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An Honest Q&A with a Recovering Heroin Addict


1. Do you believe marijuana is a gateway drug?

In some cases yes, however, any drug that someone starts could be considered a gateway drug, depending on how susceptible you are to addiction. My gateway drug was Ritalin. In today’s generation, starting at a young age, we are hardwired to take a pill for every problem. If you’re sad, you get antidepressants. If you are energetic and disruptive, doctors prescribe amphetamines to help you focus. By the time I got to the age when I was exposed to drugs as a recreational pastime, I was used to taking a pill for every ailment or negative emotion. In the Woodstock days, when acid and cocaine were the “hard drugs,” marijuana was a gateway drug. However, we are now in the age of Oxycodone and Xanax. So in my opinion, doctors are as much to blame as your street-corner pot dealers were in the 1960s and 1970s. Prescription pills are today's gateway drugs.

2. How old were you when you started down the path?

When I was in late elementary school I was diagnosed with ADHD. This was the first time I started taking any mood altering drugs. I was put on Ritalin. My teachers and family were told by my doctor that this was a drug that would help me. After a couple of weeks of taking it everyday, I was much easier to deal with at school. For me, it was an easy leap from what my doctor prescribed to taking other pills. By fourteen I was experimenting with several different kinds of prescription pills.

3. How much influence did your friends have on you when it came to drug use?

You are who you hang out with is a very true quote. I thought I was a leader, not a follower, therefore I was impervious to peer pressure. The truth is if you hang out with people that feel drugs are socially acceptable, eventually this can become true in your own mind. The truth is that some people can experiment with drugs and not get addicted. I was not able to stop on my own. So slowly, I cut out any friend that didn’t use drugs. This made it much easier to justify my daily use.

4. How did it escalate and when and why did you move to stronger drugs?

Every drug addict has a drug of choice. This is the drug that gets a hold of you and quits being recreational and becomes something you have to use just to maintain your daily life. For me, it was pain medication. Once I tried lowlevel painkillers, I was hooked. By the time I was seventeen, Hydrocodone was a daily must-have. The unfortunate fact about any narcotic is the tolerance to the drug. In the beginning it was one or two a day. Soon I had to take double that and so on. After awhile that pill wasn’t strong enough. So, I was introduced to stronger drugs like Oxycontin and Morphine. It is very expensive to continue a habit with these pills. By eighteen I was injecting and snorting the medication to keep from withdraws. When the pills were not around, I decided to try heroin. This was more costeffective and much easier to find. So for the next several years I injected heroin two-to-four times a day.

5. How many times have you been to rehab?

I have been to rehab five times. I have also been through a medical detox twice. One of the rehabs was court-ordered. I was far from ready to quit at the time. I was kicked out of three of the seven centers for various infractions. I was using drugs in two of them, and I left one after four days. It wasn’t until I was truly ready that I gained anything from these programs.

6. What did the rehabs have in common, and how were they different?

The first rehab that I went to was a very expensive rehab. It looked more like a country club than a rehab facility. Unfortunately, this was the first of many places where I failed. I then went down the list of local rehabs. The one that I got the most out of was a state-funded, non-profit facility. The walls weren’t as well-decorated and the menu didn’t have prime rib on it, but I was ready. All of the money and amenities in the world can’t make the rehab effective if you are not ready to take it seriously. They all followed a Twelve-Step program, and had a basic daily regiment. The biggest difference was the way they looked. The message is the same at 90% of rehabs. What you are paying for is the luxury level of your stay.

7. Have you relapsed? If so, what triggered it, and how did you get back on track?

I have relapsed four times since getting clean. Everybody has different triggers. These can be different songs you listened to when you were getting high, running into old drug buddies, or even current life events. Even now I can drive by an old drug dealer's house and have a temptation, but this passes quickly for me. When I have relapsed, it is because of stress. Because I started at such a young age, I have had to learn how to deal with life in a different way. The truth is, life is full of stressful situations, and most people learn to deal with these events as they mature. I turned to drugs when things didn’t go my way. When I ran into bumps in the road, I fell back on what I knew, getting high. Getting help doesn’t mean that you will never stumble, but it gives you the tools to get back on track if you do.

8. How did you feel about your family when you were using?

I didn't. The truth is when an addict is in active addiction nothing matters except getting to the drug. Family members become obstacles trying to stop you. I never stopped loving my family but I convinced myself that my addiction was none of their business. It is only when you start recovery that you see it. Your mom's smile doesn't quite reach her eyes like it used to. Your little brother no longer looks you in the eye when he speaks. Your dad hides behind his book when you enter the room because he ran out of words a long time ago. The very people who matter most will never be completely whole again - and you did that to them. The weight of this sudden knowledge is indescribable. I believe it is why so many addicts relapse shortly after getting clean.

9. What keeps you sober today?

Everyone uses different methods to stay sober. For some it is going to meetings three times a day. For others it is finding religion. For me, it was retraining my coping mechanisms. I got married and had a child. In a perfect world this would be enough to keep me clean. I thought that if I just loved my family enough, I would stay sober. The sad truth is, if it was that easy no one with a family would get high. I get up everyday and go to work. I go to church once a week. I also go to counseling. I have to keep a routine. Idle time is a ticking time bomb for any addict. As I said earlier, every addict is different. The obvious life changes are staying away from all users, staying busy, changing your surroundings, and finding a program. One of the most important things to remember is not to beat yourself up if you have a craving or even have a momentary relapse. Recovery is about learning how to accept and cope with an illness. As with cancer or diabetes, once you identify the problem, you treat it. It takes many life changes and significant discomfort in the beginning. Once I got over trying to hide and deny my drug addiction, I could start to conquer it. I haven’t cured it. I will always be susceptible to relapse, but today I am sober.

All answers provided by: Still on Probation

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