Heroin addict fights through emotional first days of rehab

"In the Shadow of Death: Jason's Journey" is a multi-part "CBS Evening News" series that follows Jason Amaral, a 30-year-old addict living in the Boston area, on his path to recovery.


MAYS LANDING, N.J. -- Twenty-four hours into rehab, we found an emotional Jason Amaral fighting through the first critical hours of detox.

He'd just learned his younger brother Andrew, who is also an addict, was back on the streets because he could not find an open bed for treatment.

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Jason gets emotional as he learns bad news about his brother. CBS News

"He's running around Boston getting high again, so ... I don't know. Can you stop the camera for a second?" Jason said as he started crying.

It had already been a rough first day for Jason. He walked into recovery after a drug binge.

A day in the life of a heroin addict

He allowed our cameras to follow him the day before as he roamed the streets of Boston in search of drug money and heroin.

That morning, he crushed and snorted pills from a toilet seat in City Hall and he met friends to shoot up in the middle of the day.

And then that night, we watched him inject more heroin laced with the powerful drug fentanyl -- not once, but twice -- before his best friend, Mike Duggan, arrived.

Mike is a recovering addict who's been clean seven years and came to take Jason to rehab. "It's life or death. Like you will die if you don't get it this time. It's just really what it comes down to," Mike told him.

Mike traveled by plane with Jason from Boston to South Jersey, to make sure Jason made it to Recovery Centers of America in time.

"Me and Jason ran together. We got involved with a lot of this stuff together. Fortunately I was able to find [treatment] a lot sooner. I've been terrified for him for years," Mike told us.

When he arrived, Jason was asked what brought him into treatment.

"I honestly don't know how to live a normal life sober. I don't know how to deal with life," Jason said. He was visibly uncomfortable as he was forced to give up the pills he had in his bag.

"We're passionate about recovery," the woman greeting him said, "we believe in what we do, and we know that people get well. And you can get well, and we can help you get there."

In one of his first therapy sessions, Jason was given a bat and told to confront his addiction.

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Jason lets out some of his anger towards his addiction during a therapy session. CBS News

"I'm never gonna overdose! My brother won't overdose! He's gonna survive! He's gonna get it this time!" Jason said as he beat a cushion with the bat. "You won't take anything from me or my family again!"

"I feel better. I took a lot of anger out on it. I never did that before," he said afterwards.

It was that day's small victory.

To get his mind and body off drugs, Jason is encouraged to do exercise and yoga. The goal is to replace the synthetic high from heroin with a natural high -- an endorphin kick.

"There's gonna have to be a bigger part of me that wants to stay clean than a bigger part of me that wants to get high. Cause there's always gonna be a part of me that wants to get high. Always. For the rest of my life and I know that," Jason told us. "It's a disease. I'm gonna always wanna get high for the rest of my life."

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Jason is encouraged to exercise to keep his mind off of drugs. CBS News

"Are you afraid of dying?" we asked him.

"I'm afraid of getting high and dying is what it is. You know what I mean? I don't want to die using drugs. I don't want my legacy to be this kid overdosed, you know?"

We weren't allowed to record Jason's medication process, but he was slowly weaned off heroin with opiate replacement drugs over the first seven days.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, resources are available. Visit one of the links below: