All Photographs + Text Copyright 2013 Christopher Keeley

The Biggest Blow to my Ego.

The biggest blow to my ego occurred in 1982, when the tip of my little finger on my left hand had to be amputated. Today I have vowed to tell everyone the truth of the cause, even though they may cringe at the story and place my character into the scumbag category box. I would love to tell people that I was a member of the Yakuza gang and membership requires the amputation of oneÕs little finger tip.

The tip of my pinky finger had to be amputated because of a bad shot, because I hit an artery instead of a vein in my finger, while shooting pinks into my pinky. What a crazy idea. Pinks are Wellconal. Painkillers for terminally ill patients, for example from cancer. So addictive that the life span of a user is less than two years. Wellconal should only be prescribed for people who are dying. Why was I shooting pinks? Because I was addicted to Wellconal. Why was I shooting it into the little finger on my left hand? Because I had no veins left to use, as I had abused my body during six to seven years of being a stone cold junkie.

Junkies think they are in control. They know what they are using, when they are using, how much they are using, and they want to use. The reality is we were out of control. In fact we would use anything that came our way. We didnÕt know what we were using and we would use as much as humanly possible. I would score 60 tablets from two doctors, thinking they would last me at least two weeks, when in three days they would be gone.

The fateful day started with me going to downtown Harare, Zimbabwe, where my girlfriend Valerie was playing piano bar at a restaurant in a major hotel. I slip into the bathroom for a shot, and miss a vein, wasting three Wellconal tablets. The syringe clogs from coagulated blood. I clearly remember being completely frustrated as the needle head was flying off and hitting the bathroom wall, spurting blood everywhere.

Wellconal pills have this wax chalk compound in them, purposely, so junkies wonÕt shoot them up, but junkies are going to do what junkies have to do and that is shoot up pills. This chalk when mixed with water becomes a syrupy paste. If you have a Wellconal habit like I did, you can only fit so much paste into a diabetic syringe. Most people would die with a shot of four pinks at a time. I was on the edge of overdose with shooting three at a time. Luckily you couldnÕt fit four pills in a diabetic syringe or I probably would have attempted that.

I was also under the influence of LSD at the time. I was intoxicated like a cocky drunk because of consuming too much Alcohol while under the influence of LSD. Somehow while under the influence of LSD a person cannot feel the effects of consuming Alcohol like a regular person would. But because I was so physically addicted to so many different types of drugs, there was no telling what kind of insanity my tolerance could handle or what the reaction to the drugs would be.

Sometimes I would be too drunk to shoot up. But I was a worse Alcoholic and pills helped me with the pain of being a falling down drunk. Meaning when I drank I would drink until I fell down and passed out. So I was high, I was in the bathroom shooting up. The lighting was bad. I was frustrated because I had no veins. I find a little one in my pinky and I go for it. I felt this wrenching pain and thatÕs not what youÕre supposed to feel. What happened is that I hit an artery instead of a vein. I do the same thing with the finger next to my pinky and eventually I get a shot in.

That night at a party at NancyÕs house my hand hurts and I have no feeling in my left hand and my fingers are turning black. I am high on LSD and I consume quantities of cheap South African Wine. When the LSD wears off I become drunk and pass out. My friend John, who was a medic in the Rhodesian war, gives me some advice about my hand that is now turning gangrenous. He says hold it up above your heart and keep moving your fingers to try to get circulation. He also hooks me up to a drip with antibiotics. So I am here at this party with a drip, tripping, and drunk, moving my fingers back and forth to try to save my hand. John lived nearby and brought over his medic bag. I often requested his assistance because he had a huge supply of Morphine Ampoules left over from the war. His drips also cured my hangovers on the weekends.

The next day my hand is completely black and ice cold. I remember being driven to the next party we had in the woods at these prehistoric cave paintings and I was showing off by shooting up in the car, in a convertible, in the wind. I didnÕt even get out of the car and missed the cave paintings. That night my best friend James tells me that I need to go to the hospital as my hand hasnÕt gotten any better. The emergency room doctor tells me that my hand is black due to lack of circulation and this is probably because of smoking. Smoking constricts the blood vessels. I was laughing so hard that I could hardly convince him of my real pain and that I needed a shot of Socigone or Pethedine. I am in heaven with the quality injectables. I call my mother and tell her that I dropped a transformer on my hand. John helped me with that lie because I couldnÕt dream up something like that on my own.

The next three days no progress was made on my hand as they had to give me blood thinner to try to get the circulation back. I then fly down to Pretoria, South Africa to have the tip of my finger amputated. I am given a private hospital room. I bring with me numerous sleeping pills, painkillers, and an assortment of drugs to help me pass the time. I donÕt have any Whiskey or Marijuana, so I call my friend Eddie who had fled Zimbabwe previously, having been my partner in crime forging Wellconal prescriptions. Eddie arrives at the hospital and gives me some Marijuana and a fifth of Whiskey. Whiskey in those days was like gold, very hard to come by. Now that sounds like good drugs of choice, Whiskey and Marijuana. Very socially acceptable.

Throughout the night I ask the nurse for ice. They have no idea that I am drinking Whiskey on the rocks. My surgery was scheduled for the next morning. When the time came to put me under, the anesthesiologist discovers that I am completely out of my mind drunk. They also discover the whole pharmacy that I brought with me. South Africa is a Police State and they do not tolerate this sort of behavior. The officials phone the American Embassy, complaining about my condition and that my surgery is going to have to be postponed. I am a huge embarrassment to my parents.

The next day the surgeon draws little lines around my finger with a felt tip marker. The tip of my finger is amputated. I am scarred for life. I continue to use my pain and suffering as an excuse to get Wellconal. Prior to this incident I had just been hired by an advertising agency through my girlfriend ValerieÕs family connections as a studio assistant. On my lunch break I was asking the chemist in the pharmacy for a box of syringes, pointing them out above his head at the counter, and I turn around and next to me is the vice president of the company. I change my request quickly and slip out of the pharmacy. I used the same excuse at work that I had to suddenly leave for South Africa to have the tip of my finger amputated because I had dropped a transformer on my hand. I never went back to that job at the advertising agency. What I missed from that job was the three-hour lunches where everyone was drinking, never making it back to work and calling it a day.

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