Former heroin addict remembers living in abandoned Detroit home

Heroin epidemic killing people, ruining lives

DETROIT – Brittany seems to have had everything as a child. She had a good family, she was a good student and she enjoyed sports. But then, she tried heroin.

"I loved heroin more than anything in the world," she said. "My family, my sister, my friends, my boyfriend, my future, anything."

READMacomb woman starring as face of addiction

The faces of addiction are all around us. The heroin epidemic has exploded -- people are dying and lives are being ruined.

Local 4's Dr. Frank McGeorge took a very raw look at where an addict's life takes them.

Talking to hundreds of addicts over decades in the emergency room, he found there's no "I'll just try heroin once," according to McGeorge. People who try it get addicted, which is what happened to Brittany. She went from suburbia in Macomb County to an abandoned home in Detroit. 

"It's going to be like a flash of memories all over again," Brittany said. "I'm going to experience all these feelings are going to come rushing in from where I was at to where I am now."

McGeorge: "The first time you went down there before you had heroin, did you have any reservations about it not being a good area?"

"When I would go downtown, and even seeing houses on the side of the freeway, I was thinking, 'I would never go in that area. It's terrifying,'" Brittany said. "Then you go in that area and it's just, you know, normal."

McGeorge: "Do you remember a time when you went from 'this is scary' to 'well, I guess I'm going'?"

"I don't remember a specific time, but I know that there was a time when I just kind of crossed over, you know, the first couple times I went down," Brittany said. "I wasn't too far into my addiction at that point, so I was still scared. I was this little girl from the suburbs who was afraid of Detroit and then I got to a point where I didn't care anymore, just get my drugs. It didn't matter how I was going to get them or where I had to go or what I had to do. I was going to get them."

MORE COVERAGERecovering heroin addict opens up about her journey

McGeorge: "At some point, you went and stayed."

"Yep, when my mom kicked me out, it was convenient, so I stayed," Brittany said.

Brittany was 18 years old when she managed to graduate from high school and ended up on the streets, instead of in college.

"I went to Detroit and lived in an abandoned house with other addicts," she said. "And where my dealer sold out of. I would let him use my car while I was there (and) he would give me free drugs for it."

The abandoned house was off 7 Mile and Van Dyke roads. Nearby, there's a field where Brittany said she was jumped and raped "in broad daylight."

"(It) might have been about 5 p.m. during the day, and I remember screaming, 'Help me, help me, help me,'" Brittany said.

She said the attack happened on her way back from the liquor store to get money for a tow truck.

"I started running, and that's how I ended up right here," Brittany said. "The guy behind me grabbed me by my hair and I ended up being dragged right here. I kept my head down until I knew they were out of sight. Afterwards, I ended up walking down McNichols because the only place I knew to go was my dealer's house, because I didn't know anyone (who) lived around here. As I was walking that way, some people from a church stopped and asked me if I needed help, but at that point, all I was thinking was, 'I need to get high, I need to get high, I need to get high.'"

McGeorge: "How hard is it?"

"It's hard," Brittany said. "But it's good to know also that I went through these things and survived. But the fact that I put myself in these situations."

McGeorge: "I guess that's the hard part for most people to understand. How do you go from your other life to coming down here?"

"It's such an easy transition that you don't even know that it's happening. When you're getting high, it just all seems so normal. Your perspective on life and things that are normal completely skew," Brittany said. "Obviously, something this tragic isn't normal, but I was more upset at the time that my high was ruined. That's the sad reality of it. Now it kills me to know that I was laying in the field being raped by two men and that's the first thing I thought of."

Brittany said she never reported the incident. She said her dealer spotted her on the street and took her back to the house. She said he gave her free heroin because she had been raped.

"That was his response," she said. "Oh, I'm sorry. Here's some more heroin."

Brittany said she would feel so excited when she got to her street.

"It's surreal to think that I actually lived here," Brittany said. "The roof is caving in. The steps are broken."

She said she shot up on the couch after she got jumped.

McGeorge: "What is this place like at night?"

"Terrifying," Brittany said. "Even though I lived here, I still wouldn't leave the house at night. I remember, because the dealers wouldn't stay there overnight. They had houses to go back to. Me and this other kid, Matt, lived here, and I would push stuff up against the front door because I would be terrified that someone was going to come in."

But as scary as the house was, Brittany said she feared something else more.

"The scariest thing for me at the time was going through withdrawals," Brittany said. "I didn't care what else happened. I just did not want to be sick."

McGeorge: "What's your worst memory here?"

"I overdosed and there was an older gentleman here, probably in his 70's, and I overdosed, and he didn't know there wasn't any running water, so he put me in the bathtub," Brittany said. "(He) tried to run the water but couldn't. He started slapping me and I finally woke up. And I woke up to this."

McGeorge: "So you gave up normal life for this?"

"Yeah," Brittany said. "This was normal. This is pathetic."

Taking the trip back to the places she spent addicted to heroin gave Brittany perspective.

McGeorge: "Does it tempt you at all?"

"Before, when I would try and get clean, I would always have these thoughts over and over again -- these flashbacks of living here, and it all brought me back to that rush that you get when you shoot up," Brittany said. "Because that's what you always look for is that first time. This time I am just done. It was like, I worked overtime to get high. It was terrible."

Brittany got sober years after her time in that abandoned Detroit home.

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