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[ Opinion ] [ Personal Narratives ]

Heroin Addiction, How My “Mask” Was Destroyed on Halloween

Sweat pours off my face, my nose is running, the chills have made it’s  way up and down my arms with ease, and my legs feel like they are about to kick off my body. , In fact, I kind of wish they would, as I try to conquer the excruciating task of getting my kids ready for trick or treat.

It’s Halloween, 2015 and I’m sick. I don’t have a cold, or the flu. This isn’t a 24 hour bug or virus, that could be eased with fluids, rest and Tylenol.

There’s no confusion, I know I am in withdrawals, and there’s no way around it.  My dope dealer isn’t picking up the phone, and I have costumes to prepare for a night of fun –for the kids that is– A night of thrills and chills, I will be dealing with the latter.

I’m trying to get my 10 year old daughter ready, she’s a perfectionist,  and wants her costume to look perfect.  My daughter is dressing up as  Katniss Everdeen, and I feel like breaking down and crying. In that moment I wish to volunteer as tribute for the hunger games. I would do anything to find relief.. Life’s no longer about getting high for me, that warm feeling that  I used to get, where numbness blanketed over me, was no more. I used heroin now just to scrape myself off the floor and function.

Next was the task of corralling  my four year old in his police officer costume. He was excited jumping up and down singing “five little pumpkins.” This was the first year that he really understood the concept of dressing up, trick or treating, and getting free candy from strangers. 

He loved policemen and cars. He was always role playing, and arresting the bad guys, little did he know, his own mother was breaking the law daily. 

Somewhere in between suffering and more suffering , I had a small dose of clarity hit me. 

Standing  before me, were both of my children. They exuded such innocence, as they anxiously awaited for trick or treat to begin. I realized I had failed them. I couldn’t be there for them. I was there in the physical sense, but mentally and emotionally, I had checked out long before.

It seemed that every time I came down from my high I found myself crippled with guilt, and despair It was utterly unbearable, and the only way I knew how to kill the pain was to escape through drugs again. It was a vicious cycle that was hard to break.

Between dry heaving, and frequent trips to the bathroom,  I thought about the irony.

Here it was, Halloween night,  our  neighborhood was filled with children and adults dressed in elaborate  costumes and  masks. Everyday people pretending to be ghosts witches and Disney princess’s . 

This was also the first night since relapsing where I couldn’t conceal my true self. The mask I wore daily that told a story of a hard working stay at home mom, who was happy loving and attentive to her children. Tonight, I was too sick, a total mess, and I knew it. It was overwhelmingly transparent.

Even my children could see through me that night. For a split second I cracked, I was feeling not only physically sick, I felt fragile mentally as well. A tear dropped down my face. My daughter leaned in close by my ear, and spoke quietly but with striking intensity ,  “Don’t  worry mom I know you’re sick.” this was the moment that I knew she wasn’t referring to the possibility of a potential stomach bug . My daughter had whispered these words in a way with such compassion, understanding and immense sadness, as though she knew what I’d been hiding.. I chose not to recognize this earlier, as it hurt too much to face. Knowing, my daughter was struggling with the consequences of my disease on her own. She  knew the entire time. I thought my heart was going to break into pieces and scatter across the floor, right then, and there.

I made it through trick or treating, it was a horrific experience, but I  held it together as best as I could. I then, dropped the kids off at my mothers so they could binge on candy. I went and met my dealer and proceeded to binge on heroin, and klonipin. 

This was the last holiday I spent with my children while in the midst of my relapse. I recall the earth shattering feelings of loneliness and isolation I felt on Christmas morning, I was staying with my girlfriend, who was attempting to help me get straight.  I had the feeling of being sick to my stomach,  that  pit feeling you get when you have had the shit beat out of you by guilt and shame. I was left facing the reality that this would be the first  Christmas I’d miss with my kids. I didn’t get to wake up at midnight to sneak downstairs to nibble the carrots they left for Rudolph. I wouldn’t get take a bite of the homemade chocolate chip cookies we always made and left out for St. Nick.

I would not be there to see my children’s reactions on their face,  when they awoke in the morning to see that Santa had come. They both still believed in the big jolly man, but  this would be the last year for my daughter who was then a 5th grader.

These memories are some of the most difficult and painful, ones that I’ve had to process, and accept while in recovery. I prefer not to relive them, but I know how important it is to remember what those days felt like. I CAN’T forget. I need to remind myself often about the pain heroin addiction casted upon my children and our family . Its imperative that I remember, as I wish to never return to such a desolate existence. 

This will be my first big holiday with my children since getting clean. My son wants to be a policeman  again, which is great because it provides me with an opportunity to re-experience him, as a policeman, now  clean and sober. With his gold badge and plastic handcuffs.  

My daughter is going to be a Rosie the Riveter, this year for halloween. She’s eleven years old, and thought of this costume on her own. It’s perfect for her. It’s a direct reflection of her strength and bravery that she has displayed throughout the past year. She has had to overcome so many adversities, and has done so in stride. I couldn’t be more proud of her. Last weekend we decorated as family and my daughter made the pumpkin you see above . We did it together, we melted crayons, a design she found on Pinterest.

I can’t explain in words, how good it feels to do something as small as decorating a pumpkin.   It’s jarring when I look back and reflect, on all the times I squandered due to my addiction. I want to protect future memorable moments. In recovery, I’ve taken every opportunity to seize these moments, they are fleeting. I can’t get back lost time, but l have a lot to look forward to. These  moments are what I live for nowadays. Halloween is just one of many holidays I will have with my children, if I don’t pick up. That’s all I have to do, no matter what. Rosie the Riveter said it best “we can do it.” We all can.  

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