Everyone has different reasons and stories about who, what, where and why they have taken drugs. I often look back at my time using through rose tinted glasses. You see, no one can tell me, the feeling, the rush, the effects, were not great.
Because truth is, they were. It felt amazing, I felt invincible. But what was not amazing, and what I need to remind myself nearly every day, was the come downs as the drugs wore off. The anxiety and feelings of shame, guilt and thoughts whirling around my mind contemplating suicide. The debt and things I felt forced to do to pay for my habit. Even time spent on the streets, homeless, alone, cold and fragile.
Addicts are still human beings
I feel we often forget that someone who has turned to drugs, is still a human being. I remember trying to get support only to be met with judgement and hostility. In many people’s eyes, it was my choice to take them. It never felt like a choice though. I cannot put down into words how powerful an addiction is, how much it controls your every waking thought, how out of character you can become.
Professionals were not interested in why I started using or what had led to me to use this numbing technique. All I was ever asked was, how much are you using and what are you taking. Never why. I was addicted to speedballs, for those of you who may not have heard of this, speedballs are a mixture of cocaine and heroin, injected into the body at the same time. It gives a push pull effect. One slows down the heart, one makes it quicker. A very dangerous combination, but I have to admit it was also an incredible high. As soon as I said the words heroin, to any one, It seemed people’s attitudes changed, any empathy dissolved. Judgement cast.
I started to use following an abusive relationship. I was violently abused, physically, emotionally and sexually. I turned to drugs as a way to cope, a way to block it out, a way to forget. I blamed myself for what had happened, maybe if I looked different, acted different, I would not have drove him to act this way. (I of course know differently now). It did not matter to me though that the effect would wear off. For a few hours, I would have some sort of peace, some sort of dopamine, I would feel something. Thrown out of the house and no choice but to live on the streets, I spent little time at home anyway, due to growing up in an abusive household, so felt just as unsafe at home as I did on the streets. Needing an escape from everything I started to use more and more.
What happens is you use once, but then you never quite get the same feeling, the same high. So you end up using a little more, then a little more, trying to recreate that original feeling. Chasing it almost. Before you know it, your body ends up dependant. The shakes and sweats when coming down, were unforgettable. The uncontrollable anxiety, it is a vicious circle. I would use to try and curb the anxiety however the drugs used to curb it would then cause more anxiety. The irony!
‘Work’ back my debt…
I very quickly spiralled. I would beg my dealers to ‘tick’ it, I would pay them next time, begging them to give me what I thought I needed to get by, to take away the pain. I racked up a massive debt and ended up in a lot of trouble, however, being a young vulnerable woman, they had ways to make me ‘work’ back my debt. All I would have to do is lie there right? Be used. Turn to handing over my body to others to keep my addiction alive. It sounded easy, but what happened was every night I would stumble away with new injuries, pumped full of drugs and feeling numb. Heading back to the streets…
The very thing I was trying to forget, the original incident, felt like it was reoccurring every single night. But again, it was my choice right? Again, it never felt like it at the time. I was young, homeless and an addict. No one expected anything from me, this was who I had become, who I was.
The combination of drugs I was taking eventually took a toll on my body. One evening I collapsed and woke up in hospital. Again, no empathy, no understanding, I was met with hostility, branded a ‘time waster’ taking up space and taking up a much-needed bed. I was moved onto a ward and spent over a week detoxing allowing the drugs to get out my system. For me, it was a bed, food and somewhere safe to stop. I cried every day; I had had enough of being like this. Enough of being used daily and using drugs. So out of touch with my emotions and so lost.
A therapist that finally understood…
Once everything was out of my system I was offered mental health support, I was very lucky to have a therapist who finally understood. Who met me with compassion and an empathy I had never experienced. Who saw me as an injured soul not just a ‘druggie.’ However, I could not talk about all the incidents that had lead to me using, as trusting professionals had become difficult. But I finally had a roof over my head, got back into education and was working hard to stay clean.
However, my past kept chasing me. I still owed some very scary people a lot of money. I was threatened. Told they would kill me. Every day felt like I was treading on egg shells, living in a heightened state of anxiety. It was truly exhausting. I knew one way I could ease that anxiety for a while, but at what cost. Eventually I fell, relapsed. My body could no longer cope with the amount I use to take though, so when I injected what was my normal amount. My body shut down. Heart no longer able to cope. Once again back in hospital. Once again reminded by staff I was ‘wasting resources.’ I needed to pay off these people, so agreed to continue to ‘work’ until my debt was clear. Then and only then could I turn my back from this.
However, it is never that simple. It took years of hard work and dedication, every time something terrible happens in life, my automatic thought was often ‘I know how to numb this’ I had to learn to sit with uncomfortable emotions. I was also left feeling guilty about being in hospital. Things the staff had said, about me ‘wasting’ time, had really stuck. I still call myself a waste of space to this day. I still struggle to see my worth, but I am working on it. Yes, I used drugs, yes, I worked as a prostitute, but at the time, I needed to survive. I needed to do these things to carry on with life. To block out painful memories and stop the nightmares. Little did I know it was a short-term solution and caused a much larger problem.
“What I would like counsellors to know…”
So what would I like counsellors and therapists to know? Please remember I am still a human being with complex emotions. Just because I have a past does not mean I am that same person. Please do not just ask what people are taking, find out why. If there is a reason, in my case, unresolved trauma, years of bullying and being brought up in a very unloving abusive environment, being made to believe I was worthless.
It was a numbing technique, a way to feel something, anything. I did not just wake up one day and think, oh I know, I am going to start taking drugs. It was never my intention, never my plan. Do not try and tell me that drugs make you feel bad, like I said earlier, they made me feel great! It was the comedowns and ways to pay for them that was the real issue. Focus on those elements, not the highs.
Driving my behaviours
Also, another thing I really can not express enough, is how strong that voice is. That addiction voice, the one driving my behaviours, pushing me. Reminding me how worthless I am, and trying to convince me every second of every day, that I needed to use to survive. Please do not underestimate the power of addiction. Finally, recovery is possible. It is possible to live a life away from drugs, so many times I have been told ‘people do not recover from heroin use.’ Hello, living proof here! Imagine how soul destroying it is to be told it is not possible to recover, how much hope is lost. With the right help and support, it is possible. With counsellors and professionals who are understanding, can see beyond the drugs and see the person, the soul behind the behaviours. Do not just treat the addiction, treat the reason.
I am clean, and have been for some time now. I do struggle with my self worth and I am reminded of my days as an addict. I do still at times crave that rush, that feeling. But I remind myself of the come downs too. The time I stood on top of a multi-storey car park, adamant I can not go on, I had no reason to live. Turns out I did, I just could not see it at the time. I was too pumped with toxins in my body at the time to see the bigger picture. Too warped in self-hatred.
I am so thankful to that one professional who did help. Who understood that an addiction is not just a choice. Who treated me with compassion and respect and showed me a life free is possible. We often judge our fellow human beings before knowing the full story, before realising the bigger picture. Please take this with you, behind most people who use, is in fact, just an injured soul.
By – anonymous