The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Hooked on Heroin
I loved being high, but I couldn’t control it

Talia poured out the contents of the bag onto a hand-held mirror, divided the caramel-colored powder into two neat lines, and used a straw to snort one. Then she handed me the mirror.

I didn’t know what the powder was, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try it. I’d snorted coke before and been fine. I ignored the fact that she wasn’t telling me what it was and snorted. It burned the inside of my nose enough to make me tear, and it was bitter in my throat.

I couldn’t feel anything at first. Then all the muscles in my body relaxed. It was an effort to lift my arm or cross my legs. I felt a warm flush in my face and everything seemed kind of hazy. When I moved my head quickly, my vision blurred.

I was happy for what seemed like the first time in years. If the apocalypse happened at that very moment, I’d have enjoyed the music on Talia’s stereo anyway. I’d never felt anything like this from a drug or on my own. I lay down on her shag rug, and embraced being high on heroin for the first time. I was 15.

I’d been depressed ever since a fire damaged my family’s Brooklyn apartment when I was in 8th grade. My parents, my brother, and I were homeless for four months, living at my uncle’s house, a hotel, and a homeless shelter in Harlem.

My blissful innocence was reduced to ash in the fire, along with everything we owned. Feeling hopeless and depressed, I figured that there was no reason to go to school, since everything I worked for could be gone in a second. I started looking for any outlet that would make me forget what had happened.

Toward the end of 8th grade, I found it at a friend’s party. We were standing in a circle on Sandy’s deck and everyone was excited because someone had brought weed. I watched some kid take a drag on the joint, inhale deeply, and hold his breath.

I’d never tried drugs before, and I kept thinking that I’d become instantly addicted or brain dead, like the cheesy anti-drug commercials claimed. When I was handed the joint, I swallowed all fear, took a drag and inhaled.

I felt oddly proud of myself for disregarding my parents, teachers, and every other authority that had tried to discourage me from using drugs. I started smoking weed every week. I also started smoking cigarettes and drinking every weekend with friends.

When I started freshman year at Fashion Industries HS, I met a bunch of people who used drugs, and we ended up cutting classes and putting our lunch money together to buy drugs and alcohol.

I loved that being high or drunk made me forget the fire and everything else that worried me. When I was trashed, I didn’t feel shy or alone. I didn’t feel like the whole world was against me. I didn’t feel a thing.

After Talia introduced me to heroin, we’d meet up at the school bathroom a few times a month to use. Soon I needed more and more heroin to feel as good as I did in the beginning. Instead of just using heroin whenever Talia had it, I started looking for it and using it more often. Every other week turned into every other day, which turned into every day.

After about six months of using, I needed to snort three bags of heroin a day to feel normal. When I didn’t have any, I would get so depressed and sick that I thought I was dying.

All I cared about was heroin—where I could get it, how much, and when I could do it. I had stopped going to class, and I only spoke to my parents to say good morning and ask for money for lunch (which went to drugs).

After I’d been using for seven months, I started dating my boyfriend. I told him I’d done drugs but I didn’t tell him I’d get loaded before we’d meet up to go to the movies or walk through the park. I was afraid if he knew, he’d try to make me stop.

After 11 months, my mom got worried about me isolating myself and acting differently. She sent me to a therapist, Debbie, who said that everything I told her would be confidential. I felt the need to tell someone about my addiction, so I ended up telling Debbie.

“How often do you use?” she asked.

“Well, I started out doing a little, now I do more.”

“How much more are we talking about?”

“Well, like three little baggies a day.”

“Maya, I’m sorry, but when you’re potentially hurting yourself, I have to tell your parents,” she said.

All I could think was they were going to try to get me to stop, and I didn’t want to stop. Debbie gave me a five-day deadline, so I reluctantly agreed to have a meeting with her and my mother on my 16th birthday.

I made sure to get really high before my mom and I left the house, since I’d probably be watched 24/7 afterwards. I felt great. Even if I had been heading to the electric chair, it would have been a pleasant experience.

“Mrs. Martinez, you do know why I called this meeting?” Debbie asked.

“I was hoping you’d tell me,” my mom said.

“Maya, maybe you can fill your mother in?”

I wanted to punch Debbie in the face. I was never good at being subtle so I just blurted it out. “Mom, I’ve been doing heroin for a year,” I said.

My mom sat there in her swivel office chair and started to cry. I usually felt horrible when I made her cry, but with the drugs I only felt bliss.

“I looked up inpatient rehab services for you, Mrs. Martinez, where Maya can go,” Debbie said.

image by Terrence Taylor

That was the end of my freedom. When we got home, my parents had me on complete lockdown until I left a few days later for Arms Acres Rehab Facility in upstate New York.

By the morning I had to leave, I was out of the last bit of heroin I’d kept hidden under my bed. When I started to feel sick, I desperately searched the house and found my mother’s Codeine painkillers. I swallowed four pills, then crushed and snorted two. I felt better, but it wasn’t as good as heroin.

The pills got me through the trip upstate, the tears and kisses goodbye and the first day and night. I felt the withdrawal for the first time the next morning. My entire body hurt, every bone ached, I was nauseous, and I went from freezing cold to burning hot. My nose started running, and all I wanted was something to make the pain stop.

My first days in rehab were horrible. I’d refuse to wake up on time or talk when they went around the circle asking for everyone’s name, age, and drug of choice. At night, I’d try to rock myself to sleep, crying from the pain of withdrawal and homesickness.

After four days, I saw that I wasn’t going to get out of there unless I cooperated. I realized that using didn’t rid my mind of depression, anger, and emotional pain—it had only suppressed those feelings.

After I was clean for about a week, all my emotions came out of me randomly, for the wrong reasons and at the wrong time. I’d get angry when my mother called to say she loved me, I’d feel sorry when my boyfriend called to say he loved me, and I’d laugh when someone was pouring out her soul about hitting “rock bottom.”

I started to realize how broken I was. I had no confidence in myself, and I had no idea who I was anymore. I finally realized that I was a heroin addict.

After two weeks, the staff gave me an evaluation and decided I was ready to be discharged. I had to go to an outpatient program three or four times a week. And my parents and I decided I should go to a different high school, since there was no way I could stay clean at Fashion Industries, my old school. I hadn’t been to school for months, and I was scared to go back.

When I started at South Brooklyn Community HS, I had no friends. But I started bringing home grades above a C and started to gain a tiny bit more confidence in myself and my abilities. Gradually, I started to make new friends and speak up in class.

In February, my art teacher took our class to a museum in Manhattan. When the trip was over, he dismissed us a block away from Fashion Industries, right before school let out.

After being clean for 11 months, I thought I was strong enough to visit my friends, as long as I didn’t see Talia. But then I heard her yelling out my name.

I was happy to see her, but I wanted to run away from her at the same time. She looked a little skinnier than I remembered, and her cheeks were sunken in. I told her that my 17th birthday was the next day, and she said she had a special surprise for me.

I could have told her no, because I was trying to stay clean. Instead, I followed her into the train to Brooklyn, telling her “I can’t, I can’t.”

I followed her to a car where she handed some shady-looking guy money and took a small bundle from him. We went to a nearby McDonald’s bathroom, where she set up the lines on a small mirror and rolled up a dollar bill.

“Maya, it’s your birthday tomorrow, and you should live a little,” she said. “You can go back to your boring little clean life tomorrow.”

As horrible as it sounds, I agreed with her. Life was pretty boring just going to school, doing homework, and being in bed by 11 p.m. I pushed the arguments about why I shouldn’t do it out of my head and took the mirror and the dollar bill.

The heroin made me feel a million times better than I had in months. I’d missed being high, and I was in love with feeling lighter and free of stress and worry. I never wanted it to end. We hung out for a while, both high as kites, talking about whatever random thoughts popped into our heads.

The next morning, I cried for half an hour in bed under my blanket. I remembered that my boyfriend was going to take me out for my birthday that day. He’d been there for me throughout my whole ordeal, and I felt like I had betrayed his trust, along with everyone else’s.

When we met, he kept asking me what was wrong. He noticed that I couldn’t look him in the eye. Finally, I blurted out that I had relapsed. He sat quietly and kept his head down, and I started crying again. I told him I wasn’t going to do it again.

But two months later, I convinced him to do heroin with me. I thought I needed to do it just one more time, and I wanted us to do it together. I felt like that would make it OK. I wouldn’t have to hide anything from him.

We got high in a library bathroom. Afterwards we took a walk and talked for hours. We joked, we kept telling each other how much we loved each other, and we made out in front of a bunch of people.

We both thought it was a great experience, but the next day we talked and agreed not to do it again. We knew we couldn’t live that way if we were going to have some kind of future.

Still, a few weeks later I tried to convince him to get high with me again. But this time he refused. He didn’t want me to do it alone, either, so I didn’t. I didn’t want to make him angry.

After a couple of months the urge to get high faded, and I became more myself again. I started to see how much of my life I’d been wasting by using. Heroin clouded reality, and it kept me from experiencing things like most people do. I realized that the way I’d acted while on drugs still bothered me. I decided to write about my addiction for an English paper, figuring that I’d purge it from my mind.

When my teacher read it, she told me I was a great writer and that I should try to write a book about my life. I’d always kept journals, but for the first time I could see myself becoming a writer.

I realized I couldn’t do heroin without ruining everything else in my life. I knew that I had no control over it. I’ll always love the way it made me feel, but the price is too much for a temporary high. I could lose my boyfriend and the trust I’ve gained with everyone in my life, and screw up my progress at school and with myself.

It’s been three years now since I left rehab, and about two years since I relapsed. I don’t do any kind of drug anymore, although I still drink occasionally. I’m due to graduate this coming June, and I’ve never been more confident and outspoken than I am today.

Heroin tore me to pieces, but sometimes I’ll still think about using when I’m stressed or mad. I’m pretty sure if I came in contact with Talia or the other people from my past, they could convince me to do it again. I figure it’s best to avoid the temptation by staying away from them.

I don’t regret what I went through, but I can’t allow myself to screw up my life again. I’ve gotten too far to mess it up just to get high one more time.

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