Heroin a Deadly Gift from Afghanistan

3 09 2009

From 9-3-09 Morning Edition from NPR News

Listen – Heroin

I’m a heroin addict, and I feel as if a piece of my heart is going to war in Afghanistan. I’m not using anymore, but this war and my addiction are horribly intertwined.

 You see, my 23-year-old son, William, is a member of the U.S. Navy’s elite Mobile Unit 11. The unit is heading for a newly constructed base in Afghanistan. And the enemy they’ll face has everything to do with heroin.

 The Taliban funds terrorism with millions of dollars from the opium trade. Afghanistan supplies most of the world’s heroin.

 It has been 22 years since I methodically unwrapped a tiny plastic bag of heroin, tossed the white powder into a cooker and fired it into my veins. I remember sitting in detox — shaking with panic attacks, gagging, trying desperately to survive just another minute. I used to have nightmares about a 6-foot needle chasing me in and out of the shadows.

 Now, because of William’s mission, I feel heroin nipping at my heels again. The panic attacks are coming on strong. I do my best to forget that my boy is going to war, but the nightly news reminds me. In reports of American soldiers, young boys, killed by roadside bombs, I see William’s face instead, and instantly my brain rewinds to when he was 12. I watch him run wild on a football field in Lowell, Mass. Then I see his boots hit the ground in Afghanistan.

Richard Farrell
Courtesy of Richard FarrellRichard Farrell is an author and filmmaker. His memoir is What’s Left of Us.

 I’m deeply troubled, wondering if my son will be trying to wipe out the crop that nearly killed me 22 years ago. Guilt rattles my brain like a BB in a metal boxcar. Back then, I was an involuntary “customer” who helped create a demand for the drug. I was the last link in a system that produced and distributed heroin — the very system my son William will be trying to break.

Last night, my detox nightmare came back. This time, though, it’s not a needle full of heroin chasing me. Instead, I see an AK-47 rifle’s bullet, a roadside bomb tucked neatly under loose gravel, or a rocket-propelled grenade moving quickly through the air, but slow enough that I can see the trace from where it came. It’s after my son William. I wake up just before it takes him out.




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