“You need it to be able to live” - A recovering heroin addict shares his story
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(CS) Once an addict – always an addict. That's the striking conclusion of a young man who has successfully completed therapy but is all too aware of the danger of relapse. Drugs are everywhere, he says, telling his story to wort.lu as a warning to others.
X* first started using drugs at school with friends. What began as smoking weed turned into experiments with harder drugs. But while his friends even used heroin at X's house, he shied away from it for a long time. “But then there was one day, when I had a big personal set-back, when I thought 'I don't care about anything'. I wanted to forget – that's when I first used.”
The descent into addiction was a quick one, as the power of the drug took over, quickly commanding his life.
“You need it to be normal – to be able to live,” the recovering addict told wort.lu. Addiction becomes your life, he added, as days are organised around the next fix. Isolation from friends and family is the next step. “You isolate yourself, so people don't know you're using, that you're on it.”
Fear from the police follows and a constant paranoia, “because you carry something with you, that you could go to jail for.”
When family and friends do find out, “it's extremely difficult,” X said. “People around the addict need to understand that they're completely powerless. For a mother, a father, a sister, a best friend … that's the most difficult to accept.”
“No one else can help,” X said about the struggle out of addiction. “I said stop when I noticed how severe the addiction is, that it controls me, changes me.” Still, a first withdrawal, going cold turkey, failed.
Looking back on the experience, he said that he would rather die than live through the experience of shock-withdrawal again.
It took X several attempts and several relapses to overcome his addiction. He has been clean for around six months, but is aware of the danger and the power that drugs still hold over him.
“In my eyes if you ever were addicted – I don't like saying were, because you stay so for the rest of your life – you cannot take any mind-altering substances, because your memory tempts you to relapse,” he said. “I don't drink alcohol anymore, because I can't,” X added, explaining that it brings back the want for a different kind of high.
He now tries to be more in touch with his emotions and feelings and has come to accept that both highs and lows are part of life. “I try to make the best of it, accept the hard times and not run away by taking a substance.”
“The substance changes you”
Struggling to continue, X confided that he lost one of his best friends to drugs. “He overdosed and died young. The others are still alive, but I lost them because I can't be around them,” he said. “They're not the boys they used to be. Over the years, the substance changes you, you're not yourself anymore. Those friends I lost, even though they're still alive.”
During his time as a drug-user, X saw an increase in the use of hard drugs. “Harder drugs are becoming more popular,” he said, also among younger people. “Hard drugs are trivialised too often,” he said, adding that access is not the problem. “They're everywhere.”
“Prevention is very important,” X said, explaining, however, that it needs to be done differently. Saying that most students laugh at the police campaigns against drugs, he suggested that people need to be shown what really happens when you use drugs, what the dangers are and how strong these substances are – also through testimonies like his own.
“I think it's important that I share a part of my experiences with drugs. If I managed to turn all the negative things I lived through into something positive – that someone thinks about it and decides not to take drugs – that would be good.”
Interview by Sophie Kieffer
* In order to protect the identity of the interviewee, he is referred to as X throughout the text.