From the Mouth of an Addict
In this blog post, I sat down with Nicole. Nicole was an IV drug user who is 6 months clean from her last relapse. I felt honoured that she was willing to not only share her story with me, but with you as well. In order for us to reduce drug abuse and help people recover, we must listen to those who have battled addiction. This interview is raw and I hope that you learn as much as I did.
Describe your upbringing?
My upbringing was very good. Both of my parents are together. I grew up with one younger sister and one younger brother. I was the oldest child of three. My mother was the stay at home mother and the one who raised all of us. My father was the one who worked to make the income. I grew up in a very small town. Been there my whole life. I don't have much to say about it except my parents did their very best in raising me and teaching me what was right and what was wrong.
How old were you when you first used a drug?
I was 14 years old when I tried my very first drug. The first drug I tried was marihuana. I didn't like the high and didn't like the fact that I got the munchies really bad and laughed my butt off until my ribs hurt. After that first try, I never touched it until I was well off in my late 20's again.
What was the first drug you began abusing?
My very first drug I abused was dilaudid (morphine) by IV, which means using a needle and injecting the drug into my veins. I became addicted to morphine and any form of it.
What made you want to try the drug?
I was with the father of my two children at the time and I met him when he was in the progress of becoming sober off the drugs. Eventually into the relationship he relapsed and was using again. I thought to myself “what was so good about shooting up this so called drug?” One day I went up to him and told him to hit me, meaning give me shot and he did and that was the one that made my life a living hell.
What was it like when you first started abusing Morphine?
When I got high it made me feel invincible. I could do anything. Any problems I was facing, didn’t bother me one bit. It made my whole body relaxed and it numbed any feeling I was feeling. In the beginning, being an addict is all fun and games. Getting high as much as you can. Each time you get higher and higher. At first, you're doing the drug once in awhile but then it starts to be once or twice a week and then bang all of a sudden it's everyday. This is when the fun stops and it becomes a game of survival.
Was the drug providing you with something more than a high?
Yes it was. It made me feel like I was on top of the world. That no one could ever touch me and the drug gave me energy. That energy made my day go by smooth. I could go to work without feeling tired and I could deal with my children and clean my house.
How did you afford your habit?
If you can't find the money, you need to figure out which dealer is going to cuff you a pill until you can pay him back. Getting cuffed from you dealer is just going to help you for now. You’ve got to find a way to get money fast so you can get enough pills to survive on so you won't get dope sick. Next you start stealing money from family and friends. Once you get caught stealing money from them, you start thinking and panicking; "damn where can I get money now for my fix”. Then you remember hearing from other addicts that they were stealing stuff from businesses like grocery stores, clothing stores and any other store that you can steal from. A light bulb goes off in your head and next thing you know you’re one of those addicts that are stealing stuff to help finance your drug addiction. The first time you steal, you're nervous and scared, thinking to yourself “what happens if I get caught?” It’s intense! Your adrenaline is just pumping through your body! After stealing the item, you think, “this is a piece a cake. I never got caught.” You then take the item you stole and figure out how to get the money for it and bang, you got yourself pills to keep from being dope sick.
Eventually a person gets tired of this life style. Stealing every day just to keep from being dope sick. No amount of pills will stop you from being dope sick. The addiction to the opiate will win over your mind and body. You will eventually get caught stealing and end up going to jail. Get a criminal record. Other people have turned to prostitution just help survive their every day battle. The addiction will, over time, eat at you day and night. It's a war between you and the drug. Your mind and body keeps telling you "You can't do nothing unless you got that fix". That's how your life goes until you go get the help that you need.
Where are you at now in your journey of addiction?
Right now I'm glad to say I'm a recovering IV opiate drug user. I used opiate drugs on and off for over 10 years now. I can tell you it does get easier once you except yourself as an addict and not be in denial about it.The only way you can stop doing your choice of drug is by you wanting to quit. To be honest, you quitting just because your family, your friends or your partner asks you too, your not going to quit. I went to numerous detox centres and rehabs because my family and my partner wanted me to, who, by the way, introduce me into this wonderful world of drugs. I basically went to get them to stop nagging at me.
My partner of the time told me if I didn't go to detox then rehab he's not going to marry me. To this day, I think I was so stupid in believing he would marry me because how would that work? I go get cleaned up and him still out and about getting high but at that time I just did it so I wouldn't lose him. With all the detox centres I went to and rehabs I still never quit using opiates. I left rehabs early or I was kicked out due to using opiates. Detox centres and rehabs aren't going to work unless you are ready to quit the life style you’re living.
By the time I finally did quit, I relapsed millions of times. In recovery a person will relapse numerous times until one day recovery does work for you. I have been sober now for around 6 months and I'm so happy I quit. I was sober for 2 and half years until I relapsed. This relapse was different. I was never in denial. Once I realized I was slipping, I phoned my mother and was honest with her and told her what I did. I quickly phoned and set up an appointment with an addictions worker to start getting the help I needed. To this day I'm still sober and happy I am. You can stop using drugs. It's not going to be easy but I was always told it's mind over matter. You’ve got to stay positive through the whole detoxing process. That's what going to help you through it. It's one day at a time.
Why do you think you relapsed?
I relapsed so many times I couldn't count them all on my hands and toes. I relapsed because I thought I could hang around with my old using friends and I wouldn't relapse but guess again, I was so wrong. Another reason was dealing with an abusive relationship which pushed me to use because I can't handle stress to well. My easy way out when I get put into situations I don't want to deal with is using drugs so it can numb the feelings I'm having and hope it will all go away.
Is there an underlying issue that has not yet been dealt with that could be contributing to your relapse? (I.e. childhood trauma, abuse etc)?
Of course! Everyone has an issue that they haven't dealt with that sometimes pushes them to the point to relapse. Some addicts in recovery deal with it right away and some don't want to talk or deal with whatever issue. I think the reason why, and don't quote me on this, is if they relapse, they can use their issue as an excuse to go use.
What needs to happen for someone to stop abusing drugs?
Everyone has their own way of stopping. The thing that mostly seems to work on people is hitting rock bottom. Losing everything they have in life: their children, their partner, their family and friends, their house, no one having anything to do with you and not help you out at all. For me, it was realizing that next for me is jail or death.
What are services and supports that you wish you had access to?
To be honest, I had access to addiction counsellors, AA or NA meetings and people who had several years of sobriety and I chose not to get the help I need because I wasn't ready to quit the drugs and clean up. If you’re not ready to quit, going to these things aren't going to work.
How should society deal with people who are addicts?
Treat us like you would treat anyone else you’re around. Us addicts aren't demons from hell. We are human beings that lost our way. Yes at a point in an addicts life, we can't be trusted around valuables or anything. Other than that we are people who need to be guided back to normal and not treated like crap. You wouldn't want to be treated that way, so us addicts to don't deserve it either. We deserve respect just like anyone else.
How can society aid in recovery?
Society can just be patient with us addicts. Eventually we will be the ones who decide when we are ready to quit and get sober. By pushing addicts, it's just going to push them farther into their addictions until the drugs kill them. Society can help by listening to us, addicts about our addiction to the drug. Offering the addict rides to meetings or to their addictions meeting or to detox and after not forgetting about them. Staying in touch with them. Trust me, as a recovering addict, we love the people who helped us get to sobriety and were still there in the aftermath. We need that encouragement no matter what. Because if society keeps ignoring the fact that an addict is just a person, and the addiction is a disease just like MS, Arthritis etc, the addict is going to go to the point until it's too late and kill themselves.