Susanne* met Mike* when she was 16. He was 18, and her supervisor at the call center where they worked. They flirted and started dating. "Average teenager stuff," Susanne recalls. Soon after they got together, Mike offered Susanne heroin. She says she had never even smoked pot before.
"I don’t want to be mean, but I felt pressured into doing it. So, I did," she adds. "And then I fell in love."
Heroin took over Susanne and Mike's lives for the next five years. Mike admits that their story, though increasingly common, looks bad from the outside. "I should’ve said, 'Hey, this is probably not the best way to move forward with my life,'" he reflects, "But there’s some things that’re more important, I guess. Like heroin addiction."
Through overdoses, incarcerations and three pregnancies, Susanne and Mike kept their relationship intact, even as relationships with family deteriorated. Methadone treatment finally helped them kick their habit. Today, they say it's been almost 10 years since they last used heroin. They moved to a nice neighborhood hundreds of miles away from where their lives began to spiral. Mike found a well-paying job, but felonies on both their records have limited their career options.
And true stability continues to be elusive. During our fact-checking process, we uncovered a pending criminal charge that Susanne and Mike hadn't shared with us at first. And it casts their interview in a different light. When we checked in with them again, it became apparent that the outcome of this story—and their relationship—is far from clear.