“It is never to late to be who you might have been.”
I grew up in Rolesville, a small town outside of Raleigh, N.C. I had an amazingly supportive and loving family. My siblings and I always got what we needed, and some of what we wanted. To my knowledge, no one else in my family has really suffered from addiction. I am not sure that my disease is genetic; honestly, I am not sure it really matters. But what I do know to be undoubtedly true, there exists in me a void… a source of constant craving. If this void is ignored or left unfulfilled, then I will inevitably begin to repeat the past.
When I was a young teenager, I began to show signs of depression and anxiety. I just remember it being really difficult. At the age of 13, I found a ‘new family’, consisting of punk rock kids, weirdos, and social outcasts. I felt as though I had found my place in the world. I had discovered fun, acceptance, and judgment-free companionship. I had found a place where I belonged, and they welcomed me.
These new friends took joy in breaking the rules and having unrestricted fun. Through these new and exciting relationships, I was introduced to cigarettes, booze, and marijuana. Around the age of 15, a friend offered me a pill before class; I now know it to have been a Percocet. I instantly fell in love with the warm and comforting feeling. Even more amazingly, I found that I was able to get along with everyone, even with those that I would normally never speak. Around this same time, I was prescribed a bottle of liquid codeine for a cough, resulting from a sinus infection. It produced the same warmth and comfort as the pill I had been given. I proceeded to fake sinus infections, milking the excuse for more and more cough syrup. Opiates had become my drug of choice, and I wanted to feel their warmth every single day.
I graduated high school and began attending culinary school; I had developed a passion for cooking. I played bass guitar at the time and had joined a punk rock band. It was not long before I had begun to prioritize my band, social-life, and partying over of my education. This continued throughout my twenties and I eventually dropped out of school…forsaking my culinary passion.
I was drinking, snorting opiates, and occasionally cocaine. I cannot say that all my experiences were horrible or miserable; they were not. I tried to have as much fun as possible, causing as little damage to others as I could. Despite the occasional good time, I had my ups and downs with depression and anxiety throughout those years. It was not long before the fun and games were replaced with self-medicating. My drug use became my primary form of coping with the world. It was the only way I could communicate and socialize. I was hooked and I did not care.
Sometime around 2012, I found heroin and it immediately became the love of my life. I had never felt anything like it. Due to the D.A.R.E. class I taken in fifth grade, I was aware that this drug was one of the “most addictive” substances; yet, I had no clue what it was actually going to do to my life. In addition to already being horrible with money, heroin began to take every single dime. I continued to snort it for two years, finally discovering that intravenous use was much more cost effective and that the drug would ‘hit you harder’. So, I graduated to the I.V. league. I shot dope for a few months until I hit a bottom in early 2015. I was miserable, waking up every day in pain from withdrawals. Eventually, I managed to step away from the needle, although I continued to use other drugs to cope with life.
In May of 2015, my father fell from a 14 foot platform and landed on his head. Luckily, someone found him and called 911. I was the first person at the hospital. My brother arrived afterwards, pulling me aside and telling me that we had to be strong for my mom and sister. My stomach dropped instantly, recognizing that there was only one way for me to be that strong. My dad, the strongest man I had ever known, had suffered a traumatic brain injury and was going to need emergency brain surgery. We, along with many family members, spent the long night praying that he would stabilize. He did, and the next day was placed in a medically induced coma. When I woke up, I immediately called ‘my guy’. After a few months of being heroin-free, I returned to using.
As I continued to use, I began to steal and take advantage of anyone, including friends and family. I was fired from jobs for being a junkie, and most friends stopped wanting to see me. And if they did not, then I began to push them away. By the summer of 2017, I had completely isolated myself and moved into a shed that lay behind a house where I had previously lived. I could now shoot dope at my leisure, knowing that no one would bother me. Eventually, I ended up living out of my car. I prayed for an overdose; one I would not survive. I woke up every day wanting to die, understanding that there was not enough heroin in the world to fill the void inside of me. I was at my lowest point. I was incapable of stopping, but also knowing I could not keep living that way. My story does not consist of a bunch of overdoses and arrests; but rather illustrates my utter and complete misery…broken.
September 10, 2017, I came clean to my mom and asked for help. She helped me find a treatment program, which I ultimately ended up calling home for a whole year. While I was in this program, I began to work the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. I began to realize that my egocentric thinking and selfish actions were at the root of my problem, fueling my drug use.
After leaving the treatment center, I moved into Emmaus House. For the past two years, Emmaus has provided me with a safe space to live, an environment where drugs and alcohol are not present. It has helped me build friendships, strengthening my recovery. Emmaus has given me an opportunity to increasingly become more independent. Recently, I moved into the most independent living situation that Emmaus offers. Now, I live in an apartment with one of my best friends. We met on my first day in treatment and he helped show me the ropes. He has played a huge role in my recovery, and I am grateful that I have been given the opportunity to have such a great roommate. Moving into the new place has helped me begin to repair my credit, as well as putting me back on track with paying bills. It has shown me the importance of remaining responsible while enjoying my life.
Today, I am incredibly grateful for all the opportunities I have been given. I am not going to lie and pretend that life is always peachy. It is hard, and sometimes feels almost impossible. I have learned to trust that things will work out the way they are meant. I have made amends to those I have caused harm and will continue to do so. Also, I have finally realized that something my grandmother told me growing up is true. She said, “When I am feeling low, the best way to feel better about myself is to help someone else.” Today, having learned grandmother’s lesson, I try to be of service to others when they need me. Although anxiety and depression are still very real and present in my life, I am now able to get through troubling days without drugs. I want to walk through hard situations with dignity and grace, practicing acceptance of anything that comes my way. As long as I trust in the recovery process, keep my side of the street clean, and help other folks, I believe I can stay sober. I take comfort in knowing that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.