I did heroin for the first time when I was 17 years old. It was Thanksgiving Day, and my first love and I were sitting in his apartment complex pool house staring at a brown clump of black tar. I was dressed in crushed velvet and a fur coat, something that I had picked out to look like I belonged in Velvet Goldmine—a bit overdressed for a family Thanksgiving party. He was excited; I was not. He took the first hit and turned around a piece of tin foil with a lighter held underneath. I watched as the sticky substance ran across the aluminum, leaving a burn trail in circles.
His family parties were always a trigger of anxiety for me. At this point I had lived with him and his family for about 6 months after being kicked out of my own house. My father was a mentally abusive alcoholic, and my crime in his eyes had been the fact that I had a boyfriend he disapproved of. I hadn't touched a drug until I lived with my boyfriend; in fact, I spent the first years of our relationship covering up for him. I was an AP student, but I had latched onto the first boy to give me his full attention and supposed devotion.
My boyfriend’s relatives didn't approve of me because I was only half Hispanic and apparently raised on bad manners. Their festivities were always something to behold. Everyone dressed to the nines. They only bought designer clothes and perfumes for these particular events because it was the only time they "went out" other than to work. They constructed these events to put themselves in competition with each other: who had the sweetest children, who was the skinniest, who had the best tits. I was a black mark on his family's record.
I knew that the heroin would help me relax. By this time I had become accustomed to snorting an oxycodone or morphine pill right before so I could be more socially at ease. I suffer from a range of emotional disorders, and opiates seemed to be the only way out for me. I also wanted to be a specimen of perfection for him. He was a musician in a mediocre glam band revival project. He played lead guitar. My tendency toward self-inflicted starvation, his family’s disapproval, and the attention he garnered from various "groupie" types—all these things weighed heavy on me. I wanted to be the kind of girl who got interviewed in the documentaries I saw, dressed all in black and smoking a cigarette. They always looked used-up but wise. I wanted to be Bobbi Brown, or Tawny Kitane. I wanted to be Alice Cooper's blonde, wet babe in the "Poison" music video.
I’ll never forget one night, in the beginning of our drug abuse journey, when my boyfriend picked me up from work with his friend Jason in the back seat. I was explaining how I was starting to feel more depressed than usual, more anxious. Jason said, "Be careful with opiates. That's how it starts: first you feel 'weird' and then the physical addiction hits you." I was silent and stared out of the passenger seat window as I contemplated the possibility of having a drug problem. Then we drove him to pick up a bag of heroin.
Jason’s prophecy was fulfilled when we found ourselves smoking heroin every day, hitting the AMPM on the way back for my favorite tangerine fountain drink that had "Vitamin C." It was said that vitamin C would reduce the sick feeling heroin gave you and induce a much better high. Nodding out on the bed, surrounded by candy wrappers and talking nonsense, became a nightly ritual.
We began to steal everything we could get our hands on—from lifting his family's jewelry and cash to boosting power drills from Home Depot. Our dealer only sold in $50+ bags, which became an expensive habit to maintain considering we needed just about that much to get through the day.
We stopped having sex, and when he would nod out I'd find messages on his phone from other girls he was sleeping with. I'd go into violent rages, demanding an explanation. His mother would walk in and tell me that hitting and yelling were not allowed in her household. "I don't know what your family taught you, but we don't do that here."
But her house rules didn’t matter for much longer, anyway: within a year, my boyfriend and I had moved to Hollywood. We were located in a building off of Sunset and Cherokee. We were able to swing it because we both had applied for financial aid at community colleges. I graduated; he did not, even though I would do some speed and write his papers for him during senior year.
Our house turned into the party house, and we stopped going to school almost as soon as we started. We had a sign on the front door that said: "Party Time!" We were always stocked with stolen booze and various pills—although we never shared the heroin. Friends who lived in the area would come over and carve swastikas or pentagrams into our walls: anything that could be deemed "shocking," which we tried so hard to be. There were burn holes in the carpets and black soot on the walls. We had parties where we played old pornos like Barbie Bound, the film from which I picked up my nickname: Barbie. I was blonde and too thin, always wrapping my bones with fake fur and silk lingerie. I would get high late at night, watching old Bridget Bardot we had stolen from Amoeba Records while trying to paint my nails or put a face mask on through blurred vision. That’s where I found the second part of my nickname: Bardoux.
Barbie Bardoux. I turned into a caricature of what I had wanted to be all along. I would drink pink champagne with my waffles for breakfast and then down a shot of whiskey laced with crushed-up Norcos until I could find my next fix of heroin. I had a job—I worked at Forever 21. My boyfriend’s job was to find us more drugs.
When we got evicted, I moved into a sober living house in North Hollywood and he went back to his mom. Every day, I hustled on my own. I'd call up "friends" I had met who ran places in Hollywood—“shops” where you could get your next fix. I had one friend in particular named Stack. He was a fast talking skinny punk who lived in a costume shop. He called me Barbs or Barbed Wire. He and I would sit in his shop and talk about movies and music while we used. We watched Liquid Sky and the Hunger. He was the only comforting thing left in my life. He introduced me to TSOL and Christian Death, and we'd sing to GG Allin's “Sluts in the City” when we went to go pick up.
Lots of people came around his shop, and the shops surrounding his. It was almost like a block party every day, one filled with junkies and hungry men. Sometimes, if you were a girl, it was hard to tell whether you were a spectator or if you were on display: I remember that on more than one occasion one of the shop-owners, Dean, would ask his friends if they wanted to fuck me while I was passed out on the couch near the storefront window. (To this day, I still don’t know whether anyone ever took Dean up on that offer.) And one night, when I had started to go into withdrawal and went banging on Stack’s door looking for a fix, he and his friends were too busy gang-banging some drugged-out girl—fucking her with popsicles and various other objects—to let me in.
I eventually got kicked out of the sober living facility I was staying at because I couldn't pay rent, and I ended up sleeping in my 1992 Nissan Sentra. I had no money, no boyfriend, no friends, and no family, and one day I found myself sitting on the sidewalk right outside one of the shops on the block. It was raining, and I was beginning to go into withdrawal. And Dean, the only shop-owner who was in at the time, wouldn't let me in because his girlfriend was on her way over: "You understand, right?"
Finally, after all the time I’d spent plummeting towards disaster, I began to feel that I’d hit something like rock bottom. I sat on that sidewalk and cried in the rain in clothes that I had stolen from Ross. Alone in the world, I considered my options: if I could only get my hands on enough heroin, I could give myself an overdose. And if that didn’t work out, well, also had a switchblade in my bag. Sitting there on the block, I contemplated my next—and final—move.
That was when my aunt showed up.
My “friends” watched through the storefront window as this woman got on her knees and sobbed in front of me. I could scarcely believe it. I hadn't talked to her in a long time—in fact, I hadn’t talked to anyone from my family in a long time: none of them would talk to me. But my aunt had received a tip from someone about where they’d last seen me, and ever since then she’d been on a stakeout, waiting for me to show up.
My aunt—one of the strongest, proudest women I know—grabbed me and begged me to come home with her. I had never seen her beg anyone in my entire life. She said that she would get me clean, and that if I didn’t get clean I was going to die.
When my aunt put me in rehab, I was suddenly surrounded by people who were coming off of Skid Row and SASCA programs from the county jail. The people at the facility broke me like a wild horse, and I cleaned toilets for them and worked in their kitchens. I saw many of my peers die before they made it out, and I went to many funerals. As bleak as it was, however, rehab was my only option: my family—including my aunt—had refused to let me live with them. And, over time, I began to recover. I accumulated 2 ½ years clean and sober from everything, and to this day I have not touched heroin since 2012. I went into rehab for "three hots and a cot" and came out with an experience that I would not trade for the world.
I write this story today because I have had many young women reach out to me about drug abuse, childhood abuse, the pain of addiction—all things that I write poems about. They ask me how I did it. How I got clean. Lots of them are still dwelling in their addiction, and I wish that I could give them a simple solution. But it takes years to come out of near-death and homelessness, to become a different, perhaps better person. We have to hit our own rock bottoms before we can change.
This is only a fragment of the larger picture that is my story, so I hope it is somewhat useful. My story is one of codependency and vanity paired with childhood trauma and my struggle with borderline personality disorder. I had a been a monster and a fiend, putting trust in all the wrong places. I had to be reduced to an animal before I could begin to find my way out. To this day, I sometimes struggle with alcohol binges, but I can say that I haven't touched an opiate since then.
Each story is different. But my hope is that someone may relate to my experience and find strength without the drug, or the man, or woman, or whatever that outside influence may be.