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.
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.
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