This Is Exactly How I Became Addicted to Heroin

"It's not like I was living on the streets and robbing old ladies."

by John Carr; as told to Mike Sager
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Jun 19 2017, 11:10pm

I got drunk and high for the first time when I was 11. I was the new kid in town. I wanted people to like me. By the time I got to high school, I was that music kid who thought he was too cool for school. In the class voting senior year I won "Best Sense of Humor."

When I was 19, I was at a party in Ocean City, Maryland. I beer bonged some Jack Daniels and ended up falling off a second story balcony. I was spitting out blood and pissing blood and my back was in severe pain but I didn't break anything. Luckily, I'm not dead. That was a real close call, one of many. One of many, many close calls.

I went to the hospital and they shot me up with some morphine in my ass. The girl who was with me said it sounded like I was having an orgasm, only it was way louder than anything that I'd ever had with her. I'll never forget that moment: It was like a sweet release swelling through my veins.

The doctors gave me all these pills—Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycodone. After a while I started crushing them up and snorting, just chasing that high I felt the first time. Meanwhile my tolerance kept growing, my prescription strength kept going up and up, until I was on 180 milligrams a day of Oxycodone—that's six 30 milligram tabs. Later I wound up shooting ten at a time. And taking six 10-milligram methadone pills on top of that. And shooting up crack that I'd liquefied.

It's weird how it creeps up on you. I didn't know I was getting addicted. I remember the first time I ran out of pills. I woke up and my mouth wouldn't stop watering, and I was experiencing, like, intense pain in my back. I just didn't feel right. I went out and bought a six pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon pounders, the 16 oz. cans. I drank them all and I still didn't feel right. Then this kid came over and he gave me a Percocet and I started feeling right again. That's when I kind of put the two together—that I wasn't feeling good because I didn't have any more Percocet. But at that point it didn't click that this would end up being, like, a life-ruining problem for me. I just thought, OK, I just gotta keep taking these things, you know? And tell my doctor I need more of them. I figured if I just kept filling my script it wouldn't happen anymore.

The whole time, it was a steady increase. When I started, five or 10 milligrams of Oxycodone would get me feeling the way I wanted to. And then it was 15. And then it was 20. And then it was 30. And then it was 60. And then suddenly it was 300. It was an incline. The only problem was, the 300 milligrams didn't even make me feel the way the 10 milligrams felt in the beginning. Coming off 300 milligrams is praying for death.

I only started dealing because I was the guy with the hookup. We had this small group of people who would buy from me, and I would always try to make sure that I kept enough for myself, which never worked. I always ended up spending the money on more drugs, which of course were more expensive. I was hustling; I was hustling hard. It was this unending circle. You don't have any money and you're strung out, and you're calling people to beg them for a front on like a 20 of heroin and a 10 of coke so you can get high for a couple of hours. And then you do that, like, again and again and again and again.

I had some odd jobs here and there that I could never keep because of my use. I remember one time I was working as a server in this restaurant in Wilmington, Delaware. I actually went into the bathroom with a plate and a spoon, so I could crush up some pills and snort them. And my co-workers were like, "Dude, what the fuck? Were you just in there sniffing pills?" And I was like: "Yeah, you can't do that? That's not what normal people do? I'm not allowed to get high in the bathroom here at work here?" I was so twisted. That's what happens to your mind.

When I was about 25 or 26 my doctor just cut me off one day. It's hard to remember exactly when it was—when you're a drug addict, the years just mush together. I think my parents called her and told her to cut me off. Because I was out of control, they snitched me out. At the time I thought they were the worst people on earth for doing stuff like that.

Heroin was cheaper and easier to get. I contracted Hep C the first time I ever shot drugs. It was with somebody who I thought was a friend. We shared a needle. He's dead now. Once I started doing cocaine with the opiates, it was like my life was over, too.

I think I tried to get clean for the first time at, like, 28. Or 27. It took me a bunch more times, and then time in jail before I finally got off. It's not like I was living on the streets and robbing old ladies and stuff like that—for a lot of that time, my parents were letting me stay at home. It was just like, none of my dreams were coming true. I saw myself getting older with nothing to show for my life. You do drugs at first because it feels good, but it wasn't fun anymore. It just brought lots and lots of misery to my life. It was time for something different to happen.

As of today I have 508 days free from any drugs or alcohol—one year, four months, and 22 days. I spend my time doing a lot of NA meetings. I also do volunteer work, helping people who are in rehab get into recovery houses, or helping people off the streets get into rehab. And I'm feeding the homeless all the time, playing music at rehabs. I write songs about recovery. I think it helps people. On Facebook I have like 65,000 plays on my music. It feels really good to be writing stuff that actually helps people and affects people positively. I'm also in the gym a lot, too. I've dropped like 60 pounds since I got sober, and I'm trying to tighten it up.

One of my big goals is going back to school. I want to do healthcare administration—I'd like to be an administrator at a drug rehab facility. For the moment, I'm working as a server at a pretty famous restaurant in Philadelphia, serving respectable people. I enjoy being sober. People like me a lot more now.

As told to Mike Sager

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