After 4 Years of Incarceration, I Was Granted Total Freedom Weeks Before a Pandemic
Lessons on grief, gratitude, and uncertainty from my time behind bars
By the time I was 24, I had been addicted to heroin for several years. My life was objectively miserable, and despite my attempts to quit, I couldn’t. Felony convictions dashed my hopes for my future. The possibility of a career in medicine, and a life worth living, vanished. I actively wanted to die.
It was in that state that I found my mother dead from an overdose. She had retired from the Air Force after 20 years of service. By 2013, she was in poor health due to COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), but I never thought she would die — especially not from an overdose. She took medication prescribed by her doctor; she didn’t use “drugs.” I injected heroin and thought I would die before her. Instead, she overdosed on prescription painkillers at 56.
In the days that followed her death, I called the military, filled out paperwork, picked out her casket, and arranged her full military burial — all while shooting heroin several times a day and drowning in grief. Life as I knew it had ended. I tried intentionally overdosing. I tried taking benzodiazepines and then injecting large quantities of heroin. Much to my dismay, I always woke up.
After receiving payment from my mother’s life insurance, I began purchasing quarter ounces of heroin at a time instead of half grams. Soon, I was using over three grams a day; a quarter ounce didn’t last me 48 hours. My enormous tolerance shielded me from the death I was seeking.
I sold a gram of heroin to one of my best friends and running partners, Justin. He asked me to find a gram for him, and I happened to have one to spare.
Justin came to my apartment, I sold him the gram, and he went back to his apartment, overdosed, and died. I was informed the next night when police raided my apartment, placed me in handcuffs, and informed me I was being charged with “delivery resulting in death.”
“This charge carries a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence,” the detective told me as she led me to the back of a police cruiser. I was 24…