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Jazz and Heroin: My Real-Life Heroin Addiction Story

Heroin addiction stories run the gamut, and I hate to say it this way, but I can tell you that mine is one of the worst you’ll ever read.

I can tell y’all one thing for certain: I got introduced to an adult world at a very young age. 

The reason for this was because I displayed an uncanny natural ability to mimic jazz pianists that came into prominence nearly 70 years ago. I didn’t really pay too much attention to it at first. I just knew I liked the idea of improvisation and would spend hours—mostly on an electronic keyboard—practicing, although I had no idea I was practicing because I was just in love. 

By the time I was 15, I was playing with the best jazz musicians in Texas. In particular, I was jazz legend Marchel Ivery’s regular pianist. This put the spotlight on me within the music community, and boy did my ego have a heyday with that. 

I was quickly introduced to alcohol and marijuana. I loved marijuana, and I remember thinking, “I am going to do this every day.” Opportunities to shine just continued to fall into my lap, and it seemed like being an everyday marijuana user was not going to get in the way of anything.

If anything, it would keep me cool under all circumstances and allow me to always perform well.

That was the beginning of a big pattern of denial and delusion that would continue for years. It was the beginning of this heroin addiction story.

The Early 2000s and Easy Opiate Access 

In the early 2000s, while in high school, I found myself performing at the Monterey Jazz Festival in California. I can’t remember if this was the competition (which we won) that got us a spot performing at the festival or if I was already at the actual festival. Nevertheless, I was introduced to Oxycontin on an airplane flight from Dallas, TX to Monterey, CA.

I had no idea what pills were all about. I just know I took one and it didn’t feel like marijuana, so I assumed it wasn’t doing its job right or I didn’t have enough. 

I then found myself at dinner in a restaurant in Monterey where I was frequently going to the bathroom to throw up. It was at this point that I realized I was high—like really high.

I know I floated about that week, and I must have done a good job because I was receiving a lot of accolades. Business as usual, which just reinforced the idea that I was going to be a really successful drug addict.

I returned to Dallas and remember feeling what I now know was withdrawal. I had no idea that at that point I had become a real-deal opiate addict. Although 2003 doesn’t seem like a long time ago, it was a different time. I befriended a drug dealer who was getting 1,000 yellow hydrocodones a month—as well as plenty of valium—and what us Texas boys just call ‘Lean’. 

This is really where my heroin addiction story starts. I was in high school and seemed to always have plenty of cash on me because I was performing weekly and didn’t have any expenses (besides a serious drug habit).

Above all drugs, I had to have hydrocodone every day. It was the only drug that made me feel normal. I was baffled. I knew I suffered from depression and didn’t understand why this wasn’t being prescribed as an antidepressant. I mean these pills really made me feel good, and I felt the happiest I had ever felt in my life.

I remember a European girl breaking my heart, and every morning I’d wake up thinking of her, and I’d take 2 pills, go back and lie down, and get up when the sadness subsided. Damn, this stuff really had me at this point. What a great partner my little painkillers became.

I graduated high school with an everyday alcohol, marijuana, and hydrocodone habit that was somewhat sustainable at the time. I was 18, and I remember thinking to myself, “I’ve got to get the fuck out of Texas.” I was ready for the big show, to really flex my skills on the world stage. This led me to the next chapter of my heroin addiction story: Boston, MA. 

Boston, Mass Ave and Tremont, and My Introduction to Going to the “Block” to Get my Heroin Addiction Fix

I arrived in Boston, MA when I was 18. I was still not really aware of how much of an opiate addict I really was at this point. For the next couple of years, I did relatively well in college but started to consume larger amounts of alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine.

For the time being, I only occasionally found opiates. I celebrated whenever I did find them, and the rest of the time was pretty miserable with the other substances I was using on a daily basis. 

When I turned 21, I had broken up with a beautiful girl from Los Angeles and found myself in my apartment on Boylston St. and Mass Ave snorting Klonopin, drinking heavily, and being suicidal

This seemed like a good time to take a year off from college. You see, nothing was ever a big deal for me. I was on a full-scholarship, so I just continued to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. This arrogance quickly started to catch up with me. 

The next year in Dallas is not very eventful—lots of drugs, chaotic girls, and so much debauchery that I thought, “Well it seems like maybe I’ll move back to Boston.” Ah yes, the old geographical-change game. It’s a tale as old as time! I thought for sure this would be the end of my heroin addiction story, but it was truly only getting started—so many heroin addiction stories go the same way.

I returned to Boston, and I was ready to show the world what a big deal I was. My Boston friends quickly realized something about me though, and let me know about it—I was really drinking alcoholically like they had never seen before.

“Ah, fuck them,” I thought. I was still excelling enough to where I was considered one of the top jazz pianists in the college scene at the time. 

I was placed in an ensemble at school where I met a beautiful South American girl. We quickly fell in love, and it seemed like I was really at the top of the world. That is when I had the greatest idea ever. “You know what would make this even better? Opiates, Baby!” The search began, and I was determined. My heroin addiction story was back on track.

I was quickly asking drug dealers around Boston where I could find my old friend Hydrocodone. They did not know. I was discouraged momentarily, but then one of them pulled me in closer. It seemed he wanted to tell me a secret. Yes, Boston drug dealer! What secrets do you hold?! 

He asked me if I’d ever tried Heroin. I stated that I had not. He told me it was all in powder form on the East Coast and I could just snort it. That sounded fun and innocent. He told me the next time he got some, he would let me know, and I could contribute monetarily. You see, he was trying to keep his heroin addiction a secret, so this was all real hush-hush business. 

My Heroin Addiction Story Truly Begins

Well to say the least ladies and gentlemen, the introduction of powdered heroin into my nose changed my life forever. I remember where I was when I did that first line and what I went and did next.

I was in an apartment back on Boylston St. when I got introduced to it and found my way over to a rehearsal at the New England Conservatory. This high was unlike any other opiate I had ever done. This was some good shit, and it did every single thing I could ever want a drug to do for me. 

This high eliminated all of my fear and this was particularly beneficial for improvising music. The golden era was very short on it being beneficial for the music. The reason for this was that I couldn’t afford to stay high all the time. When I was not high, I had zero inspiration and could not really play the piano at any level that is worth mentioning or listening to.

I just think this is important to mention. Heroin works… if.you can be high all the time and never sick. 

Well, as you can imagine, I got to the needle within a month or two, and this of course took my heroin addiction story to a new level. I was quickly an everyday user. At this point, I was getting the heroin from this guy who dated this girl who was a student at Northeastern University in Boston. However, I needed to eliminate the middleman, and quickly. That’s because I needed to eliminate any wait time to get heroin. 

Down on Tremont St. in Boston there was a lot of public housing. This was where all of your friendly dope peddlers hung out. This is when I really started to glamorize and romanticize my existence as a drug addict. When I wanted to say I was going to cop around a bunch of people in public, I would say, “I’m about to hit the block!” and away I would go. 

Eventually, my girlfriend and I along with some friends put a band together to play at this party in a suburb of Boston in a basement. I mean, although there was a lot of misery at this point, I did have some good times, and a night like the one I’m referring to was one of those nights. 

We all ended up sleeping at this house, and the next morning, there was a great discovery—my girlfriend found heroin in my wallet and a needle cap in my pocket. She was not pleased to say the least.

This is when I first came clean to my family about my heroin addiction. I got enough heroin to get through a plane flight home back to Dallas where I would check into my first detox at a place called Timberlawn.

Detox, New York City, and the End of an Era 

I was in detox a few days, convinced myself and everyone else that I was good to go, and so I was let out, smoking marijuana within an hour of leaving. I remember thinking that that was not a good sign of how things were going to go in the not-too-distant future. 

You see, at this time I didn’t really know what addiction really was. I had some vague idea and would casually refer to myself as a drug addict or junkie. I had hardly a clue as to what I was up against and that I was going to have to abstain from all narcotics, alcohol, and marijuana in order to have a fighting chance at living. 

I returned to Boston, and my girlfriend and I quickly moved to Brooklyn, NY. My first morning in Brooklyn found me in line at a methadone clinic, and man was that a rough scene. The methadone did seem to help for a while, and I knew I was playing with fire if I stopped taking it everyday, and by that I mean that I knew I was in for some serious dope sickness if I messed with the methadone regimen. 

I had not long been on methadone when my girlfriend and I were asked to put an ensemble together to do a number of concerts all across Spain. Well, the methadone clinic was not going to give me a couple weeks of methadone to take to Spain at this point, and I didn’t want to miss the tour. What was I to do? A Suboxone doctor was in order, and I found one quickly in Manhattan. 

Now you may be wondering how I was even surviving at this point, so I’ll go ahead and let you know that I was extremely dependent on my family for money. That was the only reason I wasn’t out on the street… yet. (We will save that for the meth story!) 

So I got a prescription to suboxone and had to make the switch from methadone to suboxone while still in NYC, and boy did I really fuck that one up.

I took the suboxone way too soon after my last dose of methadone, and I have never been physically sicker in my life, possibly up to this day. It’s hard to say, as I’ve had some rough detoxes since then, but it truly was awful. Marijuana helped a bit in the evening, but good lord I would never wish that experience on anyone. 

I returned from Spain to Brooklyn with my still newly acquired Suboxone prescription. I knew enough about Suboxone that I had a little wiggle room. What do I mean by that? Well, I mean I knew I could take Suboxone for a day and that, 24 hours later, I could get high on heroin. 

So upon my arrival back to New York, I got it in my head that I needed to figure out where all the heroin in New York was. Tompkins Square Park here I come! 

It was at Tompkins Square Park that I met a group of semi-homeless kids. You want to know the funny thing? They brought me right back to my neighborhood a couple of blocks from my apartment. 

My heroin addiction story gets kind of monotonous at this point, but my heroin addiction progressed until I ended up in a treatment center back in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The End of My Heroin Addiction Story — Recovery and Relapse 

Back in Texas, sitting in a treatment center, I knew in my core that no matter how long I stayed in this treatment center, when I walked out of there, I was going to stick a needle in my arm, so I was morbidly amused at the idea of treatment.

I knew that I was unfixable.

That made me receptive.

The very first night I was there, I was introduced to the 12 steps as a means of recovery for a person like me. 

I would love to tell you that since I first worked the steps I have stayed clean, but I have not. My story involves many relapses, an introduction to meth at age 30, and multiple addictions compounding into something that has made it hard for me to have more than a few months of sobriety here and there since I was about 27. 

Heroin in Texas is trash, but if I’m in my active addiction, I won’t turn it down. In fact, I’ll do as much as my bank account will allow me to do. 

The needle is an addiction in itself. It is the aspect of my addiction that makes the whole thing as romantic as it gets. 

Heroin addiction is an all-consuming addiction, and it is unique because of the sickness that comes with trying to stop. I have experienced chemical dependency on a myriad of drugs, and none is quite like heroin dependency. 

All addicts have access to recovery now, especially with all these Zoom meetings going on. I do know that recovery is possible for any addict who has a desire to stop, and I continue to believe this for myself as I go into 2021.

That’s the end of my heroin addiction story for now—hopefully forever! Have you experienced heroin addiction, or do you have a loved one who has been addicted to heroin? Share your heroin addiction stories here.

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Selena
Selena
1 year ago

We r very similar and I think our stories are equally as bad however I haven’t made the full steps like you’ve taken to recover. Ty for sharing this

Adam Fout
Admin
1 year ago
Reply to  Selena

Welcome!

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Michael Palma

Michael Palma is a drug addict in recovery who is passionate about recovery and recently has taken to writing about his own experience, strength, and hope and hopes to share this with as many people in recovery as he can. He has been a professional jazz pianist for over 20 years. He has performed with Wynton Marsalis, Jimmy Cobb (drummer for Miles Davis), Daniel Platzman (drummer for Imagine Dragons), Robert “Sput” Seawright (drummer for Snoop Dogg and Snarky Puppy), Greg Osby, and Terri Lynn Carrington to name a few.

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