Let’s set the scene: It’s Christmas Eve 2016—My 45-year-old “girlfriend,” 20 years my senior, cries hysterically as the reality of her failing marriage and the prospect that she may lose her kids becomes too excruciatingly real. The table we sit at in the dimly lit apartment that she pays for is littered with decrepit needles, but this moment is all too familiar. I pay her no attention while she works away through her tears, feverishly trying to extract leftover heroin from the cigarette filters we pulled out of the trash.
We’re getting sick.
It turns out the dealer has a family of his own. Tomorrow we’re going to kick our habit, but today we’ve got to find a fix. I screen the calls from my family. I can’t bear to talk to them. Besides, I’m busy exhausting my phone list for anyone who might be able to get us high tonight. Every second that the drugs wear off gets more painful. I think of my family and whatever line of manipulation I fed them as to why I couldn’t make it back to New York for the holidays. It’s not the first year this has happened, and I assume it will not be the last. God knows that I can barely leave the outskirts of San Diego, let alone get on a plane to the other coast without a solid plan to stay high. It’s not a risk that I’m willing to take.
My life has been reduced to a 1-bedroom apartment in a city where I exist with the sole companionship of a broken woman who’s lost everything in her life. Outside of the drugs, that is all that we share—loss. I push the same dirty needle into my arm over and over, fishing for veins that are disappearing at an alarming rate, hoping that this will be the last time. I welcomed death. I couldn’t believe in God, but I prayed for anything is better than this.
A month later my prayers were answered in a way I could never have guessed. In the following February, I entered New Life House, all hope lost. I’ll spare all the gory details of the interim, but know that it was not a pretty transition.
Fast forward ten months and the holiday season is here again. I look back over the past year in disbelief, recalling all of the pain and all of the growth. I’m filled with gratitude; a feeling I had not felt in years and my life is beautiful. I don’t have everything I want, but I have everything that matters; most importantly, a fantastic relationship with my mother and father, both of whom had resigned to losing their son to drug addiction. I show up for my life today. It is the greatest gift I have ever gotten, and I know there is no way it could have ever happened without the unsolicited blessing that is New Life House.