Addiction to heroin crept up on me. It started with a prescription for opioids to manage pain after I had a car accident. It’s hard to believe that a legal drug would have been the catalyst for a decade long bout abusing heroin. This isn’t uncommon sadly and many won’t ever get out of the cycle. I did eventually get clean. I was one of the lucky ones. A chronic heroin abuser will experience a 97% relapse rate. Most people using heroin will die of an overdose within 10 years of first starting. My last chance came in the way of naltrexone. This is a modern drug that blocks opiate effects on the brain so you can’t get high. I have been clean and sober now for the past five years because I chose life. I chose to experience the normal things that people do every day. That was not something I had the opportunity to do as a heroin junkie for almost a decade of my life. I started abusing heroin when I was 26. Here are my confessions of how rock bottom my life got.
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1. I Kept It Secret
Heroin users do their best to keep their addiction a secret. I was no exception. I would stay away from my home and do heroin on the streets. Sometimes, I would pass out behind garbage dumpsters. I got away with my behavior, unnoticed, for almost a year. Eventually, I became more careless and started leaving paraphernalia in my room. Aluminum foil, cut up straws, and the occasional needle. My parents eventually had to stop ignoring the signs, their kid was addicted to heroin. Of course, they took action. They set up a professional intervention and I realized I had nowhere to hide, it was time to face the truth of my addiction to heroin. By the time I got help, I was extremely dependent on heroin.
2. I Relapsed
Despite efforts from all the people around me to get me help; my first time getting clean in rehab didn’t last long. Going through the agony of heroin withdrawal symptoms like cold sweats, nausea, vomiting, and high levels of anxiety was hell. I made it through the physical withdrawal but then the long-term withdrawal effects took over my life. I was highly depressed and having to deal with my pain of the past. I think we all have emotions we don’t manage, especially a heroin junkie. We use the drug to numb whatever has happened to us that we don’t want to see or feel. I was anxious and paranoid. I couldn’t relax and I desperately craved heroin. This lead to me relapsing more times than I’d like to admit. Every time I started over, I would try to hide it again. I wanted to keep using and people were always trying to stop me. Once people I loved knew what the signs of heroin use were, I could never hide it for long.
3. I Stole From People I Cared About
I would steal from my parents. Precious things that had been carried through the generations. A pearl necklace given to my mom by her grandmother, things like that. I even stole the TV right out of my parent’s living room and sold it for heroin. I ran with a group of other heroin users and we would steal cars or break into people’s houses. I got in a lot of trouble with the law. They began to know who I was. They knew my parents cared a great deal and I think even the police that knew me were trying to help me. I hurt many people with my actions and this was one of the worst things that I still feel badly about to this day. While in the 12-step program, I have learned to forgive myself, I do feel remorse for stealing things that mattered to people.
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4. I Turned Tricks for Money
I was a beautiful young woman. I was in beauty pageants and was always told what a lovely looking lady I was. When I began abusing heroin, I still had my looks. I got offers to exchange sex for heroin but I was managing to find my own money elsewhere to pay for it. As time went on, it did become more challenging to get the money I needed. As a junkie, nothing else mattered. I needed heroin and I knew there was a way for me to get it. Through turning tricks. Before using heroin, I was cautious and had very few partners. I only slept with men I was in a committed relationship with. This all changed. Soon, I was sleeping with men I would never even talk to. I felt nothing. I only felt satisfaction when I got my hit of heroin as the reward. I ended up with sexually transmitted diseases and lost all sense of self-worth. It became the easiest way to get heroin. I have missing teeth now and my body is destitute. Nobody finds me attractive anymore.
5. I Shared Needles
I took other risks that caused potential health problems. I shared needles with other people. The potential for contracting life-threatening diseases like hepatitis or H.I.V. just didn’t seem to matter. All that mattered was getting that hit of heroin. If there was a needle that was nearby, I would just use that. Many of the people I spent time with did end up with diseases. I was lucky enough.
6. Withdrawal Made Me a Terrible Person
Despite the fact that I had people loving me in my life, when I was abusing heroin or withdrawing from it, I was a terrible person. I was constantly agitated and irritated. I couldn’t concentrate on anything and that made me feel incredibly frustrated. I experienced both anxiety and depression when I was withdrawing and these moods would swing rapidly. I didn’t feel anything. I was numb. I felt no pleasure. As much as my parents tried to life my mood, I would put a negative spin on everything. I was restless and had a hard time sleeping. Throughout my 20’s, I never held a job. I only battled with heroin. When I was on heroin, I wasn’t really there. My personality was aloof. Through withdrawal, I became more animated but I was not a nice person to be near. I was angry and treated people that were trying to help me unfairly. Heroin withdrawal lasted for months. It was hard on everyone and then I would relapse. When I finally stopped abusing heroin for good, the day came where I felt happy again. I could think and be a part of society again. I knew I would never take heroin again when this happened.
7. I Saw Heroin Junkies Die
I didn’t identify what was going on in my life at the time. In 2016 alone, over 13,000 people died from heroin overdose. Awful things happened to other heroin junkies around me. I never mourned them even though they were a part of my daily life. We were all shells of human beings. When I look back, I see myself as a zombie. I witnessed people not breathing and did nothing to help them. I wasn’t equipped and again, I felt nothing. I think that part of the reason I continued to abuse heroin was to never have to think about what I was seeing. Going through cognitive behavioral therapy, I had to come to terms with my experiences on the streets while being on heroin. Things I never reacted to. Things I repressed. It helped a lot to talk to a professional and deal with the horrors I experienced on the streets.
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8. The Final Detox that Saved Me
The last time I detoxed from heroin, I went on buprenorphine and successfully tapered off heroin for good. As my body slowly adjusted with every reduced dose, I eventually was not physically dependent on heroin any longer. Through this slow process of heroin detox which lasted a week, I was also in intensive therapy. I began to learn about what had happened to me and started to deal with the mess my life had become. Through the kindness of my therapists, support groups, and family therapy, I started to actually want to get better. Past detox and a few months of inpatient rehabilitation, I began to truly heal from my time as a heroin user. I began to want to live a normal life. Something I feel I had never done. I never had the chance to get a job, be responsible, go out for coffee with friends. I now get to do those things that people do. I am haunted sometimes by my past but proud that I made it out alive. There were so many that didn’t. I am here today to tell the tale. I won’t soon forget the people that helped me and the support that my family gave to me when I had given up on myself. Addiction took over my whole life and if I hadn’t gone to recovery at North Point Recovery, I don’t know where I would be today.