Nick S.,

Philadelphia, PA

My name is Nick and this is my story.

I never in a million years thought I’d be abusing opiates, let alone intravenous heroin/fentanyl. I didn’t drink or smoke weed throughout high school. It wasn’t until I was stressing over the pains of military life that I began drinking heavily and abusing synthetic cannabinoids along with other research chemicals. Even after I was discharged and went home, I still thought I’d only ever be using psychedelics, like DMT and LSD.

As my life went on, my depression began to escalate, and I didn’t want to be alive anymore. One fateful day, my friend introduced me to a substance that would eventually control my entire existence. In that one moment, I entered the hardest relationship I’ve ever been in; I fell in love with heroin. At the time, I was still against injecting anything. I would sniff a little for a few days, start getting a bit dope sick, and then stop for a short while. Regardless of my somewhat “controlled” use, my friends always got sick of my lifestyle, and I was put out of every place I tried to stay.

With no more bridges to burn, I became homeless. Trying to turn my life around, I stopped abusing opiates. I found assistance through the VA and was placed into a group home/program. Here is the caveat: this particular group home was in Kensington, the heroin capital of Philadelphia. Dope is sold on nearly every corner, and I could only white-knuckle my sobriety for so long. I relapsed, albeit “controlled,” and I was completely naive to the hell I was about to enter.

“I never in a million years thought I’d be abusing opiates, let alone intravenous heroin/fentanyl.”

After I was assisted into an apartment, I got the green light to use as much as I could get my hands on. I began to get curious about the “rush” one gets from injecting. With such easy access to syringes and dope just a train ride away, my curiosity became a reality.

After overdosing several times and sustaining multiple injuries related to “nodding out,” I knew I needed help. Thanks to the VA, I am now 90 days clean and serene (a short time in the grand scheme of things, but still important to me), and have been going through some great programs. The struggle is real, and no one ever plans on becoming addicted. You don’t realize you’re entering a world of pain until it’s too late and you’re stamped with the stigma that comes with being addicted to drugs.