When I was 21, I tried heroin for the first time. I didn’t think much of it. In fact, I was wondering what all my friends were raving about. But at the same time, it made me feel really calm and chilled out – mellow. A week later, I tried again.
Heroin Addiction: From Bad to Worse in Record Time
I still can’t believe – or even understand – how fast my heroin use escalated. I never thought this could to happen to me. First, I began using heroin earlier in the day, but soon I was using it all day, every day. I very rarely went without long enough to get “sick”.
Things got really bad. I somehow managed to keep a job, but I would leave work, get home, and get high without even changing my work clothes. The next morning, I would get up and go straight to work without even showering. Sometimes, this went on for as long as for two weeks. When my hair would get too greasy or my smell too rank, that’s what talcum powder and cologne were for.
My heroin use escalated until I was spending over $100 a day, and that was hard because by now, I was starting to miss work.
Heroin Scared Me – But so Did Doing Without
I was chasing the Dragon, completely lost. I was scared, but I couldn’t see a way out. I was utterly trapped.
I hated using heroin because of what it was doing to me, especially the toll it was taking on my body. Most days, I was so sick that I even had to keep a plastic bag on hand to catch my vomit. I collapsed more than once from using too much, including in front of my mother when she came over to check on me.
My poor mother thought I was having some kind of breakdown. I was, just not the way she thought. When she saw my rig and found out that I was using heroin and told my father, they threatened to kick me out of the family and break off all contact unless I enrolled in drug treatment.
I was too scared for that. We called the intake line that afternoon.
Getting Help for My Heroin Problem
When I went in for my first appointment – the evaluation, I was so nervous that I asked my mother to come with me.
After taking my history, the intake specialist suggested that I go to a detox facility. I remember thinking, “No way I’m going to detox. That’s for bums, not for me!” Even my mother didn’t think that I needed the detox. However, the more the intake person spoke to me, the more I realized that detox might be exactly what I needed.
Even so, it was really rough at first – I was jumpy, had trouble sleeping, and really wanted just one fix. The detox doctor put me on a medication called Suboxone. It wasn’t the same as heroin, but it made the cravings and the sickness…tolerable.
Once I had stopped using heroin, I started becoming aware again of simple things – food tasted different, I could smell things again, and it seemed as if I was noticing everything. It was really pretty odd, yet awesome.
When I started actual recovery, my first group session had about a dozen people in it. I was pretty nervous, and ashamed that someone was going to ask me about my life as a junkie. Instead, the therapist started talking about drug use as if it were a sickness, like cancer or diabetes. All this time, I had felt guilty because I thought I was just weak-willed and selfish.
But when the therapist went on about genetics and environment, and peer pressure, and stress, and anxiety – and the other things that contributed to my DISEASE, that really got to me. Maybe I wasn’t such a monument mental, worthless screw-up, after all.
It was like a light had finally gone off in my head. If I was sick, then maybe there was a way to get better.
I just didn’t know how.
12-Step Fellowship and Me
The rehab facility suggested that I attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings. I went and sat there listening to other people’s stories and I couldn’t believe that people were describing the depth of their addiction and saying they were now clean. I thought I could never be where they were. It felt like everyone was looking at me, knowing how weak I was.
One of the people there was another ex-heroin junkie like me who had been clean for about 10 years. He came over to talk to me and I was amazed by the simple way he told his story. He had been exactly where I was, and yet, he had gotten through it. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel so alone or scared.
My Life of Therapy and NA
As the months passed, going to rehab and attending NA almost every day meetings felt better than I would have felt possible. They were the right places for me, at the right time. Among the other people in recovery, I didn’t feel so alien, like I did with the rest of my family. I even felt like I belonged. We were also different, but we all had so much in common.
Slowly, I began to understand my addiction, and how my own behaviors made it possible for my disease to progress. It was drilled into my head that if I really wanted to change the course of my disease, I would first have to change my way of dealing with things and then change my behaviors.
And that’s where I am right now.
My days have settled into a routine – I pray, meditate, read, take my medicine, go to work, attend outpatient rehab, hit a meeting, and come back home. Since I only have four months of sobriety and have only recently started working again, I’ve temporarily moved back in with my parents.
Things are getting better, day by day. I’m happy because I don’t constantly feel worthless, fearful, or ashamed. Life is not perfect, but it is a major improvement over where I was.
And that’s enough for me.