The scariest thing about heroin? 'You're gonna love it' | KUOW News and Information

The scariest thing about heroin? 'You're gonna love it'

Oct 19, 2016

When she was 10 years old, Alyssa found the spot where her parents hid the alcohol. The moment it touched her lips, she was addicted to that escape. (Her last name is being withheld to protect her privacy).

In middle school in Covington, Washington, smoking weed took away her social anxiety and allowed her to be the person she'd always wanted to be. It escalated from weed to other popular drugs such as molly, ecstasy and meth.

But nothing could give her the escape she craved. So she turned to heroin when she was 14.

"They tell you all the scary stuff," said Alyssa of the drug that hooked her, "but the scariest thing they don't tell you is that you are gonna love it. You're gonna love it so much, and it will trick you because you just think, 'Oh this is nice, it's not that big of a deal.'"

Heroin is one of the most potent and addictive substances that exist. In 2014 alone, heroin caused almost half the drug-related deaths in the United States. In a big city like Seattle, heroin is everywhere. But heroin in a smaller suburban town like Covington may come as more of a shock to people.

Heroin, like the weed in middle school, made Alyssa more comfortable. She could finally talk to people, something she'd been struggling with for awhile. She was happier, more well liked, both by herself and others.

"I thought it was a blessing," she said, "because I could focus in school."

Alyssa kept going back for more, doing anything she could to pay for that escape. At first she used her own money for heroin. Her reasoning was that it was hers to do what she wished. Then she started selling her parents' things, stealing and even begging on the streets.

My own family didn't even know who I was anymore. I didn't even know who I was anymore.

"I did some pretty bad things," recalled Alyssa . "Things I would have never imagined myself doing, but it just escalates and escalates. That desperation, and the way that the drugs make you feel ... it doesn't even matter at that moment what you do, you just have to get money any how, any way, to get your dope.

"My own family didn't even know who I was anymore. I didn't even know who I was anymore."

One day her mom discovered some dirty needles and confronted her. At first Alyssa was tempted to lie, but decided to finally come clean. It was the first time she'd ever been honest about her addiction.

"We cried together, we talked about what we were going to do, we discussed treatment," she said. "And that's the first time we really came together and tried to come up with a plan."

As much as it frightened her mother, it has had the biggest impact on her dad. Alyssa didn't realize how much her addiction was affecting him until they all met with a counselor while she was in treatment.

"He was pretty devastated," she said. "He had been an alcoholic pretty much my whole life, so there was a lot of guilt there. He thought that maybe it was his fault, me watching him could've led to me using."

Alyssa's journey to sobriety began with a 134-mile drive to a treatment center in Yakima.

"I had no intentions of staying here," she said. "But as time went on, I realized that I really did want to stay sober this time."

But her journey was long from over. She said she got cocky, and thought that she had it on her own. Alyssa made it to about nine months of sobriety.

"I had a job, I had a house to live in, I had real friends," she said. "I had built my life up, and I had a lot to lose."

And then she relapsed.

That's just the way addiction works. You fool yourself into thinking that something will never ever happen again, or it won't be me or I won't do this.

"That's just the way addiction works," Alyssa said. "You fool yourself into thinking that something will never ever happen again, or it won't be me or I won't do this. And that's just justifying your use, and you'll be exactly back where you were."

She decided to try again.

Today, Alyssa is 20 years old and has been clean almost a year. She's still in Yakima, working as a daycare teacher and living every day to the fullest.

"I don't feel this constant pressure to have to go out and do something or be somebody that I'm not," she said. "I can just focus on being me."

This story was created in RadioActive's Summer 2016 Intro to Journalism Workshop for high school students at KUOW. Production support from Angela Nguyen. The editor is Jim Gates. Listen to RadioActive stories, subscribe to the RadioActive podcast and stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.