Why I Relapsed On Heroin

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It seemed like everything was crumbling around me. I was losing control of myself and there was nothing I could do to keep myself from spiraling. I felt like I was losing my mind. I had been beaten down to my breaking point. I couldn’t recognize the girl in the mirror anymore. I know who I had created in sobriety and I was proud of that person. As the pieces of my identity fell away the only thing familiar was the insanity so I dove into it and let it take control. Days turned into weeks, I couldn’t remember anything but the distortion of time and remnants of conversations I couldn’t entirely recall.

I insert the needle, pull back on the syringe, check that I registered, take a deep breath and plunge into a golden heaven.

I don’t know how I got here again but it’s two days after having five years clean from intravenous drugs and I have a syringe loaded with heroin in my hand. I don’t question it too much, I’m driven by compulsion and instinct at this point. I haven’t forgotten how to inject myself and it comes naturally to me like inhaling a breath of fresh air. I insert the needle, pull back on the syringe, check that I registered, take a deep breath and plunge into a golden heaven. I’m lost for hours, unaware and disconnected from the world. It’s what I imagine death must feel like. You’re checked out, you’re not here, and you’re not aware of any of it. 

But here I am, shooting up the same drug that had killed my friend a few months before.

Nothing about doing this feels fun. I wake up from a drugged sleep to cook up my next shot. I struggle to register so I prick myself all over. I miss the shot so my skin begins to swell where I injected the drugs. I can’t use that vein anymore, it seems to have collapsed. This doesn’t deter me although it should, I just turn my focus to another blue-green vein. I don’t want to do this but I also can’t bear the thought of living anymore. I never thought I would end up back here again. I thought I had grown past this. But here I am, shooting up the same drug that had killed my friend a few months before.

I had never experienced loss in sobriety. I didn’t know how to cope.

I had never experienced loss in sobriety. I didn’t know how to cope. I was 25 years old and four years sober when he died. It was totally unexpected, I didn’t know how to process the grief. The memories of us together were still fresh in my mind. I had taken care of him after his surgery. I would go over to his apartment and clean every inch of it to his liking, making sure not to leave a spot covered in dust. He was very particular and I made sure I did things the way he wanted them done. When I lost him I was forced to face my own mortality because like me, he had gone years without relapsing. We had both built lives that didn’t include procuring or using drugs. I couldn’t imagine ever injecting myself with heroin again but his death was the beginning of my spiral into relapsing into my anorexia and addiction.

You would think his death would deter me, but I didn’t know how to let myself feel the pain and months later, I’m still here, filled with anger…

I’m angry about the circumstances of his death, I’m angry that I can’t figure out how to heal, and I’m angry that he’s gone. I’m filled to the brim with hate and anger. I can’t help but feel like he should still be here with me. He had overdosed and died in his bathtub. I imagine what his corpse looked like, swollen with water and stiff with rigor mortis. He didn’t deserve to die like that. I hope he knew I loved him.

I remember the layout of his apartment vividly. I cleaned every inch of it. We used to sit in his bathroom, smoke cigarettes and chat. He absolutely adored me. He would call me a “brat” because of my attitude, I always was a smart ass. Even when he wanted to be angry at me, I could tell that he didn’t want to be. He let me do whatever I wanted. We would drive to the casino and gamble. Afterwards, he would take me to the gift shop and I would buy whatever caught my eye. Sometimes he would buy me presents like clothes and shoes. I still use a Coach wallet I had gotten on one of our trips to the casino. I carry it with me everywhere I go.

I never loved him how he loved me.

I never loved him how he loved me. But he held a part of my heart. When he died, he took a piece of it with him. I was left with a profound sense of emptiness and unending loneliness. I didn’t know how to fill the void so when cocaine entered my life, I started to fill the space he left with that. By the time my five years off intravenous drugs came, I was out of my mind. I still don’t quite understand how I ended up injecting the very drug that took my friend from me, but there I was with a belt tied around my arm. I let my fingers gently palpate the veins in my arms, trying to find the right place to inject the deadly concoction directly into my bloodstream. 

At that point, I didn’t care if I lived or died. I couldn’t see the point in being alive when I couldn’t escape myself or that pervasive sense of loneliness. I was surrounded by people who loved me but I couldn’t feel it. All I could feel was how alone I felt in my soul. I was haunted by memories of happier days when his blue eyes and pink face would be laughing at something silly I had said. I remember him asking me to lay beside him and rest my head on his chest, and I would reluctantly oblige. He would rub my belly and talk about the baby he imagined we would have. It was never a sexual relationship because I would blow him off and laugh, I simply didn’t see him like that. I still remember the day he told me that we would name the baby after him and what plans he had in place to take care of us both. I could tell that he had put a lot of thought into trying to convince me to marry him. I just thought he was out of his mind.

He would be crushed if he knew what happened to me in the months following his death.

Before he died he left me a voicemail that I like to play and cry to, I never want to forget the sound of his voice. I imagine how he would feel if he knew I had relapsed. He would be crushed if he knew what happened to me in the months following his death. He knew my name but he called me “Valerie” anyways. He wouldn’t have wanted me to do this to myself. When it rains I imagine those are his tears pouring down from the heavens. It’s been over a month since I used heroin but the veins on my arms are still dark and covered in track marks. I wonder what he would say to me. 

I’m still figuring out how to grieve his death.

I’m still figuring out how to grieve his death. My therapist says I’ll heal by talking about him. When I tell her stories about him, she says he sounds like a hoot. He definitely was. He kept me on my toes. Even when I was irritable and moody, he didn’t want anyone around as much as he wanted me there. Our friends knew he was in love with me and they knew I was the best friend he could have ever asked for.

I feel better knowing that he died with the knowledge of my love towards him. I don’t wonder if he knew that I loved him because we loved one another deeply. He might have left this life but my love for him is everlasting. It’s bigger than me, time could never erode it. I haven’t finished grieving him and I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. But my soul rests easy knowing that I did everything I could for him. I inspired his sobriety and now he’s inspired mine. I’m going to live a full life, I won’t let him be forgotten with time. His memory lives on with me, forever. 

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Valeria Castaneda

Valeria Castaneda

Valeria Castaneda is a 26 year old San Jose native that loves to write, learn about neuroscience, and play with her puppy. If you’re interested in her daily happenings you can follow her on Instagram.

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