It isn’t easy, but there is hope.
There is no doubt the powerful grip of heroin and other opiates is extremely hard to break. Those wishing to quit must often go through treatment multiple times. But it is also important to remember that it is possible to successfully overcome addiction. We want to share these stories with you so that you know recovery is possible, and we want people to understand the toll addiction takes on people’s lives.
If they can do it, then you can do it!
If you have a story of recovery you wish to share email Brandon Costerison or call 314-962-3456.
Falling In Love With Boy
I had always felt like I never fit in. I hung out with the ‘popular’ kids, the ‘jocks,’ and the ‘nerds,’ but I never truly felt accepted. However, that feeling soon disappeared as I starting using prescription pills at age 12. The drugs took my mind off of things; they were my remedy, my solution. As many know, alcoholism and addiction is a very progressive disease. I began using harder drugs and drinking often. Eventually, using was no longer fun. I was no longer liked on sports teams and school activities, because my using was too extreme. I was a shell of a person. I belonged to “that group”: that group you stayed away from, because you knew they’d steal, lie, and leave you empty-handed on the side of the highway. Thankfully, I found a program for recovery at age 15. I have a sobriety date of March 19, 2015. I am grateful for life, and I take things one day at a time. Today, I look forward to things. I pray. I meditate. I love life.
Elizabeth Strauss-Barrett, a local high school student and person in recovery, created this video on heroin for the Lindbergh Film Festival. We applaud Elizabeth for her recovery, and for reaching out to our organization to help spread her powerful message.
Keep Coming Back
“Keep coming back” is a phrase I’ve heard many times over the last several years, although, only this past 18 months has my grasp of its meaning been more than tenuous. I would hear this phrase at 12 step meetings, from people with long term, fulfilling recovery. At that time, I could not or would not see recovery as viable way of life so the truth and meaning of most everything I heard around the rooms held little weight. My life today could be defined by these three words: Keep. Coming. Back. This is not a count on failed rehab attempts and broken promises, it’s a fact that despite all the havoc and destruction, there is life waiting for you! I am speaking from my experience and from my heart which today, are connected with reality and rooted in a past that as painful as it was, allows me and others like me to know how good the present IS. Keep coming back!
To Hell and Back
My name is Rachael. I didn’t have a good childhood. I didn’t get treated like a princess. My father was an addict my whole life. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. When I was nine years old, my father began abusing me. His own daughter, his little girl. That, in and of itself, is a testament to the power of addiction. This went on for about three years. I remained silent, instead taking it out on myself through cutting, anorexia, and bulimia. When I was twelve, almost thirteen, I began drinking alcohol. It was all a party, one day blended into the next and I was never sober enough to feel pain. I was fine. I was good. I was perfect. Around that same time, I was grabbed and raped by a stranger in the woods behind my house. When I was running home, I decided that no one, absolutely no one cares about me.
I ended up getting kicked out of the private, college-prep school I was going to at the time. So, for the first time in my entire life, I went to public school. I immediately realized that I didn’t fit in, which gave me all the more reason to keep getting into trouble, getting high and drinking every day. One afternoon when I was walking home from school, I stopped at the 7-11 to get someone to buy me a pack of cigarettes (I was 14). A handsome, older guy came up and offered. I instantly said yes. After he bought me the cigarettes, he came back and he shot me up with heroin for the very first time in the woods behind the 7-11. I fell in love. Not with him, no. With heroin. It was pure bliss in a needle… so I thought.
Several months later, I was down in Baltimore city with this same guy, and I saw him get shot in the head right in front of me. His blood and brains were splattered all over the front of my body. You would think that would show me enough of what this lifestyle does that I would have stopped, gotten help, something. Nope. I met a new guy, also a heroin addict, who promised me a life of luxury, rebellion and freedom. And tons and tons of heroin. I spent the next three years of my life traveling all around the United States with this boy, and 99% of the time we were homeless and hungry because every single cent that we had went to heroin. This past year, however, was when I hit my rock bottom. The worst of the worst. Not only was I completely homeless and waking up sicker and sicker every morning.
I didn’t want to live that way anymore but I was too scared of getting help and the pain and shame and guilt and fear that I was bound to feel. That’s when jail comes in. I was in and out of jail for a while. At one point I was out on house arrest when I relapsed. I shot up in my bathroom then walked into my little brother’s room and passed out, OD’d on the floor. Right in front of him. My mother had to give me CPR. That was it, that was the moment when I realized that this was serious, it wasn’t a joke, it wasn’t a game. I went back to jail, but this time, I decided that I needed–and wanted–help. I asked the judge to send me to rehab.
Now, I have been to a lot of rehab in the four years that I was shooting heroin. Mostly just half-hearted attempts to get my tolerance down a little bit. But I had never invested in a program before. I had never completely given myself up, and surrendered. This time, I was ready. I did 60 days at the rehab, then another 45 in an in-patient trauma unit, to deal with my painful past. Now, I am ready. I am clean. I am thriving.
For anyone out there who hasn’t done heroin, don’t. And for anyone who has and doesn’t know where to turn, just know that the only time it’s too late to get help is when you’re dead. And that’s where heroin will, inevitably, take you…death. Recovery is possible. If a stone cold junkie like me can do it, anyone can. I’m sober. I’m happier. I have people who love me and trust me. It’s possible. It’s all possible if you are ready to surrender.
Our daughter recently came to NCADA. Just three years before, she had graduated from one of the best private high schools in St. Louis, and seemed to have it all. But she had hooked up with a boyfriend at college who got her started on Ecstasy. Then, during her junior year at college, she developed some heart health issues and became dependent on prescribed anti-anxiety medication. Due to her health problems, she left school and returned to St. Louis. She got a job and made a new group of friends at work. They introduced her to heroin. Her heroin use rapidly escalated from sporadic to daily to multiple times a day. Before long, she was out of a job, out of money and sick all the time. That’s when she finally confessed to us and asked for our help.
After three failed attempts at different rehab facilities and one frightening trip to the ER following an overdose, she made an appointment to meet with Bobette, an NCADA counselor, for an assessment of her drug use, a referral and possibly her last chance. We accompanied her, desperate to find a way to save our daughter from her heroin addiction.
Following the evaluation, I called NCADA almost daily to speak with Bobette. She was the first person who actually explained addiction to me. Addiction wasn’t something I knew anything about. No one in our family ever had any problem with drugs or alcohol. Bobette went into great detail about how the brain’s survival center is affected by addiction. She told me it was as if she was in the desert dying of thirst and desperately seeking water. She’d do anything to get to water. Bobette was compassionate, and gave us hope along with the realism of the hard road that lay ahead.
I visited the NCADA library and checked out books and videos utilizing all the resources available. It was so helpful, I read everything that was in there. I learned how and why drugs made my daughter feel better, made her feel normal. I began to understand that addiction is a disease and that depression and anxiety made her vulnerable and prone to self-medicate.
Thanks to NCADA’s referral to a local treatment center that uses medication to assist in recovery and continued counseling, she has been drug-free since January 2009. She’s back in school and has a wonderful, drug-free fiancé whom she plans to marry after graduation.
Death, Jail, or Recovery
If you look at my early life, you might consider me an unlikely candidate for becoming a drug addict. I grew up in Kirkwood, the oldest son of two very supportive and loving parents. I was a “good” kid, rarely getting in trouble for anything. I was a Boy Scout, went to Sunday School, was an excellent student and had a bright future. Externally, everything looked pretty good but the truth is I was socially anxious, fearful, and insecure much of the time. Although I was taught good social skills and manners and had a good sense of humor, I was often uncomfortable in my own skin. That is until I discovered drugs and alcohol.
From the age of 15, I used and abused drugs and drank excessively. By the time I was 23, heroin had become my drug of choice. The next 4 years became a living hell for me and for my family.
Heroin is a very seductive drug. It gives users a feeling of euphoria that is hard to not like. While high on it, it took away all anxiety, fears, sense of failure and worry about the future. At the same time, it was sinking its hooks into my brain deeper and deeper. For a short time, I was able to use it sporadically and this reinforced my belief that I could handle it. Eventually though, I was using it several times a day and became very ill when I could not get it. I knew that all I had to do was get some money and the drug in order to stop the sickness and panic. Finding a way to get money and finding heroin became my full time job. Every morning when I awoke, my thoughts immediately turned to my need for heroin. In order to get the drug, I was willing to lie, steal, cheat, sell drugs, con doctors for prescriptions, bounce checks and commit fraud. I became a person I would never have ever thought I could become.
I could barely look at myself in the mirror and didn’t know what to do. I tried methadone detoxification twice and immediately began using and eventually ended up on methadone maintenance. This proved helpful for awhile but I used many other drugs with the methadone and eventually went back to heroin. The shame and guilt was almost unbearable but the addiction was stronger.
The end for me came when my family finally stepped in and told me I was no longer welcome in their home. My parents had lived in denial for years but when heroin came into my life it was impossible to hide and my family was devastated. They tried threats, pleading, controlling my money, taking me to psychiatrists, following me to drug dealers’ houses, searching me and my car, and on and on. All to no avail. They finally felt they had no other option but to let me go. My tearful parents informed me that they knew I was killing myself and that my addiction was killing them too. They told me not to come see them or call and that I was essentially no longer a part of the family.
Three months later, I started calling around the country looking for help. I knew that it would not be long before I either ended up dead or in jail. I finally got the name of a treatment center in St. Louis and called. I told my parents I was going and they took me to treatment on April 16th of 1979. I have not had a drink or drug since that time. I still attend weekly 12 Step meetings to remind me of my addiction and keep my head screwed on straight.
I have lost several friends to addiction and seen others go to prison. I am and will hopefully be eternally grateful that I was given the chance to recover. Life is infinitely better now and all of the good things in my life I attribute to my recovery. I’m not saying it is easy to get off of heroin, but the alternative is a life of misery and horrible suffering for the addict and everyone around him.
To those of you suffering with addiction, yours or someone you love, never give up hope. Recovery works.