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[ Personal Narratives ]

Shining The Light On The Shunned

This is my story of my personal battle with the worldwide opiod epidemic.

I used heroin for the first time at seventeen years old. I was in a rundown motel called The Thunderbird. Cockroaches coexisted with bedbugs, junkies, johns, and prostitution. It was  a breeding ground for Hep C and other transmitted diseases. I had followed a prostitute named Charlie, meeting her as I walked down Main Street in Fitchburg. She persuaded me to join her to smoke crack. I had only dabbled cocaine so there were many firsts that day and I couldn’t have foreseen how this decision would shape the next sixteen years.

Charlie set up the spoon, loaded the syringe and tied my arm off and found a vein. She stuck me and drew the needle back carefully, but effortlessly. It took all of 10 seconds as my veins were big, blue and alive. I remember I felt a blanket of numbness drape over and wrap around me. I was free and weightless. It’s as though the heroin morphed me into a feather and the wind carried me away.

I wasn’t free though. I was now imprisoned to Heroin. I was living a life only to find my next fix and chase my next high. I was running so hard just to avoid being dopesick. As my addiction blossomed, my spirit and soul wilted. I was a shell that no longer was filled with beautiful sounds of the ocean. I was hollow, and empty, and filled only with silence.

I opened a door that I have deemed impossible to fully shut. It was a revolving door that so many addicts find themselves aligned with. In and out, a cycle that most of us repeat until we die from our addiction or other causes. 

What would drive a seventeen year old girl to allow another to stick her with a needle? I get this question most often these days. Loved ones of addicts and communities scramble to find answers, with the opioid epidemic growing, and the death toll rising, people are searching for reasons and solutions.

Why me? There was no shortage in traumatic and painful events in my childhood and adult life, I can’t blame or erase any singular event that propelled me into heroin addiction.  But instead, a series of life experiences compounded together mixed with genetic disposition that  welcomed Charlie into my veins that day. I will fight by surrendering to this disease, one day at a time. Regardless, of what caused my addiction, society can help me and other addicts find a way out.

The stigma we addicts face leave us feeling ashamed. We are hiding and avoiding reaching out for help. There is no demographic or type when it comes to addiction anymore. Suburban kids that have been raised by loving, two parent homes. A mom that drives her kids to soccer practice, in her Honda Odyssey. The son who got a full scholarship to the college of his dreams for being the star quarterback. The daughter who got crowned prom queen.

Addiction doesn’t discriminate.  

If we could rise up to bring awareness, and advocate for not only drug prevention but rehabilitation as well, we could save lives. We need to make treatment more available by creating more resources. But, we also need embracing, instead of shunning those affected by addiction. If we show love and support to a population that’s been brutally judged, and seen by society as low life junkies and criminals, I can only imagine the benefits. How many children wouldn’t be without parents?  And how many parents wouldn’t be burying their children?  At this moment, it’s not about what we’d have to lose, but all that we could gain. 

My name is Emily, and I am an addict in recovery. 

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