methadone into a vein. So it is plain to see that my biggest problem is not a physical addiction to drugs, but a psychological addiction to the needle. This compulsion is indescribable, but I would like to try to describe it to you. 

First of all, the thought of a needle in your arm creeps into your mind. You can almost feel the needle going through the skin and see the liquid drug level going down in the eye dropper as it flows into your vein. You can almost feel the drug take immediate effect as it spreads swiftly through your system. All of a sudden, there is nothing in the world left but you and the needle and dropper. There is nothing in the world that means anything but getting to that needle and dropper. You begin to panic as you relive the injection again and again. You can’t keep your mind on anything because it always goes back to reliving the experience. You feel that the only thing important in the world is to get to a needle as soon as possible or it will be the end of the world. This feeling is terrible as it is a combined longing, fear and panic.

Now I began to remember things that would help me. First of all, at the last NA meeting I attended, there was a doctor present who was an addict who made the remark that he tells his patients that if they don’t act on a panicky feeling or emotion, that it will eventually go away. Just don’t act on it. This was a revelation to me because whenever I got that feeling of panic in relation to the needle, I always acted upon it in the past and went out and got the “works.” Now that I look back, I realize that sometimes when the panic struck, I would go and get the “works,” but by the time I got them, the feeling was gone but since I had the “works,” I used them.

Another thing in my favor was the fact that I realized that the compulsion would begin at about 4:30 and end by 7:30. In AA, they ask you to seek help from a higher power to stay away from one drink (or one fix in my case) for one day. They say that when it is rough, you may need to ask for help to stay away for an hour at a time, or maybe even 20 minutes. So when Tuesday came, I was prepared. As sure as clockwork, when 4:30 rolled around, the panic hit. 

First of all, this time I didn’t act on it. Next, I asked for help to keep me away from a fix just for a few hours. When it got bad, I told myself that I would give in and take a fix but not until 8 o’clock. Somehow, I lasted until 7:30 and all of a sudden, the compulsion just disappeared. I had won for another day. 

Wednesday, I almost got tripped up when my phone rang about 6 o’clock and my friend, who was kicking the habit along with me, called and told me that he didn’t last and that he had the works and drugs down his cellar and if I wanted some to go over to his house and help myself. I paced up and down the street fighting with myself inside, and when 7:30 came again, the compulsion disappeared and I didn’t even want any drugs. It gets easier every day, but I am still in danger and can’t let my guard down.

I’m sorry that I missed the NA meeting Monday night because of the blizzard, but it was also the blizzard that saved me from taking a fix Monday. I stopped using the Methadone Tuesday and I was really amazed. There was only the very slightest hint of withdrawal sickness and you wouldn’t even notice it unless you were really looking for it. Physically, I feel wonderful and have plenty of energy and even sleep at night soundly. 

For months now I have been living in fear of the physical withdrawal sickness, and I escaped it completely with Methadone. I understand now why I didn’t make it when I tried to stop in October. I wasn’t working then and was used to fixing at any hour of the day and so when I stopped, I had the terrible compulsion all day long. 

Also, I realize now that my health had deteriorated completely then, and after I stopped drugs I was physically sick and even my tongue had a thick white coat on it and I felt terrible. A few weeks ago, at an AA meeting, I met one of the guys who took me up to New Hampshire in October. He remarked how well I was looking. I said to him, “What do you mean? My mother tells me I look white and sick and I am still using drugs, so how can you tell me how good I look?” He replied that compared to when he took me to NH in Oct., that I looked like a million dollars. He said that I was turning yellow and looked like wax and just looked generally terrible in October. 

I can remember that just before I went to N.H. that I was an usher at my cousin’s wedding a week before. The wedding was on a Saturday, and Friday night I had a fix. On Saturday morning, I didn’t think that I’d make it through the wedding and everyone was asking my mother whether or not I was sick because I looked white as a sheet. I don’t even like to think of that day because I still remember how I felt. I guess that I’ve somehow managed to build up some health lately and it’s helped me to come through this. I have a little ways to go to get back to looking healthy again, but it shouldn’t take more than a month or so.

I remember that Sunday, I told you that I’d write and tell you what happened about getting the Methadone. First of all, I arranged to get it from a druggist friend of mine. He had to have a doctor’s prescription to cover it because it is a narcotic and so I obtained a prescription from a friend that was written in ink, and with a chemical I removed all the writing but the doctor’s signature and I wrote the prescription for Methadone on Sunday. On Wednesday, I went to the druggist as planned and gave him the script. He looked at it and shook his head. I asked what was wrong and he showed me. 

I hadn’t looked at the script since Sunday and it had turned yellow where I removed the ink. I really went into a panic as I saw all my plans crumble. I told him that I might be able to get the yellow off with some more of the chemical and asked him how long he would be there. He was going off duty in ½ hour and I didn’t have much time. I grabbed a bus home and put the chemical on again. I saw it didn’t work and that it smeared the ball point pen writing and I really began to get scared. I couldn’t face trying to kick the habit cold because I went through that once in Florida and thought I was going to die and really wished I was dead at the time. 

No doctors are in their offices on Wednesday and even if they were, I didn’t know of any that wrote for sure in ink. Most doctors write in ball point and you can’t get it off. It is almost impossible to get a blank script and besides, the druggist wasn’t on duty Thursday night. I went to a few people I know trying to get Methadone, but they couldn’t help. So here I was stuck with a good size habit and no way out. 

I went home and looked at the script again. The application of too much chemical had ruined the paper and it looked like it had been sandpapered. The seam where it was folded had cracked and ripped from the chemical, and I was about to throw it away when I got an idea. I remembered that I had a can of spray Damar varnish that I used on my paintings. I got the can and lightly dusted the script. When the varnish was still tacky, I rubbed chalk all over the surface except for the print and after the varnish dried, I wiped off the excess chalk. I repeated the process about 5 times, and I’ll be damned if the script didn’t look like it had been just ripped off of the pad. 

I glued the ripped seam carefully with clear plastic cement and then I retraced the writing where it still faintly showed through. After a little more touching up, it looked beautiful. The only trouble was that if you held it up to a strong light, you could see that the inside of the paper was all discolored and rotted. Actually, it was just a lot of discolored paper fiber held together by varnish. But it looked beautiful. 

The druggist was on duty Thursday morning, so I didn’t go to work in the morning and went over to see him. I said “I managed to get another script and here it is.” He looked at it and said “Well, that’s a hell of a lot better than the one you had yesterday.” He then counted out the pills while I kept up a constant stream of chatter so that he wouldn’t hold the script up to the light, and then I took the pills and thanked him and beat it. It’s really amazing the schemes you can think up when you’re desperate. I probably wouldn’t have thought of that in a million years under normal circumstances.

Well, I could afford to send you $70 this week towards the money you need and I have enclosed the money order. Next week or the week after, I’ll try to send you some more. I hope that between us we can get all the money you’ll need by the end of Feb. 

It feels good to be working towards a goal and to not be spending all my money for drugs. Getting you back here is something that is really helping me get away from drugs. I’d never be able to get any money for you if I was using and so this is a real incentive. It feels good not to have a constant, lingering fear in the back of my mind at all times, and I can’t get over the fact that I don’t begin to feel sick about 2 o’clock in work. I really feel good about the whole thing and I know that this is my last chance to get away from drugs for good.

I guess that you probably won’t get this letter until Monday. Since you are going into the hospital Tuesday, I’m glad that you’ll get it before then. I’m glad to hear that you can pay for your operation later as that will help. I’m looking forward to getting a letter from you soon, as I want to know your new address, etc.

I keep feeling that I’ve forgotten to write something that I wanted to, but I can’t remember what it is. I know I haven’t said all that I want to, but it is getting late and I have to go to work tomorrow. I’ll be looking forward to your letter. Bye now.

Love, Joe.

January 28, 1964

Dear Carrie, 

Since we didn’t get much of a chance to talk together last night, I want to write you a letter tonight. I have the opportunity to write tonight because it started snowing hard this morning and is still going full blast, and I can’t get out to a meeting tonight. There must be about 8 inches on the ground now, and drifts, too, and I doubt if the buses are even running.

I’m sorry if I didn’t sound too sociable on the phone last night, but I was quite sick and was sleeping when you called, and I was still half asleep when I was talking to you. The house was dark when you called, and if you remember, I asked you to hold on a second after I answered the phone, and I groped around to find the light and almost broke my fool neck tripping over the phone wires. I really don’t even remember too much of what we said to each other because of my half-asleep condition. 

When you didn’t call Sunday, I had a feeling that you’d call yesterday, and when I got home from work, I was really starting to get sick and all I felt like doing was crawling into a nice soft, warm bed and dying there. I figured that I would try to call you at work and then go to bed and try to go to sleep, if I could sleep, until morning. When the girl who answered the phone told me that you were no longer with the company, I was slightly shocked to say the least, and I figured that later on in the evening I would try to call your old number and see if you had moved yet or not. 

Since I had to find out what happened to you, I figured I might as well get off my rear and get to the meeting in Boston and call you when I got back. I somehow got myself cleaned up and shaved and off to Boston. I felt better among friends who understood my present predicament at the meeting and was glad I went. I got home about 11:30 and called your old number, but the girl that answered said that you’d already moved. I decided to go to sleep, and if you called, the phone would wake me up.

I received your letter Saturday and when I read it, I felt terrible. You told me how happy you would be if I were still off of drugs and how as of Saturday it would be almost two weeks and that you were praying for me. I could have crawled into a hole because I felt so small. This is really the most difficult and serious crisis that I’ve had to face in years, and the fact is constantly on my mind that I must succeed or my world is going to completely collapse. I guess that I might as well tell you what happened.

Actually, when I called you last Sunday, I didn’t mention something, and it was that I suddenly started to feel sick Sunday night. I didn’t realize until Monday that I was getting a delayed reaction from the Methadone even though it was 5 days after I’d stopped using it. I guess that it stays in your system much longer than any other drug. Monday morning, I woke up sick and vomiting, but I went to work and struggled through the day.

Tuesday I was even sicker, and I stayed home from work. I almost regretted doing this because about noontime the desire started torturing my mind, and I came close to going and getting drugs. I know now that no matter how sick I feel, I must try to get out and go to work because the desire does not strike me when I am in work. Wednesday and Thursday, I felt better, and Friday I felt good and had no intention of taking a fix at all. I intended to go home after work and get washed and dressed and go to a meeting. 

You probably remember that I told you about my friend across the street who I am trying to get to stop with me. My biggest problem in staying away from drugs is really him. My friends in AA have been telling me that I must build up positing thinking defenses through AA conditioning if I am going to stay off of drugs. These defenses must become second nature to me so that when dangerous situations arise, I will automatically have a defense. I didn’t quite know what they meant at the time, but I do now. When I ran into my friend Friday night, I went to his house and he then told me that he had used drugs Friday and said that he had half left and told me that I could have it, and with that he put the drugs, needle, and dropper in front of me.

My mind started reeling and I wanted to ask God for help or run or do something, but my mind just went blank and all I could do was reach for the stuff. I had no defenses at all. After I used it, I felt that terrible deep remorse and felt disgusted with myself. I went into a panic and felt that I had blown the whole deal. The next day when I ran into him, I told him that I was going home and take a nap because I felt lousy and then I was going to a meeting. 

When I was sleeping, the phone rang, and it was him. He told me that he thought I might have gone over to score some drugs instead of going home and asked me if I did. I told him no and said I was sleeping before heading for the meeting. This shook me up a little and I tried to escape back into sleep again. 

About a half hour later, the phone rang again and it was him. He said that he had gone over and scored the drugs and that his mother wasn’t home and to come over. This was too much for me and I couldn’t fight it without defenses, and I used again. I’m not blaming him for my failure, but I’m saying that he sure doesn’t help matters any. I can’t condemn him for inducing me to use drugs with him because I know what he is going through also and understand the terrible feeling of loneliness and despair that drives him to trying to get me to use when he does. 

By now I was in a complete state of panic and just blindly used drugs Sunday like an automaton without even being able to think. By now, I felt the complete terror just knowing that I was going to have to be sick again. It’s funny, but as my drug addiction progressed through the years, the physical severity of the withdrawals has progressively lessened, but the psychological terror of facing a withdrawal has tremendously increased. 

Some of my first withdrawals were of the classic variety with the clawing the walls and shaking so bad I’d fall off the bed and the constant desire to just scream because of the physical torture that was unbearable, etc. but as time went on, even though I was using more drugs, the physical part became less and less severe. But now to offset this, the psychological fear and terror of facing a withdrawal tremendously increased. If I even use drugs for a few days now, I am in mortal terror of the sickness that I know is coming and it’s so difficult to face it. Now a withdrawal affects me like a severe case of the flu, but I’m terrified of it. 

Well, anyway, I finally calmed myself down and realized that all wasn’t lost and I prepared to face the sickness Monday. I was lucky that I was able to get some pills called “Hycodan” that is a relatively weak codeine derivative that I could use if I got really bad. By the time I got back to Lynn from the meeting, I was really sick and I was vomiting all the way back from the bus stop to my house. I took a couple of the pills and they were just enough to take the edge off and stop the shakes and vomiting. I still felt a little sick and I was glad because it meant that I was withdrawing. 

This morning I felt terrible and took a few more pills and they took the edge off again enough to get to work. I don’t dare stay home from work because I had a day out last week and it’s dangerous to stay home anyway because of the desire. I’ll probably be sick with this gradual withdrawal until Friday or Saturday, but it will be worth it. 

I heard some real good news tonight that will be a big help. I met my friend today and he was so sick this morning that he didn’t go to work but stayed home and scored himself some junk and used today. He wouldn’t take my advice about using the Hycodan to withdraw with, but he will now. Anyway, he told me that when he went over to score this morning that the connection told him that he wouldn’t be on duty Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. This is wonderful because it means that I couldn’t get drugs if I wanted to on these days and I won’t have to fight a terrible desire besides being sick. Usually, the connection is there for a time every day and that makes it harder for me. 

So tonight, I talked my friend into giving me his needles and equipment, which I destroyed, and I told him I’d get him some Hycodan tomorrow so that he can ease off with me. Now I don’t have to worry about him getting drugs during the day and having them when I see him after work. Now when I go to bed Friday night, I don’t have to worry about fighting the desire all day Saturday.

I am really in a predicament because I am attempting to get someone else off of drugs before I am on solid ground myself. I shouldn’t attempt to do this until I’ve been off at least 3 months, but I have no choice because in a way, my success depends on whether or not he is using drugs. I can’t avoid him because he’s always at my house or right where I am. But I am going to change my tactics a little. 

Up until now, I’ve been trying to drag him to meetings and talk him into going. He’s always complaining that the meeting is in another city and he hasn’t got a ride, etc. Noone has to drag me to meetings, I get there by bus, cab, train, or walk. I’m just going to let him know that I’m through chasing him and that if he wants to get off of drugs bad enough he knows where I live and can call me up to go to a meeting with. 

This guy really has a double problem in that he is an alcoholic, too. I’ve told him a thousand times that if he is trying to kick a drug habit not to drink because when the booze wears off you feel twice as sick as if you just were normally withdrawing from drugs. I know this from experience and would never touch a drop of liquor when withdrawing. So where do I find him when he is attempting to stop using drugs? You guessed it! In the barroom half loaded. And the next day he cries to me about how sick he was in the morning and he had to use drugs. 

I understand his problem because he is at the stage now that I passed through years ago. But now that neither he or I will be able to get drugs Thurs. through Sat., for all I care he can drink himself to oblivion on those days because he can’t score junk and torment me by my knowing he has it. Let’s just hope and pray that everything works out all right.

I probably won’t be able to send you any more money until next Thursday when I get paid because I have a day out of work last week and I also had to pay some money to Blue Cross for a 3-month coverage. When I wasn’t working, I went on an individual plan and sent them a check for $40. They told my company that if I would pay $15 right now on the group plan that they would send me my $40 check back. I should get the check back shortly, I guess. I could send you some money this Thursday, but it would only be about $30, so I’ll wait until next week and get another money order. I want to send you money pretty much as I get it because once it’s mailed to you, I can’t spend it foolishly.

You mentioned in your letter about coming back the end of March for fear of getting caught in a storm. It’s really up to you, Carrie, because even though I would like to have you back as soon as possible, you’re the one that actually has to make the trip. Whatever you decide is best for you is o.k. with me.

You know, Carrie, sometimes when I’m feeling low and remorseful as now, I often wonder if it’s possible that the biggest favor that you could do yourself would be to just forget about me completely. Sometimes, I wonder why you put up with me instead of getting yourself a nice, normal guy whose biggest concern in life isn’t a constant battle against narcotics. I’m really no bargain, you know, and it worries me at times if you will be disappointed and regret leaving California to come back here. I want you to really know what you are doing because I’d hate to have you resent me for influencing you to come back here. 

Another thing that bothers me is wondering if I will constantly have to compete against California for your heart. As you know, I’m trapped here for a few years and can’t leave and I don’t think that I could take having you longing to be living in California and not being able to take you back there. I want to have an understanding with you that if at any time you decide that you would rather be back living in California than here with me, that you won’t brood about it but will just come out and tell me. I know that I am the type who, if he sensed that you would rather be back in California, would find this eating away at him and as a result, I would be miserable and would probably make you miserable also. 

I understand the fact that there is a possibility that we might not make it together and if so, it really won’t be either one of our faults, but will just be the way that things are, and I’m certainly not the type that would become angry with you or would attempt to force his attentions upon you if that were the case. But I am aware that we both realize that we do have something for each other, perhaps more so than for anyone else that either one of us has ever met before. If this wasn’t the case, I’m sure that our correspondence wouldn’t have continued anywhere near this length of time, especially with me who has never before written more than a couple of pages to the same person more than once. 

I still am quite amazed at the fact that I can sit down and write many pages to you and enjoy doing it while I couldn’t even write one page for anyone else without considering it an ordeal. I can’t even sit down and write my brother a letter because I just can’t sense a transmission line between him and I like I can between you and I. To most people, I can only write about trivial things that mean nothing, but I can really go into depth with you and feel that I’m doing something that means something when I write you a letter.

By the way, I hope that you’re ok with that operation. What are you doing bowling so soon after getting out of the hospital? If you happen to release the ball and have the feeling that a zipper let go somewhere, just feel your spine and see if you are minus a half dozen stitches or so. 

Take care of yourself and be good. Bye now.

Love, Joe.

February 6, 1964 (Thursday)

Dear Carrie,

Hello angel, I just wanted to drop you a few lines tonight before I went to bed. This is going to be a short letter because it is almost 11:00 p.m. now. I just came home and it is pouring out and somehow the rain puts me in the mood for writing. I figure that maybe if I drop this letter in the mailbox tomorrow morning that you might get it Saturday. 

I’ve enclosed another money order for you. It’s not as much as I would liked to have sent, but I ran into unexpected expenses when I had a little slip with drugs. The expenses included the money for drugs on the days that I used and mainly the money to get some more Methadone when I discovered that I was getting deathly sick trying to taper off with the Hycodan that I wrote you about.

In fact, last Thursday night, after trying to taper down with Hycodan all week, I came home from work very sick and determined not to take anything that night. I lay down on the couch at 5 pm with a blanket wrapped around me and went into a fitful, nightmarish sleep until about 10 pm, when I got up and washed and shaved and went to bed for a miserable night. 

I took a couple of Hycodan to get me to work Friday morning, and Friday night I was so sick again that I went right to bed after work. I was lucky over the weekend in that I was able to make a connection for some more Methadone even though I had to pay through the nose for it, and I was able to get through to this week very nicely without being sick. I don’t need anything now and I pray that this is the end of it. I’m so sick and tired of being sick and tired that to me, just living normal and not feeling lousy would mean more to me than having a million dollars. 

I remember last spring, when I had just got out of Walpole and recall how physically well I felt and how enthused I was with life, and I feel a great wave of nostalgia sweep over my being. My worst day then was better than my best day with drugs during the last 5 months or so.

I think of you constantly, day and night, and you are really always on my mind. I don’t know why, but somehow that letter that you wrote to me during the first of January keeps coming to my mind. That was the letter just before New Year’s in which you told me about how lonely you were and how bad you felt about the coming New Year’s Eve because you had no one to have a good time with and you could only remember one New Year’s Eve in the last seven or so during which you enjoyed yourself. The night that you wrote that letter was the same night you called me up because you were feeling low and wanted to talk to me. 

That was the letter in which you told me for the first time how you felt about me and you told me that you needed me. That really did something to me when you told me that. I have had other girls tell me that they needed me but they really needed me like another hole in the head because they had everything that they needed and all they needed with me was another plaything. I know that for many years you have really had no one at all and have had no one to lean on or to share your joys and sorrows with who really understood you. You were not made to exist alone and more than anything else in the world, you need someone who also needs you. 

That is why I was so moved when you wrote that you needed me, and also that you thought we are suited for each other and have a good chance of making it together. I could never forget that letter and I read it over often because I love it. One thing is for sure, and it is that I need you. I both need and want you more than anything. I almost can’t believe that you are really coming back to me and that we are going to be together at last. We can help each other so much, which is what we both need. 

Sometimes, I become very worried wondering whether or not I will disappoint you. Instead of worrying about this, I really should just look at it from the standpoint of figuring that we will either take to each other or we won’t, and either way, it will just be the way that things were meant to happen and neither one of us will be at fault if things don’t work out. But I guess that I’m really too emotional and should be inclined to blame myself if things flop.

I shouldn’t worry so much because two people like us, who have come to have such feeling for each other as a result of just correspondence and phone calls, should come to have much more feeling for each other in person.

It won’t be long before we are together in person and I want to be ready for you as far as my drug problem goes. Once you get here with me, I will feel a lot safer as far as drugs are concerned because you will become a whole new interest in life for me. It will be so interesting and such fun to get to know each other in depth that we should become very absorbed in each other.

Well, it’s time for bed now and I’ll have to close now as much as I hate to. By the way, tell me more about your puppy-dog. He should be a good companion for you on your trip back. Be good now and bye.

Love, Joe. 

February 20, 1964 (Thursday)

Dear Carrie,

Well, here I am again. Bet you thought I’d died or something as far as letters are concerned. I’m finally out of that miserable state of mind and lousy mood that I’ve been in for the last few weeks. At the moment, I’m sitting on the couch with my foot in a bucket of boiling hot water and Epsom salts (ouch). The balloon-sized foot is a little token of esteem from the blizzard that we had yesterday. Of course, this blizzard was really just what we needed seeing that we had the last one only Sunday. And there are rumors that we may have the pleasure of another one this coming Saturday. The next time I hear someone remark how pretty that the snow looks, I am going to bodily lunge upon him.

Well, anyway, I seemed to have injured the foot while battling my way to work in the blizzard yesterday morning. I didn’t start to notice it until today in work when I found that I could hardly walk. By the time I limped home, I knew damn well that once I took off the shoe that it wasn’t going to get back on again for a few days anyway. I can’t even put on a stocking now, never mind a shoe because it’s so sore. I think that I’ll call up the boss tomorrow morning and tell him that I’ll put on a slipper and an overshoe and take a cab to work if he can arrange to find me something to do that I can sit down all day while doing.

By the way, as another result of yesterday’s blizzard, I turned out to be a father. The only trouble is that the baby has wings. I missed my usual Peabody bus because of the storm yesterday morning and so I had to walk across Central Square to the bus stop under the railroad bridge in order to get the Lakeside bus. When I was in the middle of the street under the bridge, I noticed something flopping around in the snow. I picked it up and saw that it was a baby bird. I just held it cupped in my hands until the bus came because it was too cold and snowing to try to tuck it away. 

When I got on the bus, I put it inside my fur lined glove to keep it warm because the poor thing was half frozen. Don’t ask me what kind of idiot bird has babies in the middle of the winter because I’m still not really sure what it is. All I know is that it’s a big baby because I could just about get it into my glove. It can’t be more than 3 weeks old because its feathers still haven’t grown in on its head and breast and part of its back. It must stand 4 inches high when it stands up straight. 

Anyway, I got off the bus at the last stop, which is about a 5 minute walk from work, and I had to push my way through the blizzard and cradle the bird at the same time, and by the time I got to work, I was soaked from the wet snow and exhausted, etc. Everyone got a big kick out of the baby bird in my glove and the boss asked me what pond I dived into to get him because both I and the bird were soaked.

The boss seems to know about birds and he told me how I had to feed him. It’s too young to know how to eat by itself, so I have to feed it like the mother does. It’s really quite a trick to feed the baby and it took me a few attempts to get the knack. You have to hold the bird in your left hand and put a piece of food on the index finger of your right hand. You hold the sides of its beak between the thumb and index finger of your left hand and pry it open with one of your righthand fingers. As you try to keep the beak wedged open with the left hand, you slide the food on your finger into its beak and down its throat.

It sounds easy but don’t forget – the bird squirms. Tonight, the baby had all kinds of energy and was bouncing all around. Yesterday, when I found it, it was half dead. I am really quite attached to “Peepski” already. I named it “Peepski” because it is forever “peeping” when I am near it. The baby thinks that I’m its father (or mother). I leave it with my Grandmother, who baby-sits and feeds it during the day, and when I get home from work I take and feed it and play with it for a while and put it to sleep. I guess that it will be interesting to see what kind of bird that it will grow up to be.

Well, I’m almost ashamed to write you about last week, but it’s over and done with now and there’s no sense keeping it from you. The whole week is almost a blur now, if that’s any indication of how bad it was. I guess it was the Monday of last week (not the Monday that just passed, but the one before) that my friend across the street said he was sick and needed some junk. I told him who to go and see and when he came back a few hours later, I was astounded. He had with him three or four bottles, and they contained more morphine than I have seen in quite a long time. I said to myself “I’m sick of fighting this miserable desire, so why don’t I just say “the hell with it” and enjoy myself?” I conned myself right into it.

That night, for the first time since I started using again in September, I was able to put enough morphine into my arm to give me the sensation that I used to get seven years ago when I first started. The amount that it took to recapture this sensation would have killed two normal men stone dead. The sensation is like being taken from an icy bath and flung bodily into a roaring furnace of ecstasy. The feeling is instantaneous and unbelievable. I figured that now I was just going to shoot dope and the hell with everything. 

But I learned a valuable lesson out of this. The second and third day, I recaptured this wonderful feeling again, and afterwards in the evening I felt wonderful and wanted to walk around and go places, etc. On the fourth day, there was something wrong! I woke up in the morning soaked with sweat and feeling awful when I should have felt good because I still had plenty of junk in my system. That evening, I knew that there was something wrong because no matter how much morphine I shot, I still felt sickly and had no energy and just wanted to sit or lie and sleep.

The next morning, I woke up soaked with sweat again, and the same thing that night. The drugs just weren’t doing anything for me anymore. I became aware of something that I forgot existed with drugs and that I had experienced before several years ago. I had passed a point that is analogous to the point that an alcoholic passes when he crosses the line from social drinking to alcoholism and alcohol will no longer help him physically. The amazing thing was that in the past, it took me a long period of time to reach this point, but last week it took only 3 days. 

I couldn’t believe it, but it kept getting worse, I couldn’t sleep at night, and in the morning my pajamas would be wringing wet, and at night I got no pleasure out of the morphine even though I had all I wanted and I was just miserable. By this time, by arm looked as if the Russian Army had marched over it as it was swollen and sore in several places from not getting the drugs into a vein and having them get under the skin and fester. Also, because I don’t have any veins to speak of anyway, I had what looked like railroad tracks running up and down my arm from trying to find veins. In short, I just made a first-class mess out of myself. 

By Sunday, I had all I could stand and I just wanted out. I’m glad that I had the foresight to buy $20 worth of Methadone so that when the Morphine ran out, I was not going to be left in such a condition that I would probably go out of my mind withdrawing. Sunday, I used Morphine and I was getting so mad that I wasn’t getting anything out of it that I just kept using more and more and getting madder and madder because it wouldn’t make me feel wonderful and it seemed that the more I used, the worse I felt. 

I woke up Monday morning soaked with sweat, as usual, and took a few Methadone and went to work. The Methadone didn’t help and I spent a miserable day. Tuesday, I felt better and just used a few Methadone. By Wednesday, I started to feel good again and I was very happy about it. I have not had that burning desire to use Morphine or an opiate all this week. In fact, it seems to me to be a great relief to get away from them. When I think of last week, I shudder and don’t long for more of the same. 

As far as my friend is concerned, in the past I used to feel that I couldn’t stay off unless he did, and I tried to get him to stay off with me. When he failed, I did also. Now things just seem to strike me different and I realize that he isn’t going to stop and that I am just going to have to accept the fact that he is going to be using while I’m not. This bothered me terribly before, in fact it caused me to start using again, and I was always very concerned about this fact. Now, I just don’t seem to care if he is using or not. I just hope and pray that I continue in this state of mind that I am in at the moment and that the desire doesn’t suddenly grasp me.

The fact that I have been using Methadone this week doesn’t give me a guilty feeling because I know in my own mind what my motives are. The Methadone just allows me to withdraw from the Morphine painlessly. I really don’t care for Methadone as a drug to get high on as you would use Morphine because there is very little effect from it. I got some for my friend to use if he wants to stop, but he hasn’t ever used it because he knows that it won’t get him high. It just makes me feel normal and when I stop using it, there is really no reaction. 

I won’t be using any Methadone tomorrow and I am anxious to see if the desire to shoot Morphine stays away in the future. Maybe I proved something to myself last week because I expected to have a ball for as long as the Morphine lasted, but instead I found nothing but misery. Well, we’ll see.

Really, Carrie, I guess that I just can’t talk to you over the phone the way I would if you were here. There are many things that I don’t ever want to talk about with you over the phone because I know I’ll just make a mess out of them. I think that you’re like me in that you have to be with a person and also be in the right mood and sense that the other person is also in the right mood before you can talk about some things. 

I was trying to explain to you Sunday how I just can’t seem to realize that you are going to be back here, but I guess I didn’t get it across. You see, I’m pretty foggy lately and I’ve been living in the same rut since September and the idea of changes that will be pleasant just doesn’t penetrate. I’ve been writing to you and phoning you for so long that it just doesn’t really penetrate that the time I’ve waited for all this time will be here shortly when you come back. It’s sort of like when I was in prison, I knew I was getting out, but as the time for release drew near, it just didn’t penetrate that I was really going to go on the outside because I had been there for so long that it almost seemed that no other way of life existed.

Well, anyway, maybe you know what I’m trying to say. To me, it’s just like a dream that you are going to come back and doesn’t seem to really exist, but all of a sudden it’s going to be reality and you are going to be here and that’s the time when I’m going to suddenly know that everything has changed.

Well, I’ve got to close now, so bye and be good.

Love, Joe.

March 5, 1964 (Thursday)

Dear Carrie,

I received your letter today and I’m glad that it came today rather than tomorrow because I intended to write to you tonight anyway. I feel so bad about all the rotten luck that you’ve been having lately concerning that loan of Bonnie’s. I know that you’re the type like myself that does a lot of worrying and brooding and I hate to see things like this make you miserable. 

But now that money problems have been created, I’m going to have to get on the ball if we’re going to get you back here next month. I wish that I had known a few months back that you were going to need a lot more money than we originally counted on because I would have been more careful about getting money to you. I’ve been in such a miserable state of mind and such a mental fog for the last month that I hadn’t paid attention to what I was going with the pay each week. 

I know that for a few weeks a lot of money went for drugs and I remember a couple of big bills, and the net result was that I never had any money at the end of the week. I am just beginning to realize that it is only a matter of 3 or 4 weeks until the time that you want to leave. Last month it seemed that it was still an eternity away when you would be returning. In fact, it seemed too far away to really be something to look forward to or to count on. But now it has hit me when I looked at the calendar and saw that it is already March that time is getting short. 

I really don’t feel too good about only being able to send you $30 this week, but it was all I could spare from my pay. I hope to be able to send you more next week. The way things stand now, I see that I have to get about $150 more to you in the next three or four weeks. With a little luck I should be able to make it. I guess for once I’ll have to pay attention to what I do with my pay. 

I wish that I could just take out a loan and send it to you but there are several reasons why I can’t. When I got arrested 3 years ago, I owed a loan company $200 and they bothered my mother for 6 months before she paid them off. I gave her back the money when my tax return for the year came in, but I’m sure that my credit with the loan companies is zero now. 

Even if I could borrow the money, I would be afraid to because the situation that I am in now doesn’t permit me to make any definite plans for the future and I really can’t even plan ahead for one week because I’m too unstable. Why, just last week over the phone, I was trying to talk you out of coming back because I was just completely disgusted with everything and I didn’t see where I could possibly do you any good. 

I had been in that mood for weeks and I hadn’t even been out of the house at night for several weeks. I was trying to escape into sleep and I slept every spare moment I had. Some days, I would get 12 hours sleep and I still wouldn’t want to wake up in the morning to face another day. The cold weather had a lot to do with it and I’m pulling out of that mood now because the weather has become beautiful in the last few days. The last few nice warm days have triggered a little tingle inside that seems to make me feel that maybe I’m alive after all. 

Well, getting back to the money problem, I figure that if I can send you $40 a week and maybe borrow $50 or so the last week that I should be able to get you enough to leave by the first week of April. I realize now that even though I have made a big improvement by cutting down the amount of drugs that I use to 3 Methadone a day that it isn’t good enough because it costs me about $25 a week for this amount and I can’t afford this much plus my weekly expenses if I want to send you $40 a week. I’ve got to stop using altogether. 

So far, I’ve got myself away from using drugs to seek oblivion and it’s an improvement because I never thought that I could do this. I always had to use enough to get really loaded or I wasn’t satisfied and I craved more. This small amount that I’m using now just seems to satisfy some inner desire and leave me contented. I really don’t think that I physically need it, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy to stop. 

For instance, last Sunday I miscalculated and when I went down to get some Methadone, my connection had already left for the day. I just can’t describe the feeling of panic that went through me and the butterflies that I had in my stomach for hours afterwards until I finally remembered that my friend had a few pills that I gave him the day before and he didn’t use them because they don’t get him loaded and he’ll only take them in an emergency when he’s sick. 

As soon as I got the pills in my hand, the panic disappeared and I felt good again. In reality, I probably didn’t even need them, but I just can’t explain the panic and butterflies, etc. To me these things are as bad as being physically addicted and sick. I’m really not sure if I’m physically addicted or not. All I know is that when I had all that Morphine about 3 weeks ago that by the time I got out of work I was starting to really feel sick but now with the Methadone I don’t seem to feel any sickness coming on by the time work is over. I guess the thing to do is to work up the courage to stop and see what happens. I really feel ashamed of myself because in most things I seem to have a fairly strong power of will but I seem to be helpless against drugs and I don’t like it.

I noticed that in your letter you said that you thought that I seriously wanted to give up drugs. I’m glad that you have got that much faith in me because it really is the truth. I know what goes on in my own mind and I realize that drugs are not for me. Many addicts are happy and contented using drugs and their only concern is that they get a continuous supply. My mind is constantly troubled with thoughts of how I can stop using and I always feel remorseful because I am using when I don’t want to. 

I am not happy using drugs, in fact I am miserable, and if I were happy using drugs, I wouldn’t be wasting all this time going to AA and NA, in fact, I wouldn’t even be wasting time writing to you or trying to get you back here because drugs would be my whole life and I would have no use for girls or much of anything else for that matter. 

Actually, my problem is very similar to that of the alcoholic. Some people enjoy drinking and it doesn’t hurt them but others find alcohol to be a problem in that it changes their personality and sets up a compulsion in them that causes their body and mind to demand more alcohol even though this alcohol is doing nothing but making them miserable and causing them to lose their health and their sanity. 

I don’t doubt that a lot of addicts are perfectly content and happy using drugs, but others, like myself, find that drugs cause disturbances within their minds and even make them develop compulsive traits and idiosyncrasies that they would not normally have. I find that drugs cause me to have an eternally troubled mind in which molehills are built into mountains continuously and I don’t like this because it is not pleasant. The end result is clear and it is that I can never be happy while using drugs. If I were happy using drugs, I would never admit to you that I was using because you might want me to stop. 

Right now it seems ironic to me that when I first started corresponding with you that I was the one who wanted to help you but now it looks like I am the one who needs the help from you. I never figured that it would turn out this way. The solution for me is simple but is not easy. What I need is someone like you whom I can look forward to being with in my spare time and who is interested in seeing me stay away from drugs. If I had someone here now that I could get with after work and stay with until it was time to go home, then I could break the habit without too much trouble. But at the moment, my best friend is also using drugs so I can’t count on him for help. In fact, if anything, he is a hindrance. 

Maybe I could find someone in AA who goes to meetings every night who would be willing to let me meet him after I get out of work and go to a meeting with him every night. Someone like that might be hard to find. 

That reminds me, I got a phone call from a friend in AA and NA tonight who was calling to find out if I was still around because I haven’t been to any meetings for weeks except for this Tuesday and last Saturday. He said that the NA group that meets in Boston on Monday nights now has another meeting on Thursday night. I can feel the interest in AA and NA coming back again. A few weeks ago, I didn’t care about anything and I just wanted to sleep myself to death, but I hope that things will look brighter now. You are the one that will really make the difference though because you mean something to me and I know that I will enjoy being with you. 

You asked me if I think I could be pretty well rid of drugs in a year’s time. Actually, if I stay off for a month I will be just as rid of drugs as I will be in a year, but of course the longer I am off, the more defenses I can build up against ever taking that first fix again. A friend in NA told me once that the hard part is not getting off but it is staying off. I didn’t believe him at the time because I had just gone through an ordeal to get off, but now I can see that he is right.

I have enclosed a few pictures that I had someone take while I was fooling around with the Polaroid getting indoor lighting settings figured out. The one on the bed was taken up my friend’s room (when I wasn’t expecting it). In return, I got one of him sitting cross-legged on the chair in front of the window in his shorts while sticking a hypodermic needle in his arm looking for a vein (he wasn’t expecting that one either). It came out so beautiful with the right mood and lighting and all that I bet it would have won a photo contest. Of course, he almost tore my arm off to get it away from me and burn it. 

The others were taken in my living room where my mother wanted a picture of herself sitting on the piano stool. I had to figure out the settings and the right color clothes to wear so I tried a few of myself with different colored sweaters on. I finally got a few good ones of her a she was happy.

Well, I can’t think of what I forgot to write so I’ll close now. Here’s hoping that everything goes well for both of us in the next few weeks. I’ll call you Sunday night. That reminds me, I think that I’ll have to talk to you for only a short while because if I get any more phone bills like the last one it will keep me from getting money to you. I think that I have one coming for about $20 now, so we’ll have to cut down, as much as I hate it. Bye for now.

Love, Joe.

March 26, 1964 (Thursday)

Dear Carrie, 

I’m really not too much in a writing mood tonight, or lately, but I want to send a few pages to you because we both haven’t written in quite a while. Actually, the phone calls that we make each week take the place of letters and we don’t lose contact with each other. 

First of all, I want to be sure that I’ve figured out your arrangements right. You see, it occurred to me, after we talked Monday, that I will actually have two chances to send you money before you leave. That is why I only sent you $40 this week. If I sent you any more, I would probably be broke for the week, so I figure that I can send you some more next week. Let me know when you call Sat. if I have figured correctly and if I send you another check on April 2nd which you will receive on April 4th that it will fit in with your plans to leave on the following Monday if I have understood correctly.

Really, Angel, I live only for the time when you will be back here with me. I don’t seem to have much interest in anything else. If it hadn’t been for the thought in my mind that you were going to return, I think I would have given up long ago and just asked to be returned to Walpole where I could recover and build up a renewed interest in living on the outside again. Actually, it has just been this thought that has caused me to have the incentive to hang on for the last few months. 

I really expect to be able to snap right out of it once you return because to me, it will be just like starting a new life with new habits and interests, etc. I have known that what I need to stay away from drugs is a constant companion who I have a genuine interest in, but I have not been able to find such a girl here. It will be such a relief to get rid of the need and desire for drugs that it really will be like being reborn into a new life for me. I know that I can’t do it alone and I need help because right now and in the past back here there has not been anything in life that I cared enough for to make the supreme effort to give up drugs. 

My friends have told me that I should give up drugs because I have a good job and can advance and make money if I want to. They can’t see that if I were working on a job just to make money and support myself, I’d sooner be back in Walpole and let the State support me. I’d be accomplishing the same thing in both instances – nothing. I need something beyond material things to be interested in life.

Well, Carrie, after I wrote the last sentence, I closed my eyes for what I thought was a short time but it turned out to be 3 hours and it is now about midnight. I’m sorry I didn’t get to write more, but I’ll be talking to you Sat. anyway. I want to get this letter and check in the mail in the morning so I’ll close now. I really have so much to talk to you about when you get back that I can hardly wait. I know that we’ll spend many happy hours together then. Goodbye for now and be good.

Love, Joe.

April 2, 1964 (Thursday)

Dear Carrie, 

I received your Easter card and I want to thank you. I’ll only have time to write you a few lines tonight because it’s about 11:00 now. I could only manage to send you $25 this week but at least it’s something.

I guess that this is the last letter that I’ll be writing to you since you will be leaving Monday. I never thought that I’d really see the day when you would actually be coming back. It’s going to be so good to have you around to talk to and to take out on dates. We can have so many good times together. 

It really seems so long ago that we first became acquainted. I think that it is amazing that we have held each other’s interest for so long through only corresponding and phone calls without ever actually meeting. I know that much has happened since we first received each other’s letter. We have both followed each other through the past few years and have each been aware of the other’s ups and downs from week to week. I guess that there isn’t too much of each other’s lives that we don’t know about for the past few years. 

I know that neither one of us has been very happy for any length of time since we began corresponding. I know that I have had a much more radical series of personality changes than you have. You have remained pretty much the same, but I haven’t. When I first started writing to you from Walpole I was a very frustrated individual who was at war with society and religion and people in general. I know that this great hatred almost drove me to the brink of insanity, and I realize now that much of this hatred was due to a hatred of myself and an inability to accept myself and my shortcomings. 

After I was out of Walpole for a short time, I know that I had a complete change of personality. I became very enthused with life and developed an obsession for painting and surrealism. I was very enthused with work and felt that the effort I was putting into it would get me advancement and good pay. I also had a girl for a companion and I am never happier than when I am going with a girl that I enjoy being with. This period lasted for four or five months, but I wasn’t completely happy because I was still writing to you and I wanted you to be here. 

It was during last summer that I began to lose this enthusiasm for life and to change again. The girl and I broke up and I became aware that my job was a dead-end with no advancement and not even a decent wage in sight. I was depressed and brooding for several months and was ripe for the picking when the opportunity to use drugs afforded itself. The drugs seemed to brighten life at the time, and I couldn’t see the consequences. Drugs became more and more a part of my life, and interest in other things slowly but surely died.

Eventually my whole life became built around drugs. I was very lucky that somehow I managed to not let the habit progress to the point where I lost touch with life completely. In the past, I resigned myself to a life of drugs and used drugs ten or more times a day until I really lived in a little shell of a world that consisted of only drugs. This time, I have not let myself believe that I cannot escape from drugs. 

I have kept the use down to once a day and I have made some progress in the past few months. Up until a few months ago, I was using drugs to seek oblivion only. If I didn’t get loaded until I was in another world, I wasn’t satisfied and had to use more. I have managed to break away from this type of drug use and use a synthetic narcotic to satisfy the craving while I tried to regain a touch with life.

Of course, it isn’t a solution to use one drug in place of another because you are merely transferring the dependence. I don’t like to use Methadone because it affects me I the same way as real narcotics. It has the same physical effect and changes my personality in the same manner. The big difference is that with the other drugs I was using, the fear of physical withdrawal was so intense that I was actually terrified at the very thought of stopping. The fear of stopping and the knowledge that I faced a withdrawal so worried and terrified me that I used more drugs to try to blot out these thoughts from my mind. 

With Methadone, I have a slight fear of stopping but not anywhere near as severe as with the others. I know that I’ll be sick when I stop but not anywhere near as bad as with the others.  It has been the desire that has defeated me in my attempts to stop using Methadone. When I stop, the desire blots out any interest that I might have in anything. I need someone to help me regain an interest in life after I’ve stopped. I want to try to stop again this weekend – starting tomorrow – and I hope that I can hold out until you are back. 

I hope that you will call me Sat. night so that we can discuss a few things. I was thinking that after you leave perhaps you can give me a few calls on the way back to let me know how everything is. As you get to the different time zones you can call me earlier for the 9 pm rate (I mean earlier here where I am). If I am not using drugs next week, I know that I won’t be feeling too well and will probably be in bed before midnight. If I go to AA meetings, I will be home about 10:30 and will probably go to be before 11:30. 

I really don’t know if I will feel up to going to meetings or not. I don’t get too much sleep when I stop using but I try to go to bed early anyway just to get another day out of the way. The night consists mainly of a series of nightmares in which I recall every miserable moment that I have ever had concerning drugs. I usually feel miserable getting up in the morning but if I can manage to drag myself out of bed and get to work, I usually start to feel better as the day goes on. I know that it will be wonderful once I start to get some natural sleep again instead of a drugged sleep or nightmarish sleep like when I stop using.

Well, I’ve got to sign off now because it’s late. I hope to get your call. Bye now and be good.

Love, Joe.


After 20 months of written courtship, Carrie made it back to Massachusetts. She and Joe finally met, felt as strongly about each other in person, married, and had three daughters. Joe stayed clean for 3 years, then started using drugs again. Carrie decided to divorce him after birthing her third child alone in the hospital, Joe having missed the birth because he was high again. That child was me. And Carrie is my mother.

My mother never forgot California, and ended up moving our family there in 1976. In 2023, she found these letters and passed them to me, along with a box of old keepsakes. 

Buried in that box, I found several additional letters written to Karen from Joe in the 1980s. Twenty years after the original series of letters, these letters have an uncanny familiarity with their predecessors. My mother and father, again writing letters between California and Massachusetts, my father requesting photos and sending money, all the while still battling addiction. And finally, in 1984, writing to my mother from prison, mirroring their first correspondence in 1962.

My father controlled his addiction for decades with the use of methadone and other opioid-replacements, but eventually weaned off drugs completely. He lived until age 76. My parents continued to stay in contact throughout his life. Neither remarried. 

February 27, 1984  - final letter

Dear Karen,

I was pleasantly surprised to receive your letter. I’m glad to hear that you and the girls are well. I was very happy to get the picture of Kim. She looks so cute with her long hair and a big smile. She looks like a regular little California girl. I would like to have recent pictures of Cheryl and Pam if you or they have any.

I find it very difficult to conceive of the girls as adults since they were small children when I saw them last. I can’t even remember what year it was when you all left for California. All the years since 1970 or so are just one big blur. I remember 1970 because it was the last time that I had gone into a hospital to withdraw from drugs. It turned out to be a disastrous experience and from then on, I made a career out of remaining a patient on methadone maintenance clinics.

I probably hold the record for longest continual clientship on a methadone clinic system in the U.S. About 12 or 13 years straight. Those years went by as if in a dream. By 1980, I became vividly aware that I had been virtually asleep for over 10 years. It was like a living death. I decided that I had to take the bull by the horns and forge ahead in a new direction. I did well for a few years, but something went amiss because I ended up in here. I chalk it up to bad karma.

I don’t know what my mother might have told you about the court case that I am waiting on, but I really can’t say too much about it in a letter because it is still pending. It should be over in a few months one way or the other. Up until a few months ago, we could seal outgoing mail and be reasonable sure that privacy was maintained. Recently, a new superintendent decreed that letters must be left opened so that they could be checked for contraband. Who in their right mind would be sending contraband out of a state prison? All contraband is much more valuable in here than on the street. Perhaps the administration is just trying to be sure that no inmates are sending out documentation of the corruption and stealing that occur on all levels in here as standard operation procedure.

By now, I’m sure you have noticed that there is a picture of sorts included in this letter. The original is a color polaroid. This is something that results when the original is run through a Xerox copier. I could not send the original because it was taken to commemorate the fact that the fellow in the middle was going home. Also, the guy on the left end is not available at the present time to pose again with me. So it seems that the original is the only pictorial record that I have of these two friends.

Of course, it is reasonable to ask why I just don’t have another picture of myself taken and included in this letter. To explain: 

To get a picture taken, one must have a picture ticket to hand to the inmate with the camera. To get a picture ticket, one must buy it at the canteen. 

Normally, the inmates run the canteen and everyone is served quickly and efficiently. Recently, the Administration declared that shortages existed, fired all the inmates, and replaced them with guards. Since the average guards’ education is about 3rd grade and their last job was the car wash or its equivalent, we now have a problem in the canteen.

Things as complex as serving customers and operating adding machines are strictly high tech endeavors to those guys, with the result that out of about 100 inmates who go to the canteen each day, about 10 get served. Today, things got worse! Mere incompetence will not suffice anymore. It seems only total disaster will make these gentlemen happy. 

For the first time in recent memory, the canteen has run out of cigarettes. In here, the coin of the realm is the pack (or carton) of cigarettes. All transactions in the camp amongst inmates for goods and services, legal or illegal, are conducted with the almighty cigarette. Since the function of the cigarette is to be smoked, it stands to reason that with the canteen out of them, the available supply is fast decreasing. I have not seen such panic since the guard got busted smuggling in the camp’s marijuana supply. Smokers unsuccessfully try to buy, borrow or steal cigarettes from friends. The economy of the camp has been destroyed by the sudden inflationary spiral. 

I am convinced that Hell hath no fury like a state prison running out of tobacco. Even the times when the drugs run out are child’s play compared to this. Perhaps this situation has been deliberately created by the administration to foster unrest and dissention. Maybe there is a method to their madness. If the underground economy falls apart, they will gain more control.

In the meantime, I don’t smoke so I don’t much care, but I also refuse to go anywhere near the canteen with all this nonsense going on. 

And that’s why I have sent you such a crummy picture.

I really don’t understand when you say that Cheryl is in her 3rd year of college. Has she been out of High School that long? I also don’t remember if Pam ever finished High School or not. I seem to have a terrible memory problem since I came into this place. Maybe it has something to do with being off of methadone after all those years.

I would love to hear from the girls if they are of a mind to write. I would be interested in what they have to say. At least in here I do eventually write letters back to people. On the street, I could never seem to write a letter. I just never got to it.

Thanks again for writing, and hope to hear from you and the girls soon.

Love, Joe































Create Your Own Website With Webador