To inhale.

To live under the inexplicably heavy cloak of addiction is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. While I’ve never experienced it first hand and won’t pretend that I ever have, I’ve fought along side of someone who has for many years. It is obvious that it is a battle, day in and day out. Every morning, every moment, is a fight as to whether or not you will supply your body with the very thing it has become dependent on to survive.

For you, heroin was air.

We don’t think twice about breathing. Our brains have deemed it necessary because it satisfies a need. Immediately following our entrance into this world our tiny bodies searched for an element we didn’t yet know existed. We stumbled upon our first breath of oxygen in an attempt to let out a scream, and noticed an instant, overwhelming attraction to this feeling of being oxygenated. Our brains were rewired in the blink of an eye and from this moment forward, we knew what we had to do to survive. If we had tried to fight the next breath that followed, our bodies would immediately recognize the agony we would experience as every cell in our body would be deprived of a substance it quickly became dependent on, and we would succumb to this natural instinct— to inhale.

Just like that, in attempt to let out a scream and calm the multitudes of anxieties within your soul, you stumbled upon heroin. Not knowing that genetics weren’t in your favor, you happened to find an attraction to this substance a little more so than the next guy. Within moments, just like when you took your first breath, dopamine flooded your body signaling to your brain that this stuff- this stuff was good. It satisfied a need. From then on, every moment of every day, your body knew what it needed in order to avoid the possible agony that would again, just like with air, follow without it. So, you inhaled. Over and over again.

The point is no longer whether or not the decision you made to quiet a scream was right or wrong. It happened, you’re human. There’s no going back, no undoing it. All that mattered now, was when you would take your next breath.

Looking back, the irony of the situation is painful. Unknowingly, the last decision you made wasn’t to feed your body’s desire for oxygen, but for heroin. Overtime, the two had become synonymous, making it difficult to decipher which was more necessary in the moments of your body’s intense hunger. As it pulsed through your veins, your breaths became shallow, and you stopped yearning for the very air that was truly vital for your survival. This time, the high was so great that it reminded you of your very first breath, only to rob you of your next.

The stigma associated with addiction is one of failure. Of a lack of will power. Of a bad decision. I don’t know about you, but after my first breath, I inhaled again, too. The only difference between my warrior of a brother and I is that I never desired to look beyond air to quiet a scream. I’ve never even needed to scream to his extent- I wasn’t buried alive in a grave of anxieties grasping for air at every chance I had- and I most certainly won’t pretend that in search for a moment of peace, I wouldn’t have inhaled, too.


In loving memory of William Jared Harrison 10/11/1987 – 06/23/2017

18 thoughts on “To inhale.”

  1. Amazing description of addiction. I dealt with patients detoxing when I first became a nurse. Honestly, I never understood the why…….until I read this. Thank you for being so understanding and eloquent. Your writing shows so much love and compassion.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Inhale. It is the perfect description of what life becomes for a person with an addiction. For those of us who love someone with an addition, how we ‘inhale’ in life changes as well. Excellent. ❤️


  3. What a true, loving, and thoughtful post about your brother and addiction. I hate that he had to suffer the way he did, and that so many others continue to suffer. You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers daily.


  4. Thank you for writing this. Your analogy to breathing gives me a better understanding of my son’s struggle. I wish the people I pass on the street everyday would read this…the ones who make polite small talk, who know my son but never ask how he is doing. When he broke his leg as a child they asked all the time, but not now. I am not ashamed and maybe if more people read your beautifully written explanation they wouldn’t be afraid to ask.


  5. I can’t express to you the depth of emotion that reading your blog entry just stirred in me. For the past 10 years I’ve watched as my brother has reveled in and battled his addiction to opiates. My daily fear is getting that phone call, my constant sadness is having to comfort my mom and daughters and watch my brother fall deeper into his addiction. I’m so sorry for you and your family’s loss, but I thank you so much for sharing. The tears I shed as I sit here are as much for you as they are for me.


  6. Learning this very analogy when we attended family week at my son’s rehab was TERRIFYING as a mother. How could we POSSIBLY beat this given this was how his brain was wired? And yet, it was so clearly true and explained EVERYTHING about why my brilliant, handsome, talented son with a heart of gold had turned into someone we didn’t recognize. I cannot be more grateful that through the grace of God, my son’s own very strong will power to beat back that necessity to inhale, and access to excellent long-term care (are you listening, Mr President and Congress?), he’s now 3 1/2 years clean and sober. I know how fortunate we are and that we can never take his sobriety for granted.


  7. It pains me to hear the analogy of heroin to air because I have experienced this feeling. It pains me to know that like caitlin I have let the ones I love experience my pain without the control to stop it. Jared and have been friends since high school. I say “have” because I feel that he is still there in my memories to help me fight my battle. I am clean now, but as caitlin said it is a constant battle that I have lost before, but I keep fighting. Jared was always supportive of my sobriety even when he wasn’t clean. He wanted it for himself. He just didn’t know how to hold on. This is my struggle too. To everyone that does not understand, you don’t have to. Just show your love to those who are struggling. Hopefully at least one person can learn from our mistakes and won’t have to go through all that comes with addiction. If you don’t try it….it can never start…you will be missed.


  8. Thank you for sharing such an intense and personal tradgey from your life. I pray that theses anointed words reach and change attitudes and lives. Blessings!


  9. I lost my son on January 28, he was 26. I know this was his life, his last breath. My surging son is his twin. Our tragedy is raw and this well written article resonates with me. My prayers for your peace.


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