Inside heroin addiction
CENTER POINT, Texas - Like many heroin addiction stories, 24-year-old Alex Barker began with the prescription drug known as OxyContin.
"To this day, it's the best feeling I ever had," he recalls of his first time using.
He was just 16 at the time, growing up in Youngstown, Ohio from an upper middle class family.
Oxy's cost around $50-$60 dollars a pill. By the time he was 17, he discovered an alternative around $10 dollars a hit.
"The heroin was so much cheaper and way stronger and it was more easily available."
The self-described introvert says he struggled with depression. Heroin was his ticket to an anxiety and insecurity free life.
"I loved to isolate and heroin was like my best friend, so I didn't need interaction with people. Heroin loved me when no one else would."
From 2008-2013: 409 people in Bexar County died from accidental heroin overdose according to State health department stats. From 1999-2007: 236.
He stopped counting after the 15th friend died from the same thing he was struggling with. He's been arrested five times. He's sought treatment in five different states. He's met homeless addicts. He's met brain surgeon addicts. But it wasn't until about three years ago when he came to Starlite in Center Point.
"I've been sober for three years. I've worked for treatment centers and this one by far is the best one I've ever been to."
"What recovery does is provide a blueprint for living in the day to day living," says Amy Swetnam, Starlite's CEO.
Amy hired Alex on after his treatment to help other's recover.
"He's able to do self-examination and identify areas that are a problem for him and correct them."
Alex says, "What's worked for me and for the majority of people that I see coming through here is a spiritual solution."
He says the hardest thing he had to do was forgive himself. Long term, he hopes to open up his own recovery center to help others just like him. People who hate what they see in the mirror today become something they love eventually.
"You may have all this stuff going on but if you engage in a program of action there's hope toward the end. And if you can't see that right now, that's completely normal."