I am a phony. My normalcy is a charade.
Heroin is the worst thing that's ever happened to me. Heroin is holding the person I used to be hostage. I used to laugh more. I used to be more light-hearted and whimsical. I used to smile in more than just pictures.
I try to remember the moment my world began to revolve around it. It is mentioned in nearly every conversation I have, even when it's not said outright, but in knowing glances, exasperated sighs or pity stares.
Most of my hobbies have fallen to the wayside ever since heroin entered my life. I used to write about more than this. I used to read about more than this.
I am a phony. My normalcy is a charade. Heroin forces me to keep secrets from the people who matter most in my life. I can't tell my family how much pain I'm in because I can imagine the pain they are feeling too, and I don't want to add to it.
Like all families whose path it crosses, heroin has ruined some of the best parts of mine. We have fought with one another out of desperation, out of anger. We have said things we cannot take back.
Heroin has taken sleep away from me. The days of a peaceful night's slumber are far behind me. Heroin haunts me even when my eyes are closed. I go to sleep thinking about it; I wake up thinking about it.
My daily routine:
- I wake up and think about heroin.
- I go to work and think about heroin.
- I talk on the phone and bring up heroin.
When it's really bad, I spend some days sick to my stomach, with very little strength and lacking the motivation to even get out of bed.
Heroin has aged me. I look in the mirror, and I know I look tired, gaunt and disheveled.
Heroin took my peace of mind and replaced it with a constant state of worry. I lost my innocence a long time ago — I admit, I miss the blissful ignorance that came with knowing nothing about this drug.
The deeper I fall into this world, the more scared I become. I know this drug kills people, but I can't stop its pull. It's out of my hands.
Heroin has taken so much from me over the years. Time I can never get back. People I will never see again. Memories I never had a chance to make. And the craziest part of all of this? I never touched the stuff myself.
I have never used heroin, but I love someone who did. Addiction has such a large ripple effect, the collateral damage is immense, and what is hit the most and the hardest by heroin's shrapnel is the family, the loved ones.
Cook lost her cousin Jessica (right) to a heroin overdose in 2006.
Addiction is a "family disease." This nightmare became my reality. I never asked for this, and that's what gets me so angry at times. I woke up, and my entire life changed. It may never be the same. The thing is, even though I am not an addict, I am suffering just as much, though in a different way because the family witnesses helplessly how one lapse in judgment, one wrong decision, one chemical dependency, can ruin everything.
Yes, heroin has taken so much from me — but it hasn't taken away my voice. It will not take away my voice. It is my hope to use my words to raise awareness about drug addiction and its direct effect on not only the addict, but the addict's family.
I started sharing my experiences — not to find answers, but to find momentary peace of mind. It was scary at first, but I am of the belief that one person's story may change someone else's and give a struggling individual or family member the strength to persevere through hard times.
I believe it was Bob Marley who said, "You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice." And you never know who needs to hear exactly what you are saying.
So families, stay strong. Never give up hope.
Alicia Cook is from New Jersey. She is a contributing writer for us, the Huffington Post, and Gannett Publishing. Her series, "The Other Side of Addiction" has gained a worldwide readership. Her work has been seen on CNN and USA Today. Her book, Stuff I've Been Feeling Lately, was a #1 Hot New Release in Poetry by Women and she is donating all proceeds to families where addiction is present. Follow her on Instagram: @thealiciacook
The PBS documentary, Here's the Story, will air and episode centered around Alicia's efforts to combat the heroin epidemic through her writing. The documentary follows her advocacy and is told through the lens of the families directly affected by addiction who are now trying to make a difference. The episode airs in the fall.
This article was originally published at Huffington Post. Reprinted with permission from the author.