Hello, young person.
My name is Heroin.
It is so good to meet you for the first time. And I just know we are going to be the best of friends.
Go ahead — try me. Don’t pay any attention to what your parents and society have been telling you your whole life about me.
I promise you will LOVE me!
I am going to make you feel better, by far, than you’ve ever felt or could imagine feeling. I will take you by the hand and take you to places of warmth and happiness and joy the likes of which you’ve never dreamed.
I guarantee you, we will become inseparable!
Because while I have you by the hand, I will also grab you by the throat in a vice-like grip that will make it hard for you to breathe. Everything in your life that used to be so important will pale in comparison to the relationship you and I will have.
I will own you. You will become my slave and you will do whatever it takes to keep me around.
You will lose job after job. But I’m expensive so you will steal from your friends and family. You will find creative ways to pay for me because what used to be enough of me will soon not be nearly enough.
Unless you’re incredibly lucky you’ll likely be arrested and spend time in jail because of me. But I’m worth it. I must be because you’ll return to me at the first possible moment you’re able.
Because now you’re weak and I’m incredibly strong.
Don’t have kids because you’ll ignore them. And neglect them. And eventually lose them.
Because I’m more important than even them.
Rehab? Forget about it.
Oh, you’ll try. Several times. But only a precious few are able to cut ties with me permanently.
You’ll discover that you hate me.
But you’ll hate yourself more.
There’s really only one way that I’ll release my hold on you.
When years of addiction finally take their toll. When life with me is no longer worth living. When either disease or desperation reach that final, inevitable conclusion.
When my never-ending grip on your throat finally chokes the very life out of you, metaphorically and then physically. When your heart stops, I’ll stop.
And then you’ll be gone.
But I’ll still be around. Looking. Always looking.
For that next victim.
Ah, there’s one.
Hello, young person.
My name is Heroin.
Heroin. The Big H. Hell Dust. Smack. Junk. Thunder.
These are a few of the monikers you’ll hear on the streets, used by those familiar with heroin. I prefer to think of it as a monster. One that keeps its victims in a perpetual nightmare. One that wraps its tentacles not only around the victim, but also around the victim’s family as well.
I’ve never actually seen the drug, but I was around in the ’60s when it made its first real impact on a generation that wanted to turn on and tune out, to make love, not war. As a child, I clearly remember hearing about heroin, the message being that it was dangerous and ultimately deadly. Apparently my generation listened because we were largely spared from the devastation of a heroin addiction.
Today’s younger generation, however, for one reason or another, is feeding the monster once again, and in numbers that are both staggering and frightening.
“Eighteen- to 25-year-olds seem to be the target,” said Detective Mike Christian, a 14-year veteran with the Bartlett Police Department, the past nine in Investigative Services, Narcotics Unit. “We are in a heroin epidemic of this generation.”
An epidemic that, according to Rebecca Kennedy, a peer specialist at Lakeside Behavioral Health, ends with far too many paying the ultimate price.
“It’s been bad,” she said. “I leave work on a Thursday, someone’s dead by Monday. This past weekend it was three.”
As I said, frightening. Or at least I hope it is.
I’ve seen firsthand the devastation of a heroin addiction. I’ve witnessed the deterioration of body, mind and spirit. I’ve watched an addicted father walk away from his children and live as if they don’t exist. I’ve watched their mother, my only daughter, desperately try to hang onto them, going through rehab after rehab, only to relapse again and again.
The problem is, two toddlers are just too difficult to care for, and provide for, when heroin dominates your life.
And since she can’t, I do.
Over the next three or four weeks I will write about this epidemic. My goal is prevention. The only sure way to beat a heroin addiction is to never take that first hit. Because once you’ve crossed that line, there’s no going Even if it’s not a death sentence, it is a life sentence.
I absolutely hate this drug.
I want you and your kids to hate it as well.
RICK JACOBS is an author, columnist, process server and family man who lives in Bartlett with his wife and grandchildren. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.