The Inspiring Recovery of the Suburban Junky

By Seth Ferranti 01/27/16

There were countless bottoms but towards the end of my addiction to heroin, a series of events happened that forced me to make a change.

Experimenting with Drugs can Lead to a Heroin Addiction
via Author

Over 150,000 people try heroin for the first time each year and the majority of them are under the age of 26. The drug has moved into the suburbs and increasingly, users are younger, more affluent and become addicted quicker. But Jude Hassan is out to change that. Using his own experience as an example, Hassan wrote a book about his descent into heroin addiction and eventual recovery, Suburban Junky.

Things have pretty much come full circle, and I'm appreciative for everything I have, and have been given.”

Jude Hassan was a good kid from a good family. His parents were loving and attentive. He was an honor roll student. His father was a drug counselor and he knew all the dangers of drugs and addiction but yet he got involved in drugs, progressing rapidly from smoking a joint as a ninth grader to experimenting with other drugs to a full-blown heroin habit. No one could have predicted this and Jude was the last kid that people would think would become a junkie, but it happened. 

“I tried marijuana for the first time when I was 15,” Jude tells The Fix. “After that, I began experimenting with other things: acid, ecstasy, cocaine, hash. It didn't take long before I was introduced to heroin. I was at a vulnerable place in my life and fell in with the wrong crowd. Once I tried heroin, I told myself I could try it one last time. After that second time, there was no going back. It took over.”

Just like a lot of addicts, when Jude smoked weed for the first time something in him clicked and he wanted it more and more. As an addict, he couldn’t just try a drug once or use it on the weekend and put it down when it was time to study and go to class. He wanted it constantly and when heroin came into the picture, everything fell apart. He became a slave to the drug. He descended into addiction, crime and all the things that come with being a junkie.

“There were countless bottoms, but towards the end of my addiction to heroin, a series of events happened in my life that forced me to make a change,” Jude tells The Fix. “It was either change, or go to prison for a very, very long time. I participated in a robbery with three other guys that resulted in some pretty serious charges being filed against me. There were five felonies in total. Needless to say, I was facing a lot of time. I was on almost 200 milligrams of methadone when I was arrested for my part in the robbery.”

Sitting in a jail cell, it all hit home for Jude. It was time to change. The path that he was on had led him to devastation and worse, a possible prison sentence. 

“After being booked and thrown in a cell, my worst nightmare had come true,” Jude tells The Fix. “I sat in my cell for the next five days covered in piss and puke as I went through the most excruciating withdrawals I'd ever experienced. To make matters even worse, my father was going through his own personal hell at home. He'd been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer a few months back and had grown increasingly ill from chemo and radiation treatments.”

Jude was at a crossroads. Everything had come together to form a perfect miserable storm. But Jude admits that if things didn’t happen the way they did, he might not be here today sharing his story. It took everything that happened to him to convince him that it was time to change and only death or prison awaited him if he stayed on the same course he was on—but getting clean wasn’t easy.

“Getting clean was the hardest thing I've ever done,” Jude tells The Fix. “The mental torture that accompanied the physical misery was enough to drive anyone insane. I was my own worst enemy, self-destructive in every way imaginable. You rationalize and justify your use every time, telling yourself that you can do it one more time, one last time—but that time doesn't come.”

After an enforced detox from methadone in jail, Jude knew that he had to make changes. He couldn’t go on doing the things that he was doing any longer. With his dad’s illness and his own legal troubles, he was in a precarious position both legally and family wise—not to mention his chemical dependence on heroin. The urge to use was strong but he had to deal with the wreckage of his addiction. Staying out of jail was the foremost thing on his mind.

“The prosecutor involved with my case offered me a five-year suspended sentence and one felony, as opposed to five,” Jude tells The Fix. “I took the agreement and never looked back. Since my sentence was suspended, I was able to serve my time by way of probation, rather than going to prison. My father lost his battle with cancer not too long after this period, which was my first major test. Instead of resorting to drugs to kill the pain I was feeling, I checked myself into treatment.”

For Jude, the first year of sobriety was the hardest, but once he got busy with his life and his brain started adjusting to an existence without the drugs, things got easier. He still had to deal with his father's passing, but he did it without drugs.

“Finding sobriety was a relief beyond words,” Jude tells The Fix. “No more waking up and needing to put something in my body to feel better. No more spending every waking moment scrounging up dollars for my addiction. It was peace. It wasn't easy, but it was worth everything I put into it.”

And with his recovery in progress, Jude decided that he wanted to give back. He wrote the memoir to highlight his recovery and used the book as an avenue to start speaking to kids and sharing his story.

“The idea of being able to positively impact someone's life, or to keep a kid from going down the path I went down is one of the most humbling experiences I could've ever asked for,” Jude says now. “It keeps everything in perspective for me. I can relate to everything they are going through, and I want them to know that there is another way. You don't have to get high or do stupid shit and sacrifice everything like me. Be yourself and fit in with who you fit in with. High school is short, over in the blink of an eye. I invested way too much into it, and then it was over and I had nothing but an addiction left to show.”

Jude has been clean for over eight and a half years. He relates that sobriety isn’t perfection. It took him a long time after getting clean to shake the bad habits he’d developed as an addict. He lives daily with a lot of the bad decisions he made. But he admits that he would rather die than go back to the way he was living when he was in the throes of addiction.

“It's hard to relate to the person I once was, the person who used to stick needles in his arms and steal from his family and wait for hours on end in the blistering cold for someone to come sell me dope. It's hard to picture it, but I never want to forget it,” Jude says. 

Besides his book and speaking engagements, Jude also works at a substance abuse treatment agency.

“I work at a company called Bridgeway Behavioral Health,” he says. “We do everything from adolescent inpatient and outpatient treatment, to adult medical detox, residential and outpatient. My current position enables me the ability to help addicts seeking treatment, in addition to speaking and educating others in the community about our services. I never thought in a million years that I would be working in the same field as my father did so many years ago. Things have pretty much come full circle, and I'm appreciative for everything I have, and have been given.”

And Jude has a message for anybody (especially kids) considering experimenting with drugs like he did.

“Don't do it,” he asserts. “I know it's not that simple, but all-in-all, that's what it comes down to. It's not worth the misery and loss that comes with it all. It's not worth the sleepless nights, the failed relationships, and the lost years. It's not worth any of it. 

“Although I try not to regret my decisions in the past and get caught up on what I should and shouldn't have done, there's a lot I'd take back if I could. It all started so innocently, or so I thought. Before I knew it, I had an all-consuming habit on my hands. If you think you can try something just once or experiment with some stuff here and there, it's not that clear cut. You never know what it is you're getting, how your mind and body will react, and you're risking your life every time you do it.”

Seth Ferranti has been a regular contributor to The Fix since 2012. He most recently wrote about crystal meth becoming the new crack. He also writes for Vice. He has a book out—The Supreme Team.

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