Hi, my name is Amy. I’m a heroin addict. These are words that I have stated many times. This first of the twelve steps is to admit that you are powerless over your addiction. Wether or not you have any intention on following the twelve steps, you will never get well, get clean, if you can not admit that you have a problem. And it is harder than it would seem. To look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I am a junkie. I have zero control over my life’s drugs control my entire being.”
Using hard drugs, street drugs makes it a tad bit easier to arrive at this conclusion. I notice that people who have a problem with alcohol or pills seem to have a slightly more arduous time at admitting this. Shooting heroin and cocaine into your arm allows for an uncomplicated path to the conclusion that your life is unmanageable. These drugs are illegal. To everyone. For some reason, people like to use legality as an excuse, an explanation of why they are not a REAL addict.
You can buy vodka at the liquor store. In some states, not Maryland, people can but their drug of choice at the grocery store or the gas station. This confuses people, or at the very least makes it easier for them to lie to themselves about the nature of their drinking. Pills are illegal to anyone not possessing a prescription to them but the fact that they come from a pharmacy and a doctor at some point allows addicts to willingly pull the wool over their own eyes. This is compounded by the fact that there are a lot of prescription pill addicts that were at one time legitimately prescribed whatever medicine. Be it Percs, Xanax, or Oxys. They may be copping their pills now from a dealer at an exorbitant price, but in their mind they are just taking their medicine. Something they need. We’ll let me tell you, I needed heroin everyday to function, but that did not make me any less of a junkie. In fact, quite the contrary, it made me more of one.
My husband and I share a car and he leaves for work at five a.m. My clinic doesn’t open until five thirty, so sometimes I get a ride from my mother for the one day a week that I go to get my take homes for the week. Every time we go, she remarks at how old some of the people are. Or how surprising it is that some of the are “dope heads”. Some of them are doctors, delivery truck drivers, lawyers, construction workers, etc. I explained to her that not all of them are there because of heroin, or at least not all of them used heroin as their first opiate. A lot of people there were prescribed Oxys or something similar after a surgery or a car accident or what have you. The doctors will write scripts for these highly addictive pills for months straight, until one day they don’t, leaving people addicted and dope sick with no legal way to get what they need. Some of them kick cold turkey, some might go into treatment, but most get their “fix” illegally. They may continue to use pills paying upwards of one or two dollars A MILLIGRAM. Yes, that means that they are paying over thirty five dollars for a thirty milligram Percocet. A great deal of the time, however, they get tired of spending so much money and figure out that for ten dollars they can buy a dime of heroin that will equal three or four thirty milligram percs. Either way, they are supporting their habit by purchasing something illegal.
The people that switch to heroin use seem to be more likely to get help. They are “real addicts” now. My sister and I are the only illegal drug users on my mother’s side of the family (aside from the occasional joint that was smoked in their youth). We are shunned in a major way. We are freaks, disappointments. A few years ago a woman tried to sue my husband for a million dollars over a car accident that was our fault. Yes, that you read that right one million dollars (this is after my insurance offered her $25,000 at first and then $75,000). We had a tedious, four day jury trial in which the jury saw through her trying to blame every problem that arises due to old age on the accident that inflicted injuries so slight that she was released from the hospital within a few hours. They ended up giving her $13,500 of whichve t her lawyer received a third. But I digress. For the entirety of the trial my uncle, my mom’s sister’s husband, sat in the courtroom taking notes. I don’t even know how he knew about the case. He did not know the woman suing us in any way, nor did he have any affiliation with the insurance company or doctors or ANYTHING. He was there just to be nosy and spiteful. He was taking notes to have some fresh, juicy gossip to serve up at the next holiday party. The irony of this is that this man is a severe, hard core alcoholic. As a child, I remember him being totally hammered at every family event, of which there were many. He would tell asinine stories like that his uncle invented the speed of light or that his grandfather invented Oktoberfest. He was locked up for multiple DUIs and had to serve multiple weekends in jail. His license was revoked for a Time and his family had to drive him to work, ninety minutes each way. Yet here he was casting judgment on my husband and I. I always found it especially cruel and arbitrary that while my sister and I were cast out of the family he was not. We are no longer invited to weddings, baby showers, birthday parties, Christmas parties, or any family event unless my mom is the one planning and throwing the party. My uncle never suffers this fate. Everyone knew that he was an alcoholic, you could smell the liquor on his breath, he was never with out a vodka drink in his hands. His alcoholism was accepted as a slightly annoying but hardly egregious habit. No, no. He was far different from us addicts that must be in cahoots with Satan himself. I mean, he could order his drug of choice at the restaurants and have the waiter bring it right to the table while Easter dinner was going on. I could exactly have the dope man serve me at the table. While he could knock back a vodka tonic in front of the family, I wasn’t afforded the luxury of being able to shoot up while everyone ate. Obviously I am being purposefully hyperbolic, but you get my point. Because he was using alcohol as his drug of choice, everyone could accept him, and his drinking. Because my sister and I choose heroin as our drug of choice we have been all but condemned from showing our faces. To me the greatest irony is that while extremely painful and hellashish, it is extremely rare that a person will die from opiate withdraws. There is a far greater risk that one could succumb to alcohol withdraws. It is just as, or perhaps even more, dangerous than heroin, but because it is illegal it is more accepted.
My husband and I face the same hypocritical bullshit from his side of the family. Now, they still invite us to all the family functions, they just talk about us behind our backs.The funny thing is that there are multiple people with prescriptions to multiple, strong pain meds. Percocets, morphine, oxycotin, you name it. They of course are legally prescribed these medications by doctors, and I will state for the record that the people who are prescribed these pills, really, truly need them. Also, they do not abuse them. My issue is not with them so much (although they look past their loved ones addictions and focus on ours) it is on the other members of the family who take said relatives pills, get drunk virtually every night, yet feel that they are in a position to talk about my husband and I (and shockingly, my sister too, although they rarely if ever see her) as though we are the scum of the earth. We are “real addicts”, not to be confused with these people who are not. We have had members of his family call social services and tell lies about us and my daughter. They said that we did not have a car seat for my daughter who was about a year old at the time. That we pan handeled with my daughter that were neglectful patents in other ways. Of course not a single word of this was true, but it created a lot of problems for me and my family. We had to meet with a social worker multiple times. We had to show the car seat, hooked into the vehicle. They had to come to our house, examine my daughter for signs of neglect. My husband and I, as well as my mother and both of his parents were interviewed. Each time, the charges were dismissed as claim totally unfounded, meaning that it was totally untrue. But if they had chosen to believe these fabrications, these slanderous words, we could have lost our daughter. These lies started from the gossip that was spread about the “junkies” in the family.
The problem is that this line in the sand has been drawn and it is respected my society all around. Those who do not use any substances at all and those who do. I am on the one side of the line. The side with the “real addicts”. This is the side that gets shunned, the side that has people who are cast out by society. We are the ones that have a problem. The other side is the alcoholics, the pill poppers. They are not real addicts because what they use is legal, at least to some. They might have an annoying quirk of using these substances, but they are not addicts. The problem is that it is not just people on the outside of addiction looking in that believe this, far too many people that use and abuse these substances make the excuse that these are not hard, street drugs, and thus they are not addicts. The refusal to admit that a substance controls your life only serves to prolong the suffering. You can not get help if you can not even admit that you need help. People need to collectively remove the wool from off of their eyes. everyone needs to wake up and realize that addiction comes in many forms, and they don’t all look like “junkies”.