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Drugs

A Pretty Wild Christmas

During the 2010 holiday season, I wasn’t able to sit by a fireplace with my family—I was a heroin addict, and my disease was worse than ever. I expected to spend that Christmas getting high on black, but instead I was arrested and subsequently spent...
December 21, 2013, 2:01pm

Alexis's drug problem prevented her from enjoying this type of Christmas. Image via.

The holidays are a terrible time to be a drug addict. Christmas trees, bright lights, and Mariah Carey songs are a constant reminder of how shitty we feel about ourselves and how we're emotionally incapable of crowding around a warm fireplace with our loved ones. During the 2010 holiday season, I wasn’t able to sit by a fireplace with my family—I was a heroin addict, and my disease was worse than ever. After leaving jail that summer, my using increased to an all time high. I repeatedly promised myself I would quit using, but the inevitable continued taking place—I was constantly back on the black.

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I hadn’t always spent the holidays searching for dope. As a child, I loved Christmas, because it was the one day of the year where nothing could go wrong. My family's dysfunction ceased to exist, and I could act like a kid, but in 2010, I couldn’t get excited about cooking a huge family dinner or running down the stairs to find presents. I was an addict, and I was just trying to get by.

That Thanksgiving, I ran out of dope and became violently ill at my stepmother’s house. I called my father to drive me home, and when I arrived at my house, I searched for a smidgen of heroin to feel better. Because I had no heat, I spent hours shivering as I scraped old straws I had used as smoking devices.

At 5 PM that night, I completely ran out of dope, so I called a boy I knew and promised him I would buy us heroin. He agreed to drive me if he could also take me to dinner and a movie. I didn’t like him romantically—I simply wanted a fix—and looking back, I feel bad for leading him on. After he picked me up, we drove into the valley. We rolled up to Balboa and Ventura and pulled into a gas station. We waited for hours for our dealer to arrive. When I saw his runner's car, I immediately exited the boy’s car and jumped into the runner’s vehicle. (The only feeling more indescribable than the anxiety I experienced waiting for my dealer’s car is the adrenaline rush I experienced when my dealer’s runner arrived.) I handed him the cash, and he spit three balloons of dope from his mouth.

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The boy and I got high, ate dinner, and then watched a movie. Afterwards, I asked him to drop me off at my mother’s house. I didn’t know why I wanted to visit my mother, but something told me that if I did, I would finally feel better. I entered her house, and something was different. I couldn’t decipher what had changed, so anxiety kicked in. My solution to my anxiety was the same solution I always had—get high. I walked into the bathroom and pulled out my dope, some foil, and a straw. (Because I had no rigs, this was the most efficient way to get high at my mother’s house.) As I exhaled, a deep sorrow washed over me, and I realized the house hadn’t changed—I had changed. I was experiencing a brief moment of clarity. Looking into the mirror, I saw a new girl staring back at me—a girl who was tired of being a slave to a crippling disease. I finally recognized that I had very little left in me; continuing to live meant to live a life of misery. I had already panhandled for money, and I knew prostitution was the next step. As a victim of sexual abuse, I knew I would have killed myself before I sold my body, so I sunk down onto the floor and said, “God, universe, whatever you are, I can’t go on like this anymore.”

Once I calmed down, I cleaned up my supplies and crawled into bed with my little sister. At 6 AM, I woke up feeling ill, because too many hours had passed since my last fix. I grabbed my wallet and went back into the bathroom to get well. I pulled out my sack and realized it was only enough for one hit. If I smoke this now, I will have to go a minimum of four or five hours before I can get to my dealers, I thought. I decided to wait and go back to bed. One hour later, the cops arrived at my house to take me to prison, because I hadn’t shown up for probation in two months. For some reason, they only had my mother’s address on file, and that’s where I happened to be that morning.

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I tried to blame my dope and supplies on my little sister. (This is absolutely horrendous, but when I was in the grip of my disease, I was a really ugly person.) Obviously, nobody believed that the heroin belonged to my 17-year-old sister. The cops arrested me and dragged me to jail. Once I was in my orange jumpsuit, I realized I would probably spend Christmas in prison; I would be in an orange jumpsuit, and my family would be behind the glass looking at me with pain and sorrow in their hearts. My life is over, I thought. I’ve already dealt with so much shame and embarrassed them so much. I can’t deal with this holiday scenario. Over the next few days, I kicked heroin cold turkey. I tried to end my life by drowning myself in the toilet before I had to spend Christmas in jail, but my suicide attempt predictably failed.

The next day, the guards woke me up at 5 AM and told me I was headed to court. I quickly ate my breakfast and exited my cell. The guards handcuffed me around the waist and then sat me in a holding cell in the Criminal Courts building in Downtown Los Angeles, where an attorney came to see me—at least, he technically was an attorney. He was really a messenger from Alcoholics Anonymous.

“Are you ready to take responsibility for your life?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said hesitantly.

“Well, then you are going to go beg for the mercy of the judge and ask to go to drug rehab.”

As I walked into the courtroom, cameras moved towards me. I hadn’t showered in days and still had toilet water in my hair from my suicide attempt. I was so embarrassed. The district attorney told the judge, “Ms. Neiers is a multiple offender now and clearly is unable to perform the simple task of checking into probation. I feel that she should have her probation revoked and serve the full sentence.”

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The judge looked at me. “Do you have anything to say for yourself, Ms. Neiers.”

“Yes, your honor. If you send me to prison, I will only come out with an even harder heart. The truth is that I am a heroin addict who can’t stop using on my own, and I need help.”

Out of nowhere, a man in the audience stood up. He told the judge he could offer me a year in his treatment center if the judge didn’t give me a prison sentence. The judge accepted his offer.

This meant instead of spending Christmas in a jail cell, I was going to spend Christmas at rehab. When I arrived at the recovery center, I felt scared. I had no idea how to interact with my family or function without drugs. A few weeks later, my family visited me on Christmas. My mom was happy to see me—in her eyes, I could do no wrong—but my stepfather seemed stressed. I had always felt like I was a burden or a disappointment to him, and without the use of substances, my burden was even more pronounced. But we were cordial to each other until they left.

On Christmas night, I was alone, because everyone else had gone home for the holidays. Is this really what it is going to be like for the rest of my life? I wondered. How did I get from shooting up at my family's house on Thanksgiving to being in rehab by Christmas? I walked outside and lit up a cigarette.

I told myself to stop thinking about the future and focus on the present. This helped, but I was still upset. I climbed into my bed and rolled into the fetal position. What the fuck have I agreed to? I thought, as I cried myself to sleep. At least in prison, I would have had an opportunity to get high. New Year's Eve was equally depressing. Once again, I was alone and in bed by ten—it didn’t help that I was 19 years old and used to living a “glamorous” lifestyle that meant celebrating New Year's in a nightclub with drugs.

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Looking back on that terrible holiday season, I see how these experiences were important for my recovery. By the next holiday season, I was a different person. I met sober friends through 12-step programs, had a community of friends I loved, and knew how to have sober fun. We cooked a huge Thanksgiving feast together and exchanged gifts on Christmas. I have had several sober holidays now, and this year, I feel blessed to share Christmas with my beautiful baby daughter. Since Thanksgiving, I have been listening to Christmas radio with her non-stop, and taking photos of my baby with Santa was an amazing experience I never would have had if I hadn’t spent Christmas in rehab three years ago. Life without drugs is great. Turning that life into a fulfilling and exciting life is even better.

Alexis Neiers is a drug and alcohol counselor at Acadia Malibu. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and newborn baby.

@ItsAlexisNeiers

More by Alexis:

Please Don't Touch Me

The Quaking Mess

How Do We Solve North America's Heroin Epidemic?