I was stuck in addiction for 11 years. I was at a point where I thought that was going to be my life…this is it, heroin will run my life forever.
I tried to tell myself I wasn’t on the same level as other addicts because I chose to stay away from the needle– but I came to realize that with a needle, or no needle, I was in the same position as everyone else. There were also days during my pill addiction where I said, “no matter what I will never try heroin,” and look what happened there. My choice to not use the needle was the only thing I had to hang onto during my addiction. It felt like the last part of myself and my moral compass I had to hang on to.
My addiction started with pills and quickly turned to heroin when I was introduced to it by my former significant other. Once I tried it, the stigma was officially gone for the drug and hey, it was also cheaper than prescription pills. But at that point, I still had a job, a car, some friends, I was doing well as a functioning addict. I said to myself, “I’m still ok. I’m a functioning heroin addict; but that’s ok, right?”
I supported my own habit; I was pawning my own things and using my check money for my drug of choice. I wasn’t doing anything “that bad” for the drug so I was good to go… right? It almost felt as though it happened overnight– as these things usually do, I eventually began stealing from friends, family, and from work. My car was repossessed for non-payment and I had no interest in anything other than heroin.
I (thought I) needed heroin to survive, to be able to be a “functioning” member of society. At times, I even considered taking my drug dealers up on their offers for sex in exchange for drugs. I never took it that far, but for me, the consideration of the proposition was bad enough.
I had become a five-star liar at that point and was even able to keep my addiction from my best friend (who I lived with). I told her they repossessed my car because my payment was just a week late. I mean, that was kind of the truth– I only left out the small detail that I had chosen (or as I had thought “needed”) to spend that money on heroin.
I thought I had to make it through work and other life responsibilities somehow. I thought I had to spend it on heroin. I was lying to myself and everyone about everything, and I was quickly burning bridges, borrowing money from people and never paying back. Pay back? No way, every red cent needed to go to my addiction. I had no choice. I even found myself watching and wondering what the hell sober people even liked or did for fun. How did they get through their day without drugs? Sober equaled boring as far as I was concerned.
In the heart of my addiction, I had really lost everything. I had distanced myself from my family for fear of them finding out. I could only hang out with my friends if I had enough bags to get me through; not to mention I was the only person I knew doing heroin. I was completely alone in my addiction. I couldn’t establish any new relationships because I was completely unreliable and because I felt the weight of this huge secret on my back that was so hard to pretend wasn’t there. My addiction made me feel inferior to others.
As those of us with addiction know, we need to use in order to avoid the pain we once felt. As we move through our addictions, we do things we feel guilty about. Eventually I felt I needed to use so I did not have to think about how I just pawned my roommate/best friend’s grandfather’s ring, and so on. The life of a user is complete chaos. I lost job after job either from being late all the time (waiting on my dealer so I could make it through work that day) calling out “sick,” or even worse, theft.
Unless you’ve been an addict in this position, I cannot tell you just how bad withdrawal from the drug is. Non-drug users would say, “I don’t understand– just a couple weeks of not feeling well and you’ll be fine. Just think of it as being sick.”
Sick?! When you’re incredibly aware of every inch of your body, when you have the shakes, when you can’t get out of bed but you also can’t stay in bed because you’re so uncomfortable…I could go on forever about this. Unless you’ve been here you won’t understand. And when you know exactly that one little thing that’s going to get you up and running and good as new, you’ll do what you need to do to get it.
Finally, I got arrested. I was on my way to pick up for the day and got picked up in the process. At that moment, do you know what my brain was thinking? It was mad that I hadn’t even gotten to do one bag before my withdrawal symptoms began to kick in. There I was…somewhere I never thought I would be…handcuffed in the back of a cop car on my way to jail, listening to the police officer tell me how pretty I used to be based on my license picture and what a shame it was that I had entered this life, how I didn’t belong there. Yeah, no kidding, I got arrested at 11am and wasn’t released until 2am the next morning. No phone call for me to get bailed out because I hadn’t shared my addiction with anyone. Instead, I sat in jail for 15 hours, waiting to be seen by the bail commissioner.
It was my first offense, so I was told he would let me out with promise to appear in court, which did eventually happen. I can’t speak for all addicts, but something happened to me that day sitting in that cell. I had never been arrested before and let me tell you, between those cuffs and them shutting the door to your cell, the feeling is incredibly claustrophobic. I remember feeling like I couldn’t breathe when my cell door was shut. Not to mention, at that point, I was in full withdrawal, stuck in a freezing cold cell with the hardest surfaces I’ve ever felt.
I took my bra off to try to use as a pillow and was yelled at by a correctional officer to put it back on. I was stuck, sad, and sick. I sat there for those 15 hours thinking about where my life was going because of this drug. I was sitting in jail on a FELONY charge. When I was released, I went home and vowed to never use again. I was scared straight for a few days, but I was right back out there like it never happened.
I was court ordered to do community service as well as rehab– I had a year to do it and if I completed those requirements, my charges would be dropped. My rationality when I continued using after being arrested was, “well eventually I’ll have to go to rehab and I’ll stop then. I’ll be really, REALLY ready by then.” I was thinking just like an addict, huh?
I still thank God that I got arrested and ordered to go to rehab, I couldn’t have made that decision myself; I wasn’t strong enough to put my own self into rehab. And for whatever the reason at the time, the task seemed too large to complete. But as my year ran out, and rehab wasn’t something I could put off any longer, I WAS ready.
I was at least ready to give recovery a real try. I was so sick and so tired, my addiction had become expensive and downright unmanageable. By that time, what previously would have lasted me a couple days only lasted me a few hours. By that time, I was only using to maintain and feel ok, I wasn’t even getting high. I couldn’t imagine the rest of my life like that. I had just lost my last job for stealing (to support my habit obviously), so the next day I enrolled myself into the rehab program.
I was immediately started on suboxone and started attending group three hours a day, every day. I surrendered to the process. I knew I wanted to change. I had to change. I didn’t want to use anymore, I didn’t want to continue to fall victim to my addiction and I knew with this arrest, this was my only chance to get it right. A second arrest would surely ruin my life and any future I might still be able to create. I wanted to live my life the way the rest of society did. I didn’t want to look at happy, “normal” people with envy anymore. I wanted to BE that person. No more “runs” to the ghetto to pick up from my gang banger dealer, no more withdrawal, no more feeling physically uncomfortable in my own body without heroin, no more running away from life or my feelings. No more feeling less-than, no more wishing my life was different. I was going to make it happen. This wasn’t how I was supposed to use this life.
Ten months later and I am proudly able to say I am living sober and even off of suboxone. The doctors tapered me off of the suboxone when we decided together that I was ready, and now I’m living my life substance free! This means I can do really exciting things like fall asleep without an aid, and wake up and start my day without needing assistance from any substance.
I can’t tell you that every day has been easy, I can’t tell you I haven’t thought about that quick fix in bouts of depression, but I can tell you, being sober and maybe a little sad at times is better than one second more in my addiction. And that’s what keeps me going. It took me some time to really come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to be “fixed” overnight. Stop using, feel fine right? Wrong.
You have to give yourself some slack and realize you aren’t just going to jump out of bed the next day singing show tunes, excited to start your day. That’s where I learned recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. But every day that you get further from your addiction, the easier it will get. I do promise you this. But sobriety also comes with great responsibility. Don’t ever forget the lowest points, don’t ever forget how much freaking crap and determination it took you to get to where you are today. Don’t think you can use once and be ok. You can’t. Your addiction will suck you right back in and more likely than not it’ll be stronger than ever. Use your coping skills learned in rehab. They may be cliché, but they are true and they work. Play the tape through– what are the consequences if you were to use right now? What would using fix?
Sometimes, knowing what you want to become can keep you pushing forward and sometimes its knowing what you never want to be again that keeps you pushing forward. Rehab brought me life skills, and coping skills, and helped me realize any problems or feelings I might have will still be there when the high wears off. I live day to day and do what I want to do, with no one or nothing else trying to make decisions for me, no picking up for the energy to get through the day.
I have money in my pocket, I can buy things I like, I can have dinner with my friends, I can pay my bills and let me tell you, it feels damn good. Not to mention how it feels when I run into people I haven’t seen in a while and have them ask what I’ve done because I look great. And I can say, “it’s called sobriety.”
My support system consists of still going to group once a week. I attend meetings, and I also have my roommate who I was able to open up to after getting arrested and she’s been nothing but incredible as far as support goes– and shocker, she knew what was happening the whole time. Apparently us addicts aren’t good liars. I see that now.
When I first got into sobriety, I thought I could recover and maybe no one else would really need to know about it (as in my family), but the more time I have sober, the more I want to share my story…because its ME. It’s something that made me the person I am today. And I mean, how can you not be proud of someone who’s been to the pit of addiction and has found their way out?!
I won’t tell you the path to sobriety was easy, but every day away from your drug of choice is a great success. The only way through something is to walk through it, keep moving forward. When you have days where your past is calling, do not listen. It has nothing new to say. Overcoming addiction is not something someone can do alone, no matter if you think it’s possible or not– trust me it’s not.
I used to read stories just like mine of people venturing to the depths of hell and back, and not one of these stories have these recovering addicts said they regret getting sober. They believe that recovery is when their life finally started and the freedom is empowering. No longer is sobriety a far-away dream. I am no longer reading recovery stories, wondering if I’d ever make it there.
My life is far, far away from perfect…I don’t have a bank account, I don’t have a car, I don’t have a job. Thankfully, for my roommate, I do have a roof over my head and all of the support I need to continue to be sober. And speaking “big picture”, these are all things that are obtainable as I continue my journey. Instead of dwelling on things lost, or things I don’t have, I remind myself what I DO have that I once wished so much for and it’s the biggest accomplishment of them all. I have my life back; I have my sobriety. I am in control of myself again. And when you beat a monster such as addiction, you truly can do anything.