For as long as I can recall I have always felt like and outsider. I believed that I was this deep, dark individual that nobody could possibly understand. Some of this comes from being an autistic child and starting school with significant verbal and developmental delays. I knew I was different from my peers since the age of three. I was mistreated and bullied due to my differences. As I grew older my mistreatment would follow me all throughout my life. The feeling of isolation hurt deeply.
To cope I would turn to escapism.As a kid that meant writing poems or drawing pictures. In my thirties it meant lines of heroin off of my desk.
All throughout my life I swore I would never drink or do drugs. The altered state of mind from substances frightened me. I was clean until thirty and then went into full blown addiction.
Being autistic I have strong passions that appear as obsession to others. As a kid my passions were dinosaurs,various musical artists and foreign countries. They are typically called “special interests“ but I always believed “strong passion” is more accurate. My passions can be a gift or a curse. Until recently they were healthy and advantageous to me.
Now my passion is opiates and it hasn’t been healthy. It nearly took my life on more than one occasion.
So how did this all start? How did a person clean until thirty give control of their life to opiates?
Let’s start at the beginning of my history with substances .
I was very shy socially. I was always the girl who felt invisible and as if people walk right over me. This caused me to great anxiety in social situations. In attempt to overcome this I decided to live out of a backpack and travel the world. One day I was invited to a bar by people in my hostel. I was extremely nervous and felt out of place. I then took a drink and all of this melted away. I felt confident and desirable. This opened up the doors for my brain to feel what substances could do. As I staggered through the streets of Krakow, It felt as if all sorrow melted away.
That one drink soon turned into five binges per week when I would go out at 11 PM and return at 7 AM drunk out of my mind. Sometimes I would black out and wake up on a park bench and once in a hospital.
After my time as a drifter, I moved to New York City where I put those days behind me or so I thought. During the great lockdowns of 2020, I would drink a bottle of wine a day. My mindset of isolation morphed into deep depression . I had let my mental health go to hell and was too depressed to seek treatment . This bout of depression lasted for a few years. Suicidal thought wouldn’t leave my mind and was shocked I hadn’t yet committed suicide.
Everything to me felt hopeless. It was so hard to get out of bed. I said to myself “I have one last shot” and soon began treating it myself. I had read a segment on psychedelic therapy for treating depression and I found hope. I was so sick of suffering and all the pain from a life of trauma.
A friend told me where to get mushrooms and a psychological dependency soon began. At first the tripping was beneficial. I walked around proclaiming that I found the cure to depression. I was soon obsessed with the altered state of reality caused by psychedelics. My passion soon became tripping and the more academic mycology (the study of fungi). I tripped every day for months . My life ambition soon became a “mushroom grower” which basically means that I wanted to be a drug dealer. My room was a mushroom grow house and my mind , an encyclopedia of psychedelic drugs. I even made a drug checklist and checked off Mescaline , LSD, MDMA, DMT, Salvia, Cocaine, ketamine and kratom.
I had always told myself that it is impossible for me to have a bad trip. Then the unspeakable happened. After 200 or so trips I had a horror trip. My ego died a temporary death and I went into psychosis. I saw demons popping out of every which direction. I even called my mom to tell her goodbye and that I had died. I believed I was dead at the time and even thought of jumping off the roof of my building to make it permanent. It felt as if I were living in a horror movie. I tried to save my passion but couldn’t. Mushrooms would never be the same. I had to kill the passion or replace it.
I then remembered kratom and how it hits the opioid receptors of the brain. I soon was a regular at the kava bar nodding off to several cups of red kratom. I asked a man at the kava bar if he knew where I could get something stronger. He would then introduce me to my dope dealer.
I knew how addictive and deadly heroin was. The thing is I didn’t cared if I died at the time. 12-step programs proclaim in our drug use we were slowly committing suicide and that was partially my intent. I was trying to prevent myself from committing suicide. I thought heroin was my best option. I was a person who wanted to die but couldn’t pull the trigger. I thought to myself “Lets experiment with this to see if it gives me joy or numbs the pain.” I approached the dealer and bought perhaps one of the most stigmatized drugs in history.
I won’t lie. My first bag of heroin was amazing. As an agnostic I felt as if I went to heaven. The intense joy was beyond the grasp of words. No human being is meant to feel this intense joy. If you want to hear a story telling you “heroin is horrible and doesn’t feel good.”, I am not the person to do that . In fact it felt so nice I bought a bag the next day and the next day and would take it everyday until I finally went to rehab. The high you get at the start soon weakens and you are forever chasing the high. That is one of the dangers of opiates. Your tolerance goes up and so does your daily dose.
I had found my drug of choice. Unlike mushrooms it felt emotionally safe and as if a warm blanket was over me. It was more predictable and it numbed all the pain.
As soon as I found something to numb the depression and allow me to feel joy, I was lost. I do not believe you can be physically dependent on a substance in a day but it captured me emotionally. I had wondered how I ever lived without it. Every moment of my life would soon involve finding and using heroin . The sorrow was still there but at least I could mask it.
I would hide my dope use to my friends and soon had a secret life. There were many reasons for that. Opiate use is highly stigmatized and I felt the need to protect myself. I also didn’t want my friends and family to worry.
Most of all I didn’t want them to try to take my dope away.
There was a good reason for people to be worried about me. One day I overdosed alone in my room. I began to sweat intensely and I noticed my finger tips were blue. My heart was beating rapidly and it was extremely hard to breathe. My usual nodding off involved my head bobbing up and down. This time my head wouldn’t come up. I soon blacked out but somehow saw a white light. Some hours later I woke up. I would later learn from my rehab counselor that I had almost died. The day after I didn’t learn anything from this experience and I snorted heroin yet again.
About a week after my overdose I thought perhaps I may have a drug problem. I didn’t yet realize that I was a drug addict but knew enough to reach out for help.
A friend and former dope addict took me to my first NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meeting. I went to a meeting on New Years Eve and after the meeting attempted suicide later that night. I went to the Williamsburg Bridge with the intent to jump. I had forgotten that there is a fence on top of it to prevent suicides. I searched for a place to climb over the fence but failed. Defeated, I left and did a few bags of dope. I would have chosen death over being without my precious heroin. I felt like Gollum from Lord of The Rings. Heroin was my ring.
Stereotypically autistic people can’t lie and I am very honest but when it came to drugs I was a liar. I lied to my friend and to NA and claimed I was using kratom and mushrooms. I would lie about my days clean. I never got past day one. After three weeks of NA meetings, I realized that I needed to go to rehab . At rehab to my horror fentanyl came up in my drug test.
I told everyone I was going to rehab for kratom. It wasn’t until a week in that I stopped the lying. Rehab was horrible. For five weeks I could not spend one moment alone. The halls were loud with activity from nursing staff and other addicts. I had sensory overload every day. I was open about my autism but they offered no accommodations.
My first week was detox where I was put on a methadone taper. Even with the aid of methadone, I was still dope sick. My hands and body shook, intense cold sweats and had to have a puke bucket by my bed.
I shared a room with three other women and most would come and go. It was a hellish experience but was determined to get through it and stay clean. I soon learned that rehab was much easier than the temptations on the streets .
I retuned to my room after rehab to see the filth I lived in. I decided I would rather live on the streets than that place and gave up my housing. Luckily, My mom helped me pay for hotels until I found a room to rent.
With the support of my mom and friends, I am still clean to this day. I now have mental health treatment, go to an outpatient rehab 6 days a week and the assistance of suboxane. I also try to attend NA meetings daily and call my sponsor.
I researched autism and addiction and learned despite being less likely to try drugs, if we do we are at a greater risk of addiction.
Heroin was my world but ruined my concept of the world around me. To me it felt like my most intimate lover of my life. It was an abusive lover that follows me everywhere. I am powerless over it.
To this day I still have cravings. I am a few days from being ninety days clean and it still controls me. With my passions, trauma and outsider mindset, I was a likely candidate for addiction.
If you are depressed and treat it with dope, please know, it only masks feelings. When you get off the drugs or alcohol the depression worsens due to the fact your brain no longer has the drug that it relied on for so long.
As for me I spent so much time thinking about death or nearly dying that I forgot how great it is to be alive.
I want to stop focusing on death and focus on being alive. Breaking up with heroin was the hardest thing I have ever done and now my passion isn’t so much drugs but recovery.
Amanda Porche (she/her) was diagnosed with autism as a child. Originally from New Orleans, she has lived in many places to prove to family she could accomplish something of importance. Amanda traveled the world for 4 years. She is currently based in New York City where she takes part in activism takes film photos and creates fine art pieces. She currently is planning to get training for a job in addiction recovery. As an addict herself, she wants to help other addicts.
Thank you for sharing your life so graphically. Wishing you all the best for your future! You have great insight and will be a very useful addiction worker. My life has been some of the ‘places’ yours has. Unfortunately a close family member continues to walk those ways. Reading about your experience has given me some hope that they will make it out of harm’s way one day. They are a very talented artist, like you. My arts knowledge got me ‘out’ alongside meditation practice, but I did continue to swap addictions at first – to food, then shopping – with health and financial consequences. Lockdown actually broke down those patterns. Turned out I didn’t want to die as much as I had often thought I did. I think it is wonderful that there is more support and openess around all sorts of ‘issues’ these days. Even though I am an oldie I wouldn’t want to go back in time, to the ‘good old days’
when sexism, racism, homophobia and other prejudices were the mainstream for all. I know this world is far from perfect, can human animals ever be? I know we are facing a climate emergency, but, at least in my corner of the world, there is so much more support for people like me and access to information and outlets and online groups. I am confident that your generation and successive ones, will sort the mess left behind by my ignorant generation. All living beings will be thankful for you! Thank you!
The Big Black Bear loves you, Amanda. Proud of you, do your best and take those baby steps.
For me, 12-step groups and 12-step work are miraculous. I’m in the family and friends groups. When my children were in rehab, I used to say I was a breeder, which may or may not seem humorous to you. I was discovered to have ADHD & ASD after that.
Where I live now, we only have Al-Anon. The groups are so very supportive.
Know that you are loved even as far away as Australia.
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