(Thirty-fourth in a series of topical blogs based on chapter by chapter excerpts from Opiate Nation. Translation into most languages is available to the right.)
This week’s Story of Hope is from a young friend of ours, Anne (not her real name). Here are some excerpts from her story in Opiate Nation (5 min read):
I was eleven years old when I first experienced shooting heroin. Looking back, I can hardly believe it and I am so thankful to be alive, and to be sharing my story.
My boyfriend and I watched the movies Trainspotting and Requiem for a Dream and they really piqued our interest in drugs. The way it was portrayed in those movies made me think using heroin would be an amazing dream sequence, when in actuality, it made me violently ill. My boyfriend insisted we keep trying. He became obsessed with all drugs: ecstasy, LSD, cocaine, and various pills and so I tried them all.
My parents had no idea. I knew I was doing something they would not have wanted me to do. Later on, even when they did know, I was always lying, trying to minimize what was really going on, make them think I was doing better than I was, so they would not be worried. I hated causing them anxiety.
In the beginning, the experience of euphoria and confidence kept me wanting to use. I was in a different reality—all of my insecurities did not matter. I didn’t consider myself an addict right away. I assumed I was just a hard partier. But in my senior year of high school I started to get very sick and extremely uncomfortable when I didn’t have drugs for any length of time. I was experiencing withdrawal. I knew I was addicted.
I think my parents assumed I was completely insulated from drug-problems of the hard-core variety. What suburban parent suspects their 12-year-old kid going to a good school could be shooting up heroin? From my perspective, there was no flaw in their parenting—they simply did not know. And how could I have asked for help? I didn’t think I wanted help. I just wanted to get high and for them to somehow love me anyway. Drugs were the only thing that made me feel safe and ok—even though they put me in incredibly dangerous situations and made me insane.
I was arrested many times. I used hard drugs, heroin and then meth, intravenously for 15 years and bounced in and out of prison, asylums, and rehab. When I was using, gone on my addiction, I was unable to answer my mother’s phone calls because the sound in her voice—that worried, agonized tone, the questions I couldn’t or wouldn’t answer, the lies I felt I had to tell—drove me to complete insanity.
Another dark spot was the anger and the lashing out. I was furious at myself and that self-torture and the effect it had on those I loved kept me high, unable to cope, for many years.
Although my first stint in rehab perhaps didn’t do much good as I wasn’t ready to quit, one program did make a difference: a parole program I was sent to when I was released from prison. Was it the program or was it the timing in my life? I am not sure. But even after years of madness, complete degradation, depravity, and living in acceptance that “I’m a lifelong junkie,” something clicked, and I got better. It is an impossible miracle.
I have been clean and sober for eight years. I don’t have drug cravings and I do not struggle for my sobriety: I am truly free. I have been actively involved in 12-step programs and the entire time I have been clean and maintained perfect sobriety. I go because I like the community and I enjoy being of service to others. There are so many great people in sobriety, so many people who love life without drugs and alcohol. Being surrounded by supportive people who bring out the good in me has been incredibly healing.
In my addiction, the destruction of my relationship with my parents was what tormented me most of all *(see note below). It wasn’t prison, it wasn’t the breaking-down of my body, the constant sickness, the squalid living conditions, being raped and beaten up. None of that mattered because I was too high to care. But as high as I got, I could never completely crush the feelings of guilt, the total shame, and the longing to love and be loved. Today, that relationship is more joyful and whole than I ever could have imagined. This is the most important success story, for all of us.
We are together and happy, and every day is a gift and a dream come true. If you have a child in active addiction and are reading this now, I want to say to you: avoiding enabling is important—but never withhold your love. Hold on to the image of who your child is beneath the addiction, recognize that the bad behaviors are the symptoms and not the person, and keep on loving: that’s the key.
The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen. ~ G.K. Chesterton
Miracles, in the sense of phenomena we cannot explain, surround us on every hand:
life itself is the miracle of miracles. ~ George Bernard Shaw
*This pain and awareness of how her behavior affects others, that Anne expresses so well, is an important indicator that someone who is addicted has a high likelihood of long-term recovery. In podcast #1 of Surviving Opioids (link in right side of this page), host Jeff Simone of Reaction Recovery interviews Yeshaia Blakeney of Recover Integrity Addiction Treatment. Yeshaia discusses the moral stages of development and how we think about issues of right and wrong. Most of the choices we make in life are in the moral sphere. So, when he queries his clients about why they want to be in recovery and they say “I just can’t do this to my parents any longer” it shows they care about their relationships, have reduced narcissism and a higher level of thinking. This predicts they are more likely to do well with their recovery because it is not just about them.