I started using a substance ever since I was 12 years old. I started drinking alcohol at this age, and that’s kind of where it all started.
I remember being drunk for the first time. My friend’s mom gave us alcohol to drink before a May Day Parade concert, and I liked it — it made me feel more confident, and it felt fun. I had no worries in the world. We would drink on the weekends, but soon after that, we began taking her liquor. It was easily accessible because my dad drank, so my friends and I would get drunk and just do stupid things like inviting boys over or riding around in cars while we were drunk.
I remember a time when one of my friend’s brothers was driving and we accidently hit a parked car. The people told us to give them 50 bucks or they were going to call the cops on us. We didn’t have the money on us, so they wanted us one of us to stay while the rest of us went to get the money, so we made our friend’s brother stay because we didn’t like him very much. So we brought back the $50, and I’m pretty sure they just wanted it to buy beer.
As I got into high school, I began experimenting with things besides alcohol: the first was marijuana. I smoked weed before school, after school, and I would even cut class to go smoke in the parking lot. My sophomore year, I started taking painkillers: Vicodin were easy for me to get because my dad was prescribed them at the time. I began taking these whenever I could get my hands on them. If I couldn’t get those, I would get Percocet or Oxycontin from a friend or someone who dealt them. I smoked and took pills to block out all of the things going on in my life … I remember I would get so high that I would just relax and not have a worry in the world. I liked downers for this reason.
After high school, I turned to methadone. I liked these because I would only have to take a quarter of the pill, and I would be high all day. After a while, they started getting expensive: It would cost $30-40 per pill, so a friend of mine told me about the methadone clinic. Many people think the methadone clinic is a place you can go to stop your addiction to the pill, but for me, it was just the opposite. I would go there once a week, meet with my counselor — who supposedly wanted me to stop using, but instead she didn’t care. All she cared about was getting my business. They would give me my pills, and I would return whenever I ran out.
At the time, I began smoking spice, and it was legal at the time they were selling it at the gas station. I kind of knew it was bad, but I didn’t know it was that bad … at least I didn’t think it was that bad. So I started smoking a whole lot of it: a ridiculous amount. I was mentally addicted to it because I would start being the biggest bitch if I didn’t have it; I would throw a fit if I didn’t have it. Being on spice is nothing like a weed high, though: Your heart is beating fast, but you’re kind of chill, and it makes your head foggy. I remember there were times I got too high off of it, and you almost start freaking out.
I smoked it and drove for the first time, and I remember thinking how crazy it was to be driving this big hunk of metal down the road at 60 mph. It would just make me think of random, weird stuff and put a realization in my mind of what I was doing. At the time, I didn’t think it was a big deal — it was legal: Hell, I bought it at the gas station … how bad can it be? I would smoke weed and drive, and I didn’t think that was a big deal, so I thought smoking spice and driving wasn’t a big deal either.
Two weeks after they banned spice, I got pulled over. I had a pipe in my car and a little bit of spice on me, and they took me to jail over it. During this time, I was still taking methadone. I was 23.
I wanted to stop, and this was the first time I checked into Harbor Lights Rehabilitation Center. I was 24.
When I checked in, I was nervous, and mostly everyone there was trying to come off of heroin, and I had never done it at the time. This gave me a realization of how big the heroin problem was then let alone now. I was there for four months.
After leaving Harbor Lights, I started withdrawing from the methadone, so I started drinking. I became addicted to alcohol for nine months.
My dad was a pretty heavy drinker at the time, but I would drink him under the table. As soon as I woke up, I would start drinking, and by noon, I would be passing out and then waking up at 2 or 3 p.m. to do it all over again.
It became so bad that I was starting to drink a half-gallon of vodka a day.
When you’re this drunk daily, you can’t do anything; you can’t go anywhere because you’re fucked up all the time. I couldn’t function. I could barely do anything, and I rarely left the house. The only time I ever did was to go get cigarettes or go get liquor. I was so fucked up that I couldn’t talk to anybody or even walk down the street because I would have been picked up for public intoxication.
I was all over the place.
Most of the time I would be alone, getting drunk by myself, and life was pretty lame. I didn’t see much or do much. Toward winter, I remember waking up and going to the liquor store at 8 a.m. because that’s when I thought it opened, but it didn’t open until 9 a.m., so here I am walking around Noblesville with a hangover, feeling like crap because I was waiting until 9:00 to get my vodka.
My parents told me that I needed help, but with them pushing me and with me trying to block out all of the things going on in my life, it only pushed me to drink more. I eventually checked back into Harbor Lights Rehabilitation Center. I stayed there for four weeks: It was nice. I had a job, and there were rules to follow, so it was structured in a way that kept me from doing anything.
One night, a girl in our house said she had some heroin to pick up, so we went downtown to get it in some ghetto neighborhood in Indianapolis. A circle of bushes surrounded us, and the girl got it out. She shot it up first — this was the first time I had seen someone else do it. Instantly after she shot up, she “fell out” or went in and out of consciousness. I didn’t really know what was going on. She lay there and didn’t move at all. Her lips started turning purple … I thought she was dead.
I used to be a lifeguard, so I started giving her CPR, but it didn’t work. Eventually she came to … and then I shot up. Even after seeing all this happen, I still had the nerve to try it. The needle hit my vein, and it was a sensational feeling: My body started getting tingly, and I had a taste in the back of my mouth I’ve never felt before. Any worries or cares I had I didn’t think about when I was on heroin. When I went back to Harbor Lights, I was still very high. Curfew was 7 p.m., and I got back at 9 p.m. They asked to drug test me, but I said it there was no use: I knew I was going to fail, so they kicked me out.
I slept in the parking lot that night. This is when I became addicted to heroin.
One good time of feeling that high was all it took. For six months, I was addicted. I began stealing from my parents, from stores, anywhere I could get the money to buy some heroin from the dope man. I would steal things from stores, go back later and exchange them for gift cards. I would take these gift cards to the dope man, and in return, he would give me heroin. I liked it when he would take gift cards because it was easier than finding cash.
During holiday seasons, I would go steal fancy clothes or anything he wanted in exchange for heroin. I can remember sitting in the car for two hours, sometimes 5-6 hours in a car in the same parking lot waiting for him because I didn’t want to get it from anyone else. He had the best stuff.
At this point, it wasn’t really that I needed the heroin to fuel my addiction. I just didn’t want to feel sick.
The sickness that comes with coming down off of heroin is excruciating. I remember trying to quit without going to the clinic: I was at my dad’s house, lying in bed for several days. I couldn’t sleep. I would flail my arms, rolling around in bed. It felt like I had bugs crawling all over my skin. I would have hot-and-cold flashes, so I would take up to seven showers a day just lying there with the water on me because it made me feel a little bit better for some reason.
It takes up to eight days for heroin to finally start leaving your system. I lasted seven at my dad’s house until I just couldn’t take it anymore. The sickness overtook my body, and all I wanted was to feel better, so I began using again.
Soon after I began using, I found out that I was pregnant. This changed my life, but I didn’t know what to do. They say you have to hit rock bottom before things start getting better, and I truly believe God gave me a second chance by becoming pregnant with my daughter, Hope.
I went to three different hospitals in the Noblesville area, and all three turned me away. I didn’t know why they wouldn’t take me in — maybe because I was a heroin addict carrying a child or maybe because I was a heroin addict who had little to no insurance.
I finally found Dr. Reeves through Meridian Health Center in Muncie, and if it wasn’t for her, I truly believe I wouldn’t be here today. I talked with Dr. Reeves, and she told me to continue using, and I thought that was crazy, but in my situation, I could not stop using or else it would have hurt the baby.
A couple weeks after finding Dr. Reeves, they finally got me into the hospital. I was withdrawing from heroin, so they put me on Suboxone. Throughout the process, I went through their program that consisted of weekly counseling sessions: intensive outpatient three hours a day, for three days a week, lasting eight weeks.
After Hope was born, my dad was in there, seeing her for the first time.
I want my story to help people find their way out of addiction. I want to give people hope, even if they have been using something for years. You CAN find a way out. I was hopeful to find a way out, and that’s why I named my baby Hope — because she gave me hope when I hadn’t had any in a long time.
This story originally appeared in Facing Addiction in East Central Indiana, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Dr. Adam Kuban and the Louis E. Ingelhart Scholars at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.