How the Nightmare of Heroin Addiction Nearly Ruined My Music Career

Amanda Bocchi, former heroin addict.

The following article is a hard glimpse into the lifestyle of an active heroin user.  It’s written by Amanda Bocchi, a writer and Americana soul musician.  She agreed to detail the trainwreck that is addiction.

Part One

January 2015, Blue Ridge Mountains, VA

Every morning by the time the sun crested the sky, I was already high. The soft fuzzy haze of heroin wrapped itself around me like a blanket.

4 am. I startle awake, in an uncomfortable sweat, my t-shirt drenched. Upon awakening, feelings of intense dread and the temperament of an angry porcupine inhabit my mind and body. Every. Day.

I was experiencing PTSD symptoms from being raped by a roommate while I was sleeping, which had taken place only a few months prior. As a result, I was afraid to sleep and I awoke nightly at the time of the rape for the next year and a half.

4 am was Satan’s hour.

…or maybe it was the heroin. I don’t know.

I needed a fix. Immediately.  The longer I waited, the worse the dope sickness would get.  If you’re a heroin user you WILL experience frequent withdrawal symptoms: sneezing, stomach cramps, diarrhea, electricity ‘kicking’ through your legs, chills, nausea, and emotional extremes.

I tiptoed out of bed so Charlie couldn’t hear me, and walked silently to my secret hiding place in the dark.  I was accustomed to hiding bags of heroin in the jaundiced pages of thrift-store books or down in the toe of a shoe.

I wasn’t afraid my lover would find out my secret… I was afraid he would steal my morning shot.

The morning ‘come-up’.

While my kids slept, breathing softly in the room across the hall, I remained convinced opiates were akin to food and water.  It was sustenance.  If you’ve never been a heroin addict, then I’m happy you don’t know the details and planning required to maintain an opiate habit.

A Heroin Addicts Day Planner

4 am-morning wake up shot. (For me anyhow).
10 am-you’re ready for the second shot.

But…you did your entire stash with the morning shot, so you’ll have to buy more. Unfortunately, you don’t have any money because you spend ALL of your cash flow on heroin.

10:01 am– You’ll have come up with some dough…

There are a few tried and true ways to make drug money:

Hustling is the most common way to make quick cash.

1) Sell other addicts a bag of dope for $20 per bag, when the dealer charges you $12 a bag.

A ‘bag’ is a small white bag containing powdered heroin weighing .1 gram.

2) Sell gift cards and food stamps (at 50 Cents on the dollar).

To the family member who thinks that gift cards are okay to give to your addict relative because it’s not cash… think again.

3) Steal returnable items without a receipt to certain stores that give cash refunds.

4) And of course the oldest profession, sex work.

My hustle was to pawn my instruments.  I was a hibernating singer/songwriter and I had studied jazz and classical guitar at a few universities in the Southeast. Every single instrument that crossed my path was eagerly handed over to a pawn shop for one tenth its value.

My body still aches to think of the Taylor acoustic guitar my deceased Grandaddy gave to me on my 18th birthday, which I pawned 8 years later for $100…it was worth $2,500.

Once you come up with the cash, you call every dealer in your phone. The first dealer to answer, wins. He tells you to go to at least three different locations. All the while, acting sketchy on the phone.

For you white bread folk, ‘sketchy’ is when someone says things like, “Was anybody following you?” “Um, check around the parking lot, do you see any undercover police cars?” “Hey, uh I gotta scoop up the dope, so I need your money first to re-up.”

Once your heroic dealer eventually shows up at the final location, he leaves you with this gem, “Hey, uh, be careful with this stuff…it’s really strong.”

You already know it’s been stepped on several times, but by the time you get it in your sweaty palm, you’re just so grateful that he showed up at all.  He only told you he was “otw” for an hour.  You greedily take the H, and give him his money and the chicken sandwich plus the Mountain Dew he also requested.

You rush to the nearest gas station bathroom, or speed to find an empty parking lot to shoot your dope. Depending on how ‘sick’ you are, you’ll do it just about anywhere. I’ve seen people shoot up while driving.

Once you are high, everything is beautiful for a few moments. Just don’t expect to remember those moments. Addicts and dealers savor and protect their dope, until the next day when they go through the entire routine all over again. The goal is to make the heroin last until the next day, but you always do too much and more often than you planned. When tomorrow comes, you’re lucky if you hid a bag from yourself for the morning ‘come up’.

I ignored my music almost altogether during this time because I couldn’t play without an instrument and I was incapacitated by heroin. My art lay dormant for 10 years, as I staggered and nodded out through life, pawning my guitars as soon as I acquired one.

I still did motherly things, I made breakfasts and lunches for my daughters. I performed, to the best of my ability, the motherly functions of tending to their baths, reading stories, and tucking them in at bedtime. However, my emotional state was so erratic and unpredictable I was barely hanging on. My kids could see it, and my mom could see it. If my partner-in-crime recognized the delicate façade we had built was about to fall, he didn’t let on. In the months leading to our demise, Charlie became as absent and as cold as the desert at night. He stopped talking, almost completely, for nearly 2 months.

A certain pressure was mounting. A feeling so dense, looking back I knew a change was coming.

Our home and poorly constructed facade shattered on January 23rd, 2015, in an event I’m still too embarrassed to detail. The result of our demise speaks for the event itself: I was hospitalized for self harm and suicide ideation with a nasty heroin addiction.

Charlie remained silent through the following days. He packed my Ford Explorer with all of my personal items from our home in feet of snow. I stayed in the mental ward for 9 days and found out from my mother that he was leaving me and renouncing parental care of both of our children. In that moment, my children lost their home, and both their father and mother over the imbalances caused by heroin and mental illness.

The word ‘humble’ comes from the latin word ‘humus’ meaning ground, and later ‘humilis’ meaning lowly. After that moment, I truly became humble. I was as low as the ground. But it is from my darkest hour that I found my greatest strength.

I went to live at Turning Point, a local domestic violence shelter, while my children were shuffled between their grandparents homes. For a lot of children in this exact circumstance, the State would have taken them.

Music brings life to the shelter. I didn’t expect my life to change positively when I stepped into a domestic violence shelter.  But within the first week, I had the fortune of meeting Roanoke native and Grammy award-winner, Rene Marie, at Turning Point.  She is a jazz singer and composer whose own story involves overcoming an abusive relationship.  She sang and shared her testimony for us in the humble living room at the shelter.  Her soulful voice was a reminder of the gifts I traded in lieu of heroin and perpetual trauma.

For 10 years I have been mute as a recording artist. I am currently recording my my sophomore album, Organ Donor. Organ Donor is the audio memoir of my struggle through the death rattle of addiction into the radiance of recovery.

Trauma and addiction made it necessary for me to seek a solution that existed outside of my limited consciousness.  My solutions were carnal: sex, drugs, haphazardly/irresponsibly creating children (who became my light in a dark world), stealing, lying, cheating and anger.  None of these things could change any of my internal pain.  In fact, it enhanced my pain.

I was forced to gaze beyond my ego encapsulated identity for a greater connection. God, the Supreme Consciousness, or simply, the energy from which we all emerge, is present in despair and heartache. In the depth of my lowest valley, I was found. My desire for purpose, growth, being a fully present mother, and using my talents and gifts to honor my creator, are being realized.

-AB

Stay tuned for Part 2 which details how Americana Soul artist, Amanda Bocchi, shifted from heroin to heroine.

 


This is my experience, strength and hope. If you’re struggling with addiction, or if you have family and friends who are struggling, keep reaching out for help.  Go back to AA, NA and AL-ANON (a support group for family members of addicts). Go back to rehab for the 7th time (that’s what it took for me!), or take the leap to get help for the first time.  Stop trusting street pharmacists to heal your pain.  I believe the true nature of addiction is rooted in spiritual, emotional and mental trauma and can be healed.

Share this with people you love.  Share this with people struggling with addiction.  Or simply share this with people seeking to understand why drug overdose is the number one cause of death for Americans under 50.

 

About the author

Amanda Bocchi emerges from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia as an Americana soul artist.  She marries together jazz harmony, roots music and a soulful voice to create her own brand: Americana Soul Flood.  Her lyrics swing from the sweetness of motherhood to the death rattle of addiction. Organ Donor, Amanda’s sophomore album, is a memoir of her experience through heroin addiction and her transformation into the light of recovery.  Cereal Box Murder, Bocchi’s debut, was independently released in 2006.

Amanda is also the host on the Kingdom of Rock podcast for DIY musicians. Kingdom of Rock podcast is centered around shaping musicians into music entrepreneurs. She interviews authors, legendary performers and independent artists to increase dialogue surrounding feminism, music and entrepreneurship.

If you feel inspired and you’d like to show your appreciation, you can contribute to Amanda’s Patreaon here.  Or just head over to amandabocchi.com to learn more.

 

 

14 Responses

  1. Kathy Shipman

    i certainly hope Amanda has the ability to remove your nasty little comment. What kind of slim crawling sad fucktard life do you lead to leave such a horrible comment about someone you don’t even know or go out to see. She’s a fabulous artist and a major player in the live music scene around Roanoke VA. She performs at all kinds of events, fund raisers and block parties, private parties and an occasional church service, as a touring blues gospel singer. She’s living proof that you can change and rediscover all that life has to offer you, if you only make the attempt to open you crusty little heart and let some goodness in…then maybe all this hate talk would nolonger be left behind you your nasty little name.

  2. Vail, CO

    Can people really recover from heroine like you can from other drugs like Alcohol or pills etc. ? I keep hearing “once an addict always an addict” but then I see cases like Anthony Bourdain so it gives me hope that you can beat this

  3. ©

    This seems so contrived. It’s written by some publicist trying to force a potentially ( I say potentially because I have a hard time trusting its sincerity) dark period in someones life into an attention ploy.
    If sharing the story was so important, why did she not write it herself? What is the need to link a patreon page?

    • Vail, CO

      You’re so cynical! Let’s support someone who is making their life better.

    • Amanda Bocchi

      I did write it myself thanks. And this is my genuine story. Only people who have actually seen this side of the coin will understand…because i can’t invent the things I’ve seen and experienced. I pray you don’t either. I linked my patreon page because I an independent musician. I’m recording a new album and it’s not free to do.

      • ©

        Your reply is missing some grammar that leads me to believe otherwise. Also it shifts to third person, did you write that too?
        I don’t see how this isn’t exploitive. If there was a need to inspire people who may be facing addiction issues, why trudge up an addiction that according to this article is already at least 11 years in the past? Are there not more relevant people that can be more easily related with?

        Either way, having had several addicts in my life I feel the need to call bullshit on this. The whole article reads like its saying ‘look at me and how hard I’ve had it…. so give me money’. Your reply to my comment further cements this because if you had a burning desire to record your album (and confidence in the quality of the content itself and not reliance on persona/life story), you could do the following: work, save up, record the album, sell the album or stream it. If the content is worth it to your fans, you should be fine.

        • Brian R.

          Trolls suck. She has a boyfriend, not a publicist. I’m glad she’s speaking out. If you don’t like it, move along. No one needs you here.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      It’s not ghost written or fictional. It’s a real story written by Amanda. What you might be picking up is that there was an editor, which is good for removing rough edges, errors, etc., but strangely can have the downside of reducing the voice.

      As for the rest, yeah I think Amanda does open herself up to some criticism by pointing to her Patreon at the end, but hey. That was her choice.

  4. Amanda Bocchi

    I do think of Heroin daily. I think about all of my friends who are dead. I think about how much I loved that substance and how far from God it brought me. I think about how I can help people who are still suffering. I haven’t touched, smelled or seen a speck of Heroin since May 23rd 2016. But hey, thanks for taking the time to comment.

  5. Amanda Bocchi

    I think you’ve read it too quickly and didn’t notice where the article ends with the -AB (in first person). Everything after the line is something I add to everything I’m currently writing about the heroin epidemic. I wish you were right and I was just a publicist pretending to be a heroin addict. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I used for nearly a decade and i have been clean a year and 6 mo. My patreon page is to invite people who want to be a part of the making of the record. Although, i agree i could have worded that better. Thanks for your feedback.

  6. Joe

    Continued success in your recovery Amanda. I hope you find joy in the mundane moments that are a part of the everyday rhythm of life. You will see the comfort that is your children’s unconditional love. May you always find satisfaction in the beautiful struggle of creating powerful art as well.