An Introduction To An Addict Recovering From Opioid Addiction

My name is Sally and I am a recovering addict. I used to be addicted to opioid painkillers and heroin. Today, I have two years, three months, and eight days clean. I count every single day I have clean because I truly believe that every day I don’t get high is a victory.   

I spent 10 years of my life high – like, every single day; I was loaded. Sometimes I think about how much of my time and money I wasted living in the throes of addiction and it makes me very sad. But, the truth is that the past is gone and there is nothing I can do about it. I try not to spend too much time with regret. I can’t change the past, but I can work hard to create a brighter future for me and my family by staying clean and continuing to work the program of Narcotics Anonymous.

I want to tell you about how my addiction to pain medication led to my addiction to heroin. I think this is an important story to tell because in the wake of the opioid crisis, more and more people are becoming addicted to heroin. It is my understanding that about 64,000 people died from a drug overdose in 2016 and many of these were because of opioids. These are mothers, fathers, family members and friends of beloved people who are left behind to grieve the loss of a life that could have been saved.

If Sharing My Story Saves Lives, It’s All Worth It

I feel like I have a responsibility to share my story, even though I know it is going to make me feel vulnerable. I am still working through the shame and guilt that come with the open admission that I used to abuse heroin. I sometimes have a difficult time coming to terms with the fact that I fell so far from grace and ended up at rock bottom in spite of my best efforts to manage my addiction.

But, if I help one person, it’s worth it. I am willing to put myself out there in the hopes that my story can help someone avoid the pain that I experienced as a result of my addiction. No one should have to suffer the way I did. Opioid addiction is a very real threat to Americans everywhere. What happened to me could happen to anyone.  

If you are addicted to opioids, I hope you will benefit from what I have to say. Your life is at stake and you are worth saving. You deserve to have a beautiful life in recovery. Addiction never gets better – trust me, it only gets worse. So, here goes……………  

A Little Bit Of Background On Me Before My Addiction

Growing up, I was an athlete. You could say I was a tomboy. While other girls were playing with dolls and experimenting with their mother’s makeup, I was only interested in throwing balls around in the backyard with my dad. I would play in the mud – much to my mother’s dismay – and I would catch fireflies and put them in jars. I was never interested in doing “girlie” things.             

I started playing softball when I was about 10-years-old. I joined a league and my coach quickly discovered that I was a natural pitcher. I was fierce. My teammates called me “Strike ‘Em Out Sally.” I loved that nickname and it stayed with me for years. My life became all about softball. It was my first love. I practiced the sport all the way through high school and got a full athletic scholarship to a major university. When I went off to college, everyone in my life had high hopes for my future in athletics – especially me.

During my junior year, I was in a really bad car accident and I smashed my shoulder and my elbow in multiple places. It was my pitching arm. That day changed my life forever – and I never saw it coming. I still wonder how my life would have turned out if that accident hadn’t happened. At that point in my life, I had never taken drugs. For that matter, I only ever had one beer at a party. I didn’t like the way it tasted. I was a straight-laced, straight A student with a 3.9 GPA. I was going places….. and then everything changed.   

How I Got Addicted To Opioid Painkillers

To repair the damage to my shoulder and elbow, I had to have multiple surgeries and wear a full-arm cast for almost a year. I will never forget the day I was told I would have to give up softball. I was devastated. I tried to convince myself that with a lot of dedication and hard work, I would prove the doctor wrong. But, it wasn’t long until I had to accept my diagnosis. My arm was just too damaged and weak.

The doctors started prescribing me painkillers immediately after the car accident and boy, did I need them. I was in excruciating pain all the time. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t get comfortable, and I was miserable. At first, I was prescribed Hydrocodone (also called by its brand name “Vicodin.”) It took the edge off, but it didn’t do much good. They kept upping my dosage, and it still wasn’t relieving the pain.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was already experiencing a full-blown addiction to Hydrocodone. I was getting buzzed off the pills and I liked the way they made me feel. But, I genuinely believed that I was only taking the pills to relieve the pain.

Over Time, My Addiction Continued To Progress

I visited doctors regularly, and completed two years of ongoing physical therapy, but I was still in a lot of pain. So, the doctors took me off Hydrocodone and put me on Oxycodone. In case you don’t know about Oxy, it is some really powerful stuff. I was out of it all the time. But, I loved the way it made me feel and it greatly lessened my pain.

Before long, my addiction was out of control. I was taking twice the amount I was prescribed. I would go to my doctor for more, but she knew I was abusing my medication and wouldn’t give it to me. So, I went doctor shopping. I visited multiple doctors so I could get as many prescriptions as I needed to get me through a month. But, as the opioid epidemic began to sweep the United States, regulations changed and it became very difficult to get painkillers through doctors. They were on to me and they knew I was addicted. They started restricting how much Oxy they would give me.  

So, I started buying my Oxycodone on the street. But, the stuff was like $10 a pill. By this time, I was on disability and living with my mother. I had long since dropped out of school and I had a part-time job as a file clerk. My addiction had taken over and I was spending all my money on pills. I was lying to my family and hiding how bad the addiction had gotten. I was even hiding it from myself. I wasn’t in touch with how bad things had progressed.

From Painkillers To Heroin – How I Got There

One day, I went and bought some Oxy from my dealer. He asked me why I had never tried “brown?” (This is the street name for heroin.) He explained that it was cheaper and better. I was terrified of needles and I told him I wasn’t interested. He explained that I didn’t have to shoot up, I could just sniff the stuff. He gave me a free sample and told me to try it.

I told myself there was no way I was doing heroin, but I kept the sample he gave me anyway. When I ran out of my pills, I remembered that I had it in my purse. Naturally, I was scared. We’ve all heard about how dangerous and addictive heroin can me, but I was getting really sick without my medication, so I sniffed the stuff. It was ecstasy.

It wasn’t long before I was back at the dealer’s house buying some more. And, the truth is – it was cheaper and it was better just like he said. Plus, it was easier to get. I saved a lot of money by switching to heroin and I actually kicked myself that I didn’t do it sooner. I thought, “What’s the big deal?” Heroin and Oxy are basically the same thing. The only difference was that heroin was illegal.

My Rapid Decline – How Heroin Addiction Took Over My Life

By the time I became addicted to heroin, my family was well-aware that I had a problem. They would express their concern, but I wouldn’t listen. My addiction dominated every area of my life. It became my number one priority.

I spent all my money, time, and energy just to catch a buzz. As much as I wanted to stop, I couldn’t. I would promise my family, my friends, and myself I would stop, but I just couldn’t stop. I must have vowed to God a thousand times that I wouldn’t get high again, only to find myself buying heroin the next day. I was in total bondage, shackled in chains of my own making.

Because I was unemployed and living on disability, I started stealing to support my habit. I was even arrested for shoplifting and spent 14 days in jail. I had to go through withdrawal on the nasty concrete floor of the jail with my head in the disgusting stainless-steel toilet everyone else used. The minute I got out of jail, I went and scored.

Finding Recovery After Heroin Addiction

When I got home the day I was released from jail, my entire family was waiting for me with an interventionist from a rehab. Have you ever seen the television show Intervention? It was just like that. At first, I was furious! HOW DARE THEY? But, I listened with an open mind and I ended up sobbing. I knew they were right. My addiction was out of control and I had no hope of ever getting better. I agreed to go to rehab. It was a godsend.

At first, I had to undergo a professional medical detox to get the heroin out of my system. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Yes, I was a little sick, but the medications they gave me helped to control withdrawal symptoms. I stayed at a detox center for a week then I went to an inpatient treatment center. I stayed there for sixty days.

After that, I went to Denver Women’s Recovery for outpatient treatment and they got me into a sober living house. I attended an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for ninety days and stayed in sober living the entire time. I haven’t used heroin or prescription opioids since. I now manage my pain using holistic methods.

Enjoying Ongoing Recovery And Getting My Life Back

I am truly grateful that I am in recovery from opioid addiction. It destroyed my life. I have worked very hard to repair the damage that I caused to my body, my life, and my family. Things still aren’t perfect, but they are a whole lot better than they used to be – and they continue to get better with each passing day. I believe that there are good things on the road ahead.

Recovery isn’t easy. I go to regular 12-Step meetings and I work with a sponsor who shows me how to practice spiritual principles in my life so that I can continue to stay clean. I have urges to get high sometimes and I have to resist those urges. I have to do things I don’t want to do so that I can continue to recover. No, recovery isn’t easy – but it’s worth it.

You Can Find Freedom From Addiction Too

If you are struggling with an addiction to prescription opioids, get help now. You could end up like me and get hooked on heroin. I know you think that would never happen to you, but neither did I. Nevertheless, I went from being a softball superstar to a full-blown junkie in a matter of years. I truly believe if it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone.

If you are addicted to heroin, don’t be ashamed. Don’t let your own guilt stop you from reaching out for help so you can find freedom from active addiction. Don’t give up on yourself. You can find a new way to live. If I did, so can you.

I hope my story helped you. I want you to know that no matter how hopeless you may feel right now, there is hope for a brighter future. Reach out to someone who can help you get better. Make the decision that you are not going to waste one more day of your life in the bondage of addiction. I believe in you!

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