Sobriety Is Like Air To Me. And I Need Air To Survive.

I started drinking at the age of 37. Before that my addiction was food.

I had a gastric bypass in 2001 and in 2005 started my downward spiral of alcohol and other drugs. In 6 short years, I divorced my husband of 18 years, my kids moved out of state to live with my sister, I lost my house, 3 DUI’s, two cars, and my freedom.

After I became homeless, and then raped, my boyfriend (now husband) was crying and found me a rehab. After rehab, I went to jail and that is where my journey started. After a few years of sobriety, I found my career. First as a baker and then to a radio personality. I was a co-host on a Columbus station doing a classic rock morning show. Then I started my own radio show in Stark County called “Addiction, Voices of Hope.”

I focused on recovery stories of addiction and mental health – and the stigmas that go along with it. Parents who’ve lost their children to addiction were the stories that killed me the most. The show became a quick hit with the locals.

I spoke all over Stark and Tusc counties. I am now a certified peer specialist. I have taken my show off the air to change it’s format. I have been asked to syndicate the show and will have that ready within the year. I have so many gifts today from recovery.

Sobriety is like air for me. I need air to survive and I need sobriety to survive. In July of 2017, I also married the love of my life, after 10 years of dating. This is a very short version of my story. I have been sober now for 8 years as of February 1, 2018

Something Changed. And Then Recovery Happened To Me.

If you asked anyone five to ten years ago where I would be in ten years, you would likely get answers like “in jail”, “strung out”, or “dead.” Back then, I was stuck in addiction. Every move I made was somehow connected to getting my next fix. Heroin is a powerful drug. And while it didn’t start there, that is where it ended up. From the age of about 13, maybe even younger, I was always looking for something to numb the pain of life. Something to make me feel good. Alcohol, weed, LSD, whatever I could find. I had no fear. Then, sometime in my mid twenty’s, a bad car accident led to a pain management doctor and a lot of opiates. For me, taking pain pills was like being fully charged and then some. My mood was fantastic, I was productive, no pain, no problems.

I was addicted before I even knew addiction was a thing. For the longest time, the prescriptions did the trick. Then something changed. My body got accustomed to it and it wasn’t the same so I started taking more. And more. Then someone suggested I try something stronger. It came in a capsule and was like “really strong Percocet’s.” And then they mentioned that you should never inject it because it’s so much stronger. Well, what do you think I had to do then? Of course I had to try it. And like this “friend” said, I loved it. It was the most amazing rush I had ever felt and I felt invincible. For about four hours. And then I needed to do it again. That started something that I still deal with today.

In the beginning, I was unaware that it was actually heroin that I was doing. That sounds ridiculous and naïve. It is. I had always said I would never try that. The girl that introduced me to it knew that. That is why she presented it that way. Easy to see all of that now. I still can’t believe I didn’t know. By the time I learned what I was doing it was too late. I was gone, gone, gone. It had such a hold on me that nothing… let me emphasize, NOTHING mattered. This, my friends, is heroin addiction.

I grew up in Manteo, North Carolina. My brother died when I was four and my mom died when I was five. My dad, understandably, was a little disconnected. Alcohol was his friend. I spent a lot of time with my friends. He eventually remarried and when I was in fifth grade we moved to Virginia. That’s when things changed. I don’t remember when or exactly how it all got started. I know that crack was one of the first “real” drugs I tried. I had been drinking. LSD was early on the list. Weed was a convenience. I hung out with older guys. Somehow during all of this I still managed to maintain straight A’s and play basketball, softball, and volleyball for the school. I stayed grounded because I was always with the wrong crowd or coming home intoxicated. So when I was seventeen years old I left home. I moved to Richmond with my boyfriend. I drank and smoked weed, worked, and ate whatever I could afford. Sometimes I couldn’t afford food at all. I left him and met another guy and at eighteen I got pregnant and married. This would have been a good time to get it together, but no such luck. I still partied. I worked and went back to high school. I was Mom. Not a great mom. I did get it together for a while. I loved my son. I just didn’t know how to parent.

I thought that I was going to be okay and then the car accident happened. I got on pills, added some coke, and then met that wonderful person that introduced me to heroin. I spiraled fast. It was on and off for a few years, but looking back it feels like a lifetime. It was dope and coke all day, every day. That’s all that mattered. I didn’t mean to neglect my son and every other aspect of life, but that’s all I could do. It was the most powerful feeling I have ever felt in my life. To be able to get in the way of your love for yourself, your family, your child… it’s bad. It still hurts and makes me nauseous to think of my behavior even today. Eventually it lead to breaking the law to get money to get high. That led to being arrested. Then arrested again. And again. So that lead to a whole new problem. I had more than a few arrests. Possession of controlled substances, larceny, driving charges, and it goes on. I kept getting arrested, going to jail, then getting out and doing the same exact thing. Insanity much? So, I quickly learned why they call it the revolving door.

In 2012, something changed. I had been feeling different and found out I was pregnant. That was devastating and terrifying. I could only imagine how much damage I had already done. I didn’t think there was any way I could possibly sustain a pregnancy with my lack of nutrition and drug use, so I just used more to numb out the reality of what was going on. But she was still there. With a little help, I managed to get to the methadone clinic. I was so scared. It took about three weeks to stabilize and get comfortable, but I still was having a hard time staying away from heroin. Then I received a letter from my dad and a check. It basically said he was sending me that money and goodbye. He had already buried two kids and a wife and he wasn’t going to bury me. He also mentioned that he didn’t even know me and that I was pretty much already dead to him anyway. I was a shell of a person. Turning point! Majorly. I ripped up the check, mailed it back, and stopped using. I’ve been in recovery ever since. Four months later I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. She keeps me strong.

Today life is different. My son forgave me and is very supportive. He doesn’t look at me as the addict, terrible mom that put him through hell. My life is good. I have a good job. I am a student. I bought a house and a nice car. Five years ago I was lucky to buy something to eat, so I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished. My daughter and I are very close and she is spoiled rotten. I completed Peer Recovery Specialist training and am working on getting certified and giving back to the addict community. I have dreams and I can see a future now. God brought me through the darkest time in my life, but it made me. It gave me the life I have now. It gave me the opportunity to give Him credit for being here today, to show love, patience, and understanding to people who need it. And to give HOPE. That’s what matters to me. Being able to bring hope to someone who may have been ready to give up. Or to someone who may have already given up. Because without hope, there’s no change of changing your circumstances. I am here today, over five years clean to show that RECOVERY HAPPENS!

I’m 12. Addiction Affects Me, Too.

My mom, Jessica Geschke, asked me if I wanted to share from a kid’s perspective what it is like to have an uncle addicted to drugs.  I know that this is important because people are struggling and we need to help them.

I found out that my Uncle was addicted a few years ago when my mom started speaking with Rise Together. I remember her speaking in schools to kids, talking to the kids about what my uncle did to our family. It made me really sad because my uncle is someone I look up to and I didn’t think he would do some of those things that she said he did to her or my grandma and grandpa.

My uncle was using drugs a few years ago and it made my mom very sad. I could tell. She would cry and her and my dad would talk about him in the kitchen when she thought I couldn’t hear. She would say things about how he needed treatment but didn’t have money for it. Or how he needed medication to get better, but didn’t have insurance. Or how he had said things when he had used drugs, and the things he said, made my mom very mad. My mom flew to Arizona with my grandpa once to get my Uncle and bring him home. He was using heroin every day. I was worried about her, my grandpa and my uncle but mainly my mom. He came home and got better for a little while but then used heroin again. I didn’t understand why my mom didn’t fix him. She fixes a lot of people. She is always on her phone, helping people who call her, all the time. One time, she left in the middle of the night to go pick someone up, that she didn’t even know, that was in trouble. My mom does a lot for a lot of people. But she couldn’t do what she wanted to do to help my uncle.  This made my mom very sad because she is a therapist. She thinks because she is a person who helps other people, she should be able to fix my uncle and make him stop using drugs. I know this bothers her.

This past year, my uncle came to live with us because he got sober. It has been one of the happiest years of my life. He played with me and my sister. He babysat us. He took me fishing. We went camping. He taught me a lot of things. I love my uncle, very much.

But in July, my mom and my uncle started fighting a lot. I knew something was wrong by the way he ignored me and my sister and would never come upstairs. He slept all the time. He looked sleepy when he was by us in the living room. He fell asleep in the chair with food in his mouth. One day, my mom, sister and me came home from shopping and I walked into the living room. I found my uncle on the chair. He was hardly breathing. He wouldn’t move. His head was turned down and he looked dead. We yelled his name. He didn’t wake up. My mom made me and my sister leave the room and yelled at us to go into the kitchen. I didn’t listen. I kept running back into the living room asking her what was wrong with my uncle. My mom was slapping him on his face to get him to wake up and running back and forth from the living room to the bathroom. I was very scared.  When my mom began to cry, I figured my sister and I should wait in the kitchen, so we did. My uncle finally woke up after my mom gave him some medicine. He came out into the kitchen. He fell into the stove and finally went outside. I heard my mom asking him a lot of questions, he never answered her. His eyes were shut a lot. He didn’t want to talk to her.  I heard my mom tell my uncle he could no longer live with us. She was so mad at him for falling asleep in the chair. She was crying but her tears were mad crying, not sad.  I was very mad at her for telling him that he couldn’t live with us. I didn’t know where he would go at the time and I didn’t want him to be alone. My mom explained to me and my sister that she had to protect us first and that my uncle came second. I guess my mom’s job is the hardest. She loves my uncle a lot, but she loves us too.

My uncle left us and went to treatment where he stayed for the 32 days. We got to go visit him once when he was there. I cried a lot. I love him so much. I want him to be happy. He got out of the treatment place and went to live in a home with other people who are sober. He has been living there for the past five months. This week, he celebrated 188 days of sobriety and I am very happy and proud of him.

People who have an addiction to drugs or alcohol can get better. One of my best friends is in recovery. His name is Abe.  He is a pretty cool dude. He also helps my uncle and my family understand what we are going through. My Aunt Katie is in recovery. She is one of my mom’s best friends. She has been sober for 13 years. My friends Anthony and Nadine with Rise Together are in recovery. They are super cool and always help my uncle and my mom whenever she needs them.  I want everyone who has an addiction to be in recovery. My mom always says, “Recovery is possible!” And I know that is really is.

Kellen Geschke, Age 12

From Jail And An Overdose To A Life Beyond My Wildest Dreams In Recovery

My name is Rebecca Zwicker and I am a woman in long term recovery.

At the age of 24 I had a successful job, a home owner, a mother of 2 beautiful children and was going through a divorce. Shortly after I was in a car accident and found myself being prescribed my first opiate addiction, which at the time I didn’t know I would have become addicted to heroin.

Twelve years later, after being in and out of the criminal justice systems, incarcerations, numerous detox’s and residential programs, losing custody of my children, my car and became homeless. I found myself in a very dark, desperate, lonely place. I woke up one day in ICU after a non-fatal overdose with 8 broken ribs (from CPR).

I’d like to say that I came into recovery at that moment, I didn’t. Before the hospital could even say I was medically cleared to leave, I was already plotting on how and where I could get another bag of heroin. I wanted help at that moment but didn’t know how to ask for it. I was homeless and knew I was going back to what I was used to. I thought this is how my life will always be, hopeless and lost having a choice in my life.

Before making the best decision of my life, I went back to the streets and ended up in jail again. The judge that detained me, saved my life. I now work with him and he was my biggest cheerleader in early recovery. Judge would tell me “The first year was for you, now every day after is for me”. Since that day I have been in recovery. I went from the streets to an office seat.

I am dedicated to helping others just like me. I didn’t believe there was a way out. Now I do, I’m living proof along with many others in the recovery community that recovery works. Every voice matters! I now have a career (which I love), I’m a loving mother to my kids and I love life! I am a woman and mother of respect, honor, dignity and integrity. My life has changed tremendously and the impossible has become possible.

I’ve learned through this process the sky is the limit and I am living the dream. Every day I live by this, faith in my recovery, hope for my future, and love myself and many others. If there is one thing I could tell someone who is struggling, give yourself a chance, you are worth it. Recovery Rocks!!

The Twelve Steps Saved My Life

7 years ago I was hopelessly addicted to heroin & benzos and living in a homeless shelter.

My life was in shambles. I was unemployed & unemployable, my son had been removed from our custody, my family wouldn’t speak with me & I my license was suspended. I became a “frequent flyer” at the county jail. Every waking hour consisted of getting loaded & finding my next fix.

I knew I needed serious help but didn’t know what to do. My outpatient counselor said, “dude, you need inpatient treatment.” I had no valid argument against his suggestion & went. Detox was rough! But I made it.

I got connected with a 12 step group, picked up a sponsor & a service position, went to meetings every day & didn’t get loaded in between.

My clean date is August 3, 2012 and life isn’t perfect but its a hell of a lot better than it was. My son is back with us, I have a great relationship with my family, I have a drivers license, I have worked for the same company for 5 years and just got a nice promotion & I take a 12 step meeting into the prison near me every week.

It’s been difficult at times but it does get easier and life is a gift that I don’t take for granted anymore. If I can get clean…anyone can get clean!

I Am Not Ashamed Of Who I’ve Become In Recovery

I’ve been in recovery from addiction since September 1 2009. Actually, my journey in recovery began several months earlier when I started medical internship. I was a “real doctor” at this point and believed that my drinking and drug use would now be relegated to the rare opportunity when I had a few days off to party. I did not believe that alcohol would affect my work. To my surprise, this turned out to be a delusion.

I believe that I was born an addict. My family is riddled with the disease and I was aware from a young age that I was at risk. This awareness did not protect me from the disease or immunize me against denial. I started using drugs and alcohol at around age 13 and I never drank non-alcoholically. I realized fairly early that my relationship with drugs and alcohol was unusually intense, but I fancied myself an adventurer, bravely seeking new experiences. I failed to notice that I was in reality having the same experience repeatedly. I was a binge drinker, not a daily drinker. I knew I lost control once I started drinking, but I thought I was in control of the first drink.

Despite the worsening hangovers, crushing shame, frequent blackouts, arrests, and chaotic relationships, I never tried to quit drinking. I literally could not conceive of a world in which I didn’t use drugs and alcohol. So it was strange that, on the morning of July 5 2009, I realized that I needed help with my drinking.

The preceding episode of drinking was not unusual, except that I surfaced from black out while still awake. I imagine this feels a bit like awakening in a parallel universe. For a few moments, I experienced reality and it felt terrible. I continued to feel awful the next day when I called in sick to work during my first week working as a “real doctor” with “real responsibility.” I was often too sick for my commitments, at times actually convincing myself that I had developed a viral illness while drinking the night before.

I would usually have suffered through that day and, hangover receding, decided that the situation wasn’t really so serious, that I simply needed to be more careful next time. However, this day I was armed with the phone number of a physician in recovery who had told his story during intern orientation. I had been deeply affected by his talk and introduced myself afterward. Strangely, I had admitted to him that I had an “unusual” relationship with alcohol. I called this man and told him that I needed help. His wife, also a physician in recovery, became my recovery sponsor.

She suggested that I talk to my program director and call the recovering professionals program. Once I did that, there was no turning back. I tried to back peddle, but it was too late. I was going to get sober or lose my license. I was absolutely terrified. I did not want to get sober. I didn’t have a desire to stop drinking, but I did have a desire to find some peace. I was tired of the constant sensation of yearning that I couldn’t shake even when I was drinking.

I drank and used again before I was to start outpatient treatment despite significant potential consequences. It felt like a choice at the time. It took me a while in recovery to realize that it hadn’t been, that I did not have control over the first drink and that what I thought of as “anticipation” was actually craving.
I embarked semi-willingly in recovery. I was not sure that living sober would be better than death. I clung to the promise that, if I could just keep putting one foot in front of the other a day at a time in recovery, I would come out the other side of all this pain with a beautiful life, a life I couldn’t imagine. That promise has come true for me.

Recovery has given me the opportunity to explore who I really am and to use my experience to help others. I am proud of being an alcoholic and grateful to be in recovery. I am not ashamed of being a drug addict. Recovery has been worth the price of admission.

The Road to Losing My Brother Was Paved With Little White Lies.

Dreams shattered, my heart broken into a million little pieces.. Ryan called me to say he was was on his way home. I had no clue that the words we spoke to one another on November 28th, 2017 at 1:26am, would be our last. I can still here the conversation in my head like it was yesterday. Ryan said “baby I’m on my way home, so I’ll see you soon ok, I love you.”. My reply “ok, I love you too, see you when you get here!”.. Then my worst nightmare began..

My name is Anne, I’m a recovering addict. But this isn’t my story. This is the journey of my forever love, a wonderful man, son, brother and friend, Ryan, and his battle though addiction which took his life, December 3rd, 2017.

Ryan was a fun, charming, guy with the most beautiful blue eyes. They were unforgettable. He could make you crack a smile with very little effort by telling one of his “it doesn’t make sense but they’re hilarious” jokes, or getting the entire unit in jail plus some to say one of his slogans, “let me find out” or “purple monkey dishwasher”. His presence lit up a room everywhere he went. Ryan had a very outgoing personality, ever since he was a little kid. Everyone loved him, he gathered crowds everywhere he went. But being Mr R. Biggs didn’t rid of his low self esteem, that you’d never think he had based off his personality and how he carried himself. He loved to go to the race track and race the car he helped his dad build. He loved motorcycles. He bought a Harley from his step mom and he redid it, turned it into his own style, until he was out drinking one night and crashed it. Ryan was always seeking something adrenaline filled, he had been that way since he was a little kid, class clown.

Ryan has been addicted to drugs since he was a teenager, heroin, meth, Xanax and at one point alcohol. He spent his years in and out of prison, and jail. He had done approximately 5 years of prison time before we met in 2012. And the jail time kept on coming. I had no clue the day we first met, that my life would be forever changed.

Ryan and I met back in October if 2012, he was in a half way house, just out of prison in the work release program, working at Chipotle, he had such a love-hate relationship with that job. I was living in a sober apt and attending school to become an addiction counselor, as I myself am a recovering meth addict. Our relationship was good the 1st three years. We never argued but on the rare occasion that we did it was short lived and we were back to laughing and loving each other. He and my son Braeden were best buds, it makes my heart melt to think of how close they were. Most first dates don’t include a child, but ours did. Ryan called and asked me out to dinner one night and I told him that Id love to but had no sitter for my son. His response blew me away, “oh well that’s ok he can come with.” Wow, shocked I replied “well are you for real? You’d be ok with my son coming along on our first date?” Yep he was. So off to Old Chicago we went, and it was an amazing time. The 2 boys played the crane game forever, while I watched them laugh and have fun, thinking how awesome is this guy. We were inseparable from that night forward. Ryan was sober when we met, but little did we know, his sobriety wouldn’t last. It wasn’t but a few months and he was using again. Started off with random occasions of meth use followed by Xanax and eventually back to heroin.

Ryan had one brother, Eric, they were 1 ½ years apart. He and Eric were best friends, a relationship so tight no one would ever break their bond. We all had such great times together having barbeques, watching movies and just hanging out. I have so many memories it’s hard to choose a favorite, but my favorite one is the day Ryan, myself and my son Braeden went to Eric’s and we made a video of Eric playing the guitar and Ryan singing the song “Patience” by Guns n Roses, with my son Braeden dancing in the background. Brings tears to my eyes every time I hear that song. I have so many memories that I could probably write an entire book just filled with them.

Ryan had used heroin and meth a few times here and there, encountering a couple overdoses, one of them putting him in the hospital on life support for 8 days because he had aspirated vomit when he overdosed. He suffered a minor brain injury from this overdose due to the lack of oxygen but thank God he was going to be okay with the exception of having some minor memory issues.

Ryan’s life really began to change when his brother lost his life to a heroin overdose on October 27th, 2013. Ryan was in prison when his brother overdosed and died. Sitting in solitary confinement, alone, Ryan got the horrible news, one prays to never hear. Ryan was allowed 1-2 hours of time with his brother at the funeral home, but he was shackled and alone, as no one could be in the facility with him. What a tragedy. Then back to prison he went, back into that cold lonely cell alone. When Ryan came home after Eric died he began drinking, daily. Steele reserve as it was Eric’s favorite and whiskey, a liter a day he polished off. He worked full time never missing a day so depressed and sad or the loss of his brother that no matter what he did nothing could ever begin to even fill the void he felt in his heart. That’s when I noticed some changes in Ryan and his behavior.

The Little White Lies, the sneakiness, the shadiness let me to believe that Ryan was using again and more than just a random occasion. He was heavily using Xanax, snorting it, drinking heavily and using heroin occasion but would hide it and lie about it when he did. Our relationship became Rocky as the lies didn’t stop, he cheated and then that led to nothing but arguments between us because the solid strong trust that we had, was now broken. Even though the trust was broken we were still so very close it was weird I cannot even put it into words. We argued over the dumbest things, I’d give him the opportunity to be honest having proof of his lies but he still chose to lie instead especially about his drug use. But I refused to give up on him because I knew behind this person who was addicted to drugs was an amazing man who wanted nothing more than to get sober and live a happy life.

But not only did he battle with depression and anxiety and PTSD, he did not know how to even begin grieving the loss of his brother, his best friend. It broke my heart to see him suffer in so much pain day in and day out and no matter how hard I tried there was nothing I could do to take that pain away from him. In and out of jail and prison he went. Our relationship Hanging On by a mere thread both of us refusing to give up on one another. In 2015 I went to prison for 13 months and when I went to prison Ryan was in prison and he got out 6 months before I did, and he was a walking disaster from the day he walked all those prison doors until the day that I came home. But even after I came home the drug use continued and he lied constantly about his heroin use because he was so ashamed and didn’t want to disappoint me. However, I told him “there’s no point in lying about your heroin use because it is very clear and obvious when you are using it, there is no chance in hell that you could lie to me about being on heroin it says it all over your face.”

He would hide his heroin but I would find it and I would flushed down the toilet I did not care if it was a $300 bag of heroin or a $20 bag he was not dying off that bag. Ryan did Outpatient Treatment only because he was ordered by the courts. Deep in his heart he wanted to get sober but he was afraid and scared to step into a world that he did not know. He had been using drugs since he was a teenager so being sober was a strange world for him. I thought was probation many times trying to get them to see that this man needed help not jail. Asking them pleading with them to please send him the treatment so that he can get the help that he needs that he’s not going to get in jail or in prison but they never listened and they wonder why he kept sending back up in jail. They tried to have him do drug court however they treated him like just another Junkie going through the system while they treated everybody else like humans giving them a chance treating them with respect but not Ryan. Ryan was the first person in the history of Anoka County Drug Court to get kicked out.

He then did inpatient treatment that was short-lived because 90% of the clients there were using meth and as vulnerable as Ryan was he ended up relapsing while he was in treatment and getting kicked out which let him right back to jail for the last 4 months of his life.

I never left Ryan when he went to jail or prison I always stuck right by his side remaining faithful and loyal to him. Making sure he had mail making sure he had money on his books making sure there was money on the phone so he can call home and visiting every chance that there was a visiting session even if it meant I had to drive an hour or two away in a blizzard I still showed up to visit my man. It took a great toll on his family his mom and his dad were frustrated and fed up with the drug use and him being in and out of jail that they kept their distance from him, very hard for them but it was very hard for Ryan as well as he felt very alone like he had nobody he can count on except for me. After everything that we have been through in our relationship here I was still sticking by his side because I knew inside was an amazing man still trying to escape addiction and I was not going to give up on him was not going to give up hope and just toss him to the curb and walk away like most people probably would have done in my situation. I love that man with all my heart.

Our relationship had been through so many hard times, 90% of couples in this world would have never made it through the trials and tribulations we had to go through, and yet here we were still standing together closer than ever fighting for sobriety, love and life.

I could continue on and on about Ryan’s journey through addiction and how amazing he truly was. It is with a deeply broken heart, my story about my loving caring yet at times very difficult boyfriend whom I love with all my heart is now dead because of this crazy disease. I’m 11/28/2017 Ryan was give heroin mixed with fentanyl and/or carafentanil. Ryan called me at 1:26 am and said His last words to me “I’m on my way home, I love you baby, see you soon”. He was brought home almost dead, barely breathing. His buddy thought he just merely “passed out”. He called to say they were home and to come help get Ryan out of the truck. Upon my arrival to the truck I knew immediately Ryan was overdosing his eyes in a dead glazed over stare, a rare death gurgle. I immediately yelled for our friend to call 911 and began giving him rescue breaths. I administered Narcan, it did nothing. CPR continued until paramedics arrived and gave him a 2nd dose of narcan, still nothing.

Ryan went into cardiac arrest in the ER and was put on life support to help him breath. After 5 days on life support, the life support was taken away. After that moment my life became a horrifying nightmare as I sat there and watch the love of my life die and there wasn’t anything I could do. Ryan was gone about 2pm on 12/3/2017. My heart is numb, I’m stuck living in denial that he isn’t really gone. The pain inside is too overwhelming. His poor mother, lost her only 2 sons to heroin. That thought makes my pain feel so small.

Ryan’s life purpose was through his death, to save others. And that purpose is being carried out through me and my actions today. By sharing his story I hope it touches the lives of addicts and that they seek the help needed so that another family doesn’t have to go through the horrifying pain our family is going through.

My forever love may you finally rest in peace next to your brother Eric. You may be gone but you will never be forgotten. Love you always and forever, Anne.

Heroin, Mental Health, And Toxic Shame Took Me Down. Now, My Priority Is Recovery.

6 months ago I relapsed. 47 days ago I started over.

It all began at the age of 13. I had begun abusing prescription drugs after several traumatic events which sent me into a spiral of depression and emotional instability. I started with benzodiazepines, but when I found opioids, I was hooked almost immediately.

I became both physically and psychologically dependent on the substances, meaning that if I didn’t take the pills, I would become very sick. I did whatever I had to in order to maintain my habit…I lied, stole, and manipulated people I loved and who loved me.

Finally, at 15, I asked my parents if I could go to treatment. I was tired of being sick and tired and struggled to get clean on my own. I attended a Wilderness Therapy program for three months followed by a year and a half at a residential program, and while the treatment was incredibly difficult and I thought about leaving nearly every day, I successfully completed both programs with a new outlook on my life. I began to believe that a clean life was possible for me. And the life that unfolded was beyond what I had ever thought would be possible: I made many new friends, I was accepted to each of the six colleges I applied to with scholarships, I stayed clean throughout my entire senior year of high school, I got to go to prom, and I graduated high school with the rest of my class. I had over two years and a half years clean by the time summer ended.

And then when summer began, I got complacent. I still attended 12 step meetings, but I began slacking in my program and keeping secrets here and there. The vivid using dreams and cravings came back. And although I was working a job for a couple hours several days of the week, I had a lot of free time on my hands. Bored, complacent, lonely, and even a little depressed, I made arrangements to meet with somebody who would sell me a drug I hadn’t tried before—one that wouldn’t require stealing anyone else’s prescription: heroin.

The first time I used heroin, I snorted it. The second time and every time after, I injected it into my arms. I did everything I could to hide the fact that I was using again; I was so ashamed. I made excuses to spend more time outside so I could hide my pinpoint pupils under sunglasses, I cut up my dinner into little pieces to pretend like I was eating it when I could barely stomach it because of my nausea, and used concealer to hide any noticeable marks or bruises on my arms. But I could not hide it from myself. I hated what I was doing and, after a week of shooting up dope, I told my family, friends in my program, and sponsor that I had relapsed.

While I managed to do okay for the rest of the summer—despite unaddressed and lingering shame, I, against my sponsor’s advice, decided to go away to college in fall of 2017—all the way over in Boston, thousands of miles from my home in Seattle. I didn’t have any drug dealer connections there, so I thought things would be better. Within a week, I was getting high again.

This time, I was “cold copping”—going out to a dangerous part of town and asking strangers to sell me dope. I thought all of my bad experiences would be enough to make me stop using. But I continued to pick up, and then put the drugs down, just to find myself picking up again.

I felt like I tried everything. I even went on the Vivitrol shot to block any euphoric effects of the drugs, but I continued to take them near the end of the month, overriding the shot’s affects. I hated what I was doing, but I had little hope and lots of shame. I wanted to die. And things just got worse.

In early November, I was caught on video camera purchasing heroin inside an elevator of a hospital in Boston. A police officer showed me his badge as I walked out, grabbed me, and told me he would not arrest me if I gave him the bag. Although I didn’t get arrested, I was so scared when he asked for all of my information and told me I would get a court summons in the mail and that I needed to call my parents to tell them what had happened. The shame I already had was magnified in this incident because one thing became very clear to me—I could no longer hide that I was struggling.

My treatment team at a therapy clinic I was visiting in Boston persistently recommended I go to treatment, but I refused, claiming I had already been through enough treatment and should know how to get myself back up. Yet I continued to slide and my mental state declined. After one last hit on November 26th, I woke up and decided to ask my therapist about taking a leave of absence and attending treatment.

A week later I was admitted to treatment. And here I am, 40 days into the program, 47 days clean. As much as it hurts to admit, going to treatment this time—a second time—was the best decision I’ve made over the past year. And I didn’t lose everything I’ve learned in my recovery journey—I’ve simply fallen off the path and am finding my way back. In the not too far future, I plan to go back home, return to college (once I’m ready), and live out my dreams…but I know not to take my sobriety for granted anymore. In the time being—and hopefully, from here on out, my priority is recovery.

My Relationship With God Helps Me Handle Whatever Life Throws At Me

After a career in the consumer products industry, a lifetime of drinking and drugging caught up with me. I was dismissed from that job six months short of being able to retire. 8 months later an incident with a neighbor and the police convinced me it was time to get sober.

My thinking at the time was I would do the rehab and 12 step deal until the heat dies down then I would go back to my regular routine. That all changed in rehab when my first wife informed me she wanted a divorce regardless of what I did when I left rehab!

In the ten years since then I’ve suffered major financial losses, a girlfriend went back out and dies; I’ve lost a parent, but at no time during those trials did drinking or using cross my mind as a suitable alternative to facing the issues at hand.

Today I am the director of a Peer Recovery Center and will soon be a fully licensed professional Counselor.

My life is certainly not perfect today but if anyone had told me 10 years ago I would be where I am now I would have told them they were crazy!

In addition, I have a relationship with my son, I have remarried, but most importantly I have a relationship with God today which is the most important relationship I have!

Big Pharma Started My Problem With Opioids. My Solution Is Recovery.

Hi. I am Connie. I am a nurse. I should know. Right? Do you know how many nurses, doctors and professionals are in recovery for opioid and alcohol addiction? Statistically I don’t have the numbers but it is a growing number.

My story starts back to 2000 when I was started on an opioid for migraines. At first I took only as needed, then I realized I liked the high from the pills and I started taking them just on weekends because I worked during the week. I didn’t want to be driving of course. But eventually I started taking them more frequently until that was not enough.

I started taking them everyday in the evening. Then I took them at lunch time. When I could no longer get out of bed without taking drugs, I took them in the morning. I begged and borrowed and stole drugs. This happened over a 10 year span. In 2010, I got called to the office at work and questioned about the possibility of me using drugs and I denied it. This time, I had a friend that worked with meth recovery so I talked to him. He tried to help but the drugs were so powerful.

I couldn’t stay clean. I relapsed several times. I was questioned at work again and told the next time would not be in my best interest. So I went home and confessed to my family. Told them I was going to work the next day and tell them.

The next day I went into work and told my boss and her supervisor. They said they wanted to help me. In the meantime, I had called One of the nurse advocates I know helped me get into a program. The Georgia Board of Nursing Advocacy program. Little did I know what was ahead of me. Five years on a consent order. Calling in daily for random drug screens. Monthly reports. And then they told my work I could not work in that area of nursing so I lost my job.

It would be 9 months before I got a job. Our family relied on my income. Not long after this, my nurse advocate friend had relapsed and died of an opioid overdose.

Today, I am 8 years sober on 2-1-2018. I attended AA several times a week. I have a sponsor and I sponsor others. My life has forever changed and so has my families. When my son was 18 he went with me to AA when I was receiving a chip. It’s a family disease.

If anything could be done different, I wished my doctor screened me better for potential addiction and family history. I have three grandparents and both my mom and dad are addicts. My grandmother was my age when she died in the DTs.

This disease is real.