FARGO – A letter written by a Moorhead man to the drugs that ultimately claimed his life reads like an angry elegy to a lover who wronged him.
Zach Spieker, 25, wrote "Dear Opiates" toward the end of a three-month stint in a drug treatment facility.
A few months later, he was dead.
"I lied for you, stole for you, neglected my needs for you and tossed friends and family aside for you. I was blinded by your warmth and touched by your beauty," Zach wrote by hand in a spiral notebook.
His words spoke to a realization that came to him only after being clean for a while.
"Now I see you for who you really are, and I must cut you from my life like a gangrene infected limb. You were never good to me and I see this now. You tricked me into believing that we could be together, but I see past your lies and see you for what you really are - the devil," he wrote.
Two weeks before a spate of drug overdoses and a March 13 police warning over tainted heroin in the F-M area, Zach Spieker died from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl in his East Grand Forks, Minn., apartment.
He'd moved there to try to get away from dealers in the F-M area, but mostly because it was the only place he could secure inpatient treatment for his near decade-long opiate addiction. His mother, Chris Spieker, said drug treatment facilities across the river in Fargo wouldn't take her son due to insurance stipulations over residency.
"There were other places we tried, but unless we had $8,000 to $10,000 cash up front, they wouldn't take him," she said.
Zach's introduction to the world of opiates was an innocuous one, according to Chris. When Zach was 16 and the family was living in Arizona, Zach hopped off the back of a pickup onto an uneven surface, dislocating and fracturing his ankle.
The injury required eight surgeries in the years to follow. The family moved to Moorhead in his junior year of high school.
"Finally, they fused it, but he had pain all the time," said his dad, Bob Spieker, a retired military man who grew up in Barnesville, Minn.
The opiates prescribed for pain relief would eventually become Zach's worst enemy. He most recently was on a combination of hydromorphone, oxycodone, oxycontin and a fentanyl patch.
"As far as I'm concerned, he had him on too many," Chris said. "But Zach was over 18, so there was nothing I could say about it."
She said Zach began abusing those drugs - not ingesting but smoking them in an effort to get a quicker high. He was also using heroin. He tried to quit on his own, but got very sick from the withdrawals, ending up in hospital emergency rooms.
"There's such a stigma about it. People don't understand what it's like," Chris said.
Zach finally got help at a residential treatment facility in East Grand Forks called Douglas Place. Chris said when insurance coverage ran out, the facility sought additional funding through Polk County for him to stay.
"He really liked it there, he felt safe," Chris said.
"When he was using, he was kind of hollow. When he was at Douglas Place, he was excited. He was my son again, you know," she said, tears flowing.
After he'd "graduated" the program in three months, Zach got an apartment in East Grand Forks and a job working at a potato warehouse. But when he was seasonally laid off from that job and couldn't find another, he relapsed. Even though he didn't have money to buy drugs, dealers would "front" them to him and demand money on the back side.
"One dealer in particular would taunt him with it," Chris said.
Zach got into scrapes with the law, prompting him to lean on dealers to help bail him out. He told his parents the dealers threatened him.
"The last couple weeks of his life were pretty horrific for him," Bob said.
Bob and Chris don't think their son was alone when he died. His body was on the living room floor, out in the open, even though his girlfriend told them Zach only used drugs in private, usually in the bathroom. There was a full bowl of cereal on the kitchen counter. The police investigation into his death is ongoing.
Now, his parents are left with only memories of Zachary, the free spirit who loved thrift stores, vintage clothing and music, who graduated high school with honors and received an academic scholarship to Concordia College, but only made it a year there due to his addiction.
In closing his letter to opiates, he wrote:
"So from the bottom of my heart, I want to say (expletive) you. Sincerely, Zach Spieker
"P.S. I'm telling everyone I can how evil you truly are and hopefully you will one day be alone."
The full text of Zach's letter:
Dear Opiates: This is something I’ve been meaning to say to you for the longest time, so here goes. You once were the most important thing in the world to me. I would do anything and everything for you. I lied for you, stole for you, neglected my needs for you and tossed friends and family aside for you. I was blinded by your warmth and touched by your beauty. I was your slave and you were my succubus, draining me of my sparkle, eating my soul, turning me into a shell of myself, turning me into a monster-- a monster that would do anything and everything just to feel that warmth only you could give me.
But now I see you for who you really are, and I must cut you from my life like a gangrene infected limb. You were never good to me and I see this now. You tricked me into believing that we could be together, but I see past your lies and see you for what you really are-- the devil. You never loved me like I loved you. All you did was take my money, respect, dignity, morals and you pissed on them. So this is goodbye, once and for all, goodbye to all that comes with you, the lying, the stealing, the deceiving, the sickness, the worry, the guilt and the shame. I never want to see you again. Stay away from me and my loved ones. I have finally found happiness again and not a false happiness, the likes of which you gave me.
You have cost me so much. Thousands of dollars, trust and respect from my loved ones, and most of all, you have taken one of my best friends away from me and there is no getting him back. So from the bottom of my heart, I want to say (expletive) you.
Sincerely, Zach Spieker
P.S. I’m telling everyone I can how evil you truly are and hopefully you will one day be alone.
Editor's note: This update corrects the date of the police warning, which was March 13.