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Updated Feb 11, 2014 - 10:16 am

Phoenix man recovering from heroin addiction, sibling still struggling

Editor's note: Part two of a two-part story on heroin addiction and its affects on one Valley family. Part one ran Monday.

PHOENIX -- Six years ago, Alex (not his real name) was attending Thunderbird High School in Phoenix. He said drugs were easy to find at school.

"If you have three friends there, you'll probably find someone that has something. It's harder to get prescription pills now, but it's easier to get heroin now," he said.

Alex was not interested in drugs during high school, but after graduation he began hanging out with a group of about 50 students from Cactus Shadows High School in Cave Creek. One of them offered him OxyContin at a party.

"He had a legal prescription for it from breaking his leg."

He offered Alex some pills.

Alex refused that time, but after being offered on a few other occasions with the same group, he finally succumbed to the temptation.

A few weeks later, Alex took the drug for three straight days, then tried to stop on the fourth day.

He failed.

When he didn't take the drug, he found that "Your body hurts so bad. Every single muscle in your body hurts or cramps. You can't sleep. You can't sit down. You have to walk around, but then you get so sore that you want to sit down, and you can't do anything. You will then do anything to get money to go find something."

Alex said he never stole for drug money. He used his paycheck to buy drugs. He later tried heroin, and found that it can give the same high, but is less expensive. And he said once connections are made, finding a dealer is easy.

"I would come and tell someone that I'm feeling sick.' If you're involved in heroin, you would know what I meant, and you would answer Oh, really? Well, I've got something.' If you had no clue about heroin, you would ask, Do you need some cough medicine or something?' "

Alex eventually had a $60-a-day heroin addiction. It also cost his job and a girlfriend. After four years, he'd had enough.

"I decided it's not worth it," he said. "I don't want to be in this lifestyle anymore. I want to have a better life. I went and got help."

He did that by going to a methadone clinic and joining the LDS church. He's been clean for two years, and has a new job.

Alex had to stop hanging around the drug crowd in Cave Creek. For the most part, he did that but did keep in touch with his closest friend from the group.

One night the friend called to ask Alex if he knew where to get some heroin. Alex told him that he had become clean, and urged him to do the same.

The next day, Alex got a call that the friend had been killed in a head-on collision. He was apparently behind the wheel when he went into a seizure. Alex said the friend may have taken Xanax just before the accident.

Alex credited his parents for helping him get clean. "They've had played a big role in my recovery. Their support has been tremendous."

His dad Mike (not his real name) would also like to give that same support to Alex's stepsister, if he can find her. Alex spoke with her several months ago, and knows that she is still hooked. She won't take her parents' help.

"She doesn't want them coming to where she's at, seeing who she's with, and trying to take her home again," Alex said.

Meanwhile, Mike, keeps looking for his stepdaughter, who had been an honors student. If he finds where she is, he wants to tell her "Please let us help you.

"Please, please, please come home. Stop (using the drugs) before you die. Because you will die," he said.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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