I can see the light peeking through the blinds; I can hear the birds chirping. It’s that time again. Time to get up; time to take on the day. Years ago, the sound of birds in the morning made me sick. Now, they are a welcome reprieve. While the sound and light remind me of many sleepless nights, aching for another hit, carpet surfing for some drugs I may have dropped in my stupor, it’s a reminder that I appreciate today.
As I rise from my bed, my body doesn’t hurt. My stomach isn’t turning; my legs aren’t restless; I slept an entire 7 consistent hours last night. I take a deep breath, get on my knees, and thank God for another day. I say my morning prayer, asking for guidance, a redirection in thinking, and assistance in being of service to others.
Sobriety has afforded me so many beautiful things in life, but sometimes the simplest gifts are the best. I woke up today and didn’t have to put a chemical in my body to function. Throughout addiction, I left my drugs under my pillow or bed (when I had one to lay my head on) so I didn’t have to go too far. All I had to do was roll over to get my fix. That’s how great the obsession was… I couldn’t breathe without thinking of heroin.
Life Before Addiction
I’m going to rewind back to where it all began. How I became a drug addict. How my best intentions led down the road to my own personal hell.
Growing up, life was pretty good. It wasn’t picture perfect, but who’s really is? My mom worked her hardest to give my sister and me everything we needed and mostly everything we wanted. My dad was somewhat out of the picture. He would occasionally show up to basketball games or pick me up for pizza on Friday nights, sometimes he was drunk on these occasions. Really though, my stepdad was the male figure in my life. He showed me what it really meant to be a man. I think he knew I was never going to get that lesson from my father. Don’t get me wrong, I love my dad, but he had his demons. I guess we all do though.
I still remember the first time I smoked pot and drank alcohol. I was a freshman in high school. Usually, our “big night out” consisted of smoking a joint or two, drinking some cheap vodka and beers, and heading to the football game. In the parking lot of opening night, I took my first hit of a joint and chugged a Coors. Throughout the next few hours, I consumed more than I had planned. That should have been my first sign.
Nevertheless, that night was absolutely amazing. I felt free. I was able to talk to girls with ease, I was funny and I was charming. At least this was my perception of that night. To say this is what actually took place may not be completely accurate, but I honestly can’t remember. All I know is this: I spent the next 8 years trying to replicate the feeling I had that night.
The Love Affair
When you hear someone say that their drug of choice was their best friend, their confidant, their lover, what do you think? Do you roll your eyes or cringe in disgust? When I hear it, I understand…I nod my head in agreement.
Going into junior year of high school, I met this girl. Let’s call her Brittany. Brittany was beautiful; she was full of life; and she had this funny little contagious laugh that I yearned for on a daily basis. Oddly enough, Brittany loved me, I think almost as much as I loved her.
I’ll never forget the day she introduced me to her friend. This friend of hers had an uncanny ability to take all of our worries away. Her friend I speak of was OxyCodone, but we knew it as Roxies or “blues”. I have to be honest, I completely underestimated the power of this tiny blue pill, but after my first dose, I was hooked. For those that don’t know, OxyCodone is a very powerful opiate prescribed to individuals who suffer from chronic pain or have gone through major surgery. I knew none of this the first time I used it.
After a few months of enjoying this new euphoria I stumbled upon with Brittany, things began to spiral out of control. In the beginning I only needed half a pill to do the job, but by 3 months I was up to 5 a day. Needless to say, as my addiction to Roxies progressed, my love for Brittany dwindled. Honestly, how could I love her and make her a priority, when I was so intertwined with this new substance. “Blues” became my new girlfriend. They were the only thing I cared about.
Before Roxies, I had dreams. I wanted to actually do something with my life. I was never really certain of what that something was, but I know it wasn’t this. Growing up in Pennsylvania, I bled Blue and White. The Nittany Lions were always supposed to be in my future, but due to my dirty little secret, I was lucky enough to get into the local community college.
By the time my first semester rolled around, I was a full-blown junkie. I could barely sit through class without having to leave to get my fix. That first year, when I actually did make it to campus, I spent most of my time crushing up pills in a bathroom stall. Then the local drug dealers upped their prices and my addiction screamed for mercy. I went into full panic mode. How could I, a junkie and college student, afford to pay $30 for one pill, when my habit required at least 5 a day to feel normal?
A “friend” at the time offered me an alternative. A quick fix to my problem. I remember him saying to me “I don’t know why you’ve wasted all this time and money on blues, when the better stuff was here all along.” That “better stuff” he was talking about was heroin. It was the cheaper, more potent alternative to my drug of choice. I remember snorting my first bag. At that moment, when that warm cozy feeling of euphoria came over me, I thought “Ahh, I have arrived.”
Within 6 months, I was an IV user, college dropout, criminal and thief. I had been arrested on 3 separate occasions, and now had to report to a Probation Officer. I spent two of those six months in different rehabs, but still wasn’t able to get it together. “How was this my life”, I thought. I was supposed to be a Nittany Lion, instead I was a dirty alley cat.
From The Boy Next Door To The Homeless Junkie
By 21, my mother had kicked me out of the house, my little sister wanted nothing to do with me, and even my father, the alcoholic, wouldn’t answer my calls. I “lived” in Kensington, out of my car, doing whatever I needed to get the next one. In hindsight, I wonder how I ever survived.
About every two months for that year, I would check myself into a local detox for a quick “tune up”. I never really had the intention to get well, rather to get by. It always got to a point, when the drugs ran out, the money ran out, and the hunger screamed loud enough to sign into whatever facility would take me. Eventually, that scheme stopped working as well. Both my insurance company and every rehab in the greater Philadelphia area were done with me.
I ultimately believed this was how it was going to end. I was going to die an addict, on a cold Kensington sidewalk, with no family or friends around. That’s not all. As sad as that sounds, here’s the kicker… I was okay with that. I actually dreamt of that day. Anything, even death, was better than the miserable hell I was living in.
Blessings In Disguise
You hear it a lot in the rooms. Someone will share about the police officer who arrested them saved their life; or getting put on Drug Court; or the intervention their family held. For me, it was a drug dealer.
I remember the night entirely, like it was yesterday. It was a cold night. The sidewalks were covered in snow and ice. I had just pulled off what I thought was an elaborate scheme, where I walked away $200 richer. For a homeless drug addict in Philadelphia, that was a lot of money. I was able to grab a burger from the local McDonalds, a couple pack of smokes, and still have enough left over for tonight’s fix and the next morning’s.
I walked up to the regular spot where I met my dealer. I had spoken to him 30 minutes earlier to put my order in. As I stood there waiting, I felt the sickness getting worse. I thought he would never get there. A few blocks away I could see a hooded man walking my way. “Yes”, I thought, “That’s him!” In that same moment, I thought I heard footsteps behind me. Before I knew it, I had the barrel of a 45′ pressed to the back of my head. The last thing I remember was hearing my dealer’s voice and the cold hard iron whipping against my skull.
Change I Must Or Die I Will
I can’t tell you why this time was different. It would be easy to say I was just ready, but I believe a multitude of factors played a part. Homelessness, pistol whippings, dope sickness are the obvious contenders. Really though, I missed who I used to be. I missed my mother. I wanted those things back just a little bit more now than I ever did before.
My first thought after waking up in a hospital with a skull fracture was, “How am I not dead?” I was immediately enraged that I woke up. Then I heard it. It was my mother’s voice. Years later, when I tell this story, I say this was my first “God” moment. One minute I’m cursing God, angry that I’m alive, and the next, my mother is standing over me with tears in her eyes. I like to think, that was God’s way of saying, “Hey idiot, this is why you’re alive.” A woman that said she never wanted to see me again and would be sure to send flowers to my funeral, was in that room caring for me.
After a week in the hospital, I was ready to try one last-ditch attempt, a Hail Mary if you will, towards recovery. I wasn’t fully convinced I could do it, but I was willing to give it a shot. Thankfully, I made my way out of Philly and Kensington, and found myself in the northeast region of the state. I knew in order to really give myself a chance at recovery, I needed to be far away from the people I knew and places I could run to.
I’m not sure if it was the facility itself, or my attitude towards the process that made the difference. Nevertheless I learned more in this one rehab center, then I did in the countless others combined. I finally came to a point where I was willing to listen and do whatever these people said was necessary to get my life back.
New Freedom And A New Happiness
I’m 26 now with over 4 years sober. It still gives me chills thinking about it. How I lived to tell the story of my addiction baffles me today. I can honestly say that I had nothing to do with it; my Higher Power did all of the work. If it were up to me, I would’ve been dead years ago, but now I am starting to see, he (God) always had another plan.
Today, I’m not homeless or dope sick. I no longer take what isn’t mine. I don’t lie to my mother or hurt my little sister. My step-father is back in my life and loves me the same as ever before. Employment is a reality for me today and I’m slowly taking a few college courses at a time towards my degree. I still have a criminal record but I am paying my way towards restitution.
Getting sober, I assumed life was going to be perfect, as if I would never come across hardship again. I was sadly mistaken. Sobriety doesn’t ensure perfection. It gives you the opportunity to be a better person and offers you tools to cope with regular day occurrences.
In sobriety, I have had to bury friends; I’ve had my heart broken; I’ve lost jobs. Here’s the beautiful piece…I got to the other side without having to put a chemical in my body. For most, this isn’t a big deal, but if you have ever struggled with drug addiction, you know how miraculous this is for someone like me.
I also have a life beyond my wildest dreams today. Those college courses I’m taking, they’re at Penn State. I go to games every year now. I hike miles at a time without getting winded. I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs at 21 without having drugs in my system. I’ve jumped out of airplanes; gone to concerts; traveled to other countries in sobriety.
If you’re anything like me, please know, there is another way. There is hope. I went from an athlete, to a homeless drug addict, to the person I am today. I know you may not believe it now, I know I didn’t at first. But I’ll ask you this: If you gave it a shot, and I mean a genuine effort towards getting sober, what do you have to lose? The drug dealers will always be there, but will your family, will you?
Contact Clearbrook Today
For over 4 decades, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has offered drug addicts and alcoholics a new design for living. With customized detox protocols and treatment planning, we effectively treat each individual suffering from the disease of addiction. We understand how it feels to believe you have no way out, but we have found a solution that we want to share with you.
If you or someone you love is struggling with heroin addiction and is in need of treatment, contact our Admissions Specialists today.