JS: Alright, so what was your name again?
JS: And how long have you been working out here?
Azlyn: I just started, only like 2 months.
JS: What I’m doin is, what I’m doin is trying to make photographs uh that kinda communicate that we’re all human beings and that the people out here are still people. They just need help. Um you know, that they just have circumstances that no one else really knows about. You started to tell me a little bit about those circumstances.
Azlyn: I was raped by my stepdad. What is there to say? That like, I guess that’s why like a lot of people say that like I do drugs, is to cover up like the pain and the feeling of being abandoned. Not being abandoned but basically it was because like my mom let it happen, my dad knew about it; it started when I was 7 years old with him raping me, beating me, and it continued until well the raping stopped because I was old enough- I was strong enough to fight it off, but the beating didn’t stop until I moved out. So, I just feel, felt alone, like nobody was there, so I guess that’s one of the reasons why I use is to cover up that one of feeling dirty and disgusting and unwanted.
JS: Um did you find it helped escape the other things that were bothering you?
Azlyn: For a little bit but not you know. I don’t know.
JS: I mean now that, I mean that pain never really went away, did it?
Azlyn: No, that pain will never go away.
JS: And doing drugs is a, is like a temporary thing, right, just to keep your mind off it?
Azlyn: Temporary numbness, yeah.
JS: What do you think that you would actually have to do to, to um feel better about your past, to try to get over it?
Azlyn: Well, I go to counseling, but I don’t really like to talk about it as much; I like to keep it bottled up inside. That’s what one of my problems is; I keep my emotions in because I don’t really trust a lot of people cause the people who were supposed to be protect me were hurting me, so it’s hard for me to be able to trust anyone.
JS: Who do you trust?
Azlyn: I trust my boyfriend, Vinny, but that’s basically about it.
JS: And how do you and your boyfriend survive out here?
Azlyn: Make money. I do what I do, and he does what he does.
JS: And, how much, um you use Heroin? Um what is, what is your habit? How, how much do you use it?
Azlyn: Well between me and him, only in a couple hours cause I told you how I got out of jail last night. I spent like $200 in, like, 3, 4 hours, but we also were doing coke, too. But we also ate like I don’t, I try not to spend all my money on drugs, like I try to do like normal things too. Like we went out to eat and stuff like that also. But I try not to have drugs as my main focus in life. I mean it is a focus in life because I don’t want to be sick.
JS: Have you tried to get off? Have you tried the methadone clinic?
Azlyn: I did go into, I walked off the methadone, off 160 mg. I’m going upstate New York either tomorrow night or Monday morning for a couple weeks, gettin’ Suboxone going a change of scenery.
JS: What does your boyfriend think of that?
Azlyn: He’s coming with me.
JS: Oh, wow. You guys are doing it together.
JS: And he’s, he’s been using Heroin too?
Azlyn: Mmm hmm.
JS: Do you have any other friends out here on the Ave?
Azlyn: I do, but I don’t really talk to people, you know people get shady. It’s all about themselves. I help out people, help out so much, like buy people stuff and everything, and when I need it, they’re not there so I just. But I don’t like seeing anyone sick, so I try like I can’t help but help them, but I guess it’s me being too kind.
It’s a disease you know like it’s not something that we want; we don’t want to be drug addicts; we don’t want to have to find a way how to get money; we want to be like normal people, and it’s just a disease like anything else.
Marion: I think the last time I seen ya with that picture, um, I was upstate at SCI Muncey for like three years, and I got out and I started using right away but then, um, I found out I was pregnant so they put me right on the clinic, and then I stayed sober for probably about another, bout, 18, 19 months, and then I relapsed, um, not this November that just passed but around the November before that, so maybe like, uh, 2000 and, yea, so I, it’s been a year. It’s been…it’s been a little over a year, and um…
JS: How long have you been on the Avenue?
Marion: Off and on for, about, 13 years.
JS: Can you tell me a little bit about how you got started?
Marion: I went into rehab, for, like, snorting cocaine, taking oxies, perks, and I met people that did dope and smoked crack, and, you know, like, one thing led to another, and I was just, I was, I wanted to try it, and I did. But, you know, I sniffed dope; I didn’t shoot it at the time, but it only took a few months before, you know, I started shooting it. But, yea, a guy had introduced me to it, and um, I did dope for a couple months and then I started, you know, smoking crack and then that led into shooting coke, and its like one thing led to another and it just progressed. And then, I, um, I was born and raised around here, so I already knew about Kensington Avenue.
JS: What did you know about it?
Marion: Well I know the prostitution, stuff like that. You know, I, I’ve known about that since I was young. But I was never exposed to it. I grew up down Fishtown. I never came over this side until I started getting high. And then, you know, once you started prostituting and you figure out how quick you get that money, that was it. It’s been a struggle ever since.
JS: So the last time I talked to you, you said you were working on getting clean.
Marion: Ummm… I mean, I, I’ve been taking Suboxone. I got, I finally detoxed. I went down the Poconos on, um, over Christmas vacation, but um, like I used a couple times but it’s just not worth it. So, you know, like I, I used the other day, and it’s just, it’s not worth it. But, you know, I still get high; I still smoke rock, I smoke weed. You know. I gotta try to stop it all.
JS: Do you see, do you think that you’ll ever wind up stopping, or do you think that it’s just something that’s gonna continue?
Marion: Definitely have potential. I just have to put everything down. Everything.
JS: Do you think you could put everything down still living in Philly, still living in this neighborhood?
Marion: Oh yea, yea. Definitely. I mean, relocating is good, you know, especially in beginning, but it doesn’t have to be. I know people that have like 20 some years sober that run recovery houses in the same building that they used to shoot meth 20 years prior. Like, they’re… it might be easier if you relocate, you know, but it really don’t matter. You can put me in Egypt and if I want to get high, I’ll find it. You know what I mean. I’ve all, I’ve already done it. Going down the shore, Atlantic City, you know, I don’t, I don’t know anybody down there, but I found it. It’s not hard to find. You know. It’s up to the person.
JS: It’s up to the person to find a way to get over it.
Marion: Yea. It’s up, it’s up to you. If you wanna get clean, you’re gonna go clean. You know, there’s like, no half ass. There’s no smoking weed but putting down dope. There’s no smoking rock but then putting down dope. It all ties together. You have to put it all down.
JS: Why is it that you think you don’t want to put it down yet?
Marion: Mmmm, well it’s like with the, with the dope, I, I know I definitely don’t wanna do that. But, it’s… still living this lifestyle no matter what. Like you, you wanna get high. That’s why I need to like do a recovery house, a halfway… I need some structure. Discipline. Cause obviously my way don’t work.
Marion: It’s insane out there. That’s what makes me not wanna do it even more because I’m just tired of being… out there. It’s so dangerous. It’s just getting worse and worse.
JS: So you’re saying it’s really hard out there, but apparently it’s not hard enough to keep people from doing it, right?
Marion: Right. That’s the drugs. No matter what, especially if you’re, you know, a Heroin addict, you always need that fix because it’s physical, so you have to make money. You don’t have a choice. See, the person that does cocaine, that’s not physical. You can you can pick it up and put it down and be fine and wake up the next day. You know, if you do dope, you’re gonna, you’re gonna be sick. I mean, you absolutely have to go out. You have to do some; you have to. You don’t have a choice. So no matter how bad it is, and I mean I had a million things happen to me, and I still went anyway. You know, I still went anyway. It didn’t matter.
JS: Do you have family in Philadelphia?
Marion: Everywhere. They’re like blocks away. I have family in Fishtown, Port Richmond, Kensington, yea.
JS: What has your family’s involvement been with, with uh, any of the choices you’ve made in your life?
Marion: It hasn’t been all that positive.
JS: Are they still there? Are you still speaking with them?
Marion: I… I spoke to my sister a couple weeks ago. You know, they’re okay. They’re back and forth. You know. I have, I have two kids. I have a 15 year old daughter and a 17 month old son.
JS: Do you see them?
Marion: I haven’t, no.
Marion: Because I need to be completely clean before I go back into their lives. You know what I mean? That’s one thing– both my kids never seen me high. Never. Never. And I don’t want them to. I also don’t want to confuse them or hurt them more than they’re already hurt.
JS: So you’ve made a conscious decision to sorta keep yourself separate from them for the time being.
JS: And you said 17 months. So, that was not too long ago. Were you working on the Ave then?
Marion: No, no. I was sober and on Suboxone for a while, and, uh, then uh, my mom had passed away. Oh, wait, no; that’s when I relapsed. Um, I was on the Suboxone running a recovery house; two recovery houses actually, and I relapsed. I was getting high for a while, then I found out I was pregnant. That’s when they put me; I went to Jefferson hospital, and they put me on Methodone right away cause you can’t go through withdrawal. They put me on family center clinic and I went into My Sister’s Place, its called. MSP; its like a mother and children program. Awesome program; best program I was ever in. And I was in there for my whole pregnancy. I had my son there and everything. Then I got out, and uh, my mom passed away while I was still there, and I didn’t relapse right away till about three months after she had, she died. That’s when it kinda hit me. That’s when I relapsed. So I’ve been back out here for over a straight year, over a year, straight.
JS: Has the lack of other employment opportunities influenced any of your decisions in a way, like have you had a hard time trying to make money in other ways?
Marion: No, no I mean I’ve never had a problem getting a job. Like, I mean, I’ve, I’ve worked, when I was younger, I used to work for lawyers downtown, um, doing like secretary work, stuff like that. My, my grades in school, I graduated from Hallahan downtown in Center City, um, waitressing jobs, catering jobs, um, I mean, I used to make like $20 an hour. I used to make like really good money. But, when you’re getting high, it just, it can’t work. Not a normal job. You know, all responsibility just goes, pshhh, right out the window.
JS: Can you start over.
Marion: Okay, cause this is so true. It says, If I’ve learned anything throughout my addiction it’s that a dope fiend will take your things and then tell you about it. A crackhead will take your stuff and help you look for it. Kensington is like the land of the lost. Once you get in you’ll never get out. Some people are lucky and do recover. I believe that could be me if I want it. I’m gonna put ‘if I want it.’ And, this, too, shall pass. It took me long enough but I finally believe that. I wish I would have listened to the program, AA, cause I choose AA, years ago but I didn’t, now I’m 34 and still struggling. That is so true. That took me years to learn that, that a dope fiend will take your stuff and then tell you about it once they get well, you know but a crack head will take your stuff and help you look for it. Very sad but true.