'My hair started falling out': Woman's before-and-after photos of heroin addiction show 'the insanity of the disease'

Photos: Reddit
Photos: Reddit

It’s no secret that the U.S. is in the middle of an opioid epidemic, and news about the growing problem can be incredibly disheartening. That’s why a recent Reddit post from a former heroin user has grabbed so much attention.

The post, which was written by a woman named Maggie, reads, “55 days clean today! Recovering heroin addict. There’s always hope. Never give up man. So grateful to be here and wake up everyday.” The post clearly resonated with people who shared their own stories in the comments about the impact of addiction on their lives.

Maggie’s message was short, but the story she shared with Yahoo Lifestyle was incredibly intense. Maggie (who prefers not to share her last name publicly) says she was originally addicted to crack cocaine. She entered a treatment facility for it last year, where she met a guy named Chris, whom she started dating. They left rehab together, and he shot her up with heroin for the first time.

“I became addicted instantly and fell in love,” she says. The couple rented an apartment in California for a few months, and when money became tight, they started living hotel room to hotel room. Because money was so scarce, Maggie says, she wasn’t eating every day and relied on Chris and his brother, who moved in with them, to decide when she could eat. “I was at their mercy, and whenever my boyfriend got food, that’s when I got food,” she says.

Maggie says Chris and his brother started doing meth, and things quickly went even more downhill from there. “The meth would make them paranoid,” she says. “They once locked me in a bathroom with them for eight hours because they thought people were inside our room.” The brothers also broke her phone. “My hair started falling out. I was extremely malnourished,” Maggie says.

Maggie once accidentally took Chris’s shot of heroin and overdosed. He called 911 and fled the scene, but his brother gave her a shot of Narcan, which can treat a narcotic overdose. “When I came to, my clothes had already been cut off by doctors,” she says. “People were running around, screaming. It was very scary.” She says she immediately went through withdrawal, but after she left the hospital, she started using drugs again right away. “That’s the insanity of the disease,” she says.

It wasn’t until Maggie tried crystal meth that she realized she needed to get clean. “Heroin keeps you in a fog where you don’t care,” she explains, pointing out that she had a urinary tract infection for three weeks but it didn’t bother her. “But after I did a shot of crystal meth, I felt an immense amount of pain in my lower back, and I knew something was wrong.”

She took Chris’s phone and called her mom, whom she hadn’t spoken to in months. Her mom bought her a plane ticket home and met her at the airport, where she had to be wheeled off the plane because she was so sick. Maggie was taken to the hospital, where doctors discovered that she had a kidney infection and kidney stones, and was just a few days away from going into septic shock. “I wasn’t in pain, and I would have just died,” she said.

Maggie tried to detox on her own when she was released from the hospital, but ended up getting so sick that she needed to go to a detox center. “I left and relapsed,” she says. “Three days later, I went back into treatment.” She’s now in a program and has been sober for the longest she’s been in a while. “I’m very committed,” she says. “I go to meetings every day and I have a sponsor. This is the most I’ve ever enjoyed life.”

Maggie says she decided to write her Reddit post because she’s happy to be alive. “I’m very proud of where I am currently in my life,” she says. She acknowledges that it can be hard to get clean but says that other people who are struggling should know it’s worth it. “It’s a matter of if you want to live,” she says. “It really has to come from you — it has to.”

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