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It Works for Me, My Life Has Turned Around Because of It

Summary: 
Continuing the Stories of Hope blog series, a man describes his how addiction changed his life and the help he found in recovery services.

Cross-posted from Faces and Voices of Recovery

My addiction to opiate/opioid drugs began in 1974, back in New York City, where I was born and raised. Like most addicts, I first began getting high with beer and marijuana, then on to LSD, amphetamines, barbiturates, right up to that first shot of heroin. It was "love at first sight". I immediately fell in love with the high. Within a few months I was addicted. It became the focus of my daily routine. Before long, my paycheck couldn't cover the cost of what I was using and began a series of petty crimes to get the extra money. Nothing was sacred or taboo. Whatever I could do to get money, I did.

I finally got arrested by Federal authorities for possession of stolen mail (tax return checks), forgery and bank fraud. I served 47 months. I wasn't yet 21 years old. My use would seem to pick up where it left off each time I was paroled. I'd eventually end up back in prison on a new charge. This pattern continued (addiction, crime, arrest, incarceration, parole) from 1974 until 1986, when I relocated to Minnesota to live with a woman I had been corresponding with for 24 months, while still incarcerated in a NY State prison. We both agreed that my relocation far away from NYC would help me start fresh. It did, for almost 9 years. But no matter where you go, there you are.

My old self caught up to me in 1995. There was no heroin in St. Cloud (that I knew of, anyway) but I did know a guy who was getting morphine prescribed regularly for a severe knee injury, and each month I would buy a few from him, break them down in water as best I could, and inject them. Then I discovered OxyContin, which was far more potent than the morphine and it became my drug of choice.

As in the past, I became addicted, but the addiction to OxyContin was worse than heroin ever was and before long, my habit was larger than what was available. I went back to pharmacy burglary, ended up serving 30 months in Moose Lake Correctional Facility in Minnesota. My addiction didn't stop there. It was only dormant while I was incarcerated.

Not long after my release from Moose Lake, I started using again, violating the terms of my parole and did 30 day chunks of what time I had left until my time had expired. I got into shoplifting to make money to buy pain pills here and there, but most of them were not injectable, and that's what I craved, intravenous drugs.

I went back to burglarizing pharmacies, a few times, and didn't get caught. But the "good stuff" like OxyContin, Morphine and Fentanyl was no longer easy to find. That still had to be purchased. To get the extra money, I was back to shoplifting.

In and out of Benton County jail so many times for short stays (30, 60, 90, 120 days, etc) here and there. I finally got sick and tired of it all and enrolled in a methadone maintenance program. This past November 3rd was my 2 year anniversary of not using illicit street drugs or pharmaceuticals. I haven't been in jail in over 2 years, I also quit smoking. I attend outside support groups and relapse prevention groups at St. Cloud Metro (the methadone clinic). Some people will criticize methadone, saying it's only a substitutes for narcotics. In a way, it is. But it's administered under a doctor's orders, by a nurse and in a clinical setting. I give regular urine samples to monitor my progress. I do not get high on my dose (110 mg.) and I look at it as being similar to a diabetic who needs their insulin.

I have proven time and time again, that I have a chemical imbalance in my brain and have a pre-disposition to opiate/opioid drugs, and methadone eliminates the cravings in addition to blocking the opioid receptor sites in my brain, so that even if I were to try and get high from any narcotics, the methadone blockades the effects. It works for me, and my life has turned around because of it.

This post is part of the ONDCP Stories of Hope blog series.