A/N: My name is M. L. Lanzillotta, actually. Though that's not symbolic or interesting or anything so I gave my character a better name. "Paula" is a reference to "Paul Kemp" from The Rum Diary. "Fenice" apparently means phoenix.

My name is Paula Fenice. I'm 19-year-old college dropout-turned-freelance writer. Oh, and I began using opioids recreationally in high school. Compared to the rest of my family - a marvelous, wealthy collection of esteemed lawyers, doctors, and architects - I'm an absolute monster. Most people wouldn't openly admit to being on drugs. After all, it's both illegal and embarrassing. Though I can't stand secrets or lies. So I always bring up my very worst flaws when I first meet someone. This keeps me from having to lie later. Also, if the person I'm talking to hates drug users, I'll find out right away. I'll be able to avoid that awful confrontation - the mildly traumatic "I know your secret, you evil drug fiend" moment. That's the worst thing about being a smackhead. Well, aside from the arrests… and the agonizing withdrawal… and all the awkward health problems…

This extreme honestly horrifies certain friends of mine - notably fellow drug users. It also means I'm more likely to be arrested for my habit. Then again, I'm registered with the city of Washington DC as an intravenous heroin user (I have to, if I want to use the city's needle exchange services). There's a little card and everything. Even I never mentioned my habit, the authorities would still know. Though, even if I weren't a known junkie already, I'd still be perfectly honest. It's the right thing to do.

And I genuinely enjoy telling the truth. There's a strange sort of freedom. It's a privilege, the ability to be honest. As a child I was forced to keep all sorts of awful secrets. My classmates and contemporaries weren't allowed to know about the many hospital (well, psych ward) visits I suffered through. They didn't even know about the armies of unfeeling, uncaring psychiatrists and therapists. I couldn't confide in anyone… save for my emotionally unstable mother and distant, work-obsessed father. And, you know, that collection of deranged doctors. I felt so distressingly alone, so alien, so odd. Those hospital visits - the aimless hours spent in plain white rooms, the many medications that only made me feel worse - ruined my childhood. For 17 years I couldn't trust anyone and I feared everything. Still, I (somehow) survived.

In my final year of high school I discovered Vicodin and Percocet. My father's dentist handed 'em out like candies… and Dad never took any! Rather, he'd leave them in the bathroom medicine cabinet. Stashed behind aspirins and mouthwashes - forgotten by their true owner. I'm still not so sure why I tried them in the first place. Boredom, probably. Though I was glad I did. Unlike the awful pills I'd be forced to take for years, opioids actually helped. I actually felt okay… rather than hopeless and hysterical. By summer I'd switched to smoking street heroin (yes, smoking's possible… if ridiculously inefficient). In the fall, whilst attending a local community college, I switched to snorting. Even after leaving school - partly because I needed to escape a mentor-turned-stalker that the police refused to do anything about, though mostly because I hate classroom learning - I kept using. It became my idea of normal.

Over the next year or so I began to make friends. I attended comic conventions and punk concerts. I met a nice, well-meaning guy named Larry - and his highly political brother Danny - at the former. They kept offering to let me rent their extra room, in order to escape my still-restrictive parents. Though I always turned them down. Anyway, the low-paying freelance writing assignments and barely-existent book royalties couldn't pay for rent. Even if I stopped spending so much on drugs, I still wouldn't have enough.

I also began volunteering at a local TV station. Occasionally I'd help operate cameras, though I preferred performing oncreen. All those years of lying to everyone made me a fantastic actress. On Monster Madhouse - a horror-themed musical sketch show - I played the dual role of Nurse Friday and Miss Hyde. This gig led to a variety of other acting opportunities.

For the first time, life made sense. Things were actually going well.

Or so I foolishly believed.

Soon enough the mucus membranes of my nose began to break down. So, after mere months of promising I'd never touch needles, I lost my vein virginity. I started injecting into my blood and under the skin on a regular basis. It's not as if I had a choice, with my wrecked nose and extreme tolerance. Well, I suppose I did. Technically I could've quit. I indeed attempted too, on more than one occasion. Yet sobriety never lasted long. I still thought about it every day, which made concentrating on work borderline impossible. Stopping didn't seem practical. Also, narcotics helped me seem more human, more normal. I liked being an actual, functioning person. Going back to the way things were before seemed like a terrible idea… at least, in those days.

Alas! On October 13th, 2018 things really began to fall apart.

A/N: Please review. Even if you hate it. I mean, I've got to know what people think. How else am I to improve my work?