Submitted by: Susanne Johnson
I grew up in a privileged household; my parents were both doctors.
My long struggle with addiction began with alcohol when I was about age twelve. I first used opioid pain medication at age 16, like many of the people I spent time with in high school.
By age 18, I stopped using opioids because I went to college. I didn’t use for about one and a half years, until I got incredibly sore after sports practice one day. I called a friend and asked him if he knew where to obtain some drugs. I started to use. The guy my friend introduced me to became my drug dealer and I started to run (sell) drugs for him soon thereafter.
Only a few months after this began, my father caught me. I stole my father’s prescription book out of his car. He always kept the prescription books under lock and key, but that time was an exception. I was looking for it, and I was able to steal it. I had a dealer who would pay me $200 per prescription and suddenly I had 75 blank prescriptions in my hand.
At that point, my parents already knew about my addiction problem, so they were also watching me closely. My sister had already previously found one of my pill bottles and found about four different kinds of pills inside. Of course she reported me to our parents.
My father caught me before I could use any pages of his prescription pad. My father explained to me (in full length) how that action could have cost him his medical license and his job. A very awkward summer followed, where I spend time going to a suboxone maintenance program. I got 24 mg three times a day. I was not able to taper off suboxone for even 36 hours before I went out to sell my medication for drugs. There was no way that I could keep financing my pill addiction, so I turned to heroin and then later to crack. I used both of those drugs intravenously.
It wasn’t fear of the unknown– I simply enjoyed my life with the drugs and wanted to stay there. In my head, the drugs were not the problem. I thought the problem was the money. If I only could have enough money, all would be fine. I pawned things, stole things and did many crazy things. I believed that I only did those things because I had no money and my addiction was not to blame. I believed that for the longest time.
I spent time in a total of 13 treatment centers before I was able to get clean and sober. The last time I called my parents from a treatment facility to tell them that I was back in treatment, they replied with a disinterested, “Yeah, okay, that’s good.” They had become so numb to it.
I always idolized my father. On that day I could hear in his voice that they had given up on me. That was my turning point. That was it. I asked myself, “What am I doing?” for the first time. I was 24 years old at the time. I was not afraid of death—I was afraid to grow older and not have anything, not even my parents.
When I got sober in October 2010, I had no money, no car, no job. I had nothing. I finished my steps in about four months. After doing my steps, I had totaled my car, had no money, had no job, and had just signed a lease for an apartment that I was financially obligated to keep. So I actually was somehow in a worse situation than before. What changed was my perception about it. I knew that I would be okay, and was totally fine with myself at that time.
From that point on, my life has grown. I went to Florida to get sober and stayed. All I did was take in suggestions. I did everything that people told me to do. As a result, my life has changed. I have a car, money, a girlfriend, a dog, a job, and a house. My dad is my best friend today; I talk to him every day. I love my mom and talk to her as often as possible, too. My parents live still in New Jersey, where I’m originally from, but they come to visit me in Florida often and have a condo in Florida as well.
I had never any reason to use drugs or alcohol. At times I just didn’t like how I felt about myself. My childhood was great, my family is fantastic, I have not experienced any trauma. I just craved the drugs and loved the way they make me feel. Not today.
If someone in your family is affected by addiction, try to understand why they do what they do, but love them anyway. It’s the love that change a person’s life. Speak the language of the heart.