People talk about the cost of addiction all the time. And it always takes on some sort of twist.
There’s numbers on how much drug and alcohol addiction costs the United States economy. Or there’s stories about how much the drugs cost, or the “emotional cost” of addiction. And in fairness, those are all true. I don’t mean to downplay any of that – especially the emotional cost, which really can’t be measured in dollars.
But let me get this right out in the open. Addiction isn’t cheap. No kind of addiction is cheap, even if the drugs are. The costs come up and bite you where you least expect it. And I’m not just talking about the cost of the stuff itself. Yeah, that hurts, but the cost goes so much deeper than the money you pay for the drugs.
Not everybody has had the same experience I have, but I can tell you that nobody ever came out of addiction richer than they went in. Here’s how I lost everything because I got hooked on Oxycontin.
The Cost of the Drugs
You may have heard that Oxycontin is expensive. It’s so expensive, in fact, that people often “step down” to heroin to get a similar high at a far more reasonable price.
Well, it’s true. It’s very, very true. Prescription drugs are expensive enough when you buy them legitimately. That’s how I started after all, but I had a decent job with decent insurance, so the cost didn’t sting all that much.
I started taking Oxycontin as a temporary solution for a severe leg injury. I was supposed to take it in moderation, and I thought it would be fine to just take it however I wanted.
I was wrong. My doctor (correctly) sensed that I was abusing my medication and refused to prescribe me a refill after a couple of months. I convinced myself that I needed more Oxys to deal with the pain. Deep down, I knew I was lying to myself, but addiction doesn’t let you think logically like that.
So I took to the back-alley channels to satisfy my craving. I was lucky enough (or unlucky enough, really) to find a dealer that could actually get Oxys on a fairly-consistent basis. I found out later that it wasn’t common to find someone who could get them so easily.
So I bought them. I bought them as often as I could, and kept taking them at or above the rate I was taking them before.
They cost me $35 per pill. Not per bottle or per batch. $35 per pill. At the rate I was taking them, that worked out to over $500 per week more often than not.
Now, I made pretty good money at my job. But a lot of people don’t even make $500 per week. And it wasn’t exactly disposable income for me. I started sacrificing way more important things (like bills) to ensure I could keep up my supply of Oxys.
And that was only the beginning of my problems.
Oxy: The Drain on My Income
I often wonder what would have happened to me had things continued like that. It seemed like I was a runaway train, taking more and more and more pills for as long as I could handle them. At a certain point, I forgot I was even supposed to be taking them for my knee. I just took them because I was addicted.
A lot of people in my position, faced with opioid addiction and the steep price of Oxycontin, end up having to make a hard decision. Either their dealer runs out of their supply of Oxys, or they run out of money to pay for it.
Heroin is a replacement that basically substitutes for Oxycontin just fine, and much cheaper. It’s more dangerous, of course, and very illegal. But heroin is widely available, and when you’re looking for a fix, consequences don’t mean much to you.
Luckily, I never had to make that call. My supply was consistent, and my job was just good enough to keep me afloat… until I lost it.
See, at a certain point, even the most understanding employers lose their patience with you missing several days of work without notice or reason. And I was doing an awful lot of that. In the depth of my drug abuse, I would lose track of time and days, and some days I’d just sleep through my shift.
And honestly, they were understanding about it at first. Friendly, even. “Hey, it happens,” they said. “See you tomorrow.”
Then after a few more times, things got more serious. “You can’t keep doing this,” my boss said. A few co-workers asked if I was okay. I lied to all of them and said I was fine. I think I believed myself on some level, even though there was a voice deep down that
Finally, they fired me. I really didn’t give them much choice. That was the moment things fell apart. I couldn’t afford my Oxys anymore, but I kept buying them anyway. I didn’t care what I needed to sacrifice. I stopped paying bills, I bought nothing but cheap junk food, and I used a huge chunk of my life’s savings just to keep my supply going.
It wasn’t sustainable, and I was on the road to losing my house. But first, I decided to take on one more expense. It was the best decision I ever made.
The “Cost” of Recovery and Treatment
I’m not going to pretend that getting treatment for my addiction was cheap. The up-front cost for treatment was difficult to handle, especially since my addiction had already drained my savings, and I’d lost my insurance when I lost my job.
Luckily, I was able to get some assistance through the Affordable Care Act. But there was still some cost to me.
But you know something? The cost was worth it. And that’s not just me saying that. This is backed up with statistics. Addiction treatment saves money over time, multiple times over. Getting help for my addiction is the only thing that kept me from losing everything.
Addiction was, for me, a constant wound to my finances, that bled my finances dry for a very long time. Now that I’m recovered, and I’ve been clean for a year, I’m starting to understand just how hard it hit me – not just in how much I spent on the drugs, but in how much I lost from losing my job and having to start from scratch.
And starting from scratch really is what I’m doing. I’m starting a new job (it doesn’t pay nearly as much as my old one), and the money I was saving for a house, car, my future kids’ college, and whatever else, is all gone.
Starting over like this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But it’s only because I got treatment when I did that I’m even able to do it. I’m glad I’m starting over instead of just being an overdose statistic.