Former Users Describe the First Time They Tried Heroin
What is it about smack that makes people want to throw away their lives?
Enza floating. All illustrations by Michael Dockery
There's no disputing that heroin ruins lives, so why do people do it? Probably because, as one guy at a shitty nightclub urinal once explained to me, "it's like you are fucking god himself." He then shook his dick and looked up into the tainted ceiling and added, nostalgically, "chasing that dragon is a magical thing, man."
But the problem is you never really catch the dragon, you just end up wretched and broken and stealing from people who were once your friends. That's the side to smack everyone is familiar with, but even happy people get hooked and lose their lives. You don't need to be abused as a child, or lazy, or even unhappy. Maybe you just need to be in the right situation for more reasons to try it than not.
To highlight how no one is immune, we asked some ex-users and one-time dabblers about their first hit. This isn't an ad for smack. (Don't do it, please. It can fuck you up.) It's an insight into how euphoria can become a trap.
VICE: How did you come to try heroin for the first time?
Enza: I was 18 and I had just broken up with a boyfriend. Some friends of friends came over and I knew they were doing heroin and I was curious, so I asked one of the guys. Junkie etiquette is you don't shoot up a newbie because you don't want them to turn out like you—unless you ask more than once, which I did. So we drove out to Smith Street in Collingwood and he scored for us. He went first, then shot me up.
How did it feel?
It was instantly fucking amazing. It felt like everything was melting and everything was somehow better. Nothing mattered. It lasted about five or six hours and I felt really floaty and nice.
How did that first time change your life?
I wanted to do nothing else but feel that way. I decided almost immediately that this was going to be my life. I ended up using consistently for about a year after that.
How often is consistently?
For a few months it was every day.
How did those months feel?
I didn't give a fuck about anything or anyone. I had been a very anxious person up until that point. I had a lot of problems; a shitty childhood and a really fraught relationship with family and friends, and I just felt like I was home—that I'd found people who I could relate to and this drug that was fucking amazing.
How do you feel talking about this now?
I feel OK about it. I mean you get to a point where that's all you think about and that's all you want and you think of different fucked-up ways to get it. It was a shitty time, but in hindsight I don't regret it—it made me who I am I suppose.
Do you think you'll ever go back to it?
No, because if I do I'll never stop.
Hey, Sebastian. Can you set the scene for me? What made you try heroin and how was it?
Sebastian: I was 19 years old and I was at a party where I talked to a man who convinced me that heroin was a good thing. He said yes, it's highly addictive, but if you use very infrequently you won't become addicted. And I went ah, that's logical. I'll try it once, so I tried it.
It was a bit of a spectator sport—there were about half a dozen people looking on and he had readied a plastic garbage bin for vomit. Then he put a tourniquet on my arm, found a vein, and got a fresh new needle out of the packet. He drew up the heroin and explained to me what he was doing, and gave me a full hit. He blew on my arm as he was injecting me and it was the least painful injection I've ever had. He took his time, was very slow, injected it fully in and got that tourniquet off. Then he bid me to sit back in the armchair and relax, which I did.
What is your main recollection of that moment?
Lots of warmth. Different waves of warmth around my body, and then all of a sudden I hurled into the bin, much to the laughter of everyone around me. Then I sat back and the rush turned up and oh my god, it was good. It was very good. I didn't know that I could have that much sensation in my body. I didn't know that I was capable of feeling that much enjoyment. The initial rush lasted about 20 minutes then there were six to eight hours where I was very relaxed, calm, and had a sense of heightened wellbeing.
How did your life change after that?
It made me less worried about my relationship with rules and laws. I started to realize that there was so much more to life than what I had been led to believe and accept. I started to get into some fairly serious hedonism and mysticism and fairly serious questioning of the paradigm.
Are you describing heroin addiction?
Well, I ended up using another three times within the same month, and on the last time I basically sat myself down and said Look, this is awesome, I love the shit out of this and if I don't stop then I will never stop. I will absolutely rob banks to get this and I will absolutely destroy lives to get this and I need to stop. So I stopped and it was a difficult thing to do, not because I was particularly addicted but because it was a particularly good thing to say goodbye to. I was literally settling for less after that.
How does talking about this make you feel?
Nostalgic, really. I was young and strong and healthy and full of potential and I was succeeding in a lot of things so it was a good time in my life. But I won't do it again because it's one of those things that quickly becomes too much and it'll overwhelm you.
Tell me about the first time you tried heroin.
Tim: I was 16 years old and I was living in my girlfriend's mother's house in a separate bungalow. I was doing a lot of codeine and oxycodone and one day my friend brought over some heroin. So I injected it and, my god, all I knew at that moment was that it was the best feeling in the world.
How did that night change your life?
Everything was perfect. I was as warm and as happy as I could be and life couldn't get any better. And at the same time, I didn't think about my dad at all, until the next day. Where I went, Hold on, he did this shit, he used. He had a masters in engineering and a masters in biotechnics, he was a really smart guy. This was obviously what he was feeling, and he put that feeling before his family.
Your dad put heroin before family?
He did. And he died because of it. It taught me a good lesson. I can do all the heroin I want or I could be with my girlfriend. So I chose my girlfriend. What the fuck my dad was thinking I'll never know.
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