Heroin Addict or Heroin Dealer?
I just read the story of Matthew, a twenty-four year old heroin addict from Texas. Matthew, like many of today’s addicts, was brought up in a solid middle-class household. He’s from a suburb of Dallas and went to a good high school.
Matthew has also been in prison for three years for the sale and distribution of heroin. As of writing this, he’s probably a free man. The article I read was written in mid 2014, just as he was about to be released.
Matthew, I hope you’re free from actual prison and the self-imposed prison of addiction!
Matthew’s story resonated with me because his story could have easily been mine. To hear him tell it, he only sold heroin to support his own habit. How many of us addicts and alcoholics have been in a similar situation? I know I sure have!
While I never sold heroin, I did engage in illegal activities to support my addiction. I’m not proud of that fact, but it’s the simple truth. I’m pretty certain I’m not alone in my actions either. In a society that marginalizes addiction, what other option do addicts have?
While reading it, Matthew’s story raised a number of questions. Should addicts be treated the same as high profile drug dealers? Should addicts be sent to jail instead of the treatment we so desperately need?
Find Matthew’s story below. I hope it touches you all as much as it touched me!
A Quick Downward Spiral
Matthew was introduced to heroin in high school. This was the mid-2000’s and a drug called “cheese” was all the rage. Cheese, for those who may not remember, was a popular form of black tar heroin mixed with Tylenol PM.
After becoming addicted, Matthew started selling small amounts of cheese to support his habit. He’s quoted as saying, “I started selling twenties, thirties, whatever. Mainly to friends and people at my high school. Just some small-time dealing” (Huffington Post).
I can relate to that! Again, I never sold heroin, but I certainly wasn’t a saint during my addiction. I lied, stole, and sold whatever I could get my hands on, narcotic or otherwise.
As his addiction grew, Matthew began to inject heroin. He’s quoted as saying, “I went from snorting to shooting in like six months. I never thought I’d be using a needle. People started off looking for powder and before you know it, you’re going to upgrade” (Huffington Post).
Again, I can relate. I started out swallowing pills. Before long, I moved to sniffing them. Not long after, I was introduced to heroin and fell prey to the needle, as so many addicts do.
Matthew was selling cheese to maintain his personal habit. He soon sold to the wrong buyer, though. The Huffington Post reports,
“It ended when he made some sales to an undercover agent who infiltrated his circle of friends. The DEA was targeting dealers selling to high school students…He’d been using and selling for little more than two years.”
I was addicted to heroin for two years too. From seventeen to nineteen, my life was a train wreck of dishonesty, broken promises, petty crime, and disappointment. Thankfully, I didn’t end up in prison like Matthew, though it was a very real possibility.
Treatment Not Jail
At nineteen years old, I went to an inpatient treatment center. It was my second in as many years. I was spared the punishment Matthew received. I was afforded a real chance at the so-called rehabilitation that prisons claims to offer.
Imagine if all those who need treatment received it! Imagine if instead of prison, addicts were offered substance abuse treatment! What a difference that would make!
Sadly, that’s not the world we live in. It is, however, a worthy goal to work towards. Organizations like Faces & Voices of Recovery are advocating for addiction laws to be changed nationwide.
And that’s just one advocacy group! There are thousands more like them across the world, all with one common goal – to break the misunderstanding and stigma surrounding addiction and recovery.
What a great goal! If even a small number of these groups succeed, I believe we’ll see a real shift away from jailing addicts and towards offering affordable treatment options.
Imagine if Matthew was placed in rehab instead of jail. Then, maybe he’d be writing this essay today. Maybe he’d be offering his experience and strength to the still sick and suffering addict. We can only hope.