Survivor’s Stories

If you or someone you know is a survivor of heroin addiction, we want to hear from you. Stories from survivors bring hope to those struggling with addiction and can help inspire others to get help. Share you story with us at abisaro@newhavenregister.com or ehernandez@nhregister.com.

Check out our latest blog post about a woman who overcame her addiction while pregnant. 

Former heroin addict in Connecticut turns life into message

By Anna Bisaro – New Haven Register

(This story first appeared on the New Haven Register website in November 2015)

Looking down at his father, severely ill in the hospital, Casey could only think about one thing: getting high.

It was a relatively new habit, one that developed while in a 30-day treatment center that his parents had pushed him to because of his alcohol and marijuana abuse. Another addict Casey met in the program had a relapse and invited Casey to join him in trying heroin one night.

To ease him into using a syringe, the man had Casey use brandy first — just so he could get a feel for what it would be like. Casey said years later, he can still remember the taste of the brandy in the back of his throat.

Shortly after, when the heroin entered his veins, “it was the most at-peace feeling I’ve ever felt,” Casey said. And that’s all he had ever been after.

While visiting his father in the hospital days later, Casey got money.

‘I DIDN’T HAVE A SOLUTION’

Casey, who asked that his last name not be used in this story, had what he calls the “model childhood.” He was one of four boys at home in Shelton, both his parents had successful careers. He was a star athlete — excelling in football, hockey and lacrosse.

But, something was missing. Despite always being involved in team sports, Casey said he never really felt a part of anything. That’s when he started to notice students doing drugs in school. Maybe they had the answer.

“I just wanted to feel different,” Casey said. “I couldn’t take how I was.”

It started with alcohol when he was 13. In high school, he started experimenting more at parties with marijuana and other drugs. That evolved into getting high before football practices.

“I didn’t have a solution in my life,” he said.

Like other teenagers who start to experiment with drugs, Casey said over time, he starting trying other substances.

“The lesser drugs become not enough,” he said. “You’re chasing that feeling.”

The morning after Casey first tried heroin he felt terrible. But, he shot up again that night and felt better. A new habit was born.

Casey’s parents soon learned of his trials with drugs and were devastated, he said. They sent him to several 30-day rehabilitation programs and every time he was able to convince his parents he was clean. He even tried methadone, a replacement drug, to try to wean off of heroin. But, that only made him sicker, he said.

It only took a couple of months of heroin use before he hit his rock bottom.

“I went from playing football in college to the following day being in a jail cell in New York,” Casey said.

Casey had spent the night before getting “messed up” on drugs before breaking into dorm rooms on campus and stealing whatever he could get his hands on. He did not get convicted of the larceny charges, but he knew he had reached his limit.

A TURNING POINT

“I was lucky to be desperate when I came to Turning Point (in Hamden),” Casey said. He knew it was time for him to make a change in his life and he was finally willing to work for it.
Turning Point was founded in Connecticut more than 13 years ago. The year-long program has three phases that help men ages 16 to 25 get their lives back after an addiction. From a focus on healthful living practices, to regular meetings with a therapist, to group social activities, the program helps prepare young men to return to life on the outside with an idea that being sober doesn’t mean the fun in your life goes away, Casey explained.
“We show the clients you can have fun,” he said. “It makes being sober not seem so bad.”

Casey was hired as an operations manager when he completed the program. Despite his busy work schedule, he said he will always make time to talk to a client and share about his experiences. He will often join a client for a walk on the grounds in Hamden or a game of basketball.

“I’ve turned my mess into a message,” Casey said. “My drug now is helping people.”

Now 23, Casey’s life has taken a 180-degree swing since he was getting high before football practice in high school. He has reconnected with his parents and brothers. He even recently bought a house in New Haven.

As for a potential relapse: Casey doesn’t see that as a temptation anymore.

“I’ve built a life I value more than that,” Casey said. “I’ve found that peace.”

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