I never knew my parents. Having deserted my older brother and I when I was far too young to remember, we were both fortunate that our Grandparents were able and willing to support and raise us as their own. But, despite their wonderful and caring upbringing, i've always harboured strong feelings of resentment to my absent parents, that blossomed into anger issues and sheer recklessness that would later haunt my teenage years.
I first smoked marijuana at the tender age of 13. The typical scenario, a bunch of misfit kids meeting up after school to smoke up in an act of rebellion against the man! Or, so most of my pot-smoking friends considered it, back then. “Hey Caragh, you ever tried this before?” My long-haired, crush-of-the-month inquired. “Just a few times before”, I lied. After endless tokes and far too many coughing fits, the THC flowed through my bloodstream, introducing my mind to altered states for the very first time (I had never tried alcohol before this point, either).
I found it extremely helpful in dealing with my rage - I had far less outbursts, and through this I managed to open myself up to my family, despite their obvious disapproval of the drug. It broadened my horizons as well – I became really interested in meditation, art, spirituality and gained a newfound zest for life. My friendship circle began to evolve from angsty rebels, to laid-back hippies. These were the happiest times of my life. We would drop acid while listening to psychedelic rock, go on mushroom-hunting trips while walking barefoot along muddy forest paths, make tie-dye shirts while one of us strummed an acoustic guitar, and spent entire afternoons drinking green tea while talking about what we wanted to do with our lives. It was incredible, and it wasn't destined to last.
My Grandfather fought a long and valiant battle against lung cancer, but lost the war a month after my 16th birthday. I was crushed. The closest thing I ever had to a father, and I only had him for 16 years. I didn't think it was fair. After this point, tripping lost it's appeal. As any seasoned acidhead knows, set and setting is everything - and when your mindset is at it's lowest, only misery can come from it. I wanted something to take the pain away, so I turned my back on hallucinogens, and started indulging in more feel-good substances like cocaine, eschewing spirituality for hedonism. I partied a lot, and I partied hard, but eventually I would crash headlong into a substance I just wasn't ready for – heroin.
Much like my first encounter with weed, it all began with a long-haired boy doing something that piqued my childlike curiosity. Everyone at this particular party was on something, but this group of guys chasing something far more dangerous. “What is that?” I asked, trying my darnedest to not sound like some wide-eyed kid asking to try a sip of beer for the first time. The leader of the pack, a blue-haired boy with a seemingly permanent wicked grin on his face said nothing, and just passed the aluminium foil my way. Taking my cue from the others around me, I immediately lit up and inhaled. At first, it just felt like being high, then I got a little giggly and more chatty with the people around me. It was a strange feeling, almost as it my brain was being wrapped in a warm, electric towel, with tingly vibrations travelling throughout my upper body. I thought I was falling in love, which both the substance, and the blue-haired boy. After the heroin dried up, and the mood of the party began to dissipate, I started to feel really tired, and went home, but not before giving away my mobile number.
We started to hang out more, and I eventually discovered that didn't just smoke but he injected, too. Hearing that the pleasure from intravenous heroin use was even greater than when it was smoked, I was all too eager to try. I'm sure you dear GAG readers are rolling your eyes so hard at this point, that they are ready to fire out of their sockets, and break into another dimension. “How stupid is this girl, injecting heroin? What does she expect will happen!” Honestly, I thought I could handle it. I had done more varieties of drugs that I had fingers and toes at 16, but I had never known addiction. I was young and foolhardy, and I never thought it'd happen to me. After all, I never got addicted to cocaine? “I'll be fine.”, I assured myself.
I wish I could say the first time I injected was some mind-blowing, ultimate high, the greatest pleasure I had ever felt - but it wasn't. It was just 'nice'. Really nice. Smack is deceptive, and this is how it tricks you. I thought “Yeah, that was pretty good”, and then I just carried on my day. During my first year of college (In the UK, college is for ages 16-18, proceeding University), I quickly made friends, and went to house parties, but this was a new crowd of more sensible people, and they were really into booze, rather than class A drugs. I didn't want to get off my face and make a fool of myself on something like coke, or MDMA, so I thought “Well, heroin is really chill, I could do a hit and then go to the party.” It unfortunately worked, to great success. Slowly and steadily, I stopped using any drugs that weren't heroin. Why waste money on stuff like that, when I can just buy more smack? Infact, why stop shooting up, when it makes me feel so nice? As my tolerance grew, my ability to poker-face began to get worrying effective. I would go to college and work, and on my breaks, i'd head to a nearby toilet, and shoot up, then carry on with the lesson/shift.
The vile cancer of addiction continued to get worse, and people started noticing the conspicuous track marks on my arms, along with my frequent bathroom visits. I got suspended from college, and fired from work after a period of many absences. I was at rock bottom. I spent my days away from my family, surrounded by other dope fiends in a grotty council estate. I stole, shoplifted and did many things i'm not proud of, in order to afford the next hit, always chasing that first high. My brother actually quit his job in order to be with me more so that I could quit. But it was no use. I tried listening to his advice, I attended as many group meetings as I could, but their words couldn't reach me, as I hated myself. Hated what I had become. I just wanted to bury my pain and anger in any way that I could, I just couldn’t see a way out.
Then one day, while sitting in that dark, squalid flat, I found a beat-up looking Superman comic book under the sofa. Bored, I decided to give it a read. I hadn't really read many comics at this point, and this particular story was quite confusing to say the least, but I got to one page, and as I read it, I just burst into tears. In it, an obviously suicidal girl stood atop a tall building. With tears in her eyes, she threw her phone off the building. As she braced herself to jump, Superman himself appeared behind her. He didn't swoop in and pick her up, he didn't tell her to stop, he just assured her that she was stronger than she thought she was. These printed words meant the world to me. Not just because I looked a little like the girl at the time, but I felt as if these words were for me. This small piece of paper from a superhero comic, of all things, inspired me to find my own sense of worth and battle this addiction.
I started listening to my brother, I started to actually participate in narcotics anonymous meetings. I moved to a whole new area, as far away from heroin as I could get. As I write this myTake, I am a little over 2 years clean. I'm attending University, and doing quite well, so far. I don't think i'll ever be 'normal' again - once a junkie, always a junkie. But i'll resist those urges for as long as I can. I believe in myself now, I believe that I matter, and that i'm far stronger than I ever was.
Thank you Superman, for helping me realize my own worth.
Thank you Brother, you are my greatest superhero of all.