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Heroin addiction puts family to the test

It was a clear morning with a chilly breeze in the air when Steven Herrera woke up sluggishly after another night of succumbing to his heroin addiction. When he walked down the stairs, he was met with a living room full of family and friends who were all there for an intervention. Herrera was persuaded that day by the love of those close to him to finally start seeking some guidance for his addiction at a rehabilitation facility located hundreds of miles away.

Steven Herrera struggled with heroin addiction, but eventually overcame his addiction with help from those who love him. (Photo by Brandon Santa Maria/Kokopelli)

Whether Herrera knew it or not, that morning was the first step toward overcoming a lifestyle involving many drugs, but none as prominent or as harmful as heroin. This lifestyle was something Herrera had been wrapped up in for many months, and he was in a downward spiral. His addiction was causing harm to Herrera and those around him in everyday life, including his family and closest friends. The one person who was there through it all, and his biggest supporter, was his mother, Donni Herrera.

Although this was a very difficult experience for Herrera’s mother, it unfortunately wasn’t her first time dealing with this kind of addiction in her family.

“I have an older son who is addicted, and from the way my kids were raised and their background, I was just shocked that not only one, but now two were addicted, and I did not want to lose [Steven] down that path,” Donni Herrera said.

Because this was now her second child fighting drug addiction, Herrera’s mother knew she had to act quicker by using “tough love” from the start.

Donni Herrera has worked for many years in New Mexico’s legal system as a police officer and, more recently, as a state detective. She knew how dangerous an addiction to heroin or other illicit drugs can be.

“There are a lot of legal ramifications, because doing the drugs leads into a lot of criminal behavior. Not necessarily because that’s who they are, or what they want to do, but because they need to feed their addiction and they don’t have a whole lot of other avenues to do that. When you’re addicted, you can’t hold a job,” she said.

At the very beginning, when Herrera was first learning about her son’s situation, she was still somewhat in the dark about what was really happening.

“To be honest, I’m not even 100% sure I knew he was on heroin. I just knew he was addicted to something, a lot of drinking and possibly illicit drugs, but didn’t really know it was heroin itself,” she said.

As is the case for most of those who become addicted to heroin, it doesn’t start off with a hard drug. Most of the time, people will have already tried or are already addicted to another substance like marijuana or alcohol. 

“It’s not really that people start on heroin. A lot of people don’t just say ‘oh I’m just going to start heroin today.’ It is one of the drugs that comes after they already started other things. A lot of times it’s drinking, could be marijuana. There were a lot of concerns when marijuana was legalized [in New Mexico] of what else it could lead into, [but] I think that a lot of times you’ve got to have an addictive personality already and need that bigger fix,” Donni Herrera said.

According to Addiction Center, there is a much higher risk for people to get addicted to heroin if they already have a preexisting addiction to a substance. Prescription painkillers, for example, have similar effects to heroin but these pills can be expensive and hard to acquire. Many people who are addicted to a substance such as painkillers turn to heroin because it is cheaper and more accessible. 

After all that had happened in the past with Steven Herrera and his addiction, there was one moment that will always stand out with his mother.

“[Steven] would come home quite often impaired in some way. I woke up one day and I could not get him to wake up and it was really hard. It scared me really bad, [so] I started reaching out to some of his closest friends,” she said.

Today, Steven Herrera lives in Las Cruces with his mother and sister, and hasn’t used heroin or any other form of opioid since he committed to rehabilitation in 2021. He spends his free time developing his career as a social media personality by utilizing platforms like TikTok and YouTube.

Learn more about heroin addiction online. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance or alcohol abuse, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline, use the online treatment locator, or call 1-800-662-help (4357).

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