My Idea of Heroin Was Similar to Yours…

It was something “junkies” did and it meant serious trouble. Pills, on the other hand, were a totally different story. There is the misconception that a legal prescription is guaranteed “safe”. I had experiences with alcohol and pot in middle school but it wasn’t until high school that I heard about people abusing prescription medication. There was a range of pills being abused: Adderall, Ritalin, Ambien, Xanax, Oxycontin, Valium, Percocet, etc. Most of these were a weekend thing and it was rare that people took them daily, but there were a few stories of a guy or girl who got “caught up”.

After high school it was more common that people were using drugs daily since there was no designated “school week.” Alcohol, marijuana and cocaine were easier to get than most pills. At that time, you really had to know somebody who knew somebody. The group of people that I knew would rather spend their money on a guaranteed, easy-to-find “high” like pot or coke than a pill or two that we weren’t too experienced with.

Over the last few years I’ve heard much more about people getting stuck on pills like Oxycontin, and then trying heroin (less expensive and larger supply). I also know from the time I spent in different rehabs that almost ALL the people (age 18-40) were there for heroin. Anyone who wasn’t, was typically older and there for alcohol and/or benzo’s (benzodiazepine). All those heroin addicts I was bunked with, almost every single one, said they tried heroin because it was less expensive than the pills they were purchasing. Seriously, I was in 5 different institutions and I can’t remember a single person who said they just up and decided to try heroin. ALL of them had been abusing prescription opiates and either kept running out of their own prescription or couldn’t afford buying the drugs off other people. I remember my story being particularly surprising to most of the people that I told, because I never tried any prescription opiate before. I just came home one Sunday, and my boyfriend offered me heroin. I snorted a line…was coming down from coke and too drunk to “feel” anything. I begged him to shoot me up, he did, and euphoria set in. And that was it, life, as I previously knew it, ended.

I believe heroin is becoming so popular because the prescription opiates being offered to people today are strong and quite addictive. There are also many people who would argue that doctors today offer drugs like candy (I only had to call my psychiatrist on my way home from work; an hour later I had a month’s supply of Clonazepam waiting for me at the pharmacy). Today, as a preventative measure, most of the opiate pills are made with a coating that gels up if you try to shoot it (I know, I’ve tried…and failed…and wasted SO much more money than if I had just gotten heroin). Although, it isn’t just the opiates that are being abused. Benzo’s are big now too. If I had to pick the two “top” drugs, it’d be prescription opiates and benzo’s.

My opinion is based on my experience with the people I grew up with, the addicts I met in different rehabs and detox hospitals, and of course the ‘recovered’ addicts I know in AA.

Curiosity got me at 13

I always wanted to “try” alcohol and/or drugs, and the first opportunity that arose, I took advantage. I didn’t sip on a beer, I went shot for shot with some cheap vodka and ended up climbing out of bathroom windows and kissing boys in abandoned trailers all in the first night. Needless to say, that set the tone for my partying. I never had one drink or just smoked one joint. I always wanted to be as fucked up as I could be, honestly because I LOVE the feeling. And it could come from anything that was available, if all I had was old Sambuca, I’d drink it all (did it freshman year).

In middle school I was the ring leader for all the trouble you could think of. Shoplifted, smoked cigarettes, stole liquor, dated older guys, etc. In high school, I was one of 450 freshmen and most of us got lost in the mix. I settled down and found a groove with a small group of friends who had the same priority as me…do whatever we have to do to coast through the week and then get fucked up Friday and Saturday and recover Sunday. Most weekends I would stay at a friend’s house, drink all night and sleep all day. There were weeks when my “using” crept into the school week but it was rare I drank alcohol during the week. If I did anything, I’d smoke some pot. Most of my friends were snorting coke and drinking all weekend and by 17 I gave in and tried it, although even the friends that were doing it cautioned me NOT to try it because I would love it. That did not deter me. I tried it and loved it. I couldn’t afford to do it regularly but whenever I could, I would.

I stayed pretty “successful” (although I did lose my high school scholarship after accumulating 59 unexcused absences my junior year) through my high school graduation. I had three college options: a partial scholarship to Pace, another to Fordham and lastly I could go to my county’s community college for free (New Jersey had a program for anyone graduating in the top 20% of their class, offering free attendance at the community college). I had such big dreams for my education and career, but fear and comfortability ran my life. I was too scared to change. I wanted to stay home and keep the good thing I had going. And that’s exactly what I did.

I went to school 5 minutes from my house and now was drinking, smoking pot and doing coke much more regularly. At 19, I had gotten pretty heavy into coke and for the first time thought I may have a problem. I reached out to a girlfriend from high school who had been in and out of 12 step programs since age 14. I asked her to take me to a meeting. I went, I hated it. I stopped using on my own and had a year of abstinence. At 20, I began hanging out with some really “high-class citizens” who were living in an old house that was going to be demolished in the next few months. It was a huge party house and once I started hanging around there I started drinking again and before I knew it I was worse than I had ever been. I would buy a bottle of Captain Morgan, a small Coca-Cola, some ice and make myself mixed drinks. I’d even share in the beginning. It only took a few weeks before I said, “fuck the ice”…then I didn’t even need the soda, and eventually I would just drink a warm bottle of Captain every night. My sister began hanging out at this house since it was such a big party house most of the people in our area showed up eventually. Now both my sister and my boyfriend were coming after me for my drinking. I usually was just messy and stupid but there were a few times I got into physical fights (always with men, I broke one guy’s nose). One night, I called my boyfriend for a ride and then left the house and attempted to walk to the diner in the snow barefoot, and he broke up with me that night because my drinking was getting out of hand. At this point, I felt like “fuck them if they can’t keep up”. By 21, it was legal and I could get shit-faced in a cute outfit at a bar and tag myself in all the angled pictures I’d take on my cell phone. Of course, I really was a sloppy drunk, always bruised the next day, so many lost or broken cell phones, numerous car accidents all due to me drinking and driving (I never hit another moving car…just telephone poles and parked cars).

I think it was age 19 I started on-line dating sites. I went on dates most nights of the week, got a paid-for dinner and free drinks, and from there would go to a party or boyfriend’s house and to keep the fun going. At age 20 I went on fetish sites and by 21 was getting paid for performing some fetish acts (NO sex). But this is what I turned to when I became a broke and desperate dope fiend.

At 21 I was reintroduced to Jay

… a man I had a huge crush on at 19. He had disappeared for a while (jail and rehab) and was now in a halfway house and was able to work and go out. We went on a few dates and decided we were in love and it would be a good idea for him to move out of the halfway house and into my family’s home. Maybe 3 weeks after our first date he moved in, he also worked for my mom and did a lot of construction and painting in the house.

Within a few weeks of moving in Jay relapsed. He picked me up one night around 3AM from the bar. I was drunk and coming down from coke. I went to the bathroom and came back and he had put a little piece of folded paper on my dresser as a tee-pee. He asked if I wanted to “feel better” …of course I said yes and he told me not to ask any questions and lifted the paper and showed me a line of powder. At first I thought it was more cocaine, but it looked awful! It was brown. I asked what it was (even though I knew; I was drunk, not stupid). It was heroin. I snorted it and felt nothing. I asked him if he snorted it or shot it. He said he shot it, and I begged him to shoot me up with it. It took some convincing, but he finally did, and it was better than words could describe, so I won’t waste your time. Don’t be fooled, if it didn’t ruin my life and take my soul, I’d do it every day and recommend that all people try it.

My boyfriend and I used to say it was like being in the womb, that warm, perfect feeling that started in my gut and worked its magic all the way from my head to toes. Right from that night I shot heroin everyday. I had to ask my boyfriend if he thought we were “addicted.” I remember being afraid I definitely was, but SO not wanting to stop. I told him we had to and we agreed. We detoxed ourselves the next day. We locked ourselves in my bedroom, told my family we had caught the flu and suffered for the next 3 days. I thought I would lose my mind or kill myself, but my boyfriend kept telling me to just wait and that it’d be okay. After a few days I physically felt okay, but I still felt like I had been completely mind-fucked. I mean why would such euphoria exist if it can’t be used!? What the fuck…. sick God isn’t it? This food is gonna taste great, but it’ll clog your arteries and kill you, oh and this “drug” is gonna make your body feel like you’re back in the womb but it’ll take your soul. Hmm

The next two years was back and forth into hell and rehab

Those two years started comfortably but went downhill fast. We (Jay and I) moved from my family’s home to his parent’s, and after allegedly stealing from them, we were forced to leave. In the midst of the madness we slept in my car. Around that time the police picked us up and we were questioned regarding the theft at his parents. The police reached out to my family, showing up at my house to question my parents and even calling Jay’s extended family. This one detective (who had arrested Jay previously on felonies Jay had been convicted of and served time for) really seemed to have it out for him again. I think all this prompted my parents’ intervention. I went to work one day (majority of the time I was using I was working), and when I got out my parents had taken my spare keys and taken my car, which was in Jay’s possession at the time. I spent the day running from my family, getting high in parking lots, public restrooms, parks, just running out the clock. I finally went home and was bombarded with zip-locks full of needles and empty dope bags (I saved the “empties” in case of a desperate night I would sit and scrape any dope dust out of the corners of over a hundred bags just to get one shot).

I ran away (literally ran out the house to the park across the street). Eventually, my boyfriend and I went to a hotel and decided to just kick on our own. This would be the second time I detoxed myself. My mom sent me a text and told me she’d take me someplace where they could give me something for the pain. I was so ignorant to the drug culture, I only knew of methadone and I didn’t want to “maintain” anything, I had never heard of suboxone or subutex. After 2 full days, I gave in and called my mother, crying for the pain to stop. That was my first detox.

I was high the same night I got out of rehab.

Now that people were onto me and knew I had a problem…

…I no longer had the comfort and luxuries I’d had previously. I ended up staying with my boyfriend’s family most of the time because my family was too involved and invasive. The longer we were using the more it took to avoid getting sick. Between my boyfriend and me, we’d easily go through a “brick” in less than 24 hours. A “bundle” is 10 bags and a “brick” is 5 bundles.

As time went on, my boyfriend and I would take the bus together to go cop, but I’d always hold the dope because a brick (5 bundles stacked with a rubber-band around them) fit perfectly in the cellophane of a cigarette box, and I’d wrap the brick and put it inside me. We’d been stopped and searched before, but no one found anything because this was how we hid our drugs. We rarely went to cop with any other paraphernalia (needles, water-bottle caps, cotton, q-tips). But as we’d get more and more desperate we became careless. Many times we wouldn’t wait to get home to shoot, we’d be so sick, we’d mix on the bus and shoot right there, trying to cover each other. At one point I didn’t care who saw, I shot up on the bus in front of a little girl. I’d stab my arm and miss the vein and have blood everywhere, and just keep poking and poking. My arms were always bruised and marked. Because needles aren’t sold in NJ, we’d re-use ours hundreds of times until the tip was so dull we were stabbing our arms. Eventually, we went to the needle exchange (Jay was so paranoid he thought they would put our name in some database — I didn’t care, and paying for needles was a waste of money we could’ve been using for dope).

After I had stolen all the jewelry in my home, Jay’s family’s house and selling any valuables we owned we really had to get creative. I had no problem prostituting as regularly as I could. But I did this without Jay’s knowledge. He knew about a few fetish arrangements (men who would pay for a half hour of massaging my feet or other kinky stuff like that), but Jay was always under the impression there was no nudity or contact beyond that. Of course, there was.

Heroin was always a drug I believed to be a low-life’s drug choice. Most of my friends viewed it with a stigma. The two drugs I said I’d never do was heroin and crack. I think because of the stigma of a needle or a crack pipe. It seemed like a junkie’s or bum’s drug. Opiate pills, on the other hand (the same drug!) was not at all viewed like that. More recently, opiates have become so popular, more and more upper class kids are turning to dope. It’s not “accepted” but people aren’t AS shocked as they were a few years ago…it almost makes sense: get hooked on the pills, pills are expensive, a friend of a friend knows where to get something just as good for 1/10 of the price – BAM, you’re a dope fiend.

People in rehab and meetings are always shocked when I tell them I didn’t start with pills, also almost every dope-head I met has started with pills and THEN turned to dope. It’s the same story from everyone: pills got too pricey. Also, a lot of people sniff dope and will do that for years and then you hear about how a friend told them they’d need so much less and would get much more high if they just shot it.

Okay, moving on…

A brick is $250, a bundle $50. I was at a minimum spending $250 a day but toward the end up to $500. I’d turn a few tricks and buy two bricks, telling Jay I only got one and then keeping another for myself — he’d at least not be sick, and I could be high.

At the very minimum we didn’t want to be sick. But if we got “extra,” as in enough heroin to not be sick for a few days, you’d think we’d extend it over as many days as we could. Nope. I’d shoot it all that day and get high as hell and then risk being sick the next day. We’d run on a 24 hour schedule. Work whatever you can that day for as much money as you can and do as much dope as you have all in 24 hours and then start it over the next day.

In terms of food and shelter — I didn’t eat. I could care less. Jay ate even less than me. I also couldn’t eat if I didn’t have dope, I’d feel too sick. So with that knowledge, I knew as soon as I got high I had to force myself to eat something cause I didn’t know when the next time I’d feel up to eating would be. While I was allowed to stay at Jay’s aunt’s house we’d eat her food. She was an incredible enabler, but of course I needed it and so did Jay.

Every time the risk of homelessness came up, I’d go to rehab. Jay was stuck outside a few times, and when it got cold he went to Bergen Regional (a psych hospital in Paramus) and threatened to kill himself just so he could get a bed for a few days. It’s a pretty common thing for addicts to do.

Sometimes I cringe at the thought of a “set” lifestyle, meaning I’ve been taught that success in sobriety comes from daily attendance at meetings, service in AA, etc. I never thought of having a plan…so that knowledge always makes me a little uncomfortable. I guess I shy away from commitment.

But then when I expand my perception, I think of the idea that I want to practice these principles in all my affairs, and that AA gave me a program for living… I intend to live by the spiritual principles I’ve been taught and continue to explore my spirituality. When I feel simple and small, that’s when I think heroin is the answer because my mind is so closed, but when I’m able to remain mindful, I am aware that I want MORE for my human experience. I have been attending a Buddhist meditation class for a few months now and I’m very close with the nun who teaches it, she’s become somewhat of a life coach for me. Sobriety opened my eyes to spirituality and mindfulness. That is the path I want to travel. But I have to remember my roots and where I was in my addiction.

Tonight I was at a meeting in Ridgewood. A guy with 18 days clean shared about trying to rob somebody to get crack, and continued to share for a few minutes some stuff that most people would think was INSANE, but the whole time I was shaking my head and giggling because I still know what it’s like to think that way.

I remember days when I’d scam people at red lights and get them to give me rides somewhere because I’d cry and say my daughter is in daycare and they called and said she’s sick and I missed my bus to get her. Sick right? I have no kids, and if I did, what kind of asshole lies and says they’re sick just so they can cut out a few miles of the walk to the cop spot?

I was prostituting regularly, started for a few hundred bucks for a night, then at the end it was $40 and you had to be out of my short stay room in less than an hour so I could go get high. One time I was walking down a popular cop spot (the only “white” female for miles), and a guy came up to me and offered me $5 for a BJ. I acted all high and mighty and cursed him out (even though he could’ve raped or killed me, it was 2AM in the ghetto), but the truth is if he had caught me on a day I was dope sick, I would’ve done it. I lost all dignity and respect for myself. I’d do ANYTHING to get high. Every thought, every move, every word I had was for heroin. I woke up or came to and started planning. There was only a short while when I could breathe and not worry, and that was those first few minutes I copped and shot up, but as soon as the drugs were in me, I was obsessed with getting more. I couldn’t even enjoy the high because I was too concerned with finding more money and drugs.

Ah, enough of that bullshit…

Honestly, writing about this stuff makes my skin crawl. I miss it in some sick way and if I think about it for too long, I drift back into that world.

I’ve been very busy, with ups and downs of life. I started a new job and have taken on two sponsees. It’s an amazing gift working with these women, but it’s very time consuming.

So, if I had to speak “program” to you, I’d say I can’t tell you what’s next, because it’s “one day at a time…”

I have to remember sobriety isn’t my life, it’s given me a life. So what’s next isn’t all about staying sober. Sobriety is the foundation for my life; I got clean so I could have a life and find some fulfillment.

Christina F. works and lives in NJ and is currently sober and active in recovery. She is 23 years old. Read other articles by Christina.