My first high. The first time I put something in my body just because I wanted to see what it could do. I was 9 years old attending Valley Elementary School in Alabama. It’s 1999 and my best friend’s name is Paige. Paige was always the kind of girl who was a little off. She would mess around and punch you in the arm in a joking way but really hard (especially for a girl her size) and she did it all the time. So much so that one day I hit her back, square in the face, and told her to never hit me again. I was already getting hit at home and I wasn’t going to have that from someone I considered my friend. She never even noticed that the way she went about this was beyond normal childhood playing. But I put an end to that rather quickly.
I remember one day we were carrying our ugly tan trays through the lunch line and she said she “had a surprise”. Naturally, I was dying to know what it was but she said I had to wait. We collect our sandwiches and chocolate pudding and head to our table. As we sit down she reaches in her pocket and pulls something out. She shows me these blue and orange capsules and says they’re “happy pills”. She slips me one and after my many questions and worries we dump the white powder into our chocolate pudding and eat it. After eating all the pudding I licked the tray. I should’ve know right there that I was an addict, as that is not normal behavior for a 9 year old. During my next class I was so excited and happy that I got stuck in a “giggle fit” that got me kicked out of class. I just could not stop laughing, even after my teacher got angry and threatened to kick me out. So in the hallway I sat, giggling to myself the entire time.
Paige and I had our lunch time happy pills a few times after that as well and then came her 10th birthday. It was May 25th, 1999. We planner a sleepover. My mom dropped me off that afternoon. Paige, this girl Megan, and I played in the pool until the sun set. When nighttime came Megan started crying because she was homesick and her parents picked her up. That left me and Paige. I remember her mom made lemonade and it was the best lemonade I had ever tasted in my entire life (it seriously left quite the impression). Nothing has beat it to this day. Eventually Paige’s parents disappeared, her dad to the living room to read the paper, and her mom to their bedroom. Me and Paige were hanging out listening to music on her enclosed back porch when she randomly jumped up and said she’d “be right back”. She returned with a pill bottle.
To this day I can not remember what those pills were. I remember looking them up in her parent’s Pill Dictionary when I heard her plans for us and I’m 90% sure they were a barbiturate, but the events of that night have left my memory fuzzy. In the 16 years since, I’ve only found one pill online that looks like what we took and it was a Tuinal. To my understanding however, these were either not being prescribed or were prescribed very rarely by the time the late 90’s rolled around so I’m not completely sure. I guess it doesn’t really matter anymore. Either way, her plan was for us to split the bottle and take them all. There was 26 pills in the bottle, leaving 13 for each of us. As she handed me these 13 pills I remember the words of my older sister, “Never take more than 10 of anything.” Don’t ask me why she said that to her 9 year old sister but I’m glad she did and I listened. I tried to talk Paige out of taking that many but she had her mind set on us doing it this specific way so I pretended to take 13 but only swallowed 10 (because that’s not more than 10 right?). There’s another one of those pesky “Addict In the Making” signs.
Everything that happened after taking them is a little fuzzy and in pieces. I remember drinking more of that lemonade and it tasting even better than before. I remember zoning out looking at the brightness of the white lettering on my black shirt because of the black light on her back porch. I remember singing along to the radio and feeling like everything was perfect and I was floating. At some point Paige got up and went to bed. I remember walking around her house and trying to be silent because I knew I was wrecked and didn’t want to get caught. To compare to the experience I have today, it was like being drunk and rolling on ecstasy at the same time. My body felt light and floaty while the walls were moving in waves around me. As I walked through her hallway I knocked a vase off a pedestal and everything was moving so slowly that I actually caught it midair and put it back, silently (or so I remember). At one point I was tired and asked Paige’s dad where I should sleep. He walked me back to her room where she was sleeping in the middle of the bed. He tried to wake her up to wake her scoot over but she was dead to the world. He made a joke about “the party really wiping her out” and told me to just crawl in with her. He walked out of the room and I attempted to wake Paige up. I shook her, said her name multiple times; she didn’t budge. I smacked in the face as hard as I could manage. She didn’t stir. I shook her again, violently this time. Nothing.
I knew this was not good. I knew enough about drugs to know she should’ve at least fluttered her eyes, mumbled, anything. But I couldn’t make her do anything. She was completely unconscious and probably borderline comatose. I knew in my gut, despite years of never telling on someone, that I had to do something. I walked back into her living room and the following conversation took place between myself and her dad:
Me: I think I know why Paige won’t get up.
Her dad: Really? Why?
Me: Well you know those pills your wife takes?
Her dad: Yeahhh…..?
Me: She took 13 of them.
I have never seen such a big man move so fast. He flew out of his LazyBoy and into the bedroom his wife was in. I remember him throwing the door open and she was standing there in nothing but her panties (that was awkward). He told her what I told him, ran to Paige’s room faster than he got to his bedroom, and grabbed her while his wife called 911. He sat Paige down on the floor in the kitchen and I remember asking her if she was okay because she was sort of semi-conscious again. She had tears running down her face but couldn’t talk or lift her head up. She was just limp. Her dad ended up throwing her in his car and took off to the hospital. I rode with her mom. Her mom asked me if I had taken any and I looked her dead in the eyes and assured her I hadn’t. The ride to the hospital was all a blur. We got there and at some point my step dad showed up and walked me outside. He made me look up at him and asked me how many I took. I told him I didn’t take any. As he held my face look up towards the street lamp he said, “Don’t fucking low to me. Your pupils are messed up. How many did you take?” I told him I took one and was fine. He walked away (I don’t remember where to) and when he returned he informed me that he had told a police officer and that the cop said he would put me in jail the next time it happened. He said “he had to talk him out of locking me up”. He expected to scare me. Instead I begged for him to let the cop take me. He severely underestimated how much I wanted to get away from him and his abuse. In retrospect, it was obviously bullshit but I didn’t know that at the time. I wanted them to take me. More than I wanted anything else at that moment, except for my friend to live.
After awhile they let me see Paige. They told me she would’ve died had I not told her dad what happened. They had to pump her stomach and she was in a coma the rest of the night. When I walked in the room I saw her with what seemed like a million tubes coming from everywhere on her body. There were still tear marks staining her face and she was ghostly pale. It made me cry. I was afraid she was going to die anyway. I felt at fault even though they were her pills, her idea, and her choice the entire time. I felt like I should’ve stopped her. I couldn’t understand why she almost died where I caught a buzz when I only took 3 less than her. The doctor informed me that 3 was enough to kill any child. All the while I’m standing there, knowing how many I took, and thinking “well, that isn’t true.”
I went home that night and my step dad decided I would stay in the bathroom for the next 30 days since I “wanted to go to jail so badly”. Turns out he was pissed his threats didn’t work. My mom told me she spent that whole night checking my heart beat, afraid I would die, and watching me nod out leaned against the bathroom wall. She said there was nothing in the world like seeing your 9 year old high as a kite. I slept for 12 hours. That was the longest I’d ever stayed asleep at that point in my life.
The next day we went to Paige’s house to check on her. My stepdad informed me before we left that this would be the only time I would be allowed to leave that bathroom except to go to school for the next 29 days. When we got to Paige’s she was in a bathing suit jumping off the diving board at her pool. I remember being shocked at how much it appeared as if the events of the night before didn’t happen. Paige told me she got spanked but wasn’t grounded or anything. I was pissed, but happy for her. Apparently her mom informed my mom that I “wouldn’t be allowed at their house anymore” since I was “such a bad influence” on their daughter. My mom defended me and told her that Paige was the one who suggested it and stole the pills in the first place but her mom wouldn’t have that. She didn’t care that I had saved her child’s life. Her daughter “was the innocent one in the situation” and she “knew she never would’ve done that if it wasn’t for me”.
So I lost the first real friend I ever remember having. I never saw her again after that day even though I’ve searched for her a few times. I lived in a bathroom and slept in the tub for the next 29 days and I’m sure Paige continued to take advantage of her parent’s blissful ignorance. When I got home that day I got my ass beat. My stepdad wanted to make sure I was “sober enough that I could feel it”. It’s no wonder that three years later I was using on a regular basis…
by Ashley Hebner
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