Faylynne's story - Addiction takes its toll
At 30, Faylynne Harrison's body is decades older than her years. Her liver is shot, and the nerves in her hands and arms are damaged.
Sitting on the front porch of her mother's home in Tamaqua, Harrison is matter-of-fact about the toll that years of addiction to heroin has taken on her life.
Sometimes, tears break through the tough-girl facade.
She started using drugs as a teen, dabbling, getting them from the kids from Philadelphia who sometimes crashed at her mother's house in Easton when they fled from a local children's home. In her early 20s, Harrison had surgery on her knees, damaged from playing softball. The narcotic painkillers triggered a craving for more, and she eventually found that heroin provided a good, cheap high.
Until it didn't.
"My 29th birthday rolled round, and I had been dealing after my ex got locked up, to support my habit," she says. "Selling it and doing it, it don't work. You end up doing it all."
The years of addiction to the narcotic had caused her body to build up a tolerance to its effects.
"You don't get high no more. It's just, you're maintaining, so you don't get sick, so you're not practically dying the next day," Harrison explains. "I haven't gotten high for years. I haven't felt that rush. But you've got to. You got to go every morning and get up and go get a bag."
On her 29th birthday, Aug. 13, 2013, the first thing she did was buy heroin.
"Me and my buddy went to Newark, picked up five bricks. There's 50 bags in a brick. I did over 100 bags. I just did so many, I don't even remember the next two days. Thursday morning, I woke up, and I was so sick ...," she says.
Even before then, Harrison had built up a tolerance to the drug.
"I was so tired of not being able to get high," she says. " I was like, why am I still doing this? Why am I still living like this? Why am I hustling every day? I couldn't do it no more. That's why I did all those ba gs. I was hoping I wouldn't wake up."
She resisted going to the hospital.
"The hospital doesn't send you to rehab. The emergency room just gives you Narcan and sends you home," Harrison says.
This time she went, she was so miserably sick. This time the hospital set up her with Kirkbride Center, Philadelphia.
Once there, Harrison slept through the first 24 hours. She went through the program for 33 days and is now on a methadone maintenance program. Each day, she drives an hour to Bethlehem to a clinic to take her dose. Addicts are not allowed to take their doses home until they have proven trustworthy. Her liver is bad due to years of drug abuse. It's so bad her doctors insist her liver health be monitored routinely while she is on methadone.
Harrison says she missed one day of methadone and ended up buying two bags of heroin "because I got so sick. Just to feel better."
She hasn't used since, she says. She recently began going outside again.
"I just couldn't trust myself to go out by myself, and not go get high," she says.
Now, she walks regularly for exercise. She's looking for work, looking to get her life together. It's going to be a long haul.
"I was going for my bachelor's in psychology," she says.
But her addiction to heroin killed that, and she owes $36,000 in student loans.
On Aug. 24, 2006, Harrison pleaded guilty in Northampton County Court to robbing a crack dealer. She was sentenced to serve seven to 23 months in the county prison, to be followed by two years of probation.
She said some people who suffer from depression or bipolar disorder are more prone to take heroin.
"It's self-medication. It does help with mood swings. You feel better. You're not depressed. But you know what? You're not depressed because you're not feeling anything," she says. "Who you were and who you are when you're using is not the same person, whether you think so or not."
Now, her biggest fear is relapsing when she is weaned from the methadone.
She wants to wean herself off the drug as an inpatient at Kirkbride, to make sure she won't be able to seek heroin as she withdraws.
If Harrison can get one message across to people, it's this:
"Don't start. If someone tells you it's awesome, do it, it'll make you feel great. Just don't. It's the worst thing you could possibly do. Heroin is a very highly addictive drug," she says.
Dealers are smart, giving users high-quality heroin at first, then cutting the drug to force the addict to buy more and more, she says.
"They don't give a (expletive) about you. They just want your money," she says.
Dealers also make young women believe they are in a romantic relationship, Harrison says.
"Honey, he just wants your money. You're just keeping money in his pocket," she says. "You're nothing but a heroin addict to him."