- Friends & Family
Submitted by: Susanne Johnson
I’m writing this simply because heroin addiction is NOT what people make it out to be, and I will not be silenced anymore. I will not hide, I will not be ashamed of a disease I DID NOT ask for. This is not WHO I am, this is what heroin MADE me into. But I can tell you this before you even begin this: I am not and will not become that girl again.
I grew up in pretty normal household in Saint Charles, Illinois. Nothing too extreme or out of the ordinary happened, my parents were married and I was the middle child with an older brother (2 years my senior) and a younger brother (18 months my junior), but I always struggled since the time I was young. I always felt like I was fighting for attention, and for love and affection and I sought out that feeling of acceptance anywhere I could: friends, boys, and mischief. Ultimately, I turned to my whirl-wind of feelings that I didn’t understand and had absolutely no clue how to express. I began to self-injure, restrict my eating, and even attempted to commit suicide. Needless to say, I became familiar with institutions at the ripe age of 13-14.
It started with smoking weed with my friends in middle school because it was a thrill and it was fun and ‘cool’ and I got to run around like the angsty teen I was. I was smashing mailboxes, ditching school, stealing cigarettes from my mom, and spending my days at the skate park hanging out with all the guys and one or two of my close girlfriends, of course sneaking out at night while my parents were asleep (through the basement window) so I could go drinking with my much older friends in a nearby town.
By my first year in high school, I had graduated to LSD, nitrous oxide, any and all benzos, ketamine, ecstasy, amphetamines, mushrooms, cocaine, etc. Basically, anything I could get my hands on, I was willing to do. Just as long as it wasn’t heroin. I told myself I would NEVER do heroin because I was “stronger” then that. I was “better” then that, and I wasn’t ever going to become one of those people who can’t handle themselves. I just wanted anything to get me out of my own head. To make all my racing thoughts, all my negative built up emotions to subside or at least relax for a little while. Just something to make me feel ‘free’ and different and it almost gave me a sense of control when my entire world seemed to be falling apart around me, when in reality I was the only thing falling apart.
When I was 15 years old, I was dating a guy in his early 20s and I knew he did heroin, but I had no interest in doing it and I had told him numerous times when offered that I didn’t want to do heroin– so at a party one night (after having snuck out of my parents basement window) he decided to tell me he had cocaine (keep in mind I was already hammered) and I snorted a line and when I realized it wasn’t the effect cocaine produces and I said to him “this isn’t cocaine,” he told me the truth– I had just done my first line of heron and I’ll never forget the feeling I got.
From the age of 15, I was kicked out of my high school and sent to a behavior school, graduated to shooting heroin within a year, stole almost $1000 out of my parents back account while they were on vacation for a week and spent it all on heroin for myself. I got arrested numerous times for shoplifting (so I could support my habit when I didn’t have any money), jumped in and out of toxic relationship after toxic relationship because as the saying goes, “misery loves company” and it sure does!
I got kicked out of my parents house and was going in and out of rehab over and over again. I overdosed on my dad’s bathroom floor after breaking up my parents’ 22 year marriage (I say I broke up their marriage because all of my chaos caused a huge strain on their relationship). I continued to get arrested and caught a felony case when I was 19 years old.
When I was still capable of holding down a job, I was shooting up in the bathrooms and would nod out in the bathroom for hours until coworkers would start banging on the doors. I was homeless, I lived in my car, on people’s couches, squatted in abandoned buildings, staying awake for days on end smoking crack and then shooting jabs of heroin to come down.
The thrill I got driving out to the west side, walking up and down those blocks waiting to get that call from my dealer telling me he was ready– just the ritual was a high in and of itself. I used to not feel. I didn’t want to feel anything. I wanted to stay numb and just keep running from all the things in my head. I just didn’t care at all anymore. I didn’t care whatsoever about all the stares and looks I got while nodding off on the blue line train at 4am because I had no where else to go. I didn’t care about my personal hygiene or where or when I’d get my next meal. ALL of my focus and dedication was on heroin and HOW and WHEN I was going to get that next fix.
After eight different arrests, nine rehabs, two overdoses, and four different recovery homes, I was STILL struggling and couldn’t understand WHY I was the way I am. I couldn’t accept the fact that this was a disease and that I needed to listen to the people who were giving me suggestions on how to live clean and drug free. I didn’t want to admit powerlessness. I kept trying to convince myself that I could control this somehow. But I was so incredibly wrong. You can’t control heroin. It controls YOU. It sucks the life out of you and rips away your soul.
I stole thousands of dollars from my loving father, I destroyed so many precious relationships, my ex-boyfriend killed himself in 2009, I introduced numerous other people to heroin, I contracted Hep C, and I was in and out of the hospital for needle related infections. I am banned from Target and Walmart all over Illinois for countless shoplifting arrests at different locations in an attempt to feed my heroin addiction.
I needed money somewhere, so why not steal and pawn things? Why not pan handle? Why not break into cars? Why not just sleep with my drug dealers? I did it all. Screaming and crying when I couldn’t find a vein– screaming and crying even when I did find a vein because this was NOT the person I was supposed to become. This was NOT the girl I was supposed to be.
I sit here now, 25 years old- living in Chicago, clean and sober. I am able to hold a job today, I have my own apartment, I have friends and most of all I have HOPE and LOVE for myself. I still have my ups and downs and my struggles. I’ve lost countless friends and lovers to this disease. But I refuse to be a statistic and I believe today that I deserve better then that life and I know I can achieve my dreams and goals I had a child. There’s so much more I could say and write about my addiction and the things I did in active addiction, but that isn’t the point of this post.
The point is, it gets better- it get’s easier, and if after 10 years of shooting heroin I can get clean, then anyone can. I have now four months of sobriety after being in treatment for the ninth time in my life. I make things different this time and hope it will turn into long-term recovery. I enjoy my work, spending time with sober friends, and attending meetings,. I love the fellowship and volunteer.