I’m not your typical addict. Not that there’s a difference. An addict is an addict no matter where you shoot up or cop your fix.
I don’t fit the stereotypical version of a junkie seen in movies or on television news every night. That’s the problem with the stigma of addiction…it’s a dirty world incubating within the slums and ghettos where people dumpster dive or old needles and hustle for money. Or you are a misunderstood musician, writer, painter who glamorizes using like it inspires only the best and brightest.
At least that’s what they want you to believe.
My story is different but there are many others just like myself.
I grew up in a small sized city of about 130,000 people packed into three square miles outside Boston. Yes we have gangs, slums, guns, murders, drugs and those city problems that plague larger metropolitan areas. However, those issues are centralized into small neighborhoods while upscale four bedroom old Victorian homes make a border around the less than desirable ‘hoods.
I grew up in a two parent household. Attended Catholic School. Had a mother who tried to make us kneel in the pews with her every Sunday until we were teens and fought until it was too much for her to rouse us from bed for hymns and prayers.
I wasn’t spoiled but didn’t have many wants. We hung in the neighborhood and I still am friends with the same bunch of kids who smashed pumpkins and egged the mean old Mr. Reading’s house any chance we could.
It was in 8th grade my obsession with drugs started. Grunge was the rage and Nirvana was the Justin Beiber equivalent of the biggest star in the universe. I was enthralled.
I dyed my hair with Kool Aid. Shopped at the Salvation Army store for baby doll dresses and wore pink plastic barrettes in my ratty hair. My walls were covered with images of Kurt Cobain, Eddie Veddar, Thurston Moore and Billy Corgan.
I watched VHS videos over and over of concert footage and appearances from those grunge bands. I was determined to runaway to Seattle with the acoustic guitar I made my parents buy me (then skipped lessons they paid for) and busk on the streets of the fabulous land I thought was the Oz to my Dorothy.
Then grunge died.
I will never forget hugging my best friend in the parking lot of grammar school, tears rolling down our cheeks, sobbing in front of nuns who thought our parents should send us to a retreat to “clear our heads and pray”. It was April 8…and Kurt Cobain was found dead of a shotgun wound to the head.
From that day on I was intrigued by heroin. What was this magic drug that caused my idol so much pleasure that even the thought of living without it made him kill himself? That’s how I rationalized suicide at 13 years old.
I was fearful of heroin. But not of EVERYTHING else.
In high school, I dropped the grunge persona as soon as I was given attention by some of the more popular guys. Guys that grew up with me. That I’ve seen pee their pants when old Mr Reading did catch them egging his car one time. These same guys were now the “hot” guys and I was their girl.
I partied and drank in the woods with them. Stashed weed in my locker for them. Skipped school and did acid with them. Sold E for them to the under classmen. It was a blur but it was fun.
However, my reputation for being a “party girl” at first was just a show. I’d pretend I drank six keg cups when really I hated the taste of beer. I would leave the party early to meet one of my geeky guy pals to talk about authors and books and getting out of this city for a more cultured one. The rest of the party goers figured I’d passed out or went to hook up with someone.
After high school college was when I first messed up. The new found freedom meant I slept through class, only showed up for the mid term and final and knew where every packie in town would sell to me with my fake ID. I flunked out. My parents made me get a full time job. It was horrendous getting up at 7 a.m. And working as a receptionist dealing with rude people all day while my friends were hanging out getting expensive coffee drinks and chatting about the cute professor.
I got my act together after one year. Enrolled in the local community college and flourished. I had a 3.94 GPA. Received multiple scholarships. Attended my dream university in Boston. Graduated and was hired at my dream job in my field within a month.
I still had my party girl reputation though and this time it appealed to my boss. He tapped me to write a column about being a single twenty-something. It was about dating, going out, boozing and all the things my readers, mostly baby boomers going thru a mid life crisis, could vicariously relive their younger years through reading.
I was a hit. The popular girl once again. Not for me but for my partying and all the sordid seedy details that went with it.
I wasn’t writing the truth. It was half truths. There’s nothing glamorous in waking up with my cheek stuck on the floor of an apartment laying next to some guy I didn’t even know. Running for the door with my things, sans underwear, and walking down the street in a dress-no jacket- in 25 degree temps calling any friend for a ride ASAP at 5:30 a.m.
Those takes never made my column. Those tales wouldn’t win me an award or raise or syndication. So I put a funny spin on them and a smile on my face.
I Fooled everyone else into thinking I lived a fabulous life, even myself for a while.
Then I was introduced to pills. Ah, those were good times.
One of my boys from the old neighborhood was a pretty big dealer. He always dealt weed and a little coke, but now he was pushing painkillers. I would get one off him for free and pop it at the bar. A few drinks later I’d be on cloud 9. Just one pill! It was amazing.
Then he laid it out—if I sold them to my girlfriends and pals I could basically get mine for free. I didn’t think twice at passing up the chance.
At first, I was pushing about two dozen OC 40s or 80s a week. Then word got around. Friends gave my number out to their friends. At one point, I was copping a 100 pack of 80s every other day at the storage unit where he kept his stash. It was awesome $$$.
However, my habit began to get worse. Instead of selling I was dipping into the stash and I would end up owing him money instead of getting free drugs and making money. When I couldn’t pay him and dodged his phone calls for a few days he should up at my place grabbed me by the throat and instead of threatening me to get his money he threatened to tell my parents I had a drug problem.
Ha! Drug problem! I laughed. I could stop an not take pills starting from that second I told him. And I did. I tried. Not knowing the severity of withdrawals or even what was about to hit me like a Mack truck when I didn’t crush and snort an 80 the second I got out of bed.
My endless supply was cut off in an instant and I owed him money that I didn’t have. When one of my customers called I explained what was going on as I laid in bed sweating, shivering, my voice trembling.
“you don’t have to feel like that. I’ll bring some H over.”
I hesitated. No. I wasn’t going down that path. Ever since that day in the parking lot when I cried 10 years earlier for my idol I knew heroin was not the drug for me. Little did I know the opiates I was snorting up my nose every half hour were a prescription form of the same drug.
How naive I was.
I hung up. Wrestled with the blankets for an hour or so…then just gave up. The withdrawals were getting more severe and my search on the Internet for at home remedies caused me even more concern as I discovered this could last for up to ten days with the first 3 being the most brutal. Some addicts feel affects months later and don’t feel 100% even a year later.
About 15 minutes later I was snorting a line of H off the mirror in my bedroom with him. I remember saying to myself, I get enough to get thru this work week then lay in bed for the three day weekend.
That was about five years ago.
The party was over.
Why do I say I’m not a typical addict?
I maintained my full time job and a part time one for the next three years. Even as a daily heroin user. I’d snort in the bathroom. Meet my dealer at lunch break. I also have a medical issue that flares up at times…this made my excuses calling in sick when I was in withdrawal all believable to my boss. My inlaw’s weren’t aware. Nor my parents.
I did lose a lot of weight. Which only garnered compliments until I was a tad too thin for my height. People started to worry then. But they thought I was stressed. Layoffs were going on at work. Also, my father in law was in a serious ATV accident and in a coma for 6 months in intensive care with a 50/50 chance at surviving.
I was stressed. But I was high.
The act could only go on for so long. Eventually we had to move to my in laws after not paying rent for 6 months and getting evicted. The deal was we had to get treatment and save all our money. In three months, we were to start looking for our own place.
That’s when my life changed dramatically. I started on the methadone clinic on June 18, 2010. I discovered I was pregnant on July 24, 2010. I gave birth the following year. I had been clean of all opiates except the methadone of course from July 24 2010 until February 1, 2011…the last day of my involuntary detox from the clinic due to losing my health insurance and being unable to pay the weekly fee since I was unemployed.
I used heroin again all spring and summer until getting myself back on the clinic August 30. It’s been a struggle. I’ve relapsed a few times since. I started this blog. I began exercising again. I reconnected with family I’ve avoided for years while actively using.
I enjoy playing with my son and spending money on him rather than thinking “well if I buy him this toy that’s one less bag of H for me…”
Since I started this blog a couple months ago, I haven’t told my story. I’ve shared bits and pieces. This isn’t my ENTIRE story on how and why I started using heroin.
It is however a story on how even a girl from a nice neighborhood, educated, spiritual, and middle class family with parents married 30 plus years found herself on the wrong side of the track marks.
I have a family. A nice home in a nice working class neighborhood where people sit outside on their porches during the summer watching their kids play kickball in the street. The ice cream truck drives by playing annoying ditties. I have a college degree. I have a reliable car that’s good on gas. I read novels and do the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle for fun.
I was never arrested. I’ve never been molested. I’ve never hooked on the corner. I’ve never dumpster dived for needles.
I don’t even have a cavity!
Yet, I am a heroin addict.
All I ask is the next time you roll up your window while at a red light as someone approaches you for money and make a snide remark to your passenger, “look at this junkie” stop and take a look at the person in the sedan next to you. She may have their hair blown out. Nails manicured and a large diamond on their ring finger that blinds you as she apply her $20 lip gloss in the rear view mirror.
But in her designer purse on the seat next to her, she may just have a bag of H and her works. And the poor guy begging for change may just want to buy his kids a pizza for supper.
Think about it…