Recently on our Facebook page I asked people to tell me about that day they switched from pills to heroin. I had heard enough stories to know that almost nobody began with heroin, and even when they switch most have zero intention to ever touch a syringe. So what happens. How do they get there?
Often after an article about the drug epidemic is posted online, and more specifically when Narcan is mentioned, there will be the comments of ‘just let them die’, ‘Darwinism at its best’, ’thinning the herd’ ‘they chose this life, so the get what they deserve’.
Every addict is someone’s child, sister, brother, mother, father, loved one. The scathing attitudes and opinions others wield so safely at home on their computer are like gut punches to those in addiction as well as those who love them. They are especially painful to those who have lost a loved one to overdose. More importantly, they perpetuate the stigma that people in addiction don’t deserve compassion or treatment — simply ‘let ’em all die’…..
Let he without sin cast the first stone:
- Those who never broke any rules in adolescence, who never thought they knew better and didn’t take risks – including (but not limited to): driving too fast, underage drinking, sneaking out of the house, underage sex, binge drinking, smoking pot, taking any drug not prescribed to you, shoplifting, vandalism….
- Those who as adults have never drank to get drunk/buzzed, driven while drunk, driven while stoned, blown through a red light, driven above the speed limit…..
Many of us made poor decisions and broke rules as adolescents, sometimes even into college and beyond.
My question to all of the baby boomers out there. Where would your parent’s prescription pills have fallen on the above list? Pills were being passed around high schools in the past few decades like joints in our day. If you would have smoked a joint in high school or college, would you have tried some Oxy, smoked or snorted it? ‘It’s just the stuff your mom takes for her back pain you know.’
We did not have this highly addictive lab-made heroin so readily available back then. How can you know how you, in your immortal adolescent phase, would have reacted? It is something we will never know.
What we do know is that kids whose brains are not developed and who are at the height of risky behavior are now living in a society that has gone beyond ‘just your mom’s back pills’ to heroin becoming normalized in high schools.
Opioids did the hard work. They infiltrated cities and towns one medicine cabinet, one sports injury, one knee surgery at a time…. until prescription pill use became normal to kids – ‘Just Bobby’s leftovers from when he broke his arm’. Heroin followed the trail blazed by prescription opioids straight into our children’s schools. I have begun to hear from the younger kids that they ARE starting with heroin. No prescription pills first, they are starting with snorting and smoking heroin.
So, let’s get back to the ‘thinning the herd, they chose this’ comments. Yes, a fifteen-year-old went to a party got drunk and/or stoned and then snorted this powder because it was handed to him…. Did he choose to do it? Yes. Was he in a good frame of mind to make that decision? Certainly not. Should this decision lead to him dropping out of school, getting kicked out of his house, living on the streets and losing his life to overdose because at fifteen he did something stupid??? We ALL made poor decisions at fifteen – but the consequences of this particular substance are dire.
Heroin and meth are out there. We need to educate these kids before someone hands them something and says, ‘if you smoke it or snort it you can’t get hooked.’ We MUST Stop the Silence surrounding this issue. If we don’t talk about it, who will?
I was recently reminded how desperate people are to sweep this issue under the rug when a syringe was found in our neighborhood. I watched the online conversation – people wanted to believe it was a diabetic’s syringe that was dropped by accident. There were some who stated heroin is here, it’s in our high schools, and also one person who kept insisting we move on from this unpleasant subject because ‘we have such a wonderful community’. Some days I feel like Chicken Little running around while nobody listens. But this epidemic is growing, and our communities need to BE wonderful, step out of their comfort zone and realize we must address this issue.
My intention in collecting stories of people’s first time with heroin was to write on piece using quotes from different people. I wanted to spread awareness about what people call ‘the choice’ to use heroin. Some stories were too powerful for that and I felt needed to be shared.
Below is such a story. Thank you RR for choosing Life. Thank you for Stopping the Silence and Speaking the Truth. I hope your story will help change minds and hearts.
The Winding Path to Heroin and Back: RR’s Story
“I’ll never do heroin. Those people are gross. I’ll never become that. I will never do that.”
My first time doing an OxyContin I was in 10th grade. My friend told me sniffing this pill was exactly like smoking weed, “without the munchies”. We split this Oxy 80 with this girl and left for my high school’s homecoming game. I felt like a superhero. A week or so went by and I wanted to do it again, it was fun. It gave me all the confidence and security I did not possess on my own. The student guidance counselor finds out, calls my parents; I was barely 16 years old. I got a lecture and decided to simply smoke pot and drink on the weekends.
This plan lasted a year or two. Then I met a boy my senior year of high school- he lived fast. Fast cars, fast money, fast drugs. I had a run-in with cocaine and ecstasy pills while I was dating him, but I had enough willpower to put those drugs down. Then Oxy 30’s, also known as blues, hit my town.
It was springtime. I had always preferred drinking over doing pills, I used to judge those who preferred pills over alcohol… but a few of my “friends” were going to get some. I had been making a ridiculous amount of money for a twenty-year old. My bills were paid and I had plenty of money in my saving account. Just a few here and there, nothing serious.
A month went by and before I knew it, I had been doing as many pills per day as I could “handle”. My bank account’s funds were running out. My “friends” had diminished once my money started getting low. I was once again living paycheck to paycheck. I made an attempt to switch back to drinking but that wasn’t the type of inebriation I was searching for.
Here we are entering the summertime. Before I knew it, I was spending my entire paycheck within days. My bills were overdue. I had begun stealing money from my mother. Once she caught on, she didn’t leave money lying around the house. I had a splendid idea… if I can guess the PIN number to her debit card, my funds will never run out! I will transfer the money with my next paycheck, she won’t have any clue! I was wrong. Luckily she did not press charges and I made many excuses. I needed gas. I needed cigarettes. I needed food. No. I needed blues. I think part of her really wanted to believe me, but there was no turning back.
Autumn of that year came and went quickly. I don’t really remember much. The only flashbulb memory I have is every night, high as a kite, I would tell myself I was going to quit tomorrow. Then tomorrow would come and I would be chasing these pills again. My bank account had been closed, I was writing myself bad checks to get high for the day. I had lost my job, I was a college dropout. My phone was on the verge of getting shut off- I maxed out the number of lines on the plan. The brand new phones were property of the local pawn shops.
One morning, after the insanity of taking any and everything possible to the pawn shop, I scratched together enough money for one blue pill. I texted my dealer and the response was, “No pills, got bags though.” Bags? Of what? I’m feeling sick. I need a blue. Oh no.
After trying to contact my other dealers, nobody had blues. I felt nauseous, I had the chills. I responded to the first dealer. Okay. Where are you?
I swore I would never touch the shit. I swore I would never become that person. But okay, I do not want to feel sick. Fuck it. Only today, the pills will be back tomorrow.
Heroin tastes disgusting. Those 3 bags I got rather than 1 pill made me feel warm and fuzzy. I did not feel like superman, but I did feel really nice. Instead of going nuts and cleaning my house on the pills, I sat for a few hours. I nod. I’m not sleeping, but I am not awake either.
A few more months go by. I was forced to go to rehab because I was facing criminal charges. In rehab, they require all clients to get bloodwork done. The other clients standing in line with me admired my veins. Needles always freaked me out. But their appreciation of my veins set up what I now know as a reservation.
I convinced myself I was done getting high or drunk. I had no problem admitting I was an alcoholic as well as a drug addict. After 31 days, I got sent home. I left treatment content with a simple a cup of coffee and a pack of Marlboros. I think I stayed clean for two whole days upon arriving home.
My mother had written me while I was in reah and told me my grandmother was not doing too well. I didn’t take it seriously. Then she passed away. I didn’t know how to not feel that pain and I didn’t want to feel that pain.
So here we are, within the two weeks I am out of rehab I progressed from just drinking to oxy’s back to heroin and it was tasting absolutely foul. The drip from sniffing it was repulsive. I didn’t want to feel that pain of losing my grandmother. I knew who had been shooting up the junk and I manipulated the situation so that they would be okay will shooting me up for my first time. The dude was very apprehensive, he told me he knew what this one time would do to me. I complained and complained until he obliged. After I took the belt from around my arm, I sat back. I’ve never felt anything like this before in my entire life. This is amazing. I think I’ll just sit back like this forever.
Nothing compared to that first time shooting heroin. I learned how to shoot myself up and nothing ever compared to that first time. I even used Xanax and pot in an attempt to magnify the high. Nothing compared. No sex. No food. No person. Heroin.
I began the rehab waltz. Rehab, halfway home, few months clean, detox, detox, use… The cycle was not ending, I didn’t want it to end. I was not finished. Then I was convinced I was meant to die this way. Part of me really wanted to die. My parents had been planning my funeral, I had no friends. Nobody meant anything to me if they weren’t related to heroin, I kept those people at my disposal. I stopped answering my parent’s phone calls, I knew them hearing me was painful and devastating.
I was sleeping with scary drug dealers to remain high. I was driving scary drug dealers around to remain high. I was off the map to everybody else. Heroin was everything. My soul was sold. My self-respect was sold. Everything was sold. Heroin won. I lost. I was thoroughly convinced I was meant to die this way.
Luckily, my mother was sick and tired of me and my bullshit. She called my probation officer. I was pissed. That probation officer told me to report to the department or there would be a warrant out for my arrest. As pissed off as I was, I knew this might just save my life.
I pawned my phone for the last time. I picked up heroin, shot up, and made my way to the probation department. They asked me to take a urinalysis, I told them let’s not waste their test. “Turn around and face the wall.” I cried, I begged, I pleaded. I am TOO PRETTY for jail.
I was escorted by two probation officers to county prison in handcuffs. I cried for a minute, then the optimist in me decided I was going to take this as a learning experience. I was done using heroin. I was done using anything. This was a whole new low.
Detoxing in jail off of heroin and Xanax is quite possibly the worst experience one may endure. I was a whopping hundred pounds soaking wet. I couldn’t eat, I was vomiting, and sleeping was impossible. I felt my skin crawling, every part of my body ached. When I got moved to general population, I sat in my cell, I wrote poetry about getting high, and I was very conflicted. Was I really done? Detox in here was dreadful. But maybe…
There are many, many probation violators in jail. The majority of these people had one too many chances at rehab and the system was tired. Some were doing the duration of their sentence, the majority had been in jail previously. I promised myself I was never going to wind up here again, I was done.
I got released after three months. I was free from the monster called heroin, I was able to go outside when I wanted, I could have a cell phone. The first endeavor I decided to take with my freedom was to go cop heroin. I made a conscious decision to go pick up this drug that stole my freedom and almost killed me. I shared needles with people knowing they had Hepatitis, I did not care. Nothing compares to that euphoria.
Probation caught up to me after two weeks. They told me that being honest will help me more than lying. I was used to manipulating and lying but I told them everything that I would test positive for on a drug test. I was done. I did not want to return to jail. I did not want to be away from my family. How hard could it be to stay clean?
That was August 21, 2013. I have not drank alcohol or used any drugs since. I was given the direction to attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings. I listened. I was desperate. I chose life. I chose freedom. I chose honesty.
I won’t lie and say that everything has been rainbows and peaches these past 2 ½ years, but I can say that it is beautiful to feel my feelings. I’ve lost friends in this process, heroin continues to kill people. I’ve had to cut friendships short because I cannot save anyone but myself. I work in substance abuse treatment, I’m halfway done with college, I am engaged, I’m getting married.
I know none of these would be possible if I didn’t put down heroin. Just recently I’ve seen a lot of deaths among kids 20 and under. Heroin isn’t going anywhere, but I’m going places. Today I choose to say no.