Revo: Portrait of an Unrepentant All-American Junkie

Image of a burning cigarette on a table.

Image by Mathew MacQuarrie.

 “…You made me forget myself, I thought I was someone else, someone good…” – Lou Reed

Hey, have I ever told you guys about my friend Revo, the pansexual recovering everything-addict with a thousand lives and at least twice as many stories? There are so many, it’s almost hard to know where to start. There’s the time Revo stole his dealer’s car with his dealer’s girlfriend in it and trashed them both. Or how about the time that Revo got court martialed on terrorism charges after he threatened to blow up the Army base he was stationed at when they refused to serve him a Big Mac at the commissary during a bad acid trip? Or what about the time that an entire gang opened fire on Revo’s shitty Toyota during a drug burn and the only one who caught a bullet was one of the stick-up artists? Then there’s the time Revo crashed on the couch of a county sheriff in the Deep South for a whole month before that motherfucker even realized that he was harboring a wanted Army deserter. And the time that Revo’s deadbeat dad faked his own death for the second time and only told his favorite bastard that he was still alive on Father’s Day. Or the time that Revo woke up in a mental institution after a bender only to discover that his wife put him there so she could shack-up with his best friend.

That’s my buddy Revo, the all-American super junkie who will fuck anything that moves with an eight ball up their ass and that’s probably the version of him that both he and America wants you to see. The dangerous and insatiable menace to society covered from head to toe in a shadowy camouflage of prison ink and track marks. Revo isn’t even his real name, it’s a nickname picked up in the joint that’s short for Repeat Violent Offender. Naturally, the two of us got on from day one like a house on fire. Afterall, both of us are lifelong misfits who turned to anarchism after every other form of social arson failed to sooth the rage that we share for the society that discarded us like trash. Playing the role of the villain can feel like a safe place when you spend your life running and that’s the other side of Revo that very few people ever see. My buddy Revo was born Justin Pomeroy and Justin has just as many stories.

These stories just happen to be a lot less glamorous and a lot harder to tell with that cocky meth-head grin that makes Revo come across like an extra in a pirate film. The story of a sensitive effeminate kid raised by wolves in family clothing. The story of a little boy who was sold for drugs by his own mother and molested more times than he could count before he was old enough to even know what sex was. The story of a child bounced from foster home to foster home to juvenile detention center until he was too institutionalized to see straight. A white trash scale from a busted-up town who ended up in the Army because he didn’t know any other way out of the holler. A crack shot marksman who watched nearly every brother in his platoon get blown to bits killing other poor people in Iraq. A disgraced veteran who turned back to his childhood friend heroin to make the screams stop before moving on to crystal meth and doing a decade in prison for killing a man who tried to kill him during a drug burn.

These are the stories about Revo that few people ever hear, not because Revo isn’t willing to tell them but because most people can’t be bothered to listen. Justin is Revo and Revo is an unrepentant veteran of the War on Drugs with all the scars to prove it, but he is also so much more than that. He is a gifted artist who hands out tattoos like party favors and writes songs that burn holes through your soul. He is one of the funniest and most resourceful people that I’ve ever met, and I am proud to tell anyone who’ll listen that I love that twisted fucking bastard like a brother. My brother just happens to have an addiction to obliterating himself in nearly every single way imaginable and it breaks my heart that we live in a country that seems to agree that this is the hellish fate that he deserves.

All of these politicians wax philosophic and cry crocodile tears over the innocent victims of America’s opioid crisis, but that notion is a contrived fiction pimped out for campaign dollars. There are no innocent victims of the opioid crisis because the War on Drugs has made them all guilty. Your average dealer and indeed your average repeat violent offender is your average junkie, and your average junkie is a child abused by the same system that both parties are currently engaged in using addiction to justify putting on life support.

The Republicans are the worst, calling for people like Revo to be shot in the streets as enemy combatants of the cartels, but the Democrats aren’t much better. For every dollar they promise to spend on Narcan there is another ten that they want to hurl to the bevy of industrial complexes that take kids like Justin and convert them into menacing super predators like Revo and I’m not just talking about the armies, prisons and cops. I’m talking about the blatantly abusive compulsory schools and so-called child welfare programs like the foster care system that feed them with fresh recruits of broken and institutionalized little bodies every fucking day. And way too many of these bodies are Queer for that to just be a coincidence.

Nearly every study on the subject shows that Queer kids like me and Justin experience far higher rates of physical, sexual and emotional abuse then our heterosexual playmates. We are also more than twice as likely to experience foster care placement where the Supreme Court has decided that we should be many more times as likely to face violence, exploitation, discrimination and neglect as a price for the religious liberties of parental slavedrivers. From here many of my fellow Queer child abuse survivors like Revo graduate to other beloved American institutions of systemic violence like the military where their rage and boredom are mined and weaponized to kill even more broken kids until they too break beneath the weight of the trauma and get emptied out into the streets with nothing but a prescription to numb the nightmares and an endless procession of gladhanding assholes thanking them for their service before calling the cops to have them carted off the streets.

I wish I could tell you that there is a cure for addiction just like I wish I could tell you that my buddy Revo isn’t going to return to the needle again, but fairytales are for politicians, and I refuse to traffic in those kinds of narcotics just to make myself feel better. What I can tell you is that the government has never done a goddamn thing for people like Revo other than to give them more reasons to use. I can also tell you that Revo stopped using narcotics for eight months straight after joining my little Queer anarchist tribe of broken toys because we are the first family that he has ever had that hasn’t demanded his sobriety in exchange for our support. We’ve all been hurt too many times ourselves to pretend like we have any right to judge him that way. But we also love him too goddamn much to give up on him and let him believe all the bullshit institutions that convinced a scared child that he was too broken to exist without poison in his veins. And together we carry this weight so no one has to carry it alone.

This is the only real defense that any of us have against the state, its trauma, and the addictions that they feed, and that defense is called community, any group of people more committed to each other’s mutual aid than any other ideology or institution. If you really want to help a junkie, then start by remembering that addicts are just human beings doing what they feel they have to do to get by and maybe try throwing some empathy their way before pushing a bunch of laws that just make them somebody else’s problem. Just a few thoughts from an unrepentant misfit who happens to love an all-American junkie.

Nicky Reid is an agoraphobic anarcho-genderqueer gonzo blogger from Central Pennsylvania and assistant editor for Attack the System. You can find her online at Exile in Happy Valley.