A letter to heroin
As an adolescent, Jessica was independent in a way that was different from most kids her age. "She was particular about her friends. She refused to be part of a clique," says Jessica's mother Deborah.
That's why Deborah was shocked when Jessica, age 12, and her closest friend were caught smoking pot in her backyard. A neighbor saw them and called the police.
The police gave Jessica a written warning. Next time, they told her, they would press charges. Her mother grounded her and suggested counseling. "She told me she didn't need therapy," Deborah says, "that she was just trying marijuana. So I thought that was the end of it."
But it was just the beginning.
One night when Jessica was 14, she didn't come home. Jessica's brother Michael checked the caller ID and saw the number of a guy everyone at school knew as a heroin user. "What's this number doing on here?" he asked.
Deborah called the boy's mother. The woman was able to find Jessica and bring her home. "She told me Jess had been doing heroin," Deborah says. "I was horrified."
This time Deborah insisted that Jessica go to an outpatient drug treatment program. "She pretended to take it seriously," Deborah says. "It lasted eight weeks."
Soon, Jess was using heroin again.
Over the next two years Jessica spent 18 months in two lock-up rehab centers. Jessica begged to go home. She promised not to use heroin again.
That fall, Jessica enrolled in a college three hours away. She and her mom both thought that new surroundings would help Jessica stay clean. But soon, she was skipping class and secretly catching a ride back to her hometown to hook up with her drug dealer. "She'd call me on her cell phone and pretend she was at school," Deborah says.
A short time later, Jessica called her mom and said she was sick. She wanted to come home. Jessica was in withdrawal from heroin. Deborah took her to the hospital. "She was shaking and throwing up," Deborah says. "They gave her medicine but wouldn't keep her overnight. They said that she wasn't in danger. I drove her to the treatment center, but they had no room for her. So I took her home."
"Don't worry, Mom," Jessica said. "It's too painful. I won't use again."
Within a week, Jessica was found dead in the basement of their home. The cause was heroin intoxication.
"When you don't have the drug, your body is in pain," Deborah says. "You only feel good when you're on the drug. It's like the drug lies to you. I look at it as a demon."
During one attempt to stop using heroin, two years before her heroin overdose, Jessica wrote this letter:
We've been through a lot the past couple of years. I remember when I first met you, not quite knowing what to expect. I was young, scared and curious. The first time the needle hit my vein I fell in love with you and the pleasant euphoric nod you gave. I thought you were my best friend. When I had a problem I knew where to find you. When you were running through my veins you numbed me from all my problems and from the rest of the world. I thought I loved you even after you took my friends, family and basically my life from me. I did everything for you. I lied, stole and gave my body for you. I thought you solved all my problems but when the high wore off, I had even more problems.
You took my relationship with my mom from me and I missed out on an education for you. You turned me into a different person. A thief, liar and prostitute. That's not who I am. I'm only 16. You can't fix my problems; can't get me through school. The only thing you can do is promise me a life on the streets living dirty. I hate you and all the pain you put me through. I am finally ready to say good bye - and move forward. Good bye heroin.
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