Diary Of Dispair Essay, Research Paper A Diary of Despair A Chronicle of Heroin Abuse As Seen through the Eyes Of a Mother Jennifer Bernstein Drug Use and Abuse
Diary Of Dispair Essay, Research Paper
A Diary of Despair
A Chronicle of Heroin Abuse
As Seen through the Eyes
Of a Mother
Drug Use and Abuse
I think back, and I smile at the little girl I used to have, all pigtails and lace. I can still hear her laughter echoing through the hallways of our home; see her swinging on the swing set in our backyard, her long curly blonde hair, full of pink ribbons, sailing behind her like a pool of melted gold. When the sun hit her face, she just glowed, her green eyes sparkling, her red cheeks, full, lush and alive. What happened to that little girl? Where the hell did I go wrong?!? Why am I sitting in a cold empty room, where she used to laugh and play, clinging to a teddy bear she tossed away years ago, wondering where she is tonight? OH GOD, just bring her home safe, I’m begging you.
Today I found money, along with my credit card, missing from my purse (Beschner p.51). I also woke up missing a daughter. I can only imagine where she is now. I don’t understand!! It’s like she’s like the girl in The Exorcist, she seems possessed, but by what, I don’t know! Just last week we had ourselves a “girls day out”. We treated ourselves to makeovers, had lunch, bought new outfits, even caught a matinee movie!! We had a great day; she was my little girl again. But now, I find myself alone again, wondering, worrying, and praying (Gustafson p.45-46). If only I knew what was going on. I know adolescence is a time of turmoil and rebellion, but this all doesn’t seem normal. She disappears for days, DAYS!! And when she finally comes home, it’s an all out battle. I threaten her, I scream at her, I plead with her, only to have the door slammed in my face! I’m nearly at my wits end. I wish her father was still here, I need help. I can’t go through this alone. I’m scared.
I don’t know who she is anymore. I fear the little girl I once knew is gone forever now, never to be seen again. This person is unrecognizable to me. She went from being an honor-roll student to dropping out of high school. She’s emaciated, her clothes (if you want to call them that, they look like rags to me) hang on her; she looks like she hasn’t bathed in weeks. Her face, once full of joy and hope, is emotionless now. When I do see her, she only has angry words for me, before stealing some of my money and storming out of the house (Gustafson p.48-49). I want to reach out to her, but I just don’t know how. I fear the worst. I don’t want to admit what my heart already knows.
My worst fears have finally been confirmed. I found a needle in her drawer. I confronted her. My hands are shaking as I write this. GOD how could this happen to my little girl!?!?! WHY?? It didn’t go well. She admitted it. She looked straight into my eyes, with a cold harsh stare I barely recognized (but somewhere, deep down in that gaze, I saw her, the child I once knew) and said “Yeah, I’m using. There’s nothing you can do about it”, and then walked away (Gustafson, p57-56). I stood frozen. I felt my soul ripped from my body. I feel as though I’ve lost her forever.
It’s been about a month since I saw her last, the day I found the needle. I have no idea where she is. If I knew who her friends are, I’d call them, but she’s been so elusive and secretive (Gustafson, p52) during the past year, I have no idea who they may be. Who ever they are, they probably got her into all of this.
How could I have let this get so out of control? Looking back, I should have seen this coming; I should have recognized the signs (Gustafson p.86). I could have stopped this. NO! Stop it!! I can’t do this to myself. The past is the past and yes, mistakes were made, but the damage is done and I can’t dwell on things past! I have to take action, I have to get my daughter back!
I went to the library yesterday and checked out everything I could find about heroin abuse. I am determined to understand what my daughter is going through, that way I may be better prepared to find her and help her.
These books are a godsend. They help shed so much light on the whole situation. They’ve helped me realize that my daughter is under the physiological and psychological control of her brain. This drug (I like to call it poison) is what is driving my daughter’s every thought and action. It’s what she literally lives for. Her brain makes it so; once it tasted a little, it begged her for more and more and more, making her whole world heroin. That’s why she seemed so unrecognizable to me, and why (even if she gets treatment) a part of her will always remain foreign. Her whole life now is going to be a battle because her brain is now conditioned to need heroin (Ruden, p 52-53). All these books seem to have one common theme, all of them mention something called the Nucleus Acumbens, a structure in the brain rich in something called Dopamine, a neurotransmitter (that’s a chemical in the brain that neurons, the cells that make up the nervous system, use to communicate information to another neuron (Levinthal p.62) ).
Apparently, heroin (as do most drugs of abuse) enhances the release of dopamine in the Nucleus Acumbens. The Nucleus Acumbens plays a role in what one-book calls “incentive salience”. He said that “incentive salience is a psychological process that transforms how we perceive stimuli by making them more attractive and wanted” (Ruden, p.55). Attractive and wanted. I just keep saying those words over and over in my mind. Attractive and wanted. My little girl was once attractive and she is still wanted, always will be. She used to crave school, lived for it even. She was a straight A student and was so happy. But when her father died, something in her seemed to die too. She cut herself off and I wasn’t able to reach her. Now her only ambition in life is her next fix. Her brain is so conditioned, just the act of cooking the dope and drawing it up in the syringe can start that release of Dopamine; she can actually begin to feel high before she’s even plunged that garbage into her arm (Ruden, p.55)
Then, once it’s injected she becomes overwhelmed with an immediate sense of tingling warmth; the book I read described it as an orgasm only tenfold, followed by a sense of tranquility, to the point of drowsiness. Her pupils become constricted and her body releases histamine making her itchy (looking back, if only I had recognized those symptoms, if only I had seen what was really going on!) (Levinthal, p.103) The scariest part of everything I’ve read is how easily heroin can kill you. It acts on the respiratory regulator in our brains called the medulla (Levinthal, p103) it depresses breathing to such an extent, the first time user can overdose and die. Apparently the effective dose and the lethal dose of heroin are so close, overdose is accomplished with ease (Levinthal, p109-110). Knowing all this helps me understand what she’s going though, but it doesn’t make me feel any better. My little girl is out there. My little girl can die.
I FOUND HER! OH GOD! It took me days, but I found her! I hit the streets determined to find her, asking everyone I saw if they “recognized the girl in the picture”. God, I must have said that a million times! But it worked!!! I did it! I won’t go through the miserable details, but I eventually found her sitting in an alleyway by a dumpster. I barely recognized her, and I don’t think she recognized me at all, she was too strung out. I just snatched her up (she was as light as a feather) and brought her to the car. She was like a rag doll in my arms, limp and unresponsive. During the car ride home she began to “sober up” I guess you can say. She said “mom” in a raspy voice I could hardly tell was hers, and I looked over at my child, not knowing what to expect, half-afraid she’d try to jump out of the moving car. But she just grabbed my hand and held it tighter then I ever remembered, and with tears in her eyes, whispered “ I’m so sorry, thank you.” Thank you.
She’s upstairs now, sleeping. We had a good talk before she fell asleep. She wants to get better, she agreed to treatment. We’re going to a rehabilitator tomorrow. I know it’s not even half over yet. There’s a long road ahead. But I’m going to be there for her.
I better go put on another pot of coffee. I have to stay up tonight. I know she’ll want another hit before the night is over. I’m not letting her leave this house tonight. I think writing is the only thing that has kept me sane through all this, it’s the only thing keeping me going. I don’t know what’s kept her alive though. What she must have gone through out there. I think she was too embarrassed to reveal everything, but she did tell me she was reduced to selling her body for heroin. She had a pimp who basically used her for income. She worked; he got the cash and supported both their habits (Beschner p.55). He evidently had a temper. She didn’t have to tell me, the bruises on her beautiful face tell all. I can only guess what other horrors she must have endured. Maybe it’s better I don’t know all of it. She is only a shell of the girl I once knew, but I love her, and I’m going to get her through this.
As anticipated, she tried to leave last night, I found her getting dress, mumbling something about “need a fix”. She was shaking, her eyes looked wild, I had never seen her like this. I stood in front of her to block her from leaving, and as frail and sick as she is, she pushed me to the ground with what seemed like the strength of 20+ men! But I had been prepared, I had changed the locks. When she discovered her key didn’t work and she couldn’t get out she began banging at the door and flinging everything she could grab around the room (Levinthal p.106). Then as suddenly as it had started, her energy left her and she feel to the floor in a sobbing heap. I crawled over to her and put my arms around her. It was a humid summer night, but she was shaking and cold to the touch (McAuliffe, p 74). I helped her up to her room and bundled her up. She was sweating under all the blankets, but still begged for more. So far it was just like all the books had said. Everything I expected was happening, so I knew it was going to be a long night, and it was. She vomited repeatedly, complained of severe abdominal cramps and had diarrhea (McAuliffe, p.70) It was the most gut wrenching night of my life, watching my baby go through this, and not being able to help her. I had to keep telling myself it was temporary, and despite her many declarations to the contrary, she was not going to die (McAuliffe, p 70). It must have lasted 12 hours (it seemed like an eternity).
The next morning, although she was still experiencing some cramps, diarrhea, chills and nausea, we made our way to the clinic. Next to the night I had just endured, it was the hardest thing I ever had to do, leave her there alone. But I knew it was for the best, and after talking to her drug counselor, I felt even better. He explained that the withdrawal was just the beginning. Getting over the physical dependence was easy compared to treating the psychological addiction to the drug (McAuliffe, p73). He stressed the importance of keeping her away from her old “stomping grounds”; old places where she used to get high, because it may only spark memories which in turn may trigger craving and a relapse (Levinthal, p.111).
He also took some time to talk about heroin and the connection to endorphins, naturally occurring opiates in our brains that kick in after the body has undergone a tremendous amount of pain or stress. These endorphins are essentially natural painkillers, or analgesics, that help us to endure particularly painful situations. The problem is that heroin, also an analgesic, is chemically similar to the chemical that fits into the receptor sites that trigger the release of these endorphins. As a result, heroin produces the same euphoric effects, in the absence of the physical stress, which can become very reinforcing, so we crave more and more (McAuliffe, p. 66-67).
The first heroin high is often the best, he explained, 10 times that of an orgasm. But that same high can never be produced again. The addicted spends the rest of his/her life trying to recapture that first high, without success, building up tolerance as higher doses of the drug are needed just to keep the addict from feeling sick. Eventually, they are taking to the drug just to stay in a state of “normalcy” (Levinthal, p. 108).
Needless-to-say, I left the counselor feeling more assured that my daughter was in capable hands, but I can’t tell you how hard it was to actually get in my car and drive away. I won’t be able to talk to her for weeks. Helplessness is a horrible feeling.
Her counselor tells me she’s doing great! I’ll be able to talk to her next week!! I’m so excited!! I miss her so!
Tomorrow!! She comes home tomorrow!! I haven’t seen her in 4 months! Oh God! Just talking to her on the phone she sounds like her old self!! I actually recognize her voice! I can’t wait to see what she looks like in person! I can’t wait to have her back!! I know she still has months to years of therapy ahead of her, but she says she’s ready!! (McAuliffe, p.116-117)
I’m doing well too. I’ve been going to a support group (Gustafson, p.163-165) for families of addicts. They’ve helped me through all the guilt I had been feeling. I learn that guilt helps no one. I need to look to the future, no matter what it may hold and strive for the best. I have to understand that life is unpredictable and in order to help my daughter I have to be strong and stop feeling sorry for anybody!
Anyway, I better go, I have to get ready for her! I’m so excited!
She was only home a month. A month. And what a month is was. Full of smiles and laughter and hope. For that small amount of time I had my little girl back. What went wrong? What triggered it? Who or what did she see? Who did she talk to? I need to know. I’ll never forget what it was like to find her lying on the floor of her bedroom, stiff, cold, a needle sticking out of her arm (she hadn’t even finished administering the whole dose) (Levinthal, p.110), her eyes wide open, staring out into nothingness. I’ll never be able to erase that image from my mind. Not till the day I die. My baby is gone, she lost the battle. It was 2 days past her 16th birthday. She was so excited about getting her driver’s license. She wanted to live life; she wanted so desperately to be free.
1. Beschner, Bovelle, Hanson and Walters Life With Heroin
D.C Health and Company, 1985
2. Gustafson, Ginny and Katherine Ketcham Living on the Edge
3. Levinthal, Charles Drugs, Behavior and Modern Society
Allyn & Bacon, 1999
4. McAuliffe and Zackson Heroin Chelsea House, 1986
5. Ruden, Ronald The Craving Brain HarpersCollins, 1997
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