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In heroin's shadow

Jail brings abrupt end to heroin high

  • 2 min to read

Note: This commentary was originally published on Jan. 11, 2005. 

Lawrence House of Corrections. How did I get here?

As I sit here trying to think of things to say, it's hard because heroin taught me not to feel anything. It would have been easier to deal with this if I were high. Now that I am straight, it's hard to deal with my emotions because I've not dealt with them for so long. It's funny how you can fall in love with a drug that gives you so much misery!

When you're getting high, you keep thinking you can stop, like this is the last time you're going to do this, but you can't. It's always, "Tomorrow I'll quit," but you don't. You put off everything in your life because tomorrow you'll do it. But once you stop, you have such a void in your life. You don't know what to do. And your mind tells you the only way you can cope is with the drug. You can't fill that void with anything else. Everything that you have done, you've done high. You have no way of knowing what is right because you went through all of this when you were high. 

Pushing everyone in your life away is what you can do on this drug, so you can keep doing it. Then, when you're straight, there is no one there for you. You are alone, vulnerable and insecure. Unfortunately, these feelings are the only ones I've had over the past year that I've been straight. I guess I can say they are the best ones I've had because they are the only emotions I've experienced since I've been straight. I will get through this. I have to. 

Counseling, AA meetings and family members will all have to play a part because I know I can't do it alone. I have failed miserably trying. It gets harder every time you try! You begin to lose hope. It's tough being a young addict when you go to meetings and see older people still going through the same lifestyle and treatment 20 and 30 years of their life. I think to myself, "Is this what my life will be like?" Only time will tell. 

It's overwhelming to start from the beginning — getting clean — every time. All you've done and everyone you've hurt. All these thoughts come up. You want to get high so you won't have to think about it. I want to stop. If I don't, misery will return to me tenfold. The best advice I can give about doing heroin is stay away from it. I can tell you from experience that if it's fun the first time, that's the only fun — the first time! Then the chase for that same high is on and on and on. You never find it again. You can never do heroin once. If you do, you're dead because you are already hooked, and the drug doesn't discriminate. You don't have to have a bad childhood or any traumatic event. You don't need to be depressed. All you need to do is try it once and you'll reap the effects quicker than you can imagine. Lying, stealing, anything, to get the drug. 

Lawrence House of Corrections. How did I get here? My very first heroin high. 

Shawn Harnish, 23, is serving a one-year sentence in the Middleton jail for crimes related to his heroin addiction. He is a 1999 graduate of Bishop Fenwick High School in Peabody.

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