Drug Rehab 2022 Round 1 – Society’s Problem From an ex Junkie’s Perspective

Name: Laura Jancovic

Society’s Problem From an ex Junkie’s Perspective

I am a recovering heroin addict. In June, I will be celebrating 4 years sober. Somehow, I am looked at as somewhat of a ‘ticking time bomb’ or less of a person than someone who has the luxury of never struggling with addiction. As someone who was, well a junkie, this is something I think about every day. Whether it is because I see the track marks that will never go away, no matter what I do or because I hear someone making a nasty comment about the homeless person on the corner only begging for money “to support their habit”. I was in the hospital in December 2021 and made a sarcastic comment about gaining a bunch of sobriety weight and next thing I know, that nurse is searching my belongings (the clothes I wore there) and trying to tell me how it is a safety check. I have had my belongings searched a lot in hospitals. This is a problem. That homeless person begging for money might just need something to get them through the night while you are comfortable in your bed. Why do we look at the homeless, the addicts or the poor as lesser citizens?

There are so many problems that lead to an addiction crisis in the US and treating addicts as second rate citizens is just one contributing factor. In Colorado, there was talk of a ‘safe injection site’ where IV using addicts could go and safely use. Everyone panicked, but why? A majority of what I heard was people saying it is making it ok and acceptable to do drugs in public. What people who are lucky enough to not have to carry that burden don’t take into consideration is how much it can help society. Most IV using addicts are homeless, which means they don’t have clean needles, clean water, clean skin or a safe place to use where someone can make sure they are alright. This leads to dirty needles in streets, addicts needing abscesses or sores taken care of from using in a dirty area and more…. And if the addict doesn’t have insurance, they sure aren’t going to bother paying for that medical bill so who will? Everyone else. When an addict overdoses in the street and everyone records them with their phone instead of calling 911 or there isn’t Narcan anywhere, where do you think the money comes from for the ambulance and potential funeral? Safe injection sites can reduce all of this. Needle exchanges reduce the dirty drug paraphernalia from being strewn all over the place.

No one wakes up one day and decides they want to be a junkie when they grow up. This is most commonly from self medicating. I had a friend die when he accidentally shot himself, in addition to 2 close family members and losing my job in 30 days, instead of grieving, I started using pain killers. This was amplified by breaking my back and getting more pain killers to feed my addiction. How did I end up on heroin? The government cracked down on opiate prescriptions and I couldn’t find any to keep myself from getting sick. Heroin was cheaper and easier to find. What started as treating mental illness ended with a full blown drug addiction. The stigma on mental health has gotten much better than it was when I was struggling with it but it still isn’t as available as it should be. There is still this stigma that goes with addiction which makes it almost impossible for an addict to ask for help when they are ready to get sober. Not only was I an addict but I was struggling with a respiratory problem that put me in the hospital multiple times a month and me being an addict… well my symptoms were treated, my addiction was to blame and I was back on the street. There needs to be more resources not only for mental health and for addicts but for the general population. It wasn’t my fault that Narcan is free but insulin costs an arm and a leg- it’s the pharmaceutical company but boy did I get blamed for it. I can name 2 doctors and a police officer who treated me like a person not a junkie. That is really sad.

As a society, we need to stop treating people like they are below us, period. I still don’t like talking about it 4 years later and I should be proud of what I have accomplished. I had to file bankruptcy when I got sober because I neglected my finances. I was lucky enough to have my Mom but had I not, I have NO idea how I would have gotten sober. I would have had no income because it took me 3 years of actively looking to find a job. It is extremely hard to get back on your feet and stay sober, there need to be more resources. These resources need to be easier to access. Section 8 takes YEARS to be approved for, yes years. How is a homeless addict supposed to find a job when they can’t even get a shower or a good nights sleep? Addicts add to crime, add debts that tax payers end up paying, take up medical persons time and crown the judicial system. When I got sober, I was extremely unhealthy and my depression was ten times worse with the addition of anxiety. I had Medicaid but getting mental health help is really hard with Medicaid. Relapse is part of recovery but if addicts had better support systems they might not end up overdosing and if they do, someone will be there to provide Narcan. My Mom still has the Narcan I gave her when I came home.

As individuals and as a society we have a lot of work that needs to be done to resolve the problems with addiction. Society needs to step outside of the box when it comes to how addicts are looked at/treated. It is HARD to get sober. I still live with consequences of my actions. Once a month I sob hysterically and apologize to my Mom because I have a hard time dealing with my active addiction life. I am always alone because none of my friends stuck around long enough to try and help. These don’t seem like much but I still can’t get out of bed sometimes. I am 34 and have no clue how to make friends at this point. When the government makes the choices they do that directly effect the poor, the homeless or the addicts, they need to do some research by talking to people who have actually experienced it. The rich mostly have no clue what is needed to help the poor crawl out of poverty. Most (I am sure there are closet addicts, there always are) of the government officials have never experienced addiction to be able to say what can help remedy it. There is so much to be known by speaking with someone who has lived through addiction, it just takes someone actually talking to them.