Kevin never stops moving when he's telling me how during his ten year career at a Pennsylvania hospital he was secretly addicted to heroin. "He was the best nurse I'd ever had," said Nathan, Kevin's neighbor and a former patient of the hospital who had been in Kevin's rotation after breaking his arm. "I never would have guessed he was using drugs."
"I guess I hid it well," Kevin paces around me and says. When he takes a drag off of his cigarette, it's like he's dosing. An edgy draw. "I don't know what kind of guilt is worse, the guilt of risking everything I have—a wife and three young children—or the guilt of being responsible for other people's lives while secretly shooting up."
Later, but only because I ask him to, Kevin is sitting on the same side of the sunny park bench we share, facing me. His green eyes light up when he begins to talk about today.
"If I'm good, I'll have a year clean tomorrow. A year of healing on many levels. My brain, my body. But I keep coming back to the hard truth about deceptiveness. The double life I led. How easy that was. How no one but me knew and the weight of a secret that felt like a rock tied to my legs in deep waters."—C.D.
You gotta love that town. "I was one of those heroin addicts who could convince you she'd be clean forever. Old timers, newcomers, stepmonsters, and sponsors were all sorta struck by this tiny little bit of "it" vibe I had. Then, I'd use. Reason I was able to get everyone so excited? I really did talk a good game. I knew all of the literature, all the lingo, all of the right moments to pause, clap, sigh, then look your ass right in the eye. And when I'd relapse, I'd just disapear to a new part of town and their meetings. I love New York. I was the forever, bushy-tailed newcomer. Now I'm walking, not just talking."—Lisa W., New York, NY
No Loyalty. In a poll of 7,197 HeroinLife readers, 72% said they had at one time used other drugs like weed, alcohol, cocaine and meth after getting clean from Heroin. "I knew if I started down the opiates path, I'd be off to the races with H again so I chose another, ultimately as damaging, direction," Stephan G., of Newark, NJ, told us.
"It was the lamest gamble I'd ever taken. After I got clean from H, I ramped up on coke. That's when I realized my addictive personality had no loyalty to H," Jesus G., from Miami, FL said. "I became wickedly hooked on coke (it's pretty much everywhere down here). Lost all of my money—and my dignity. And worse than anything, I slid back to H because I hated the hyper high. When I finally detoxed and made it to rehab my body had been to hell, hell, then hell again, and just barely back."
James from Little Rock, AR, told us, "Anything I touch I get addicted to: Coca-Cola, strip clubs, the internet. But when it's mood altering, I get hooked harder and faster. I become obsessed, as in it's all I think about. It gives me butterflies, everything, in anticipation of it. That's why, in H recovery, I had to cut my losses and stop 'dabbling' in weed and booze and coke."—N.B.
You've been clean for ages, but nothing makes you happier than your morning pint of Guinness. Now what?
Q: "I've gone way beyond the suggested regimen of staying clean. But after twenty years of being off smack, I laugh: seven beers in at any hour and I still wouldn't pick up a rig to shoot up. Sure, I avoid the opiates, but an ice cold beer in the morning? Sorry."—Will B., Tampa, FL
A: "Some can and some can't," Jimmy R., of Portland, OR, told us. "In my 32 years of being heroin-free, I've seen guys come in and quickly get drowned out by booze before picking up smack again. I've also seen guys who stayed clean one beer at a time. The high from booze and the high from heroin are very different on many levels. The use itself is different. What isn't different is the addiction. And from what I've seen in over three decades is that once the addiction is awakened, it awakens all of your other addictions, making men and women who are resolute in their heroin-free life at risk of going back out. Sure I could have a beer or two, but because I'm an addict, I run the risk of fucking up my clean time when the 'fuck it,' sloppy, over spending, immoral, and overall dirtbag life seeps back in."
Terrance L., from Paramus, NJ, said, "I've been clean for years, and I don't think I could have done it without a few cold beers when I needed them."
Key Tip: Some can, some can't. Proceed with great caution.—C.D.