“I’ve been battling heroin most of the last eight years,” Heather stated in the first line of her email. “Not my addiction, but everyone else’s.”
Heather began dating Drew, a high school sweetheart whom she had reconnected with some 20 years later, aware that he was addicted to drugs.
“I knew he was a drug addict but didn’t really know what that meant,” admitted Heather. “I thought if he was holding down a job and had his own money, it couldn’t be that bad.”
Heather, unfortunately, was wrong. Drug addiction’s reach extends into places of employment, pulling in people no one expects.
“Drew was a charming, intelligent man with a good heart, even in active addiction, but I learned quickly I couldn’t count on him for anything and that I shouldn’t expect to keep cash in my purse.”
Drew had entered many rehabilitation programs and was clean for about three years when he and Heather decided to move in together.
“That’s when the downward spiral started,” recalled Heather. “He lost his job and heroin became his all-consuming mistress. He overdosed several times, crashed his car with his six year old daughter in the backseat and crashed mine into a house. His life and mine, were certainly unmanageable.”
After more detox facilities and rehabs, Heather threatened to kick him out if he could not remain in recovery, but those warnings were quickly quieted.
“He said had no place to go and that he would die in the street. So, I let him stay,” said Heather.
On the morning of October 1, 2010, Heather awoke to a loud crash coming from her bathroom. Drew had overdosed again. After breaking down the door and calling 911, Heather followed the ambulance to the hospital, as she had done too many times before.
“I had no thought that following the ambulance this time would be different,” said Heather. “It certainly felt the same.”
Once at the hospital, Heather was advised to call Drew’s family immediately. Heather, who had managed to keep all of Drew’s other overdoses a secret from his relatives, now had to make a phone call.
Though Heather had responded immediately to the crash in her bathroom, Drew was showing little to no signs of brain function and his family took him off life support two days later, on October 3.
“I felt numb. I felt relieved. I felt guilty,” stated Heather. “I sought counseling for the grief and guilt but didn’t stick with it long enough to learn anything valuable for myself.”
Six weeks after Drew’s death, Heather began talking to Adam, one of Drew’s high school friends, about ‘old times’ and they started seeing each other. The bliss Heather found in her new relationship with Adam was short-lived, as Adam, too, was addicted to heroin.
Unlike her relationship with Drew, Heather stated that she did not know Adam was struggling with addiction at first.
“I figured it out once things started disappearing and none of what he said made any sense,” recounted Heather. “At that point, because I was still numb from the loss of Drew, I allowed the insanity to continue.”
Heather admitted she allowed this relationship to continue for four entire years because it felt “normal” to her by this point.
In those four years, a lot transpired that weakened Heather’s mental state and confidence even more. Adam was in and out of jail and rehab, choosing at times to detox at home.
“Detoxing at home never worked. Ever. The physical and psychological pain was too unbearable. Watching him go through this was painful and I sometimes would bring him to score so he wouldn’t be sick,” said Heather, who now knows she was enabling and not helping. “I felt like if I was driving him there, then I was in control. What an illusion. Heroin controlled us all.”
In addition, Heather’s family and close friends even stopped speaking to her for a brief time.
“I was isolated in this heroin-soaked world I lived in,” said Heather, who noted that she believes the over prescribing of prescription drugs brought heroin into good neighborhoods like hers. Statistics support this.
Still fixated on “curing” Adam, Heather decided to go to a meeting, not for herself, but to find out how to get Adam into recovery. Instead, she learned the lesson she needed in order to begin her own healing process. One of the drug counselors told Heather that she needed help. He assured her that recovery was possible for loved ones of those battling addiction, too.
“I learned that I didn’t cause the addiction, but mostly that I couldn’t control or cure it. Adam would have to do that himself…or not,” said Heather. “I went to meetings and got a sponsor and stayed in this relationship for about another year.”
“Then I got a call from jail and the lies started again,” added Heather.
With Adam back in jail, Heather was able to separate herself from Adam’s addiction. She spoke to his family and uncovered more lies.
“It must have been exhausting to live that way,” Heather said. “I made a decision to break free.”
Almost three years later, and Heather is still recovering from the effect of the family disease of addiction. Adam is currently living in a homeless shelter after recently being released from jail. He is waiting on a bed in a long-term rehab facility. He’s reached out to Heather, but she has decided to no longer speak to Adam.
“I work on myself every day, knowing that each day brings peace and serenity for those who seek it. I choose me today!” affirmed Heather. “Part of my healing is sharing my story with others who may need to hear it.”
To read more stories like this, check out Alicia Cook’s collection of essays entitled, Heroin is the Worst Thing to Ever Happen to Me on Amazon.