Hi! I’m Tegan, and I’m in long-term recovery from intravenous heroin addiction! Alright!
Growing up I experienced a lot of the feelings I’ve heard other addicts recount from youth: I felt out of place, afraid, alone, and inadequate. Life was like this for a long time without my even really realizing it; I just survived, without any concept of a life free of these feelings. Drugs and alcohol changed that for me around 15. When I was high or drunk I could feel like I was really present. I could feel confident, or carefree. Finding that feeling as often as I could immediately became a priority for me. I remember around that age sneaking from table to table at my brother’s wedding reception finishing people’s drinks – you know, super normal behavior that doesn’t at all indicate a bizarre infatuation with alcohol. I started smoking weed every day shortly after that. I found friends who valued drugs as much as I did, and we got high as much as we could manage as young teenagers without jobs. After my mom got over an illness, I’d finish her hydrocodone syrup and replace it with Robitussin. I’d steal money from her purse to buy weed. I took too much Ambien and ended up in the hospital. One time I smoked catnip. Normal stuff.
I grew up pretty well-off – I wasn’t spoiled but I didn’t want for anything material. When I started failing high school (I liked getting high a lot more than I liked going to class) in my junior year, my parents could afford to send me to “rehab,” a behavioral treatment center for -bad kids-. I wasn’t successful there, due to behavioral problems – including making alcohol under my bed and snorting cold pills. I cycled through another two treatment programs before returning home. I had a vague idea that maybe I’d try to shoot straight and not get high but the first time I had the opportunity I took it. I made some friends who liked electronic music and I’d go to shows with them, but it was only ever fun when I wasn’t worried about my buzz being just right, and it rarely was. I was having a hard time forgetting the uncomfortable feelings that drugs and alcohol used to help me forget. I’d overshoot the mark and black out or pass out. I entered two different colleges and quickly failed out of both because of my drinking and use. I started to surround myself with people who had access to better drugs, pills. I didn’t have much of a vision for my future at this point.
Luckily, I found heroin! It made me feel like I was at home in myself, and finally I had a purpose: get more heroin. I didn’t even think about it, it was just common sense – where am I gonna get the next one? I once told a friend, “heroin’s great, the only thing that sucks about heroin is not having heroin.” I lost my job pretty quickly after starting to use everyday, and resorted to stealing to keep from getting sick. My car was impounded and I stole a TV to get the money to retrieve my car. Surprise! – I spent the money on heroin. I couldn’t drive to the source anymore, so I started living on the streets and doing what I could to get high. I was sick every day. I was stealing a lot. I stole from my family. To get drugs I buried dogs killed during dog fights. I got arrested here and there, visited holding cells and courtrooms. I violated probation. I got beaten for stealing a drug dealer’s phone. I had a gun pointed at me. People around me overdosed and died. I knew I had a problem but I didn’t know what I could possibly do about it, because getting high was the only thing that ever made me feel alright.
It’s weird; my addiction is and will always be a part of me – it’s helped to shape me into the person I am today – and at the same time it feels like a distant dream, or something. Like, I remember all this stuff, but my life today is so divorced from what it used to be like.
I first found recovery during a 2-month stay in county jail. I had some time for the fog to clear and to realize what a chemical had been making me do. I realized that my brain reacts differently to drugs than most other people’s brains do, and that explained a lot. Some people could use drugs occasionally and recreationally but when I did it became an obsession and my life went downhill. I was scared to wake up in another 20 years in the same place. I started working a program of recovery, and when I was released I entered a treatment center and then graduated into a transitional housing program. I stayed there for a year. I started volunteering at a the treatment center I’d been a client at, and paid off a probation working a minimum-wage gig. I made some friends who cared about my well-being. I built my life around recovery and prioritizing recovery before all other things. As a result, I’ve gained so much.
I’ve been clean and sober for over 6 years – since March 2013. I’m doing better than I ever have in pretty much every way. I went through a gender transition in recovery. I have good relationships with pretty much everyone in my life and I respect myself. I re-entered school and for the past couple of years I’ve even been working as a counselor and intake coordinator at the treatment center I used to be a client and volunteer at. These days I try to help people and I feel useful. I also play in a punk rock band and go to a ton of concerts. I started skateboarding again. I’m in a great relationship with a supportive partner. I participate in political organizing groups and I can’t walk through town without seeing several people I know – from recovery, from music, from organizing. I’m surrounded by awesome people and good friends. I actually developed super powers, it’s kinda weak but i can kinda see through walls. So.
All in all, it’s a good life and I owe it to my recovery first and foremost. It started because I needed to get clean in order to live, but it’s a whole lot more than that now. If you’ve been a part of helping me get here, thank you.