POOR OR RICH, BLACK OR WHITE, BLUE OR WHITE COLLAR, GAY OR STRAIGHT, IT DOESN'T MATTER
While I was in the middle of my battle with addiction I lived in a nice condo, had a brand new car, a great job, and a fiancée. By my definition I considered myself successful. So if anyone thinks addicts are all poor and wasting away they are ill informed about the disease. I know doctors, lawyers, and police officers who are heroin addicts. This disease has no type, it wants us all. Poor or rich, black or white, blue or white collar, gay or straight, it doesn’t matter the disease sets out to destroy us all.
While I thought I had it all, those material things, I was empty inside. I was completely broken spiritually. Now that I am clean, I live in a decent place with roommates, I take public transportation, and work a crummy job. With that being said I am happier now than I ever was while I was getting high. Financial status has nothing to do with addiction or recovery, with hopelessness and happiness.
I'D BE LYING TO MYSELF IF I THOUGHT I COULD USE ON OCCASSION
For me, there is no such thing as recreational use. I’d be lying to myself if I thought I could use on occasion. Within days I would be hooked and back to my old ways. Maybe it’s possible for someone to use opioids as a recreational drug, but they would be playing with fire. Nowadays there is a great chance of dying before you even get addicted with all the fentanyl around. If you feed the bad wolf, he will return, over and over, hungrier than the time before. By the time you realize the wolf’s appetite is insatiable, its already too late.
THE SINGLE GREATEST STRENGTH IS KNOW THAT I AM NOT ALONE
When I was in active addiction, I did not have friends. The people I called friends were merely people to get high with. Yes they had a negative influence on me and I had the same negative influence on them. It was a never-ending cycle of bad intentions like being on a merry go round that you cannot get off of.
In recovery my real friends have also played a role with keeping me clean. I can rely on them no matter what, these are real friends. I can lean on them when I am struggling and I take their advice, even though I don’t want to listen at times. In return, I do the same for them. These are healthy relationships that I never had during my addiction. The single greatest strength is knowing that I am not alone and having people who care about my well-being.
I WENT FROM BEING VIEWED AS A HERO TO BEING GREETED LIKE A VILLAIN
Once upon a time I was a great athlete and student, a complete over achiever. The town I grew up in loved me for this and there was tremendous pressure on me to be successful. As soon as I was labeled on addict, I became a pariah, no one wanted anything to do with me. I went from being viewed as a hero to being greeted like a villain. I still don't spend any time in my home town do to the fear of being labeled a scumbag. My parents lived in this town for more than two decades and I believe a major reason they left is because of me and the stigma surrounding my addiction.
EVERYONE I KNOW HAS BEEN AFFECTED BY IT WHETHER THEY ARE AN ADDICT OR NOT
This epidemic nearly killed me and took everything from me including hope and my identity. It has stolen countless people from me. I’ve lost a girl I loved and my best friend, and many other close friends to this disease. The high school I went to only had about 700 students and know about a dozen people who I went to school with that died of an overdose. This doesn’t include people I knew from college or coworkers. It steals brothers and sisters from us. It takes mothers and fathers from us. It kills sons and daughters. Everyone I know has been affected by it whether they are an addict or not. Families and communities are being torn apart.
STAND UP FOR YOUR BELIEFS AND DO NOT WAVER
My father was a big influence in my life, he taught me how to be a man. In a time where men have lost their way and being told they are manliness is ‘toxic masculinity,’ my father’s life lessons remain with me. He showed me the value of a dollar and taught me about hard work. My father told me to show up and take care of my responsibilities. He taught me a man protects his family and looks out for his friends. The most important lesson he taught me is stand up for your beliefs and do not waver.
SHE TAUGHT ME HOW TO BE CREATIVE AND TO HAVE FUN
Another huge influence on me was my mother, she taught me how to be creative and to have fun. If I need to sew a shirt or cook dinner I know how to because of my mother. She was the social type and this has rubbed off on me. She helped me learn to speak to people and make friends, but most importantly that I can be loved and learn to love others.
Both of my parents never gave up on me, like so many others. When I was at my worst they were there for me. When I was at my best they were there for me from every little league game to seeing me off to college. I am thankful and beyond grateful for what they did for me.
Thank you for loving me unconditionally. Hopefully my experience can help us in the future. Use my life as a reason to not use drugs, but if you do become an addict know there is a way out. If I can do it then so can you.
IT'S ONLY POSSIBLE IF I STAY CLEAN
When I was younger, I thought I would own a house, be married, and have kids by now. I literally have none of these, but I am okay with that. I am just happy to get a chance every day to become a better version of myself. I am grateful I still have an opportunity to obtain these things. It's only possible if I stay clean. I need to tell myself every day, ‘no matter what, I’m not going to use.’
I LOVE MUSIC AND SHARING MY STORY WITH OTHERS
There are so many things that keep me clean. I love music and sharing my story with others. I have a sponsor and a support network. I do things within my community. I maintain employment. I work on building strong healthy relationships with people. I pray and meditate on a daily basis. These are just some of the things that keep me clean.
The reason I got sober is I was tired of living like an animal with no hope. I was tired of trying to fill that unfillable hole with drugs and things that could never fill it. I wanted to discover who I really was, and most of all I wanted to know what it would feel like to be happy again.
NO AMOUNT OF LOVE, OR JAIL OR TREATMENT WILL GET SOMEONE CLEAN IF THEY ARE UNWILLING TO DO IT
There is no cure to end this epidemic. Addicts absolutely need places like rehabs, treatment centers, and 12 step programs. All these institutions help with the battle of addiction, however it is not enough. Even if there was a way to get all the opioids of the street, that still would not be enough because addicts will find another way to get high, we are very good at it.
The only way to end this epidemic is one addict at a time. Recovery is different for everyone, each person’s process is different, and what may work for one may not work for another. The solution is personal and must come from within, it needs to be individualized. I think it's arrogant to think there is a ‘cookie cutter’ solution to this problem.
The most important thing everyone needs to know is a person will only get clean and sober when they choose too. No amount of love, or jail, or treatment or anything else will get someone clean if they are unwilling to do it.
THERE IS A WAY OUT IF YOU WANT IT
There is a way out if you want it. It’s not gonna be easy, it’s going to be the hardest thing you have ever done, but also the most rewarding. You are not alone, we are many and when you are ready we will be waiting. As long as you are breathing there is hope, as long as you are honest and give your best effort you will get it. You will find comfort if you are willing to let go this burden you are trying to carry.