Opioid Abuse: When Pain Relief Morphs Into Addiction

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I started getting like a little blue, like I could feel like my throat kind of constricting and stuff. I was laying in the floor, the whole scene, man, the needle hanging out of the arm. I mean, it just didn't look good. I was aspirating.

My friends, when I woke up, had told me that they had to give me mouth to mouth and stuff, because I wasn't really being responsive. They tried the ice bath. I mean, they tried resuscitating me. I mean, they tried a lot of different things, and I just wasn't responding.

They called 911. I woke up. I think, it was couple of days after the fact. And I can remember, man, it was a trippy scene. I saw my daughter's mother, her mom, mom's boyfriend, and my mom and dad, the grandmother. I mean, it was just like, dude. And really, in my mind, like it was like, dang, dude, I got caught. I got caught. This was one of those real surreal moments for me.

It wasn't recovery. Recovery wasn't the first thing on my mind. It wasn't like, I've got to get my life together. It was, I need to go get high again, dude, because I feel like crap.

My first interaction with opioids, first encounter with any mood-altering chemicals really, I was 12 years old. I was just skating around the driveway. And I broke my arm, had an accident. And they rushed me to a local hospital.

They hit me with morphine. It was like, whew. Like it hit me. And I liked the way it made me feel. It just made the noise go away.

After the hospital, they sent me home with Tylenol 3. I can remember kind of manipulating my mom and just saying, just telling her like, man, it hurts, knowing like I had a four-hour window before I could get another pill. But she didn't know. And it was the first time anything had happened like that for me or my brother. So she gave it to me.

In the beginning, like pills just seemed less like abrasive. It's like I'm using like Percocets and hydrocodone, but I'm not like doing Oxycontin.

I had to hang out with people that were doing just a little bit like worse than I was, in terms of like using intravenously, or they were stealing some things from their parents. So I kept like justifying every time I used that I wasn't doing it like that, or I wasn't doing it like them.

I had picked up this compulsion to like continue to use like everyday as frequently as I could, taking Adderall to kind of like stay awake, back on roxies mixed with benzos. Pharmaceuticals were extremely expensive.

Heroin was just much cheaper than pharmaceuticals were. So it was like, I mean, why not? They're the same family. You know what I mean? It's not like I was just like, oh, let's just go to heroin, like that's just because I want to do it. It was just because it was easier.

At this point, I'm waking up at 5 o'clock in the morning shaking. And I can remember feeling depressed, like irritable. I was full of anxiety. My face was twitching. I was a little shaky. And I just knew I didn't feel good.

That was my first experience with withdrawals. This tape just keeps like playing over and over again with like, you need to do something now to change the way you feel. I was feeling alone. And I felt like nobody could understand me and what was going on with me.

I was finding myself in more treatment centers, residential sober living environments. I was finding myself in and out of jail. And then it occurred to me that my disorder was really starting to progress. It was either recovery or it wasn't.

So now I am a recovery coach for the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse. In the same hospital where I experienced my overdose, I get the opportunity to be there for others that are just waking up from an overdose.

I get to experience what it was like for me like on a regular basis and just how hard it was. And really like it strengthens my own recovery. To have walked through what I've had to walk through and still be here, I am so much more grateful for my life now than I ever was back at 17. For that, I am grateful.