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HomeLife In the BerkshiresAddiction in the...

Addiction in the Berkshires, Sara’s story: Chapter 3

I was needing to use constantly. I had just left the clinic, and so now I had even more of a habit because I had the heroin on top of the methadone. I was sick every two hours around the clock.

Editor’s Note:

The following is the third chapter in a first person account of heroin addiction, edited and compiled by Sheela Clary who recorded five hours of interviews with the narrator of this series. Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the storyteller and the people she speaks about. Also available to read are Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

Chapter Three: Detox/ Relapse
Berkshire Medical Center’s Hillcrest campus. Photo courtesy Berkshire Medical Center

Probably my mom threatened me. I don’t remember the exact year. I was 22, my best educated guess. That was the first time. What I do remember is that it’s when McGee [detox center] was at Hillcrest Hospital. It was the day after they stopped allowing smoking in the building. Everyone was pissed off.

I couldn’t give you a number of times I went to detox … five? I never lasted more than a day. When I got out, I’d go right back to it. I didn’t want it, for myself. I wanted to want to be clean, if that makes sense. How do you force yourself to want something?

When I turned 21, I’d gotten stocks and bonds left to me. It was 20-some-odd thousand dollars. I was calling them every week, “Sell!” $1,500. I would spend it in a day. [I thought] If I don’t do something, this money’s going to be gone. So that was one of the bigger reasons I decided to go to the Phoenix House [detox center in Springfield]. I stayed there for three months.

Phoenix House in Springfield offers substance abuse treatment. Photo courtesy Phoenix House

Because I was on methadone, I was able [after Phoenix House] to stay clean from the heroin, but it’s not going to help you with other drugs. I was fixing the physical symptoms, but I still had the addictive personality. There’s more to it than just medication. Here and there I would still use cocaine. Part of it was the people I was hanging out with. If anybody had it, not even addicts, just people who liked to drink and party, I would do it.

My cocaine use got bad. I moved back to New York in 2012 to try to distance myself from people and places. I transferred [methadone] clinics and did really well for about two years, and then ended up meeting people who were using [heroin]. My roommates were able to do a line or two on the weekends. I can’t. I start out like that, but then I’m calling the guy on the side and shooting up in my room.  

I was really only doing the heroin to counteract the crack. It would get you so amped up, and the heroin would calm you down.

My roommates and I ended up getting evicted for subletting. Jake said I could stay with him. To him it probably looked like I was high as hell, sweating, looking a mess, doing weird things. He found a crack pipe. I was hearing voices. I thought they were putting cameras in the apartment to catch me doing things. I’m hearing people. “Look at her! What a mess!” I stole a jar of change, a 5-dollar bill. When people came over to the house, I would go through their purses and stuff looking for money. He ended up kicking me out. My mother took me back up here.

That was probably the worst. I was on my own. I was needing to use constantly. I had just left the clinic, and so now I had even more of a habit because I had the heroin on top of the methadone. I was sick every two hours around the clock. I was stealing checks, stealing money from the house, so they kicked me out. I had no car. A couple nights I didn’t have anywhere to sleep, so I just wandered the streets or stayed outside somewhere. I slept in a hallway in town one night. I walked a lot, from Sheffield and back. Falls Village to Canaan. That was a long walk.

I had nothing. I don’t remember what happened next to bring me out of that. My parents let me back in the house? … The only next place I can get to after that is I started working. I was still using but had stopped the crack. I got a job with Eric [not his real name]. He had an ad for help in the paper. A really nice guy. (It’s not the typical way you would think it should go, losing everything, hitting rock bottom and gaining it back after sobriety. It was more of a roller coaster ride.)

I still didn’t have a car. I had to pay over $3,000 to get my license back, which didn’t happen for another two and a half years. He picked me up at my house. Had no idea that I was an addict. I was using the whole time I was working for him. I worked with him for a year and a half, but had this secret he didn’t know. I was a great worker. There were a couple of times when he was like, “Are you OK?” He sensed things were a little off. I’d say I was fine, didn’t sleep well last night.

When I was arrested for possession, I called him to bail me out. He was floored. In tears. He was so naïve to all of it. He was the one that convinced me to get back on the clinic and drove me there every day. That was like four years ago. The possession charge was in court proceedings for almost two years. I missed one of my court dates so a warrant was put out. When I was pulled over and arrested for it, they found more stuff and I got another possession charge. My bail was then revoked for 60 days. I did those days [in jail].Barely slept.

Almost as bad as being sick is knowing what that feels like and knowing that, if you don’t do something about it right now, it’s coming.

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