Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Drug Awareness

Drugs are bad!
Drugs affect people's lives in many different ways.
Most drug addicts don't survive however one man named James has kindly agreed to an interview with me because he is a fighter and he has survived.
This blog is to raise awareness on the dangers of drug taking.


What is your name and age?
My name is James and I am 29 years old

At what age did you first experiment with drugs?
I was about 12 or 13 when I first started experimenting with various drugs.

Who introduced you to drugs?
Every drug I have ever tried was always introduced to me by the same two friends I was close with since middle school.

What drugs were you taking?
It started off with marijuana in my younger years, then with alcohol, extasy, mushrooms and then eventually turned into heroin.

How did the drugs make you feel?
Once I found heroin it made me feel more confident in myself and felt like any worry or stress in my life wasn't as bad as I made it out to be without heroin.

How did you fund your habit?
At first I would work as much as possible to support my habit, then eventually came involved in crime.

How often per day/week/month were you engaging in substance abuse?
Once I found heroin I had no other choice other than to use every day, unless if I was in jail or treatment I was getting high and finding any way or means to do so.

On a "come down" how did you feel?
Withdrawing from heroin is the worst feeling in the world.
I have a high pain tolerance when it comes to everything other than withdrawal symptoms, its like constantly having the flu with cramps, diarrhea, restless legs, hot flashes with chills and the worst anxiety in the world, especially knowing all you need is more heroin and you'll feel completely better.

When you were unable to "obtain" drugs for whatever reason, how did you feel?
On days I was unable to get high felt like the worst days of my life, I felt like my world was ending and the anxiety of trying everything imaginable to get high to make the uncomfortable feelings go away was unbearable.
On those days especially I would try to get into a detox so I'd be comfortable until I could get more money to get high.

How did your friends/family react when they became aware of your drug taking?
My friends and family found out I was using drugs from what was a cry for attention from myself.
I was always looking for attention as the baby of the family, and to me negative attention was better than no attention and I put a link in my AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) profile that brought you to a link that said my three best friends with a picture of alcohol weed and heroin, heroin being the emphasis of the link.
My mother especially didn't want to believe it, she was in denial along with me lying saying it wasn't actually true kept her very naive about the situation.

Did/Does other family members take drugs?
Substance abuse does run in my family, my father who I never had a real relationship with is an addict, my cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents were either alcoholics or drug addicts.

Did you ever feel guilt or remorse for what you were doing?
I've always had a conscience, didn't matter if I was active or clean my conscience made my using very difficult at times.
98% of the time I ignored my conscience but it would always come back to bother me.
I would use my remorse as a driving force to get clean but also would use the guilt as a great reason to get high so I wouldn't have to feel that way any more.

Were you ever arrested due to the drugs?
Within the first 6 months of getting high I got arrested for a felony charge of larceny from a person and assault and battery.
I was the get away driver but knew what was planned.
I spent 2 years in "house of correction" for that crime, and throughout the next 12 years would either have violated probation or picking up other drug related charges such as possession and shoplifting.

When and why did you finally stop taking drugs?
When I got out of jail I was mandated to further treatment such as a half way house for the next 18 months after my release.
I violated probation over 7 times and what should have been 18 months of drug court took me 5 years to finally complete.
In those 5 years and multiple violation of probations I would be in and out of treatment from getting kicked out of one programme after the next due to relapses.
Once I finally completed drug court and my probation I got on the methadone clinic which I stayed on for 3 1/2 years and for 3 years of that I did really well.
The other half of the year I was coming off the methadone clinic and couldnt handle to sickness and relapsed which took me on another 3 year run.

What support did you receive?
My mother and few close family members have always supported me and been there when I would get clean, without them I may have given up along time ago.
And of course through 12 step fellowships I made friends and received support from them as well.

Do you have any health issues due to the drug taking?
Health issues directly related to my drug use are hep c, which I contracted at 18 years old while in jail, I used in there and shared a needle that was passed around the whole cell block basically.
Along with needing complete set of dentures from my teeth rotting due to drugs and the lifestyle I lived.

What advice would you give to someone who's thinking of taking drugs?
I've always been the type to try to help people anyway I can, and I found when it comes to advice its a touchy feely in the sense of what should be said, how you are saying it and where they are at in there life.
Giving advice to people that are either in the grips of active addiction or potentially thinking about experimenting with drugs isn't a one sized fits all solution so to speak.
When I was younger the older gentlemen would always try to tell me to get this while I am still young, but unfortunately for me I've always been the type that needed to learn first hand, and not very fond of being told what to do.
I've learned now that telling people what happened to me and countless others that I've witnessed first hand helps more than telling someone what will happen to them if they dont stop or if they pick up a drug for the first time.
Everyone likes to think they are different and better than the last person and feel like what happened to you wont happen to me.
For some people that holds true but unfortunately for countless amounts of others it does not.

What advice would you give to someone who's currently taking drugs?
I hope I was able to answer your questions the best I could.
I would like to share a summarised version of how I started and what happpened in between until now so that maybe itll help get a better understanding of what really happened and why.
Its up to you if you want to use any of the information I give in anyway or not. Getting my story out there I feel hopefully could benefit either parents of children that are addicts, parennts in denial thinking I raised my child better, or active users out there that feel like there's no hope for them.

Additional Information:
Growing up you would never imagined I would be the one to become a heroin addict and do the things that I have done in my life as a direct result of heroin abuse.
I grew up in a loving home, my father left as a young boy but my mother was a strong women who did an amazing job at raising and loving two boys, eventually turned into 4 children with my step father and his 2 daughters that she basically raised as her own as well.
We had everything we needed and we were loved.
I was diagnosed with a.d.d as a young boy and developed anger issues from the result of my father leaving and what I witnessed as a really young boy while my father was there.
But growing up on the outside everything looked great, but for me on the inside I was always trying to fit in which was especially difficult since I was a very shy kid.
I always tried to impress people and looked for attention anyway possible. That's how I was all my life.
In high school I joined the JROTC USMC programme and the Marine Corps was my dream, I didn't do well in school due to the a.d.d and I excelled in the JROTC program and eventually enlisting in the USMC and was shipped to Paris Island Boot Camp in Aug 2004, right before leaving I started to get dry skin and didn't know what it was, came to find out it was psoriasis and when I got to boot camp my psoriasis broke out very badly and I basically looked like a walking scab, and because of that I was given an erroneous discharge from the USMC and was sent home.
At that moment I felt like my life and dreams were over.
I didn't know what to do, and I was such an impatient person that even though I was told once it clears up  could reenlist I couldn't look that far ahead and fell into a deep depression.
When I got home and was confused at what I was going to do I started hanging out with my old friends and found out they were into heroin.
They talked about the ups and downs about heroin, but all I heard was basically "attention" and how great it was.
Unlike other people I never tried prescription opioids before then.
I never had much money so I couldn't afford the oxycontin in my area which is what most people started on before "graduating" to heroin.
Everything on the outside of my llife leading up to that night I tried heroin for the first time gave to sign of what was to come.
Once my friend laid out a line of heroin for me I literally stood there looking at it and thinking about it for a good 45 minutes.
Weighing out the pros and cons of what I knew and again all I could think about was the attention I was going to get from it, I was going to have my days filled with people to be around and things to do to get high, not really playing the tape through of how I was going to do it or even what would really happen once I do. I fell in love immediately with heroin and it didnt make me sick or have any real consequences at first.
Within a month of my first time sniffing heroin I used a needle and fell even more in love with everything about using a needle to inject heroin.
From the feeling I got from injecting heroin, to the process of setting up the shot.
Within 2 months of injecting heroin I over dosed for the first time, waking up in an ambulance after receiving Narcan which is an overdose reversal drug widely used. So within the first 3 months of trying heroin I was already using a needle and have already experienced my first overdose, it wasnt off to a great start.
I thought that OD would scare me but after leaving hospital I said I was only going to sniff it, no more shooting it, that  lasted 3 days and I was off again, I stole from my work and got fired, I stole from family and friends, and within 6 months of the first use I committed a felony and was sitting in jail dope sick for the  first time.
I was bailed out after 2 weeks and stayed clean for the next 3 months then eventually relapsed and found cocaine.
I started shooting  both heroin and cocaine and within a month violated terms of bail and was back in jail and spent the next 2 years in jail.
I was able to get high in jail a couple of times where I contracted hep c.
Hep C is so common among IV drug users it didn't bother me much or at all really.
When I was released from jail apart of my probation stipulation was complete a residential treatment programme, for the next 5 years I  was in and out, staying anywhere from 2 weeks - 5 months in treatment before relapsing.
I felt that I was to young to get clean, I didn't have much time or experiences really getting high the way I wanted to.
And that mentality kept me young and dumb for awhile.
Thinking I got this I can do this and stop any time I want to.... I just didn't want to right then.
I would get my mothers hopes up and crush them just as fast, my mother is my biggest supporter, I am a mother's boy and love my mother to death, and she saw something in me that I couldn't see in my self, I was always a good kid with manners and always polite helping others any chance I could, she would brag how great I was when I was clean and although I had an addiction problem it didn't define me as a person, there was more to me than addiction.
She has never stopped believing in me and I have put that women through the ring and back multiple times to the point where I can't comprehend why she could even still love me.
When I finally got off probation I got on the methadone clinic thinking drug replacement therapy would work for me, and it did, for 3 years, where I had 2 children, a wonderful  life with responsibilities and meaning.
What I did not have was a support network other than my family, any treatment in my life other than methadone everyday, and was not prepared  for what I would do when I started to finally come down off methadone, which I did medically correct but wasn't prepared for the uneasy feeling of tte withdrawal symptoms from slowly tapering off methadone, and because I had no support other than my family who as much as they tried to understand addiction really didn't know what was going on inside of me.
And because of my lack of preparation  I relapsed and this is where everything the older gentlemen had told  me while I was in treatment before, that if I didn't get this now that this that and the other would happen, that mommy wouldn't always be there with new clothes money and smokes when I was in treatment, all the old timers in the 12 step fellowship meeting saying that this disease of addiction is a progressive disease and if you don't stay on top of it then it will get to you.
Being young and dumb I couldn't  comprehend what they were saying when using the word progressive. 
I mean I was already injecting cocaine  and heroin, where could it progress to from there.
Well that beautiful family with 2 boys where we were financially secure and had everything  going for our future, took a downward spiral really quickly, I was able to hide my relapse for a while coming up  with excuses of why I wasn't getting paid or why I needed money for this or that, in 6 months I spent over $25000,00 my family money, $10,000 off my mothers money, and $5000 of my girlfriend's parent's money.
Even after they found out about my relapse I was still given chances to get help and come home, my girlfriend's mother even bought us a house to raise our boys in, the house was huge and beautiful, everything we could have ever needed.
But my addiction had progressed so much it was as if I never stopped those 3 years, I could not get clean regardless of everything I had going for me, I needed to destroy everything and loose everything before the thought of getting clean ever entered my mind, I gave up living with my family in that house to go sleep in a shelter, which eventually turned into sleeping on the streets in the toughest form of being homeless.
Here I am living a lifestyle I never imagined I was capable of living.
Looking back at my life wondering  what had happened, bumping into people I knew from highschool and before as they are asking me how did I get to this point, what dramatic event caused me to spiral so out of control?
Well thats the thing and the problem with societies image of drug addiction especially heroin addiction today, they think we did this to ourselves or are so dramatically scared that there is no hope for us, but that is the furthest thing from the truth, we made the descision to pick up that first drug, but after that the unbalanced chemicals in our brains took that desciision to use willingly away, for most its hard concept to grasps even for me it took awhile, I'd hear people say I used against my own will, and I'd sit there and think how do you use against your own will?
Every time I used it was because I wanted to.
But after that relapse and loosing everything I gained in 3 years to finding myself homeless during the worst winters in my area in years in 2015, I was sleeeping outside under a bridge with only a sleeping bag and a tarp over my head that was now only inches away due the the excessive amount of snowfall that winter, looking up at it wishing it would fall on me and kill me because I wasn't strong enough to do  it myself, which I had tried various times over the years, and in total over 12 years OD'd over 18 times that I could remember waking up in a hospital wondering why, how, and who found me and called 911 to save my life, resentful at those people who I did not know for saving my life.
Living homeless under the bridge eating out of dumpsters and  thinking nothing is wrong with living like this, wondering well  at least it can't get any worse than this right?
That's the lie addicts tell ourselves, it can't get any worse than it already is, well it always gets worse, and for me I woke up one day so completely uncomfortable with my lifestyle that it scared me, and that day I sought out treatment where I truly wanted it this time, after multiple attempts at detox facilities and residential programme, psych units and every other treatment option out there I tried again, that's where the spark was ignighted inside of me, I wish I could say I have been clean since that day but unfortunately I had more trials and tribulations to go though, and thankfully I found what works for me, currently today I attend 12 step meetings daily, I am on a medication called Vivitrol which is a once a month injection in the bum that is a oopiate blocker, helps wth the cravings, there are no side effects, no withdrawal symptoms and it doesn't allow me to get high, I could inject myself with heroin right now and I would die before I felt any high off of the drug.
I have amazing suupport from that amazing mother of mine along with a wonderful supportive girlfriend and everything set up for a future I am truly grateful for today.
After 56 detox facilities, 6 psychiatric units, 14 residential treatment facilities, 1 drug replacement therapy programmes, at 29 years old and 12 years of heroin abuse, I have never been more confident about my sobriety and hopefully about my future.
I have not seen those 2 beautiful little boys in almost 3 years due to the lifestyle I couldn't get out of after the relapse off the methadone clinic, I've struggled with the guilt and shame I have from being out of their lives for so long, but with the support I have today I know I will see them again real soon. 
If you were to meet me today, nothing about my physical appearance, nothing about the way I conduct myself today, and nothing I talk about on a daily basis with regular people outside my 12 step meetings would give you any indication of the man I just told you about was really me.
People that know me today and have known me through out my whole life see the change in me today and see the real person I was always suppose to be. so if you think it couldnt posssibly happen to your child you want to think again and look for warning signs, nothing that happened in my life had anything to do with how my mother raised me, she did an amazing job with 2 boys and 2 girls, I made all the bad decisions on my own, without her support I wouldn't be here today.


Help & Support:



1 comment:

  1. One of the things I would like to add that I just became aware of is that when you start drugs at such a young age you actually doom yourself. I did not know the brain is still not fully developed so the drugs have a huge impact on the system. The body becomes dependent on them and makes it even harder to quit.

    Eliseo Weinstein @ JRs BailBond