Submitted by: Susanne Johnson
My drug of choice is really “more”. I didn’t discriminate against anything, and I tried it all. I started with alcohol around age 13, but the opiates were what brought me down to my knees. Marijuana was in the picture by the time I was 16, pain pills, Xanax, LSD and cocaine were all there during my addiction.
When I was 19, I was running around with a drug dealer who also did heroin. I started snorting heroin at that time.
I fell directly in love with it and was shooting it soon thereafter. I grew up in the Portsmouth, Ohio, area, where the opioid epidemic book Dreamland was based. I know everybody in that book. I was right in the center of that with the OxyContin and the black tar heroin, working as a driver for a dealer.
I was so strung out on that black tar; there wasn’t much I wouldn’t do for it. I have done several months in jail on several occasions, serving a felony and several misdemeanors as well. I never went to prison, a fact that I consider a miracle today. We had the largest heroin bust in that county happen in my car during that time period, I just happened to not be in the car at that time. I’ve been in high-speed-chases, been robbed, and been beaten up numerous times. I’ve been around the block when it comes to that, and it’s nothing I’m proud of today.
All those charges I received, even the felony, even my numerous times in jail didn’t stop me from what I was doing. I came out and did exactly what I did before. Sometimes I was using in jail as well, all depending what was available and if I could get my hands on it. At the end of a jail sentence, I often had good intentions not to continue my drug use and drug career, but that didn’t last long after I was out. My mental obsession was always stronger than the best intentions I ever had. Cunning, baffling, and powerful!
I was court ordered to treatment at times. It was often because of “go to treatment, get out of jail” deals. It wasn’t a door-to-door transport. They released me from jail, gave me back my prescription pills and while I was still in the jail elevator going down toward freedom, I already was on a mission on where I go to get more.
After my treatment at age 23, I stayed sober for almost two years. I knew I had to change something in my life. I had a daughter, was just lying around on the couch at my mom’s or my girlfriend’s, and I knew I couldn’t continue like that. It’s wasn’t all about me. I realized that it was only a matter of time until big prison sentences would come my way.
I knew that game had come to an end. The last time I spent in jail, I looked at the people in there around me and thought, “Look at them; they all keep coming around here over and over. What a miserable way to live.” Then I realized that they were probably saying the same about me.
I got sober and stayed sober for almost two years. Even after I had some sobriety, I lived in the delusion of normalcy, thinking that I could be off heroin and pills, but smoke weed or drink from time to time. It didn’t work. I went right back to where I was. It lasted for 3-4 months until I gave it all up again. That time for good, at the age of 25.
During my early years of drinking and using, my parents were probably as much in denial as I was. Later on, as legal problems started and I dropped significant weight all at once. I looked like the walking dead, while legal consequences started coming in. My family got me an attorney and a lot of enabling was going on at that time. They had the best intentions and did it out of love for me, still the action enabled my addiction.
My girlfriend at that time wasn’t using. I stayed in that relationship for my daughter because it gave me a bit of stability I was craving. She had some co-dependency traits, otherwise she wouldn’t have stayed with me so long. I was definitely not able to have anything but a dysfunctional relationship at this time. I would have driven any sane person crazy.
The relationship with my daughter has been a rocky road, but I’m glad that we found to each other again. I eventually got married again while in sobriety, got divorced and have another two children from that marriage. I see them 2-3 nights a week and I’m happy to have such close contact with shared parenting.
I did begin college when I was young, but I had dropped out and the drugs took the place of education. When I went to rehab at 23, I started working there as a tech and worked my way up to case manager. After my relapse and re-start of sobriety, I got a very odd chance in my life. I started to work in a correctional facility, despite the fact that I had my own felony on my records, plus other charges.
He asked me about my background and I started listing all the things I had done. Then he asked if that was absolutely everything, and I answered that it was absolutely everything that I was caught doing. He looked at me and started laughing. He said, “Son, I had eight speeding tickets in my life, but I drove faster than the limit more than eight times.”
I’m so grateful he was in my life and pushed me to go back to school. I got back in school at age 27, got my associate degree, my bachelor’s degree and then my master’s degree by the time I was 32, all in social work.
When I got sober, I also stopped smoking and got into some exercise. I suffered from hepatitis C, and won this battle also a short while ago. Today I have 15 years of continuous sobriety. I go to 3-5 meetings in a 12-Step fellowship each week and also host one meeting per week at my home. I moved from the Dreamland portion of Ohio to Cincinnati and got the job that I’m with right now.
I was told “find a profession you love and you will never have to work a day in your life again”. I believe I found it in the position that I’m in right now. I’m so fortunate today.