My Journey to Addiction Recovery: David M.
I grew up in a loving family, with my parents still being married over 40 years later. I was the youngest of three, with two old sisters; one being six years older and the other being 12 years older. Growing up as the youngest, it gave my parents time to establish themselves financially. Financial stability and being the baby boy of the family- I was spoiled. My parents raised us well; we all had morals, values, beliefs, and respect. My addiction started at an early age. I don’t remember the first time I had a drink, but I do remember filling out a survey in 6th grade to which I answered yes to having drunk before. Throughout middle school, there were multiple instances in which I drank.
I’d be lying if there was any specific reason as to why. Nothing happened that I wanted to forget, there was no trauma, there was no abuse, I just wanted to try these things. By the time I started High School I was drinking more and more regularly. I also tried Marijuana in my freshman year. It was like instant relief. Not that there was anything I needed to be relieved of, but it just made me feel good, and I loved it. Freshman year on Halloween was the first time I blacked out from drinking (and it was a school night). At this time in my life, I had three hobbies that I was passionate about; surfing, skating, and baseball.
Over the next couple of years, I smoked more and more and began trying some other substances; benzos, mushrooms, and Percocet. I slowly withdrew from my hobbies, and my life became more and more about drugs. By senior year I was not active in any sports or hobbies. I was using pills before school, during, and after to “make the time pass by”. Weekends were always about going to parties and getting as wasted as possible. Luckily, I always naturally excelled in school and graduated having been accepted to six out of the seven colleges I applied to.
I went to Temple University for college. I went with the mindset that I would sell drugs and get rich. I failed to make it to class most of the time, as my drug dealing took precedence over academics. Temple is where I was first introduced to OxyContin and Roxicodone. That instant relief that I felt from the first time I smoked weed came right back when I used these drugs. For the remainder of my freshman year, I sold weed and benzos to support my daily opiate habit. I found a few friends to join me in this adventure- five in total. I specifically remember one night when one of them told me I should try to stop- that if I used every day I would get addicted. I told him that wouldn’t be the case for me, and that I would stop “tomorrow.” Low and behold when tomorrow came I had no defense. I had sworn that I would not use, but I couldn’t use.
The next two years were filled with further progression of addiction- increased tolerance and increased physical dependence. It leads from buying pills from a seemingly respectable person to venturing into the heart of Camden’s poverty, violence, and drug infestation, for heroin. My days were consumed with plotting ways to come up with money in order to fulfill my needs. In the middle of my Opiate addiction, I went on a cruise with my family. I used fake money to buy drugs in one of the most dangerous cities in the world. I then went on a cruise for 10 days. After two days I ran out of drugs. I experienced the most intense withdrawals and was quarantined due to the staff believing I may have picked up a foreign illness. For 8 days all I thought about was getting high. Nothing else mattered. I didn’t care about the wasted money my parents spent, the time I took away from their vacation, or their concern for my health.
When we finally got back home my family intervened. My sister, who had experience with opiate addiction, told the rest of my family that my symptoms sounded like withdrawals. This led to an intervention and my hesitation to first try IOP. I was by no means ready or willing to stop using it. I simply agreed to satisfy my family. Needless to say, it was unsuccessful. I don’t believe I completed the program and used routinely during it. After a few months of being back in active addiction. I began experiencing legal consequences as a result of illegal ways to acquire money. I was faced with 3 different felonies and looking at a maximum sentence of 25 years. My lawyer highly recommended me to go into treatment in order to satisfy the courts and work on a less intense sentence. I ended up agreeing to a 30-day treatment, but only stayed for two weeks before being told I had to leave. I was medically discharged because of pervasive withdrawal symptoms.
The court sentencing ended up favorable, and I was only given two years of probation. Probation didn’t keep me sober. I used it throughout probation and could have and should have been violated numerous times. Thank god that my probation officer saw some hope in me. In February of 2010, my life was in complete shambles. I had an open wound on my arm which was raised about 1/2 inch. I tried to get into a hospital to detox but wasn’t accepted. I was advised by my Psychiatrist to go to a Dual Diagnosis hospital and plead my case; so I did. For the first time, I was beginning to take some suggestions.
I was admitted into the hospital but in the psych only unit, not the dual diagnosis portion. At first, I thought it was a joke. I was surrounded by legitimately crazy people. A woman with eyes so bloodshot it looked like she could bleed tears slept in front of the nurses’ station because she recently tried to hang herself, an older woman sat completely catatonic in a lazy boy, and my roommate was paranoid and believe the facility was bugged. After a few days, I was given an option to leave for treatment in Pennsylvania for 30 days, or go to Florida for 45 days. I chose Pennsylvania. As I waited for further information I looked around. I realized that I was exactly where I belonged. These people that were legitimately crazy were not any crazier then I was. I called my mom back and told her I’ll go to Florida. I went to Stepping Stone Recovery. The facility was set up so much different than what I had experienced. I wasn’t so confined, the staff was great, and I learned A LOT about myself and my patterns. I was taken to meetings and encouraged to participate. I was supported and believe in. I made a decision to go to a halfway house in South Florida following my treatment.
I’d like to say I stayed sober from here on out, but I didn’t. I relapsed shortly after this transition as I didn’t follow all of the suggestions from Stepping Stone. I did only what I thought I needed to do. However, Stepping Stone taught me what I needed to do following a relapse. To get honest, to ask for help, to open up, and I did just that. On May 2nd, 2010 I admitted that I had used the day before and asked for help. I dove back into recovery and surrounded myself with good people. I have been sober since. I continue to follow the suggestions that were provided; opening up, being vulnerable, working with a sponsor, attending meetings, being honest, and listening to others.
My life six and a half years later is remarkable. I work in addiction treatment as a therapist, I have two dogs, I’m happy, I’m happily married, I own a home, I went back to school and got a Bachelors and Master’s degree, I have cars, I have peace, I have a relationship with my family. Just recently my wife and I found out that we are having a baby. While this is terrifying and exciting I know I can be a good dad so long as I stay sober and continue to apply principles from recovery. Of those five friends from Temple that I mentioned earlier- one is working on his Doctorate in Psychology and Addiction, one is sober and works in the Addiction field, two are still using, and one is dead. There is a way out for those who want it.