Right before the first meeting of Racine’s first heroin support program started last week, organizer Dustin Y. was nervous.
“I really didn’t think anyone would come,” he said. “But they did, and I hope word gets around to the people who need it.”
Dustin, 32, of Sturtevant, said 17 people who are either addicted to or recovering from heroin and opiates attended, which was roughly double the number he felt was an optimistic estimate. Meetings are held in a a room
Meetings are weekly – 3 p.m. every Thursday – and Dustin said he is driven to continue overcoming his own heroin addiction by helping others do the same after seven friends died this year alone from heroin overdoses.
“Maybe it is the friends I lost, and every death, even the ones I don’t know, pushes me harder,” he added.
Dustin started the Racine group after struggling for years with drug and alcohol abuse he says started when he was just 12. He lost contact with family and friends and landed in jail more than once. During a stay last summer in the Racine County Jail he was considered for the Racine County Alcohol and Drug Treatment Court where Dustin’s counselor was key to him seeing a life beyond jail, drugs and possible death.
“My counselor told me he could see something in me and that he could see me doing big things,” Dustin remembered. “I don’t know what it was or when, exactly, but something changed in me, and I surrendered to the process.”
He began going to self-help meetings geared more for alcoholics, and he said following the 12-step program has changed his life. Dustin is back living with his parents, he continues to attend his court mandated drug tests and review hearings, and he credits the staff at ZCI with encouraging him to do better.
“I know a lot of people hate that place because if you fail your drug test, you go back to jail, but they are there to help, and once I realized that, things started to fall into place,” Dustin continued. “They saved my life, and helped me get the heroin group started by guiding me through the process and helping me get the start-up kits I needed.”
But, he does want to be clear that other than assisting him with organizing the meetings and providing the location, ZCI has nothing to do with the support group itself.
Starting the heroin self-help group here has also helped Dustin focus more firmly on the future. While the alcohol program has helped him with his sobriety, the group is really meant for alcoholics. Heroin and opiate abusers have different needs, he added, primarily because using opiates more often than not leads to heroin addiction.
“I don’t care what anyone says, using opiates is a direct road to heroin,” Dustin stated. “Once you run out of money for pills, you move to heroin. I did, so I couldn’t leave those people out of this. Without a recovery program an addict will use again; it’s too much of a struggle without meetings.”
Since having his flyer posted on Racine Uncovered, Dustin said his phone has been ringing off the hook with people trying to get information. For him, that’s all the proof he needs that this group is a needed program in the greater Racine area.
Now that the program has started and his days are calming down a little, Dustin wants to focus on completing the requirements for drug court and finding a job. He has almost 15 years of experience in body piercing and several years in manufacturing and warehousing supervisory roles, but he said getting an interview is difficult with his drug and criminal history.
Still, Dustin is staying positive and knows that when the time is right, he’ll land a job.
“I want to be a productive member of society,” he said. “My goal every day now is to be a better person today than I was yesterday. If I keep doing that, keep going to meetings, keep helping people, then I know things will work out and I’ll get a job.”