Guest Blogger Brittlind Wellman: A Dance with the Devil: My Journey with Heroin

 

photo by Thomas Gendernalik

A dirt road led you to a driveway with a beautiful white house on top of a hill. It was surrounded by pine trees and woods that seemed to be endless. That’s where I grew up. One sister, and two parents who adored us. We spent all of our time outside as kids, pretending the trees could speak, and every animal we found was in need of a home. We would catch snakes, butterflies, frogs, salamanders, turtles, anything we could get our little hands on. We even had two raccoons at one point. I named mine Rascal. My sister and I both attended St. Mary’s Catholic school, where each class had less than 20 students. You had the same teacher year round, wore a uniform, and grew a year older with the same faces year by year. We only had maybe 3 new students from 1st grade to 5th grade. When you spend your time with the same 15 kids every year your aspect isn’t nearly the same as everyone else’s. Whoever is around, is a friend. No questions asked. Everyone accepted everyone, and there were no stereotypes. Boys played with girls, girls played with girlish boys, boys played boyish girls. We all played together and it was effortless.

photo courtesy of Brittlind Wellman

Around 3rd grade we moved into our new house, that was again surrounded by woods, but this time a beautiful private lake was right in our front yard. Our horses we right down the road, we had four wheelers, jet skis, boats, and enough land to keep a nature loving child busy for hours. As I look back now, it was the ideal place to grow up. As 5th grade came to an end my sister decided she wanted to go to public school, and of course I wanted to tag along. I remember taking the tour for my new school and I remember the school seaming unbearable. It was so big compared to the private school I was used too, and all the kids, so many kids. So many new faces, and everyone looked so their own. And the reason I say that is, there were no more dress codes, there were no restrictions, everyone was their own self and I was overwhelmed. The first day of 6th grade I realized I was in trouble. I realized quickly that not everyone was friends with everyone. I was striving to fit in, and I turned into a sponge. Soaking up personalities, styles, and anything else that would get me where I thought I needed to be, or who I needed to be.  I wore clothes I thought everyone would like, I spoke how everyone spoke, and acted how everyone else acted. And it worked. I had my “friend” group and I was instantly at ease. I continued to be a sponge till about 8th grade. My friends were all confident and seemed to have no worries besides what their outfit was going to be for the next day. I on the other hand, still was insecure and questioning my every move. It wasn’t until the end of 8th grade that I suddenly stopped caring. I came into my own skin, dressed how I wanted to dress, did my make up how I pleased, and stopped speaking words I never thought were true.

High school started a whole new adventure. I was always active in sports, and kept myself busy. My friend group expanded as the year went by. You’re thrown into 7 different classrooms with 7 different groups of people. I wasn’t one to limit myself to a certain “type” of person. I made friends in each class and the variety of personalities was always interesting to me. My self confidence grew as I started to come into my own. I was surrounded by many different groups of people and it wasn’t rare for kids in high school to smoke weed and drink their parents alcohol when left home alone. It didn’t phase me, I didn’t mind. The taste of alcohol never really satisfied me, but of course slowly other drugs came into the picture. Anything anyone could get their hungry fingers on. When you grow up in a small town, kids tend to run out of things to do, and that made doing nothing okay. I was never around any of these things growing up, but for some odd reason nothing phased me. I was curious and there was no voice in my mind telling me otherwise.

 

photo by Thomas Gendernalik

There was one thing my body craved after one time. Opiates. Specifically, OxyContin. Pill form, all sorts of colors. It felt like every muscle in your body has finally relaxed for the first time in your life. Everything slowed down, and all you were focused on was the feeling of solitude and the sound of your breathing. I had a circle of friends who all had the same taste as I did. We would do it before school, during school, and after. All day. The downfall was, it was an expensive habit. For a 14 year old in high school, who worked only a few days a week, it was nearly impossible to afford what I thought I needed on my own. There is always that one person one step ahead of you.  Meaning, there is always a person who has all the medication, has different selections, and has all the connections. That person usually seems cool, collected, and under control, when in reality they are in complete disarray. Those were the people who were ahead of the game. Those were the people who I had surrounded myself with.

I remember this particular day perfectly. It was summer, there were three of us. My one friend, was one of those friends who always had what we wanted. I remember him taking a little paper rectangle out of his pocket, with a brown pancake mix colored powder inside of this delicate hand made envelope. “What’s that?” I said with wide eyes and curiosity. He hesitated and said very quietly, “Heroin.”

That word itself instantly made me feel odd. It was like it almost slowly branded my brain with that word. Heroin. It was a word that had so much strength behind it. I hesitated for a minute and then slowly my curiosity took over. He told me it was just like OxyContin, but better and cheaper. My ears perked up like a puppy. I wanted it. The instant it was in my nose and ran down the back of my throat I remember it tasting just like iron. Almost like I had a dirty penny in my mouth. I hated it. But then it started to slowly take over my body. The same sensation I loved but stronger. I was in love. Somehow I was getting high consistently but maintained to graduated high school. Although this has nothing to do with my addiction, prior to graduating I found out the man who I thought was my father for 17 years was not my biological father. It was hard and I was confused but I never dealt with it simply because I never had to. I had all I needed. My parents weren’t getting along very well anymore either and my sister was at college and I had no idea where I wanted my life to go And quite honestly, I didn’t care.

 After a 2 year relationship with heroin and my nose I realized the many different ways people got it into their system. I had friends that injected it but I never thought I would. Not because I didn’t want to or because I was scared, simply because I didn’t know how. I had too much pride to ask. But slowly my curiosity grew and my pride diminished. And of course, there I was in my bedroom, with a brand new needle, a bottle of water, heroin, and loud music playing. Game over. It was a completely different high than when using your nose. It was instant. It was like a flower blooming in your veins. Have you ever seen someone put one drop of food coloring in a glass of water? It hits the water, and slowly disperses and looks like it’s dancing. That’s how your whole body feels. Internally dancing. From then on, all I was worried about was my next fix and my friends who had the same love affair. My days consisted of countless drives to Detroit to places no 19 year old should venture too, puncturing my veins with dull needles, and injecting what felt like gold into my veins. My poor mother, never wanted to believe what she heard. But everyone knew. I grew quite the reputation in our small city, and I was proud of it. About 2 years after graduating I involved in a pretty bad car accident from nodding out at the wheel of my best friends car. When the police came, of course they found everything. I was so disoriented from the amount of heroin I did prior, I still hardly remember that entire night. I was put on probation for 4 years but always found a way to keep getting high. After years of stealing from the people who loved me most, having no where to call home, no car, no phone, no one wanting to be near me, and numerous friends overdosing, I gave up. Not because I wanted to, more because I had to. I had no money, and the people around me started to stoop to levels of selling the only thing we had left, ourselves. My only option was to fake wanting sobriety.

My mother surprised me one morning on my way to school. She told me I was going to speak with a counselor and when I walked in, there sat my family and one of my best friends parents all awaiting to give me an intervention. I was livid. But I realized, I didn’t really have a choice. My mother made me quit cosmetology school half way through and I went to rehab. I was there from October till January. I was feeling myself again and simply wanted to come home, so I did.

photo by Arturo J Rivera Jr.

This seemed to be a routine for the next couple years of my life. Getting sober, moving back home, slowly gaining my families trust, and then throwing it all away. I even attended the same cosmetology school a second time and got kicked out two days before I graduated. Yet again, for getting high and not being able to function. I would nod out while sitting in my chair, make endless trips to the bathroom to get high, leave school to make trips to the city, and it all finally caught up to me. The only thing that I had going for me, I gave up. Again. Back to square one, no one trusting me, no one having any sort of apathy for me, and my life was at a stand still. Once again, I didn’t really care either. My probation officer was catching on to my downhill spiral and called me in to converse about the situations I’ve been putting myself in. I still think to this day that my mom called her, and told her something needed to be done.

Who wouldn’t of?

It was October of 2011. I walked into the probation office, sat down with my probation officer, and of course she wanted to drug test me. Me being hard headed, I figured I would fail the drug test and then give her a sob story about how this time was truly different, and how I wanted to change. She didn’t want to hear a word. I failed the drug test, and instantly was walked over to Livingston County Jail. Nothing was really sinking in at this point. As the heroin slowly left my blood stream while sitting in the holding cell, I began to sweat. I realized right then that I wasn’t going to be able to get high. I knew I wasn’t going to feel any better. I was sweating, on a cold concrete slab, with ants marching around my face. I was puking till I could barley breathe. Every bone in my body felt like it was breaking, I couldn’t handle it. I could smell the heroin leaving my pores. I simply wanted to die. After a couple weeks of being in jail, I finally was slowly starting to be able to walk. I could barely walk to the bathroom without being out of breathe.

Finally my court date came. I came out of the courtroom holding sells, in a orange jumpsuit and handcuffs and immediately made eye contact with my mom. I felt awful. For the first time. The judge I had was beyond tough. He was so sick of seeing teenagers and young adults walk into his courtroom with a love for something that was slowly killing us all. Quite a few of my friends that had passed away from overdosing had him as a judge and he didn’t want to hear one word out of my mouth, because he knew it wasn’t going to anything but bullshit. He sentenced me to 6 months, with the possibility of going to rehab. I wanted to get out of that jail so badly, I was begging to go to rehab. Anything is better than that place. There was almost 30 of us in one room, one shower, two toilets, no privacy, and food I wouldn’t even feed my dogs.

I finally found a rehab, all the way in Sault Ste Marie. Which is at the top of Michigan, 5 hours from home, and right next to Canada. I arrived in November, and was surrounded by such a variety of women. Leaving was not a choice, I was court appointed to finish the program. I slowly started to want my life back. My best friend was one step ahead of me, and we were in this together. We both were sober for the first time in years and we were actually okay with it. I completed the program in January, right before my 21st birthday. Coming home was the best feeling in the world. My family saw the girl they hardly remembered again. I quickly got back on my feet and started a new job at a factory and reenrolled in cosmetology school. I graduated in less than two weeks, and passed my state boards and finally got my license.

photo by Brittlind Wellman

My probation officer was thrilled and I finally completed my 5 year probation period. The only downfall was, I had a felony on my record. Once I got my life in order, I decide to file to get my felony expunged. My probation officer wrote me a letter of recommendation and I told him how I graduated school, I was currently working, and I was in the process of finding a job in a salon, and the felony on my record would hold me back from ever trying to manage a shop. He agreed, and thankfully expunged my felony. At the time, I didn’t really think much of it, but a felony on anyone’s record, puts your life in limbo.

Shortly after that, I started working in a salon. I quickly built a clientele and was promoted to manager shortly after that. I was still living at home, but I didn’t mind at all. I finally saved up enough money to move into an apartment on my own, and I loved it. I was able to buy all my own furniture, my first flat screen TV, decorations, and all the other necessities you need to live on your own, and it felt amazing. I wasn’t used to having my own money and not spending it on drugs. It was almost like my mind just flipped a switch, and I was only focused on living. I was on my own and what helped me the most was that my best friend was still sober and living on her own as well, we both had jobs, and we both weren’t stopping there. No one thought we could remain friends after all that we went through, and we proved them wrong. So of course, to rub it in everyone’s faces the following year we ended up renting a house together with a mutual friend. That was probably one of the best years I’ve had. We all got along so well, all of our friends would come hang out at our house, and everything just seemed easy. We were both genuinely happy with where we were and where we came from. Unfortunately, we both went separate ways at the end of our lease. I surprisingly enough moved to a neighboring city in Detroit, and she moved to Grand Rapids. But all that matters is we are both still sober and our arms are flawless.

 After moving out towards Detroit, I rented a home and started going to school to be a Real Estate Agent. It only took a couple months but I graduated and scored the highest in my class on our final exam. Shortly after that, I ended up buying my first home at 24 years old. Sometimes I sit here and can’t believe it’s actually MY home. Now, here I am. Living in my own home, I have two dogs who I adore, and a boyfriend who I know I’m going to marry. I wouldn’t go back and change one thing in my life. My mind doesn’t think like most peoples, and I look at things a lot differently than others. I do still have a hard time dealing with situations, because I didn’t have to deal with any feelings for over 5 years. So is it hard? Yes. Is it unbearable? No. This October will mark 5 years being clean from Heroin and its still hard to believe. Everyone tries to find the solution to help an addict, or what rehab is the best, or what medication can help with the withdrawals, or what as a family member they can do to help, and none of that matters. If that individual wants to get better, they will. Its as simple as that. Sometimes they just need a little push, and for me that was going to jail.
But, the most important thing I have learned from my long dance with the devil is there is only one thing stronger than heroin, and its love.

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21 comments so far.

21 responses to “Guest Blogger Brittlind Wellman: A Dance with the Devil: My Journey with Heroin”

  1. Jimmie says:

    That is an inspiring and heartfelt story. I know the situation you went through was difficult, but I am so glad you grew stronger and are striving now. You have grown into a beautiful and remarkable young woman with a heart as pure as gold. Your story proves that love conquers all! Xo

  2. Stephanie Ostrowski says:

    This is a great read, Brittlind. Coming from the same town, probably some of the same friends, (at the very least, acquaintances) and having had the same, although slightly different, struggles I felt your story all the way through. I chose to leave the state and start fresh, in my opinion that town was too small without enough opportunity for me to have a successful recovery, I didn’t want to end up with the same people, in the same situation, because most of them are still in the same spot, or claim they’re “clean” but still do opiates (just not heroin). However, I admire your courage for staying and facing all your demons head on, its rough stuff. It’s also crazy to look back and see how different things were and how they are now and how much progress you’ve made in not only your life, but as a person. Keep up the good work!

  3. Lori Scott says:

    Brittlind – this was an amazing read. Painfully honest and insightful – thank you for sharing. I am so happy to hear that you have come out the other end with a wonderful life to lead. Ms. Scott

  4. Debbie says:

    I am a parent of three addicts they all have been struggling for 25 years and I myself struggle every day as there mother. It just breaks my heart. But I Am happy for you. You look great. May God continue to bless you.

  5. kristin davis says:

    I am am a 45 year old mother of a 15 year old daughter scared to death for her as we also live in a small town (maybe even the 1 you came from ) where heroin is a big thing i pray my daughter never chooses this path and will never feel pressured by so called friends to ever try heroin your story truly inspired me and all i can say after reading this truly brave acknowledgment of your journey i can honestly say if you were my daughter i would b proud to be your mother and proudly admit your my daughter

  6. Denise says:

    Congratulations for making it out of hell! Strive to be all you can be and achieve all you wish to achieve, you deserve it……be proud of your accomplishments because girl, you are one of the lucky ones. God bless you on your success in beating the devil, may you have a lifetime of happiness. Your story was real, and honest, thank you.

  7. Betsy Huggett says:

    I am so proud of all you have accomplished. Words escape me to describe how profoundly impactful your story is. You continue to do the hard work every single day. You continue to make the commitment to yourself every day. Oh the places you will go…

  8. Don says:

    Addiction has snuck up on my life so many times, I have been clean over 20 years, but it still wraps its ugly arms around my life. From family to friends, it still finds me, point is, you have learned much. Never forget what you have learned, carry it well, and live long.

  9. Amy says:

    I wonder if you have advice for parents…how to try and navigate the subject and keeping kids drug free before they get in too deep?

    • Lisa R says:

      Amy, I had this same thought and more. I am a parent to three young children, living in the home town of the author. We are still deciding if the beauty and benefits of the area (as she describes perfectly) truly outweigh the potential exposure to the underground drug culture.

      Brittlind, Do you have thoughts on the current state the community in terms of student drug use?

      • Just A Girl says:

        Hi ladies,

        I’m a 25 yr old mother of 2 beautiful girls and lover of one amazing man… I’m also a recovering addict. I’ve been clean since just over 200 days.
        I also come from a small town near Detroit. Wyandotte if you’re familiar with the area.
        Although I never allowed my addiction to carry me to actually doing heroin, I know I would have if I wouldn’t have been able to get my fix (any opiates I could get my hands on)

        I started using when I was in 10th grade, but mostly I just liked to smoke weed, never thought any thing of popping the occasional cocktail of pills at a friends house having a good time and then returning to my normal life the next day.

        Things became different after high school, I was attending a Private University on a scholarship for Nursing. I stopped eating and started living on pills.. just to get me through. The pressure to succeed ate me alive, and I didn’t even like nursing. BUT I felt if I did anything else I would be a disappointment.

        My mother, although she is a good person, never spoke of my problem… even though she knew it was there. There was quite the age difference between us, and was never much of a friend. But still a good mom. I always found her doing things for a lot of other people, instead of spending time with me. I come from a broken home, so I was already torn to begin with,. My real father began drinking heavily and eventually drank hiself right into cirrhosis of the liver.

        My biggest advice to you as a mother. Be involved… make family dinner mandatory but FUN! If your kids want to spend time at home, it’s more likely that they will not have a continuous problem, because as they become closer to you they will not want to disappoint you… because as Britland stated love is much stronger than drugs.

        More importantly, talk to your kids about drugs.. don’t make it a dreadful talk and really get through to them. I plan to tell my girls about my horrible past eventually. Just to scare the shit out of them for the most part. FEAR is hopefully what will keep them away, but don’t mistake this for being naïve… you want your kids to be very well informed.

        I’ll lastly say, If you ever suspect an issue with your children. Address it, don’t ignore your instincts! And promise them love and comfort, always love and comfort.

        Live is beautiful, and I’m finally enjoying it!

    • Nicole says:

      Honestly I am a recovering addict and yes from heroin. I have been clean for 10yrs. I have raised 2 boys that are 20 and 23. I also have a lil girl that is 7. All of my kids are awesome kids. But since my boys are grown I will pinpoint on them. They both work every day and they take care of theirselves along with one having a lil boy and a gf. They are also drug free and I’m extremely proud of them. So here is my advice. I whole heartedly believe in honesty and always being open with your kids. Let them know you are always there for them no matter what and they can come to you and tell you ANYTHING, no matter what it is. Always always always be honest with whatever it is. Yes you can beat around the bush, to accommodate for their age, as long as your still telling the truth and they know it. Let them know that it’s ok to make mistakes as long as you fix them and you will still be there even if they do make mistakes. I also feel if they are scared of what their parents parents would think of them or will do if they was to find out whatever they have done, than they will never be open and will hide everything. The last one I want to share is the number one thing and it’s always showing and telling them you love them. I hope that this will at least help one person. Good luck!

  10. Deb says:

    Brittlind, your life reads as well as a good book. You are an inspiration to me and I have no doubt the story of your life will help many who are in the same place or have loved ones in the same place you once were. You are proof that mistakes can be made and over come and it’s obvious you now have a great love for life. With love all things are possible you have proven that. God Bless You.

  11. Ashley says:

    I really applaud you for this. I really do. Your story and yourself is an inspiration to me. I am also in recovery from heroin and pain pills. It’s sad what is happening with the drug and all of the deaths from it. Definitely stay strong through your journey, I really think and hope you stay happy with your life and never go back to the devil. A sober life=a happy life!! 😊😊

  12. Michelle says:

    Thank you for sharing your amazing story. It may give hope or spark a match in a mind somewhere out there that there is life beyond a life of heroin.

  13. Tmfluffy says:

    Ppl like you and stories like yours keeps me clean and makes me happy that I kicked the devil out of my life as well…thanks and good luck

  14. The last paragraph is what this is about…
    “I wouldn’t go back and change one thing in my life”
    “The most important thing I’ve learned from my long dance with the devil is there is only one thing stronger than heroin, and its love.”

    I too, am 4 years sober off heroin (and everything else). Love is the only thing that got me to where I am today. Some people call it God, but to me, God is love.

    Bless you and congratulations. I know how you felt, and I know how you feel today, and life is beautiful.

  15. Frankie says:

    Your story is sooo similar to mine it’s scary. I was a heroin addict for 8 years. Went to a couple different cosmetology schools, dropped out of them due to heroin. My story involves a few more felonies, a few more jail stints, couple more rehabs, and 4 overdoses. I’ve been clean since the beginning of last year. And you are so right; love is stronger. My son was born and I knew it was finally time to stop for good. Stories like yours make me happy, knowing that we can stop and stay off it for good, and help others as well.

  16. cindi says:

    I am so proud of you Brittlind!!! I knew you could do it…love life!!! <3

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