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Sometimes You Have to Build a Wall Around Your Heart

​Stacy was sorry.

The 9 a.m. meeting on Tuesday had turned into a 10 a.m. meeting on Friday, which became a 9 a.m. meeting on Monday. Stacy answered the phone each time, and each time, she apologized. “Something came up,” she’d say. She had to walk her dogs. She slept too late. She forgot. “Heroin users aren’t the most punctual,” her daughter jokes.

Stacy Pettersen was receiving methadone treatment at a clinic a few miles from her government-subsidized apartment in Englewood. The dosing was still off, and she’d begun vomiting and feeling the intense agony of withdrawal. It had been more than a month since she last used heroin, the longest she’d gone without since she’d first tried the drug five years earlier. Despite pain so terrible she considered killing herself, she tried to remain hopeful. But it was difficult. Now she was entering the stage of recovery she worried she’d never be able to complete.
Experts who study drug abuse say there aren’t many old heroin users. Stacy is one of the exceptions. She is 62, divorced, and the mother of three adult children. I want to be a better person, she’d recently told her daughter, Colorado state Representative Brittany Pettersen. I want to make things right.
Now, Stacy says she wants to meet. She sets another time. She’ll be there. She promises.