049: Love & Heroin
Trigger Warning: This post contains information about drug use and addiction, which may be triggering to some survivors.
“On Love & Heroin,” Anonymous
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I officially came out when I was 17; I knew I was gay when I was about 12.
That five year waiting period would be the longest and hardest five years I would ever experience. I later came to put words to what I was going through: anxiety, depression, self-medication. I always knew I did not have a desire to express myself in the feminine nature girls were expected to. I wore what I could feel somewhat comfortable in, which mainly consisted of jeans and band t-shirts. This was as close to normal and allowed. What I longed for was to cut my hair, to wear button down shirts like the boys. I read articles in magazines about transgender individuals. “is this me?" I thought. I knew I did not feel like a boy, but yet I did not feel like the other girls, and I knew I was attracted to girls. This caused great confusion and uncomfortability.
When I was 13, I started experimenting with drugs. This helped me to cope greatly with the feelings I could not yet name. I knew I had these strange feelings; I knew sometimes I did not want to get up and do anything and other times when I did things the feelings in my chest and stomach were nearly unbearable. I began talking to girls from different towns around 14 and 15. This helped me to understand myself, however created additional stress as it was a part of me I kept hidden from my everyday life. I continued to use drugs and experience consequences of such use such as a great loss of trust, decline in grades, and began my run-ins with substance abuse treatment.
At 15, I met a girl. She introduced to my first real love, heroin.
A warm wave came over me and the extent in which I liked the stuff scared me. I had seen heroin ruin lives and kill my friends. After my first use I swore I would never touch the stuff again, but I guess we all made that broken promise. A few days passed and I began using it consistently. It started off great. Heroin provided me with the internal relief I had been searching for my whole life. That strange feeling went away; I no longer thought much about how I would be perceived for my sexual orientation or gender expression. I only longed to get high.
Heroin continued to hand out consequences like flyers. I dropped out of high school and lost nearly every real friend I had. It was not long before I began using the drug intravenously. I lied to those I cared about, stole from those I loved, and let everyone down. My parents, though divorced, co-parented effectively and did all that they could. They sent me to rehabs and attended support groups. They loved me with their whole hearts.
At 17, I entered a detox for the second time, to be followed by another stay at an inpatient treatment center. I lay in a bed, experiencing the perils of heroin withdrawal, wondering how I got here. A few days later the van arrived to take me to treatment once again. I was greeted by a familiar face, who asked how I felt. Before I could mutter a sarcastic response about the awful feeling, he informed me I never had to feel that way again.
I began working on myself and identifying ways to cope with the depression and anxiety I had been battling. I identified ways to cope with urges to use drugs and learned what led me to make the choices I made. Internally I did a great amount of self-reflection regarding my sexual orientation. Though not right away, very shortly after my return home I came out to my friends and family. I continued on outpatient treatment to manage struggles and identify continued ways to improve.
Today, I have not used heroin for 4,180,32 minutes. 2,903 days. That's 7 years, 11 months, and 11 days. Today I have graduated college with a master's degree in social work with the plan to work with adolescents struggling with substance abuse and LGBTQ issues.
Today I have found love, in human form rather than substance form. Today, I love a girl, to the moon, who loves me back. Today I love the person I am, however acknowledge it is the person I was who helped me arrive here.
About the art:
This survivor's story shared a powerful journey of owning one's experience and defining yourself in the wake of adversity. In discussing the quote and the potential imagery to accompany it, this survivor shared the following:
"RM Drake is one of my favorite writers and I think this short and sweet quote does a good job of conveying how overcoming your past can make for a beautiful future."
This piece speaks to the turning of the tides, and the fresh start that the sea embodies for me, as well as for this survivor.