I think my own personal journey with heroin and addiction started a lot younger than most. I was 15 years old and had gotten it in my head that this is what I wanted. I idolized Janis Joplin and was ready to expand my mind and be this amazing artist.
I guess I ignored the fact that her addiction led to her death and spoiler alert, it did not help my creativity nor expand my mind. In fact, it closed my mind off from everything that was meaningful and important in my life to the point where all I could focus on was getting my next fix.
I was an IV heroin user which takes you down very fast. Within a month I was completely hooked, always chasing that feeling from the first time I got high. My parents had kicked me out, and I was staying in the worst of the worst places. Surrounded by Neo-Nazi’s, drug dealers, prostitutes, guns, sleeping on floors and couches covered in bugs and needles. My family had no idea who I was anymore, and honestly, I did not recognize myself either.
I spent years saving up for a Nikon camera and when I ran out of money I went straight to the pawn shop and sold my most important belonging. I would manipulate my family into giving me money, lie about anything and everything to get more, and steal from my friends. I was robbed at knifepoint before I had even turned 17. I brought my little sister who was only 12 at the time around drug dealers, and I was constantly in trouble with the law. My absolute lowest point was my overdose though.
My parents had let me come home, but I had ruined their trust completely. I did not even have a door on my bedroom anymore and couldn’t even shower without someone checking on me multiple times.
One night after everyone went to bed I snuck out and got heroin and a needle from my “friend.” The last thing I remember is getting high in my bed and passing out. My mom found me the next morning not breathing, my face ghost white, and I was foaming at the mouth. She started doing CPR, and my step-dad called the ambulance.
The cops refused to allow the paramedics to come into my home until they got there because they said it would be too dangerous due to the people I had been surrounding myself with. So my mom had to carry me all the way down the stairs and into the driveway just for them to start working on me. They told my family I had been clinically dead for over 3 minutes and if I did make it, I would have permanent brain damage and be in a vegetative state. They shot adrenaline into my heart and had to drill into my thigh bone for my IV because I had no veins left at this point. They gave me Narcan, and I woke up immediately to withdrawals.
Withdrawals are hell and one of the main reasons it is so hard to get clean. You begin throwing up, and your entire body cannot stop shaking. Along with the shakes, your body aches all the way down into your bones. Your body temperature is completely out of whack, so you have horrible cold sweats. Your stomach starts cramping up. You cannot fall asleep, but you also can’t get comfortable because you have restless leg syndrome. It is like the worst cold you have ever felt.
While I was going through my addiction, I had spent years trying to avoid my entire family (including my young siblings) who were now sitting in the room with me crying. I recovered from my overdose after spending a little over a week in the ICU and the hospital. I found out I had Hepatitis C which I would need treatment for otherwise it could destroy my liver and kill me later on in life. The ugly thing about addiction is even this was not enough.
For most people that would scare them and they would say enough is enough, but for an addict and especially a heroin addict it takes a lot to say enough. I went straight to rehab and got kicked out 28 days into the 30 days; I was brought to the juvenile jail and spent a little over a month there.
Then I was sent to an adult rehab where after three months I relapsed and left the rehab. Which caused me to have warrants out for my arrest since I was court appointed to be there. Then I was brought back to the juvenile jail for months until I turned 18.
When I turned 18, I got to spend my birthday getting moved from the juvenile jail to the county jail and spent the entire day in booking. After months in the county jail, I finally was able to go to a therapeutic community. For anyone who does not know what that is it is literal hell.
Normally they are in prisons only, but Kansas has one that is a part of the work release program. It is six months minimum in a very intensive treatment center. They use the old mental health and addiction method of breaking you down to build you back up. Honestly, I could write pages of horror stories from this place. However, I was lucky enough to have an amazing counselor that helped me, but not everyone in there was as lucky.
If you get kicked out of this place, you automatically do your backup time in prison, so it is kind of the end of the road before long prison time for most people. It took me 7 months to complete that program.
Since I have been out multiple people I was in there with have passed away from drug overdoses (all heroin addicts), and multiple others are in federal prison with very long sentences. I am one of the lucky ones but every day is a battle. Unfortunately, even when you give up heroin it doesn’t give up you. It’s always trying to rope you back in and catch you off guard. I’m not going to say it doesn’t get easier because it does, but it never truly goes away.
The relapse rate and death toll for heroin is staggering. And it isn’t picky. Heroin doesn’t care if you are a teenager or an adult, it doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, if you have a loving family or not. It will take you down to the darkest places and the lowest of lows. It will make you look in the mirror and not know the person looking back at you. It will make you hurt the people you love without even a second thought.
Heroin promises you the world and instead takes away your entire life. I dropped out of school, I never went to college, I lost all my friends, I hurt my family, I have a criminal record, the rehabs I went to will always be on my record if you dig into it, an addiction that will always follow me around, and I have a disease that could kill me which I never got treatment for while I had insurance because heroin was always my priority not my life. I’m not saying there isn’t light at the end of that very very dark tunnel, but the repercussions from using heroin last long after the drug is gone.