Dire Signs: Heroin addicts have hard time turning lives around


At the beginning of Memorial Day weekend, Angel swiped the bank card she carries at an ATM and tapped into a junkie’s dream. She had noticed a $1,000 disability check had been deposited into fiancé Joe’s account, while he sat in prison awaiting a sentence. She had a choice. She could use the money for a ticket home to Wisconsin. But instead, she sent $400 to Joe in prison and then spent a week shooting the rest up her arm.

Angel’s high tolerance for the dope saved her from overdosing during the binge, but just barely. She skipped flying her panhandler sign during afternoons over Memorial Day weekend and shot up her bonanza, dozing in between at the loading dock where she sleeps.

Overdose is a constant threat for Denver addicts, with heroin cheaper and more potent than it used to be. Angel’s own family has suffered overdoses. The junkies who cross paths with her in the streets and alleys of Denver all have their own stories.

Alice, 21, has no plans of giving up heroin and doesn’t see why she should. Three years ago, she and her street companion, Iris, found out she was pregnant. She continued using throughout. Their daughter was born with a form of dwarfism, with high medical needs.

On Alice’s 19th birthday, Iris went to the grocery store for treats. When he got back, Alice was holding the baby and unconscious from an overdose. Iris called 911 and tried to get her breathing again. The paramedics revived Alice, then made sure social services took the baby away. A big-hearted woman with other damaged babies took theirs in. They visited a few times.

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