I didn’t touch a drug until the age of 18. I had spent all my time in high school avoiding drugs at all costs and playing a lot of baseball. Even when it came to drinking I wasn’t very interested. Drugs meant a lot of danger when I was a kid, I really bought into that idea, it’s not even an idea, it’s completely true. I grew up in New Jersey in the beautiful suburbs in a neighborhood filled with kids. I had loving parents. I really couldn’t ask for a better life as a kid. The thought that only people with troubled childhoods grow up to be drug addicts is completely false, I am living proof. 

My first week of college is when I tried some weed somebody was passing around. I didn’t think twice about it, after growing up with so much fear I’m not sure why I said yes with no hesitation this time. Perhaps because I was no longer living under the same roof as my parents, the feeling of freedom as I lived in my freshman year college dorm. Whatever it was that made me do it, I had an experience that night. Getting stoned was an eye opening experience, one that I wanted to feel for the rest of my life. Very quickly my top priority became to be stoned all the time. Obvious early signs of a drug addict.  

I lasted about two years in college, I favored getting stoned over going to class. Not exactly the best formula for being successful in college. After those two years I moved back home, im my moms basement of all places and boy did I feel like a loser. While sitting in my own pity, one night a friend of a friend had some painkillers for sale. I bought them under the warning that “I would like them too much”, that made me really want them. I remember taking a few, smoking a cigarette and then throwing up almost immediately after that cigarette. I loved it. For the next two years my life took such a drastic drop down in quality it still amazes me when I reflect back on it. At the start of age 18 I had tried zero drugs, by then end of age 20 I was checking into a rehab. Mind blowing.

People seem to think that just going to inpatient treatment will fix an addict and keep him from using drugs forever. It’s simply not the truth, if it were that easy we would not be having a massive opiate overdose epidemic right now. Understanding the basis of what it means to be a drug addict and admitting you are one or not is not what it takes to stay clean the rest of your life. Recovery involves a deep spiritual transformation which for most (not all) are found through a 12 step process. The laymen doesn’t seem to know much about the 12 steps, so the government can throw all the money they want at more treatment opportunities, which is great, but there has to be an understanding that treatment does not fix people. It simply provides the addict a foundation to jump off from, what they do with that foundation is entirely up to the addict themselves. Unfortunately most do not take the spiritual path and find themselves exactly where they left off, if not dead.

I went to treatment five times. To tell you the truth, the first four I just was not ready to change. A big part of entering recovery is having been beaten down enough in life to surrender and be open to a new way of life. It’s a rather unfortunate part of recovery but I have found it to be very true. When I wasn’t beaten down enough, I would go to treatment and think I knew what was best for me, and what I thought was best for me took me out every time. Until I completely gave up any control of my life for a while, nothing changed. I don’t know how you combat that when it comes to the epidemic we face right now. Sure we can curb deaths and reduce crime from things like safe injection sites for heroin. That isn’t helping the actual addict though. My only hope today, as someone who is nearly 5 years clean now is that I can get through to somebody and help them myself. Show them the truth of this whole ordeal myself and show them a way out.