Homeless on Heroin to Law Student

It’s an excellent time for an uplifting story of recovery, resilience, and redemption.   Domenick  is a third-year law student at Seton Hall.

“I used to wake up every day at 3 am, cold, angry, and sweaty. Cold because my body was withdrawing due to the lack of opiates I had ingested in the previous hours. Mad because I woke up again after praying to my God to die in my sleep. Sweaty, for the same reason, I was cold.

I remember asking myself on nearly a daily basis, “How did this happen?” How did I go from an average kid growing up in a suburb and afforded every opportunity my loving parents were able to bestow upon me to a homeless junkie in Newark, New Jersey doing whatever I had to do for my next one?

Overdose, homelessness, and dereliction are a part of my story. As with 99% of heroin addicts, I started with prescription painkillers. When the pills became too scarce and too expensive, I became sick due to my dependence on opioids. The next logical step for an opioid addict is heroin, the cheaper and more powerful option.

I quickly joined the needle exchange program in Newark, New Jersey. It was a place that distributed clean needles in exchange for dirty ones. The underlying purpose was to control infectious diseases in the addicted community.

Today, I am a third-year law student around the corner from the needle exchange program at Seton Hall University School of Law.

I wake up every day, realizing that I am grateful and fortunate for being one of the ones still alive. Without a 12-step based fellowship program, I would not be writing this article and most likely be dead. My sister would be the only child, and my family would never be the same. I would have been another statistic. I was not ready for sobriety and was looking for any means of getting high that I thought was acceptable.

I was still searching for a superficial solution to my spiritual malady. After inpatient rehab, I felt like a ball of static electricity. I remember looking out my father’s car window trying not to shake. I knew that I did not want to get high, that I did not want to put my family through any more pain, and that I wanted to better myself, but I did not know if I was going to.

So many times before I had sworn and promised my loved ones, I would never get high again, only to be stealing from them an hour later to finance my fix. Why would this time be any different? I was failing in my mind before I had really tried.

I began going to 12-step meetings. The more I went, the more people learned my name. Eventually, I was nominated to make the coffee every morning for the group I attended. It gave me some purpose, and fortunately, I was not working and had nowhere else to be.

I made genuine friends that I still consider to be family to this day. Eventually, a man with more experience than me showed me sobriety through the 12 Steps. I would be doing a disservice to you as the reader if I attempted to describe the journey of the 12 Steps or the benefits of the spiritual awakening that resulted from doing such work.

It changed my life, and I have not thought about a drink or a drug in over six years. I am the same person who hated people with more than thirty days of sobriety because I could never relate to them. More than thirty days did not seem realistic. I woke up suicidal every morning and prayed for death several times a day because I did not want to get high anymore, but I had no choice.

The endless cycle of addiction broke not only my spirit, soul, and mind, but that of my family as well.

Most addicts are not as fortunate as I am. Most do not have insurance and cannot afford drug rehabilitation or Medicated-Assisted Treatment. There is a scarcity in New Jersey among inpatient drug facilities that accept Medicaid.

Furthermore, there is a considerable lack of recovering housing for those being reintegrated into civilized society. Towns all across our State are discriminating against recovery housing. They say, “Not in my town”, until it’s for their sons or daughters who are attempting to better themselves but have nowhere to live.

There are discrepancies that need to be addressed by an unbiased regulatory body that has the power to effect change.”