I sat in the back of a cop car thinking my life was over. Two state troopers were deciding what to do with me. I had been caught leaving an area of the city known for drugs, with a head2ight out, and no registration or insurance. I couldn’t spare the money to fix these problems. I knew better than to go at night, or alone, but I HAD to.
Heroin Baggies: Why DID I Keep Them?
I looked like absolute shit. I had used a few minutes before I got pulled over, right outside of the trap house where I scored. I was bleeding and bad at lying. When the first cop questioned me about my actions and why I was bleeding, he decided to pull me out of my vehicle and do a full search of all my belongings. I sat on the front rack of the cruiser as he talked to me. He asked how long I had been using. He wondered aloud, “why do all of you idiots keep piles of empty baggies instead of throwing them out?” It was about then that his backup arrived and joined in the search and questioning.
Relief and False Hope
I wonder if they could see the shame in my eyes as I answered their questions. The second cop, the bad cop, told me I was a piece of shit junkie. I didn’t tell him I already knew that. Bad cop asked me what I did for a living, and since I was terrible at lying, I told the truth. At the time I had a job that paid a good salary, and knew that this incident would go public. Before they towed my car away and took me to the station for processing, I had a moment of relief. It was over, I thought. I would go to jail and not have to face anyone after what I had done. I was finally free of this hell I had been living. But I was wrong.
Opiate Painkillers to Heroin
This was the first time I was arrested. I was 29 years old and had been homeless for 8 months or so. I started using hard drugs two and a half years earlier. People often wonder how “someone like me” got hooked on heroin. Very easily I tell them. I liked the prescription painkillers I had for a long term injury. I couldn’t stop. Anyone can become an addict, and once it happened nearly all the things I thought I would never do became my reality. At that point almost all of my belongings were in storage, somehow I had managed to keep paying for that while I had no place to live. I had my car and the clothes on my back, and a few possessions that I needed to get by.
Heroin Addiction was Doing the Driving
That night I didn’t go to jail, nor did my arrest make the news, or cause me to lose my job. This was shocking to me, as was the fact that the next day I got my car out of impound (thanks to my father). My first stop on my way to work was that same drug house. This was shocking to me because I thought there was no way I’d ever do that again. It wasn’t worth it. I couldn’t risk getting arrested again, but I woke up dope sick and my addict brain took over; there was no reasoning with myself. I had to at least feel better so when the shit did hit the fan, I could handle it better.
A Six Month Journey to Jail
However, the real shit would not hit the fan until six months later. For now, I had to just keep going. Keep everything the same, just one more time. My parents took me in, so when I was there I spent my time mainly up in my childhood bedroom, alone. The day was acceptable if it went like this: Wake up, use, drive an hour to work and not pass out, sit at my desk and make it look like I was productive, use in the bathroom at work, leave, hit the pawn shop and my dealer, use and save enough for the next morning, go to sleep. All while trying to hide my heroin use, stealing, and other activities from everyone in my life. I had started outpatient treatment six weeks before the night I was arrested. I was aware my addiction was full-blown and expected it to take me out one way or another.
So a few nights a week I had to pretend like I was clean for the patient group and treatment clinicians. I schemed constantly how to get more money for heroin, how to avoid the next piss test, what lie to tell my family so that they would think I was doing better.
The days where I had enough to be able to use and feel well enough to function I thought were the good days. The bad days were the ones I was dope sick, unable to cope with trying to get through the day. Mornings where I would wake up sick, I would lie in bed, drenched with sweat, and shaking violently from chills and muscle spasms. These mornings I was hardly able to dress myself even to go out and attempt to score. Living in a colder climate and going through withdrawal when you have to walk around in the snow while sweating uncontrollably is a strange experience.
I called into work or left work many times once I had my scheme to score heroin for the day figured out. I just wanted to use “one more time.” Perhaps the famous last words of many substance abusers.
I lived this way for the six months until the shit hit the fan. When it did, there was a detective waiting when I arrived at work to arrest me. I went to jail for the first time that night.
I used my one phone call to plead someone to bail me out – which they did sometime that evening. I was already sick, and had no concept of time. Once I got dropped off at the house of a fellow addict, I slept on a wooden floor until I knew my dealer would be up, and I could go out to score. While ticking that off my list, I was picked up on a new arrest warrant and taken to an entirely different jail in another city. I stayed there overnight, extremely sick, but was released by the judge in the morning.
I got out and kept right on going. Being from the inner city, I should have been scared, because I knew exactly what dangers I faced on the streets. Instead it empowered me to find anyone who had what I wanted. Then I did something phenomenally stupid – I went to an abandoned house to use with two other heroin addicts I had just met who had helped me find what I wanted that day. The fact that I wasn’t robbed or beaten up was a miracle.
Dirty Deeds and Dirty Underwear
I had totaled my car a few weeks earlier, the same one that I had gotten out of impound the day after my first arrest. To help pay for a new car I took a loan out against my retirement fund so I had just gotten enough money to go on quite a bender. I turned up at home a few days later, feeling good since I was high and wearing new clothes I had just bought. The days on the slushy, winter, city streets had destroyed the ones I had.
The next day I had a court appearance and I was arrested yet again, this time to stay for a while. I was sick by the first night. They didn’t have anywhere to put me so I laid on the floor of a holding cell while a deputy sat and observed me. The lights never really go off in jail and they were all too bright. At some point I was moved to a quarantine cell where they bring new people to withdraw, or make sure they don’t have any communicable diseases. 23 hours a day I detoxed in a cell; crying, aching, puking, shitting. I only had the underwear I wore in, and the one county uniform I was allowed.
Roaches, Toilet Water, and Panic
There was only one shower on the unit. One hour to get twelve inmates showered wasn’t enough, and I barely had the energy to move, let alone fight with everyone for my shot at the water. It was five days before I had the strength to do anything but sweat and shake. We dealt with cockroaches in our cells, and shit water backing up through the floor drains. My father put money on the jail phone so we could still communicate, and I pleaded with him every day to get me out. Then one day I had enough and threatened to kill myself in my cell. I was moved to the psych ward, now in my cell 24 hours a day. I became violently ill and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The doctors chalked it up to a panic attack.
Yet Another Wedding of Alcohol and Celebration
I went back to jail and stayed until one day my father did come and bailed me out. I didn’t know it was happening and can’t describe the feeling when they came to get me and escort me to release. I was over the worst of the withdrawals. While I was in jail my dad called and found a treatment center that could admit me the next day. He told me that they had already checked my insurance and even had the plane ticket for me to leave tomorrow for inpatient treatment. That night my family and I went out to dinner to “celebrate” my going to treatment. Since I was clean from drugs, I decided to get drunk to cushion the blow of all that was happening. That was the last time I took a drink or drug.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I lost my home, car, nearly every possession I had ever owned. I went cold turkey from heroin and cocaine in a filthy jail cell.
I dealt with the shame and guilt of what I had done, as well as the legal problems I had caused for myself. After that last drink I went to inpatient treatment, then a halfway house and supportive living. I discovered the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
Sobriety Brings Hope from Addiction
I changed my life for the better because of all these experiences. Being in recovery from heroin addiction has allowed me to experience the best life has to offer. I have an amazing and supportive spouse, and a beautiful daughter, now. I have repaired relationships with my family. Working the steps of the programs, and all that I have learned has shown me I can deal with life on life’s terms now. I want my story to give hope to anyone out there who is struggling. Change is real and possible if you are willing to put in the work!