Coming off heroin
Nicola*, 25, tells us how she got her life back on track after becoming addicted to heroin.
I became addicted to heroin when I was 17. I discovered that my boyfriend was a user when I found needles in his pockets. I was mad with him at first, but I didn't want us to split up because I thought I loved him.
I wasn't planning on taking it, but because nothing bad had happened to him I didn't think it was dangerous. So, I asked him a couple of times if I could try it, but he always said no. One night, however, when he was really high, I asked him again and he gave me a hit. It made me really sick but I wanted to try it again, so kept on using it. Within two months I developed a habit.
To pay for my addiction I sold furniture, jewellery and anything else that would bring in some extra cash. My habit got so bad that I even worked as a prostitute for three months. I'd come home every night and cry in the bath, scrubbing myself till I bled.
One day my leg became sore after shooting up in my groin. I went to the hospital and was told that I had a blood clot. My gran was really worried and asked me to live with her so she could look after me - I didn't want to disappoint her so I agreed. The doctors prescribed me with dihydrocodeine to help wean me off heroin. I was offered methadone, the stronger drug, but refused it. It was a lot harder to stay clean with dihydrocodeine, but I managed with the help of my gran.
I owe my life to her because I don't think I could have gone through my recovery without her support. Sadly, she passed away last year due to cancer, but I will always remember what she did for me. I used to tell her how much I appreciated her help and she'd say, "Nicola, you did it on your own, I just gave you a little push".
"It's been a slow and painful process but I'm really proud of what I've achieved so far - I went off the rails, but I'm happy to say that I've nearly got myself together."
Eight months after I came off drugs I went back to hospital with a sore chest. I was horrified when the doctors told me I had bacteria in my heart valve, kidney failure, blood poisoning and blood clots in my lungs and legs.
My health deteriorated very quickly. I 'technically' died three times in intensive care and had to stay in hospital for three-and-a-half months. I eventually recovered, but I'm still suffering. I get pains in my chest, which the doctors tell me will never go away. Apparently, my body was so reliant on heroin that even when I stopped using it continued to rot away my insides.
But my life has completely changed since I came off heroin. I've got a new boyfriend - who's never touched heroin - and we're really happy. We have a two-year-old daughter and are planning on getting married soon. My boyfriend has a good job and I've recently starting working as an administrator after getting my HNC.
Throughout my recovery food has been a big comfort to me, so I've put on a lot of weight. I'm now very self-conscious about my appearance, so don't go out much - I worry about people judging me. I know I have to do something about it so I'm trying to lose a few pounds; my family are my comfort now, not junk food.
It's been a slow and painful process but I'm really proud of what I've achieved so far - I went off the rails, but I'm happy to say that I've nearly got myself together. In a few months I'm hoping to come off dihydrocodeine and then I'll be completely free of drugs for good.
* Details have been changed to protect her identity.