Hi, this is the first time I've put this all into writing. My name is John and I'm in love with a recovering addict. A little about me first. Just a short while ago those words would have been bizarre coming from me. I was a single dad (my son lives with me) he was 12 When i met her. I was an EMT for over 20 years with 3 OD /CPR saves under my belt, so clearly i knew what this whole addiction / sudo epidemic thing was all about (Ha, what a joke).
When I met her she was not an active addict. She told me that she had abused pills in the past but she got treated. Ok, so a "yellow" flag went up and was soon forgotten. Clearly she was cured. (Most of you are laughing right now) She owned her own home, car, was a single parent herself, had a great job (almost 6 figures). So, whatever had happened was clearly resolved. Besides, she was beautiful inside and out. The most gentle soul. Her favorite hobbies were crafting and sewing. We fell in love hard and fast. It wasn't long and she moved in with me. Her teenage son wanted nothing to do with this. This was a lot of uncertain change beyond his control. To me, it didn't seem like too big of a deal "we'll work it out". I said. I figured when you're in love, things will work out one way or the other. I was clueless and completely unprepared for what was about to happen.
She confided in a "less than" friend about some of the stresses she was dealing with, and knowing her past, offered her a synthetic pain killer that she didn't have to worry about getting addicted to. (Clearly more to this story, but that's not relevant right now). This went on for a short time before it was revealed that it was heroin. But, it was too late. She was hooked. Ashamed and hooked, she kept her secret hidden for a while. I knew something was off but, I just couldn't put my finger on it. She started missing work, she was gone strange hours, sleeping a lot, becoming distant in general. Of course not being able to pull one over on me, I figured it out. She must be cheating on me. Crying and full of shame she swore to me that's not what it was. Of course with no plausible explanation I didn't believe her.
(Pause: rewind... I'm an EMT. I recognize drug abuse from 100 feet away. I know the signs. I can tell you what people are abusing with pretty good accuracy. My spidy senses never kicked in.) Before long, she stopped coming home. But I didn't care. I was mad. Cheat on me will you? However, I was currently stuck with her 2 dogs, 2 cats, all of her belongings, and oh yeah.... Her teenage son. So, with her phone shut off, Not knowing exactly where she was....I emailed her. Boy did I let her have it. I laid it on thick. How dare she abandoned her responsibilities on me. All I got in response was "I'm sorry". That wasn't good enough by far. But, it wasn't the response I was expecting. I had been far too mean and sarcastic. It was dawning on me that something was askew. So the next email I changed my tone. I wanted to start a dialog. This time she responded. "I messed up. I'm hooked on heroin. The kind you inject. I'm so sorry. I love you".
What?! How? No! B.S!, confusion, denial anger. But, if that's true..... I missed the signs. I was all wrong. What do i do now? She made a bad decision, but she doesn't deserve to die for it. I know how to handle an overdose but I had no idea how to handle this.
My world was spinning out of control. I decided to immerse myself in this heroin addiction thing. What it was. What is heroin. How it works. Why it happens. How to fix it. I wanted a solid understanding of what it was. So I googled it. I went to forums for users, for addicts in recovery. I went to doctors and nurses. They had the same understanding about addiction that I did. (That's a huge part of the problem, the front line of the war on drugs doesn't understand what it really means to be addicted) keep in mind, something like 5 out of 7 opiate addicts started with doctor oversight. I talked to recovering addicts. Finally, some useful insight. I talked to active users. I listened to every word like they were my professor and I was cramming for finals. I talked to recovery counselors. (They are the first professionals in this battle that actually grasp the problem). I learned that quitting heroin is brutal. I'd come to see it first hand. The sweats, anxiety, mood swings, graduating to restless legs and arms. That's about the time electricity shoots through the bones. The excruciating pain. The grief, and shame. The insomnia and nausea. Desperately trying anything to bring relief. Truly believing that happiness may never be felt again. Sometimes feeling a loss hope. If a terrorist were subjected to this, it would be considered inhumane.
One thing kept coming to the forefront. This is their addiction. It will have to be their recovery. She needs to want it or it will all be for nothing. I can't force her. But don't count me out of the picture yet. I can learn how to be a healthy part of her recovery. How to encourage. How not to enable. How to draw the line in the sand and stick to it. I can go to meetings and learn the steps. Boy did that backfire. I'm not the addicted one but, apparently I needed to make some personal changes (before my flaws were pointed out, I was pretty sure I was close to prefect). I learned that some of my actions weren't healthy in this relationship and they couldn't continue. I had to do some deep soul searching be honest with myself. But, if she is willing to get help, I'll do it. Whatever it takes.
Finally weeks had gone by and I had been able to keep some dialog going through the emails. Several other events occurred in the meantime, but I'll save that for the movie, lol. Suffice it to say, the police may or may not have been involved and I may have made a few mistakes along the way. (Note: don't waste your time being vindictive to their supplier. It may feel good, but it takes away from the objective).
She finally said the words......"I'm in over my head. I need help but I'm scared". I told her "don't worry, I have a plan" and she said "ok". Well, That was music to my ears. Now i just had to come up with a plan. What i came up with was a good solid plan. Unfortunately it ended up requiring about 18 contingency plans. There were times when faith was thin (to put it mildly) on both sides. Ultimately in order to detox without her supplier walking and taking her out knowing she was still too vulnerable to resist and the staff taking the cavalier attitude of "well, that's what addicts do".
We decided to go out of state and detox in a motel room for two weeks. (Not highly recommended even though it worked for her. I can not stress enough that this is not for the faint of heart). It was nothing short of cruel. But, she was determined. She truly believed it was this or death. With the heroin out of her system. Clear headed (more than she had been in a while) We were able to get her into a very helpful inpatient program back home and drove straight there. This was not the end of the struggle by far. The battle continued for some time to come.
During this ordeal I watched her resolve herself to die rather than face the shame of what she'd done. I had her family members tell me things like "don't walk away from her.... run" , she's just being selfish, if she dies I'd like to have her photo albums. They turned their backs on her because she made her selfish decision. She hadn't done anything to them. Not borrowed money, not stolen, pawned or pilfered. Inconvenienced them in no way. But, because of the stigma, of this dark mysterious "H" word, turned their backs on her. Police made it clear that they will not go out on a limb for a junkie. Admitting that it was less of a liability to wait until they overdosed and just do the paperwork. The general consensus amongst first responders was "thats sad, I hope they get help but it's most likely a waste of time". A notable lack of compassion. And the ignorance in general (including myself until this and still learning) shows the need for education at every level of this battle.
Yes, initially this was a choice that your loved one made to take this drug. People need to understand that this drug gave the greatest, most euphoric feeling ever felt by your loved one. It allowed them to escape from the stress of everything. That is, until it didn't. And stopping means feeling the worst hell you never even imagined or spend a few dollars to get well enough to keep going. But, then it consumes you and spirals out of control ruining everything you were. It's a viscous cycle that takes an act of bravery and courage to face head on.
I didn't write this for those in recovery. They know this better than anyone like me could. That's the one group that is compassionate about heroin abuse and passionate about helping other addicts and those affected by addiction with their recovery. (Imagine that, the same people written off as waste by general society, are the most compassionate of all of them).
I wrote this for people like me, that just don't have a clue what the battle of heroin addiction really looks and feels like. What they can do to help. Where they fit into their loved one's recovery. To help break the stigma of this dark back alley hardcore drug to the #1 painkiller of the last 3000 years that it is, affecting every demographic in this country. And for loved one's to get an account of some of the things to expect as their loved one faces their journey into their recovery. And to give hope. Because, recovery does work. And as a family member affected by addiction. I'm here to tell you, not only did I survive. But, I'm stronger for it.
My loved one is now 3 years clean and we're planning our wedding now. I still come to this amazing support group of active users, those in recovery and parents for inspiration and guidance. (I suspect I always will). There's a lot of love and knowledge in these posts in this private group.
Support our fundraising efforts here at Heroin Support by purchasing wristbands via our website or donating below.