New Year resolution to go cold turkey
PUBLISHED: 18:22 30 December 2002 | UPDATED: 13:15 03 March 2010
cold turkey headline?!
pics of gareth with graham,
mediasphere pcis of drugs -see printouts
factfile at end
By JESSICA NICHOLLS
AS the new year arrives, thousands of us will be making resolutions.
Here one man offers his startlingly honest story about his 2003 resolve – to keep free from heroin. Jessica Nicholls reports.
HIS life has been blighted by heroin for nearly 15 years but now Gareth Wilkins is determined to go clean.
His new year's resolution is more challenging than most.
The last few weeks have been a huge struggle for him, tested by the fact that where he lives in St Matthew's House, St Matthew's Street, where he claims he is faced with people offering him hard drugs most days.
The 34-year-old said: "I have been off heroin since October and I see people smoking crack on the stairs.
"There are people with young children who live here, I don't want to see that and neither do they. It makes me so angry."
Mr Wilkins even claims he has had dealers banging on his door offering him cocaine, and seen 13-year-olds being sold drugs in the corridor.
For people like Mr Wilkins who have no family, Christmas could have been dreadfully lonely time and he said while he was an addict he would spend the day in oblivion trying to forget he was spending the day alone.
But this Christmas things have been vastly different and restored some of his faith in humanity.
Because his young next door neighbour Graham Westwell, at 23 years old, made the decision not to spend Christmas with his own family but to cook Christmas dinner for himself and Mr Wilkins.
Mr Wilkins said: "Christmas to me is about family, but I have none.
"Graham is real nice, he could have spent Christmas with his family but because he knew that I am going to be on my own and fighting things, he got loads of food in and said that I was spending Christmas with him."
Hopefully 2003 will be the start of a new life for Mr Wilkins who has spent almost half of his life in the grip of drugs.
As he sits in the small flat, twiddling a roll up cigarette between his fingers reflecting on his life and what he has been through he is visibly angry, yet still positive and determined about the future.
After his family died when he was five years old he was brought up by relatives but from the age of 15 spiralled into a black hole of narcotics to numb his pain and eventually found there was no way out.
He said: "Heroin really changes people, I did some things that I am really not proud of.
"I stole from people, ripped people off and did some really bad things to people who tried to help me.
"You are just a slave when you are in the grip of the dragon."
As with many drug users he could not afford to sustain his huge habit he began to turn to crime sprees to pay for it and ended up in jail several times.
But in 1995, when he owed someone money, again through drugs, Mr Wilkins was beaten, stabbed and left for dead while living in Essex.
His severe head injuries that he sustained have left him with violent mood swings.
Now he is getting clean, with the help of the Community Drugs Team, he is able to look back and see exactly what a mess he was.
Mr Wilkins is keen to get the message across to others who may be thinking of trying it to avoid it at all costs.
He said: "To start with it was fun but I don't know exactly when the fun stopped and it started to become a real chore.
"I used to wake up at 5 or 6am covered in sweat and my sheets were like I had just got out of the shower.
"I was aching everywhere and being sick, it was like having the flu but ten times worse.
"There was nothing you could do because it was so early in the morning and the dealers were not up yet.
"It was just hell on earth."
It is a familiar story and while there are teams in the town helping people to get off drugs, Mr Wilkins is adamant that you will only get people off it if they really want to do it themselves.
He smoked his last bit of heroin on October 30 and made a conscious decision that he wanted a life.
Although he has been clean for three and a half years before he said that this time is going to be the one where he will kick his habit forever.
But it has been hard. He said: "I feel like I have been going mad, I was going through psychosis.
"But life is so precious and you hear about people doing heroin overdoses all the time.
"You don't hear about many old heroin addicts."
Now he is beginning to come out of his heroin haze his ambitions are starting to return.
He wants to travel the world and make the most of life to make up for what he has missed.
He said: "I don't want to be a 70-year-old man who is wishing that he had done this and that.
"It is like a wake up call ringing in my head."
His fight is going to be a hard one and he is taking it hour by hour day by day, knowing that a slip up could happen at any time.
But he has one aim that should not be denied anyone. He said: "I want to be happy and a have a family.
"I don't want to be rich and have a big house, that's not me.
"I just want to be happy."
Heroin belongs to the opiate group, sometimes referred to as narcotics, which are used medically to relieve pain, but also have a high potential for abuse.
It is derived from a resin taken from the seed pod of the Asian poppy, as is opium, morphine and codeine.
Heroin can be a white or brownish powder which is usually dissolved in water and then injected.
Heroin – also called junk and smack) accounts for 90 percent of the opiate abuse in the United States.
When opiates are injected, the user feels an immediate 'rush' then relaxation. Unpleasant effects include restlessness, nausea, and vomiting. The user may go back and forth from feeling alert to drowsy.
With very large doses, the user cannot be awakened, pupils become smaller, and the skin becomes cold, moist, and bluish in color. Breathing slows down and death may occur.
Dependence is likely, especially if a person uses a lot of the drug or even uses it occasionally over a long period of time.
The four basic approaches to drug abuse treatment are: detoxification in hospital, therapeutic communities, outpatient drug-free programs with counselling, and methadone as a substitute.