Michelle’s Story: It Can Happen to Anyone.

My addiction to opiates began when I was 28 years old. I had not tried drugs in high school or college. I wasn’t interested in marijuana, and while it was okay with my parents for us kids to have a few beers when we were teenagers, I wasn’t really into drinking either. I was happy and just didn’t see the point in all that stuff.

In my 20’s, I was married and pregnant with my first and only child. My husband was an online gamer, and after the birth of our baby, I was really struggling with balancing all of the responsibilities of our life. I was working full-time, attending school and taking care of our new baby daughter; and I wasn’t getting a lot of help. At the age of 27, my marital problems began to get worse and my husband asked for a divorce. I was devastated. The pain and depression was overwhelming.

In 2008 I was at work, and a friend I had made there could see the pain I was in. I told her I wasn’t sleeping and that I was just miserable. She told me to come with her to her car on our lunch break. That was the day I smoked heroin for the first time. I didn’t even know what it was. All I knew was that she handed me that tin foil and a straw and said if I smoked it I would be able to sleep, that it would numb all my pain. She said “you are going to feel better Michelle.” And she was right. I did.

From that day on, heroin was it for me. It continued to make me feel better so I continued to smoke it for 8 years. I continued to smoke it long after it stopped making me feel better and started causing issues in my life. That’s what this drug does to you. No other drugs ever interested me. Just heroin.

After I began using I stopped crying, I slept and I went to work and I was functioning well. My depression had kept me from functioning for so long that this seemed like an improvement. What my friend had failed to tell me is what would happen if I couldn’t get heroin. . My first withdrawal came about 2 weeks after I started smoking. I was sweating, nauseous and achy. A shower felt like needles on my skin. I called my friend and she explained to me that I was going through withdrawal. I didn’t know that could happen, but I knew it had to stop. I drove two hours to meet my friend and get more heroin. At that point, I knew what I was going to have to do to keep from feeling that way again.

I look back and can’t believe I had no idea what would happen that first time I smoked. It was disgusting. It smelled horrible. But boy did it help me feel better. I never anticipated being addicted though. It didn’t take long before I was spending my entire paycheck in a day and a half on drugs. I had moved in with my parents after the divorce, and spent most of my time asleep or locked in the bathroom of their house smoking heroin. My parents knew something was wrong, but didn’t know what. I stayed up all night using, just heading to bed when my daughter was waking up. When I should have been cooking breakfast I was passed out in bed.

Six months after I started using I knew I was addicted and needed help. I had gone into withdrawal and my mother called 911 and my 6 year old daughter watched the paramedics wheel me out of the house, but there was nothing they could do for me. The first person I told was my brother. He was sad, but that became anger very quickly. He started to realize that all the manipulating I did to get money was for drugs and that I was a liar. He gave me a head start, but said I had to tell my parents or he would. I told everyone and it was a terrible scene of shock, tears and anger. I wish I could say all of that helped me get well, but instead I used for another 7 ½ years.

Keeping up with the expense of my addiction become impossible. The things I did to get money are some of the things for which I feel the most guilt and shame. Nothing was sacred. I stole money and gift cards from my own daughter. Stole things from my parents and other family members to pawn for money. I had met a man who is still my boyfriend to this day, and I stole items and money from him too. There is no one I wouldn’t take from to feed my own habit.

In March of 2015 my mother passed away of a massive heart attack. She had been the only person who even tried to understand what I was going through. She was an alcoholic and always tried to understand. The first call I made after I learned of her passing was to my dealer.

The consequences of my use began to catch up with me. At this point, my family didn’t trust me and I was starting to have trouble with the law. In June of 2015 I was arrested leaving a dealers house for possession. After one night in jail I was released, but caught just one year later in the same situation. I tried everything to hide the drugs on me but the officers knew I was in possession of heroin and I went to jail again. Going through heroin withdrawal is intense pain, but going through withdrawal in jail was worse than anything I could imagine. They give you sugar water to try and help, but it’s useless. Nothing helps.

My ex-husband has full custody of my daughter. He has always advocated for what’s best for her, and he’s right. I had put her in danger on numerous occasions taking her to drug dealers’ houses, smoking heroin in the car while she played at the park. I only see her every other Sunday for 2 hours and the visitation is supervised, but I know one day soon I’ll be able to see her more often because I’ve finally begun to get better. Going through withdrawal in jail was the last straw for me. I knew I had to do something. He’s asked me why I can’t just stop, and I respond by asking him to stop breathing. It’s that difficult.

I began my recovery journey at an outpatient treatment center that treats opioid addiction with Suboxone. While that was working well for me, I had also been prescribed medications for anxiety and depression and the combination of meds was too much. I moved to another physician but he did not keep his practice open. I didn’t want to keep changing doctors, so I decided to buy Suboxone on the street and relapsed in October of 2016.

After that relapse, I realized I had to work hard if I wanted to be there for my daughter. AppleGate Recovery had lots of good reviews on Google so I decided to give it a shot. I called 4 times before I had the courage to actually speak to the person who answered the phone, and I was so glad when I did. I walked into that first appointment with doubts. I wasn’t sure the program would work. I still wanted to do recovery on my own in my own way. I gave the doctor and counselors a chance and they have been a huge blessing in my life. Had I not found AppleGate, I don’t think I would be alive today. I was one mistake away from losing my daughter forever, and now I’m more than 18 months in recovery.

Things aren’t always easy in recovery. It can be difficult to find a job, or accept the consequences of the life I lived for so long, but I know it’s 100% better than any life I was going to lead if I continued smoking heroin. I sometimes still fight my craving to use drugs, but I no longer experience any physical withdrawals. The counseling I receive at AppleGate is teaching me healthy coping mechanisms to deal with life’s difficulties so I’ll no longer want to use drugs. I am working to mend the relationships with my family and friends instead of dwelling on the mistakes of the past. I just continue to move forward one day at a time.

Addiction can happen to anyone. I went from having never used hard drugs to being addicted to heroin in 2 weeks. I defended heroin against my loved ones, and I gave it 8 years of my life. Now I focus on my goals. I am working to be self-sufficient, to earn time back with my daughter and to find a way to use my experiences to help someone else. I would tell anyone who is thinking about starting a recovery program that they are not alone. If you stick with it, you can live without your drug of choice. I’ve been given another chance at life and I couldn’t be more grateful.