Drugs have long been a part of everyday culture; from celebrity scandals to national talk shows, drugs are universally understood as negative and scary things. Recently, one of the most dangerous drugs has gained popularity on the social media platform ‘Tumblr’. Specific fan pages and pages endorsing its usage have been created, posting the owners drug possessions, and in many cases, videos and photos of themselves injecting heroin. There are also ‘smaller’ pages that use the hashtag ‘#heroin’ to connect with other ‘users’ in the world – a community of addicts and recovering souls.
In the following series, I will talk to some of the largest names on Tumblr that openly post their tales and images of heroin usage and to better understand their world.
In part 3, I talked to ‘Jess’, a young female who has fought with heroin usage for just under 2 years. She spoke in a humbling, informative tone and talked to me of peer pressure, her mother walking in on her injecting and a direct message to those planning on using heroin for the first time.
Firstly, how long have you been using heroin?
The first time I used heroin was June of 2014, so it’ll be 2 years in a few months.
And what would you say was the trigger for your heroin usage?
Honestly, I’m not really sure. To be completely honest, I’m one of the ‘rare’ heroin addicts. I didn’t start on pain pills, my parents never abused me, I had a really good life, you know? It was just offered one day and I sort of just said “yeah”.
So it was a peer pressure type of thing that got you into using?
I’m not going to blame anyone, because I take full responsibility for my actions, but I suppose so. One of my friends had bought some after he was actually coming up to a year sober and I ended up doing it with him. It’s not like he stuck a needle in my arm and made me get high. But if I had never been with him that day, I’m not sure my life would nearly be the same as it is today.
I get you. Do you regret taking the heroin from him?
That’s such a vague question, I feel. Do I wish I could go back and not be a heroin junkie? Yes, 100%. But, at the same time, I’ve learned a lot from the experiences I’ve had during this two year ‘run’.
What would you say are some of the most important things you’ve “learned” from your experiences?
Well, firstly, I really appreciate my family now. Before, I took them all for granted, but now that they are still by my side through this, it makes me really appreciate what I’ve got. A lot of addicts can’t say the same about their family so I’m truly blessed. Another thing I’ve learned is just how precious life really is, you know? After my own experiences with over dosing and after losing so many friends to this addiction, my outlook has just really changed.
Despite you losing friends to this addiction, you still inject?
As messed up as it is, yes, I still inject.
Are you worried you may end up the same way?
I actually never, ever ‘sniffed’ it. I really jumped the gun and dove right in. Right now, I think majorly due to the fact that I am still in my active addiction, I like to think “that won’t be me” or that the paramedics will always bring me back if that was me, you know? My family is more worried about be me than I am.
How did your family find out about your heroin usage?
I actually did a pretty decent job at hiding if for a good amount of time. Almost 6 months, I’d say. She [mother] initially had thoughts I was using, because of all the bruises on my arms and all the track marks, but she confirmed it when she walked in on me shooting up one day.
And what was that experience like?
For her? heart-breaking, I’m sure. For me, i don’t know. I felt a lot of guilt and shame initially, but you end up just getting high so you don’t think about it.
You mentioned that you successful bid it for 6 months. Was this a stressful time, perhaps even a paranoid time?
Yeah, definitely. When you start using, you’re really good at hiding your stuff, or shooting up in places that wouldn’t be obvious. But as time goes on, you get sloppy with it. Those veins that used to work in your hidden spots stop working and you have to use places that are a bit more obvious. Like now a days, it’s to the point where everyone knows I’m a junkie now, I don’t even hide my stuff anymore, as fucked up as that sounds, excuse my language!
Don’t worry about the language! Do you feel like people negatively judge you due to your heroin use?
100%. People see my track marks in public and instantly judge me. I’m not a bad person, you know? I’m a good person who’s just made some bad choices and is now struggling with it. It sucks sometimes; people hear the word ‘heroin’ and this picture of a homeless person living under a bridge in the city pops in their head. Like no, I grew up in a nice neighbourhood in the suburbs. I got good grades, I played sports all my life, and I was just like their kids! I just made some poor decisions that put me on a different track than their children. That’s the only difference.
By saying that you’re “struggling” with it, do you mean you’re addicted?
Yeah. I’m definitely addicted. I’ve tried to stop. I’ve tried to stop multiple times. The withdrawals are awful and I wouldn’t wish it on my own enemy. It’s not like I haven’t tried getting clean; I’ve been to detox, I’ve been to rehab, but for some reason, always go back to it, even though during the time I’m sober, I know I don’t want to. it’s a tough topic to try to explain, I guess.
I understand. Do you actually want to do heroin?
Not anymore! Honestly, I rarely even get high anymore. I just get my ‘sick’ off. My tolerance is so high and I don’t have the money for it, so I can only afford enough to not be in withdrawal.
Prior to heroin, had you ever used other drugs?
Yeah. I’ve tried every drug out there pretty much. When I was younger, and in high school, I was messing around with amphetamines a lot. I was always one to say I’d always try something once. I was never physically addicted to any other drug before heroin came in the picture.
What’s different about heroin, do you think?
The physical withdrawals you feel are only 12 hours after your last use. I think that’s a huge part of it, and I never felt the euphoric part of anything before. I was really happy my first time using dope.
Have you ever had health problems following the use of heroin?
Honestly, no, I’m very lucky. The worst thing is that my veins are collapsed or have too much scar tissue, so I can’t use them.
What happens when your vein collapses?
Well they stop working. You can’t shoot into them anymore. Sorry for the late response, I had to figure out how I was going to get my ‘fix’ today.
That’s fine. Why do you post content of your heroin usage on Tumblr?
Honestly, it’s all that’s on my mind. Also, the people who follow me are 99% of the time heroin addicts. So, I get a lot of questions about it. Someone recently asked me something along the lines of “How’s heroin, thinking about trying it” and I wrote out a really long response on why they shouldn’t. I think I got about 20 likes/reposts on it as well. People private message me too, where I can give advice on at least how to use it safe and what to do if something goes wrong, and about clean needles, and how you should always have Narcan available, and all of that sort of stuff. It’s not like I’m like “I’m a heroin junkie, everyone go try it”, it’s more like “I’m a heroin junkie, heroin’s consumed my life and if you’re going to make your decision to try it, or you already are using it, you can ask me anything because I’ve already been through it”.
If you could suddenly stop using heroin forever right now, would you take that opportunity?
Yes, I would take it in a heartbeat. If I could stop right now, forever, and never have to use it or think about it, or get withdrawal sick ever again, it wouldn’t even be a thought process. My answer would immediately be “yes”.
What drags you back to it, then?
Well, this last time, I went to rehab which was the longest amount of sobriety from heroin that I’d had – which was 27 days or so. Once I got home, I felt really good and I thought I could handle it on my own. I didn’t listen or do anything that the counsellors recommended me to do once I got back to reality. I didn’t follow up with after care, like ‘IOP’ or ‘PHP’, I didn’t go to meetings, I didn’t get a sponsor; I didn’t do anything I was supposed to. I thought I had it under control since I was happy again, sober and the ‘addicted’ part of my brain, as I like to call it, tricked me to believe that I could do it by myself. This led me to relapse very, very, very quickly once I got home. I had a bad day or just got bored or whatever reason I used to justify my use/relapse. So, this time when I go to rehab, I’m actually going to listen to what the counsellors tell me to do because obviously my thought process and the actions I want to do doesn’t work. Obviously, since look where it’s gotten me, a heroin addict. I am one who has to play with the fire, sometimes once or twice, to actually learn that the fire is hot and I shouldn’t play with it. I guess that’s the best way I can explain it.
Do you feel like there is enough support for addicts/ recovering addicts?
I mean there is NA, narcotics anonymous, which is meetings for recovering addicts that are free that work really well if you want them to work, but otherwise, nothing else is typically free. Even with insurance that covered 80% of my last rehab stay, it still cost my mom $3000 US dollars, which is a lot of money. And think about it, if a drug addict will steal A $500 watch and pawn it for $50 just to get a few bags to get their ‘sick’ off, how can someone like that afford rehab? For me personally, it was hard to work the NA program without being sober or without at least without having to go through the withdrawals.
Yeah, I hear that financial point a lot. Finally, what would you say to a young person planning on trying heroin for the first time?
This was my response to the person who said they were thinking about trying heroin. “Please don’t. For the love of your family, your health, your sanity, your motivation, your honesty. For the love of god, please, please, don’t. Heroin is Satan with an angel’s face. The first time I tried it, shit, I thought it was amazing; best feeling I’ve ever felt and here I am, 2 years later, with 2 felony charges, family that is so disappointed they can’t even look at me, no real friends, a few overdoses under my belt, and just no real happiness. Trust me; I never ever thought it would be me. I grew up in a nice suburb outside of Chicago, wasn’t abused, got good grades, played sports all my life, yet here I am – a god damn heroin junkie who can’t go through a day without getting my damn fix. Drug addiction does not care who you are. It doesn’t care how much you love your family. It doesn’t care that you’re the most popular kid in school. It doesn’t care who the fuck you are, it will take your soul before you even have a chance at seeing all the fucked up shit that’s happening around you because of it. Sorry for the rant, but please, please, don’t try heroin. Not for just one time, not just because your friends are, not because its free and offered to you. Just don’t. Because that’s how I started, and here I am, 2 years later, a depressed, sad, heroin junkie.” for the love of God, please, don’t.
That’s a very moving response. And any safety tips, should they choose to go ahead with it anyway?
I mean, a person is eventually going to do what they want to do, no matter what someone tells them, so if they do, do not simply begin injecting it like I did. I’m lucky I didn’t overdose my first time. Sniff a very, very small amount and wait and see how you feel. You can always do more, but you can never do less, and if you are going to use a needle, always, always, always, always, always use clean ones and never share needles with anybody. My advice is – don’t try it, ever. But if you are, that’s all I’ve got on that.
Thank you for speaking with me, Jess. Good luck with everything.
-Benjamin John Wareing