Her Desire For Drugs and Death

It Started With Alcohol and Almost Ended In Hell
by Michelle A. Couchon

Suicide seemed like her next option until...

"I love you. Mommy will always love you. And I will never, ever leave you." These are the words I whisper to my children each night while they fall asleep, not so much to reassure them, but to reassure myself. With nine suicide attempts and fifteen years of drug abuse behind me, I can't afford to take anything for granted. My own mother took her life when I was just six years old, and for most of my life, I've wanted to follow directly behind her.

Would my life have been different had I not discovered my mother's body in a tubful of water on that warm, spring morning long ago? Or if my father had chosen a different wife other than the one he had a woman who verbally and physically abused me for eight years? Would my life have been different had I not been left unsupervised at my grandparents so often, often enough for my grandfather to molest me time and again? I've asked myself these questions a thousand times, but the answer is always the same: I just don't know. What I do know is that by the time I was fourteen years old, I was filled with a bitterness that had not diminished during the eight years since my mother's death, but grown.

And when the boy I had started dating introduced me to alcohol, I fell in love. I fell in love not with the boy who kissed me and teased me and made me laugh, but with the bottle. The summer of my fourteenth year was a turning point in my lifemy first kiss, my first love, my first taste of the magical drink that could turn streetlights into stars and boys into heroes. The alcohol numbed my mind and deadened my emotions; it wiped away all the painful memories of the past, and released me from the fear, anger, and hatred of the present.

That was how it started. From then on every decision I made was based on whether or not alcohol would be involved from the friends I chose to the places I went. And though alcohol eventually lost the potency to sufficiently numb my emotions, there were plenty of other mind-altering chemicals available. I experimented with practically every drug on the streets marijuana, Quaalude, Valium, mescaline, acid, cocaine, hashish, codeine, and vicodin. My favorites were the "painkillers", those pills that fell under the category of narcotics. The pills worked great for awhile, until I began to need more of them to get high. It seemed like there were never enough, and even when I did have enough, the high never lasted long enough. I would still awaken each morning to the reality of life, a reality that had become filled with such fear and anxiety that I began to wish I had never awakened at all.

Michelle Couchon spends precious moments with her kids.

That's when I began to lose hope. I had always thought that once I became an adult my life would change for the better, and that I would at last find the happiness that had been denied me as a child. But it didn't work out that way. Things didn't get better, but worse. I had sought love and found indifference. I had sought purpose and found confusion. I had sought happiness and found only hopelessness. And I realized that I had been duped. There was no such thing as true happiness! Freedom from fear, hatred, and uncertainty seemed to be an unobtainable fantasy. An abundance of love, joy and serenity these things were mere dreams. Life itself was a burden, an arduous existence in an unfriendly and unpredictable world. And so I sought death.

I tempted death every time I walked out my door from knife-fights outside the downtown nightclubs, to dangerous liaisons in the drug-infested streets of South Providence. I wanted to die, and though I tried to take my own life numerous times over the course of a decade, death continued to elude me. I longed for death, and found instead heroin.

Heroin. It dimmed the harsh light of reality down to a soothing glow, and enveloped me in a soft, protective barrier through which no ugliness could enter. I had never experienced anything like it, and within a few short weeks after discovering this magical, golden dust, I began mainlining shooting it. What a feeling! This was my solution. This was my answer. As long as I did a few bags a day, I could take whatever life threw my way.

I soon learned, however, that there was one, small catch to using heroin: withdrawal. Heroin was addictive extremely addictive and I quickly discovered that I not only wanted it on a daily basis, but needed it. I needed it to function to simply get out of bed in the morning. On the days when I had no dope and no money, I had no other choice but to endure the agony of withdrawal, and it is a painful experience I will never forget.

The symptoms begin with those similar to a light summer cold. A few short hours later, however, you start to feel the full effects of the so-called "monkey on your back" gone without his meal. Your legs begin to ache, your stomach to roll, and your skin to sweat, during which your mind is busy chasing after senseless and repetitive thoughts. The sicker you become, with nausea threatening every five minutes a body that has become too weak to stand, the more fearful you become and the more intense the craving for dope becomes. Sleep is unattainable, for although your body is almost completely devoid of energy, the anxiety and terror that courses through your veins and permeates your mind makes closing your eyes an impossible feat. The longer you go without heroin, the weaker and more desperate you get. The knife ripping apart the inside of your belly makes you think you'd do anything, anything for just one more fix.

When I first tried to quit, I thought that if I could get through the withdrawal period, I'd be home free. But I soon learned that the physical withdrawal is actually the easy part. The real battle takes place afterward, in your mind. With nothing to take the place of the security and comfort of heroin, you are like a person dying of thirst in--not a desert a lake! That's right! There's plenty of water available but you can't touch it! If you touch just one drop, you go back to the hell of addiction. And in the meantime you're left with the wreckage of the past, the remorse and regret of the present, and of course, the insane, overwhelming, desire for more heroin.

So what do you do? How can you possibly ever break free from the vicious cycle of addiction? I can only tell you what I did. I surrendered. And I turned to the only option that I had left: God. But I didn't do that until every other choice was taken from me; until He interceded in what I had believed to be a foolproof suicide plan.

I couldn't beat the dope, and I was tired of trying. I knew I had to end it, once and for all, and I had a plan that was sure to succeed. I bought twelve bags of heroin that day. I knew that it would be enough. My body was used to one and two bags at a time and by now I had slipped down to approximately ninety-five pounds. There wasn't a doubt in my mind that twelve bags would kill me.

I shakily yet carefully emptied each bag into the tablespoon that lay in front of me. I added the water, stirred it up, added the cotton, and filled the spike. As I tightened the band around my arm and picked up the syringe, I asked myself one last time: Are you really going to do this? Is this what you really want? My answer was yes, yes eyes! And with that, I shot all twelve bags into my veins.

Several minutes passed and nothing. Nothing! I looked around the room, stunned that I was still alive, and not only alive, but straight. For a moment I actually thought that I had dreamed the whole thing but no there lay the spike, fallen to the floor amongst the empty bags of dope.

At that moment I knew I knew that God wasn't going to let me die. And as I made my way over to the couch, I suddenly felt His presence. My knees buckled, and my eyes widened in wonder as I felt God's love wash over me. I began to tremble, for the depth of emotion that coursed through my body during those few, brief moments of raw illumination was unlike anything I had ever felt. The love He showered upon me was so tangible, so exhilarating, and so unquestionably real that it not only removed from my mind any doubts I may have had about Him, but it also reversed the direction in which my life was going.

"And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will." II Tim.2: 26

It's been seven years since I've stuck a needle in my arm seven years since God has broken the chains that bound me and, with his powerful and loving hands, lifted me out of the pit of despair in which I lived. Since that time God has wrought miracles in my life, giving me more than I ever dared to dream, and certainly more than I deserve. He has transformed my heart, filled the emptiness within my soul, and given me a new lease on life. He has guided me to His word, His church, and His son, Jesus Christ. He has secured my destiny here on earth and forever in Heaven. He has taken away all the fear, the loneliness, and the bitterness that lived within me, and replaced these with faith, hope, and joy. He has given me two precious children to raise, and a husband who is loving, gentle, and true. He protects me and provides for me daily, and He guides my way. He is the God of my salvation, and I love Him with all of my heart.

"Lead me in thy truth, and teach me, for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day." Psalm 25:5

Editor's note: Seven years sober, Michelle Couchon lives in Rhode Island and has recently begun working as a writer with a Christian newspaper.

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