In northwest Arkansas there is a tunnel that runs straight through a mountain in the Ozarks. When you approach the tunnel going 60 mph, you can hear the wind rushing past the car. You hear the tires spinning and creating traction on the road below you. The radio signal isn’t very good in this area, so it is an obnoxious mixture of broken up country music and static. When you enter the tunnel, all of this suddenly changes. The orange fluorescent lights are dim. There is no wind rushing by. The radio completely cuts out and everything seems dark, still, and calm. This is how I felt the first time I tried heroin.
I grew up in a cookie-cutter neighborhood where all of the brick houses look the same. The Home Owners Association requires that each house have one tree on each side of the sidewalk approaching the homes. Your lawn must be kept clean and cut. The happy children laugh and play with their neighbors. Everything seems perfect. My family was wealthy and successful. The families I lived around were happy and wealthy as well. This misconstrued idea that my life had to be perfect put so much pressure on me as a child that I never felt like I was good enough.
When I found prescription pain killers at the innocent age of 14, I found a desirable escape from the pressures I felt to be perfect. Many people speak of the time where they had abused drugs enough to where they crossed the line from being a drug user to a drug addict. I, on the other hand, believe that I was a drug addict from the moment I felt the calming effects of my first pill. It seemed like the answer to all the feelings of inadequacy that had seemed to consume my life for so many years. Drugs immediately became a necessity.
When I was 17 my family and I moved to a small town. There was no longer a Home Owners Association or cookie cutter houses that all look the same, but I hadn’t changed one bit. Moving to a rural area gave me the opportunity to do my drugs in peace without anybody finding out that I was mentally and spiritually consumed by opiates. Prescription drugs had become too weak to produce the effects that I chased, so I sought out what would be my first true love and my ultimate downfall – heroin.
It wasn’t long before I could no longer get out of bed before sticking a needle in my arm. I lost my full-ride academic scholarship to college because drugs were insanely more important than going to class. I couldn’t maintain a job because I was manipulative and untrustworthy. I stole money here and there from every cash register that I stood behind. It was impossible to live in one place for more than a month at a time, because I quickly exhausted my resources and friendships as my addiction became far too obvious to hide.
I finally reached a point where I was broke and homeless. I entered into a dark depression and I wanted more than anything to overdose and never wake up. The last time I got high, I loaded up my syringe and promised myself that if it wasn’t enough to kill me, I would get help. When I woke up, I was angry. I truly saw no way out of the steel chains that bound me to heroin, but I felt as though I had no choice but to get help.
I spent three long months in an inpatient rehab facility where I was given therapy for both my opiate addiction and my depression. Treatment was great for what it is for – it provided me with the separation I needed from drugs and a safe place to lay my head at night, but my life didn’t start to turn around until I was released from treatment back into the real world, this time, with no substances in my body to make me feel okay.
I was introduced to a group of women who are profoundly important in my life today. They taught me how to live sober. I began to rely on them for everything, whether it was emotional support because I was a train wreck, or rides to work because I crashed every car I ever drove while getting high. These women introduced me to activities like yoga, meditation, and local music events with up and coming artists. They taught me how to have fun in sobriety and how to feel comfortable in my own skin for the very first time. Due to their unconditional love and support for me, I have been able to stay sober ever since.
I have a job where I get to spread awareness around the disease of addiction. I have a home where my bills get paid on time and I don’t have to worry about money. My family trusts me today. My mother never has to lay awake in the middle of the night in fear that the phone will ring and her daughter will be dead. I have dreams of going back to school and being the successful person that I always wanted to be.
Today, I live a life that is beautiful. I get to help other women recover from addiction which is the bright spot of my life. There is nothing more fulfilling than watching a woman, who is as hopeless as I once was, have the light turn back on in her eyes. I get to watch people recover and come back from the dead. I have a purpose today. My purpose is to share my experience, strength, and hope with others in the hopes that one less person has to die from heroin addiction.