“How did my days go? Well, I’d wake up each morning, that is if I even got sleep the night before, which was doubtful unless I had as much heroin as I needed, which never seemed to happen. I tried to never have less than two bundles (each bundle has approximately 1-1.5 grams of heroin in it, a collection of 10 bags, varying some state to state) on me at all times, but that was pretty unsuccessful. I’d spend all night blowing up my dealer’s phone. Then the misery, sickness and insanity of withdrawal would set in. Then I’d drive the 1.5 hours round-trip distance from Morristown to Paterson (both cities in New Jersey) to buy a brick (5 bundles, or 50 bags), which would only last me two days max.”
Mike says all of this in the way you’d talk about someone you didn’t know well whose dad had died: with resignation, sympathy and detachment.
Mike is one of 2.6 million Americans who suffers from Opioid Use Disorder. The criterion for an individual to be diagnosed with Opioid Use Disorder (as stated in the current DSM-5), includes manifestation of at least two of the following in a 12 month period: opiates are taken in larger quantities than intended, consistent desire to cut down use (to no avail), large quantities of time spent to obtain, use and recover from opiates, use resulting in failure to fulfill obligations at school, work or home, using despite social/interpersonal problems caused by use, social, occupational and recreational activities given up to pursue opiates, use of opiates in situations which it is physically dangerous, continued use despite sustaining a physical/psychological issue due to the substance, increased tolerance to opiates and lastly, withdrawal, by which the user has withdrawal symptoms that match with those listed in the DSM or they use opiates to relieve or avoid withdrawal.
Mike says his use encompassed all 12 of the criterion. Surely, the habit and schedule he mentions had to arouse some attention from his loved ones.
“I would have to turn the GPS off my phone when I was making those trips to Paterson. My parents could see where I was with the Find My iPhone App and if they saw that I was in Paterson, they’d know that I was buying heroin and there’d be trouble. So on the way back from buying heroin, I’d pull off to the side of route 80 in the shoulder and shoot 7 bags right there to stop withdrawing, then I’d race back home while nodding out on the highway, frequently waking up while I was driving, which was incredibly scary.”
But after all the anticipation, all the build-up, all the lies for proper execution, all the danger he put himself in, it still wasn’t enough for Mike.
“When I got home, I’d do another 3-5 bags, smoke cigarettes, watching netflix alone in my room all day. I was incredibly sad and lonely and my life was going nowhere. I felt close to no one, I’d steal from my parents- not even when I needed money, just in anticipation that I would need it soon. I also sold heroin to get mine for free. Everything I did was for or in pursuit of heroin. I only left my room to sell or buy drugs.”
Like the criterion for Opioid Use Disorder mentioned, Mike’s use drastically cut into all facets of his life.
“I had a horrible job in the fast food industry, horrible hygiene, horrible relationships with my family and horrible mental health- I had a really bad temper and abysmal self-esteem.”
But there is hope, Mike now has 9 months sober after getting clean in a long-term treatment center, followed by living in a halfway house and filling his life with sober supports and AA.
“I came from the lowest point a human can be- sickness, mental illness, criminality, despair, to having a love for life, for my family and friends, for myself and for God- all with the help of treatment, AA and those around me. I truly think that if I was able to overcome my affliction, there is hope for anyone.”