By 14, I Was in Full Blown Addiction. What I Didn’t Know was the Nature of My Illness.

By 14, I Was in Full Blown Addiction. What I Didn't Know was the Nature of My Illness. - #VoicesProject

My name is Maya, I’m seventeen years old, and I have 2 and a half years off of prescription opioids. I am a young person recovering from addiction. Never in my childhood did I ever see myself having to identify myself like that – with the word “addict.” I grew up thinking that an addict always started out as a “bad” kid who didn’t listen when people said “say no to drugs” and then ended up in an ally somewhere with a needle in their arm. But the truth is, an addict can come from any background.

Addiction doesn’t discriminate based on age, socioeconomic status, race, gender, nationality, etc.

My story goes that I grew up in a middle class household with a fairly stable family life early on. As I started to get older, around my sixth grade year, my family dealt with a few pretty significant traumas which caused a good deal of turmoil within my house. Additionally, I was severely emotionally bullied at school. Unable to cope with these experiences, I turned to cutting myself, starving myself, and using prescription drugs.

I started out using benzodiazepines, a sedative class of drugs including Xanax, Valium and Klonopin, among others. In the beginning, I only used the drugs every other month or so. But when I got to high school, things changed. I had difficulty making friends due to my past trauma and, again in an attempt to cope, I discovered in my medicine cabinet a bottle of Vicodin, an opioid pain medication, that belonged to my sister. She had been prescribed the drug when she had her wisdom teeth removed but hadn’t taken any. Once I opened that bottle, I was on the road to hell.

I began stealing different opioid pills (Vicodin, Percocet, Dilaudid, etc.) from family, friends, and strangers. I went from using several times a day to feeling like I had to get my fix every single hour of my days and nights. At a certain point, I wasn’t able to hide it anymore and my parents found my drugs and flushed them down the toilet. I experienced a horrible withdrawal period of aching, vomiting, and feeling like I couldn’t eat. I began trying to get clean at this point, but after a month, I was back at it again.

By the time I reached my breaking point, I had ruined relationships with friends and family, ended up in the hospital several times, and obtained syringes and was texting drug dealers so I could make arrangement to get and use heroin. When my parents found out about this, they sent me to treatment. I spent three and a half months in a Wilderness Therapy program followed by a year and a half in a long-term residential treatment facility. In treatment, I was not only able to get off the drugs, but I was finally forced to address all of the emotional pain I had stuffed down so deep inside of me.

I have been home for a little over a year now. Since my return from treatment, I’ve been actively participating in a twelve step fellowship, I’ve been keeping myself physically active through swimming, yoga, and other forms of workout, and have been working super hard in school. Next year I will be going off to college in Boston, which I never could have imagined happening two years ago. Things aren’t perfect and this disease is still alive inside of me, but the everyday battle I choose to fight has been one hundred percent worth it. I hope I can inspire other young people and struggling addicts to see that their is a light at the end of the tunnel.