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The Many Faces of Drug Addiction: We Aren’t Always Who You Think We Are

The Many Faces of Drug Addiction: We Aren’t Always Who You Think We Are

First Story

It started off with just one pill. I had slacked off on the weekend, and was behind on an assignment for my nursing class. It was due the next day, and my chances of completing the assignment on time were slim. Very slim. While I was feverishly typing out as much of the assignment as possible, one of my friends handed me a ritalin pill. Before this, I had never seen one before in-person although I had heard a lot about the magical effects of this pill among my peers. A lot of people I knew took it to stay on top of their studies and maintain an active social life. Ritalin, or methylphenidate, is a medication prescribed primarily for combating ADD or ADHD symptoms. For those of us who aren’t afflicted with the condition, it’s a pill that helps you stay up the entire night and stay focused on a single task. I remember looking at my friend who was grinning at me and mouthing ‘try it’. After hesitating for a second, it went down the hatch. Within minutes, I felt the effects. It’s hard to describe the feeling. It’s a combination of euphoria and feeling more focused. I finished my assignment that night with no problem. At the time, I thought I discovered the ultimate study aid. Looking back, taking that pill is probably one of my biggest regrets. From that one pill, I became a recreational user. Every time, I had to stay up late to study or finish an assignment, I took a pill. Soon, I developed a tolerance, and one pill several times a week became a pill a day if not more. I wouldn’t and couldn’t rest until I felt the effects kick in, which, by the way, takes approximately 4 to 8 minutes after ingestion. I didn’t realize that I was addicted until my friend ran out of pills, leaving me with nothing when I went home for the holidays to visit my family. Let’s just say that my addiction became clear during the visit, and the visit, itself, was a disaster. Without that one pill a day, I started to exhibit withdrawal symptoms. I became increasingly aggressive, hostile and paranoid. I felt nauseous and dizzy. I lied to my parents and my friends back home that I must’ve caught the flu, but I knew better. Inside, I felt terrified because I was craving for another fix so badly. I felt embarrassed that I had become so reliant on ritalin. The moment that I got back to campus, I saw a counselor and called an addiction hotline for help. They both connected me to a nearby recovery center immediately, and I started going to therapy to curb my addiction. The road to sobriety has been difficult and tedious. Some days, I wake up feeling motivated and confident in myself. Other days, I feel myself spiraling out of control, and my brain chemistry feels out of whack. That was 6 months ago. Nowadays, I still have the occasional craving — especially whenever I’m behind on my work — but attending group and individual therapy has helped a lot. I’m still working towards sobriety, and there’s still a lot more to do, but I’m proud that I’m on the right track. The term ‘addicts’ come up a lot in my classes since my major is nursing. I’ve noticed that most people in my class seem to have a misguided concept on what an ‘addict’ truly is. I bet that they’d all be surprised to know that I was one of them, and I struggle everyday to not become one again.

Second Story

5 years to this day, I got into a car accident. I broke my neck, and my car was totalled. My car was a mangled mess of warped metal that looked similar to a scrunched up piece of paper. All I remember from the accident was waking up with my husband beside me and being in tremendous pain. Words can’t fully describe just how excruciating the pain was. The doctors took one look at my x-rays and wrote a prescription for OxyContin, a prescription opioid painkiller. To say that the OxyContin was a life-changer would be an understatement. It completely relieved me of any and all pain. After 20 minutes, I felt like I was floating on a cloud. I felt invisible. It was the best I’ve ever felt in my life. As my neck healed, the pain never fully left me. Whenever I wasn’t high, I was in pain. I didn’t feel like my old self even though the doctors were praising my recovery. The worst part is that I developed a tolerance to the drug and needed higher and higher doses. The drugs were expensive even on my health insurance. When my neck was completely healed, the doctors tried to wean me off of OxyContin with Suboxone, but it never really worked for me. Even after taking the white Suboxone pills regularly and on schedule, I’d still feel chills. Shivers would go down my spine. I’d be agitated and yell at my husband for no reason. I’d feel cranky, depressed and annoyed at every single thing. It wasn’t long before I couldn’t take it anymore. When my husband was at work, I secretly snuck off to buy OxyContin pills illegally. Street prices were 10 times more than prescription prices, but I happily forked the money over. The euphoric rush alone was worth it. As my savings declined, I became more and more desperate. My husband had noticed money missing from the house, and my weight loss. Although I could come up with excuses about the money, the weight loss was hard to hide. I had lost 40 pounds in the span of several weeks, and I looked like a bag of bones. Still, I trudged on with my addiction. Everytime my husband asked any questions, I would lie to his face. One day, when I didn’t have enough money to support my addiction, my dealer suggested that I try heroin instead. It was a cheaper alternative that would give me the same high. I’m ashamed to say that I leaped at the chance. I happily held the brown pebble in my hand and scurried home where I crushed and snorted a good chunk of it within minutes. That was the start of my journey down the rabbit hole. I hid the addiction from my husband and even went back to work. My coworkers were ecstatic to see me, and my husband’s suspicions soon faded. Everything seemed like it was back to normal. No one knew about my little secret. I tried to justify my habit as more of an aid than addiction. It was similar to drinking a cup of coffee every morning. I told myself that I didn’t actually need it, and that I wasn’t actually an addict. Did you know that 25% of people who try heroin just once get addicted from that one time? It didn’t matter what lies I told myself. The truth is that I was hooked immediately. My addiction became a habit. Every day after work, I would pick up a pebble and go home and snort it before my husband got back. One day, I snorted too much and passed out on the couch. I woke up to my husband’s frantic yelling. There was still a good chunk of the heroin on the table, so my little secret was out. The look of fear and disappointment in his eyes was apparent. It was time to come clean. In between sobs, I admitted to everything — how I couldn’t function without the drug, how much pain I felt without it, and how much I needed and craved it every morning when I woke up. I admitted to snorting a bit every day and to all of the lies I told. I begged him to forgive me. With tears in his eyes, he gave me an ultimatum: either go to rehab or he’d leave me. 183 days ago, I checked into rehab. I’m not going to lie and say that it was easy. It wasn’t. The road to sobriety was difficult, but the therapy and the pharmacotherapy treatments helped tremendously, especially with my husband encouraging me every step of the way. I’m sober now, but I still attend weekly group, individual and family therapy sessions. Some days are easy, and I don’t think about drugs at all. Other days, I crave the euphoric high. I’ve been close to relapsing many times. A major factor preventing me from relapsing is the fact that I’m 6 months pregnant. I’m going to be a mother soon, and I’m going to make my future children proud of me by staying sober.×600.jpg

Third Story

I’m 562 days sober, but every day is still a struggle to me. I’m not homeless or one of those “junkies” you see on the street begging for change. I’m a teacher and have been for the past 15 years. You’d probably be surprised to find that I’m a pretty good teacher too. I’m active in the community, and make a positive impact on my students. At least, I’d like to believe that I do. I offer tutoring sessions to my students after school, and coach basketball every mondays, wednesdays and thursdays. My students respect me and trust me. They come to me with personal problems. I get along great with other teachers. My peers would describe me as friendly and easy-going. No one knew that I kept a huge secret to myself. I was addicted to cocaine. My cocaine addiction started during my college years. My roommates took it recreationally at parties, and my own curiosity soon led me to snort a line. I still remember that fateful day. The moment the cocaine in my system, I felt incredible. I broke out of my shell and felt confident in talking to everyone at the party. I felt blissful, and honestly had the time of my life. Recreational use soon became habitual use. By the time that I had graduated college and was teaching, I was snorting cocaine on a daily basis. I’d snort a line before heading to class. It became a part of my life. Everyone is under the misconception that an addict is easy to spot, but no one could tell that I was high. I wasn’t disoriented. I just felt much more energized and euphoric with the drug. Without the drug, however, I became a completely different person. I’d feel agitated, depressed and irritated. To prevent that from happening, I’d continue to take the drug every day. The truth is that I would have continued too if it wasn’t because I met my, then, girlfriend and, now, wife. In the beginning, I kept my cocaine addiction a secret from her, but she caught on pretty quickly when she started staying over at my place at night. She was devastated to say the least, and urged me to get sober. It was her one condition to getting married to me. I took a year off work and checked into rehab. I told everyone at work it was a personal matter, and no one really asked me any follow-up questions. At the recovery center, I was monitored by a bunch of doctors and prescribed a cocktail of drugs that would help curb my cravings and reduce withdrawal symptoms. The rest is history. I’m completely sober although I still feel urges and cravings every now and then. Other than my wife, no one else ever found out about my addiction, and I’m happy to put that part of my life behind me.×400.jpg