My 16-year-old daughter, who had everything going for her–literally–is at her third residential treatment center for her substance abuse. (She has been clinically dual diagnosed, which adds to her fight.) Unfortunately, she was introduced to “her drug of choice,” a street strength Xanax–among other things–that is pressed and goes by the name Hulk Bars. Who knew? I didn’t, until I Googled it. It’s amazing why you need to use Google.
I pray and hope that she acquires the tools she so desperately needs to survive–to truly survive. It is a vicious world out there–especially when you throw the evil of drugs into it. My daughter should be visiting colleges. My daughter should be meeting with college basketball coaches. My daughter should be getting an education. My daughter should be playing all her sports. My daughter should be attending homecoming. My daughter should be making memories with friends. My daughter should be getting her driver’s license. My daughter should be joining in on family bonding. My daughter should be working at her job. My daughter should be volunteering her time. My daughter should be taking care of her puppy. MY DAUGHTER SHOULD NOT BE ADDICTED TO SOMETHING SMALLER THAN A PENCIL ERASER.
I hate so much what this lifestyle has created for her and everyone in her circle. You eat, sleep and breathe this–and only those that are going through it, too, really understand. I always thought that was such a cliché statement, but it really is the truth. Yes, you have support of friends with words that seem fitting for the moment, but those snippets of talk really don’t penetrate how much this epidemic is ruining good families. Bottom line, drugs don’t discriminate. Whether they are black, white, rich, poor, thick, thin, tall, short, blonde, brown, educated or uneducated, victims are victims. We need to do better.
I honestly am not sure how we could have done things differently to prevent this, besides putting bubble wrap around her and not letting her leave the house. She knew right from wrong. “Don’t do drugs” has always been a slogan in our home and in school. The ugly reality is drugs are EVERYWHERE! With social media, you are only a click away from having it delivered to your door. From the time your child is born you envision a future with them that includes only heartwarming milestones and happy moments. It’s funny how you do that, when in reality we don’t always have that control and darkness can sneak in at anytime. I am scared for the future. I am scared what “can” happen to her, now that I have an addictive daughter. And, yes, that last sentence is still very hard to write and accept.
When I was younger, high school years…15 through maybe 25…I experimented with a lot of drugs. I wouldn’t say I particularly was physically addicted to anything at that point of my life…But I would try just about anything that was placed in front of me at that time. So I smoked marijuana and, you know, snorted cocaine, did LSD, did all these drugs, pills, anything that was placed in front of me. I would try it but did not become physically addicted to one particular substance…I guess what you would call partying all the time. And then, you know, as an adult at the age, I got pregnant at 26. So, I kinda cut all that stuff out due to the pregnancy and having the child.
Three weeks after my child was born, when I was 26 years old, my husband was injured in a car accident and he was a quadriplegic.
When I got to the hospital, I was completely hysterical for good reason. One of the nurses back in the day…things weren’t as protected as they are now…went to somebody’s med cart and pulled a ten milligram valium out of the cart and gave it to me as a little blister pack. And I thought to myself at that time, “What good is this gonna do?” I unzipped my wallet, dropped it in change. I carried that valium around for two years…dealt with this whole quadriplegic thing, a young child, tough woman. We’re going to do this. Taking care of my husband…taking care of my kid…taking care of everybody…but not taking care of Brenda.
So that’s kinda where my addiction started…is not taking care of Brenda. I started to suffer some physical headaches and was prescribed narcotic painkillers for these headaches. I found out very quickly that they helped me cope with the issues that I had in front of me. So, I started taking more of them than what’s prescribed and I’m also a medical professional. The physician that was prescribing them to me became aware that I was not taking them as they were prescribed. So, she cut me off. But because I had access to other things, I started writing my own ticket and getting my own drugs that way. So, then my addiction just took off after that.
Believe it or not, they weren’t aware. I was a very functioning 40-pill-a-day addict. Yeah, it’s crazy. You build up a tolerance. So basically, I was using that to not get sick because you would go into withdrawal if you didn’t…if you use your opiates. Basically, I was using not to get sick. I was working in the medical profession. I was basically superwoman.
I had tried to kill myself in September of 2001, because I thought it was the only way out for me. At that time, I didn’t get honest about anything. I didn’t tell anybody. When I ended up at the psychiatric hospital, I still didn’t tell anybody why. Everybody assumed, oh, you know, her husband is a quadriplegic. She’s under all this pressure.
At that time, my Mom said that she knew something was wrong but didn’t know what. No one would have ever suspected me as being a drug addict.
I knew I needed help long before I asked for it. Because I was so afraid of the consequences, I wouldn’t ask. So, it took divine intervention for me in the form of getting caught forging prescriptions.
I got a phone call from the Board of Nursing and they had asked me point blank if I knew anything about these prescriptions that were being written…and would I please come in and meet with them. I was so completely mortified in one way. But in another way, I was kinda relieved that this was finally going to a head for me because I was living in such misery. I had developed about a 40-pill-a-day habit. I was juggling a lot of pharmacies and it was just a miserable way to live.
Recovery has given me the ability to cope with life again…without the use of substances. Since I’ve been in recovery, my husband has since passed away. And I got through that clean. I have the support of the recovery community to get me through any situation that I’m in. I share with the participants at the recovery organization that I work at all the time. And one of them told me that I should share this story with you today.
I have a theory about people with substance use disorders. And my theory is that they have bigger hearts than average people do. And because of that, they don’t deal with their feelings well because their feelings are so large. So, they turn to substances to deal with those large feelings that they have. So, they find recovery and they start to work a recovery program and that’s not being clean. That’s working a recovery program. And those big hearts come out again. And because those big hearts come out and they give back to the recovery community, It’s a beautiful thing to watch.
There is hope. Do not let the stigma keep you from asking for help. Don’t let it linger on because there is hope in recovery. Recovery works and I’ve seen it with my own eyes many, many times.
I dated a guy for six years and we had two kids together…He got me hooked on meth. We lost our kids to my parents and we went downhill fast. We both shot up and did pain pills. We fought all the time and he abused me almost daily. I finally had enough and missed my kids so bad that I left him. I got off drugs at the same time and went back to my kids. A year later, I have custody and I am still clean and will remain that way. He has not seen the kids since and is still on drugs unfortunately.
First time I thought I was out of control was when I had moved up to live with my girlfriend at the time. Up where she lives, there’s a lot of crystal meth around there…And, uh, I ended up getting enticed into trying it out a couple times…And, you know, because I am a very ADD person, I used to be prescribed ADD meds like Adderall, which is pretty similar…um…And I haven’t been on them anymore…So like a lot of my using came from using that and I kinda just lost control with it because it made me feel like a normal human which is something I was definitely looking for a lot through my using. And, you know, it went out of control so quick that I mean it went from just smoking a little bit to, you know, like dealing and smoking literally as much as I could just because like I didn’t have anything else to do. And I just wanted to feel normal and I was running from the feelings I had inside and it just went crazy.
You know, at first it seemed like all fun and games, but…um…as it often happens with addiction, it kinda progressed from fun into this habit and it was something we kinda just started needing to do more. And it eventually became something that we almost had to do and it became the priority of our relationship. Um…and you know we went from this great couple that, you know, just loved each other and wanted to be with each other, to this couple of addicts that just needed to get our fix and then maybe we could think about each other after and if we had some time…And it’s really sad how that happens.
My family really didn’t know. I lived about five hours away from home at this point…Um…But her family started to definitely notice and they actually had an intervention with us at one point, which it came right after…um…after I ended up wrecking my car. Uh, and in wrecking that car, it basically lost my ability in staying living up there. I had no way to make any money, no way to pay my rent, no way to pay any bills anymore. And through that, amongst the other signs that had been there, her family kinda had an idea of what was happening already and that last one was kinda the final straw. Once they figured it out, they sat us down. I tried to stay calm about it. My girlfriend lost control a little bit. She was not willing to admit that there was a problem. I was kinda ready to but, then again at the same time, I love my girlfriend and I didn’t want to make her mad. I kinda just sat there and shut up. And I wish I would’ve listened a lot sooner because, you know, that could’ve stopped me a lot sooner and I still went months down the road with other substances before I decided that I really needed help.
Well, after I had moved back from living with my girlfriend, I ended up slowly becoming pretty addicted to heroin. Um…And I was just using it to run from all the feelings in my head…you know, the pain, the anger, just the deep sadness, the deep depression. Um..and one day, you know, I went to use again and it didn’t work. I was high but I was still wanted to die. I still felt all the terrible things that I had been running from. And, all the sudden, I just had this…this deep set fear. Because what had been hiding my problems from me no longer worked. It was really terrifying… because I didn’t know how to cope with any of my emotions at this point, you know. That’s why I was using.
At that point, I actually ended up picking up the phone intending to call my dope man and go pick up more. I don’t know what came over me, but I ended up calling my Dad. I just said, “Hey, Dad, I’m a heroin addict. I need some help.”
And, uh, you know, it was really hard for me to do that. I didn’t want to disappoint my family. They knew something was up. I knew that they had no idea it was that. But from there, I ended up going to a recovery organization and I’m doing a lot better now.
I was very blessed that the organization that I went to got us in really quickly. I was in there about an hour and a half after I had made the phone call. So, you know, I arrived scared…worried. You know, some inpatient thing, you know, it sounds like this terrifying thing that it was gonna suck. But I lived at the house about ten-ish other guys and they’re all doing the recovery thing..And they’re all trying to stay clean. I went from being scared to actually kinda falling in love with it. And.. um…you know, we have this amazing support group. We go to meetings pretty much all day. And then we go back to the house. We have a couple just smaller house meetings to talk about our day.
And if you’re ever feeling like a desire to use, or you’re just stressed about something and you need to talk about anything, you’re always surrounded by people who care…people who love you. And it’s honestly the most wonderful feeling in the world. You know a lot of my using came from feeling like I didn’t fit in. And for the first time without it being through drugs, I feel like I fit in. I feel like I have people that care about me and it’s so much deeper than the relationships with people that I had used with. And you know that’s only using deep.
And, you know, it was terrifying to realize that my friends were not really friends. You know, we just did drugs together. I had no one I could really turn to. But now, like, you know, I have at least 30 people that if I said, “Hey, I really need to talk to you right now, I have a problem.” Without a doubt, they stop what they’re doing and they would give me their attention. And they actually care…and that is the most amazing, comforting feeling in the world.
So very quickly, I went from that fear to just feeling so loved and encouraged that I can do it. It’s quite a beautiful thing.
My story began when I was very young in the home. Both my mother and my father were active alcoholics. Um, I had no structure. And once I hit my teens, um, you know, it was off to the races. You know, it was really whatever trouble I could get in. Um, I really had no one to teach me about integrity or work ethics or following through or principles. Um, I never heard any of that. I was very isolated.
Before long, I found myself using, more than just drinking. I started with drinking, a little bit of pot, and before long, um, I was trying acid, um, drinking more heavily, um, speed, cocaine. But when I first tried cocaine, everything else diminished. Cocaine for me, um, it was my perfect marriage.
You know, there’s a lot of problems with using drugs, and physically, I was run down real early in my life. I was very unhealthy from using cocaine. I got into trouble. Um, I just had no direction whatsoever, and, as much as I wanted a good life, I just felt like that was an illusion for me. And I just immersed myself in a life of addiction and getting into trouble. I got arrested and taken to jail from high school. Um, they found pot in my locker, so they arrested me and took me to jail. And I was released a couple hours later. And then another time a friend had a stolen motorcycle and we went joyriding it. And I got arrested on that. That was very early. That was, um, 15, 16 years old.
Um, and then it was on to supporting the habit. So the way I learned to support my habit was checks. Um, early in my days, I would take my dad’s checks and write them and go cash them. I got in trouble for that. Or I would, my mom owned an antique store. So whenever I could, I would go in her wallet and take money. Um, anything I could do to support my habit.
I had, just for me, for other people it’s other drugs. But I had what some term as an allergic reaction. So once cocaine entered my system, I lost all control. I had to have more physically, mentally, you know, in my soul, I had to have more. And so there was no stopping. Um, once I started using cocaine the only way I was ever stop was by an arrest or going into treatment.
I had a reputation of relapsing, um, that was, that was me. You know, I relapsed a lot. I didn’t understand the addiction cycle. You know, in the treatments, they teach you behavior modification. Really what they’re teaching you and what they don’t verbalize, I found throughout my years, or my trouble, I didn’t understand that they’re trying to teach me principles to live by. So once I started understanding principles, um, I started to make major changes. I stopped relapsing.
For me every relapse, every bottom, was a step forward. It’s kinda hard to explain. I had five years clean. And, um, came right to the emotional state, I felt unworthy. I felt unloved. And, um, I just stayed in that emotional state, and I felt sorry for myself. And after five years of completely being clean and sober, I decided to, at the spur of the moment, to go get loaded. And, um, that relapse led to me being arrested for possession, but that was a blow to me. I had, I was applying all the tools, um, but you know, it’s pieces. Each time I went through a trial and a bottom or got arrested, they were all learning experiences. I walked away with positives – a piece to the puzzle. My life has been finding the pieces, and then putting the pieces into play.
I was always obsessed with solutions, finding solutions, because I really, truly did not want to live the way I was living. I truly had very specific goals and dreams I wanted, ah, to obtain. And I just needed the power to do that. And I was kind of clueless. A lot, to be honest, a lot of the information out there is diluted. You know, it is really diluted. The principles that work for recovery are very simple, and there not that many. They all spring from just a few. And habits is a huge one. Developing positive habits and learning that you had to replace habits. You had to eliminate the negative habit. You had to put a positive one in its place. So learning like that simple principle was so powerful for me. Um, another thing, again, was integrity, but another thing was giving back. Um, you know, we’ve heard it said there’s more happiness in giving than receiving. Well when that principle is applied, it is a cleansing to the soul. To give back unselfishly was a huge medicine for me.
My mission is to show the youth. The first thing I do is let them know they’re really worth it. You know, that they’re really worth it. And I find out what they really want right away, and let them know it’s okay. And I’ve been there, you know. I know that they’re scared. I know how it feels. I know how it feels to be very angry. Um, I know how it feels not to take responsibility. Another key, we can’t change anything until we own it.
Once a person, it’s magical to watch someone just take a baby step, and they’re so proud. And all of a sudden they have the courage to take another step, and it’s just an awesome thing to witness.
There’s, like, kids at school that were taking pills, smoking weed and stuff. And I was just like, I don’t know, for some reason attracted to those types of people. Like I, you know, wanted to fit in, I think that was the main thing.
The first drug I guess was, um, weed. And nothing really happened the first time, but, um, after that it was alcohol. And, uh, I remember I drank it, and I immediately, like, blacked out shortly afterwards. I was drinking vodka and chasing it with beer. It was, like, at a school lock-in thing. Anyway, I ended up blackening out and puking everywhere, and they called my mom to come pick me up. And, uh, I remember two days later I wanted to do it again because I liked that feeling. But I was trying to figure out how I could, like, do it better that time. Like, I wouldn’t have the same bad result or whatever. So I think from the get-go I had a problem.
I would say like in high school and stuff it was mostly, like, pills like OxyContin, morphine and Xanax. Like, every day, kids at school had them. If they got them from their parents or grandparents and just sell them at school. Or I could get them from my family. Whenever I started, you know, I really fell in love with that feeling. And it helped me just feel, I don’t know, I was just never comfortable in my own skin or being around people and just didn’t feel like I fit in. Whenever I was like 16, I ended up stealing some of my brother’s pain pills because he had, like, a sports injury, and I took them from him. And my mom found out and turned me into, like, the juvenile office. And so I ended up getting put on juvenile probation, and she wanted me to stop. And they sent me to like a treatment center one summer. Um, and I kinda, then I knew I had a problem. But I never did anything about it whenever I got out. Like, I think I went to a couple of meetings. And, you know, pretty much my mom was the one who knew I had a problem and some of my immediate family. But I wasn’t able to stop then. There wasn’t enough consequences.
I remember I got pregnant, and I moved out of my mom’s house with this guy. And, uh, after I had my daughter, I started, it started escalating really high. The people I was hanging out with were, um, shooting up drugs, uh, like oxys and morphine and stuff. So I, like, started doing that, too. And, um, that’s when it got pretty bad, I would say. I ended up, my mom ended up taking my daughter, you know, and keeping her. And I went to treatment centers after that to try and quit, and, like, still didn’t. So that’s when my tipping point would be, I think, was probably about 17 when I started shooting up.
I was working a serving job, and, um, I was on like adderall and doing bath salts at the same time. And, um, I was shooting those up. And, uh, anyway, I had gotten into a car wreck on my way home from work one night and ended up injuring my back. And they, the hospital prescribed me pain pills, and I had took them all in like within a couple of days. And, uh, anyway, the next day at work I ended up leaving in the middle of my shift because I was trying to go buy some more pills from somebody because I was actually in pain then. And, uh, they ended up firing me for doing that, and I ran out of money. And I was like really desperate to get more money, so I could get bath salts. And, um, I ended up going into Wal-Mart and stealing this lady’s purse out of her shopping cart and, uh, took off. The cops like showed up at my door a few hours later, and they took me to jail.
There was a point in time I remember a specific situation. Uh, I had stayed off the needle for like 8 months one time. And, uh, that was whenever the bath salts thing got introduced to me. And, um, I heard you could shoot it up. And I was, like, I knew I couldn’t successfully use a needle and not stop or only do it once. And I remember in my head I was thinking, you know, like, “Okay, you can, I can only do it just this time and you know it’ll just feel good once, and then I’ll stop.” But the other part of my brain was telling me, like, “No, it’s going to be bad. You can’t do it.” And, um, you know, I still did it anyway. So I think, at that point, I remember, like, I don’t know. That just one specific situation where I had no control, you know. And it all, it’s, I don’t know. The whole time I used drugs or drank I didn’t really have much control. From about a year into it on, I just couldn’t, I would tell myself things like, “This isn’t going to happen,” you know, “I’m not going to blackout and piss people off,” or “I’m not going to, you know, steal,” or “I’m not going to lie to my mom again,” or “I’m not going to cheat on my boyfriend.” And, you know, I would just do all those things I said I wasn’t going to do, and worse, most of the time.
The reason why I, you know, finally stopped, I think I was more in the beginning pushed into it because I had gotten myself into so much trouble to where, you know, I had got put into prison. That, I, that’s whenever I, that was my tipping point, my stopping point. Which by then I had, you know, a few months to actually sober up and take a step back and look at things. But, um, you know, it wasn’t even just like being in there. Because I remember whenever I was in there my family wouldn’t talk to me, my mom wouldn’t want to answer my phone calls, you know. I was pregnant about to lose another child, and I don’t know. That was my tipping point was, you know, being in there. And I made the decision that, like, I didn’t want to do that anymore. I didn’t want to live like that anymore. Which I had felt like that before in the past when I’ve been in treatment centers. And, like, this time even I wasn’t sure if it was actually, like, I was actually going to stay sober. I knew I really, really wanted to, and I knew, like, people went to meetings and worked the steps and stuff and that works so that’s what I did. I was just really scared to go back to that way of life.
Whenever I did first start using, you know, at like 14/15ish, I didn’t, yeah, I never thought that it would of, that it would end up as bad as it did. Um, especially, you know, to the point where, you know, of not having places to live or, you know, going to jail and so many treatment centers and things like that. I never would have imagined that. And I know even at the end of my using and stuff I still kind of would have that mentality of, like, I didn’t think it was going to happen to me. Like being in jail pregnant. I didn’t think I was going to go to prison. I thought, “No, that won’t happen.” Um, and, you know, it does. It does happen, and things just continue to get worse.
I’ve been, uh, physically sober for 2 years, but I’ve been sober, you know, outside of prison for a year and a half. Um, I actually work for my mom now. You know, we get along pretty good. Uh, we never like, this is the closest we’ve ever been my whole life. Like, I have never been this close to her, and you know, my siblings like me now. My grandparents are no longer alive, but um, you know, it is. My relationship with my family is great now, better than I could have ever imagined you know.
In 7th grade my dad, um, worked overnights, and I was walking through, uh, town. And I hit the square, and there was a group of kids about my age and one of the kids called me over. I came over, started talking. And, uh, as I walked over to the group they asked me if I smoked. And I thought they were talking about cigarettes, which at that time I smoked, and I said sure. And they passed around a joint. And the first time I hit that joint was the first time I ever felt like I ever fit in. From there I hung out with the same kids. Uh, the following weekend we went to a house party and from it was marijuana, alcohol, um, the next weekend. A couple of months later I tried cocaine for the first time. Acid was all there that same summer before 7th grade, and it just kind of mushroomed from there.
I didn’t have a lot of consequences. Uh, legally stuff finally started catching up to me in high school. So I moved back with my mom my senior year. And my senior year I was introduced to methamphetamine. And once I was introduced to methamphetamine, it was all over. I ended up dropping out of school my senior year. I ended up going to jail at 17, again at 18, a bunch of times at 19 – probably 15-20 times all together. Then I got to turn 21 in prison.
Methamphetamine gave me a feeling like nothing I’d ever felt before. You know, I felt like I could do anything. You know, it was almost like getting wings. It was just this amazing feeling of elation, unlike anything I’d ever felt in my entire life. I ended up buying it. I started dealing it. And then while I was in prison, I got introduced to some people who said they would teach me how to do burns. So I ended up hooking up with them whenever I got out of prison. And I got involved in manufacturing of methamphetamine at 21.
At 22 I was in a car accident. I flew a Firebird 97 feet. I got 32 feet in the air. I died 3 times in the ambulance. And I was prescribed, I had really bad headaches, and I was prescribed morphine. And after about 6 months they cut me off the morphine, and by that time I was dependant on it. I started buying it. And it really increased the amount of methamphetamine I did. Because I tried to level out and still get that feeling. So, you know, I was shooting meth several times a day, and I was shooting opiates a couple times a day. Cause morphine and dilaudids were my opiates of choice. I never did heroin because I always said that’s what junkies do. So I was doing meth, I was doing morphine, I was doing dilaudids, I was doing everything under the sun, but that was the one drug I would not touch. You know, but, and I’m surprised I never did. Because everything I always said I’d never do I always did.
You know, the first time I snorted I said, “At least I’m not smoking meth. I’m just snorting it.” And then when I started snorting, I’m like, “At least I’m not shooting it.” And then when I started shooting it, I’m like, “At least I’m not doing heroin.” So as long as I didn’t do heroin I could always justify what I was doing. You know, and I know heroin addicts that are the same way with methamphetamine. They’re like, “Well I’d never do meth, that’s what junkies do.”
Sometime we create a line, you know? I knew I had a really bad drug habit. I mean, I knew it was out of control. I was an addict, and I could admit I was an addict. But I wasn’t a junkie because I didn’t do this, you know? I don’t do heroin, so I’m not a junkie.
I did a couple outpatient programs and a couple residential programs, but it never really stuck. I never really did it for me. I did it to get out of trouble with the law. I did it to make my dad proud. You know, those were reasons I’d go into rehab, but I never actually did any of that for me. And, and jail got to the point where I would go to jail with money in my pocket to bond out, and I would stay in there for a week. It got to the point where it was less stressful in jail, and I could get caught up on my sleep. I could eat and gain some weight back. And then after a week, I’d bond out and go back to doing what I was doing. You know, I didn’t have to look over my shoulder in jail, so it was almost a peaceful place.
I went through residential rehab, outpatient rehab, jail, prison. I saw psychiatrists, psychologist, they threw all kinds of medication at me. And none of that ever worked, until it got to a point where I wanted to change. Nothing else really worked. I realize there’s some programs out there that put kids in an area where they’re clean and sober long enough that they realize, you know what, I can have fun doing this, too. So I think a big part of it is, uh, the people we hang out with. Um, if I always hang out with, you know, you can’t get clean if you’re always dancing in the mud. And a lot of times we want to continue hanging out with the same people. So I think still having people in your life that still care about you, still love you, and still give you at least some compassion. You know, don’t continue to foot their bills. You know, they’re probably going to go use that money to go buy drugs. You know I would have. But still let those people know you care about them. And over time, maybe they’ll hit that bottom. And some people’s bottoms are different, you know. I mean, for some people going to prison, turning 21 in prison would have been a bottom. For someone, being shot would have been a bottom. For some people, getting your kids taken, dropping out of school, you know, those are bottoms and different people have different bottoms. So I think it’s kind of hard to say this is one person’s bottom, this is another’s because I don’t know. A lot of people hit a bottom, and they grab a shovel, and they dig deeper. You know, that’s what I always did. And, for me, it took reaching a point where the pain was bigger than my fear of change.
It got to a point where I was actually trying to build my life in a positive way and yet I still had all these negatives things I was doing. And I knew that those two things couldn’t co-exist at the same time. They call it cognitive dissonance, but that’s a big word for it. But, basically, what it means is, “I can’t have two opposing values at the same time in my head and not know that I’m full of crap.” So, you know, it came to do I really want to get better, or do I want to go back? And I realized if I always did what I always had done then I always get what I always got and I didn’t want that anymore. So I had to change.
I think we need to be more honest in the discussions that we have because a lot of the times all we talk about is how horrible drugs are. And we never talk about the fact that, yes, they do make you feel good. Yes, they have these affects on you, but this is the impact they have over time.
In my addiction, it got to a point where I wasn’t using to feel good. At first, you use to feel amazing, you know. I felt so great every time I used. But over time I got to a point where I felt horrible and using made me feel a little less bad. So I was no longer using to feel great, I was using just to function. If I didn’t use I wouldn’t be able to function. I don’t think you realize it’s getting that bad until you’re in the middle of it. You know, I, I felt great. Going to people’s houses, most people in their life or death situation, and they feel like they’re getting ready to die, and they get a chance to leave that situation they will run away and never come back. Um, I’d be in a house that I didn’t know whether I’d leave alive or not. And I’d get out to my car and be like, “Man, that’s really great dope!” and I’d run right back in to get more.
There’s so much that’s lost because a lot of times we’re at an age where we think this could never happen to us. You know, uh, it’s amazing how many people it does happen to, you know. It doesn’t take long before you become one of those people. You know, I mean, I call myself a hope dealer. I always say I went from dealing dope to dealing hope. And it’s changed my life.
My son was 16 when he first started using. He started smoking pot. Uh, I found out. He got arrested for stealing a check from somebody to pay for his pot. And it just went on from there. I didn’t realize that he was using other things until later on, but that’s where it started, with pot. I know a lot of people that smoke pot, so I really didn’t worry. I didn’t think it was a gateway drug. I didn’t think, you know, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal to him until it went beyond.
He was about 18 or 19, and I realized he was using meth. And we had a next door neighbor who he was working with. And I found out through a friend of theirs that his wife had taught him how to shoot it up with a needle. And that’s when I realized that this was bigger than what I thought.
I put him into a program. Um, he fought the whole time there and didn’t want to stay there. And he promised me that, you know, it was not a big, it wasn’t a problem with him. And that he wouldn’t do it anymore, and so he came home. And it didn’t stop. He hid it from me then.
He’d come up with I can’t even tell you how many excuses of why he couldn’t pay his rent. It was always, “They didn’t pay me enough.” “The guys screwed up, and they didn’t give me my full pay.” “I lost my check.” You name it. And of course I believed him because I didn’t, I didn’t have a choice. I chose to believe him because I wanted to.
There came a point in time where I realized that if I didn’t change my ways then he was never gonna change. So I did the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I said, “I can’t help you anymore. I can’t be part of your life like this. I can’t watch this. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t do this anymore. You know, you’re going to have to figure it out. I will help you if you want help, but that’s all I can do.”
I decided that it would be nice if I could see him for his birthday which is September 12th. And so we made arrangements for me to go pick him up with his daughter and take him to dinner. And I picked him up probably a couple hours earlier than I was supposed to, and he was so high. I was just livid. I couldn’t even, I couldn’t even imagine. I felt really bad because my granddaughter was there watching it all.
So after we got through dinner, um, I took all his stuff out of my car in the parking lot of that restaurant. I said, “That’s it. That’s it. I can’t, I can’t do this anymore.”
Three days later, he was, we couldn’t find him. His girlfriend couldn’t find him and that was on a Friday. And on Wednesday, uh, the chaplain called me and told me that they had him. And he was on life support – that he overdosed. And, um, he had aspirated. He had pneumonia, and I needed to get down there as quick as I could. So I did. And he spent three months in the hospital. One month was in ICU. He had no brain activity, and he pulled out of it. He pulled out of that. He pulled out of that surprisingly.
He had been clean for five months, but not by his choice. That and that was the big, that was the big thing. He wasn’t clean because he wanted to be clean. He was clean because he was forced to. He was in the hospital, so he didn’t feel the effects of the withdrawal. He slept right through it. And that worried me because I thought, “This is not going to be a big deal to him because he doesn’t remember any of it.”
I’ll never forget the first time I walked into the ICU that day. Even though he was asleep and he was intubated and he wasn’t moving, that was the first time in 16 years that I saw my son. My sweet son that was not on drugs. Even though he was asleep, couldn’t talk to me, I could tell he was my son.
I think he got into a fight with his girlfriend. And somewhere between Saturday night and Sunday morning, he did some heroin for the first time in five months, and it killed him. And they waited, uh, I got a call at 6:14 on February the 9th, 6:14 in the morning. And I already knew who it was. They didn’t tell me he was already dead, but asked me how fast I could get to the hospital. And so my boyfriend drove me to the hospital. And these people had dropped him off there. He was already dead, and they dropped him off at the hospital. Yeah.
I have lived for 16 years with the stress and the stress of getting that phone call. And now, I have no stress. The day he died my stress just left me, and it was replaced with mourning. Mourning’s not stressful. It’s just mourning. I just miss him. Incredibly. I see that. I miss that little boy.
If I could help one mother or parent, the best advice I can give is don’t be afraid to let them hit rock bottom. Because, and don’t be afraid to stand up and not enable them. You know, I learned that death is death. Rock bottom is not death. Rock bottom is just right there, almost, but you have to let them hit their rock bottom because without that they can’t go, they can’t move forward.
He was an amazing man. Just an amazing human being with a really bad drug problem that I knew for so many years that eventually would take him from me. You know, I try to prepare myself for that. You can’t. I’ve known, I knew for years that he wasn’t going to live through this, but you just can’t prepare for that.
Well, to the best of my knowledge, he was probably about twelve when he first started to experiment with alcohol and weed. And it just gradually kind of bloomed into other drugs that he would experiment with.The kids that he was running with were all experimenting with whatever they could get their hands on. And as he got older, of course, the drugs became more serious. And he went through countless rehabs trying to get himself together, and it just didn’t happen. He’d come out, and he’d be good for a while, but he could never separate himself from the friends.
And that was the key there was that…If you can’t walk away from the people that are that world you can’t…you can’t…stay clean. So he couldn’t do that. They were his bros. They were his best friends. His big line always was, “Don’t worry, Mom. My bros have my back.” And quite obviously they didn’t since they were responsible for letting him die. So, it kind of showed me just exactly who they were. But it was too late for him to see that.
I guess he was about sixteen or seventeen the first time we really had an issue. And, um, at around seventeen he started taking drugs from others. My parents were still alive and they had pain medications and different things. I took an anti-anxiety which, you know, we even locked. We got to the point where we locked my stuff into a locked box…so that he couldn’t…He figured out how to pry it open without unlocking it to get into the box so he could steal the medication. But he started stealing from us. Not just drugs. But then he started stealing things and hocking them to pay for the habit. He never worked. ‘Cause he said that only fools worked. “I can make so much more money just doing this. So why should I work?” And he had the freedom to come and go and do what he wanted. And for a while I kind of worked with that. And then I did the tough love and said, “No, you’re not going to do this in my house. I’m not gonna have this.” And I put him out.
And he bounced from house to house to house living with friends. And sometimes he said he slept on benches in a park. And I really don’t know. And then he would call and tell me he’s hungry. “I’m starving, Mom. I haven’t had anything to eat in days.” And, I’m like, he goes, “Can you give me some money for some food?” I said, “No, I’ll take you to eat. I’ll go buy you groceries. But, no, I won’t give you cash.” And at first he was kind of upset with me ‘cause I knew that’s what he wanted. He wanted to buy a fix, and he didn’t have the money. So he was hoping I’d hand him cash. I never gave him the money. I’d buy him a pack of cigarettes even if that’s what he wanted. But I kind of figured out. It took me a little while but I kinda figured out that if I gave him cash it was just going back into a drug.
I think watching his grandparents being so ill kinda made him see that he needed to straighten his life around. My father was probably his greatest influence in life. He was the only man that was ever there his whole life. I mean…and he respected my father and loved my father…and I mean…he was…he was it. And watching my dad become so ill, and watching him die I think kinda was like a wake-up call for him. And then we only had a couple months after my dad passed when mom was diagnosed with cancer. So when he’d see those things it kinda’ would straighten him around. Like ‘I gotta get myself together because…ya know…life’s too short. Look at what’s gone on. They’ve lived their lives and now look what they’re suffering.’ And, you know, he would do real well for a little while. And then, he’d run into somebody. It was always somebody that took him back into the world that he didn’t need to be in. But there was no way to keep him away from it because they were everywhere. Everywhere he went he would run into people.
And none of us ever expected to get the knock at the door…you know. And you know when a cop comes to your door. And I didn’t even have to ask which kid it was. I knew the minute the police officer walked in the house. I knew exactly who he was there for. He was at somebody else’s house where there were a lot of other people. And Craig had drugs in his system so he did have drugs. But Craig didn’t die because of a drug overdose necessarily. Yes, they ruled it that. But he had a cheeseburger and he started to choke. And they laid him on his back on the floor and watched him aspirate on his own vomit and did nothing. He was dead an hour before they even dialed 911.
Everybody’s different. And I don’t think, honestly, Craig didn’t set out to die. I’m sure that that was not his plan that night. I’m quite positive that he went over to hang with his friends, and he thought he was Superman. You know, he’s got the mentality that so many of our young people have that they’re invincible. That I can do this…I can do that and it won’t hurt me. It won’t touch me “cause I’m different.” And they’re all…You’re all different but you’re all the same. And everybody’s triggers are different but the same. And it’s the same thing with getting help. I mean…I don’t…I don’t know if he ever had that ultimate click. I mean he would do good for a while and then he’d fall back off. And I don’t…I don’t know how he could have done anything differently. I really don’t.
I don’t have an answer. And I don’t even know what to tell anybody that’s…that’s completely dealing with it because every single person walking in that drug world is a different person. Some people…You know, he never ODed. That was the only time. He never ODed before that. He had never had a close call. He had seen many close calls but he had personally never had a close call. And, uh, even the people that were with him that night…that watched him…stood there…watched him…And there was a parent in that house that he was in. And she stood there with her ten-year-old and watched my son die and did nothing. And, even those people that were there that night, they’re still doing the same things. I mean I’ve countless times been told, ‘Oh, by the way, so-and-so ODed.’ And I’m just like, you watched your friend die in front of your eyes. You watched him take his last breath and you’re still doing the same thing. You didn’t learn anything from watching him. I mean, how can you keep walking that life?
And then I found out later that there was people that were there that were sober. They were clean. There was noth…They had nothing in their system. They were just there hanging out and they left because they didn’t want to get in trouble…and never dialed 911. I mean, if you’re going to leave…fine. But you could have called 911 first and at least gotten him help.‘Cause the coroner told me his was a totally preventable death…that he should never have died. But due to the ignorance of the people he was with, it happened. He’s like…It’s…I can’t tell you how many times I see this…where they could have been helped but nobody bothered to call for help.
My first experience with it was my father was addicted to marijuana, and so I thought that I grew up around it so there was nothing wrong with it. And so I got excited about it, and so then I started hanging out with people who it did. And then I got exposed more and more, and I eventually tried it. And that was my first love. After marijuana, it was really what some people wouldn’t consider a drug but it is, but its alcohol. Um, and it became a release. And, um, that was my new favorite. And then I mixed them together because I could feel, you know, in the clouds, but at the same time I was, you know, the iron giant. I could take on whatever I needed to. And, ah, so I kind of got lost in that as well.
When I was 18 years old, my dad found out that I was smoking marijuana. And his advice to me was, “If I see it, it becomes mine. It’s not I’m going to throw it away. It becomes mine then, and I’m going to smoke it.” And, uh, my dad was the only one who knew about anything. And nobody knew about my drinking until I was 21, and which, you know, then it’s legal, and I can do it all the time.
To keep this a secret, I would go out on drives when I was 16 years old, and I went and bought gloves – golf gloves- so I could put them on, so that way I could hold a joint out the window, and my hands wouldn’t smell like it. So that way I could come back home. I had Visine on hand at all times. Um, I had cologne in the car at all times. I mean, I was totally determined to keep this a secret, and I did. I did for a very, very long time. And then at 21 years old when everyone found out I was drinking, then it kind of came around. Because then I didn’t care about the drinking, then I was like, “Hey, by the way, I smoke weed too.”
The crazy thing about the addiction is it puts your mind into hyperactive mode. If I decided on a day that I was going to get high, and I didn’t have the money, there was never a day that I didn’t come up with it. I stole money from family. I stole money out of change jars. Um, I would sell clothes. I would go sell TVs, pawn stuff, um, just whatever it took to get it that day. I went to school high one time, and it scared the living crap out of me. It did. I was so paranoid with my teachers and everything like that I never did it again. But outside of school, when I would come in, and I smoked the night before I was very foggy, you know. I couldn’t, I couldn’t retain information. My grades went down very steadily, um, and I eventually became a failure at high school, but I never dropped out.
Um, my third addiction came in at 22 years old. I was totally out of control. That was mephedrone, better known as bath salts today. I remember the first time I ever snorted a line, everything in my life was better. I mean, everything was. It was incredible. Um, and I still think back to that day and think, “Man, that was an amazing day.”
Um, but what led to all the events that came after were terrible. I mean, I lost everything. Um, I had to start fresh three times. And that’s when I really started getting into stealing. I didn’t care. My character as a person totally changed. I became this, a loser. I became addicted. That’s what I woke up to. That’s what I went to bed thinking about, you know. If I went to bed at all.
Everything rise and falls on the addiction. When nothing else mattered. When money went there, and it didn’t go towards the bills. When you’re thinking about the drug more than you’re thinking about family relationships. And you sever the ties and people are severing the ties with you, and you become alone. You stand alone. Even in a crowd of people you just feel by yourself, you know. And you move into stages of paranoia. You deal with everything else psychological about you know the addiction. Um, so yeah, I define myself as a loser at that time, and I stand by that today, and I’m glad I’m not that anymore.
I feel like there’s a lot of people that are addicted to a drug, and they’re ashamed because in every addiction you hit a point where, “I want to stop but I don’t know how. Everything I’ve done for this. This is my habit now, this is my life. And once you reach that point it’s terrible.”
My addiction of the mephedrone, bath salts, lasted about 6 months. It was a very,very steep decline. And I had everything that I ever wanted. I had the big screen, the surround sound, the nice car, the nice place to live and within 3 months all of it was gone. It just disappeared into the, into the abyss. And I knew that I was out of control the day I realized, “Oh my gosh, I don’t have a place to stay anymore.” I took my rent check, and I bought drugs with it. I know I’m out of control at this point. And up until that there was other signs. I sold my second car for a 150 dollars so that way I could get 2 grams that was going to last me one night.
I remember my first bottom was the day I realized that I don’t have a place to live anymore, and I got into my car. You know, I still had my Lexus, and I was proud of it. Yet it was trashed and filled to the top with all the stuff I could fit into it from my apartment. Anything that meant anything to me. And I drove out of that out of that driveway feeling like, “Man, how much worse can it get?” Little did I know the next one was even worse.
My next rock bottom was, it was a Saturday, and the person I was staying with she had gone for the day. And, um, I had totally forgotten about a gram that I had. I apparently hid it from myself, and I found it. Well, it’s just me alone, and I did the whole gram in about an hour. And it was then I felt the most paranoia I’ve felt in my entire life. I was hearing voices. I was hearing people knock on the door. I mean, I was, I had a cold sweat. I was scared out of my wits, and all I could do was lay in the bedroom with the door closed. And just look at the ceiling and just, you know, thinking, “God, just please help me. This is so terrible. I don’t know how to get out of this. I want to be done, but I’m so lost.” And that was my worst rock bottom, just that moment of emptiness. From there I kept going. I kept going and kept going and kept going. Um, you know, like an idiot. And eventually, I started getting this feeling in my stomach like all of this is about to come to an end, and you’re about to get caught.
I was going 75 in a 45 at 5:30 in the morning ten days before my birthday. I’ll never forget it. I was blacked-out drunk. I was actually on my way to my dealer’s house, and uh, the cop was behind me. I didn’t realize he was behind me for about a mile. He had his lights on, and I finally came to just in a moment of conscience and saw the lights. I pulled over, and uh, I knew that right there was when I got busted. I got a DUI, and I got busted with possession. And then they gave me the Drug Court program as an option, and I decided to take it.
When I started the Drug Court program, um, I didn’t have any issues. And the reason was because when I got pulled over on, um, in December, it scared me so bad because that was that moment when I knew this is coming to an end. And I said, “I’m going to have to sober up.” And so um, I had stopped doing the bath salts. So when I started the program it wasn’t that difficult. You know it was just something I decided to do. And if you decide to do it, and that’s what you make up your mind to do, you can do it.
The thing I would say to people who are in addiction right now is your story is just the same as mine. It’s just different day different time different drug, different place. But the best thing about it is, and one thing I’ve noticed is, there’s hope in recovery. There is. Because not only are you going to move out of the addiction if you’re committed to it, because the help is there. But you’re going to find all the tools you need to grow out of it, and then to grow back into the mature person. Because I found out in the program that if I was 14 when I started smoking weed, and I stopped doing the drugs at say 23 or 24 then my maturity level was a 14 year-old. And so you have to then cover all those years, and get yourself back up to that mentality level you’re supposed to be at. And that’s where you find the hope. You find out how to be a real man, a real woman, how to develop those relationships, how to keep a job. I mean, everything from the most difficult stuff to the easiest things. There’s hope in it, and when you get into the program, and you start seeing the difference in yourself, and you begin to mend the relationships with the family that didn’t want to know you or you didn’t want to know them, your heart is just filled. There’s a void that’s filled. You no longer have to cover it up, you know?
Another thing I would say is that I’m not going to lie. Drugs are amazing. They cover up what you’re trying to cover up. But if you look at the long haul, the big picture, after you lose everything, and you’re sitting there wondering why you can’t stop. Then you realize there’s gotta be something better. There’s something bigger out there. The bigger picture is there if you’re ready to see it.
I never fit in as a child. I was always the outcast and, you know, I never had friends. Around junior year of high school, my friends were like, “Hey, you should come hang out with us.” So I was like, “Alright, that sounds cool.” So, you know, we went to this park and they pulled out some weed…some marijuana. And, um, I was like, “I’m not trying that, you know that’s not who I am.” I grew up really religious. My parents made me go to church every Sunday. You know, I was in Sunday school…youth groups.
And, so, they pulled out the weed. I told them I wasn’t trying it and they were like, “Come on you should try it. You know it makes you feel good.” And I was like, well, what I’m feeling now wasn’t very fun…so maybe I should try it. We rolled up and I ended up smoking it. I was on standing on top of the football field. And I remember I would look up at the sky and it was a clear night. And I was like they told me I was talking to aliens and extraterrestrial animals and stuff like that. I was like, well that’s weird. And I thought it was kinda cool at the same time…like I never really communicated with them before you know.
So I tried weed that night and we road around. We listened to music and it was honestly one of the best nights I had in a long time. And I had finally felt like I had finally fit in and had friends.
About three months later, I moved in with my now ex-boyfriend. And I lived with him for about seven months and he sold drugs. I was introduced to OxyContin, morphine, hydrocodone, umm, a lot of pills, Xanax, Adderall. I was very curious. I’ve always been a curious person so I wanted to try like all of that stuff. I was like, “Yeah, I get to try all of this, you know. I’m the lab rat and I’ll be your test dummy.”
So, I ended up going through withdraws from one of my antidepressants…And that was the first night he gave me an oxycodone. And it was a really warm, fuzzy feeling, you know. It made me feel really warm and fuzzy inside, and like happy, and I had the best sleep I had ever had.
About a few weeks after that, I started doing cocaine and I started trying all these other drugs and stuff. I knew it was a problem when my friend brought what was heroin around to the house. He was like, “Who wants to try some heroin?” And I was like, “I’ll try some.” I ended up trying it. I snorted it and it made me a little drowsy but it wasn’t like the full effect. And when I tried it, I was like, “Man, I think I might have a problem.” And a few weeks before that, my ex-boyfriend had said he had turned down a sale to me and said that, “You’re an addict.” And, you know, my Mom had always told me, “You’re an addict. You need to get help.” And I was like, “No, I’m not. No, I’m not. I’m just a regular person. I’m not an addict.” I was ashamed to be called an addict and it was really embarrassing to me. After I had did that, she wouldn’t let me come home to live so I knew I had to get help somehow.
One day, my Mom was like, “Hey, I’ll take you to Chipotle.” I was like, “Alright, I’ll go get Chipotle, get lunch, hang out, go shopping.” And so…she ended up…we got Chipotle. She didn’t lie to me straight up. We got Chipotle and she was like, “We’re going to go somewhere.” And I’m like, “Where are we going?” She said we were going to go to this recovery organization. And I was like, “No, we’re not.” I tried to jump out the moving car. Like…I’m dying before I go here. I’m not going here. We pulled up and she was like, “Alright, let’s go in.” I was like, “Oh, my god. Like, do I really have to do this?” She was like, “Unless you wanna live in a homeless shelter, yes, come in with me.”
We went into the office. I was throwing a total fit. I was just being a spoiled brat. Like…“I don’t wanna go here. I hate all of you. You guys are not cool.” It was just scary, honestly. I did not think I needed the help. I did not think I was an addict at all.
I thought I was never an addict. I’m adopted…so my birth mother was an alcoholic. And I was like, “Oh I hate her. She’s riffraff.” She drank and all this stuff when she was pregnant with me and stuff…And it really messed me up emotionally and I always hated her for it. For me to realize that to myself that I was an addict I… like…I was admitting that I was just like her. It was really tough at first. But, like, once I started going to meetings, meeting with other people, the house and everything, I would introduce myself as, “Hi, I’m Elizabeth and I’m an addict.” You know, the more that I said that, the more it kinda clicked…the more it was open to me that, hey, maybe I was really an addict and I couldn’t control my using. I would use more than I would have to. I would get so high to the point I was throwing up and eating too much and all this stuff.
The best part about a recovery is…I would say is getting my family back. Making actual friends…people who actually care about you genuinely…and don’t want to use you for your weed, your money, for sex…for all that type of stuff.
Recovery means a lot to me. I can talk to my Mom and look at dead in the eyes…and not have to lie to her. I can look at my Dad and he calls me Princess again. He had stopped doing that and we had just started getting into a lot of arguments. I could come home high and he was like, “You’re high.” And I would tell him, “No, I’m not.” And my Mom would get up in my face, and she would be like, “Are you high?” And, you know, I would be like, “No, I’m not.” The whole time they knew. They’re not stupid. They grew up before I did…so they knew what the stuff was.
I really appreciate my parents’ support. They’ve shown me a lot of support and they are always there for me when I need them. I love getting my relationship back with them and with my brother.
I am 71 days clean today and I would absolutely not go back to the way I was living if someone paid me a million dollars.
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