No Shining Armor

WARNING: contains graphic description of drug usage AND ADDICTION

First you feel the needle pierce right through the skin, there is a pinch that you feel. The same pinch that you feel when you get your blood drawn at the doctor’s office. Second you get a burning sensation that last a few seconds as you press on the needle. Third is the warm feeling you get as the substance gets injected into your veins. Fourth is the rush that you get as you feel the substance run throughout your whole body. Fifth is rolling back your eyes as you see the pearly gates of heaven open up.

I missed a few steps but those don’t matter, what matters is that high that you cannot possibly get anywhere else. That high is irreplaceable, that high is magical, that high takes away all your pain, all your sorrows and makes you enter a heaven you never want to leave. This was my high, this was my needle, this was my life. I loved this life, I loved every minute of that high, every second felt like a million years on cloud 9. They could never understand my high, they could never understand why I kept going back to it. How could they? They never experienced heaven like I did, they never met God like I did, he never caressed their hair like he did mines. Yes, I met God himself. Call me crazy, but I know what I saw. You want to know what else I saw? When I woke up from my high, I looked down and saw:

Elastic bands

Spoons

 Lighters

couple of needles

These are items I needed to have one hell of a great time. At least I use to think that. These use to be my everyday essentials; they were more important to me than anything else in this life. These were part of my care package to cure my sickness, I carried them around like diabetics carry insulin. The only way to not feel sick was to get high again. Life was not always this way, it all used to be too simple. That is the problem, it was too simple. Mom, dad, my brother and I, was all we had. It was great, fun loving household that was full of joy. That is until I was about 17, then life as I knew it turned upside down. Mom and dad separated, the fun-loving household that I use to know was gone. I went with mom and my brother went with dad; never knew why we were separated like that. Life with mom became difficult, the nurturing woman I once knew become as cold as ice. She did not laugh anymore, she did not smile anymore, all she did was work, drink and be angry.  She barely spoke to anyone; it was if I was living with a ghost. My brother did not have it easy as well, he was getting into constant fights with dad. One day the fight was so bad that it left both of them bleeding, this led to my brother enlisting in the armed forces.

I cried as my brother was leaving, I loved him so much and now I was losing him. Now it was me, my drunk angry mom and my distant father. This was my life and I hated it so much, so many nights I wished for a better life. One day at school I was venting to one of my friends about my life and how much I wanted to run away from it. She lit a joint and said, “if you want to run away, here is your ticket”. I did not hesitate; I took the joint from her hand and took a drag. As I exhaled, I felt this feeling that I never felt before. It was as if I exhaled all my sorrows away, I took another hit before looking at my friend. She was smiling when she asked, “how do you feel?”, I took a minute to respond, “I feel so damn good”. This was the start of my awakening; I smoked all day every day without missing a beat. I did not have any money, so I relied on friends to share their weed with me. When my smoking addiction got too much no one wanted to share with me, I needed to find new ways to get weed. I tried getting a job but that was not going to work, I kept failing every drug test. Since I was newbie, I did not realize I could cheat the system, a friend gave me an idea of using someone else’s urine. I stole money from moms’ purse to be able to purchase someone else’s urine, this landed me a job as a cashier.

The job did not provide much money, but enough to get me what I needed. I smoked away every check I received, the day I get a check is the same day I became broke again. Mom did not care that I smoked like a chimney, she was too busy dealing with her bottle. Dad acted as if I did not exist, brother deployed too far away to steer me in the right direction. I smoked away my senior year of high school and destroyed my future practically. I ended up not graduating with my class, reality still did not set in that I was destroying myself. When the thoughts would get too much for my mind, I would just get high and go far away from earth. I befriended my drug dealer who loved me as a customer, he would always have the stuff ready for me. I was his best client since I gave him all my money, until I did not have any more money. I lost my job, too many complaints were made about how I always smelled like weed. Too many chances were given to me that I did not take, the boss could not give me any more chances. I was not fussed about losing that job, I was worried about how I would get more weed. I went to talk to my drug dealer, he said there was no way to help me unless I had money. I pathetically pleaded with him; this is how bad it got for me. He knew I was at his mercy, so he used it to his advantage, he told me “come live with me and you wont worry about money or weed anymore”. That same day I packed my things, walked pass my drunken mom and went to live with my drug dealer. I did not even take the time to think about what I was doing, all I thought about was smoking my life away.

The next few months consisted of my drug dealer who was now my boyfriend supplying me with endless amounts of weed. This came with a price to pay; my body was that price. I would smoke, let him do what he wanted to me, then smoked again. This was on repeat like a song you cannot stop listening to. This was my newfound fairytale; he was my knight in shining armor. He came to save me from my hell of a life, to bring me deeper into the depths of hell. I received a call from dad, “Your brother is dead” was all he said before he hung up. My world shattered, even though I did not hear from him since he left, my brother was the only person I cared for. I eventually found out that he died from a freak accident at their base that produced a fire, ten people died from it. I tried to smoke the emptiness away, it did not work. The weed had no more effect on me, I needed something else. I told my boyfriend “I need something stronger”, he nodded and brought out just what I needed. He took some cocaine and set it on the table. He took a card, chopped it up and then rolled a twenty-dollar bill. He looked at me and said, “the sky is the limit”. I took the bill and took my first snort; I have not been the same since. Cocaine became my life and I became it. my problem came when I realized unlike weed cocaine was too expensive for my boyfriend to let me play with. He would give me a good enough amount, but that was not good enough for me. I would beg for more, but he never budged, so I started stealing from him. When he would catch me stealing, he made pay for it, this resulted in bruises and black eyes. The high was worth it, it was too exhilarating to stop.

My boyfriend was shot in his house right in front of me.

There was a knock at the door, my boyfriend usually paranoid was always on the edge. He would usually peek out the window, to see who was there. Then he would peek through the little peep hole on the door. On that day he was so angry at me stealing from him for the millionth time, that he was not in his right state of mind to check who knocked. When he opened the door, he was shot at point blank range, the sound of the gunshot startled me. I leaped to run but there was nowhere to run to, the person who shot him walked into the house. I immediately recognized him; he was my boyfriends business partner. Other men came into the house and grabbed everything they could from the house. The man who shot my boyfriend looked at me and said, “Let’s go”, I got up and followed. I did not even grab my things; I walked over my boyfriends’ dead body and went outside to his partners car. After I put on my seatbelt he drove off, I should have felt sorrow for my boyfriend. But I did not, I felt nothing at all. After all, he was only my drug dealer.

it took all of 6months to fall fully in love with heroin. Living with my current drug dealer at the time, he introduced me to it on the first day. After shooting my former drug dealer and taking me to his home, he gave me heroin to calm my nerves. Calm my nerves it did, get me high it did, made me a hollow shell it did. Heroin was unlike anything else I ever experienced, it made me live in a completely other realm. I found myself dancing with aliens, walking in the air, I would feel super numb to everything and speaking different languages that were mostly gibberish. It was quite a remarkable journey, the high was astounding. Coming down from heroin was the worst high I could come down from. My body would feel like I was dying alive, I would feel my bones crushing me, I would get extremely agitated, I would start shacking uncontrollably and gasping for air because I would forget how to breathe. Then I would start moving around for no reason, screaming for nothing and losing grasp on which world I was living in. my drug dealer ended up putting me in the basement of his house so when I would come down from the high, I wouldn’t disturb him. He only needed me for two reason, to have sex and try out the new batches of heroin that would come in. I did not mind this ordeal for two reasons, I would usually be so high that I would not feel anything and two I got all the fix I needed.

4 years of being an addict made me unrecognizable, I could not even face looking at myself in the mirror. I never went outside, I forgot what fresh air felt like, the darkness was all I knew now. My body was full of spots from all the shooting I had done, I barely had any veins left but still I kept shooting. I never saw people anymore; I had not spoken to my parents for so long I forgot what their voices sounded like. Whenever I heard the basement door open, I would jump up because that meant it was time. I felt like an animal waiting to be fed, like a rat being tested on to see if the experiment was a success. My drug dealer never used drugs; he did not even smoke weed. He once said, “a seller who used their own products was a bad businessman”. He still needed me to try the batches he would receive. “You stopped having sex with me” I said to him one day when he was about to tie the elastic around my arm trying to find a vein. He filled the needle before approaching the vein his been searching for, “I don’t have sex with corpses” he said bluntly. This should have hurt but I was so caught up in the euphoria of being injected, that I did not even cared. As my veins filled up, I felt the body pulsating as my eyes rolled back. I was satisfied again as I laid back on the mattress laughing at how good I felt.

My first hospital visit came when I was 25. I remembered my drug dealer came down to the basement like usual to try a new batch. He had the usual equipment- a band, spoon, lighter, needle. As he opened the bag with the powder, I could see a weird look on his face. “What is it?” I asked, he waited for a second before he said, “it smells weird”. I did not understand, nor did I want to. All I wanted was my veins filled. He took the powder out to cook it and still looked suspicious of what he was seeing. “This is not a good batch; the color is too light” he said as he was ready to throw it out. I was not about to let that happen, bad batch or not I needed my fix and any fix was a good fix. “No don’t throw it out, let’s try it” I said anxiously as my body was sweating about not getting what it was craving. “No this is a bad batch I need to bring it back and get my fucking money back” he said angrily as he lunged up to stand. Again, I did not care about his reasoning I only had eyes for the needle. I snatched the spoon and filled the needle up, without hesitation I shot it straight to my arm hoping to hit any vein. “You’re not dying in my fucking house” was the last thing I remember hearing before I woke up in a hospital bed.

When I woke up my eyes were so blurry, I could not even see anything. My body was in extreme pain, I could barely move my arms and my mouth was extremely dry. I pushed as hard as I could to lift my arms enough to rub my eyes together so I could get my vision straight. “I think she’s awake” I heard a woman’s voice, but I was so out of it I did not know what direction it was coming from.  I tried turning my head, but my neck was so stiff that I had to lay back straight. Someone came over me, but I still could not get a clear picture, “Hey! Welcome back”. It was the woman’s voice again; she spoke so soft and comforting. I rubbed my eyes together again, “mom?” I asked just to make sure I was not dreaming. “is that you? Mom?”, I repeated again until I could get a full answer. I felt drops of water falling on my face until I realized it was my mother, and she was tearing up. “yes baby, it’s me. It’s me!” she hollered as the tears kept bursting out of her, she could not contain herself. She kept yelling “Oh god! Why?” it was the first time I had seen my mother in so many years, what a tragic way to meet again. I began to cry myself; it was painful to even produce tears at that time. “mom! Mom!” were the only words I kept crying out, I did not know what else to say. My brain was so hazy, and my body was useless to me. All I had was pain and tears. Mom kept crying out so loud, I could only imagine what she was looking at. Dad came to hold her as she was shaking and screaming. “Dad! Dad!” I wept and wept. Dad just stood there holding mom while vigorously shaking his head at me. The anger in his eyes was enough to burn me like when the heroin would shoot in my veins.

15 minutes of crying later a nurse walked in, “I heard all the crying, so I assumed she woke up”. She spoke in this soft tone that was really comforting. No one answered, silenced filled the room. Both my parents were sitting, and I was staring at the ceiling still weeping. A few minutes and still no answer the nurse checked the IVs I was on before saying the doctor would be in. after the nurse left my dad got up, took out his phone and took several pictures of me. “Honey, what are you doing” mom asked as she was trying to keep herself together. “I want her to see how shitty she looks. Just in case she decides to go back to that life.” I felt the anger rising up as he was looking at me. There was a knock at the door before a doctor came in. He shook my dads’ hand and waived at my mother before approaching me. “Hello” he said in a monotone voice that led me to believe his been around me already. “I have been speaking to your parents for a few days now. You are up earlier than we expected” he continued but I was still stuck on “for days”. How could it have been days? But things were worse than I expected. Everyone knew what happened but me, “How did I get here?” was the only question I could ask.

From what I was told……….

I was found in front of the hospital late at night. A car was seen speeding in the parking lot, it came around to the front of the emergency room where something was dropped out of the car. When security came to see what came out of the car, that something was me. I was wrapped in a blanket, shacking and foaming out the mouth. I was immediately brought into the ER where nurses and doctors started working on me. I was hit with a dose of Narcan which brought me back a little bit, but I was still in extremely bad shape. The foam kept coming out and it was thought to be it for me. Against their better judgment the doctors asked for another dose of Narcan because there was nothing else to do. After the dose I plunged up swinging at anything next to me until they held me down. Even then I was still uncontrollable, so they hit me with more medication until I became somewhat stable. They think I died for a few minutes before I came back, my pulse was undetectable. I probably went to the heaven I was dreaming of when I was high. I had no identification, so no one had any idea who I was or where I came from. There was no way to track me down, but I was unresponsive, so I had to be kept. After detecting a stable pulse, they put me in Intensive care where treatment continued. I barely had any functioning veins left in my body, they found one that was somewhat useful. My feet were the only places that I had not used to shoot up from. My blood cultures were all in the toilet, I had failing livers and kidneys. At 25 I had the body of a 90-year-old, I was extremely frail because I barely ate. My teeth were rotting or falling off, my hair was thinning from all the toxic shit I put in my body, my skin was bruised up and loose. They were waiting for me to die since there was nothing anyone could do; my body was hanging on for dear life. The hospital contacted the police about me to see if I could be identified. The police could not do anything without any kind of identification and since I was still unresponsive, I could not be of any help.

Two weeks still unresponsive at the hospital, a breakthrough was finally made. The police found a picture of someone who had my features somewhat, but at a younger age. They did the math on the age of the picture and when it was taken to narrow down the age it could be at that particular time. This picture was on the missing persons list and was put on about 2 years before I was in the hospital. It turned out that after my brother’s death mom checked herself into rehab to get her life together. The death of her son hit her hard and she was tired of being tired. She reached out to dad for support on her path to sobriety. He refused at first, skeptical of her strength and willingness to get her life together. He was going through his own struggles also, he felt at fault for splitting the family apart. He felt at fault for what happened to all of us, dead son, junky daughter and alcoholic ex-wife. He was the only one who escaped from his point of view, this guilt was eating him up inside. He was seeking mental health therapy and counseling.  He was advised to reach out to those close to him that he had left. Dad never really had friends and at that point all he had left was me and mom. After a few sessions in therapy, he found the strength to reach out to mom and offer his support. Mom was still struggling with sobriety because she was doing it all alone. Dad started going with her to meetings, counseling and helping her adjust to a clean life. There were lots of ups and downs, but he did not leave her like he did before. He stuck with her even when she would have some setbacks.

As it pertains to me, the police reached out to the people who put out the missing report. As you can obviously see these people happened to be my parents. They put out this report after mom started getting better and making gradual progress with her rehab. This gave mom hope that maybe it could work for me. Mom talked to dad about finding me, he was not eager to. It took months of convincing and showing him how much progress, she had made, and the hope she had for me. Both my parents had not seen me for years at this point, they did not even know where to start looking. They did not even know if I was alive, but mom persisted. She says she carried this guilt after getting sober, that she failed me. That her addiction caused my addiction. instead of being a mother to me, she let the world swallow me up. She is and was wrong about this, but I understand where she is coming from. My parents decided to go to the police in the town I grew up in, they wanted to see if there was any information they could find. The police had no information to give, but they advised my parents to fill a missing persons form. They waited and checked in frequently for anything, but nothing came up. they had to learn to live with the thought that I might have been dead. As they hoped for the best my parents decided to move back in together and tried to patch up whatever they had left. This also allowed mom to have a support system at all times.

About 2 years passed before my parents received a phone call from the local police. This call was to inform them that law enforcement from the other side of the state wanted to speak to them. My parents were informed that they should take a look at someone the police thought was me, but they could not be sure. The information my parents gave were about a decade old, but certain features never left. My parents were advised that this was not a sure thing, and they should proceed cautiously. My parents took the drive that was about 2hours long to come to the hospital I was at. It turned out that my drug dealer drove me about 2hours away in hopes that nothing could be traced back. How I did not die from that trip? I will never know. My parents had cold feet about stepping into the hospital, but they found the courage to. The officers they were with told them again that it may not be me so to proceed cautiously again. As soon as they entered the room, mom broke down. She knew it was me immediately. They asked her how she could be so sure, but all she said was that a mother knows. Dad knew too but he was keeping his emotions in check. Mother broke down several times as they told her of how I was found, dad left the room to not hear any of it. The image of me being dumped like a worn-out couch, was not what he envisioned for me. For the next couple of weeks my parents did not leave the hospital, they stayed in the ICU day and night. They waited for any signs that I would wake up, things seemed grim but still they stayed.

This is where we pick up to when I finally woke up. After being told everything that had happened, it was time for the real work to begin. My body was useless to me, I was enslaved to it. I could not use my legs, my organs were closing and shutting down. I had to go to the bathroom in bed, I could barely eat because I did not have the strength to swallow and I felt like a burden to everyone. I was assured that if I followed the regiment set for me, I had a chance at life again. Physical therapy came to work on me every single day, they did range of motions to loosen up my joints and get my muscles working again. I had to try to sit on a chair for most of the day just to not be stiff in bed. Days were long, hard and depressing. Every step gain came with steps lost. Mom always tried to uplift me by telling me stories of how she and others made it. That I had a chance to live a normal life again if I wanted to. I did not know if I even wanted to live anymore. Dad tried as much as he could to not say the wrong things, so he stayed quiet most of time. I knew what he was thinking, how could I do this to myself? I thought the same thing, not being able to move well gives one a lot of time with their thoughts. I literally could not run away from my thoughts; they were caving in on me. I felt the walls closing in on me, I felt as if I was looked at as the shattered one.

What was worse than not being able to move, is what I have not mentioned yet. My body was craving the drugs I had used since I was a teen. It was almost a decade of giving my body things that did not belong in it. The drugs became normal for my body to have, and now it was craving it. I went through withdrawals that were worse than any pain I had ever felt before. The doctors told me these were normal for a drug user, for your body to crave what you have been feeding it. I screamed, I cried, I cursed, and I crashed from the thoughts, the pains and the judgments. I knew I was looked at as just another junkie who was going to go right back to the abyss. I can see it from their eyes that they talked about me every time they left the room. By “their” I mean everyone, everyone except mom. She was the only one who believed I could fight through this. She would always say that it would be a struggle. That I needed to know that even if I relapsed, it would just be a bump on the road. She also said that I needed to fight the withdrawals without any medications, I needed to feel the pain so I would never forget it. I knew she was right, but that is not what I wanted to hear. The withdrawals were too much for me to handle, but I knew this was important for me to begin a new chapter.

Over the next couple of weeks, I was gingerly walking around. My feet felt stronger by the day and I was making great progress. The withdrawals were still flaring as strong as ever, but I was still determined to fight through it. I finally left the hospital after a 2month stay, they felt I was medically stable enough to go to rehab. The first rehab was a physical one, I was still learning to use my body again. I was in the rehab for about 7 weeks until I was able to fully function by myself again. By the time I left I felt different, I felt like I had not felt in years. I had color to my skin again, I gained a little more weight due to eating properly again. My skin was not dry anymore, I still had all the bruises from all the poking I did. But I considered them battle scars, I felt as if I lost the fight but won the war. For years I did not want to look in the mirror, but now I needed to. To see the progress that I was making, I looked less like a junkie every day that passed by. It was time to check into the second rehab, this one was for drug rehabilitation.

I was in there for about 6months, 6 very long months. No one was supposed to visit me, so mom and dad had to leave me. I had to learn to control myself by myself, before anyone else could help me. one of my counselors use to say, “no one can help you if you don’t try to help yourself first”. I learned to deal with the withdrawals, the pain, the depression and the anxiety. I learned to deal with the stigma of being a former junkie. One of the most crucial lessons I received from the rehab, is that addiction does not just go away. It is an everyday struggle, it is a 24/7 job, you must wake up everyday ready to fight. I think that is what mom was trying to tell me, failure most likely will come but you must be ready to pick up and start over. I needed to learn this; you do not tackle sobriety one time. You live with it daily, and you must fight and fight and never stop fighting. Another counselor also told me that I needed to accept that I did not have a shining armor to protect me. I was penetrable, but just because something has a crack in it does not mean it is shattered. I needed to know I could pick the pieces up and be put back together.

The day of my release, my parents waited for me outside the rehab complex. I could see mom tearing up a mile away, dad still had a stone-cold face. As I approached them mom ran out to hug me, she was so warm. Dad looked at me for a while before finally cracking a smile, “you look healthy” he said. I started crying myself, I missed my brother and I still do every day. I wished we could have all been there. I was waiting for my parents to tell me “let’s go home” but they did not. Dad had taken all his savings and anything else he had left to buy a home somewhere else. That somewhere else turned out to be the other side of the country. He said he wanted all us to get away from the place that caused us so much pain. He wanted all of us to move on together as a family and begin a new chapter. I got in the car with my parents and headed sixteen hours west. Sixteen hours away from a chapter of my life we wished we could all rewrite.

I am 35 now. It has been ten years since that faithful hospital visit. My parents and I are still at the home my father spent every single last dime on. I can never thank him enough for that. He took us from the dark ages to new beginnings. My mother has been sober for about 15 years now, I am immensely proud of her. I have been sober for about 7 years now. the first couple of years were turbulent, but it was part of the recovery process. I relapsed twice, but thankfully I recovered from them. It has been a long journey, an everyday fight, every day is another challenge. I managed to go back and get my GED; this was extremely important to my family. I enrolled in a community college not far away and found a way to graduate. I took that and transferred it to a four-year college where I received my bachelors. I currently work as an addiction and mental health counselor. It is almost as if I see myself all over again when I am at work. It is a great reminder of how far I came and how much life there is to live. I use my scars as a vivid portrayal of how far addiction can go. I never thought I could be an example to others, but I believe I have found my calling. I can never thank my parents enough for being the armor I never thought I needed. I realized that I have no shining armor, but that does not mean I cannot be protected.

As part of my ongoing battle with recovery, my therapist suggested I write down my darkness days. So, I share this.

I am an addict, and every day I fight.

6 thoughts on “No Shining Armor

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