I’ve used the term “Addict Zombie” before, and I continue to because it’s the best way I can really think of to describe what I watched heroin do to my daughter, and what I continue to see it do to others.
It’s so similar to the pop culture depictions, it’s uncanny. It’s starts as an inkling that something isn’t quite right, that your loved one has an illness, but you aren’t quite sure what it is. This is the very beginnings of the transformation, the “fever” stage. It’s a sinking feeling in your stomach that something is so wrong, but you can’t quite pinpoint it, or perhaps it’s more that you can’t accept it. It just can’t be happening…these things aren’t real.
Until they are.
The next stage of the changeover starts to get quite ugly. You can do nothing but sit there, helpless, and watch the “infection” start to consume them. You see flickers of your loved one, my daughter in my case, still “there”, but they become less and less frequent. She began to change from my bubbly, happy, sunshine who lights up a room, to something dark. She came around less and less frequently, trying to hide the “Addict Zombie”, wanting to protect me from what she was becoming. When she did come to visit, something would be missing. A little cash, an electronic device, a piece of her soul. And in turn, a piece of mine. Instead of sunshine following her, chaos and storm clouds of pain surrounded her.
Watching your child make that final transformation to full blown “Addict Zombie” is something so devastating, I can’t even find the words. I searched her somewhat familiar face for a sign that my love was still in there, but all I could see was emptiness in her eyes. This is when the zombie began to attack with a vengeance. The sickness completely took her over, and just like the pop-culture portrayal, she cared about nothing but her “brains”, heroin and crack. She would stop at nothing to get them. No remorse for who she hurt, not a care about the person she once was or her future, she just wanted her brains. I could no longer protect myself and my family from her. I couldn’t protect her from herself. It is a terrifying, utter helplessness like no other to sit back and watch the illness ravish and take over. My child became a body that was simply a host for the “Addict Zombie”. I couldn’t find her in there anymore. Occasionally I would think for a moment I would see a tiny glimpse of her spark flash through the empty eyes, but it was hard to tell if it was just an illusion, it would pass so quickly.
I grieved for the loss of my child who was still walking and talking, but it wasn’t her anymore. She was barely recognizable now. A skinny, sickly shell of the beautiful young girl that was my other half all our lives was all that was left. The actions of the “Addict Zombie” were unbearable. This is the part that hurt me, but also helped me the most.
This is how I was able to cope with the behaviors this sickness brought into our lives. This is how I could love this empty skeleton of my child who no longer cared about anything but her brains. I knew my daughter would never do some of the horrible things the zombie did. I was able to separate her from this monster and its destruction, by remembering that this wasn’t her anymore. When I fully came to this realization, this is when I finally started to fight the zombie with every bit of my being. I wanted my daughter back. I missed her so much; her laugh, us singing together, watching our favorite shows, that sunshine she brought everywhere.
This is when I said to heroin “FUCK YOU, YOU CAN’T HAVE HER! SHE WAS MINE FIRST!”
It was the battle of both of our lives, but the zombie is now in remission and has been for over a year. All we can do is hope and keep fighting it off.
The zombie apocalypse is here. My daughter is one of thousands infected. We need better weapons for this epic battle. It needs to start with preventing the illness, proper treatment, and the tools to keep it in remission. It will take an army.
Don’t think for a second you or your loved ones are immune. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the apocalypse doesn’t impact you. If you do nothing but turn blind eyes, well…things will stay the same I guess.