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Jonathan Dugin came to Watertown in the summer of 2005 when he was stationed at Fort Drum. Within six months he deployed to Afghanistan for a year-and-a-half. He left the military in 2007. Since then, he stayed in Watertown, got married, had a child, got divorced, lost his grandmother, and grappled with his post-traumatic stress disorder.
JD Dugin also became addicted to heroin.
He spoke with our Homefront: Fort Drum producer after being sober from heroin for six days. They talk about the factors in his life that lead to his addiction.
Jonathan Dugin: I mean, it is what it is. I mean I got more hooked on heroin shortly after my grandmother passed away. I was dealing with issues internally that I necessarily didn’t want to believe that I was dealing with.
Meredith Turk: Like what?
JD: I mean, just life in general – stress of PTSD. The stress of what was going on at my household. I was financially taking care of me, my wife and two daughters, and my father-in-law. And my grandmother was my world. My grandmother – I grew up in your ideal household – I mean, ideal. And my grandmother was like my mother. I had that same bond that I have with my mother with my grandmother. And my grandmother went through what my uncle went through in the Vietnam War. And now she’s dealing with it at 70, 80 years old – dealing with her grandson, and I mean countless times, when I would call back from Afghanistan and my grandmother would answer the phone and I would freeze up. I didn’t want to talk to her because I felt like I was going to release something subliminally – not on purpose – but that she was going to pick up. Like, he’s stressed, he’s hurting – something’s the matter. And I didn’t want my grandmother to feel that pain or to go through it. She went through it enough dealing with Vietnam with my uncle.
MT: How does all this play into, like, your time deployed, your PTSD?
MT: The heroin.
JD: I mean, when I came off heroin last time, it made my flashbacks ten times worse. But, like I said, being addicted to the heroin is what numbed my senses, my feelings, my awareness to that pain. We lost one guy in-country. We’ve lost triple that here stateside from suicide, drug addictions, and BS here stateside.
MT: When did you know you were addicted? Is it a moment?
JD: You never know that you’re addicted. Because if you did, you would never become addicted. I don’t mean to say this to you or belittle you in any way, because I understand that you’re trying to find out information and get different points of view with the situation, but if we all knew that we were addicted, who would be addicted to cigarettes? Who would be addicted to alcohol? Pot? Coke? Crack? It doesn’t matter because once you realize that you need it every day, you’re already screwed because you’re to that point where you need that to survive, to complete your day, to make you feel complete. Thirty-years-old, I was twenty-nine when I did it. The first time I ever did it, guess what? I’m a grown-ass man – raised my right hand, signed myself up for the army. I got children. So guess what? At the end of the day, I let somebody put that needle in my arm.
MT: What is it about heroin that attracted you in the beginning? Why is that…
JD: Heroin isn’t something that is like a neon flag that’s blinking in the bar that says we’re open. It’s not that. It’s that drug that creeps up in there and you try it a couple times and okay I’m fine. I would sniff a little dope here and there – and when I say a little dope, I might sniff a little bag of dope just to say we all did…we sniffed a bag of dope. I wouldn’t touch dope for years after that. But then my buddy was like, no, you’re going to try shooting it. And I’m like, yeah, right. And my wife said something about it and I said you stick that needle in your arm, stick it in mine – and it was more or less to get her not to. And she did. So then my buddy went to go poke me and he poked me like nine times and my wife freaked out. And started crying, please don’t do it, blah, blah, blah, just come here – and then she shot me up. And then it just became doing it and doing it and doing it. And then I got clean – I stopped. But then I was around my wife, who didn’t stop and kept using and that’s what brought me back down.
MT: What is sobriety like? What’s that path like?
JD: I mean it’s hard. I mean, especially for somebody who has an addiction to heroin. People can talk sobriety all they want. They can sit there and say, oh, I’m going to be sober. Oh, I want to do this and oh I want to do that. That’s great and grand, but now when it comes down to where the rubber meets the road and you have to do this to stay sober and you have to do this to make sure that your quote-unquote sober life is what it needs to be.
MT: What are those things?
JD: What do you mean?
MT: You said, you have to do this.
JD: Well, you know, you got to…people, places, and things. Some of the people you may have shot dope or sniffed dope or smoked dope, whatever which way you did it, with those certain people, you can’t go back and start hanging out with them, especially just after getting clean. And it sucks, because some of these people are good people. And they’re funny – one of my good friends, he’s a blast. He’ll have you peeing your pants laughing. He does heroin and I know me, consciously now, being clean, for me to go over there and hang out with him, he’s going to say something of that and I might be like no. And the first day I might be able to put him off. But then, okay, we hang out a couple days later – I have a rough day. He brings it up, now I say yes. Now I got to go through the whole process of getting clean. Doing this and the whole cycle resets itself. But it becomes harder every time you hit that reset button because now you’ve burned people’s trust, belief, their willingness to help you. Nobody in their right mind wants to go in a store and rip it off just because they want to rip it off. Nobody wants to lie to their parents to get money or lie to a family member or friend to get money, to swindle money so they can feed their addiction. They don’t want to do that. But they do it because they need to feed that addiction. They got to feed that monster inside them.
MT: Thanks you for talking to me.
JD: You’re good.
“I mean, when I came off heroin last time, it made my flashbacks ten times worse. But, like I said, being addicted to the heroin is what numbed my senses, my feelings, my awareness to that pain.
We lost one guy in country. We’ve lost triple that here state side from suicide, drug addictions and BS here state side.” When did you know you were addicted? Is it a moment? “You never know that you’re addicted. Because if you did, you would never become addicted. I don’t mean to say this to you or belittle you in any way, because I understand that you’re trying to find out information and get different points of view with the situation – but if we all knew that we were addicted, who would be addicted to cigarettes? Who would be addicted to alcohol? Pot? Coke? Crack? It doesn’t matter because once you realize that you need it every day, you’re already screwed because you’re to that point where you need that to survive, to complete your day, to make you feel complete.
Thirty years old, I was twenty nine when I did it. The first time I ever did it, guess what? I’m a grown ass man – raised my right hand, signed myself up for the army. I got children. So guess what? At the end of the day, I let somebody put that needle in my arm.” I met Jonathan Dugin in Watertown, NY. He was in the Army until 2007 and saw some of the heaviest combat in the military while deployed. He was six days sober from heroin when we talked. He shared with me about his experience of dealing with the daily struggle of staying clean and what keeps him going.