I learned a new term today: “feetoxing”. It’s used by clients of methadone clinics to describe the practice of quickly weaning someone off methadone for the sin of not having kept up with the required clinic fees.

I’ve long been intrigued by the unique language that evolves around chronic drug use, and the associated ideas and philosophy. I was first exposed to it in the context of a hospital detox ward filled mainly with heroin addicts in search of five days of medication, good food and rest. They sat around the Day Room and discussed the world as they saw it, and being twenty years old and without much to contribute, I mostly listened.

That’s where I first heard heroin pronounced as ‘hear-ahn’, for reasons that are still not clear to me. It’s also where I was introduced to the odd notion that if something was possible, no matter how difficult or crazy-sounding, then some addict somewhere would go ahead and do it. Example: Boost a canoe from the outdoors department at Sears in full view of the floor manager. Sell some pervert at the bus depot a bag of her feces for twenty bucks. Shoot hear-ahn in the neck or between the toes. Somebody would invariably shake his head and say: “If it can be done, it will be done.”

To me, the culture of addiction is a true counter-culture, in a way the hippies were not. It exists to permit and promote and protect behaviors that would otherwise be quite unacceptable to society. It can be very supportive to its members, and also quite threatening. Bill White describes it much better than I can in his book Pathways: From the Culture of Addiction to the Culture of Recovery.

In that respect, the Twelve Step fellowships represent a ‘counter counter-culture’. After years in the drug world, it may not be easy for someone new to recovery to fit comfortably into the larger society. It helps to find people such as yourself– who used to use drugs but no longer do– to relate to.

Although those fellowships have their own ideas, language, and beliefs, too, which can seem quite odd to outsiders.