I’ve tried my hardest to block out some of the painful memories from my drug-using days but it simply isn’t possible.
“I’ll never stick a needle in my arm” was one of the first things I said when I began smoking weed as a teenager. How quickly do initial reservations turn into opposite realities once we fall into the depths of addiction. I truly did believe in the statement I made at the time but was sorely mistaken later in life when a needle was actually in front of me—and full of heroin.
That wasn’t even where my integrity really diminished either. In fact, it was only the beginning.
It’s almost common knowledge that many addicts steal. I, for one, was never caught in the act of stealing and was always extremely offended when someone accused me if I was innocent. At the same time, I never came forth when something did go missing that I had actually taken.
It started when I would rummage through my parents’ dressers and visit the house when it was empty to steal money from my family’s piggy banks. As time went on it got worse. I started to steal from every house I visited. If I knew you, I tried to be lenient and only steal money. But if you were a stranger, I stole whatever I saw.
Once I pushed all of my friends away and stopped going to people’s houses, I started stealing from those I loved the most.
I remember visiting my grandparents’ house because my grandma was battling cancer. This was probably one of the last opportunities for us to see her alive. I had gotten my fix for the morning and made the trip up north to visit because I still loved my grandmother. After I said my goodbyes and went to the bathroom, I quickly rummaged through the jewelry box in the bathroom to grab something that I knew I could safely pawn without getting caught. Until this day, I have never felt worse about something that I have taken and can never give back.
Funny enough, my mother actually worked for a prison nearby and taught me everything there was to know about safety and avoiding life-endangering situations. In my addiction, I completely threw that out of the window as well.
I would walk the streets at night, alone and with no protection. I went into houses of people who I had never met and got into vehicles of strangers who would pull over and offer me a ride. I snorted and injected things that I had no prior knowledge of or experience using.
One particular evening, I was visiting a dealer of mine with a friend and we were leaving the apartment ready to take a ride back to our side of town. A man followed us out of the building, reached into his pocket and pulled out a gun. He began shooting at our drug dealer. Before I could muster up the courage to take off in the opposite direction, I stopped and looked him in the eye. As he began to turn my way, I ducked behind a fence and started running towards another apartment building, a moment that I will never forget or take for granted.
While I did my best to never become a liar, I had truly learned the art of deception. That is, I always had ways to dance around a question so I never had to answer it.
I deceived everyone around me. I told sob stories to get money. I wandered the streets and told people I had missed the bus and needed money for a cab. I played on the hearts of many members I had met through Alcoholics Anonymous, knowing that they would reach out to help a fellow addict who was trying to get sober.
I made friends and acted as girlfriends to males who I knew would give me money, lend me their cars and give me a place to stay if I needed it. Then, when they were least expecting it, I would disappear and never talk to them again.
After I had become homeless and started working in a fast-food restaurant, things got worse.
In a way, I feel like my dignity disappeared sometime during my heavy drinking days. I would wake up many mornings beside someone I had never met but who could validate details from the evening before.
I learned that as an attractive female, I was able to get drugs and money by giving up the one thing every male wanted: sex. I wasn’t sure if I had completely numbed myself to the situation or I was just too high to care. Some of the situations were hard to differentiate between consensual sex and sexual assault; I would say no but they would keep going. Had I done something to deserve that treatment and do I do anything about it? What does the word of a junkie matter anyway?
I remember one distinct scenario in which I had visited my friend’s hometown a couple hours away and we were thinking of how we could score some drugs. He introduced me to his drug dealer and I did what was asked of me. I hadn’t even known the guy for more than an hour.
While I do use my experiences to spread knowledge and keep my hopes high, it is difficult some days to look back at the person I used to be. Almost no one knows of some of the things that I have seen and the situations that I have been involved in. Not only is it hard to share but I find myself embarrassed for falling so deep into my addiction.
The only thing I can do is continue to move forward, stay sober and give back to the community any way that I can. I thank God every day that even though my battle wasn’t an easy one, I came out of it learning my lessons and thriving.