Amy Long

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My editors and I removed "Call of Duty" from my essay collection, Codependence, because we didn't think it would reproduce well in black and white. Codependence juxtaposes my current medicinal opioid use for intractable pain against my recreational opiate use with an addicted boyfriend in my late teens and early 20s. "Call of Duty" is where those two narrative strands most clearly intersect and perhaps the piece that best illustrates the peril in which increasingly stingy opioid prescribing puts millions of pain patients.

“Call of Duty” started as a 20-page short story that got me into Virginia Tech’s MFA program. I thought I’d write Codependence as a novel, but it just wasn’t working. I took a creative nonfiction workshop with Matthew Vollmer, and as my final project, I narrated my drug history in a medicine cabinet. The graphic designers at the library helped me make all this cool stuff—motel keys, fake prescription labels, a hospital bracelet—and, in telling the story in these little pieces, I found the right shape for it. I used the medicine cabinet as an outline for the book, and “Call of Duty” comes almost directly from it. I wrote five flash essays and folded them into five glassine envelopes that all went into one big envelope that Brian Craig, a graphic designer at the library, recreated from my recollection of the stamped envelope the heroin I’d done had come in, which is where the bear and title originate. I wanted to make the heroin packet 2D, so I printed the flash essays in three sizes, cut up the words, taped them and the envelopes to pieces of paper, and scanned those into my computer. 

I don't use heroin for my pain anymore (this happened nine years ago, before fentanyls became a widespread problem), and to admit that I once did, even for a week, is to risk losing my doctor and what little pain relief I still get. Publishing “Call of Duty” in DIAGRAM  rather than in Codependence turns the story into a secret hiding in plain sight, a liminal space much like the one in which my narrator finds herself, and I think there’s something kind of cool and poetic about that.