I've had issues with depression, and anxiety since childhood. Unfortunately I didn’t have the vocabulary to express what I was feeling. At age 15 I took my first drink of alcohol and that was where my substance addiction began. As with many others, my behavioral health issues fed my addiction and vice versa.
My depression was never what would be considered severe. As an adult, I would occasionally miss work and my overall enjoyment in life was reduced as a result of depression. My anxiety however, created many more problems. It always manifested as anger which is why I didn’t know I had anxiety until I was in my 30s. Most commonly it was seen as road rage, but there were multiple times where I would have episodes and I would break things. After speaking with a doctor about it and learning that my anger was caused by the anxiety, I was put on medication to manage both the anxiety and depression with great results. I stayed on that medication for many years until my addiction to other substances took over and I didn’t care about much else.
While I may have been able to go on through the remainder of my life with or without managing my anxiety and depression, addiction turned out to have a much larger impact on my body and mind. I drank for the first time at 15 years old and got quite drunk as a result. I enjoyed that experience more than I ever could have imagined and even though I wouldn’t know it for another 25 years, that’s where addiction truly started for me. From that point on, I would drink whenever I got the chance and could get my hands on alcohol. In addition to the enjoyment of being intoxicated, I also liked the social acceptance that came with it. I started to go to parties in high school mostly for the simple fact that there would be alcohol.
However, I started to notice that by going to these parties and drinking, there were people that spoke to me and knew my name who weren’t previously in my social circle. It started to give me the sense of acceptance that I mentioned earlier. I experienced the same sense of acceptance when I started smoking weed. For many years, the weed was just an occasional party thing that I didn’t think too much about. It wasn’t until my mid twenties that I started smoking it on a regular basis. A lot of that stemmed from the fact that I was experiencing worse hangovers when I would drink, so weed seemed like a perfect replacement with the only downside at the time being it took a little more effort to get. At the time, I couldn’t see how it was negatively impacting my life. When I didn’t have any I wasn’t happy, and it seemed to occupy my thoughts almost 24/7. I was constantly in fear of getting picked for a random drug test at work, and also knew that I was limited on the types of jobs I could apply for because of my use. In spite of all these things, I continued to use.
Several years later I was prescribed opiates for back issues I was having and at the time it seemed like a wonder drug. It took away the back pain and gave me energy which was a welcome side effect. While taking opiates I was able to do more at work without pain and be more productive at home and in my hobbies. Unfortunately as my tolerance grew, the amount I needed to achieve the same effects grew also. This eventually led to the need to take more than prescribed and changing the way I took them in order to experience the effects quicker. I began crushing and snorting them until I was introduced to a method of injecting them. By this point my primary reason for using was to not be sick from withdrawal.
My habit had gotten so bad that I was struggling to afford the amount I was using. That’s when I was introduced to Heroin. For a fraction of what I was paying for illegally purchased prescription pills, I could buy a bundle of Heroin and eliminate the withdrawal symptoms. Like everything else, the amount I needed to achieve the same results increased. I finally reached a point where I was unemployable, had no family left, and was living in a disgusting house or couch surfing.
I was not living. I merely existed. This existence put me in such a deep depression that I attempted suicide three times. I was admitted to the psychiatric ward of the local hospital and I pleaded for help. I knew something had to change and I wanted to go to rehab. After a week in the hospital, I was transported to a rehab facility where I eagerly learned everything I could about my addiction as if my life depended on it……Because it did!
When I came home I had the support of my son and I followed the suggestions from rehab and the NA meetings that I attended in rehab. I attended NA meetings daily for the first ninety days and then continued to attend multiple meetings a week to this day. By attending these meetings, I developed a network of “family” in recovery. These are people I can count on and they know they can count on me. The life skills I’ve learned through NA and from my network have allowed me to live a life that never seemed possible before.
Continuing to do the right thing has eliminated any of the anxiety that I used to feel and the depression has been replaced by amazement at all the blessings that are present in my life. It is only through recovery that I have been able to enjoy the life that I have today. I used my last substance on Friday the 13th of February 2015 and don’t ever want to go back to that lifestyle again. Through the grace of God, the 12 steps of Narcotics Anonymous, my sponsor and my network, I will continue to chase recovery like I chased that last drug!
If you or a loved one are dealing with addiction and need help, reach out to our team and we can provide you with the resources to help.