My Weekend with a Heroin Addict
ad dic tion -noun; The state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.
Would you let a Heroin addict into your house? I’m not sure I would. Actually, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t.
A close friend of mine called me to ask for advice. An old friend of hers had been kicked out of rehab and needed a place to stay through the weekend. “I want to help, but I’m afraid. I don’t know if I can be around that. What should I do,” she asked.
After talking it through, we decided that if there was something she could do to help, she should. I volunteered to be around for support through the weekend.
We’ll call our addict, Amy. This is her story.
Late Friday night Amy walked through the door with two enormous suitcases, apologizing for their intimidating nature and promising to only be around for the weekend. After introducing myself, there was a friendly air to the room, and I took it upon myself to poke fun at the girl who looked like she accidentally switched luggage with Big Foot. This was well received and helped to break the ice quickly.
Amy was a normal looking girl at about 5”9’, 120 pounds, with brown highlighted hair. From the look of her acrylic nails, extra makeup, high heels, and designer purse, I would have guessed California native. The impression I got was materialistic, and self absorbed. But always polite. Extremely polite, and very appreciative.
Amy was originally from Toronto, Canada. She’s been in California for about two years now. Before moving out here, closer to her dad, Amy had already been addicted to Oxycontin and Klonopin – pain killers.
Her dad paid to put her in a high-end rehab center in Malibu. Unfortunately he couldn’t afford the high price tag for more than a few months, and Amy was forced to move out of her familiar support system.
She bounced around to a few cheaper sober living environments, but ultimately began crashing on couches and attending free A.A. meetings when she could. Even though Amy didn’t have an alcohol problem, A.A. is commonly used for addicts of many flavors because meetings are widespread and highly accessible. It’s also less stigmatized and viewed as a social event — particularly in Malibu where star appearances are frequent. Many get dressed up to impress potential celebrity onlookers.
Even though she was making progress with her drug addiction, all was not well. Somewhere during her recovery she substituted one addiction with another. She developed an eating disorder and became obsessed with becoming thin.
Before long, Amy fell in love with someone struggling with his own addiction demons. But he was much more financially fortunate than Amy. It wasn’t long before she moved in with him out of both convenience and desperation.
Her eating disorder continued to get worse. He began taking care of her more and more, while resentment quietly built. When the disorder couldn’t be ignored any longer, her dad and boyfriend forced her into treatment.
She stayed with treatment solely to save the diminishing relationship. She embraced the support that was given and wanted to get well. When she left treatment, her eating disorder improved. However, the strains on the relationship were set and hostility grew. Soon Amy’s boyfriend relapsed into his own Heroin and alcohol addiction in order to escape the stress of taking care of another person, now viewed as “helpless” without him. Wanting nothing more than to feel good again, he introduced her to his drug of choice, Heroin. Together they felt a fleeting “happiness,” long gone. As Amy described, this initial high became something that she would continue to chase yet never achieve.
I was amazed at how quick Amy had befriended me, the stranger. She talked openly and candidly. She allowed to me ask questions and pry into her personal life. And questions I had. I was curious.
The deal was that if Amy could stay sober through the weekend, and cope with the consequences of relapse withdrawal – cold sweats, head and body aches, tremors, panic, shaking, chills, and more – and tested clean, she could return to sober living.
After returning from a check-in meeting with her counselors, Amy returned mad and extremely upset. If she went back, the consequences of relapse involved sacrificing all her social circles and privileges she’d become accustomed to. This didn’t sit well with her at all.
Her dad offered her an alternative. He’d put her up in an apartment, if she promised to continue going to meetings and could hold a job. She began talking about how badly she, “just wanted to be normal again.” How she, “wanted things to go back to the way they were before.” And started reminiscing about her journey through the drug-abuse carnival that started in her early teens.
To an outsider, that alternative sounded like a terrible idea. It was clear to me that she what she was really doing, was asking, “What should I do?”
On the surface, Amy gives off the impression of someone with an aversion for authority figures. Someone who challenges the standard and pushes for self interest. Beyond the surface, Amy is a lost soul. An individual begging to be told what to do and how to do it.
I asked her if living on her own would tempt her to drift back into drug abuse. The longer I talked with her, the more I came to realize just how much damage the drugs have done over the years. There was a lengthy delay after asking her any question while her brain processed what was being said. At times, I wondered if she had understood me at all.
She seemed to get that what she was doing was destructive and hurtful to both herself and those around her. When I asked her how she could stick a needle into her arm if she knew how it was going to affect people like her dad, I didn’t get a direct answer. “You know, it’s funny you ask that. In rehab, that’s one of the first things they teach you. They teach you to call on a mental picture of those you love. They teach you to think about how what you’re about to do will hurt them,” she said.
I’ve never done any drugs. In fact, I’m so far removed from the abuse and addiction world that I’d be hard pressed just to tell you who I know that does. And I’ll be the first one to tell you that I certainly don’t understand addiction.
I felt bad for Amy. I learned a lot by talking to her. I’m not sure that I necessarily understand these addictions any better now. I’m not sure that I’m willing to admit that we, as people, aren’t capable of making decisions and taking charge of our own lives. I’m not sure that I like the idea of not being in control.
Amy did get readmitted into rehab. And she realized that, she really did need the help of others, and went willingly. I pray it works for her this time.
Until next time, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.