PHIL

“I grew up in the peace, love, drug era of the 60’s. I was attracted to that lifestyle but too young to take part. In the 70’s I began my road to recovery, it took 22 years to reach it, but the path was the one I chose. I began with my first buzz on alcohol, having parents that drank, growing up in the projects where Summer nights meant sitting on the steps, beer and butts in hand. It was what I thought to be normal. So that first drink was waiting for long before it was offered, personally I was happy with the after effects, throwing up and feelinglike crap the next day just was attractive to me. What I saw on TV and read in LIFE magazine was, that hippy lifestyle: free love but more important DRUGS.

So my journey began. Smoked my first weed in 72, didn’t see anything different the first time. When I later bought my own stash and smoked it all I found I loved being totaled more than “catching a buzz”. I began to dabble in speed, loved it, more more more please! I came to the point where I realized I was doing too much and I decided to stop, you see I was in control. I did stop and found other toys to play with along with my pot smoking, acid, thc and of course whatever you offered me.

Growing up in the projects I knew the junkies. I knew them as kids and now knew them in the grips. I use to supply them with plastic cups of water, at a dollar a cup of course, then hang with them as they shot the dope. They all had the same thing to tell me “don’t get into this crap, it will kill you”. I listened to that advice I never shot dope. In the late 70’s when coke was “the thing” I did shoot that, but in the back of my hand, I justified only junkies main line. I went the road of dealing, I loved the power and the bennys like women doing whatever I wanted for a freebee, the money was good too.

The police on the other hand had a different view, they didn’t like my operation and in 1980 they visited and I left in handcuffs.I went through the process, “Phil give us names, we can make it easier on you”. I was 110 pounds soaking wet 23 year old, but my brain still worked. I was doing business with a biker club, the cops could give me less time, if I ratted they club would give me no time. I took my chances with the justice system. The day came where I stood before the judge, he asked how I pleaded and I said not guilty sir, my lawyer whispered in my ear, plead guilty. Hey I was paying this guy almost $400, he must knew what he’s doing. I changed my plead to guilty, the judge asked me to approach his bench, he asked if I understood with all the charges I was looking at 53 years in a federal Prison? I told yes sir, I understand. He gave me two years of probation. I wish I understood my disease got me there, standing in front of a judge pleading guilty to 53 years of charges, but I couldn’t see the forest through all those damn tress. I just decided to keep a low profile.

Within a year I found a nice quiet job as a custodian at a local college. I kept myself on the weed program and out of site, no bars, no dealing. I met a guy who started the same day I did, he would give me a ride home now and then, it was like a mile from campus, he’d always say let hit the bar. I tell him no thanks. One night he drove to the bar, he shut off the car and sit you can sit here until closing or come in, your choice and he got out. I wish I took option one, I’ve learned in recovery we have choices but back then I be damned if I was sitting in the car like a dog waiting for his master to go buy milk.

In the bar I grabbed a booth got a drink and decided to wait it out. Somehow I found the girl sitting next to me showing me pictures of her family, I pretended to show interest but I could have cared less. My buddy was talking with her friend, he suggested we hit another bar, I was like “damn no” in my mind, but there was this girl and it had been awhile….off to the next bar we went, I with her, he with her friend. It ended up as I hope, me at home in bed, this girl at the bar with me. She left after a couple of hours and I chalked it up to a good night but not going to bars again.

A couple of days later I worked a 12 hour shift, I came home beat, I showered and went to bed, I don’t know how long I was sleeping when knocking on the door woke me. I answered the door it was the girl from the bar. I invited her in and we ended up back in my bed room…..she was pregnant within a month we were married within 3 months. Life of addiction, it takes us places we never wanted to go.

In December of 91 my daughter was 8 or 9 years old, my wife only drank now and then and I was still getting high, our marriage was a mess but I loved my daughter and hung in there. I decided that since I had the power to stop the speed as a kid I could put the brakes on the weed and coke, so I vowed to no longer use as of January 1, 1992. I partied like a kid with the parents out of town all month. New Years day 92 I had a rude awakening, I couldn’t stop. Everyone in the program knows that date they used/drank for the last time, none of know the date we crossed over from having fun to being addicted.

In March I decided I had enough, I went to something we use to have on every corner, a payphone I called six detoxes and convinced all six how they couldn’t help me. You see desperation was making the call, my addiction was doing the talking. I called my wife, I said here it is, I have a problem with drugs find me help tonight when I get home from work or I’ll never ask again. I hung up the phone and went back to work. That evening i came home to a phone number, I called it and whoever i talked with was as good as me at playing the game, every word I said he had an answer for. I ended up agreeing to go to an intake the following Wednesday. That was a Friday and I woke up Saturday one pissed off addict. I went to work, I told my boss I was off the overtime list. He said I understood it takes effect the day after submission and he had two hours of OT for me. I used my anger to do the extra work and get back in 8 hours. A victory to me, there was no way I was working over time and giving my wife that money, that was my using money, I stop using I stop working it. My boss said I’m so happy tour back in 8 I have a 4 hour job for you, that was it. None of this not getting high stuff, I called my younger brother and asked to drop by (code for get high). He said come on over, I went from Mr. Angry to happy and joyous, just knowing the substance was coming was enough.

I got high that Saturday and lasted until Tuesday, withdrawing sucked out loud. My older Brother drove by and asked for my younger Brother’s number, I told him I wasn’t giving it to him, we were going there. It was March 31,1992 at Noon and I told myself it was the last time I was doing this. I found NA through that out patient program and I celebrated 20 years clean April 1, 2012. Recovery can work, but you have to want, each day I wake up and I want it more than going back.

Today again, I choose recovery.”

Beth

“My name is Beth and I’m in recovery. December 2, 2008 I used meth the last time and pray daily it was my last time. I’ve been asked several times, why at 31, self employed very profitable business, two beautiful daughters 7 and 12, three bedroom home, new sports car and stable relationships with my family and some great friend I would ever try meth? Why? Because it was offered to me. Because I had recently gone through a divorce. Because I was dating a drug user and tried to keep up with his life style for almost six months. Because my self esteem had always suffered.


Why my self esteem had never been good is still a question I ask myself daily. If I ever figure that one out I will be rich. All addicts suffer with low self esteem. That’s why most of us ever use. The drugs gave us a self esteem even if it was a false sense.  We finally fit in and have a whole new set of friends, or so we think they are our friends.


October 30, 2003  I went to a party in my apartment complex and was handed a small wad of toilet paper. I asked what it was and was told meth.


I asked if it would make me throw up and was told no. Then I ask how it would make me feel. I was told “good. You will have energy and be really happy” So, just like that I swallowed the wafer, or wad of toilet paper with crystal meth inside. I went upstairs to my sleeping boyfriend and said “Tina said take this and get to the party”  He immediately jumped up, snorted the meth and began to get ready. A few minutes later I began to feel the effects of meth. My boyfriend looked at me and said “You took some didn’t you?” I replied “Yes” The words he spoke to me I will never forget. He said “You just f****d your life up. In a year you won’t have anything. You will loose your house, your car, your business and will never want to see your daughters”  I replied “I can handle it” He laughed and said “No you can’t!! It’s meth.”

They say if you try meth once you might be able to walk away from it. Try it twice and you’re addicted. From that night on until December 2, 2008 I used daily. Unless I was sleeping which wasn’t often, or in jail, I used and I used a lot. Less than a year later I had lost my 3 bedroom home and was living with my mom. My car had been wrecked due to driving drunk and then repossessed. I lost all my clientele and I made up excuse after excuse why I couldn’t be with my daughters. I remember one night my youngest clinging to my leg begging me not to leave. It was 10:00 at night and my girls were in tears, screaming for me to please stay home and sleep with them. But I couldn’t. I had to go chase the sack. I physically pushed my daughter off my leg she was clinging to. The hell I put family through is heart breaking to think about. I remember bragging saying “I do drugs, they don’t do me” I was never so wrong!! Meth did me in.

I just used for 9 months. Soon I had to find a way to pay for my increasing habit. So, like most addicts I began to sell. The next five years were a blur. Using, selling, sex with anyone I wanted and anyone that would make my boyfriend jealous. Insanity. Morals and dignity slipping away. I soon just didn’t care, and when you don’t care you’re a very dangerous person.


So many times I feel asleep driving, had guns pulled on me, I walked in to dope

house and hotel rooms alone with bags full of dope and wads of cash, a target to be robbed, raped and killed. I went from bad boys to extremely dangerous men. I thought I ruled the world. I had the dope, the money, the men, and people jumped when I said jump, if they wanted their dope.

I lost cars, time, memories, clothes, jewelry and my clean record. I was arrested time and time again. I was given chance after chance to change. After each arrest I thought I could be slicker than the Feds and city cops.


I found myself facing life in prison with Federal charges. I had sold to an under cover ATF agent. They had busted me with an accumulative amount of 24 pounds of meth. And my “friends” had ratted me out. The state was pressing charges of trafficking and on top of all that I was pregnant.
I had gotten pregnant and had a miscarriage in November of 2005, that was the best thing for my unborn child. I was using and selling big time and had yet to be caught. That baby would have been born addicted and the state taken it away at birth. I was hoping I would miscarry with this pregnancy as well. Two and half months into the pregnancy I sat in a hotel room with who I thought was my baby’s daddy best friend. Truth is I had no clue who the dad was. It was between two men I had been in a relationship with, one for four years and the other just over a year.

Anyway, I had decided it would be best if I tried to have a drug induced miscarriage. We loaded two syringes with over a gram of dope. We each found a vein on each arm and shot it up knowing it would kill the baby inside me and might even kill me. I was okay with both of those happening.


What happened was I threw up and was higher than I had ever been for about three days. No spotting, no cramping, nothing. One night in November my long term boyfriend and I got into a fight. He was angry I was using dope while pregnant. He was scared because the Feds were breathing down his back. I had been arrested again and had my brand new Charger impounded and $7,000 taken away when I was arrested. I was on his couch with nothing and I was putting a damper on his sex life. He told me I had to go. He was sick of me and no longer loved me. I was sick and he hated who I had become. A junkie was sick and embarrassed of another junkie?
I knew what laid ahead of me-prison for life.  I knew what I had become to my family already-dead. I was never around and avoided their phone calls. They went weeks and weeks not knowing if I was dead or alive. I thought my girls would be better off without me. They needed a step mom who would love them and actually be a part of their lives. This baby didn’t deserve to be born in prison and be another child of the system. I had lost all hope. So I wrote a good bye letter to my boyfriend asking him to tell my family goodbye. And I texted him and said I had taken all the pain pills I could find and apologized if when I died I left a mess in the bed. I took the pills, called my dog up on the bed beside me and fell asleep. I woke up in the back of an ambulance sitting in front of my house with charcoal being poured down my throat. IV’s in and oxygen on. I looked out the window and saw a car pull in my driveway. A girl got out, my boyfriend went to get her and they went inside our house. That feeling…he already had a chick in our bed and he didn’t know if I was going to live or die.


After they got me stable they admitted me to the behavioral medicine unit across the street the “nut house” I found out the next day the baby had survived and it was a healthy perfect little girl. I looked up at the ceiling and asked God “Why?” A week later I got to leave. My boyfriend picked me up and took me to my moms. She insisted I go to treatment. I sit in her bathtub with a syringe full of the last little bit of meth I had. My arms were so bruised and had knots all over them from times I had missed my vein. My veins were shot. But by God I was going to find one somewhere. The water became cold and full of blood. The syringe had more blood than dope and I knew when I finally found a vein the dope would be so diluted I wouldn’t be able to get high off it but because of my insanity I kept trying. I remember looking down at my pregnant belly, sitting in cold bloody water and every so often a rippled would flow through the water when the baby would kick. Tears falling and hitting stomach. I was sick and tired and hated myself still. I was too sick to live and too weak to stop getting high.


I slept the next two days solid. I woke up and had convinced my mom to let me take her car to go get a new drivers license but in reality I was going to my boyfriends and getting high. Before I could get off the couch the doorbell rang. It was the Feds. They were looking for me. I yelled across the living room for them to come back with a warrant. I smoked a cigarette and jumped in the shower and waited.

My 17 year old did something that day she never did, she came home for lunch to see her mom. For once she knew where I was. When she turned on to her Nana’s street, there were over 30 police, ATF, US Marshall, Drug Task Force, FBI and Sheriff cars lined up on the street. She thought I had finally succeeded in killing myself. She walked in to witness her mom with 5 guns pointed at her head. I stayed in jail till only by the grace of God I was allowed to go to rehab. On April 6, 2009. Three and a half months clean my third daughter was born. Healthy, perfect and her two big sisters in the room. I graduated rehab October 7, 2009. On December 15 I was sentenced. My attorney, the Federal DA and the judge had meet the day before and all signed for me to do three years. I was to leave the courtroom and go to prison.


Let me back up to August 17, 2009 God spoke to me. I had been praying every chance I got since coming to rehab that God please please let me stay out of prison. I begged Him to let me raise my girls. I lived each moment in fear of loosing my girls when I went to prison. I was not enjoying life. I was imprisoned in my own thoughts. So August 17 I was on pass at church. I took my baby to the nursing room and began to pray while she nursed. The same prayer begging God not to send me to prison. And after I finished praying I felt Him walk in the room, walk across the room and sit in the rocking chair beside me. He said these things to me “Beth relax. You’re not going to prison. I’ve kept you in rehab this long so you can get recovery. Be patient with me it’s almost over."


At that moment my entire world changed. I began to really live. I told everyone I wasn’t going to prison because God had spoken to me. I loved each moment  with my kids and didn’t fear not having them. My prison walls had crumbled. So when my attorney called me the day before I was to be sentenced and said they had signed for me to do three years my world crumbled. I had to go home and tell me girls I was going to prison the next day. I had to look them in the eye and apologize for screwing their lives up. I told them I wished I was dead because that would be less embarrassing than having to tell their friends their mom was in prison for drugs. My oldest daughter who was now 18 was going to take over guardianship of my baby. My middle daughter asked me if I was a liar. I said I try hard not to be these days. She then said “well you said God told you you weren’t going to prison”. She was right!!

I got the elders and ministers together from my church and we prayed for hours. One elder said for the judge to have a sleepless night. One prayed that this be the hardest case he had ever had to render and another for him to be in turmoil about what to do with me. There had been over 70 letters written to the judge on my behalf and the courtroom was packed. There were over 50 people inside and people in hall way including my 13 year old and my 9 month old daughter. My oldest was on the front row, waiting for her mother to be sentenced. They is something NO child should ever have to do. The judge walked out of his chambers and called me to the bench. The first words out of his mouth were these “I didn’t sleep last night. I was in turmoil about what to do with you Ms Pearson. In my 25 years of being a Judge I’ve never had a case this hard to render” I turned around and everyone who had been in the prayer session the night before all had their jaws dropped. Exactly what was prayed for was spoken.


I walked out of the courtroom with five years probation and six months of house arrest. God is good!!

My little girl is six and perfect. She told me right after her fourth birthday something that to this day still gives me chills. She said out of the blue one morning while waiting for her Mother’s Day Out program to open “mom I saw God” I imagine she has seen lots of pictures of Him since we never miss church and Bible class and so I asked if she saw His picture at church? She said “No I saw Him when I was in your tummy, He came inside your tummy twice. He has really big arms. He held me and said He loved me and that everything was going to be ok. I asked Him who He was and He said God”

That story blew me away  and still does!! If ever God was to intervene in her life it was twice. Once when I tried to have a drug induced miscarriage and once when I attempted suicide. God is alive and very active in an addicts life! I put the same energy and effort into my recovery as I did my using. I learned to truly love myself. That same mirror I once did lines of dope off of, I today look in and love the woman staring back. I’m happily married to the answer to my prayers. We said I do on December 7, 2012 in front of over 400 friend & family. I received a letter from the United States Probation Offices congratulating me on successfully completing my probation. I wrote a thank you letter to my Judge thanking him for his mercy and told him all I had done to better myself and all I was blessed to witness the past 5 years. College, marriage, my daughters High School graduation & her college, proms. I told him I had the honor of being the keynote speaker at the 4th annual meth awareness rally in Bakersfield, California in 2014. I also got to travel to Del Ray Beach, Florida and speak at a huge recovery gala and be filmed. I’ve been interviewed twice by local news stations on meth stories. I have a published poem I wrote about meth, I also have traveled all over Oklahoma speaking at various Celebrate Recovery meetings and NA and AA meetings. I’m writing a book and have had part of my story published in a book called Breaking chains.


In April of this year my husband, my oldest 2 daughters & my 2 step daughters got to witness my 4th perfect daughter into this world.


I’ve been clean almost 2 years longer than I used, I attend meeting regularly and have a sponsor. I sponsor other girls and have a strong relationship with God and my family. I’ve been forgiven and am trusted. My oldest daughter told me I was her hero while still in rehab. I’m my middle daughters best friend and all my girls are my rock. I put them through hell but they have seen the power of prayer and that recovery does work.


I now have the answer to my “Why?” I asked God after finding out my baby was perfect. My “Why” is a life free of meth. Days spent with my family and something to be grateful for each day. And as I write this it’s been  6 years, 10 months, but who’s counting??”

John

“It was difficult to measure success in my life at one time. I thought that if I had enough dope to make it for a few days, then that was being successful. Today my success is measured by how well I’m doing inside, how I’ve managed or not, to apply spiritual principles to all my affairs.

I first came into contact with alcohol at age 4, a small half of a shot of wine, like the adults. Sips of my dad’s beer at times. I began smoking, or faking smoking, cigarettes at age 5. I remember getting caught at age 8-9 smoking, got ratted out by the very kids I was smoking with. I was addicted to sugar long before anything else, but it was just a sign of things to come. My first memory of that was standing on a kitchen chair at about 3-4 trying to make toast and put a ton of sugar on it, you know, piled higher and deeper. This was how the rest of my substance use would look like. I started stealing wine from home, cutting it with grape juice to cut the bitter taste, and taking it to school to drink with my buddies. They in turn would do the same. I remember breaking into a home and finding a bottle of Canadian Mist Bourbon, awful tasting stuff, but nonetheless, drank some, finding it really did change how I felt, thought, and acted. It wasn’t really to my liking though, but when I found Marijuana, oh it was much more manageable. Little did I know that I would spend the next 25 years chasing down a high in one form or another.

I chased my high all across the country, even hitch-hiked across America, taking Greyhound, jumping freight trains, and getting random rides from strangers. If I wrote a book about it, it would really read like a Hunter S. Thompson novel met Stephen King I think, both odd and scary. I went through phases in my use, periods where I drank more alcohol, smoked more weed, smoked and snorted more cocaine, took LSD, shot Methamphetamine, and even grew psychedelic mushrooms. I got arrested during the time I was addicted to Methamphetamine. I was praying to God one day that He would get me out the circumstances I was in, knowing I couldn’t get away from the Meth without help. So a buddy and I took off to go to Mexico to live on the beach, eat steak and lobster and live like kings. After all, we had a bag of about 3 pounds of trimmed leaves that we could sell and live on the money we made in Mexico where it was cheap to live (1986). (As you can see, magical thinking was a part of my addiction story). Long story short, we had left where we were, my Honda motorcycle in the back of his truck, headed to San Diego from Northern California. We didn’t have any gas money, so we decided to go to the Calaveras County Frog Jumps and sell some weed because it was before harvest and no one had any weed. I ended up getting arrested by an undercover police officer, while my friend got away by diving through a barbed wire fence and never got caught.

I spent a week in jail and was released on my OR with a promise to return to court in 2 weeks. I promised I would be back, little did I know, it would be 12 years before I returned. I left for Hawaii, where I had lived for a few years just prior to moving back to Northern California. I spent the next few years over there, even got on National Television Good Morning America, as a tour guide. Hard to believe I did that, knowing I had a warrant in California, but when in active addiction, good decision making isn’t usually happening. In Hawaii, I eventually put myself into treatment, spent 90 days in a crisis residential program, got therapy outside the program, was introduced to NA and AA, NA being my program of choice. I stayed clean a couple of months after leaving the program. I didn’t change all the things I needed to change, mostly my playgrounds and playmates. I went back to my tour guide job and eventually went back to using. It took another 8 years of wreckage to finally get back to recovery. I got hooked up with a some Deadheads, did summer tour in 91.92.93, and 94 all in the west, never went back east. Started growing mushrooms, selling weed, all the kinds of things one does to make money to support a large habit of smoking weed and drinking beer daily.

I met some great people, had some great times. I was with a girl for a short time, whom I met up with after coming back from Hawaii in 91, we got together again for a short time in 96, and as a result I have a son, who just recently had to get clean from his opiate addiction. The relationship with his mother didn’t work out for many reasons, mostly because God had other plans for me I guess. I moved from Salt Lake City where I had met his mother, and after Jerry Garcia died, found myself in Northern California again growing Mushrooms, mind you, doing all this while having a warrant for my arrest here in California. Had I been caught doing what I was, I wouldn’t be here writing this story today, I would still be in a penitentiary. God had other plans for me still. I was in a relationship with a woman, whom I thought I loved. I realize now that I had been compromising my values to be with her, as I had to denounce my faith in God to be with her. She proclaimed to be pagan and if I was a Christian, well we couldn’t be together. That relationship ended poorly for me at the time, as my internal resentment at myself for the choices I made, my own insecurities, my addiction, my unresolved problems, all came to a head and our relationship was over.

It was all my fault, I wasn’t capable of controlling my anger and internal turmoil. I thought if I got help for my anger that we would be able to get back together. I went to a therapist, was told they could help, but I needed to address my addiction, they gave me a referral to anger management. Anger management said they could help me, but I would need to address my addiction. Anger management gave me a referral to the county mental health and drug and alcohol program. I went there and they said they could help, but I would need to stop using drugs to be in the program. So I started going, tried to get clean, but started smoking weed again during the program and lied about it. Eventually my lying to them and myself stopped working. I got home from group and started to smoke some weed and began a conversation with myself, realizing I had asked them for help and I wasn’t letting them help me. On my way out of group that day, the counselor had said she didn’t believe I was telling the truth about my clean time and suggested I go to NA meetings. I knew about NA, had the Basic Text in a closet in one of my grow rooms. I went upstairs and got the book and began reading and realized they were talking about me. I got the courage to get the phone book and actually call the NA helpline. I found a meeting close to my house and went that night. I heard the things I needed to hear and began going to meetings every day. In the first 90 days I went to 224 meetings of both NA and AA. Eventually I stopped going to AA and just went to NA, that seems to be where I fit in best and the literature spoke my language, the one my heart identified with.

I walked away from the drug life, gave my partner all my drug business assets and moved into my sponsors house and slept on the living room floor, because another addict was already on the couch. I worked construction during that first year and then went to college. I was a high school drop out, but I took and Ability to Benefit Test and passed with high enough score to benefit from college. I was in an Alcohol and Drug Studies program that would prepare me to become a counselor. I worked part-time through the 2 year course at a men’s residential treatment program until the 4th semester where I now had to do my internship. I began working at the site I was doing my internship and ended up working there 10 years, rising through the ranks and eventually became the program manager. I was a certified counselor and eventually joined the largest counselor certification organization in the state and was elected to the board of directors. I have served on that board, eventually becoming the president of the board. I participated in consolidation of the 2 largest organizations in the state while president.

I have been serving the new organization as treasurer for this last year, and will remain on the board for the next 2 years until I step down to take some time off. I work for the largest healthcare organization in the state of California as a counselor. I love my job and the people I work with. I still am active in my recovery, work with a sponsor, have sponsees, go to meetings etc…. I’m now coming up on 18 years clean and my clean date is 12/5/97. I have been blessed to be where I am at today. I faced Hepatitis C treatment and have been virus free for 12 years. I got married and will celebrate 7 years on October 11th. I now have a relationship of sorts with my 19 year old son, who has been clean for 8 months now. I have a relationship with my parents and siblings. I have so many people in my life who love me and whom I love. Life is incredible. Heck I even went to the White House as a representative of the counselor organization and met with Deputy Director of Demand Reduction Deputy Director David Mineta. So you can tell, my life has taken turns that never would have been possible before recovery. This is a very short version of my recovery story, so much has happened that it is hard to capture in a short story. Suffice it to say, I’m living the fairy tale life that only recovery can bring a person.”

Rebecca

“I became ill in 2004 with several serious ailments, for almost the whole year. Just when I was starting to feel normal again I developed some neck/shoulder pain. I tried seeing a chiropractor. After three unsuccessful months, I finally went to a Orthopaedic doctor.

The Orthopaedic doctor sent me for some testing and I was diagnosed with thoracic outlet and no-lateral Carole tunnel. My shoulder pain steadily increased and I was not interested in surgery anytime soon. To help with the consistent pain the doctor put me on 5mg Percocet. Up until that point in my life I took very little medicine. Ever.

Over the years my pain got progressively worse while I developed more health issues. Bursitis in my shoulders and very painful fibromyalgia. Over the next few years my tolerance grew and so did my dosage. Then I developed Osteoarthritis in my knees. Ibuprofen only helped a little. Sometimes coming down my steps was so painful, I’d cry.

Well nine years later I found myself still taking prescription pain meds and I was still not open to the surgery for the thorasic outlet. By this time my tolerance had built until I was at 30mg of oxycodone, 2 at a time. I could usually take 2 in the morning, usually my most painful time of day and maybe get by with only needing one more later in the day. Two if I had a really physical day. My doctor was prescribing me 180 pills a month but I was only taking between 90 – 120 a month.

It wasn’t until the last year on the prescription pain meds, that I started to abuse them and it wasn’t the amount but the way I was taking them. A friend told me if I crushed them and snorted them they would work faster. During that time my husband had been having problems and we had separated. We were separated for 18 months. When we got back together, the first few months, we were friends and roommates. He is the reason I decided to come off the meds and reevaluate my medical issues. I knew I wouldn’t be able to just stop taking the meds cold turkey so I did my research and found a doctor to help me.

I met with the doctor and told her everything. Even how I had been taking the medicine. We discussed the two options I could use to wean off, Methadone and Suboxone. I chose Suboxone. I asked my doctor if I could wean off in about two months and she stated she thought it would probably take me three months due to how long I had been on and how high of a dose I was on. Well lo and behold I weaned off in three WEEKS. I had no side effects during the three week wean except maybe a little less energy. I did have some side effects after the three WEEKS but it was only diarrhea and a lot of yawning. Those two side effects were completely gone in less than six months.

So that is my experience with getting addicted to prescription medicine and getting off the medicine. There really is a lot more to my story. Enough so, that I could write a book I’m sure but it’s late, and I’m tired. If you want to know the rest, like how my husband is in Recovery too and has been since 2006 or about my DWI, I got in 2012, I’m willing to share. The funny thing is I didn’t drink a lot and I don’t miss it. Or how I am in a 12-Step program, my choice, and I like it. Please don’t hesitate to ask. I’ve always been a open book.”

Marilyn

“In November of 1988, Thanksgiving as a matter of fact. I first asked the question of my family if they thought I may have a problem. My sister replied “If you think you have a problem then you may have a problem.” I went to seek help and help wasn’t readily available for cocaine users. By this time I had stopped using weed and alcohol because the cravings of cocaine/freebase were more warranted. When I did go seek help, I found out that since I did not have an alcohol problem inpatient care was not available. I started outpatient care and went to my first NA meeting 12/26/1988.

I stayed in outpatient care until July of the next year. During that time my Grand-father died and I had written a scenario of a relapse and I played that scenario out as I went to go say goodbye to my grand-father. My clean date is April 7, 1989. Since April of 1989 I have not had to use a substance under any circumstance. Raising 3 boys, obtaining employment, returning to college, graduating college, retiring, medical issues and numerous deaths of family and loved ones.

I found that by going to meetings and working the 12 steps – 12 traditions in all aspects of my life has worked. I have sponsored many women and I have shared my story up and down the East Coast of the United States. I have done work within Narcotics Anonymous and I have shared in detoxes, correctional facilities, and treatment centers.

Recovery rocks. I could not see my life any different and I feel I have been given two lifetimes in one lifetime.”

Karen

“My name is Karen. I have 6 and a half years clean and sober. I am a nurse. I work in the fast-pace environment of the emergency room. I feel as though I live with a dark secret due to my history of addiction. The majority of my life I have lived a normal and routine life. My troubles occurred when I was under more stress than normal. The first time I used drugs inappropriately was my first year in college. I was in way over my head. I was distracted by a bad break-up. Marijuana made life bearable and I smoked, drank and experimented with other drugs almost every day. I think what sets me apart from some substance abusers is that I kept it together, was able to graduate from college, kept my job and used. I worked and paid my way through school. I have always been a functional user. After I graduated from college, I met my first husband. He did not smoke or drink. I followed his lead and stopped smoking and drank in moderation. We had two children. This was a period of relative normalcy. I went back to school and got my nursing degree. I would not say it was a perfect marriage, but who has one? After 17 years of marriage, my husband cheated on me. This eventually led to the end of my first marriage. This precipitated a downward spiral into sexual promiscuity, excessive alcohol consumption, resumption of cigarette smoking and abuse of an Ativan prescription. During this period, I met my second husband. We met while he was on the rebound from his first divorce. He was a drinker. He has a lot of his own issues so he was willing to overlook mine. During this time, my use had escalated into diverting benzodiazepines from work and using intravenously. I knew I had a problem and had visited some NA and AA meetings. Nothing was sticking though. I married my second husband during this period. I also was dabbling with opiates but not heavily. Things came to a head in 2004 when my husband caught me with a needle in my arm. I marched myself to inpatient rehab at that point. I stayed 28 days. I did a long stint of intensive outpatient and was clean for 2 years. Again, I was able to do this while keeping my job and getting treatment under the radar. I did very well for that time until my daughter was getting ready to get married. There was incredible stress leading up to the wedding and I actually drank and used at the wedding. That started a 3 year battle of primarily opiate use. Again, I was able to keep it under the radar. My husband never caught on. But quite frankly I got sick and tired of being sick and tired, as they say. I finally confessed to my daughter that I was using. Once it was out, I felt compelled to get treatment. I reached out to an outpatient treatment center. This time I also made an appointment with a psychiatrist specializing in addiction. I weaned myself off of the opiates. By the time I saw the doctor I had not used in more than a week. He started me on naltrexone. This medication has changed my life. I no longer fear temptation at my job. It has gotten me over the hump and allowed me to change my coping methods without backsliding. I did not want to use Suboxone because of the narcotic that is included. For the first 2 years, I did go to NA fellowship meetings. But I have not felt the need for them since then. I continue to see the psychiatrist. The biggest test of my recovery is occurring now. My husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last October. My life has been full of challenges since then. But with the help of my support system, healthy living habits and naltrexone, active addiction relapse is far from my mind. I am aware that I must be vigilant though. As an addict in recovery, I know how easy it is to slip back into a state of mind that could lead me to relapse.

I feel that naltrexone is an under used resource. I believe that if more addicts realized that they could take away the effects of the opiates without the abuse potential of Suboxone, it would allow more addicts to get over the hump to recovery.”

Maggie

“I am the 12th of 13 children.  I was 4 years old when the Marines told my mother my brother was killed in Vietnam. This changed our family dynamic and also caused my first instance of post-traumatic stress. I was 9 when my sister first smoked pot with me. I didn’t stop smoking pot until I entered recovery in 2005 at 40 years old.

When I was 16, one of my older sisters had a schizophrenic break and stabbed my mother to death. I came downstairs and found my mom with a knife in her chest. I began trying other drugs to escape the memory and the pain. Alcohol and cocaine were the drugs I used most often. One day, the pain of using became more painful than the pain of dealing with the trauma of my mom’s death. I needed to learn how to deal with life on life’s terms. On May 17, 2005 I entered my first and only rehab. I have not used anything since then. I still smoke cigarettes, I have tried to quit, but have not been successful. I attend 3-5 NA meetings a week. I have a sponsor, a home group, a higher power to whom I pray and I work the 12 Steps of Narcotics Anonymous.

Since coming into recovery, I have gone through a lot of life situations. When I had 11 months clean, I watched my mother-in-law die from lung cancer. In March of 2009, I had to have a hysterectomy. In September, I found out I had to go on dialysis. In October I had another surgery to put the access in my arm and started dialysis. I was put on pain meds after the surgeries, but I listened to people in NA, and I gave the meds to my husband. He gave them to me as prescribed, not that I think I would have abused them, but I refuse to give opportunity and obsession the chance to meet. I don’t ever want to go back to the dark place of addiction again!

I received a kidney in June 2010. I am so grateful for this life I lead. Even when things are tough, it’s better than anything I ever thought possible! I am content with life. Today, I am a good wife, mother, friend, sponsee, sponsor. The glass is always half full. Most importantly, I AM me, happy, joyous and free.”

Bobbi

"My name is Bobbi. I started using drugs in my thirties. I used constantly and I used any type of drug that I could find. I left my husband I left my three children and I became homeless and went out on the streets as a prostitute to feed my drug habit. I was in and out of jail. I was lost and miserable for four and a half years. Once when I came out of jail my husband was gone with my children. He had left the state and I have not seen my daughter who is now 8 for 6 years now. I finally decided that I needed help after I went to jail for a DUI. That was a blessing in disguise the jail sent me to probation and probation referred me to an intense outpatient alcohol treatment program which I have completed and I am now in an after-care program. I attend counseling sessions 1 time a week and I attend three to four Alcoholics Anonymous meetings per week. I have met several new sober friends and I am happy to say that I have now been completely drug-free for three and a half years and I am alcohol-free for 90 days. With the help of sober friends and counseling and my faith in a higher power I have finally began to get my life back on track. I am now attempting to gain custody of my eight year old daughter I have wonderful relationships with my family again and I am living in the house that I own now. I believe if I can do it then anyone can do it!"

Amissa

"My name is Amissa and I AM an addict. My sobriety date is June 30, 2014. I spent most of my life trying to fit in.  Looking for love and falling short every time. Blaming and shaming. Moving from city to city they are the problem. I mean don’t you know who I am?  Overdosing in a coma for 3 days still that wasn’t enough. Wanting to claim my independence, prostituting and still not paying my bills. The meth was far more important than anything. At my bottom I got a warning.  A ticket for soliciting and working with out a business license. That still wasn’t enough and I still wasn’t the problem. Thank God my family no longer would enable me I was living from hotel to motel some days better than ever. And I just needed one more and I got that call with an opportunity to make enough money to hold me over for the next couple days. Saved my life!  I went to jail for possession, and conducting prostitution. After I was released with no charges filed going into a program was the only way I knew I wouldn’t have to continue not doing drugs because still at that point drugs weren’t the problem. What I was doing to get the drugs was the problem. I checked myself into a year long residential program I thought I was special enough to only stay there 90 days.  When in fact on my 90th day I couldn’t deal with life and got loaded in the program. Thank God they believed in me and were committed to loving me until I could love myself. Working the steps with my sponsor,  getting to know me again,  forgiving myself and working through the hurt and accepting who I am. Today I am 15 months sober reuniting with my kids in just about a week. I truly believe God has carried me through and taking direction knowing I need and it’s OK to ask for help. I can remain clean and sober. I love my life today and without going through what I went through I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m truly blessed and extremely grateful!"

Rodney

“I had been an alcoholic for 26 years. I started using marijuana at around age 15. The pot smoking lead to the drinking. I smoked pot and drank beer and liquor everyday from 1983 to 2012. I began using crack cocaine around 2003 and used everyday along with weed and alcohol.

I went into drug/alcohol treatment in September 2012 and have been clean and sober ever since. That’s the short story. I had been put into jail, mental institutions and hospitals more times than I can remember.”

Donette

“Twenty years ago I stopped using drugs, including alcohol. I have worked as a substance abuse professional for the past twelve years. Currently I work at an inpatient treatment center and have my Master’s degree in Counseling. My recovery has brought me to where I am today and although I don’t find my story sensational, I do think it is worth telling, if only to remind myself of how miraculous recovery is. Addiction has been running through my veins my whole life. My great grandfather was infamous for his moonshine stills that he kept in the woods of the Ozarks and his Saturday night brawls at the local tavern, which included one incident of biting a man’s ear off. The potential of addiction was passed down through my grandfather and father to me. Regardless of whether it is nature or nurture or both, all I had to do was ingest a substance and a metaphorical tiger was born inside of me. I think of my disease of addiction as that tiger, always growing stronger, bigger, and more dangerous as a result of my abusing substances, which went on for seventeen years. I took my first drink, and promptly got dead drunk at my aunt’s wedding when I was thirteen. I had found nirvana, and felt really happy for the first time that night. Until then I had smoked cigarettes, binged on sweets, zoned out on TV and music, and tried to lose myself in fantasy in an unsuccessful attempt to forget events like my parent’s divorce, my mother trying to kill herself, my mother’s cancer, and moving away from my home and friends to live with relatives while my mother died. I was always painfully shy and introverted. In a new town with access to alcohol and shortly after, other drugs, I was able to be a different person. I became a party girl and had friends. I buried visions of my grandfather putting his hand down my pants after a drunken Saturday night. I was having fun with my friends. Events like my grandfather’s molesting me and being raped by a man that became my first husband were swallowed down with Jack Daniels whiskey. I minimized them to myself until they became insignificant. On my sixteenth birthday, my father presented me with a brand new white Trans Am, and passed me a joint. I don’t know which made me happier, the car, or my father’s acceptance implied by the act of smoking marijuana with me. I was in six car wrecks that year as a result of drinking and driving. I went to the hospital but never got a DWI because those were hardly ever given in the little town I lived in.

 

A year later I gave birth to my oldest daughter, Carrie. I got high on the way to the hospital. In those days, they didn’t test babies for drugs in their system, even though I am quite sure I smelled like pot smoke. When I was twenty years old, I packed up my little three year old daughter and all my worldly possessions into an old powder blue Ford LTD with expired license plates and went to attend Water and Wastewater Technology School . Jimmy Carter had created a wonderful program that paid me by the hour to attend college. I was in a “black out” for the better part of that year. My tiger inside was growing stronger. In that college, I was one of two women with sixty men. I felt wildly popular and never had to worry about getting trashed. The men were happy to oblige me by supplying all the alcohol and drugs I wanted. Two things do stand out through the haze of that year. I was raped when I had stumbled into my cabin one night without locking the front door. I also became pregnant as a result of haphazardly taking birth control pills and I had an abortion. During the procedure, I learned that I had been pregnant with twins. It was a surreal event. I had used my sister in law’s Medicaid card and the people kept calling me Janet. As soon as I left Planned Parenthood, I bought a 1/5 of whiskey and a bag of pot and promptly dove into oblivion. It’s impossible to compare pain. I can’t say this hurt more than that. I can say I needed rescued from that place. I grabbed the first likely person, who became my second husband. He would do the best he could to help raise my second daughter, Brandi, who was born two months early, and my oldest daughter while I continued to progress in my addiction. He was my friend, but I never loved him. What I did to him over the course of ten years was cruel. I made amends in recovery to him for those tortured years. I can only hope he has healed and moved on.

 

Shortly after Brandi was born, I found a new and better drug called methamphetamine. I could party all night and not throw up! Little did I know that the new drug would take me to a new hell. When I was 25, Dad committed suicide. He was 45. He had been spiraling in his own hell for a long time, culminating in a Federal Undercover Agent arresting him for possession and sales of cocaine. The last time I saw him had been at Christmas when he told me I was a screw-up, had always been a screw-up, and would always be a screw-up. At his funeral, I kept telling my step mother that I was sorry. Sorry for what? Existing? He had left a suicide note with no mention of me. I felt orphaned. My step mom comforted me and we did piles of methamphetamine together. I used methamphetamine heavily for four years as my tiger inside roared. I lost my teeth, my house, and what was left of my humanity. When I tried to quit meth, I went back to drinking. I was out of control more than ever and my body couldn’t handle alcohol.

 

Finally, at the age of 30, I found myself sitting in the cemetery and screaming to my dead parents and God. HELP ME! I went to treatment to get away from bad checks, a bad marriage, and mostly me. After treatment I went to 12 step meetings, counseling, and college. I went through a second adolescence in my thirties and it wasn’t pretty. I didn’t know who I was or who I was attracted to. Those questions were never answered because I stopped maturing emotionally when I was thirteen. I went to some gay AA meetings with my sponsor (who I had fallen in love with), but the thought of transforming my life was too scary. So, along came a man I met in an AA meeting. I tried for six years to make that relationship work. I even had a child, my youngest daughter Amber, with him. I know now that folks sitting in those meetings can be really mentally ill. The codependency that I discovered in myself as a result of that relationship almost killed me. Through stubbornness and nothing else, I did not relapse with drugs or alcohol, but I developed a sexual addiction that took me to a dark place just as quick. My tiger wanted out to destroy my life! I had a thousand dollar phone sex bill, and had been raped for the third time in my life when I called a woman in NA and asked her to sponsor me. She did and I slowly climbed back up the twelve steps of recovery to the world of the living. I was clean and sober for ten years and forty years old when I realized that I was feeling an all too familiar unrequited love for my best friend. I decided that was too painful and I needed to revisit my attraction to women for real this time. After a couple of short dating missteps, I started dating my partner. We fell in love almost immediately and have been happily together for the last 11 years. Looking back, I always loved women. From imaginary girlfriends, through teacher crushes, to romantic friendships, it was women that gave me the love and strength to keep going. Getting Clean and Coming Out are the two most momentous events of my life. They were what made other momentous events like marrying my partner, having my children close, and watching all three grandchildren come into the world possible. My story doesn’t end here, but the rest remains to be written. I don’t know what the future holds but I do know that I can look forward to my life now. I can cope with what comes and rejoice in the love that surrounds me. I have found a treasure that was buried deep inside of me. That treasure is connectedness. Something that took so long to find, to feel, because for so long I felt alone. I have reached out to others and found myself touching the face of God. At long last, my tiger is peacefully asleep and I am so very grateful.”

Tony

“I have been in narcotics anonymous. For 4 yrs 11 months without relapse. I started out with lots of meetings, completed 12 steps guide with a sponsor. Today I have a strong foundation. I do not practice any religion or religious ideology or dogma. I attend n.a meetings once or twice most months. I don’t know for sure if there is a God. I dont believe in a personal God or goddesses and gods. I believe in the forces of nature and the natural laws. The more I learn about the Bible the less I believe about the Bible. Spirituality is connection with self and others.this belief keeps me clean in recovery. Honesty,open mindedness and willingness are spiritual principles I live by. Peace and thanks for allowing me to share.”