The Many Faces of Heroin Addiction
BY GINA CILIBERTO, Volunteer at The Courage to Speak Foundation
“I know I’m a good person at heart, but when I put that drug in my system, man, everything goes out the window.” –Claire
Kerri Blakinger and Claire ( last name not given) were bright, athletic women who attended college, earned good grades and were respected by their fellow peers. They were not what most people imagine, when they think of drug addicts. Dr. Arnold Washton, executive director and co-founder of Compass Health Group in New York City, says ( in reference to drug addicts), “It doesn’t matter if the person is the president of the United States or a factory worker.” Anyone can fall victim to the dangers of drug abuse, especially when trying to find an escape from the pain of depression or other serious, mental disorders.
Claire excelled as an athlete; she won varsity letters in three sports and earned an athletic scholarship for college. Despite her success, Claire felt feelings of sadness and insecurity. She began to experiment with prescription painkillers, which she got from other teammates. Opiates, otherwise known as “painkillers,” are gateway drugs for Heroin; it only took a matter of months before Claire was doing heroin.
Claire dropped out of college and today she is living in a sober home, struggling everyday with staying sober. Like Claire, Keri Blakinger was also a bright, young woman turned heroin addict.
Blakinger was a gifted athlete, who began figure skating by the age of eight. In 2001, she spiraled into depression after a setback, which she feared would force her to quit skating. This possibility was too much for Blakinger to handle and she turned to drugs as a way to escape her emotional pain. She quickly became addicted to heroin.
While attending Cornell University in 2007, she jumped off the Stewart Avenue Bridge after contemplating suicide, in the midst of battling heroin addiction and depression. In December of 2010, she was charged with criminal possession of a substance in the second degree. After accepting a plea deal, she was eventually sentenced to two and a half years in prison and was released on a two-year parole in September 2012. Today she is clean and sober and plans to take two remaining classes at Cornell to complete her degree. Blakinger has written a manuscript, which she finished in January 2014, titled IV League ( purposely misspelled). Her manuscript accounts her battle with drug addiction, during her time at Cornell University from 2007-2010; She is currently looking for a publisher.
Blakinger says, “One of my hopes for [the book] is that it will humanize inmates to people,” especially for readers who think of them “as people that aren’t like you.”
Blakinger was maintaining A’s and B’s at Cornell and even writing for the school newspaper, The Cornell Sun, before her arrest. Claire and Blakinger’s stories clearly show that addiction does not discriminate; it can affect even some of the most intelligent and talented people.
Please visit the following referenced sites for additional reading and information on Claire and Keri Blakinger: