The scariest part of heroin addiction is that nothing on this planet that will rob you of more. Whether you are an addict, a parent of an addict, a girlfriend of an addict, a child of an addict. It is so much more than the material possessions that it takes from you.
It will take the person you love, it will take their laugh you used to make so much fun of, it will take the light in their eyes and in the worst circumstances it will take their life. The scariest and saddest thing you will ever do is watch from the sidelines as heroin robs them of the personality of the person you thought they were and have to wonder if you ever knew them all along.
You will research if someone will ever be able to ‘revert’ back to their normal brain physiology, and you will be disappointed only to find that there are studies that suggest some people never completely recover. Your heart will be broken because you will realize you will never see that person again. You will grief at the loss as you would for the deceased and you will pray for the family who still might see a side of them you will never see again. It will take a really long time before you realize you have to let go and they might not ever be the same.
Every single moment until you were face to face with what would change not only your life but so many others will replay back in your head, and you will fight the inevitable guilt of being imperfect, and not being enough to stop things before they spun too far out of control.
They don’t teach us in high school health class how bad heroin actually is. We are taught that we will be offered marijuana from a stranger, pills from the student in the dark corner of our high school, spice from the guy walking past the local 7-11. They don’t teach us that we will see more from our friends and in front of our face than just by coincidence on a sunny afternoon. They don’t teach us that if we break our arm in three places, we will finish the Percocet the doctors prescribe us and wonder why we are so sick. They don’t teach us that our friends will graduate from painkillers and be offered something better, stronger, more fun. They don’t teach us that somewhere, somehow, someone we know will come across it and sooner or later, we will too.
We will be taught that it’s only detrimental if it’s taken intravenously and ‘I can stop anytime I want’ but a few months will go by and we will find ourselves asking for a promise to not bring around heroin anymore. We will believe it, and we will find ourselves caught in a game of cat and mouse where we are making deals with the devil who we also happen to love so we can’t see what’s going on because we were never taught that when you are putting it up your nose for long enough you won’t get high anymore and that’s when people turn to needles. We aren’t taught that smoking it isn’t the only way to do it and we aren’t taught that there is a visibly difference in someone taking heroin with a syringe and someone who has ingested it another way. We aren’t taught that loving someone will make you blind to situations you don’t want to see because you can’t stand them getting hurt.
We aren’t taught how to talk to someone about addiction in general because we are taught that it’s a shameful secret and we will be looked down upon if we even utter the word addiction itself.
We aren’t taught that tough love is not the answer to keeping someone alive, or that forgiveness is so hard. We aren’t taught that being an addict will make you blind to the fact that you are an addict and we aren’t taught that the meaning of addiction is universal, no matter what the drug of choice may be. We aren’t taught the signs of withdrawal, so you will wonder what is going on when the person you will love is waking up drenched in sweat, or going back and forth to the bathroom every five minutes, or breaking down in tears, or shaking, or why their muscles and bones hurt so bad that can’t get off the floor. You will have no idea that these are withdrawal symptoms, and you will have no idea that they are enduring the biggest and the longest battle they are ever going to fight.
You will have no idea until you find that first syringe and your intuition sends you a sense of emergency and your brain shuts it down. You will listen to them say, ‘It’s someone else’s‘, and you will believe them, because you want too. You will believe them because it is painful to imagine them struggling that bad.
There will be a second, a third, and then there will be a spoon somewhere. They say something else, and you won’t put two and two together until you see how small their pupils have gotten, how they are itching their arm or leg or their head, and how their voice is now hoarse. You will look back and regret letting anymore time pass. There will be long nights and questions like ‘Where were you?’, ‘Why are you leaving?’, and when they come back from a trip you will wonder why there are EKG stickers stuck to their chest.
You will thank God that he let them come back, and you have nightmares that you were there to watch them slip away. Still, you will keep trying, and at night you will go from praying to begging God to make it stop, let them heal, don’t take them from you. Eventually, you will uncover what your intuition was trying to tell you so long ago. They will admit what you were afraid of, and you will be angry, you will be sad and you will wonder what this means for the days to come.
It’s now when you begin watching the person you thought you loved disappear. It’s after the first try in rehab when you are finally aware of everything going on, it’s that fleeting moment when they relapse and you know it’s happening again. It’s the panic you feel putting the car-seat in the car and not being able to drive away fast enough. It’s the guilt that you feel as you drive back home and wonder what you are leaving behind or what somebody might discover the next day. It’s the relief you feel when you get a phone call and you know they have one more day to try. It’s the second time they decide they are going to be clean again, and the uncertainty that will indisputably come with it.
The scariest part of addiction is having to explain to your child why mom or dad has to be so far away. The scariest part is having to meet someone who is totally different than the person you met when you were still a teenager, and realizing you will never get along. The scariest part is custody battles and being so angry, but finding yourself defending them in the wake of someone else’s insult. The scariest part is sitting at a funeral as a parent stands at the podium and begs for anyone in the pews to seek help if they have an addiction. The scariest part is recognizing all of the signs of abuse, and wanting to take in whoever you can. The scariest part is everything your health teach never told you in school.
The scariest part is wondering how many times the news has to flash the word EPIDEMIC on your television screen before people start listening, researching and realizing that in order to understand something, we must first be taught.