It’s something you hear about every day. If you turn on the news or look at a newspaper, chances are it won’t be long before you see a story about the opioid epidemic. People are getting addicted to legally prescribed painkillers left and right. Drug cartels are flooding the streets with heroin and kids from the suburbs are picking it up. Drug dealers are using fentanyl imported from China to cut their product, causing their customers to drop like flies. The statistics are alarming: more people than ever are dying of overdoses or being incarcerated for drug-related crimes. Addiction is tearing us apart. America is in the middle of an opioid epidemic.
Of course, I can’t speak to the big picture. What I can speak to is the life I’ve lived and the experiences I’ve had. I am an opioid addict. My story isn’t some tragic one of getting hurt and hooked on the painkillers my doctor prescribed me. I grew up in a good home with a family who loved me. I don’t blame my circumstances for what happened.
When I was a teenager, I started experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and I found I liked them—a lot. It wasn’t long before my free time centered around drinking and getting high and I found myself in a group of friends who liked to do the same. I was having fun and life was good. Unfortunately, addiction caught up with me quickly. Over time, I was using more and more and starting to dip my toes in dangerous waters, experimenting with harder substances. Using wasn’t just what I did for fun anymore—it was simply what I did. Eventually, I was introduced to the drug that would break me—heroin.
My life was already a mess before heroin, but that drug kicked it into overdrive. I burned whatever bridges I had left, spent every cent to my name (and then some), and was facing eviction from my apartment, just to name a few. I watched it tear through the lives of my friends as well. All of their stories were similar to mine—experimenting with different drugs until they finally decided to try the big one. The opioid epidemic stories were proving to be true—at least in my life. I watched the people I know end up in either treatment (which is where I was fortunate enough to land in) or jail.
Obviously, I ended up getting sober, or I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this. Having become part of a recovery community, I’ve met many others with stories like mine. Sadly, many of them have “gone back out,” as we call it in recovery circles. I’ve seen a lot of people relapse, and not all of them make it back in. I’m sorry to say I’ve seen a number of friends pass away from the disease of addiction.
But even more people have gotten sober for good. I can’t tell you how many lives I’ve seen transformed by recovery. It’s incredible to watch someone turn things around and rebuild a life better than it ever was. The opioid epidemic is out there taking lives every day. There’s no doubt about that. But millions of stories of recovery and redemption prove there is hope.