Straight Talk Advice

Jul 29, 2009

Former heroin addict shares life, death

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: I am writing to “Desperate in Salinas” (JUL 15), the girl who was hiding her heroin-addicted boyfriend in her parent’s basement. I, too, was deeply in love with a beautiful soul addicted to heroin, and I guarantee if you don’t get help, he will take you into a pit of hell with him, you’ll have a needle in your arm, too.

Zach was finally going to quit. We started planning a life together. I was saving money to join him in Utah, when my grandmother, a daily support-figure in my life, died suddenly of stroke. It mentally unraveled me and I left spontaneously to see Zach. He warned me he was shooting again and strung out. I didn’t care. As soon as that needle hit my vein I was wrapped in indescribable comfort. Not only was I not sad anymore, I felt better than I’d ever dreamed possible. It was my first shot.

Days later, I was spare-changing to support my habit, basically lying through my teeth for drugs. It was the lowest I’ve ever sunk and I didn’t even care. The worst was when I took advantage of the Iraq war saying I needed to get home because my brother was shipping out. I was so good at lying, Zach always sent me out to make the money. I never sold my body though, like many addicts, and for that I’m grateful.

Within two weeks I became sick if I didn’t shoot up. I decided to quit. That night was like having the worst flu imaginable. My skin had nonstop “creepy crawls” and I took showers till sunrise, then hit the street telling whatever lies I needed for another $10 shot.

Another two weeks. A needle broke off in Zach’s arm. At emergency, the doctor sliced his arm open right in front of us, his full pointer finger digging inside for that needle. Later, I was so hungry (having eaten only dumpster-dived pizza the day prior), all I could think was, “Can’t that dealer hurry, I need my shot so I won’t be hungry.” Then came a flash of clarity: “What am I doing? Choosing drugs over food?” I returned to California for help getting clean and told Zach to get off heroin if he wanted me.

A year later, homeless on the streets of New York, Zach overdosed and died unconscious in a hospital. I flew there before they took him off life-support. I’ve replayed our relationship endlessly, all the “could’as and should’as”, but with addicts you have to listen to your head not your heart because addicts will choose their drug over you and all the love in the world. All you can do is help yourself. It only takes one shot of heroin to kill you. If this letter helps you, Zach’s death was not in vain. — Rose Apodaca, 21, Auburn, CA

DEAR READERS: Rose is part of the Straight Talk youth panel and I’m honored to share her letter. Heroin is known for attracting beautiful, sensitive souls — who in turn attract people who enable them.

Rehab clinics are facing an unprecedented epidemic of heroin addiction due to the current chic of snorting heroin and smoking heroin “tar” in the end of cigarettes — this combined with the brain’s “learned” predisposition for opiates from using Vicodin, OxyContin, Codeine, Percoset, etc., and hell is one needle away.

Heroin users need immediate professional intervention and care. To family and friends: tough love is essential. Your local hospital can steer you to resources.

Warning signs of heroin addiction:
• Reduced performance in school, sports, hobbies
• Reduced personal hygiene
• Loss of motivation
• Reckless behavior
• Hostility
• Withdrawal from family, friends
• Runny nose, constant sniffles
• Needle marks
• Slurred speech
• Paraphenalia

Editor’s Web Note: Today’s column is dedicated to the memory of Zachary Clark Mathews. May his life serve as a reminder NEVER to use heroin. —Lauren

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