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[ Personal Narratives ]

The Long Walk Home: Finding Treatment In The 80’s

I am a heroin addict. Now, then, tomorrow. It has been 29 years since I put the needle in my arm, that wonderful, nurturing drug that got me here today.

I am not going to tell you it was all horrible. It was always horrible. The fear of running out. The 24 hour, 7 days a week getting well, getting high, saving a wake up. Those hours, days, of embarrassment, pain, anguish that occurred daily, weekly when money or supply ran out. It was always horrible. 

As a child of the 60’s we were immersed in drugs, every kind of drug, smoking, shooting upside down and inside out. That is a story for a different time. This is about heroin, the mountain, the valley, the silent killer. 

The first time I did heroin I fell in love. I thought alcohol was the one. Heroin gave me the glow, nurtured me, healed me. I craved it for years, though I only had brief periods that I actually used it. My first extended use was in Parker, Arizona. Unfortunately an undercover narcotic agent befriended us and off to jail we went. That scared me straight, back to alcohol and pot.

I went into treatment in 1982 for alcohol. First a 2 day stay in the hospital, then 31 days in treatment. This was old school treatment, meetings, peer to peer therapy, war stories. At this time my drug and alcohol use spanned almost 20 years. While in treatment that Neuro pathway told me we have never been an in the gutter heroin addict. 

I did some window shopping in the AA program, I was to scared to drink. My last alcohol relapse was pure hell, terror like I never experienced. My little sister died in 1981 from cancer at the age of 27. She was an Heroin Addict, we had been given an unlimited supply of morphine. I was on my way, I would get my wish. I started using heroin for the next few years. The details are like any other junkie, beg, borrow, steal, it was exhausting. We had went to the dealer one morning to get well. Driving off I asked the driver to pull over, the gutter was overflowing because of all the rain. I reached down with a bottle cap, cooked it, and that feeling when you go from dope sick to well, it worked again.

By this time I had been on the streets a long time. I remember late one night walking next to the park I looked into the window of this house. The soft warm glow of the light in that house, this overwhelming desire to go home hit me deep. I had nothing, just living for the fix, it never ended. That night stayed with me. At some point I decided I was done. 

I broke into the apartment of my girlfriends friend. He came home and found me drinking his gin, whisky, whatever. I explained that I needed to get off heroin, of course he was skeptical. About a month later I felt good enough to put my life together. That entailed pot, alcohol and meth. I knew nothing else, only drugs. 

One morning the girl I lived with was mandated to AA, we went to a meeting. I sat there, I realized somehow that this was my future. I really didn’t like it very much, yet it was my destiny. 

On September 22 1986, I checked into a detox facility, spending 72 hours there. When I checked out my legs moved me towards the Club, meetings were held here 2-3 times a day. I sat down, looked at the people, the 12 Steps on the wall and thought I hate these people, those steps, I won’t do them. I had nothing, as I looked around I realized I was home for the first time in my life.