Inside the Mind of an Opioid Addict

A recovered addict shares his story in hopes of killing the stigma surrounding the deadly disease.

After a huge battle, I reluctantly agreed to go to treatment. It was a 28 day, abstinence-based program. Despite obvious evidence that I had become both an alcoholic and an addict, I still could not admit it to myself. I had lost the power to control my drinking and using, I experienced withdrawal symptoms, and I continued to use after my injury subsided. I believed that I had a problem with prescription pills and that I simply needed to “cut back.” I didn’t believe I was an addict and that I could simply learn to control my drug use. Denial is such a dominant force. It keeps people stagnant and sick. It is paralyzing and a barrier to the necessary process of change.

Following treatment, I relapsed. I do not believe that treatment was a failure- rather, it was a necessary step on my path towards eventual sobriety.

For the next 1.5 years, I was engaged in a brutal and debilitating relapse, in which my daily existence revolved around drugs and alcohol. I continued to dismiss that drugs and alcohol were the roots of my problem. I could not see that they were the very reason my life was in ruins. I was virtually broke and homeless and the consequences only continued to mount. I was emotionally and physically estranged from my family and most of my friends had long since abandoned me. (And rightfully so.)

Addiction is a disease that exists in the brain––it distorts thinking, twists logic and overrides the positive aspects of your personality. It is a disastrous, cunning and baffling disease that can be difficult to understand from an outsider’s perspective truly. Make no mistake, however: addiction is a disease; a disease that robs a person of the ability to choose whether or not to get high.

My life continued to degenerate. I put myself in unsafe situations and did things I swore that I would never do. The entire point of my existence was to use. I was no longer using to get high––I was merely using to function and survive. My world had become so small. Jail and death became real possibilities. I have never felt so lost, hopeless and broken as I did then.

Finally, I had enough. March 19, 2013, is a date that I will never forget––it is my sobriety date. I finally realized that I had reached a point where continuing to use only guaranteed death. I did not want to die, so I decided to live.

Slowly, but surely, I began to piece my life back together. I got a job, I got an apartment, I made new friends. I amassed a great deal of social support and engaged in services (outpatient therapy for example) that I believed would help me maintain a long-term, quality recovery. I became educated on my disease and prioritized my recovery over everything else. Most importantly, I learned to think of my addiction as a disease. I was not a bad person. Rather, I had been a sick person who needed to get well.

It’s been five years and I am better than I have ever been. I have a career, a home and my self-worth. I have my family. I no longer feel the need to fill that internal void with drugs or alcohol; it has disappeared. Getting sober has been, and will always be, the greatest accomplishment of my life. For the first time in a long time, I was able to prove that I loved myself enough to try and get well.

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