Hi there – I ended up writing my story (for the umpteenth time) this last weekend in a letter to a man who’s daughter died of an overdose. So I figured, might as well share it! Can’t let those three hours I spent on it go to waste! Here is my story –
I grew up in Redwood City, CA. I had a rather normal childhood, in a good family, upper middle-class. I was adopted as a baby, an only child until I was almost 12, when my sister (their biological child) was born. My parents always said I was smart enough to be anything I wanted to be-they still say that. Too bad I chose to use all my brains for my heroin addiction for 3 long years.
I had made a lot of mistakes, but I was starting to get on the right track, going to junior college and working, until disaster struck. I moved in with a boyfriend when I was 17. When I turned 18 my birth mother found me. (My birth parents were 14 years old when they had me.) After my mother found me I left the boyfriend and got my own apartment. I dropped out of college and quit my job. I had two more jobs but they each lasted 3 to 4 months before I quit or got fired.
A year after my birth mom found me, in Sept. 1993, I found my heroin addict birth father in San Francisco County Jail. I visited him every visiting day while he was in jail. When he was released in March 1994, I let him move in with me in my then studio apartment. I thought I was going to save him-give him a new chance at life. I was so naive. I had no idea what heroin addiction makes a person capable of.
I had never done drugs except smoke pot, which I had quit. He was a sick person, to say the least. He said he was in love with me as a girlfriend, and that it was OK because he didn’t raise me. Within two weeks of getting out of jail he started to drink alcohol again, which made him violent and abusive. He would beat me if I tried to take away his alcohol, and then demand I drive him to San Francisco to get heroin, or threaten to leave if I didn’t. I was caught up in the insanity, and didn’t want him to leave. He had me convinced I was so stupid that no one else would want me, and that my family didn’t give a damn about me. I thought I had only him. He made sure to remind me of this every day, several times a day.
Three months after he got out of jail, in the end of June 94, he got me pregnant. I lied to my adopted parents about what was going on. I thought I deserved the abuse. When I was 5 months pregnant we moved to a bigger apartment. Neither of us were working, so we were living on my college fund of about 60,000 dollars, that my parents had saved up since they adopted me. At this time he was only using heroin about once every two months, after a big fight. When we were down to the last 19,000 dollars, I grew frightened about where we were going to get money when it ran out. Our rent was $835 a month and I was spending lots of money on shopping sprees. So I made a very bad decision; I tried to buy my own business, I spent the last of the money to buy a beauty salon in a desperate attempt to have some financial security. I had about $1,000 left after I bought the salon.
I had no idea what I was doing, and lost the business after 1 month, because I could not pay the lease. The baby was born in the middle of that month, March of 95. We ended up having to get on welfare, and we moved to a cheaper apartment, and a high school friend of mine moved in with us. The tension started to go up. The roommate was very hard for us to live with, and I had postpartum depression. I got jealous when she tried to talk to my birth father. By this time he was my boyfriend in my eyes. I no longer thought of him as my father, and had not for quite some time. It is hard for me to admit that, to this day.
In June 95 I was attending beauty school, and the baby was three months old when he introduced me to heroin for the first time. We had had a big fight that day, and when he said he wanted to get high I said only if he let me do it with him. The first time was not even that great for me, but I liked how he became more affectionate towards me when he was loaded. After 2 weeks of daily use I was strung out. I began to fall in love with heroin and cocaine. I welcomed the escape. When I was high I didn’t care if he beat me up whenever the baby cried.
All I cared about was dope. At first I didn’t know how to inject myself, and was dependent on him to do it for me. When he started to play games with me when I was sick, making me wait until he felt like doing it, I taught myself how to shoot up. In November 95 I got caught shoplifting for the first time. Then in Jan. 96, I spent my first overnight in jail for a grand theft at Nordstroms. Being sick in jail was so frightening. It did not stop me from stealing at that point, though.
We lost our apartment in March 1996 because we used the rent money for dope. At that point we had drained my bank accounts and pawned anything of value back in August 95. I had tried Methadone 21 day detox 4 times, and my father had tried it 3 times. We were never able to stay away from the dope, so it never worked. So when we were evicted we went to stay in San Francisco hotels, and we got our money for dope by me stealing and selling Levis jeans.
In April I did a night in the San Francisco County Jail for another grand theft. I had tried to walk out of Mervyns wearing 10 pairs of Levis under my baggy pants. Time wore on. In May 96 the car broke down, and I started to really get caught stealing, which led to me going to jail and losing the baby, lucky for my daughter. In June I spent 10 days in the San Mateo County Jail. I was out almost a month.
Ten days of that month my father was in jail himself, after getting jacked up by narcs for talking with a dealer. He had a warrant. In July I got busted again, and spent 2 months in jail. While I was in jail my birth father ended up sleeping on the streets. During my 2 month stay I signed adoption papers for the baby. When my parents went to find him so he could sign the papers, they bribed him and paid for a hotel room for him for a week. After that he was on the streets.
I was out 13 day, then I got busted again. This time I got a year jail time, which was actually 8 and a half months. My father began pushing a shopping cart and recycling aluminum cans, cardboard, plastic and glass bottles so he could support his habit. I found that out after I got out of jail.
He blamed me for losing our child. I know she deserved better than living in hotel rooms and sleeping in a stroller, seeing us do drugs and me getting slapped around all the time. In jail I started to see the wrongness of what my birth father was doing to me. I made friends in jail, who helped me see the truth. He did not write or visit me even once during this time. I tried to escape my birth father by going to live in Mexico when I got out of jail June 1997, with this guy I met through letters while in jail. I stayed almost the entire month of July, then the guy flew me back with $4 to my name. I stayed with a girlfriend I met in jail, and started to go into San Francisco to get heroin.
I overdosed several times, and almost died. It didn’t slow me down. My birth father found me on the street in S.F. in August, right when I got back, and I fell into his clutches again. For about a month I slept outside on the streets with him, occasionally turned a trick, and even helped him push shopping carts. I quickly grew tired of the shopping cart thing, and in late Sept. I decided to become a hooker.
After a big fight I left my birth father, and he went to jail for 2 weeks after getting caught trying to steal alcohol. When he got out I let him stay with me in my hotel room. We slept during the day, and I went to work at night. I made good money. I met a dealer who became my best friend.
I started to spend all my free time shooting dope with him, while my birth father stayed in my hotel room, whining and complaining that I never spent time with him, and that he needed more dope. In the end heroin freed me from him. The heroin simply became more important to me, and I got tired of always supporting his habit, as it meant less dope for me, so I kicked him out of the hotel in Dec. 97, after a fight. He went back to pushing a cart.
My best friend moved in with me, and we became a couple. He enabled me to stop selling my body, and sell dope instead. We had ups and downs, and in the downs I went back to prostitution. Then we realized I was pregnant in March 98, and we knew it was either my birth father’s baby or a trick’s. I was already over 16 weeks pregnant, and by the time I got my act together to try to get an abortion, it was too late. Things got harder as I began to show more and more.
It got to the point of where our habits were too big to make enough money off of dealing. We used too much, so we did not have enough to sell. I could no longer get dates, because I was now 7 months along. The police were doing raids, cracking down on the drug trade. I felt like I was living on borrowed time. Then, my boyfriend’s brother came up from Mexico to try to intervene and save his brother. One day, my boyfriend came back with an eighth of an ounce of heroin, told me to “bag it up” for selling, while he went shopping with his brother. He said he would be back by 6 PM with food for me. (There was no food, and we owed rent from the day before.)
He never came back. I later found out he flew to Mexico with his brother. It SAVED my life. The next morning the manager kicked me out of the room. For 4 hours I tried to turn a trick, with no success. At 8 PM I gave up and went to the train station to beg the conductor to let me ride south to Redwood City. The nice man gave me $2 so I could call my parents. I was so scared. I had a limited amount of heroin, and I knew when it ran out I was going to be very sick, and might lose the baby. I was ready to stop using at that point.
I arrived in Redwood City at 10 PM. I had not seen my parents for over 6 months. I called from a pay phone, and my Dad answered. He said that my Mom and sister were away visiting my grandparents, and that I couldn’t come to the house, and hung up. I had no money to get back to San Francisco, and no way to make money if I did. My Dad had no idea I was pregnant. I grabbed a shopping cart from the nearby Safeway market, and put all my luggage in it.
I slowly made my way to the house, looking for a place to sleep in bushes. I found nothing suitable, and then I was at the house. The lights were all out, so I snuck into the back, behind the garage, and made a nest out of clothes. In the morning Dad found me on his way to work. I told him I was pregnant, had no way to make money, and that I was on drugs, and would get very sick soon. He started to cry and sent me into the house to clean up. He went to work while I waited for my Mom to get back. Of course I lied and said I had no heroin or needles. This was a Weds. when I got there, and on Sat. morning at 11 AM, I shot up for the last time.
My Mom had been making phone calls trying to get help for me. I was so messed up from drugs I stuttered and couldn’t speak what I wanted to say. By Sunday evening I was delirious, and my parents drove me to the general hospital. I was given Valium, and was totally out of it. Later my Mom told me that while I was on Valium, I was wildly looking for something on the table by the bed, and when Mom asked me what I was doing, I told her I was looking for my brain.
I was transferred to Stanford Hospital, where there was a Maternity Ward. They put me on Methadone right away, so I would not lose the baby. A social worker found a Methadone Clinic for me to go to when I was released from the hospital 4 days later. God came through again for me, and a residential drug treatment program called Women’s Recovery Center called us back and said they wanted me to come and interview. They took me in that day.
That night I started having contractions. It was a Thurs. Friday afternoon I went to San Francisco General in full labor. It was 2 and a half months too early for the baby to be born. I had no veins left, so an IV was put in my neck, in my jugular. They were able to hold off the birth until Sunday at 2 am on Father’s Day. I had another girl.
She was in the hospital for 5 weeks. She was 3 lbs. 12 oz. at birth. Both of us tested negative for drugs, but she still had to be detoxed. I wanted to try to keep her, so for 4 months we struggled with 3 other moms and 3 other kids. Amanda was sickly, and had constant colds, and difficulty breathing normally. I took her to the doctor several times, and they didn’t help her at all.
Then she got really sick, and had to return to the hospital because it turned out to be a bacterial infection instead of a virus. She developed 2 hernias in her groin from screaming in the Emergency Room when the doctors and nurses were poking her with needles, and had to have surgery. The police came and questioned me because the paramedics called them and said they thought Amanda was sick due to my negligence. (When I called 911 we were alone in the house, home sick, while staff and the other residents were at classes.)
Luckily I was able to show that I was in a program, under supervision by staff at almost all times, and the program director straightened it all out. But I was left convinced it was my fault Amanda was sick. She was released from the hospital a week later, and time went on. Things were getting harder and harder for us. I had issues about not knowing who Amanda’s father was. I feel now she is in fact my birth father’s. In Nov. the program decided that I needed more help than they could give me. I was deeply depressed, and exhausted from caring for Amanda.
I had no breaks from her needs. I didn’t have the option of dropping her off at a sitter’s, and I didn’t trust the other moms to watch her, as their kids were rough with Amanda. So one day in Nov. 98, Child Protective Services came while we were in classes to take Amanda into Foster Care. They said they had a new program for me that could help with my depression, a transition house that had more freedom. At the time I was devastated. But things improved. I have been there ever since.
My Mom and Dad that raised me- (my REAL parents) went through a lot of the same things I am sure you did. I stole from them, I lied to get money, and I took them for granted even though I loved them. I did so many things I never would have done if I was in my right mind. I am aware of how lucky I am to have escaped heroin with my life, and to get a chance to make it all up to my family. They alone make enough reason for me to never go back to using, even though I know I am supposed to do it for me as well.
My Mom and Dad blamed themselves a long time for my addiction, when they asked me where they failed me, I was horrified! I told them I had a wonderful childhood, and my disease really had nothing to do with them, and everything to do with me. I hope you know that you were not at fault for what happened to Erin, I know she would want you to know that. You made the right decisions about not bailing her out when she went to jail and/or prison.
My parents were put in similar positions whenever I got put in jail for shoplifting. If they had bailed me out, I know I would have gone straight to heroin, and wouldn’t have shown up at court, and they would have lost whatever they put up for the bail. Thank God I didn’t get the chance to do that. Going to jail was the only thing that kept me clean. From June 95 to June 98 the time I was not loaded was the 10 and a half months I spent in jail.
All the things I said I would NEVER do for heroin, I did. I remember my first attempt at 21-day Methadone detox. I tried the detox 4 times with no success.)There was a woman in the waiting room with track marks on her neck, and she asked me if I ever injected into my neck veins. I thought-I’ll stop before it gets that bad. Later on in my addiction I collapsed veins in both sides of my neck. I said I would NEVER sell my body, but Sept. of 97 I started doing just that.
While in my current program, I made the difficult decision to have the family that adopted my first child adopt Amanda as well. I know it was the right choice. I have held the same job at a dog grooming shop for a year, and will graduate this program this year. I am saving my money to get a car. I have found some self esteem and forgiveness of myself. I like myself for the first time since early childhood. Next Fall I plan to go to college to get certification to be a Substance Abuse Counselor.
I want to help other addicts. I attend 12-Step meetings, and spend most weekends with my parents or birth mother. I have learned a sense of responsibility and have learned to take care of myself. I still have hard times, but they are a luxury compared to my problems I faced while on drugs. Just having a nice safe clean bed at night makes me grateful!
I have continued with my Methadone Maintenance treatment, and have been slowly tapering off it towards a totally drug-free life. Methadone makes me feel normal. I don’t feel high from it. It costs me $250 a month, and I can’t wait to be off it. Since I am in a program I only have to go to my clinic once a week to get my week’s supply, instead of having to go everyday.
I want you to know that I really appreciate your web site, and I feel for you. I was feeling very nervous, I had had a hard day at work because my memories of my active addiction were flooding my mind all day. When I got home I typed “heroin” in the search engine, and your site came up. It helped me to feel better when I read Erin’s story, because it reminded me that I am NOT alone. Thank you, and I wish the best for you and your family. Samantha