Heroin is an extremely addictive drug: in as little as one or two uses, you can become hooked. Like any addiction, the craving for and consequences of its use can be life-destroying. Overcoming heroin addiction is a challenge many simply aren’t up to beating – dying by the needle instead.This post is part of My Sweet Home Life’s Overcomers’ series – where we look at women whose lives haven’t turned out quite how they expected.
We feature women who have struggled with abuse, addictions, unexpected loss, and challenging circumstances.
Each of these women have come through their experiences with lessons learned – lessons that can help us all as we navigate this crazy thing called life.
Today we share the story of Natasha and her experience of overcoming heroin addiction.
Related: Overcoming gambling addiction.
Tell Me About Yourself
My name is Natasha Nicole and I am 34 years old. I am a proud mother of two adorable children and am happily engaged to their father.
Home is a cozy little house with a white picket fence in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. To me, we are living the American dream.
I am pursuing a career in the addiction recovery industry. Currently, I am a full-time blogger dedicated to helping people create a new life after addiction recovery through my blog, Unjunkiefied. My life-long dream is to own a series of sober living homes to help those wanting to turn their life around.
I didn’t always have the white picket fence. In fact, for years I had absolutely nothing. There is a reason I dedicate my life to help those in addiction recovery. I am a recovering heroin addict and this is my story.
Life Before Heroin
To sum up my childhood in a couple of words, I would say it was unstable and severely abusive on multiple levels.
I am the oldest of three children. We all have different fathers. My father has been absent my entire life. Surprisingly, this has had no effect on me. My sister’s father was a physically abusive alcoholic. My baby brother’s father is a verbally abusive, textbook narcissist.
Up until 4th grade, it was only me, my little sister, and my mother. We moved around constantly. From trailer parks and getting beat on, to the constant police presence, my life was very chaotic for a young child. Yet I came to accept it.
When I was nine, my second and current stepfather adopted my sister and me. I was a happy little girl who finally had a stable home. Then my mother gave birth to my brother. After that, they got married and everything changed.
My stepfather had his wife and the son he always wanted. He was no longer the savior. His wrath of punishment and abuse rained down on my sister and me.
My mother stood by, not doing a thing because she finally had a house and material possessions. She picked an abusive man over her own daughters.
At nine, I didn’t understand how horrible verbal abuse could be and the effect it would have on my mental health for the rest of my life. Nor did I ever imagine I would spend all of my time taking care of my younger siblings or locked in my room with the windows bolted shut.
Even through all of this, I graduated at the top of my class and was a top athlete. Yet nothing I did was ever good enough for my stepfather. Absolutely nothing. There was no pleasing him.
It was then I made a promise to myself that I would never let a man physically or verbally abuse me. Most importantly, I would never be like my mother.
But like her, I longed to feel safe, secure and loved – something I’d never experienced growing up except from my grandparents. Knowing how deeply I cared for them, my stepfather kept me away from them. He didn’t like that I was their favorite.
It should be clear why I came to despise him. I did everything in my power to defy him and hurt him. Little did I know, this would hurt me more than anyone.
Due to all of this turmoil at home, I leaned towards the misfits. At 16, I moved out in with a friend and her parents. I hung out with people from broken homes like me or with kids whose parents got high with them. We all used drugs and sold drugs.
Yet, I was finally part of a family. For me, it was normal. It was the life I chose. I was accepted and needed. I was safe.
How My Addiction Began
Running rampant, getting in trouble, and getting arrested became as addictive as the drugs. It was a thrill, a rush – so much different and better than being the abused and broken girl who’d been locked inside for years.
During my partying and fun, I was in a car accident. I was hurt pretty bad.
When I got out of the hospital, I went back to work as a certified nursing assistant at a medical facility. The pain pills weren’t cutting it anymore. They didn’t help the pain I had due to my injuries, yet alone give me the high that I craved.
Like you’ve probably heard before, it was a progression. I went from percocet and vicodin to morphine and oxycontin.
It became quite expensive and eventually, the pills were all gone.
One night at work, the registered nurse on the unit shot me up with heroin for the first time. From then my life spun out of control.
How Things Deteriorated
The next several years were a blur of rehab, inpatient programs, and jail stints.
I burnt all my bridges.
The people I considered family were all in state prison.
I did learn a lot during those years, however: self-preservation and survival of the fittest. That’s what I was taught and I did it well. I stayed afloat using everyone and anyone I could to support my heroin habit and keep a roof over my head.
The last program I went to was a halfway house. One day, I left there, which was a bad decision. But it was too late; I couldn’t go back. I was on the wrong side of town, homeless, and alone.
I learned the ropes pretty quickly and was getting by, but it wasn’t enough.
You see, I used to pride myself on my ability to easily adapt to any situation or place. Riding down to the city every day to cop dope with your friends is completely different from being in the heart of the city, in the worse places, all by yourself.
It is no place any girl should have to adapt to. Even so, I survived. I did so I could thrive in the drug world.
I vividly remember the day I hit my bottom. In fact, I will never forget that moment. I was lying under the bridge where I slept, homeless, dope sick, and begging for death.
I kept thinking to myself, the longer I lie here in misery, the worse the withdrawal is going to get.
Feeling barely alive, I got up and stumbled my way up the block. I made my way to a prostitute I knew and pleaded for her to help me. Specifically, I remember asking her what I needed to do to get money. She waved down a blue car and sent me off.
That was my first trick.
From that moment, I gave up that I could change. I accepted things as they were.
For the next two years, it was an endless nightmare of drugs, sex, jails, and death.
In those two years alone, I overdosed three times, was arrested over 10 times, did eight actual jail sentences, and 37 people I personally knew died due to this addiction.
And that still wasn’t even to stop me. When you hit rock bottom, you either climb out or stay in your hell.
All I can say is up until that time, I never knew that rock bottom had multiple trap doors. Every time I thought I was done, I fell deeper and deeper down.
I never expected to get out.
The Moment It All Changed
During this time, I met my current fiance and brought him down to the bottom with me. I tell you this because at the end of my 12-year addiction, we were living in an abandoned house, I was pregnant, on heroin, and had warrants out for my arrest.
It was October and hitting freezing temperatures. Then, through the locals, we found out that the place we were staying at was being demolished in a week.
This was the point I knew it was all over.
I knew that if I didn’t do something, I was going to lose both my baby and my relationship.
For days, I played out each and every scenario in my head. It was time to do the right thing, for once.
That night, I walked down to the local police station and turned myself in. This took care of all the issues I was facing.
- My warrants were taken care of
- I would receive the prenatal care I so direly needed
- Both my baby and I would get the correct treatment for my addiction
- My fiance could take care of himself better without me
That moment changed all of our lives forever.
It was the hardest thing I ever had to do, and it was the best decision that I ever made.
Even after all the pain that I have caused and all that I have been through, I still wouldn’t change it.
The lessons I learned and the person I have become wouldn’t have been possible without it.
Yet, I do have advice for those still in active addiction.
- The opioid epidemic is pure evil. It is killing more people than wars and car accidents. You may think you are invincible but you’re not.
- Don’t ever give up hope. Relapse is part of recovery. Learn from your past so that you do not repeat it.
- Never think that it is too late. You can stop using and make something out of yourself at any time. This is coming from a several time convicted felon, so I know it’s hard but I also know it’s possible.
- One thing that I dreaded throughout my addiction besides withdrawal, was starting over with nothing. I have had to start over time after time with nothing more than the clothes on my back. Don’t ever say you can’t do it. You can.
- It doesn’t matter how you recover as long as you recover. There is no “one fits all” plan. It doesn’t matter if you get clean in prison, in rehab, or with medicine-assisted treatment. What works for one person will not necessarily work for you, and that’s okay. Find what works for you and run with it.
- Don’t judge. Don’t discriminate and don’t be part of the stigma of addiction.
- Know the power of your story. While our stories may be similar, they are not the same. Your story could save someone else’s life. Don’t be afraid to share it.
Now, I have a plan for the future. I know what I want for my life and for my family. I am a survivor and I know without a doubt that I am capable of way more than I ever imagined.
People can change for the better. I know this because I have. I have been through hell and I made it out alive. Gratitude doesn’t even begin to describe what I feel inside.
My past has provided me with a purpose. My passion is to turn my mess into a message and help as many people struggling with the opioid epidemic. My wish is that telling my story sends a message of hope to help you or someone you love.
Remember, people can change. We do recover and so can you.
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