By Reporter Rebecca Granet

NEW YORK — She has an infectious smile, strawberry blonde hair, and since kicking her heroin habit two years ago, 27-year-old Morgan says she is meeting herself, in many ways, for the first time.

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“[Now I’m] exactly who you see, and for the first time ever I can say that,” she said. “I don’t hold secrets and I’m a very honest person.”

When she was 18,  Morgan says she was in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend. She first snorted heroin in his home, believing it was a way to stop the abuse. Morgan got high a lot, but the high that comes from snorting the drug quickly loses its intense effect, so a user will soon crave something more. Within four months, Morgan’s boyfriend introduced her to intravenous injections.

“It’s very difficult because it’s a very quick situation,” she said. “It’s not something that you realize is happening, and before you realize it, it becomes a need, not a want, with a drug like heroin.”

Morgan was now on an eight-year odyssey of addiction. She says sticking her arm with a needle paled in comparison to her fear of experiencing withdrawals. She says she thinks she overdosed four times but isn’t sure of the exact number. Each time, she was saved by the heroin overdose antidote, Narcan.

“I was non-responsive, not breathing, no pulse, four times, and it still did not stop me,” she said. “I am alive because of Narcan. I know that now.”

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Rock bottom for Morgan took three years. She finally reached up from heroin hell and asked her parents for help.

“For the first time in years, my family smiled,” she said. “I thought I was going to walk into that room and they were going to crucify me, and I walked in and they were happy. They were just happy that I had said something and I was finally asking for help.”

Considered a chronic relapser, Morgan struggled for years through institutions, hospitals, jails, and detoxes. She said she spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on heroin over the course of her habit. A year ago she was introduced to the A Shot at Life Program in Nassau County, which she says gave her the final push she needed. She also began using Vivitrol, a monthly injection that blocks the effects of opiates on the body and suppresses the drug cravings.

Narcan brought me back, but Vivitrol saved my life,” she said.

Morgan went back to school to become a drug counselor. She also speaks at county drug prevention events.

“I think a huge part of saving lives on Long Island is the prevention aspect of it, and that’s what I do,” she said. “If I can stop one person from saying ‘yes,’ then my job is done.”

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