What Opioid Addicts Want You to Know About Addiction | Iris

published on July 2, 2020

there's been documentaries and things

that we see on TV if people passed out

in their cars passed out on the side of

the road passed out in a supermarket and

I think the important thing to remember

is that addiction doesn't know skin

color it doesn't know socioeconomic

status it doesn't know who you are what

you do or what your environment is

[Music]

so for my younger teenage years it was

kind of just about whatever I could get

my hands on primarily marijuana pills

and alcohol and when I was about 17 as

when this kind of four year period of my

life takes off alcohol and drugs just

become my primary focus my primary

purpose and kind of everything that my

life revolves around and at that point

is what I'm introduced to cocaine which

in turn introduces me to crack cocaine

which in turn introduces me to heroin

which in turn introduces me to a whole

different lifestyle one of homelessness

and incarceration and you know sex work

and really brings me to a very dark very

hopeless very desperate place it was

about ten days after my thirteenth

birthday I had already stolen a couple

of pills

I was already sort of seeking that way

out I had a boyfriend who was older he

offered heroin and there wasn't really a

decision-making process for me I just

wanted out of my feelings

I didn't start with pills I started with

heroin heroin was my drug of choice my

use began when I was 14 years old it

just progressed until the age of 26 when

I finally got clean growing up I didn't

use or abuse drugs or alcohol but after

my first child was born I was prescribed

percocet for my c-section after I had a

lot of postpartum depression and

postpartum anxiety issues I felt like

the opioids and the benzodiazepines that

I was prescribed were helping me

emotionally as well as physically in the

military everybody drank that was our

way of letting go of any stress from the

day but when I got home from the

military at 24 I started hanging with

people that look like they were having

fun of me so I wanted to join in on the

fun I never felt like I was good with

people I mean now I know it's not truth

but you know then I thought that I

wasn't good with people so to fit in

they were using

bugs it looked like they were having a

ball to me that's what it appeared

that's the setup it looked like it was

fun doctors also put me on due to my

anxiety and depression had put me on

adderall xanax once I found out I could

have used those I did so I was snorting

adderall probably my junior year I also

figured out I could snort a xanax too

and get a greater effect and I started

doing that also at the height of my

addiction I was saying about six doctors

at a time I would see one every month

and then I would come back around so it

didn't look like I was using my

prescription everything that I do and

everything that I am is surrounded

around alcohol and drugs and how am I

going to get it and where am I going to

do it and how am I going to do it with

and what do I have to do to get it just

this very painful dark vicious cycle

completely surrounded around alcohol and

drugs I always worked but none of my

money went towards paying any bills it

went towards maintaining my addiction so

I worried my family a lot for money

it was always asking somebody for money

I could work two jobs and still wouldn't

be enough to maintain my addiction every

day I took a combination of whatever

pills I had whatever pills I had found

or had been prescribed to me

I took opioids like percocet or vicodin

and I took benzodiazepines like out of

an or xanax I felt like I was in control

of the addiction I was going to the

doctor's appointments sometimes even two

in one week two in one day I was making

those things happen I was going through

my friends medicines cabinets and I felt

like the addiction hadn't gotten out of

control because I was still managing it

I really played into the pity party with

my doctors it was well you know I have

this and now this and I just feel

horrible my energy so low and you know

my pain is through the roof and these

medications you have me on and and I

used it my belief is that there really

is no rock bottom the

true definition of rock-bottom is dying

because you can always go deeper even

when I thought that like the

consequences and my lifestyle had gotten

as bad as they could possibly ever get

it could always have gotten worse there

are hundreds of difference of types of

rock bottom's and that what I might

consider a rock bottom might be very

different than what you might consider a

rock bottom things have gotten serious

when my friend's father died and I

raided his medicine cabinet I felt

terrible because she was crying on the

couch and I was most concerned about

where I could find pill bottles in his

house the pills I was taking weren't

strong enough and there weren't enough

of them so I realized that if I was

going to continue being an addict I

needed to find a dealer and I needed to

find harder drugs and that really scared

me my rock bottom I remember being two

weeks into treatment I had a drug dealer

when I went in I had owed him some money

and basically I was supposed to pay him

back for a prescription I was getting

the next thing you know I have a drug

dealer threatening my my daughter that

was not alright I had this addiction

that I'd had on and off for ten years

from pretty much everyone in my life

when I was 23 my fiancee at the time

caught me in the act of using and that's

what prompted me to tell my parents and

they immediately got me into rehab they

were shocked to say the least

they felt guilty they felt confused how

could they have not noticed this or

seeing this you can always go back as a

parent I'm sure and like look back and

like oh I should have seen this or

notice that but at the end of the day I

was very good at hiding it I'd been

arrested a handful of times for all

clearly charges related to my addiction

a petty larceny prostitution drug

possession this arrest was a charge

that's called interference with a

railroad and so what that translates to

was that I was freight train hopping

which is a felony and also very very

dangerous but that was the church that

landed me actually to be incarcerated

for a period

time it wasn't until for me I was in

jail that I was removed for a long

enough period of time through physical

detoxification and some sort of defying

of the brain where I was able to begin

to have some clarity about the need and

the necessity and also some desire for

recovery I kept saying if I don't do

something soon I'll be homeless

so we downtown and I see a lady pushing

a shopping cart and I saw me terrified

because I know that I wouldn't be able

to make it out there living on the

street fear was my great motivator

you're not chasing a high you're looking

to sort of sink beneath all of the

things that you're trying to avoid

whether it's depression whether it's

other mental health issues whether it's

some sort of childhood trauma or just

the shame the inherent shame in being a

drug addict you get caught in sort of

this shame loop or shame cycle and

there's a desire to escape it by just

sort of sinking underneath all of it it

was about looking to get low shame and

guilt is a miserable thing and it grabs

onto you like a cloak I mean you wake up

with it you go to sleep with it except

when you're high cuz your mind is not

pain was my motivating factor for use

and after a while I just didn't want to

go through the withdrawal pain woke me

up in the morning to say get better and

it drives you throughout the day because

my biggest fear was being sick for me I

think it comes from the idea of self

medication for a mental health condition

from a young age feeling separate apart

from not good enough just uncomfortable

and finding alcohol first and then other

drugs pain pills or any prescription

medication and marijuana to kind of take

that away to disassociate to numb myself

a little bit and to just feel better

about myself through the use of those

substances I knew how to keep a smile on

my face but inside I was just a

hurricane you know I was

I was a mess when I was about 8 years

old it was the first time that I stole a

pill I found an expired bottle of

darvocet that I think had been my

grandmother's after a surgery it had a

label on it that said may cause

drowsiness and that's what I wanted I

wanted to be drowsy I wanted to be

asleep I wanted to not feel what I felt

even though I was clearly physically and

mentally addicted to drugs I kind of had

this idea that it was like a middle-aged

man with a trench coat under a bridge

with a bottle

maybe clothes underneath the trench coat

maybe not and because I didn't fit that

stereotype I didn't know that like I

could seek help or that I needed help or

that there was a way out when I was in

rehab I was the only heroin addict and

the thing that I heard time and time

again from other addicts was it was the

one drug they would never touch there's

no moral high-ground from one substance

to the next just because somebody's

addicted to pills that a doctor gave

them it doesn't absolve them of the

stranglehold that addiction has on you

drug addiction looks like me it looks

like you it looks like the person

standing next to you as a stay-at-home

mom I was still taking care of my kids I

took them to the playground we went on

playdates I made dinner almost every

night there are a lot of ways I

justified having an addiction and one of

them was if other moms can drink a glass

or two of wine I can certainly take a

pill or two and I was doing all the

things I needed to be doing and it

looked like I was doing all the things I

needed to be doing I worked every day

it wasn't still it wasn't you know

selling my body and yet the the disease

brings you down physically so you could

put the finest clothes on and you still

look like an addict and my mannerisms

begin to change and I started to change

the disease was just breaking me in

pieces so gradually that I couldn't see

I couldn't see do I look like a heroin

addict what exactly does a heroin addict

look like right you can't say nobody

knows because it's not that person

sitting on the side of the street you

know it's your next-door neighbor it's

you know for teachers it's your student

sitting in your classroom right that's

might come off a little distracted it's

everyone and that's what people really

need to understand you know this cinema

is what counts people it really really

is and a lot of the urban areas opioids

have been prevalent for a long time so

when you talk about it like it's new you

know I'm wondering where they've been

because it's nothing new about the

opioid addiction we waited so long and

now it's a big mess or we could have

caught it when it was just a mess now

it's a gigantic mess the outward picture

of who is affected by addiction has

become white middle-class young people

which has caused there to be some buy-in

from society at large which is

unfortunate because people's Worth and

value should not be based on their

socioeconomic status the color of their

skin and their religion sometimes it's

hard to have a lot of faith in the

government to do the smart thing but

that's what's needed right now

despite anybody's color anything let's

just take care of the problem it and it

can be dealt with it's just it's going

to take a lot of work we all gonna have

to fight a good fight on this one it's

gonna take all of us

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