My story begins when I was 28 years old. I was the guy that did all the right things, never missed a day of work, always made time for family, had a brand new home, and all things seemed to be going in the right direction for me until I had my first taste of OxyContin. At this point, I had never tried drugs. The girl I was seeing at the time told me that it wouldn’t hurt me and would actually help with some back pain that I had been experiencing at work. Not really knowing what I was doing, I decided to try it. Immediately I was hooked. At first I just used the drug for pain because of the work I could do while using the drug. Also, I started to use the drug to party. Then, it turned into an everyday habit… going on lunch breaks, after work, on the weekends to go get it. After several months, I was using OxyContin everyday just to get by. I quit hanging around with friends and family just so I could get high. I enjoyed the rush of doing something I wasn’t supposed to do. Before long, I went from being a blue collar, fun loving, gym rat to a guy that thought he was going to be a successful drug dealer on the side and nobody would ever know that I was on drugs. After a couple years of this I was on the edge, dealing with the loss of my sister. She had passed away a few years before I began to use drugs. I began to use just not to have to deal with the pain of her loss. I started flying back and forth to Florida to obtain pills. Eventually, I lost my job. I had worked for over 13 years. I became a full time dealer and I ended up a full time drug addict. I managed to lose my home, and everything that I had worked for and was nearing my bottom. I started using a needle and that was the beginning of the end. I was sleeping out of my car at times, sometimes even on the riverbank by where I used to live. My brother and his wife took me in for awhile to detox, but I was too far gone. I eventually left their house and was back out on the street again. I wasn’t out a week before I was arrested on a breaking and entering charge but for me it was a relief. I was tired and out of options.
What was your ‘aha’ moment?
This is a moment I don’t speak on much, but since a good friend asked me I will tell it. After being locked up for a month and going through a terrible detox I received a visit from my brother. Mind you, having an older brother sometimes isn’t easy. As kids, I was always smaller than him so when we would do things together it wasn’t so pleasant. I think I got my butt kicked more times than I can count, either fighting or playing sports… so I thought one day I would be better than him or that I would be able to hurt him the way he did me as a kid. When he came to visit with me through a small glass window with 20 other cellmates around I thought man this sure won’t be pleasant. But as the conversation began I could tell there was something wrong with him, I could tell after 30 years of being a younger brother that I finally hurt him…. That’s how sick I was… I could tell by the look on his face and by the words he had said to me that I hurt him. He told me that I was too good of a person to be spending my life in a cell, and doing the things that I had been doing. He told me that I could change all that. He gave me hope. Sometimes it takes a big brother’s foot in your butt to motivate you and that’s what he did. I decided in that damp, 100-degree jail cell that I wanted to be the man I was before and nothing was going to stop me.
Describe your feelings on active addiction:
My thoughts are short and direct. The single hardest thing I’ve ever experienced and never want to again.
What is my driving force when times get tough?
Having a Higher Power again in my life is vital, but just remembering to take things “One day at a Time” and remembering how hard life can really be if I would choose to ever go back to that old lifestyle.
What advice do I have for family members of a person living in active addiction?
Support them anyway you can without enabling them. Love them and pray for them.
I am very grateful for all the people that stood by my side through all the ups and downs of my addiction. Without them I wouldn’t be doing what I do today… working with recovering addicts like myself on a daily basis in my community. Most of all, I’m proud of what I have been able to get through and now I am doing what God wanted me to do with my life.
There is hope. There is help.
Jason is the Assistant Director of Phase II at Sanibel House, a residential recovery center under Addiction Recovery Care. Jason has been sober for 7 years and uses his experience with addiction to help the clients find recovery as he did.