By Isaac Hawkins
My cousin Ashley Hawkins is a heroin addict.
Before she became an addict she was a sweet individual who took care of her mother and brother. She worked at an mental hospital with her mother to keep herself busy in the day.
Things started to change once her dad killed himself drinking and driving and her mother was diagnosed with stage four cancer, which caused her to go into a deep depression.
“At the time, marijuana wasn’t helping so I needed a stronger high to help me escape my life falling apart,” Hawkins said.
Funeral planning for her father was already hard on her and her mother because of the illness and having to pay for the funeral. Making matters worse, her mother surrendered her battle because “she didn’t want to overload the family with money for her treatment, knowing she was already going to lose the battle.”
After trying to convince her mother to get treatment and her constantly denying it as a family we had to accept that she wanted to move on with her husband. She started coming home late, didn’t go to work anymore and started gaining weight. She didn’t hide her addiction but it didn’t help that she wasn’t trying to get help.
She wasn’t the only one in the SCV with a problem. Jim Holt for The Signal had reported “there were 561 heroin-related deaths in 2014 compared to 355 reported in 2011. By comparison, however, there were 1,449 deaths attributed to opioid overdoses in 2014 compared to 1,563 in 2011.” Even though there is proof that heroin kills, she still didn’t listen.
It didn’t help that the one who was dealing her the drugs was her boyfriend.
“He would give me the heroin and how much I needed for free because we were together,” Hawkins stated.
Since the funeral she started becoming distant and was hard to come in contact with because she was “dealing with the pain her own way.” What she really was doing was pushing the family away from helping her.
Heroin was starting to affect her body in the worst ways. She could barely eat, which made her skinny. She was 140 pounds and dropping weight dramatically. Her face used to be chubby and thick and that changed, as well.
There was a period of time when I was feeling that she didn’t really care about her life. Seeing her come home late and watching her be sad, seeing her not be playful or crack jokes, was hard for me. I would try to hang out with her but she would tell me, “I have chores to run” or “not today, maybe tomorrow.”
Through the tough times, I refused to see her as my drug addict cousin and remembered the times when we used to play and hang out at the movies. I wanted to think that she would return to herself and come out of this dark place that she put herself in, but everyday it kept getting worse and worse.
My family and I would talk about her addiction because it started to get out of hand. My mother was tired of her coming in and out the house late at night and wanted to address the problem. We offered her rehab, and she would deny it, saying, “I could stop if I wanted to.”
After a family meeting, things started to change. She broke up with her boyfriend who was supplying her heroin and she started going back to work and taking care of herself. We were hanging out more and she was going to my basketball games again. It really felt as if she had gained control of her life again.
To keep her mind off heroin she would keep herself busy with chores and work. When she could sleep it was full of nightmares. Some would be about her doing heroin and others would be about her ex boyfriend.
Hawkins was 25 when she started to abuse heroin again.
Since she worked in the San Fernando Valley, it was easier for her to meet with her now ex-boyfriend. They started meeting when she needed “a dime of heroin.” She then started to have a personal relationship with him because of all the “hookups or extra” heroin he would give her.
Now that she had someone to stay with, she was barely home and it was getting harder to come in contact with her. When she did come to the house it was late at night, just to pick up some clothes.
This went on for over a year. My parents finally agreed on kicking her out of the house. Soon after, she became pregnant. Though she was abusing heroin she wanted to make a change on helping herself and her child. She went to Arizona to live with her sister. Before moving she had to make a promise to get help, which she did at Center For Behavioral Health Center.
Since she moved, it’s been two to three years since I had last seen her. It was good to hear she is doing better and that she can now talk about her problems without feeling down or emotional about them.
“I had to do better because of my pregnancy,” Hawkins stated. “I didn’t want to miss out on seeing my child grow up.”