I was 18 years old when I started dating a guy who introduced me to the world of drugs. I had tried alcohol and smoked marijuana a few times — nothing that really got me interested. He gave me hydrocodone. It all started there.
A couple years later, I was dating another guy — one that had connections my little opiate-adoring self could only imagine having. That's when I was introduced to heroin. It became like a best friend to me — we were together every day. I would get it with any form of payment possible: money or sex.
My boyfriend eventually went to rehab, and I said I would get sober. I didn't.
Through mutual friends, I met a girl on the night of my 21st birthday. Sasha* was dating my friend's ex-boyfriend, so that meant I automatically hated her. Then I got to know her, and then we started hanging out, and then we started doing heroin together — all in the course of one day. What's the fastest track to becoming best friends? Doing drugs together.
When I first started using, I was snorting powder. I got to the point that my tolerance began to increase. I was curious and had Sasha shoot me up. It was then that I decided that was the better way of getting my high.
Our routine for when we would hang out entailed the following: we would go to the grocery store and steal candy and one-liter bottle of soda; we would then drive back to where Sasha was staying, which switched several times within that year; she would then make up a shot for each of us. I would get mine first, hers next. I would make Sasha shoot me up first because one time she went first and was nodding off when she was trying to give me my shot.
The fun only lasted so long. I was getting to the point where I felt it wasn't worth it. I was either begging my grandpa and parents for money, stealing the money from my family, or fucking the drug dealer. I'd had enough.
I told my mom I wanted to get sober, and I went to a methadone clinic. I was evaluated and started my dosing, going every morning until I graduated to taking home doses. Things were going fine.
At the time, I had been working at a doctor's office. My boss told me one day to sort samples — the expired and the non-expired. I had to remove the expired samples from their packaging and dispose of them in a box; someone had already started, and I saw some stuff still packaged in the disposal box.
That's when I came across some fentanyl patches. It was like an opiate addict's version of winning the lottery. I grabbed nine patches and stuffed them in my purse.
Later on, I texted Sasha with the good news. She was immediately interested in what I had to offer. We figured out when and where we would meet and how many patches she wanted.
I had an appointment with my therapist at that day and had to go to work right after. At the time, I couldn't drive because my license was suspended, so my uncle drove and waited for me. My phone kept going off during my appointment — it was Sasha. We had agreed to meet outside my therapist's office so I could sell her the patches before I left for work. As my uncle and I were walking out to his car, I told him I saw my friend and that I was going to go talk to her really quick.
I went to the car Sasha was in and got inside. We talked for a bit, I handed her what she wanted, and she handed me the money. We went our separate ways — she went back to the city she lived in, and I went on to work.
I tried texting her all afternoon and into the night, but I never got a response. The last text I sent her, jokingly, was, "Are you dead?"
The next day, I saw the posts on Sasha's Facebook wall.
I miss you
I love you
I was in denial. How could this happen? I wondered. How DID this happen? I told myself it was just a coincidence — she must have done some other drugs. A mutual friend said she thought she OD'd from meth. I knew that wasn't possible, but I let it go and let it calm my mind.
A few months later, in May, Sasha's family had a memorial for her. They had cremated her and wanted to celebrate her life when the weather was nicer. They planted a tree in her honor. It was bright and beautiful, like she was. I went, and I was numb the whole time. It wasn't real to me. I felt awkward when I approached her parents to give them my condolences.
In June, I decided to get a tattoo in her memory: three candy hearts with "Love you" in the first heart, "Miss you" in the second heart, and her initials with "RIP" underneath in the last heart.
One July morning, as I walked out of the house to go to work, two men approached me and one of them said my full name.
I stood there looking at them. My whole body felt weak, and I knew my face had gone pale. The man went on to say things about selling Sasha the patches, and then he told me I was under arrest. They followed me into my house to let me drop off my purse and wake up my dad up to inform him I was being taken into custody by the federal agents.
When I arrived at the U.S. Marshals office, I was interviewed, and I cried the entire time. Then they took me to get processed; they took a swab of my DNA, fingerprinted me, took a mugshot, and got other personal information. I was told to undress, take my piercings out and do the whole nine yards, including the squat and cough.
I waited for what felt like hours before my court-appointed lawyer arrived. He talked to me for a couple minutes, and then I was taken into the courtroom where they did the initial hearing. I stood there in shackles and handcuffed, crying hysterically. I was released on a bond to my parents with them being my third-party custodians.
For the next year, I would be drug-tested, see my therapist twice a month and my psychiatrist monthly, be in various group therapies for both mental health and drug addiction, go to the probation office for monthly visits, and have home visits from my probation officer. I wouldn't leave the house unless I had to for appointments or if accompanied by one of my parents.
The following March, I pleaded guilty to one of my charges. I was told I would be sentenced mid-summer. I went to a meeting they held at the courthouse for offenders expecting to go to prison so I could learn what to anticipate when I got there. They mentioned things like how to deal with other inmates, correctional officers, and rules, contraband, etc. I was the only female in attendance.
The July weekend before sentencing was all about relaxing and just enjoying the presence of the ones I love. I spent my last free Friday with my best friend and her mom, playing Blokus. The next day, I watch movies on ABC Family with my mom.
On the morning of Tuesday, July 29, 2014, I woke up and got ready for court. I was shaking with anxiety and had taken all the medication I had to help with it. My mom dropped me off at the probation office so I could do my last urine test and talk with my probation officer. Then I walked to the courthouse and talked with my lawyer before court was in session.
At 9 a.m., I had my best friend, her mother, my mom, dad, sister, godfather and his dad all supporting me in the courtroom. My best friend gave me a crystal that was supposed to help with legal problems and negative outcomes. My godfather gave me a coin that had a saint on it for protection.
The whole procedure lasted about an hour. I was given time to express remorse about my crime. The prosecutor asked for 60 months, but my sentencing guidelines only called for 6 to 12 months in prison. The judge said that although my crime involved a death, I was being sentenced only for distribution. He ended up giving me an upward variance, and I received a 21-month prison sentence.
Throughout the last couple of years, I've learned a lot — that addiction can destroy your life. I went from being a stable college student with a job and my own place to an unstable drug addict with no job, sleeping with dealers or stealing money from my family to fuel my habit.
I realize now that even though I made a huge mistake, I can move on and become a better person. I am a felon in the eyes of the government, but that is not all of who I am. I don't have to be stuck with a stigma. I can and will be what I want to be.