Finding Beauty After Heroin

By Maddie Miller

If you saw me walking down the street your first impression would be that of a normal 20-something mother. And that IS me, however normal isn’t the exact word I would use.

 On September 6th of this year I celebrated 4 years clean and sober. My rise to this spot in my life was anything but easy.

I had a good childhood, amazing parents, middle class Minnesota. There weren’t any red flags or flashing signs to my family saying “look out for her!!!! She’s going to become a heroin addict” 

When I was eleven, I started hanging out with the rougher kids. I experimented with shoplifting and quite quickly was caught and charged. This wasn’t some kids stealing candy at the local gas station though. No, I was caught stealing 500 dollars worth of clothes from a department store. It was always all in or nothing to me. Looking back I think this was the ultimate turning point in my adolescence. 

I experimented with smoking weed and drinking alcohol occasionally. When I was 15 I was part of the party group. At this point pills were starting to come into the picture. Hydrocodone, oxycontin, and morphine. 

My best friends Mom was staying in a nursing home for rehabilitation after a recent illness. We would go there and hangout and ride around in wheelchairs. Within the next few weeks I noticed I had some blister like spots under my left arm. Embarrassed and weirdly quiet like most teenagers, I didn’t tell my mom. Hoping it would go away on its own. It became so painful I could barely move. By the time I told my parents and they took me to the hospital, I had a quarter size hole on my side under my arm so deep you could see the muscle tissue. I was admitted to the ICU with MRSA. I ended up being allergic to the antibiotics and I went into toxic shock. I was given IV Dilaudid and OH MY GOD. This was it. The best feeling I ever experienced. It was like a pot of warm honey poured down the top of my head and went down all the way to my toes. Everything was numb. Everything was funny. Everything was fine. 

After being in the hospital for a while, I was sent home. My best friends mom was also sent home from the nursing home, but with a full bottle of oxycontin 40s. And we took off. 

In 2010 I was seventeen years old and a high school graduate. I successfully completed high school with a daily addiction to oxys. I still have no idea how I was able to do that. Stealing, scamming and manipulating were my favorite traits I had picked up. By this time I had already spent time in juvenile detention and scared the crap out of my parents. But, I was able to hide my addiction pretty well. By September of 2010 there was a 42 person federal indictment. I was close friends with over half of them. I knew something was off that morning. Everyone’s phones were off or they weren’t answering. I got a call from one of the guys on the list, they hadn’t caught him yet. I went to pick him up. Now this is where I have to pause and think REALLY hard about what in the hell my 18 year old brain was thinking. And it’s simple actually. Drugs. I picked him up and drove three hours with him to hide out in the cities. All because I knew he had an unlimited supply of oxys and xanax. 

As the months passed it became increasingly hard to find oxys and opanas, they were outrageously expensive too. I’m talking 120 dollars for one pill that would last me an hour. This is when I found heroin. 

I always said I could never start shooting up. I liked to smoke the pills and heroin. But, when I saw my best friend shooting up I was intrigued. Other friends would always tell me that smoking it was a waste, that you get a better high if you shoot it. My best friend tied off my arm and BOOM. That was it. That’s what I was searching for. 

The next 5 years were repetitive. Wake up, scam someone for some money, get high, nod out, wake up and repeat. Felonies followed. And numerous treatment centers. Sometimes I would make it to 30 days clean in treatment but then run. 

My parents were put through the worst, they kicked me out and I went to stay with my grandparents. I would either live with a boyfriend or go back to Grandma’s.

The time that I remember most was being kicked out of my grandparents. I had no friends no family and nobody wanted me around and I don’t blame them. Luckily, I had a crappy old car to sleep in. Sleeping in your car in Minnesota is a humbling experience

In July of 2015 my Grandma woke me up. My Grandpa was dead. This is where I still have trouble forgiving myself. While police and ambulance were at my house along with my family, I walked out into my Grandpa’s workshop grabbed his camera and went to pawn it. I got the money, met my dealer and then driving my grandpa’s truck I went and parked down the road from the house. I climbed into the backseat, got my shot ready and immediate bliss. I told myself I had to be high in order to deal with my family that day. I haven’t yet told them that is what I was doing that morning. 

A few weeks later investigators showed up to the house to talk to me about recent thefts. I called a treatment center that day. My get out of jail free card. I was scheduled to go in a few days. I decided to drive myself there. It was 4 hours away and I had been there before so I knew what to expect. I told my family the day before I left. I called my probation officer also. When I pulled into the tiny town of Waverly for treatment, I stopped at a gas station and put all my syringes and dirty spoons into my trunk. Looking back now I should’ve known I wasn’t going to make it. In the detox room and extremely sick from the withdrawals I obsessed about the dirty spoons just a few feet from the building. I walked out to the nurses station and asked them when do they call the cops if a patient leaves. They told me as soon as I hit the door, I said okay and went to pack my bags. I asked for my keys and then ran as fast as I could to my car. I didn’t even make it a full day there. 

I drove home and my probation officer called me that morning to say he put 3 warrants out for me and to get back to rehab. It was about a week later and I was driving my Grandpa’s truck, nodding off and I rear-ended someone. Totaled the truck, broke a rib and decided to go back to treatment. I went to a hospital to detox this time. But the crazy thing is I still couldn’t stop. I had my dealer come to the hospital and I was smoking cigarettes and shooting up in my foot in the bathroom of my hospital room. That’s the last time I got high.

That person only exists in my memory now. The scars from my track marks remind me of the pain I endured. The last four years have been beautiful, terrible, ugly and amazing all in one. I became a mother on April 25th 2017 and that boy hands down has helped save my life. He gave me a responsibility that meant more to me than any high I would ever find. He is the rainbow after the storm. He is my light when I’m feeling dark. Today I still have struggles, however they are good struggles. Complaining about my house being a disaster from a chaotic toddler, figuring out what to make for dinner, finding out I accidentally killed one of my plants. Dishes and laundry never stop. I get caught up in the everyday life of motherhood and forget how good I have it now. I have a roof over my head and a car that works, I have life in my eyes and a little boy who loves me with his whole heart. I have so much more. I speak out about my addiction now in the hopes of helping someone. Maybe even for helping a family member. My sister had the songs picked out that she would play at my funeral. I survived and I am so happy my family doesn’t have that burden anymore. 

My main concern is don’t lose hope. Anybody can change. Anyone can pull themselves out of that deep dark hole, with a little help, compassion and love. To me, it is wild that I live a life completely free of drugs and alcohol now. There’s so much more to life than numbing out. There’s so much beauty to see. 

Waking up in the morning and not having to get high is still one of the most rewarding feelings recovery has given me. My past is no longer shameful to me, it is a beautiful encouragement to people struggling showing them that life after addiction is capable. I am forever grateful to what my past has taught me. I’m still growing, and I’ll never stop.

Maddie Miller

Maddie is four years sober and mother to a beautiful little boy. She is on a mission to share her story with the world with hope that it will help others overcome addiction and realize the beauty of life.

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