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7 Day Heroine

She didn’t even wince. She needed it, she would die without it. She craved the feeling of the cold steel piercing her flesh. To her it meant that she was one step closer to freedom. As she pushed the heroin into her veins, it was like breathing. It gave her life. As she took the needle out of her arm and loosened the rubber off of her skin, she pondered the word heroin. To her it was fitting that the drug she had been living on for 2 years, bore the same name as someone who rescues. It was her heroine. It had saved her from her reality. It had made getting beaten on a weekly basis by her boyfriend easier. It had made living on the streets after she left him easier. It has made her minimum wage job and her minimum wage apartment richer. It had rescued her. Of course, it was also killing her. But right now, she wasn’t focused on that.
Right now, what she was focused on was the fact that she was floating around the room. Her feet had lifted off the ground and she was slowing floating across her one room apartment. She felt alive for the first time in a week. She felt safe, even though gunshots were ringing out down the block. She floated around her kitchen, bathroom, and living room, which didn’t take long, and she found herself floating over the crib of her one year old. She smiled down on him while he slept, unaware that his mother had just taken flight.
She landed on her two feet and lay on the couch. She felt safe and warm. Nothing could hurt her or her son, her precious little David. A few hours later, around 4 in the morning she awoke. What had happened? How did her home suddenly turn into a prison? The walls felt cold, and the furniture felt menacing. There were piles of garbage lying around. She needed to clean. She scrubbed the kitchen until the layers of dirt had melted away. She picked up the clothes on the floor, she wiped away the blankets of dust. She put all of the garbage in several bags and put them on the curb. She went back into the house and found that more garbage had crept in. She took the dirty rags from David’s crib and placed them on the curb as well. The place was still cold, but it was clean. She was safe again. David was safe again. She could sleep now.
At around 6 in the morning, she woke up and her high had completely disappeared. Her apartment was also very empty. At first she was convinced she had been robbed, but then flashes of her activities last night started coming back to her. She realized she had thrown away her coffee table, her television, most of her cups and plates, and her mattress. She was pretty sure the garbage trucks had already come, because they usually come at 5. She had to go shopping today. Maybe she would sell some of her stash. She started yelling at herself and thinking to herself about what a screw-up she was. She was a no good, poor junkie who would never amount to anything. That’s what most people told her, and she had started to believe it. She then did what she usually did when she was depressed about her drug addiction and the way her life had gone. She went to shoot up.
As she was walking over to her nightstand, hoping that in her cleaning frenzy she did not throw out her drugs, someone began furiously knocking on her door. “Katherine, are you there? Where are you? Oh My God, where are you? Hello?” Someone was extremely upset. She walked over, thinking she forgot to pay the rent or that she “cleaned” someone else’s apartment last night. He heart, her soul, her body dropped when she opened the door and saw her landlady holding David.
“Where the hell have you been? Is everything O.K?” Mrs. Berkowitz sounded genuinely concerned. “What Happened?!?” Katherine exclaimed. She still could not comprehend why David was in her landlady’s arms. “He was on the street! In a pile of garbage! I thought you were dead! All of your stuff is out there! What is going on?” Mrs. Berkowitz quickly went from concerned to furious to confused. “Thank you so much for bringing him back.” Katherine said sincerely, but also in the hopes that she could shut the door on Mrs. Berkowitz and this problem simultaneously. Mrs. Berkowitz had a different idea.
“Absolutely Not! You do not get to shut this door until you tell me why your son was laying in a pile of garbage. If you do not give me an explanation- the truth- right now, I am calling the police.” Katherine could tell that she was serious. “No, please don’t call the police”, Katherine pleaded. Mrs. Berkowitz saw the desperation in her eyes, and knew something was going on. “Tell me.”
Katherine tried to get off easy by telling Mrs. Berkowitz, whose first name she discovered, was Mary, a story about how she sleepwalks, then that she had a bad reaction to a medication, then something about PTSD. Mary just stared at her. Katherine could tell she knew the stories were all lies. She finally gave up and told her the truth. Since she was 18 she was addicted to heroin. Her boyfriend had introduced her to it. When he made her sell her body for more drugs for the both of them, her addiction got worse. When he started beating her for not making him enough money, her addiction got worse. When she finally got the courage to leave him and found herself homeless, her addiction got worse. She went from shooting up a couple times a month to shooting up twice a day, on a good day.
She could tell Mary finally believed her. “I know you”, Mary started- the first words she spoke in over a half hour. “I believe you are a good person, so I am not going to call the police.” Katherine started to cry. In her head she was promising herself that she would never do heroin again. “However”, Mary continued, her eyes hardening, “You will get clean immediately, otherwise the next call I make will be to Child Protective Services.”
Katherine’s heart skipped a beat, but she recovered and thanked Mary. “You will not be sorry”, she promised. “Thank you so much.” Katherine reached out to hold her son, but Mary pulled him back. “Do you think I am going to give you back this child?” Katherine knitted her brow in confusion. “I will get clean, I promise.” “Good, and to ensure that you will keep your promise, I will keep David until you do, OK?” What could she say? Katherine looked into Mrs. Berkowitz’ eyes, and could tell that she was not bluffing. She could not have David taken away from her. That wasn’t an option. He was the only thing keeping him alive. And to think that she could have killed him was killing her inside. She knew that she had to get clean. This was rock bottom. Up was the only way to go.
She reluctantly agreed and over the next day they made all the arrangements. David would live with Mrs. Berkowitz who was a registered nurse and had raised 6 children on her own. She also specialized in drug addiction treatment. Katherine told Mary that she would check into rehab a couple of miles away. This was a lie. She couldn’t afford rehab and court appointed rehab was only for people who got arrested. If this happened David would be taken away. She would have to do this herself- the hard and extremely unsafe way.
She checked into the nearest non-drug dealer infested hotel, which meant she had to drive about 30 miles. She offered the manager $500 dollars. It was 50 dollars a day. The extra hundred and fifty was to make sure that no one entered her room, not even housekeeping, and to make sure that she did not leave. She asked for a room on the first floor, whose only exit was through the lobby and whose windows didn’t open. Surprisingly, there were a few options.
She had already been off heroin for about 14 hours, so she wasn’t in the greatest mood. She had packed a week’s worth of water, non-perishables, toiletries, and a picture of her son. He was the goal here. Getting him back was her only option. She knew physically what was about to happen over the next 7 days, but she never could have prepared herself for the way she felt less than 18 hours since her last dose. Her body was slowly being put into a vice. First her legs, then her arms, then her head.
She was sure her head was being crushed and would very soon be flattened. She looked into the mirror to see what monster she had been transformed into, but she looked exactly the same. Same wiry brown hair, same gaunt face, same ribs protruding from her torso. The only change was that in place of her dead brown eyes were pained eyes rimmed by dark brown semi-circles. She drank about 3 bottles of water, paced around her room for about a mile and stared at the picture of David while in the fetal position on her bed. She was pretty sure she was going to die, but she would rather die trying to change than from an OD in front of her son.
She tried to sleep, but failed. She sat up and went to look at the clock. She was pretty sure that it was about 1 in the afternoon. That would mean she had been going at this for about 24 hours now. She looked and it was 7 pm. It had been 6 hours. She stared in disbelief. It had felt like an eternity. She thought about giving up. She looked at David. She thought about leaving. She looked at David. She thought about scoring once more, but after looking at David, realized that that would mean she would have to start the whole process over.
She had been off heroin for 24 hours when she started to crave. Sure, she started having cravings about 12 hours ago, but those were wants. This was a need. Her skin, her flesh, her soul, was slowly eroding, leaving giant holes in her body. Heroin was the only thing that could fill those holes. She tried to leave, but the windows had bars on them. She tried to open the door but it was locked. Locked! The manager had locked her in. Had she told him to do that? She probably had, but now, she couldn’t remember. She could only remember heroin. She needed to be saved, but it wasn’t coming.
48 hours. Her head continued to be squeezed in the vise, the lack of heroin continued to create an emptiness in every cell of her body. Then the bugs came. She was lying down on the bed, failing, once again, to sleep. They came as an army. They came to break her resolve. They came to devour her, to torture her. She felt them in her toes, up her legs, on her sides, in her arms, and burrowing into her neck. She bolted up trying to wipe them off, scratch them off, hit them off, just get them off. She looked at every spot she felt the bugs burrowing into her skin. She saw nothing. Nothing was burrowing into her. Nothing was trying to kill her. It was the withdrawal. She repeated this to herself multiple times. Sometimes it worked, sometimes she rechecked her body. She continued scratching until her skin was as red as the blood that eventually seeped out of her wounds. She bandaged herself up and kept scratching. 10 hours later, the feeling slowly subsided.
72 hours. She hardly slept. She drank more water than she brought, so she filled them up from the ivory-colored, rust-covered sink in the bathroom. The bathroom had become her new place of residence. She hadn’t left it in 8 hours. She didn’t know why she was vomiting so much. She didn’t know how. She had hardly eaten in 3 days. The vice had left, the bugs had disappeared, but the cravings were still there. Now she knew how to handle them. She wasn’t banging on her door, or pulling on the window bars. She wasn’t screaming to let her out. But she still wanted heroin. She wondered if that would ever change. By the time she had finished purging, she looked into the mirror. She didn’t even recognize herself. Compared to the way she looked now, her gaunt face of a few days ago looked plump and robust. The dark moats she noticed looked like oceans. She could almost feel her ribs piercing her skin. She could almost see it too. She thought she looked like hell 3 days ago. Today she looked like 6 layers below hell.
For the next 48 hours her body and her mind rotated between the vice, the bugs, and the bathroom. After 5 days total, she didn’t bother to look at herself in the mirror anymore. She woke up on the 6th day and she thought she was dead. She thought she was dead, because she felt almost good. She was hungry and she had slept through the night. She hadn’t vomited for almost 7 hours, the bugs hadn’t come back, and the vice had loosened completely. She thought that this must be what heaven would be like. The cravings were almost gone. She had done it. She looked at David and wept. She would get him back. Not right away at first, she wouldn’t allow that, but now she knew that it was within her grasp.
She stayed an extra 2 days withdrawal free to make sure she was on the road to recovery and that this feeling was not a temporary thing. She was extremely exhausted, but symptom free. She called the manager and thanked him and told him that he could unlock the door now. He came a few minutes later. He hugged her and told her that he knew her. He was her. He was addicted to meth 10 years ago and recognized what she was going through right away. He had to get arrested to get clean. He told her that he was not as brave as she was. He gave her his card and told her to call if she needed anything. She thanked him and told him that she would. She meant it. She packed up what little luggage she had and she opened the door. She stepped out and the sunlight immediately warmed her. It was a new day. She was finally free. She had become her own heroine.



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