By: Tara Schlichter (Part 1 of 5 on ‘Recovering Warriors’)
You can ask just about anyone in Pickaway county what they feel is the most threatening issue our citizens are currently facing, and if the response doesn’t happen to be “employment”, it is certain to be the drug epidemic. It is a widely worrisome, and heatedly debated problem rampant in our quiet, small town areas.
Breaching the topic on social media has divisive results. There is no shortage of opinions on how to respond to this crisis, and quite an array of theories on just how we should handle the addicted. Despite conflicting perceptions, nearly everyone agrees: the substance abuse statistics are far less than ideal, and someone needs to do something. But who? And what, exactly?- Advertisement -
I myself tend to carry an unbiased though fairly ignorant view on the matter. However, it occurred to me that there is a largely silent but highly powerful group in the midst of the voices demanding this or that be done about drug use: recovered addicts. No one has deeper insight into our problem or more to offer in terms of shedding light on its origin than someone who has been through and come out on the other side. So why aren’t we making it a priority to seek out what they have to say?
I decided to do just that.
I wrote out a questionnaire in trying to better understand the why, the how, the struggle, the overcome, and the insight of a person who is recovered from addiction. I reached out to find anyone local who would possibly be willing to speak their story to me, with all its pain, frustration, and ultimately triumph.
I was humbled that six individuals were willing to answer all of my questions.
I have decided to break my interview into 5 portions to include all answers; every response has value and I do not want to edit out any point of view.
My very first impression going into this process was surprise at how easy it was to locate a recovered addict and wonder at how willing these courageous victors were to share their experiences. My hope is that we will be willing to listen and learn from their battle.
At what age did you first have an illegally used substance?
- Erica T: 18
- Kendell K: 9
- Stefani M: 18
- Stacia T: 16
- Anonymous 1: 18
- Anonymous 2: 19
What substance(s) were you addicted to / Did you use?
- Erica T: Heroin, Cocaine, Oxycontin
- Kendell K: Marijuana, Pills, Heroin, Meth, Crack
- Stefani M: Marijuana, Pills, Alcohol, Cocaine
- Stacia T: Pills and Heroin
- Anonymous 1: Pills and Heroin
- Anonymous 2: Pills
What thoughts or circumstances convinced you to try the drug(s)? What did you tell yourself would happen?
- Erica T: I ran into old friends and we decided to have a party at my new apartment. Someone had them and I was curious. Decided to just “try” it. I would say peer pressure. I wanted to fit in. They were doing it and seemed fine. They seemed to be having a good time. Why not join in? Nothing bad can happen.
- Kendell K: I was having a hard time coping with the sense of loss of loved ones. Didn’t know how to deal with it in a healthy way. A friend of mine that I got it from lived around the corner from me was able to get it for me. I was fearful at first, didn’t know if I’d pass out. But I watched him smoke and just did it. Didn’t give any second thought about it.
- Stefani M: Everyone else was doing it and they were “fine”. I said • one time is ok • everyone your age tries it • it’s Not going to kill you. Just a little will be fine.
- Stacia T: Started with prescription pain medication at 16 for a shoulder injury. When I ran out I missed the “high” so I found more pills, but quickly realized heroin was much cheaper.
- Anonymous 1: First time I tried them I was a party and a lot of people were taking them, so I thought “why not?” Afterwards, I liked the way the made me feel so I went and bought some more.
- Anonymous 2: Nobody convinced me. It was a choice. I was tired at work and a few people said they snort these pills and it speeds them up so I did it and it worked.
What is it like to be high?
- Erica T: Fun. Just complete fun. I was care free.
- Kendell K: Awesome feeling. The main reason why I kept smoking.
- Stefani M: They helped me feel “relaxed” and “confident”; made me feel like I “belonged”, but in reality it was to make me not feel at all. But it was bliss. No cares or stress or responsibilities. “Freedom” from my own head.
- Stacia T: It was actually weird. I was itchy and sweaty but happy. So happy. I could have talked for hours, too
- Anonymous 1: I really, really liked the way the made me feel.
- Anonymous 2: It worked to help with my tiredness.
When and how did you realize you had become an addict?
- Erica T: It took about a month for me to realize. I had quit college and my job within a month. Honestly… I didn’t believe I was an addict until about 6 months later when I had lost everything, spent time in jail and couldn’t control it.
- Kendell K: Not until I got into pills real heavy. I didn’t know what addiction was until I started having withdrawals from the pills. I moved back from Texas and fell right back into abusing pills.
- Stefani M: I thought I was in control of when I would do it. Started off as a Saturday night thing to a weekend thing, to an every single day thing for just over 2 years. About a year in. I just wanted to stop and yet it was all I thought about day in and day out (Cocaine).
- Stacia T: About 2 months after my initial prescription is when I noticed I was sick without them. After about 4 months I knew I was in trouble. And it was another 6 months before I did heroin, because it was much much cheaper.
- Anonymous 1: I started out only doing pills on the weekend and then it turned into 4 days a week then 5 until if was everyday. So I knew it was getting out of hand. But the first time I actually accepted the fact was the first time I experienced withdrawals.
- Anonymous 2: I didn’t realize I was an addict till 7 or 8 years later when my wife left me because of what it was doing to me.
What did it feel like to realize you were an addict?
- Erica T: To be honest. I didn’t understand at first. I had no idea what it meant. I was confused more than anything.
- Kendell K: It really sucked knowing that I was trapped in a continuous cycle of being sick, finding money to get something, and only a short time of relief.
- Stefani M: Hopeless, helplessness. Self worth is 0% Because I really wanted to not be an addict. It’s a cycle. Really Want to get better》fail》self worth at 0%》use.
- Stacia T: Terrible, but I thought I could handle it.
- Anonymous 1: I was very ashamed of it. It’s a terrible feeling knowing that everyday will revolve around ways of getting money to get the drug.
- Anonymous 2: Its a bad feeling. You feel like a waste of oxygen.
Reviewing the responses, there are some major trends that present themselves. One, the age frame of these randomly selected interviewees is fairly close; ALL six responders fell into addiction before age 20. That means young adults, especially those 16-19, are largely targets for drug abuse. We can also see danger from prescription represented, as well as an attempt to self-medicate. None the less, peer pressure remained at the top of contributing factors. In all instances, the idea that addiction “won’t happen to me” was entirely necessary to the introduction to substance abuse.- Advertisement -
None the less, peer pressure remained at the top of contributing factors. In all instances, the idea that addiction “won’t happen to me” was entirely necessary to the introduction to substance abuse.
This concept will absolutely have to be exposed for the myth it is to change the direction of the rapidly growing statistics.
It is also apparent, that after what may have even been a foolish decision to just “try and see”, the stronghold becomes nearly iron clad at best, rapidly; and at worst, instantly. One ill decision, and the luxury to make decisions vanishes. That is the intense grip of addiction.