Metro

Lives unraveled: Globe readers’ heroin stories

Raquel Rodriguez winced in pain as she gets up from her chair. She said the days on end of physical pain are what caused her to relapse.
Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
Raquel Rodriguez winced in pain as she gets up from her chair. She said the days on end of physical pain are what caused her to relapse.

When the Boston Globe shared the story of Raquel Rodriguez, we knew she was just one of thousands in Massachusetts-- and across the US-- afflicted with addiction.

Since then, Boston Globe readers have shared their heroin stories with us. Some, like Raquel, have struggled with parenting, or housing, or their recovery. Others have struggled with faith, mental illness, or their romantic relationships.

Below are some of the stories shared with the Globe. Share your story here.

Amanda H., recovering addict

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My story: October 21st of 2014 I was 7 months pregnant trying to get into treatment addicted to heroin, when my water broke early in the BMC parking garage, the amazing nurses and doctor stopped my labor detoxed me stabilized me on subutex and that’s where my recovery story started. My son was born November 13, 2014. He was a preemie and needed surgery and was diagnosed with Down syndrome. His father, my boyfriend, is also a heroin addict. Obviously secondary to my heroin use while pregnant DCF became involved, when Nicholas wasn’t even a week old, I was in court losing my son, I did get to spend time with him for the first eight weeks of his life before he left Children’s and went to foster care which was good he helped to encourage to do better and helped our bond. Then was the momentous task of not just getting and staying clean (I have had lengths of sober time in the past) but following through on all DCFs recommendations, intensive outpatient, therapy, psychiatry appts, parent groups, scheduled visits, getting a job, finding an apartment. I went back to work part time as a nurse (I’ve been a nurse over 20 years, including stints in the recovery field actually) when Nicky went into foster care, Tommy, Nicky’s dad was clean then too, then when I had about 5 months sober, Nicky’s father, my best friend, relapsed and dies of a heroin overdose.

Amanda H. and her son, Nicholas.
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But I stuck with my plan, no matter how bad it sucked, seeing my baby just a couple hours a week, missing Tommy, being broke, trying to take care and make amends to my three older kids, reaching out to people I love in AA and my family, but after almost a year to the day I got my Nicky back, I’m still clean and sober, things aren’t great but they’re way better and I know that they will get even better if I just keep it simple. This Christmas has been such a mixed bag of emotions, spending it with all four of my kids but missing my love so much.

What would make my life better: Stable affordable housing

Anne F., parent of an addict

My story: Being a parent of a heroin addict may be worse than any other form of illness your child can suffer. You can’t change them and you can’t reach them and you watch daily their issues spiral them incapacitated. You are often blamed by them, robbed by them, abused by them. You became equally diseased and tormented. Your friends, family and associates blame you too. Why can’t she reach him, why did he do this, wasn’t she watching him, she must be a bad mother. Her kid is a heroin addict. She must be a bad mother. I can attest that I babied my son like every other attentive mother reading parenting books, attending each and every event and making sure he was clean, presentable and had good manners. What I could not stop was his friendships that began at the age of about 15-17. He was drawn into the punks and seemed to identify with the boys from broken families. We were never a family in any trouble at all, but once the drug use started, our whole lives changed. His father blamed me. He blamed me. Everyone blamed me. I realize with alot of therapy that they can continue to blame me for something I didn’t know about, didn’t do and would never advocate and until he starts to accept responsibility for himself, he will continue to be an addict. Countless accidents, arrests, overdoses and never once a job. No education. This drug use has ruined his life. I can only hope that he finds something outside himself to attach to other than the drugs. Right now he has gone to live with his father due to an arrest warrant and his father gives him work when he can get him up and pays his wages. His father is living his secret life and refuses to accept that he has a severe illness. They have pushed me out since I want him to get psychiatric help and treatment and of course, the drug user will always decline this until they are ready and the parent or friend will protect the user until they can’t any longer or the user dies. So I have to just deal with this. I am the bad person and I am the one who said he couldn’t live with me anymore. He is 31 years old. I’m tired. I’m just tired. I have no child left and it has broken me into a thousand pieces. i have had this thrown in my face by my own siblings that I must not have watched him carefully enough. I did watch him and I did have to work. Afterall, you can’t cage them. I only hear when it’s really bad and then it is blamed that I should not have gotten a divorce. More blame on the mother. Having a heroin addict for a child is awfully destructive to me too. I don’t think anyone realizes how hard it is for the parents and family as we can’t talk to anyone about it. People look at you like you have two heads and they want nothing to do with you. Shunning, stoning. I don’t even have any hope left. I realize my son is gone. I wait until I get the call that he has passed and then I realize that I will have to attend his funeral and be, once again stoned. I don’t do drugs, never had, never been to jail, own my own company from the ground up. I haven ever been on welfare. My son graduated high school with honors and was beautiful. He played sports his entire youth. We didn’t know anyone on drugs or in prison. We didn’t live in the bad areas, we lived in the little house with the next door neighbor that made cookies and shared them with everyone or that waved as you raked your yard. We did have a divorce and it was not a friendly one and that is the only thing I can attribute to his childhood that may have affected him. But, that divorce was so common in the 80’s, I can’t imagine how that put him over the edge. Maybe one day he can be at peace and I can be at peace. I am unsure right now and very very sad and to live every day I have to smile and pretend that my son is ok. When I see others I feel sad as I wish I could be attending college with my son or celebrating his marriage or his new born baby into this world. I wish we could celebrate holidays and occasions like I see other families doing. I don’t get any of that. I get not even a card at the holidays. I live in fear that my son, soon, will be dead.

What would make my life better: A solution to why people do drugs and a treatment program that works so that I can have my family back.

Samantha A., recovering addict

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I am a 27 yr old recovering heroin addict. I’ve been clean for 3 1/2 yrs. I battle addiction everyday of my life with myself and my husbad. I’ve put so much into my recovery and have come so far from the life I used to live. My husband currently is in detox and cant seem to stay clean. It jepordizes my sobriety everyday dealing with him. I’ve giving everythingIi can to help him I’ve sectioned him and now put him in detox to try to save his life because I love him and just want to live a happy clean life with him. My story starts when I was 18 yrs old. I began taking pain pills for fun with some friends not knowing the consequences of them. I was quickly addicted and this was the beginning to my struggle. When I was 19 yrs old I met my husband who was also addicted to pain pills. My husband and myself sold heroin to make enough money to support our habbits. Pain pills then turned to snorting heroin which turned to shooting heroin. We married when I was 20 yrs old still doing and selling drugs. We lived from hotel to hotel hiding from cops never being able to get out of this awful life style. Always hustling to support this vicious habbit. Until one day I became very ill. I couldn’t get out of bed I could barely even move. My husband convinced me to go to the hospital, the emergency room had told me I had a bacteria infection in my blood stream which had been caused from IV use. I had fought the doctors to go home in fear I would be in withdrawl they kept insisting I stay telling me if I went home I would die by the end of the night. The doctors convinced me to stay by telling me they would give me morphine so I wouldn’t be sick. I was then made aware that the infection had infected one of my heart valves and it was more serious then they thought. I sat in the hospital for an entire month receiving and IV treatment fighting the infection. While in the hospital and recieving morphine from the hospital I was still shooting heroin in the hospital bathroom. I wished everyday I was there that it would just kill me I didn’t want to live anymore. I was a drug addict who had hit rock bottom kissing death. A month after recovering from this still getting high I was arrested for selling drugs, violating probation, and sent to Frammingham State Prison. This was the day that changed my life forever. While in jail I detoxed. I was clean for the first time in 5 yrs. After doing 30 days in jail I was released to the Bristol County Community Corrections program. I am forever grateful for this program and the amazing people who work there who helped me learn how to relive my life clean and stay sober. Going to jail was a blessing from god! It truley saved my life. I have currently been clean sinse July 31, 2012. I fight myself everyday to give up on my husband and move forward with my life. I just can’t bring myself to do so. I stay strong for him and live just for today. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring but I truly believe if i stay clean and strong things will get better. I pray for every person that battles addiction and for there families. I will never forget all the people i have lost to this addiction. They will forever be in my heart!

What would make my life better: For my husband to stay clean.

Anonymous, heroin user

My story: I don’t think my comments will be received well but here goes. I started using opiates 7 years ago. The why of it is probably to deal with grief from many deaths in my family over the years. I am a professional in the medical IT field. I do not inject and never have. For me, opiates calm the mind and allow me to relax. Am I addicted to them? By medical definition I am. I have never over dosed or even come close. In my opinion, it is none of the government’s or society’s business what I put into my own body. I have never stolen or done anything to anyone in order to buy my drugs. I can understand why some people get into trouble with opiates. I have tried many drugs in my life but never liked most of them to continue doing them and I am 45 years old. I guess I am in a strange situation because opiates have never caused me that many problems. My wife doesn’t like it but simply because she is afraid I am going to get arrested ( I never have). In my opinion, opiates even heroin are no worse than alcohol as long as you don’t mess with needles- then they are extremely dangerous. In my opinion, all drugs should be legalized under a regulated medical model as in Portugal.

What would make my life better: Legalize all drugs under a regulated medical model as in Portugal.

Debra B., family or a friend of an addict

My story: I took custody of my niece when she just turned 4, she was an adorable little red head. Life went on there was a few visits with her parents but when they were always high I ended the visits. Her mother overdosed and died on heroin when she was 13 years old. Then my nightmare began. My niece became a drug addict and now at 25 is homeless she has overdosed many times. Right now has a massive infection on her neck. I told her to call 911 that was 3 days ago I have not heard from her. She has had these infections before and almost died. She won’t answer her phone or texts. I don’t know what to do.

What would make my life better: If she would be committed to a program that she could not leave. She has been in dozens but always checks out in a day or two.

Scott M., parent of an addict

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My story: I am a 43 year old father of a heroin addict. My daughter is 22 years old and has been an addict for three years now. She started out with her boyfriend taking pills and has since progressed onto heroin which she started out by smoking it and now she shoots heroin daily. She is a beautiful young lady who has been diagnosed bi-polar and has given me 3 beautiful grandchildren. Her oldest child is 6 and was born when she was 16 and I have raised her since birth. Her son is two years old now and his 1st year he lived with her and her now husband. The youngest little angel is one now and was born addicted to cocaine and prescription pain pills. She has seen faced that at birth and is a healthy little girl. I’ve battled drugs for three years now, not from me but from my daughter and my wife. My wife is a recovering crack addict and is doing well. I found out all this in 2013 early 2014. My daughter and her husband were living in my basement at this time and I wasn’t aware of their issue, my wife eventually disappeared and when I found her she told me she had been doing crack and lost control of it. I could have easily walked away from the entire situation but I chose not to, I have been with this woman 22 years and this was a huge mistake, that she hadn’t done anything like this before. So I stuck to her side and got her through rehab and continue to fight daily to keep her clean and away from those type of people. My daughter I begged to get help but she wouldn’t. Now when she says she’s going to get help, she never does. she hits road blocks every time she calls for help, she’s told call back everyday because the clinics or rehab facilities are so packed there is no help there. I am watching my daughter slowly kill herself with drugs and there is nothing I can do to help her. I don’t have $3,000 laying around I can pay for her to go to a private facility and since she got married I don’t have insurance for her. She’s going to die if she don’t get help if the drugs doesn’t kill her its going to be one of the sicko’s out there she selling herself to for the drugs or money on a sight called backpage. What is this? this is a website similar to Craig’s list which is used by people to prostitute and get drug money. Her husband which also is an addict can’t see past his need for the drug and takes her to these guys and is abusive to her if she don’t sell herself but she won’t listen to her mother or myself. I would have thought seeing your kids taken from you would be enough for anyone to change but this drug rules people and their lives.

What would make my life better: To see real help out there. It’s sad to see in that this country has such a problem with this drug but unless you have enough money the help is scares. I would love to see my daughter get help and return to her self before I have to bury my child and explain to my grandchildren what happened to mommy.

Anonymous, family or friend of an addict

My story: I had not seen my sister in over ten years because of crack, and then heroin use. Last year, my sister broke her ankle, and because of her type 1 diabetes, her ankle was not healing so I went to see her in her Roxbury apartment. We are white, and she is the only white woman living in Dudley Sq. I spent the entire summer shuttling her every Tuesday to the Boston Medical Center in the desperate hope she would not lose her foot. Her foot became infected, and because she is an heroin addict, the doctors would not believe it, thinking she was playing them for a prescription. I firmly believe had I not been there to advocate on her behalf, she would have lost her foot. She gave up her three children for this life, and EVERYDAY I think about her life and why I unable to help her.

What would make my life better: Seeing my sister in long-term rehab care. At 49, she has never been sober, but we are both afraid that if she does go into long-term treatment, she will lose her section 8 stipend. Such a horrible situation to be in.

Anonymous, medical professional

My story: I treat professionals (doctors, attorneys, pilots, business people) who are addicted to a wide variety of opiates - pills, heroin, fentanyl etc. They come to me broken, financially ruined, licenses either suspended or revoked, frozen in fear, shame and humiliation. My team and myself teach them relapse prevention skills, delve into and treat (at times) horrific childhood trauma and attachment ruptures, introduce them to a spiritual way of life that may or may not include 12 step spirituality, and help them with the tools necessary to either get their licenses back, or just help them live their lives sanely and sober. This also includes professional monitoring/screening in long term aftercare. It is gratifying work and devastating. Just last week two people from two previous treatment centers i’ve worked at in the past, overdosed - one from heroin and the other from a combination of xanax and alcohol. It is heartbreaking and infuriating. And as a healthcare worker (licensed MFT and Ph.D. among other credentials in addiction, trauma and mindfulness based therapies), it is exhausting. However, the thought of leaving this work to go help the “worried well” as I call them, is not an option. These people are suffering, their families are suffering and if they are suffering physicians, they are putting their patients at risk as well. But I do it because I care. I care a lot. And my team cares a lot. I take time off regularly to regroup and rejuvenate as the work is enervating both mentally and physically. But I keep doing it. And I will keep doing it as the gifts of this work far outweigh the devastation.

What would make my life better: There are people out there who are really anti 12 step. Although it is not for everyone, addiction is an attachment disorder (in my opinion), and when the drugs are gone, it is the relational that is transformational. I see too many people who don’t want to be included in the 12 step world lose an incredible opportunity for bonding and being of service to others.

Anonymous, parent of an addict

My story: I lost my son to an accidental heroin overdose in 2009. He became addicted after being on pain medication for a medical issue while in the Army. I miss him everyday and the sadness that he has missed out on so much since his death is overwhelming at times.

What would make my life better: Seeing a therapist. I should have contacted one after his death.

Jamie B., recovering addict

My story: I was an addict for over twenty years. Starting on my teens. Today I can proudly say that I have been clean for almost 3 years now with no relapses!!! all it took for me was to first want better for my kids and secondly I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart and started living for him and my life and my children’s lives have been so blessed. Every day is a choice and everyday I’m choosing life!!

Anonymous, parent of an addict

My story: Please stop using the words “addict” and “junkie.” These are so stigmatizing, alienating and shameful, and prevent people from seeking help.

A picture of my son taken by his girlfriend while he was in college. He was 19 or 20 years old in this picture. He died when he was 24.

Substance Use Disorder is a disease and should be treated as cancer and diabetes (both of which could have been created initially by choices, but become diseases that are treated for a person’s lifetime).

My 24-year-old Eagle Scout, varsity tennis playing, AP class taking, college student died of a heroin overdose in 2014. He started as we all do...drinking and experimenting in college. Then he tried prescription drugs (opioids) and quickly moved to heroin. He tried many, many times to quit but we never found a treatment that worked for him.

What would make my life better: My life would be better if my son was alive and healthy and happy. Since that is not possible, my life would be better if the stigma and shame surrounding the disease of substance use disorder was removed. Rehabs and sober living homes should be regulated and staffed by trained medical professionals. Treatment should be evidence based and for life.

Anonymous, recovering addict

My story: I was addicted to heroin for a few months, before I realized my flu like symptoms were a sign of heroin withdrawal.

Heroin had hidden a serious bipolar disorder, and allowed me to thrive for the first time in society, and become a recognized film director. Not being a member of the lower classes, and having a lot of money and being white, I was able to get a prescription for Buprenex injections, and haven’t taken heroin in about twenty five years now. However, I do take Buprenex in pill form, even today, though the dose is minute. Without it, I turn into the social equivalent of a werewolf.

What would make my life better: To remove the stigma of heroin addiction. I was disowned by most of my family, and haven’t been accepted back even today, twenty five years later. I also had my children taken from me, when my secret was discovered, even though by then I was on Buprenex maintenance and not actively getting high.

In fact, the damage to my reputation, particularly among my family has already been done, so nothing really would make my life better, insofar as heroin addiction is concerned.

Alexandra D., recovering addict

Alexandra D., a recovering addict.

My story: I started using at 36. I am college educated, the only one in my family to ever have a problem. A devastating divorce from a man who hid a double life from me, one of organized crime, brought me to my knees. Prescriptions led me to heroin. I went to the ER for an abscess from IV use, and found out I was 4 1/2 months pregnant, at 40 years old. Been sober now for almost 8 years. My daughter saved me. She’s my only child.

What would make my life better: Child support.

Anonymous, parent of an addict

My story: Ex husband is an addict and now my son is living this nightmare as well. He is in recovery here is PA and is filing for custody of his daughter. Mom is also an addict, but despite CPS being involved, she has only done some spotty attempts at treatment. Son has used since he was about 15. He’s 30 now and if CPS was not involved I think he would still be using. We are lucky to be in a county that has decent (though not perfect) services. He receives many of the same services the subject of your story does, but it SEEMS that something has clicked with him.

What would make my life better: More affordable mental health services. Son does get mental health services for free. I am in counseling and in Naranon. My Marketplace coverage sets me at $86/ per visit until I meet my deductible. I am lucky to have the coverage I do and am able to afford the copay. I can imagine many cannot.

Anonymous, recovering addict

My story: I was a heroin addict from 19-23 before I got clean on 9/22/99. Started other things much younger. Used from Fitchburg to Worchester, though originally from Lunenburg. Had to move away and put myself out of harm’s way, removing one bad influence at a time - even then it was the toughest thing I’ve ever done. I got help from a recovery community, had supporting family and developed relationships and interests keeping me focused on progressing away from the deviant lifestyle I grew to crave. I went back to school, bought a house, got married (15 years now) and have a 13 yr old son who has never seen either of his parents have a drink or a drug.

What would make my life better: I’m grateful for so much already. I have my life back. That said, We all have our battles and that doesn’t mean it’s “happily ever after” for me. I am working hard to change my career path to one of financial and location independence through graphic design, web development and photography. I want to travel more - I’d rather live modestly and travel the world than have a big house and stay static... I’d like to get out of the rat race of American “success” via crushing debt and dependence on a system that at every turn shows no concern for it’s citizens. (health crisis, environmental crisis, the finance driven political-facade where the only winners are the oligarchy and the losers ever the prolitariate, etc., etc.)...

Timothy K., recovering addict

My story: Heroin addiction completely ravaged my whole life. I am a highly educated 27 year old male, but as a result of things I used to do to get high, I also have a fairly extensive criminal record. No violence, no sex charges, but plenty of larcenies and some false prescription stuff. I have a degree in accounting, I’ve worked in the field, and honestly people say that I do not fit their common view of what a heroin addict should look like. I am now in recovery. However, there is one very large problem in the recovery and treatment communities today, and that is the fact that their models are often a shame based, stigma based set of systems and principals. For example, I am a firm believer in the power of Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous, but as the name implies, the people in these programs are anonymous. I am not supposed to break my own anonymity or that of the program. But how in the world do we reach out to people, and give them a little bit of hope and show them that this is a disease and that we are your children your parents your siblings and your friends, not just addicts, if we can’t even put faces to this problem? I am in fairly early recovery. I still have friends dying out there, people I love out there coming close to dying every day. I am removed just enough from the thick of it that I am not longer in immediate danger, but I’m still in the eye of this storm.

What would make my life better: The chance to help others, whether they be addicts, or the friends and families of addicts, or just curious about why this is happening all around them. I wish I could give them hope, share my knowledge and the horrors of this disease, and maybe break, in my own small way, the stigma that surrounds it.

Cheryl G., addict, recovering addict, and family or a friend of an addict

My story: My story is long, twisted, miserable, joyous and true.....oh I wish it wasn’t. It’s actually very ironic that I found the article about Rachel because I’ve been writing a book about my life, as a heroin addict, since I was 16 years old. I’m now 48, on a methadone program for the last 6 years and about to become a grandmother. My life went from coming from a loving family with no financial issues at all; my sister and I were extremely spoiled as a matter of fact. My dad gave us anything we wanted. I started drinking at age 11-13, then came smoking pot, then drinking again in high school, doing cocaine by college and being introduced to heroin at age 19 and never going back to anything else after that. Actually haven’t had alcohol or cocaine in over 15 years but continue to smoke marijuana. (it DEFINITELY helps with my diagnosed PTSD, which I take Buspirone for) Do I still use heroin? I hadn’t for a long time....until my ex-fiancé was going through withdrawal from pills one day and begged me to get him ANYTHING. (mind you, this was the man that physically abused me for YEARS and psychologically abused me, over things I did for my addiction) He is a Hells Angel, so I was in the “lifestyle” for many years (heroin is NOT excepted in that circle of people, believe it or not) after being released from the halfway house I went to, after being locked up for a length of time. Been arrested many times, but the last arrest was the most serious. I got caught bringing heroin into the county jail, on a visit with my (at the time) junkie boyfriend. Looking back on it now, that was one of the most STUPID things I ever did for smack...but certainly not the last. Anyway, it’s such a nightmare story; I actually shared my story in an online writing contest a few years ago and WON!! I was so proud that day....my dream has been to publish my book by the time I turn 50. My story is far from over and there’s SO MUCH to tell. It’s a complete cliché but there’s things I’ve done for heroin that I swore I “would never do,” lost custody of the most important thing in my life (my son, TJ), watched my father die from lung cancer at age 50 (which had a HUGE impact on my life as an addict), been raped (more than once, once was by a group of men), gone to prison, spoken at rehabs and continue to try help other addicts any way I can.

What would make my life better: The ONLY thing that would make my life better right now is if I could find a job in Florida, where my son lives, so I can watch my granddaughter (who’s about to enter this world in March) grow up and spend time with my son, to make up for all the time I lost over the years. My goal: I’ve ALWAYS wanted to help addicts, in any way possible. I work A LOT, which is good in a way...helps keep me busy, so I don’t think about everything.

Destiny K., recovering addict

Destiny K. with the son she gave birth to in jail.

My story: At sixteen I started using heroin. At the time it wasn’t the epidemic it is today and finding it was costly and time-consuming. I spent everyday I wasn’t in jail or rehab stealing or borrowing money and making the twenty minute journey to the nearest dope house. As an addict you spend what seems like a ridiculously long time telling yourself you can quit when you want. It wasn’t until I started waking up sick in the middle of the night that I realized I had a problem. Even then I winced at the word addict and I still vividly remember the first time I was called a junkie. Eventually I was arrested for possession of about $5 worth of heroin. I couldn’t stay clean and I ended up spending months in jail waiting for a bed at a state prison-run rehab. While in jail I gave birth. I was shackled on the way to the hospital and had a guard beside me at all times. I spent the next ten months in rehab and within the first few weeks of my release I relapsed. I would, like so many addicts, get clean and relapse over and over and over. Eventually I decided to try methadone. A lot of people see it as just another way to get high but that’s not true. I credit methadone with saving my life and I consider twelve step programs to be worthless and the result of an “all or nothing” penal system. As far as society goes, you’re either drug free or you’re not. Methadone will curb your cravings, and save you from the turmoil of withdrawals that will last days or even weeks. A few weeks after I began taking methadone I discovered I was pregnant again. My youngest son was born addicted to methadone. But every single doctor I spoke to said the same thing, quitting while pregnant was more dangerous than weaning a baby off once they’re born. He spent the first six weeks of his life in a hospital. He’s eight now and he seems like a normal, carefree kid. I have both my son’s now and I’ve been clean for almost nine years. I’m still a felon and I’ll always be a recovering addict, but I know now there are more important things to worry about than where you’ll get your next fix. Sometimes staying clean is a struggle, but it’s so much better than the hell you live through when your entire life revolves around your addiction.

What would make my life better: I would like people to personally relate to addicts more than they do now. So many addicts are harshly judged, regardless of how long they’ve been in recovery. It’s so easy for people to look at an addict on the street and think “Well they should just quit” or “They must be really weak”. In all actuality, sometimes one line is all it takes to start down a path that ruins your life. It can happen to anyone, regardless of race or gender or wealth. Or as John Bradford said, “There but for the grace of god, go I”.

Guy B., recovering addict

My story: The first thing you should know about heroin, it’s the greatest feeling in the world.After a big shot you will feel a sense of euphoria and well being like never before. Nothing compares. Nothing.

I first used stuff at 17, given to me by an older cousin. After injecting the drug i immediately became violently ill. As i vomited into the toilet, i looked up at my cousin and between heaves, asked him where i could get more. It’s that kind of high.

Of course once you become addicted the fun goes away.

Soon you’re chasing the high, not getting the euphoria, only “getting well”.

I used heroin and every other opiate and benzo on and off for 30 years.

I was lucky though, i had legit sales skills and could maintain my habit most of the time. To give you an idea what kind of addict i was, i blew out every vein in my body, hands, feet, groin, and finally my neck veins.

I was forced to “ muscle “ it for the last 10 years of my using.

Eventually as i got closer to the bottom i was unable to hold any job.

The last 13 years of my addiction were hellish. i was close to homeless living with any girl or friend that would have me.

I went to prison here in Ca on drug charges and ended up violating my parole on four separate occasions each time being sent back.

I committed no new crime, i just couldn’t stop using and kept giving dirty tests. 3 dirties in a row and you went back.

That’s addiction in a nutshell, even though i knew i was going back to prison if I used, i couldn’t help myself and used anyway.

I wasn’t a hardened convict and never became one.

I was a white kid from the suburbs of Detroit with a decent middle class upbringing.

I’ve served time over my addiction at Soledad, Chino, Norco, and Delano state prisons.

Upon my last release in July 2002, i realized i could no longer keep doing this.

With the help of the state that imprisoned me, i entered treatment.

Now i’ve been to treatment before, always walking out when i became sick from withdrawal. Back then there was no medical detoxes available to someone like myself with no insurance.

I started attending 12 Step groups and didn’t look back. If i could explain how my compulsion to use heroin was removed, i would, but i can’t, so i won’t even try.

It was just gone.

I feel it was a gift, a higher power type thing.

I haven’t had a drink or a drug since August 16th 2002.

I’m not trying to write a book here, but to make a short story long, i went back to school at 47 years old and became a drug and alcohol counselor.

From there i worked my way up to a Patient Care Advocate to today a Patient Services Manager with one of the leading treatment centers in southern California. I have a nationwide team of 18 and we all have one goal, to help the addict onto the path of recovery.

All this proves is if i can do it, anyone can do it.

It takes courage and guts, but you can get out from under the hideous beast that is heroin addiction.

What would make my life better: I would like about 250K to start my own treatment center and do it exactly as I see fit.

Seriously, not too much could make my life better. My girl could take the lock off the cookie jar a little more often but outside that, life is good.

That’s the beauty of sobriety, you find joy and happiness in most everything.

Don G., recovering addict

Don G. wants to help others like him fight their addictions.

My story: I found Heroin at the age of 16. I was a bright young man, with plenty of potential. I had many friends and was at 16 a very popular guy at my school. I was handsome, funny, and had a personality that was infectious. By the time heroin came to town, I was already an I.V. drug user. I had discovered the needle, while in the hospital, after surgery, for a severely broken leg, I got from a motorcycle accident. The first time I got a “shot” of opioid in the hospital, and felt that warm rush course through my mind. I remember thinking, wow I’m not only free from the physical pain, but also, I don’t feel any of the emotional pain I’ve been enduring for the first time in 11 yrs? From that day till today, I have known, that if and when the pain gets too bad, no matter what, I can escape in just one move. It may take several moves to get what I need, but it’s that one action that solves it all. All in one motion, the needle breaks the skin, enters the vein, I push the plunger, and the drug doe’s the rest...The house is on fire, Let the mother fucker burn. I’m 53 yrs old now, Ive been on Suboxone for going on three years. I’m also on full SSI disability for chronic PTSD, Bipolar disorder and compounded by Manic depressive episode, plus I have some physical damage. I was treated for HCV in 2013 and thats what changed me. The day my test result read “Viral Free” was the turning point. I’m in full recovery, I have put together a life that’s livable, I don’t drink, smoke, or use today. And although I still deal with pain each day. I have hope. I’m here to help any addict no matter what it takes. I make sacrifices I never considered five years ago. It’s wonderful to look back at all the damage, and realize there was a plan. It wasn’t my plan, but none the less, some higher power was allowing me to live through all of it, my eight close friends who died, from HCV complications, the friends who committed suicide for drug related reasons. The jails, the countless days of withdrawal symptoms, all the failed attempts to get clean, Oh man the list is long of experience..That’s the word for the day “Experience”..If you haven’t ‘experienced’ heroin in your life personally..First, thank your God if you have one, “I’d say, you do”?. Second, try to understand this. I’ve never once in the maybe thousand drug addicts/alcoholics who I’ve met personally, found one them, to not have a story of pain, or some type of traumatic event, in their lifetime, that I didn’t agree, was a good enough reason for why they were then a addict or alcoholic. We all have had hurts,we all have had tragic events, but it’s when we weren’t “loved through it” that makes the difference. That’s just a taste of my story. My longest running wish in life, has been to, somehow, get my story published. My friends, family, Dr.s all tell me, all the time, “You should write a book”, ! Well, this ain’t no book, but it’s a tale, if you will. Don’t give up before the miracle happens. Thanks for reading...Sincerely “ Junkie Doug”

What would make my life better: I’d love to be more involved than I am now. With “recovery” I need to help. I have to be in service. I have to give back, or I’ll never keep it. I’d go anywhere anytime, to help another addict.

Tell us about heroin in your life using the form below. Who is using? What has happened? And what would make your life better right now?