Omar was 19 when he smoked it for the first time. It was the summer of his sophomore year at LAU, and all his friends went down to a beach chalet in Jounieh to get loaded. He had been smoking hash for years, and even tried cocaine, so trying heroin did not seem like a big deal.
“I thought about it for like five seconds,” Omar, an LAU Byblos alumnus, explains sarcastically. “If thinking was ever part of that process!”
As he sat at the terrace that beautiful summer night, Omar watched one of his friends prepare his first hit. The latter lit a match beneath the foil and held it as Omar sucked the smoke through a straw. He took a couple of hits, holding it deep inside every time, and then exhaled. He sat back deep into his chair, looked at the stars and felt invincible.
The sparkle in those stars dimmed down quickly as Omar’s first hit turned into a daily habit and eventually a 100-dollar-a-day appetite. Heroin loses its potency due to tolerance build-up, so the need to feed the addiction can turn the strongest willed into poppy slaves.
Omar explains that his number one priority in life became the effort to secure heroin. “I would go to any lengths to get it,” he says.
Omar has robbed from different shops, from his friends and even from his family. “You don’t think of what you’re doing, or who you’re hurting,” the young man adds. “All you think of is that one thing.”
Omar, who clearly still gets emotional when discussing this topic, explains that addiction is a very selfish disease. The shame heroin addicts feel in such a situation typically pushes them to seek refuge in their addiction, increasing the level of their dependence on drugs.
“Pretty soon you’ll be so numb, you forget what feelings feel like,” Omar says. He is not alone. With Lebanon now growing its own supply, heroin has become a cheap drug that can fill the void of insecurities a teenager often passes through.
Even for the country’s adult population, which suffers from ongoing tensions and a weak economy, heroin can be a welcome escape. The low cost and increased availability of high purity heroin that can be snorted or smoked rather than injected with a needle makes it far more attractive then it was in the past.
Omar, now 25, attends regular Narcotics Anonymous meetings. He’s been clean for the past 5 years. “Narcotics Anonymous is a support group,” Omar explains. “Whenever you’re feeling shaky about anything in your life and you’re tempted to use drugs, you can come here, share it with the group and let it out.”
The group consists of other recovering addicts who went through what Omar did. It’s as close to a perfect program as there can be for recovering addicts. People hear each others’ stories and help where they can. “Sometimes all that people need is for someone to listen,” Omar explains.
When asked if he would ever return to drugs, Omar gives off a big sigh. “I hope not,” he says with a smile.
By Ussama Makarem
LAU Tribune contributor