Now in recovery, he offers look at his downward spiral
April 21, 2013 2:00 AM
Dan first smoked marijuana when he was 12 years old. But he didn't like how easily detectable it was, so he turned to prescription pills and heroin
to get high.
Dan, who asked that his real name not be used for this story, is a participant in the Cottage Program at York Hospital in York, Maine, an intensive outpatient rehabilitation program to help recovering addicts. His addiction is to opiates, namely heroin.
Heroin Addiction True Stories
is among the most addictive drugs in the world. Once ingested, it takes over brain functions controlling physical dependence and production of reward sensations in the body. Over time, users can't experience good feelings without heroin, sometimes as soon as after one use of the drug.
"Once you're addicted ... it's number one on your instinctual list of things to do," Dan said. "If you don't have (it), you're pretty much feeling sick, and you have irritable bowels. ... It's pretty much like the flu."
Heroin is a drug that crosses socioeconomic boundaries. Sally Keck, a licensed alcohol and drug counselor at the Cottage Program, said it is not a drug reserved for lower-class citizens and criminals. She said many people get hooked on heroin after they already have become addicted to prescription drugs because heroin is cheaper, more readily available and stronger.
"The patients who we're seeing are not like a stereotype," she said. "We have very young, educated, intact people with socioeconomic advantages."
"In the rich neighborhoods, I've noticed it's almost worse," Dan said.
Dan, a 21-year-old from the Berwick area, said parents may deny heroin is something today's youth have access to, but in his experience, the drug was readily available for those in junior high and high school.
"Almost everybody that sells weed will try to sell something else to make their money," he said. "If they can push that to a kid instead of selling a bag of weed, they will. They reel you in and you don't even know it."
He said a friend offered him some pot when he was 12, but by the time he was 15 he was abusing prescription pills and heroin. He said he was attracted to the harder drugs "because I knew that would get me higher." A perfect example of what heroin addiction
can do to people
"I can honestly say, going into high school, I definitely noticed that heroin was out there," he said. "I remember being a senior and walking in on three kids in a stall and they had their lunch cards on the ground and there were lines of blue Percocets. ... It (was) like, 'Oh, they're doing the same thing I am.'"
He also said that while marijuana has a distinctive smell and caused him to have red eyes, he could easily hide from his parents that he was using pills and heroin.
"Once you're starting to find places to hide it, you know something is wrong," he said. "You get into it so deep to the point where your brain is just like, 'I need the next high.'"
Dan said his life went downhill while he was on heroin, without him even noticing. He said an activity that started for fun became a lifestyle. He found himself dating a "drug partner," a woman who enabled his behavior and joined him in his illicit activities.
"I felt like I was getting addicted full on. I couldn't stop," he said. "I just isolated myself from everybody. I just completely dropped off the face of the earth."
To which Keck said, "People often describe how their world shrinks and gets very small. Addiction is very much an isolating disease."
Dan said that at the lowest point in his addiction, he believed he had two options: "Die or get high." The turning point, he said, was after he went into a comatose state at his drug dealer's house. Instead of calling an ambulance, they gave him a shot of a substance that prevented his body from overdosing completely and returned his heartbeat to normal.
"They were afraid that I was going to die and they knew that if they called the ambulance that cops would come," he said.
Following that incident, Dan checked into detox, started attending group therapy and enrolled in the Cottage Program. He completed a six-week, 18-session Phase I program of intense treatment in group sessions, and is five weeks into Phase II, an 18-week aftercare group that meets once a week for 90 minutes.
"I haven't relapsed yet," he said. "There were times where I was like, 'Oh, my God, I have to get high.' ... When you're first out of detox, you can't sleep for days. I maybe would get 10 minutes of sleep every day. The anxiety was just killing (me)."
Keck said Dan has impressed her in his first few months of recovery. She said many patients relapse at least once due to heroin's addictive pull.
Dan said he knows he has a lifetime of recovery ahead of him. He said he has found group therapy to be the most effective form of therapy, as it has helped him develop a lengthy list of supporters who can help him move forward.
"It's really stuck with you for the rest of your life. Your highest point is when you relapse," he said. "But I have a huge toolbox of good things to use. I threw out my old toolbox of all that dirty crap. Now it's like I have a brand new one, all spiffy and clean and organized."
If you or somebody you know is dealing with the addiction above, and are ready to change your life for the sake of your family, loved ones, and the friends around you, please do not hesitate to give us a call at 888-972- 6619 .
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