ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There is a brutal honesty about Mike Salinas, leavened by a quick wit and laugh.
He walked into the county Metropolitan Assessment & Treatment Services program to get “clean” from heroin.
“I had a revelation that I was going to die,” Salinas said. “A moment of clarity.”
Now 34, he was introduced at age 12 to lines of methamphetamine in the back of his older brother’s van.
“I used meth for 15 years,” he said. “But you don’t know what addiction is until you run into heroin. It grabs you by the balls, excuse my language.”
When he was 27, Salinas ran into heroin accidentally when a stranger asked him for a syringe. Salinas happened to have one and the stranger gave him his first taste of heroin.
“When I was doing meth, I was working all the time, installing floors. I was always arguing with my wife or my girlfriend. I was always angry.
“Once I got on heroin — man I felt great. There was nothing like it. I wasn’t angry anymore. It solved all my problems, I just didn’t care anymore. Just cared about getting high again,” he said during an interview at the MATS offices in Southeast Albuquerque.
But the life of a heroin addict became not about getting high, but not getting sick.
“Heroin gets into your bones,” Salinas said. “You need it. You hustle all day to get the money to get well. You’re not getting high, just not sick.”
When he was using methamphetamine, Salinas said he did all sorts of “crazy things.”
But on heroin he avoids police at all costs.
“You go to jail and you have to kick cold turkey and you’re sick, really sick,” he said.
Another reason he came to MATS was so he could use Suboxone to step down from heroin addiction by using lower doses each day.
It also allows him to see how heroin twists the way he and other addicts see the world.
“This is the way your brain works on heroin,” he said. “You hear about somebody dying of an overdose and instead of feeling sad, you wonder where did that guy score. That must have been some really good stuff.
“Sick way of looking at things, but that’s what it does.”
He has also learned something about the drug culture hierarchy: at the bottom are heroin addicts.
“I got out of MDC (the Bernalillo County jail), and I texted my brother. He had gotten clean of the meth when I was still using, but we were brothers.
“I texted him and told him I was on the black — heroin. He cut me off right there. Haven’t talked to him since.”