By Dawn McCombs
I interviewed Hannah Broadway after she expressed an interest in sharing her personal story about heroin addiction with me. In the process of interviewing Hannah, her deeply moving story brought me to tears.
I carried it with me for days afterwards, unable to think about anything else.
It is important to note, however, that the primary lessons I took from Hannah’s story were ones of empowerment and strength, exemplifying for me the perseverance of the human spirit, when up against impossible odds.
Hannah Broadway quickly became one of my heroes.
In considering how to best share Hannah’s story, I decided we could only do justice to it by sharing it in her authentic voice. In the course of our discussion, Hannah shared many details too graphic and personal to publish at this time. Other particulars were omitted to maintain the anonymity of people close to her who are still struggling with narcotics addiction.
I hope that I did my best to honor Hannah’s story and to inspire, through her words, anyone out there right now who thinks that they aren’t strong enough to beat heroin.
I don’t even remember what happened but five minutes later I had a needle in my arm. Now looking back at it I have always had problems with peer pressure. I get it though, it was my decision, and I am not trying to cop out, but maybe because I finally had friends and they were saying, “It’s OK, you can do this,” I thought that if they were saying it, then I would be OK. I have only ever wanted to be accepted.
When I was growing up, I used to think that my mom was my hero. My biological dad died when I was 18 months old of AIDS, and she raised four kids all by herself for 5 years.
Growing up I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere. I didn’t have any friends and used to cry myself to sleep every night. I used to be overweight and was a tomboy and just didn’t really fit in with anybody else. So, if I had to diagnose myself I would say that I was depressed as a kid.
If I played, I played alone.
I ended up switching schools my sophomore year, when I was 15. When I went there I didn’t have any friends, not that I had any before. I remember being called a lesbian, and I never really knew that fully about myself yet. You know how you go to lunch when you are a kid and there is always that one table where the outcasts sit. Somehow I made my way to that table. That was the table where people who didn’t fit into each clique sat and usually most of them were like stoners and stuff. So that’s the people that I fit in with because they were the outcasts, and I was an outcast and always had been.
This girl at the table invited me to hang out with her that night. I was so happy to finally have an opportunity to have a friend. That night we smoked weed and got drunk. Soon after that I was doing every drug you could think of. I was like a human garbage disposal.
By the time I was 16, I was selling drugs, drinking every day, smoking weed, doing a ton of coke, doing ecstasy and pills. I had a ton of friends because I always had drugs and that was a good feeling because I had never had that before. I did everything but heroin, and then one night we tried that too. About a month and a half after we started doing it we were addicted.
When you develop a physical addiction to heroin you wake up in the morning and feel like you have a really bad flu. You have cold sweats, your body feels sticky, you get the runs, and there is this stench that comes off your body. Every day I would wake up and would just feel sick until I did heroin. At this point all of my money went into it. I didn’t buy weed any more. I stopped buying coke. I stopped buying alcohol. Every dollar I had went into heroin.
“I overdosed twice and almost died.”
Pretty soon, I got kicked out of my parent’s house and was homeless. I lived in trap houses and robbed my parent’s house and broke into cars for loose change. I overdosed twice and almost died. I remember wanting to overdose on purpose to kill myself. It’s just one of those things. If I were to kill myself, of course I am going to do it this way. I loved this drug. Then one day I just got tired of it all. I just couldn’t keep up with what I was doing.
“I remember thinking: nobody gets off of heroin. I am always going to be like this.”
My sobriety date is February 3, 2013. I just celebrated my 3 year anniversary [being clean]. It was a big deal because when I was in and out of rehab I wanted to be clean, but I had never heard anybody getting clean off of heroin. I remember thinking: nobody gets off of heroin. I am always going to be like this. Then one day I just got tired of it all. I just couldn’t keep up with what I was doing. It was hard to explain. I had never really loved myself even as a kid, and I was a kid when I started using, so I didn’t really have any idea of what I was supposed to wish for that was better than what I had. I just knew that I hated the way that my life felt.
I am the biggest fuck-up of my family. I mean, they’re proud of me now, but I am still trying to pick up the pieces three years later. I wish I never would have used drugs. I get that it made me who I am, and I appreciate that aspect of it, but I also feel like it took a lot from me. I think about the people that I hurt. I think about the friends that I did have, and now I don’t, because I don’t want to be around them, and they don’t care to be around me because I am not using. But I’ll tell you what I am very thankful for. I am thankful that I got my felony off of my record, and that I never got hepatitis-C or HIV. Everybody I know who used got those things, but me. I kept getting tested well after I stopped using, because I just couldn’t believe that I didn’t have anything.
I think a lot of people want to be clean, it’s just they don’t have the strength to do it. Nobody wants to feel like shit. Nobody wants to sleep with people for money. Nobody wants to rob their families, and steal anything from others, and risk going to prison, it’s just they don’t have the strength to not do it.
The author, Dawn McCombs, is the owner of Glean, a small business in the Short North District of Columbus, Ohio. Everything in her shop has a story, one that we may not know, but can imagine.
Ed. Note: The story above was originally published for Test City, U.S.A. and has been re-published here with permission by both Hannah and Dawn to help others better understand addiction and recovery.