Lectures at the fralin biomedical research institute
Lectures at the fralin biomedical research institute
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“I have 14 years of abstinence under my belt. Relapse was definitely part of my journey, and while it doesn’t have to be for some, it was for me. I use Narcotics Anonymous, spirituality, and my work with addicts who have yet to enter recovery as therapeutic tools for my continuing recovery.
Witnessing, on a daily basis, the consequences of addiction on the lives of those still addicted helps me focus on what’s important in my life: helping others (especially those in active addiction) and practicing gratitude for all I have–especially my new life free from drugs and alcohol.”
“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.”
“I started smoking when I was 12. The first time I quit was at age 21 and it lasted about 8 years, until I married a smoker. I quit again for one year at age 50. I foolishly thought I could smoke one cigarette without succumbing again. Both of those times I just quit cold turkey with no aids or support group. At age 75, wanting very much to stop permanently, I obtained a prescription for Chantix from my personal physician. Whether it was the Chantix or my belief in it, or whatever, I had no trouble quitting that time. From the very beginning, I have experienced only the occasional, mild impulse to smoke and have resisted relatively easily.
One of the recognized dangers or side effects of Chantix is mood change, depression, and/or suicidal tendency. I began to experience those feelings late in the second month of the Chantix regime and chose to stop its use after two months of the planned three month treatment. That was over three years ago and the urges to smoke have continued to decrease in both frequency and intensity.”
“I first smoked and drank alcohol in the 1960’s while in elementary school. The cigarettes were a quick addiction, but my father found out and after a convincing talk with threat of force I didn’t smoke again till boot camp in the navy at age 21. Again, it was a quick addiction, I smoked 1 1/2 packs day for 26 years and at the urging of my youngest son and with the help of the veterans hospital I am smoke free 12 years now. Group therapy, nicotine patches and my family got me through 6 months. When I was on the verge of breaking and on my way to buy cigarettes, I bought nicotine gum instead and chewed gum for 6 months. Then after 18 months total the addiction left my brain and today I rarely have thoughts of it and very much dislike the sight or smell of cigarettes. After 18 months of exercise and an understanding wife children and daughter-in-law and a sensible diet with a large amount of water sustained me. Alcohol was different, a much slower addiction but powerful and came to a climax and led to my downfall while in uniform. I found myself sitting on a barstool not a penny to my name and only two desires, a cigarette and a beer, I survived with neither, found out I had some serious problems and also found out some people didn’t believe I was worth saving. I also found out others did and realizing I had a problem, I wanted to do something about it and “AA” saved my worthless self. I got sober about 1980 or so, though I have not been perfect and have not fixed all the things that got me there, today I can drink a nonalcoholic beer, enjoy it, not want the real thing, and stop at one. I really enjoy coffee and more modern research says its not so bad for me and is supposedly good for my prostate.”
“My name is Steve and im a person in long-term recovery which means that I haven’t used drugs or any other mind or mood altering substance for more than 10 years. I was a cocaine and heroin addict for 27 yrs. I was the type of person that used to live, and lived to use. I’ve overdosed on drugs numerous of times and told myself that I wasn’t gonna do it again but, I guess u know the drill, I did the exact same thing all over again and again. Until one day a childhood friend and I were getting high and that particular day he overdosed and died. The following week at his funeral I was viewing the body before the ceremony started and I was standing in front of the casket and just like I’m talking to u guys, I heard a voice tell me that if I don’t stop doing what I’m doing I”ll be in that casket next. That is what it took for me to be scared-straight. At that point I asked my Higher Power to help me. See, where I come from if u don’t see a person on the street that you were getting high with anymore, they are either in one or two places: either dead or in the jail. Lo and behold, I didn’t know that a lot of people that I was getting high with weren’t dead, they were in NA recovering. Once I found that out, I tried NA and I’ve picked up one white chip and I vow not to pick up another one. I know I’m gonna die one day but I don’t have to in active addiction. I’m committed to recovery because it has allowed me to redesign myself, it has changed my life for the better, and I want to be a role model for others with similar experiences. Recovery has afforded me to have a wife, family, and a job doing HIV testing and prevention, and I’m also a Certified Addiction Recovery Empowerment Specialist. Recovery has motivated me to let others know that they can pursue opportunities and transform their lives into one of better quality, and advocate for self-directed care.”
“I am a re-tread, a relapse who managed to get sober a second time.
My first sobriety began August 1, 1993. I call it a “pink lace” sobriety – that is, it was a dainty process. I went to meetings periodically, didn’t have any books or a sponsor, and waited three years to do the first 4 steps because I didn’t know how and didn’t ask. I could manage sobriety because although I had been drinking since age 11 my disease was, apparently, not yet fully consuming. I quit not because I wanted to but because I hurt my 6-year old son and was deeply ashamed and scared for our future together. I remained sober through a second marriage and divorce, and through a third marriage with a sober man. However, 14 years into sobriety my husband disappeared, only to send word through an intermediary that he never loved me but instead had been addicted to me and would thus not be returning.
Any excuse to drink, right? I figured that if sobriety, AA, and a Higher Power couldn’t keep the 10 year marriage together, then there was no reason to be sober anymore. I started drinking, smoking, and drugging because it no longer mattered if I lived or died. And I damn near died 9 months later from a suicide attempt. A friend happened to phone while I was choking on vomit and called 911. Police and paramedics tied me unwillingly to a gurney and trucked me to the local hospital rehab ward. Sixteen medications and 9 days later I emerged from inpatient straight to outpatient treatment, then to counseling and psychiatric drug treatment. It took 4 months to recover from the suicide attempt and get sober; another 6 months to regain my abstract thought skills; and a full year to regain my physical fitness and coordination. I have no brain damage. I didn’t lose my job or my house or my car. I am a child of God, and His Higher Power has a purpose that I have yet to fulfill. I am grateful.
So here I am 5 years later still sober, finished with therapy, no longer on psychiatric drugs, and recreational drug and nicotine free. I have retired my from a well-paying job with a strong annuity in place and have moved to rural Virginia with my boyfriend of 3 years to live as an academic’s partner and run a farm. My family and friends are supportive by phone and social media, and I have found a 12-step group in my new town. It is possible to recover from a relapse when the disease has progressed significantly – but while my first round of getting sober was like pink lace, my second round 5 years ago was a punch-throwing, mud-slinging, crawl-out-of-a-dark-hole scary creepy mess that took 12 months. What keeps me sober is knowing that I will not survive getting sober ever again. I am scared scared scared of relapse so I read the Big Book, the 12 and 12, several spiritual guides, and meditate while walking around the farm. I will find a sponsor. I am not anonymous and my phone is always on to anyone who has a problem, thinks they may have a problem, or would like a new way of life. I am grateful.”
“My name is Wendy and I have been clean and sober from drugs and alcohol for almost 7 years. I have started my own sober living/and Recovery Club House in the community where I live. Yes, I struggle, but not with my addiction. I struggle with my business and I have not found it necessary to pick up today.”
“My name is Zacherie and I am a grateful recovering addict.
I was 15 years old when I first picked up methamphetamine. After all the years of partying, smoking pot, popping pills, and snorting lines of coke and molly behind everyone’s back (including my parents), my addiction had taken me to the lowest depths that I will ever be in my life. I was broken, full of hate and despair, and blind to the mistakes I was making that were destroying my life and the relationships around me. I was 16 when I put a needle into my arm loaded with heroin and began stacking meth with downers. I had lost everything to my addiction. My family was desperate to save my life, but I just kept rolling downhill farther and farther into the darkness that surrounded me. I no longer had the strength of heart to call out for any help or support to pick me back up and put my pieces back together. My life had turned into the darker version of Humpty Dumpty except I was the only one that could pick up the pieces, but I lacked the willingness. I was lost and I no longer knew what joy or warmth was and I couldn’t get a grip on reality. I knew I was dying and there were times I was certain I wouldn’t wake up and times I wished that I didn’t. It was like God kept holding on for me. Finally, I was arrested at the high school I enrolled myself in when I was finally trying to put an end to my use and put on probation. I was on the run from probation and my rehabilitation center when I was put into a residential program where I am now. I am 17 years old and am fighting for my life back and am proud to be in recovery. I am allowed only one NA meeting a week on Sundays and am waiting for graduation day in 3 months so that I can really expel my efforts into my recovery and into meetings. I want to spread my message and help heal others’ pain by sharing my own. I owe my life to my loved ones, the rooms of NA, and the people in them. I am grateful to have a loving higher power that allowed me to hold on just a little bit longer when I was staring death in the face and to my parents who never gave up on me even when I continued to hurt them. I love the life I GET to live today and the people in it. I will make a difference and I am proud to be a part of recovery.”