by Melanie Marsden
There are few things I hate in life. Hate is such a strong word loaded with negative emotions. But I hate Oxycontin. And I hate Heroin. In my unprofessional completely biased opinion – they are the same thing. If you are using and haven’t made this connection yet – you’re fooling yourself. If someone you love is using and you think – at least they aren’t on dope – then wake up and see that it’s just as bad and only a matter of time before they get there. Nobody wakes up one day and says, “I think I’ll go shoot dope.” They get there one desperate day when they can’t afford the pills that they fooled themselves into believing for too long – were no big deal. I’ve lost a young cousin to suicide because he couldn’t get and stay clean, a boyfriend to an overdose after years of trying to get straight. I also have many friends, family and neighbors who walk around each day living a horrible existence because of addiction. Each of them started taking OC’s and some have graduated to Heroin.
I use the term junkie quite often in this story. I’m sorry if that label offends you. But I couldn’t write this piece without using it. Strong words carry strong meanings. This is one of them and where I use it – I use it to relay the strong feelings I feel about this horrible addiction. I don’t use this term as a put down – in fact I have come a long way and really try not to judge anyone about where choices in their life have taken them. As they say – “there but for the grace of God go you or I.” So when I say junkie – I say it with love. Because there are many junkies in my life that I have loved or still love. And my choice of words is to distinguish between the whole healthy person who existed before the drugs took control and the addict that they have become. I don’t hate them. Each and every one of them hate themselves enough. I don’t think less of them. They’ve got that covered too. And if you haven’t lived through watching someone you love turn into someone else in front of your very eyes you should thank God every day for shielding you from the heartache, pain and uncertainty that living life loving an addict can bring. And the next time your path crosses the path of a junkie remember that the shell of a person before you – is someone’s son or brother or friend. Instead of looking down on them or judging them – say a prayer for them and thank God that you weren’t given or didn’t choose this cross to bear in your lifetime. Easier said than done if you’ve been affected directly by their need for drugs. Especially hard to do if you’ve been robbed by, lied to or manipulated by an addict. If you have been, then I know it’s hard to read this with an open mind. If you have been I am sorry. And they are too whether or not they can tell you directly. They live with what they have done every day. I know it doesn’t take it away or make it better – but their hell is here on earth. Don’t judge those around you who are dealing with an addict in their life because until you are in a situation you never know how you yourself would handle it.
If your love and loyalty is not for the addict but for the person affected by them – then I know your frustration and anger first hand. I know how easy it is to see from the outside what you think the answer is or how you would handle it better maybe. But trust me when I say that it’s not as clear cut as it seems from the outside looking in and there is no right or wrong way to do something when it comes to matters of the heart. We do the best we can with what we know at the time and the road that we have to walk is filled with life lessons that we can only learn ourselves. And the hardest ones to learn but the ones we grow the most from are the ones that knock us on our ass and shake us to the core. You may ask yourself how can anyone still love or care about a junkie. I ask you how couldn’t we. My mother used to give me such a hard time each time I’d get back with my boyfriend. She wondered what was wrong with me that I would put up with the drama that came with our relationship. I even wondered sometimes what was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I walk away? Why didn’t I just leave? The answer is both simple and complicated. The answer is because I loved him – end of story.
I didn’t go out one day and place a personal ad looking to meet a heroin addict. I was in love with someone who came to me one day and shared with me something that he wasn’t proud of. Something he tried to battle and kick on his own. I asked my mother one day what she would have done if my dad came home one day and told her that he was an addict. My parents raised me to believe that you love someone no matter what. And I stood beside my boyfriend like my mom stood beside my dad when my dad battled cancer. It is well known that addiction is a disease. But we have such a hard time truly buying that. When someone has cancer or another life threatening illness people rally around the person who is sick and are there for the family for support. But addiction brings so many mixed emotions. There is shame and so many people don’t even talk about what is going on in their homes, in their lives. And the ones who are strong enough to talk about are met with mixed responses from people who don’t understand. For those of you who do understand – I wrote this for you but I also wrote this for me.
I wrote this after my cousin took his own life a few years ago. He had graduated to Heroin. But I think I hate Oc’s even more because I don’t think many of these kids would end up on Heroin if it hadn’t been for the Oxys. I always wondered if he only knew that everyone who loved him would have put up with a million more chaotic days and nights, a lifetime of hope filled days followed by more heartache and failures if only we could have him back for one more day. Because one more day means one more chance to succeed.
I added to this after my boyfriend died of an overdose this year. Despite all the pain – I wish he could have seen just how much joy he brought to my life. I wish he could have known what a hole was left in the world the day he died. If the junkie could only see how much they are loved. If they could see themselves through our eyes – their lives might not be the daily hell they live through.
Ode to Heroin
I’m told it’s a high like no other. One that makes you feel better than you could ever have imagined. Didn’t they ever tell you that if something is too good it’s no good? And so you’re off on the run – always chasing that feeling of your first high.
A viscious cycle of ups and downs, highs and lows, doped up and dope sick becomes your all consuming daily routine. It holds you in its grip and motivates you to lie, cheat and steal and it doesn’t matter where you turn or how far you run. And every time you try to break free and fail- the future looks less and less attractive every day.
You’ve seen your mother cry one too many times and the pain and hopeless look in the eyes of your father. You know they adore you and are still proud to call you son – despite the bad turn your life has taken.
They would do anything to fix things for you or to take away your pain. They don’t hate you or love you any less for the way your life has turned out or the way you have turned their lives upside down or the things you have done for the drug.
They know it’s not you they are dealing with anymore – it’s Heroin. They’ve tried to help you battle the demon. But it’s bigger than them and stronger than them. But they’ll never give up on you – because their hearts ache to see the boy they used to know and they would do anything to get him back.
But Heroin renders you powerless and defenseless. And after all the bad you do and pain you cause and shame you feel – before long you don’t even remember the man you once were. You look in the mirror and see the junkie waste of life you think you have become and you hate yourself for it. And you wonder how these people can continue to care after all you’ve put them through. So you hate yourself even more but you still get high because eventually Heroin convinces you not to care about anything else but your next fix and you’ll do anything to get it. Day after day you’ll choose Heroin over your parents, brothers, sisters, friends and girlfriend. You’ll choose it over yourself.
You’ll stop every once in awhile and wonder how you ever got to this point. You’ll realize that your life has gone to hell. You’ll see just how low you’ll stoop to keep Heroin in your life. And some day you might even stoop so low or push your family too far or shock yourself with just what you’ll do to keep up your habit. And the person you once were – the kind hearted caring and loving person who lies powerless within you just waiting and fighting to come back speaks up and says – ENOUGH.
And then you decide to say good bye to your old friend Heroin. You realize you miss the person you used to be and are willing to fight the monster to become that person again. But there’s a problem. Heroin doesn’t let you walk away without a fight. It shows you that you need it. It shows you how weak you are without it. It beats you down and makes you shake and moan in pain. It plays tricks on your mind and despite your desire to end this relationship – it does everything in its power to get you to come crawling back. And just getting through the physical withdrawals doesn’t mean the worst part is over. It’s the day to day, minute to minute, second to second struggle to stay clean and deal with life without drugs that is the real battle. Some line up at clinics each morning, made to feel like a second class citizen to get a dose of methadone that helps them lead a normal life. Others find the answer in AA or NA, and for some detox programs work. Suboxone has proved promising but so many are using it wrong as a way to still dabble when they want to. The hardest part is that there’s no easy fix to get clean and it’s even harder to stay clean and the statistics don’t paint a pretty picture. So even the most determined and strong minded person quickly realizes that the life they dreamed of, a life without drugs isn’t the easy street that they had imagined. In fact it’s harder to get through each day than keeping up a habit was.
And so many people do crawl back and Heroin makes you feel instantly better and takes you by the balls again. And it grows stronger because it has convinced the junkie that he can’t do it. Some people are more determined and keep walking away only to be pulled back in. Then they think it’s useless to try. They don’t think they can make it past the pain and can’t see an end to the misery. So they stop trying to be the man they once were. They begin to resent him and all of the people who love him. Because they only remind him of the pain he has caused them. They make him want to get help and get better and he doesn’t believe it to be possible.
So often he withdraws from his friends or they give up on him. But the friends that stay and the family that continues to hope and pray and help and suffer – he can’t stand what he’s putting them through. He lashes out at them. He steals from them. He lies to them and uses them to get what he needs. And they stay strong and are willing to fight to save him because there is no limit to their love. But he has only one love, one friend, one family – Heroin.
But they still hold on and hope. Maybe the next detox will work. Maybe God will answer their prayers for him. They tell him they know what he is going through – but he tells them they’re wrong. They could never know what he is going through. He is angered by their claim that they can understand and feel his pain. He feels totally alone and helpless.
But they are right to say they know how he feels or can imagine his pain. Because they too have broken hearts and broken dreams. They have lost someone they love – he’s close enough to touch but they know they might not ever get there.
But his addiction makes him arrogant and self centered to claim he is alone in his pain and nobody could understand what he is going through. He has Heroin. The people who love and care for him, the people who pray that he will get help and break free from the monster – they live and breathe his pain and suffering every day. They grieve for a loved one who walks, sleeps and breathes but in essence is dead already. But unlike him they only get to share his lows. They do not have the luxury of his euphoric highs that help him survive and escape reality.
Some can take only so much and can’t bear to sit by helpless and witness him kill himself slowly and they cut ties. They still pray and worry and cry themselves to sleep feeling powerless. Others get angry and though the love they feel will never go away – they hate the monster and walk out of their lives because they have to in order to protect themselves. Because it is torture to watch the junkie take over and call the shots knowing that there is nothing they can do to stop and no way for them to reach the person they once knew.
Others enable them to continue because they can’t stand to see the wrenching pain that comes form being dope sick. And they try to help them be comfortable until they find the strength and a way to win the battle.
Heroin takes over completely eventually and those of us who have had family, friends or loved ones who have seen the drug take over handle it in many different ways. We pretend it’s not happening. We walk around in a state of denial or shock until we are forced to face it. Then we walk around in a state of anger, fear or helplessness. We feel shame and wonder how we could have let it get this far or happen at all for that matter.
We feel totally alone and live life walking on egg shells. We hope for the best but begin to dread the worst. We wait for the phone call telling us about an arrest, an overdose or a suicide. And the addict prays for the strength to stop the pain and get well but feels like they’re fighting a never ending battle that can’t be won. Some addicts think that an overdose might be a blessing in disguise to those who love them. Some take their own lives thinking that is the answer.
Others continue to use and pretend not to care. But those of us who love them no matter what – our addiction to hope is stronger than their addiction to dope. And so we hold on and hope that they will find their way. And we accept that we have no control over their addiction to Heroin. Some of us realize this slowly – others over time – still some will never see this. If they could only see that we would live through this never ending nightmare forever if it meant we could have them back for just one more day. If they could only see into our hearts and source some strength from us. If only our love was enough. But it’s not.
In the end they need to stand up to Heroin on their own and prove to themselves what each of us believe deep in our hearts – that they are somehow still stronger than the monster. They are more than the junkie they see in the mirror each morning. They are our son, our brother, our sister, our mother, our father, our boyfriend our girlfriend and our friends. And though they don’t recognize the person they used to be – we still see that person. We still envision a future filled with brighter days. We still wait for the day that they walk back into our lives and this nightmare we live becomes nothing more than a distant memory.
Until then remember that you are loved, you are strong and you can beat this.
Melanie Marsden is a massage therapist and co-owner of A Better Place to Be Day Spa. She is a Teacher at the Cortiva-Muscular Therapy Institute and was born and raised in Charlestown, MA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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