My name is Jason and I am a heroin addict. When I was 30 years old, after enough pain and when the desperation became great enough, I became willing to follow some suggestions and have not found it necessary to get high in over five years. I come from a great family. I grew up in the Western Suburbs of Chicago and was raised in a loving home. I was afforded most every opportunity to succeed and be happy I could have asked for. However looking back I can see now that there was always something going on inside of me. I was an anxious kid. I was self-conscious. I believe I was born restless, irritable and discontent. I was never truly comfortable being who I was, where I was, doing whatever I was doing. When I discovered pot and alcohol I realized I could change the way I felt. When I was high I felt like I blended in, like I became a part of what everyone else was a part of. So I kept doing it. It seemed to work. When I entered high school I wasn’t an academic or an athlete. I made plenty of friends but didn’t seem to quite fit anywhere completely. I gravitated toward guys who were much like me – guys who smoked pot and drank. Together we discovered other drugs such as LSD but I graduated high school without any serious consequences, but I was just as discontent and uncomfortable on the inside as ever. Shortly after high school I discovered opiates. I felt as if I had found the answer; although at the time I would not have been able to tell anyone there was even a problem. It seemed like all of the other drugs had just been a tease. Opiates gave me a sense of ease and comfort I was not able to find anywhere else. I knew that heroin was a dangerous drug. I had sat in DARE classes and even watched close friends end up hooked and in jail. I looked down on them and said I would never do it. Then when there were no more pills to take that changed. I took a trip with a friend of mine to the west side of Chicago and scored some dope. I was in the grips of a progressive illness and had started down a road that would take me places I had no intention of ever going, with people I had no intention of ever being with, doing things to people I love very much that I had no intention of doing. I was hooked. Two years into my heroin addiction, when I was 22 years old, I took part in a robbery to support my drug habit and was given a five year prison sentence. It was surreal. Here I was a young, white suburban kid from a good family headed off to prison. I was released when I was 26. I thought I was cured. I chalked it all up to being young and stupid. I thought I had grown up. I got out and began to drink heavily. In no time I was back on pills and, just like always – back on dope. The next five years were to be a series of detoxes, rehabs, overdoses, broken relationships and many failed attempts to clean up and get myself together. When I was 30 years old I found myself right back where I was at 22 – in a jail cell again. How had this happened? I had no answer. I was finally out of answers and out of ideas. I honestly did not want to get high and go on living the way I was living. But I didn’t know any other way. I had never been willing to honestly accept the help I had been offered at every treatment center and 12 Step meeting I had been to in the in the last 10 years. But something had changed. Without realizing it and without trying I had surrendered. I decided that the very first day upon my release I was going to find a 12 Step meeting and ask for help. I decided that I was actually going to follow all of the suggestions I was never willing to follow before: finding a sponsor, attending meetings, reading the literature and taking “the steps”, being open to a Higher Power, taking a fearless and honest look at myself, making amends to people I had harmed, paying the money back, sacrificing of myself to help others, starting to pray and meditate. As I began to do these things my life started to change. One day I realized that I actually felt comfortable. I finally seemed to feel the way I wanted to feel all along. I felt okay. I realized that it wasn’t me that had done it. All I had to do was become willing to take some actions that would make room in my life for a Higher Power. I have a relationship with that Power today that does for me what I could never do for myself. I am a good employee, a good brother, a good son and a member of a life giving 12 Step Fellowship. All I had to do was admit that I was defeated, that I was out of options, and be willing to follow suggestions from those who want to help me. Once I did that, I found a new life that I never thought possible for a guy like me. What a gift.
I remember vividly what it was like to be caught in the middle of heroin addiction. The feeling that I was the scum of the earth. The feeling that I was all alone in the world, with no one left to love me. The feeling that I was going to die a painful death and no one would notice. The knowledge that I had opportunities to do something with my life but never took them. That the people I had loved the most were the ones I had hurt the most. Guilt, shame, remorse, fear, loneliness, self pity, confusion, doubt, hopelessness, and worst of all the feeling that I could never escape any of this and much more were a part of my daily life no matter where I was. But little did I know my life would change in miraculous ways! I had been to treatment a few times before, however I did not imagine it would turn out the way it has. Treatment was much like any other time I had been there. They were saying the same things as before, the same counselors were there, and it was all very helpful. But for myself more was needed. After treatment I went to a halfway house, and that’s where the work really started. They helped me learn how to deal with life in the “regular” world. When I lost my job they were there. When a family member was diagnosed with cancer they were there. When I was feeling overwhelmed and scares of how u was going to do un this new life they were there. All of these are things which in the past I would have gotten high over, but I always had a safe place to go back to. There were always people who had an honest desire to see me succeed, and I could ask them for help. They helped me find a recovery community that would teach how to implement the twelve steps into my daily life. At the house I found a sponsor, and actually called him and was honest with him! And that was the beginning of a totally transformed life. Today I am pleased with who I am and with the direction I am heading, have the relationships with my family back, no longer regret or am shameful of my past, can be a reliable worker, have been granted friends who are absolutely amazing, I am able to handle the situations in life that used to get me high, I have a real purpose in life, which is to help others who are just the way I used to be! I sincerely hope that others can find the freedom I have been fortunate enough to find.
As a child I could remember thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up. A lot of things crossed my mind, but being a junkie wasn’t one of them. I grew up in a middle class home with a brother, sister and two amazing parents. I had everything I ever needed and some. My childhood was perfect in my eyes. I played a lot of sports, I had a lot of friends and even had a few girlfriends along the way. My life was pretty consistent until I went to high school. I was still playing sports and had a pretty big group of friends but on the weekends alcohol and marijuana became my best friends. Being an athlete and constantly having pain came along with taking a few sporadic pain pills. At this point in my life I wasn’t abusing the pills. Although, looking back it played a pretty big roll into the start of my addiction. At the age of 16 I was suspended from all sports for minuscule reason, essentially being in the wrong place and the wrong time. This was a huge turning point in my life. I gave up on sports and had nothing but time on my hands. I started partying more often and trying to new drugs. Within three months of getting suspended I tried pretty much every drug besides crack, meth, and heroin. I no longer had the pain from sports but was starting to take oxycontin on a daily basis. Oxycontin gave me the feeling of everything I was looking for in life. It made me feel heroic, it took away my anxiety and fears and I was completely comfortable in my own skin. This went on for about 5 months. My addiction was in full effect and about to get worse. I was drunk at a party and was offered heroin. In a drunken stupor I decided to try it. Again I found exactly what I was looking for. It was cheap, and produced a feeling that was better than anything I had ever imagined. The next 7 years my life was controlled by it. I did it every day and went to extreme measures to get it. I no longer had a care in the world besides getting heroin. There wasn’t anything anyone could do to stop me. I manipulated and stole from those I love most. I overdosed, went to jail multiple times, and even moved across the United States. Nothing worked. Even when I wanted to stop I couldn’t. I was in and out of rehab centers, put on medication and had multiple attempts partaking in Alcoholics Anonymous. No matter how hard I tried to quit I ended up going back to it. I finally ended up in jail for the third time and decided I would give AA a genuine chance. I had to; I was 24 years old and was going to end up dead or locked up for life. After being released from jail I was able to find a safe place to live. A place where drugs or alcohol were not readily available. If I wanted to use, help was offered a few feet away. It played a huge roll in my recovery. The first couple of months were tough but with the help of AA, a sponsor, and a strong support group I was able to get through it. Today I am able to share my experience, strength, and hope with other people who are struggling like I was. It’s not easy being an addict or a family member of an addict. Addiction takes a toll on everyone who is involved. It’s a disease and doctors have no cure for it. The good news is that there is help out there, you just have to put a little effort into finding it. I no longer have to wake up and have addiction control my life – neither should you.
Growing up as a young girl and throughout my teenage years I was sexually molested on a regular basis. I never talked about it to anyone and eventually convinced myself that it didn’t happen. I didn’t show any signs of childhood trauma. Growing up in an average middle class family, life on the exterior looked desirable. I was a good kid, got decent grades, and rarely got into any trouble. In high school I made the varsity cheerleading team as a freshman, and then went further to participate in travel cheer. I was popular in high school and had a close group of girlfriends whom did not use drugs. Life was beyond great but there was always this deep dark secret in the pit of my stomach. My first drug that I tried was alcohol, which I consumed my freshman year of high school at a party. My parents drove some of my friends and I to the party and walked us up to the door in order to ensure that there were parents’ home to chaperone. I can’t say I fell in love with drinking, or even liked it, but I definitely started drinking socially from time to time at parties. I tried smoking pot with a group of my guy friends and loved it. I started to surround myself with people whom enjoyed to get high like myself. Junior year of high school I popped my first pill a Xanax and fell head over heels in love. I have always struggled with anxiety and PTSD from my early childhood trauma and this pill numbed my pain that I had so desperately been trying to push down. The love I had for Xanax walked me in and out of several abusive relationships. My first of a couple abusive relationships lasted almost five years. During those five years I became chemically dependent on Xanax and needed it every day to feel normal. I decided to move into his parents’ home when my Dad changed jobs and moved from Illinois to Ohio. That’s when the physical abuse became unbearable and I was cut off of all positive friendships I had. My life became that of my abuser. I started getting in to trouble with the law and I became a three time convicted felon with no family living in the same state as me. Stuck in the system, trapped in a state where I had no positive influences, lost and deeply depressed at where my life was going. I eventually obtained a legal prescription for Xanax but was still miserable. Court mandated to multiple different intensive outpatients, one inpatient, and a dozen drug classes. But nothing could keep me completely sober and I was legally allowed to drug test positive for benzos and amphetamines because of my prescriptions for Xanax and Adderall. I started to drug test positive for cocaine and opiates. Nothing was ever enough and I was never completely satisfied no matter how many pills I was able to get the doctor to prescribe me. Nothing helped my situation or could numb the pain I felt deep down inside me enough. Until April 16th 2014 when I was arrested for my third felony and ended up in jail for about the tenth time. This time was different, this time I wasn’t getting out. My mom and dad had always bailed me out in the past and I continued to let them down. This time I spent six months in the county jail and experienced a moment of clarity. I cannot pin point when exactly this happened but I had an overwhelming feeling of peace. I no longer had to worry about where I would go if my boyfriend decided to beat on me. All my belongings were in my cell and I didn’t have to worry about anyone throwing them around. I no longer felt the anxiety I felt tip toeing around the chaos and abuse. To think that in the darkest place I found pure joy still baffles me. During those six months I fought for another chance, any alternative to prison, which is what the judge was trying to sentence me to. My plan was to go the halfway house and then move to Ohio with my parents, to play the game and cheat the system as I have always done. But after about a month of living in a halfway house things changed. I made real genuine friends that became part of my support system. I got a job and was held accountable for my actions by the structured living environment that a halfway house provides. The halfway house was different from treatment in the past because I was not prescribed any controlled substances. I never thought sobriety and a life in recovery was ever something that I would desire to be, I was perfectly content with being prescribed Xanax for the rest of my life. I used to accept the fact that I was going to let a little pill control the rest of my life. But being at the halfway house I lost all interest in anything to do with drugs or alcohol. I had a tremendously helpful counselor and was able to talk about and work through my childhood trauma for the first time ever in my life. The structure of sober living saved my life and has kept me sober for almost two years today. There is hope..