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Naloxone Saves Lives

For people who use opioids—whether their use is intentional or accidental, and whether their substance of choice is prescribed or self-administered—overdose is always a risk. Even people with a tolerance for opioids can experience an overdose. In these life threatening situations, naloxone is essential. Without it, many people do not survive. That’s why The Voices Project is spearheading the Overdose Response Initiative with the Clinton Foundation and in partnership with NGO’s Direct Relief and the National Alliance of Recovery Residences. The primary goal of this initiative to help bring recovery residences (also known as sober livings) to scale in providing overdose response supports.

This 3-year initiative will provide free naloxone and digital overdose response training—along with best practices—to recovery residences in the United States. Community organizations that provide direct services for substance use disorder are encouraged to participate. However, initial preference for the free naloxone distribution will be given to recovery residences.

There are an estimated 13,000 recovery residences in the United States. These homes tend to be a first-line of defense for people who are in early recovery from opioid use disorder. Recently, there has been a severe uptick in overdose deaths in recovery homes. Through this partnership and initiative, we hope to eliminate access barriers to the overdose antidote by providing free naloxone along with the necessary training and support for recovery homes to develop individualized overdose response protocols.

This multifaceted initiative works to prevent opioid overdoses. Making naloxone universally available is a key element in fighting substance related death in the United States.

Naloxone is the generic name for Narcan, an opioid blocker medication that stops overdoses and saves lives. The medication is administered via injection or through a nasal inhaler. It can be given to anyone who shows signs of opioid overdose:

●    respiratory failure
●    slow breathing
●    small or pinprick pupils
●    unresponsiveness
●    blue or pale skin from poor circulation

Most overdoses are not immediately fatal. Naloxone can save a life if it’s given to the person as quickly as possible. Naloxone is effective for 30-90 minutes, and more than one dose may be needed to keep someone alive. Naloxone is an essential part of any First Aid kit, especially in places where people may experience higher risk of opioid exposure, such as sober living homes, hospitals, pharmacies, and households where someone has an opioid prescription.

As fentanyl becomes more prevalent, having naloxone on hand is more important than ever. Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that can be mixed into other substances, such as methamphetamines, heroin, and non-prescription pills. Even a small amount of fentanyl can be lethal once it enters the body. Fentanyl overdoses require more than one naloxone kit. If somebody doesn’t revive after the first naloxone kit is administered, they may have been exposed to fentanyl.

The Overdose Response Initiative is important because it acknowledges that anyone, in any family, at any time, can be affected by overdose. Making naloxone universally available helps dispel the stigma of substance use disorder. Just like EpiPens for people with allergies, condoms for HIV prevention and safer sex, and AED machines for people at risk for heart attacks, naloxone is a necessary public health measure. A single naloxone kit can cost anywhere from $0 to $40, depending on your insurance plan. Some nonprofits distribute the kits for free: they should always have two doses of naloxone, to contend with more severe overdoses. Many recovery advocates offer free naloxone training so that families, friends, and caregivers are prepared.

Naloxone is one of the best tools we have in the fight against the national drug epidemic. Let’s make it a universal care measure, for anyone, anywhere whose life is endangered by opioids.

Chris Was My Son, My Baby. He Was So Much More Than His Disease.

We moved to NJ when Chris was in the 5th grade. Prior to this he was diagnosed with ADHD and had started taking Ritalin. In elementary school Chris was in the gifted and talented program and he was so far ahead in math he was kept inside during recess to be taught math lessons one-to-one. Our family are members of the Catholic Church, where I was a youth group leader for 11 years. Chris was involved in multiple youth groups and attended the diocesan “Summer in the City” retreats to do community service. In high school he was inducted into the national honor society, and graduated HS with Honors. He went on to Rutgers University and graduated with his BS degree in Administration of Justice with minors in Sociology and Geography. He was awarded certification in Criminology. While attending Rutgers he worked in the County Prosecutor’s office, which is ironic as he would later serve time in state prison. In college Chris became addicted to caffeine, cigarettes, and then alcohol. He just seemed prewired or genetically predisposed to addiction. Most teens and college kids will try alcohol or drugs and never become addicted but about ‪1/10‬ have that genetic predisposition to a substance use disorder. His biological father’s side, being of Native American (Cherokee) decent, was riddled with people living with substance use disorders and addiction. We have the Nature/Nurture story of addiction. My husband’s family and my family don’t seem to have this genetic make up. My husband adopted Chris at age 6 when we were married. Chris did well in college even though addiction started to rear its ugly head with regard to alcohol. I questioned if his drinking was normal college age shenanigans or something more. After college Chris was employed by the State Government, and as a bachelor bought a single family home. He was extremely smart, and was a successful individual. He had taken the LSAT exam and had aspirations of becoming a lawyer or criminologist.

In 2009 he stepped off of an uneven curb falling and breaking all three bones his left ankle (trimalleolar fracture). The tendon also needed to be reconnected as it had been ripped off of the bone when he fell. He spent a long time in the hospital and the surgeon told us that he had put more hardware in Chris’ ankle than he had ever put into an ankle repair before. Chris had to stay with us in our home while he healed. He was out of work for months on disability. He went from wheelchair, to walker, to cane, to opiate pill dependent, and then to opiate pill addict. He became addicted to his prescribed Percocet almost immediately, although I was unaware of its grip for a long time. He had three surgeries when all was said and done. When the doctors quit prescribing his pain killers without tapering down, he found them on the streets of Trenton where he worked. They cost $1 per milligram and as his tolerance kept increasing, he needed more and more milligrams just to feel well. Feeling well, meaning helping with the continued pain in the ankle as well as feeling well from the pain of opiate wIthdrawal. Withdrawal, if you have ever seen it let alone lived it, is the worst pain imaginable. It’s an indescribable feeling of pain that convinces you that you are dying. Pain like no other. The pills physically changed his brain making it very difficult, if not impossible, to make good decisions regarding using and/or needing these drugs. One of the symptoms of this disorder, is to seek and use the drug no matter how dire or detrimental the consequence of using it might be. The consequence of losing your loved ones, your children, your job, your home, of going to jail, and even of the possibility of losing your own life are not deterrents. This symptom often causes those afflicted to do things that are criminal and out of character to obtain the drug. Many end up with criminal charges for possession, DUI, stealing, robbery, and the like. The individual often ends up in jail or prison.

My son became tolerant to higher and higher milligrams of the pills. He needed 60-80 milligram pills multiple times a day. He would sign his entire paycheck over to the dealer waiting for him outside his office in Trenton on payday. He was later introduced to heroin. It packed a bigger punch for, get this, only $10 in comparison to $80 a pill. He thought, with some convincing by the dealer, that this was his way out of a growing negative financial situation. He was behind on his mortgage and his other bills. In his mind he said, “Yes, sure sell me heroin and teach me how to inject it.” Remember when in full fledged addiction that positive decision making skill is compromised, and to him this less expensive option seemed to make perfect sense. It took some time before I realized that Chris had a problem. It wasn’t until he didn’t show up for my sister’s funeral (they were extremely close) that I knew something was very very wrong. I helped him get into treatment which he reluctantly agreed to. Chris went to an inpatient rehab facility in Florida but relapsed not long after completing the program. He would try to stop using on his own, but the severe withdrawal symptoms made him feel as if he was actually dying and he would relapse. Later he said to me, “mom, if you were dying and you knew the anecdote to cure you was just down the street on the corner for $10 wouldn’t you get it and use it?!” My son ended up receiving a three year sentence to prison due to making a poor decision while under the influence. He spent three years in State prison for being with two other “friends” who went into an abandoned house to steal copper piping to sell to obtain drugs. He was outside being “the lookout”. The house was not abandoned. Before he was even found guilty of his crime he was fired from his State Government job. He was released from prison and he had a criminal record. He was now a felon. No white collar job, in his field of study would ever hire him. After he spent 3-4 months in prison he was released on the NJ ISP program. This is a drug court program that has many rules to follow. Every aspect of his recovery and life was closely monitored. The program has a high success rate and I truly believed this would be how Chris would finally get well. He got a job selling popcorn at the movie theater but was “let go” when they ran his background check. A very discouraging scenario for a successful college graduate, who had worked hard to get well and get back onto the right track. He was trying to do the right things. He finally found a job delivering pizza for 5 dollars an hour. He happily did this job and battled, yes battled, the constant cravings for the drugs. He was in recovery for two and a half years. He did relapse in the beginning of the program when he lost the movie theater job, but did well after the ISP program placed him on medicine assisted treatment. My hopes were high. He was doing all the right things. He was determined and he wanted nothing more than to be well. After 2 1/2 years he accepted a better higher paying job at a warehouse and left the pizzeria. He was very excited until he found out that a third shift highly physical job would be extremely grueling. He could hardly walk due to pain after the long 12 hour shifts of physical work. His body got stronger and he adapted to the hard physical work. He confided in me that he was really starting to enjoy the job. He was feeling more physically fit and more able to do the work. Just a day or so later he was called in to the bosses office and was let go. The boss said that the job was not a good fit. He was still within the first 90 days on the job. He was crushed, he was broken, he was jobless, he was depressed, and yep, he went out to relieve his pain like he so comfortably did years ago. Sadly, he relapsed. It only took one time and he was right back into the grips of the drug. Relapse, I learned is normal when recovering from this disease. Relapses would become further and further apart as his brain would heal and he would learn the coping skills needed for long term recovery. Chris fought so hard, he would always get back up and start again, over, and over, and over again. Rehabs, detox, counseling, acupuncture, 12 step programs, etc., he had been to them all. He was the strongest person I have ever known.

During this period without a job he went to trade school to learn to drive fork lifts. He graduated and was certified to drive 9 different types of fork lift equipment. He was extremely proud. He then found the perfect job doing computer work/logistics at a local cold freezer warehouse. A blue collar job that utilized his white collar skills. He was happy. He loved this job. His knowledge and talents were being utilized. He said “Mom, I finally feel like I have an identity again.” He was a man with purpose. I was so proud. You know, these poor individuals become their disease. They are thought of as nothing more than that stereotypical junkie, an addict, a loser, a person with no willpower, a person that should “just stop”, a person that “chooses” the drug over more important things, and unfortunately, in their own mind someone who is worthless. So worthless, so horrid, and so unworthy of love that even their own families disown them through “tough love” or what they refer to as “detaching with love”. With no one to turn to, and no one who cares, guess what many turn to to escape? Drugs. But my son had an identity again, he was useful, he was needed, he was smart, and he was well liked at his new job.

He was just about at the 3 month anniversary of his hire when he would be eligible for health benefits, life insurance, and 401k. Unfortunately, on payday December 17, 2016 (for reasons unknown) Chris came in from work and relapsed. I heard him collapse upstairs above where I was sitting. I ran upstairs and found him in a ball against the wall in his room. I pulled him onto his back and he was black/blue. I called 911, administered CPR and two doses of injectable Narcan right through his blue jeans and into his thigh. He was non responsive. He was in cardiac arrest with no pulse, and he was not breathing. I was hysterical. Police and EMTs arrived and gave more Narcan. No response. Paramedics arrived and after about 37 minutes from when I made that call they were able to restore his heartbeat. He was in a vegetative state in ICU for 6 days. He tested clean for drugs in the ER and again in the ICU. Unfortunately, he was pronounced brain dead on 12/23/16 two days before Christmas. His liver and two kidneys became a Christmas miracle and they/he saved three people’s lives on Christmas Day. He was only 35.

Neither myself, my family, or my son were bad people. I was a good mom, I did everything I could. I did nothing less than any mom would do if their child had lung cancer, liver disease, or another disease caused by an addiction. He died knowing that I loved him and that I tried to save him to the very end. So often this is a terminal illness, but it shouldn’t be. People with substance use disorder can and do recover, but many things need to change to provide all people with that opportunity. Due to the stigma surrounding this disorder the many people in recovery stay silent. It is sad because those success stories could be encouraging to others. Upon autopsy the medical examiner determined my son’s cause of death to be “adverse reaction to fentanyl”. Fentanyl isn’t tested for in most urine drug screenings. So that is why he tested drug free in the ER and in ICU. According to his girlfriend he had purchased what he thought was heroin.

Chris was so much more than his disease. He was so much more than a number or a statistic. Addiction was just one facet of who he was. One small facet of the jewel we called Chris. He should not be, or have been, defined by his disease. This is an epidemic of unbelievable proportion. This is a public health issue more than it is a public safety issue. Yes, our children commit crimes and need to be held accountable for those actions. They also need to be treated for their substance use disorder, not only to keep the public safe, but more importantly to keep them safe from disease and themselves. They ARE worth saving. They are good people with a horrible debilitating affliction.

My son was strong. He always said, “I can tell you one thing for certain, there isn’t a drug addict out there that wants, or chooses to be an addict.” “If the devil has anything to do with anything, it is this drug”. He helped many others get off drugs and couldn’t understand how he could help everyone else, but couldn’t help himself. He wanted to be well more than anything in this world, and God knows he tried. He worked hard at it. He wrote an email to a local top Dr. and addiction specialist, literally begging him to take his case even if just for an initial consult with diagnosis’s. This doctor, by law, was unable to take on any new patients. His practice was full. That email was dated 5 months prior to Chris’ death. My son would get angry at people that would say, “yes it becomes a non choice overtime, but you had a choice that first time you used”. He said, “I never made that first choice. I just came home from the hospital and followed the discharge instructions”. Addiction and the dangerous outcomes of using the Percocet were never discussed with him. He was never asked if he or anyone in his family had a predisposition to becoming addicted to substances. There was no medical help from the prescribing doctors to teach/help him wean off the drugs as his leg healed. There was no place to turn for help when the drugs were no longer needed for the injury and your body had become dependent and/or addicted. When the pills were no longer prescribed, he became extremely sick, so he turned to the streets to self medicate.

I wish there were a special place for those who break the law due to the symptoms of addiction. Places that are secure (for public safety) but with all the amenities of home, of community, with education, expert treatment, with help in job placement, with tons of love, respect, and medicine assisted treatment. Jail and punishment does not cure addiction, and treatment for addiction needs to be advocated. Abstinence based 12 step programs should not be the only answer. People with substance use disorders need to be treated individually. What works for one may not necessarily work for another. We need person centered care to treat addiction. Access to that care should be available to all when it is needed. Too many die, too many people don’t “get it”, they just don’t understand addiction. The stigma has to go. We need to speak out and educate others. My son was 1 of approximately 65,000 who lost their life to an accidental overdose in 2016. I have cried every day for the past 2 years. I think of my grief, the grief of my family, my extended family, my son’s friends and the people who knew and loved him… and I multiply that times 65,000. Then add another 150,000 or so since his death. That is a lot of hurt in this world. If just choosing to stop was all it took to be well the world would not be in the midst of this epidemic.

Chris was my baby, he was my son. I remember when he was in the 5th grade. We were all watching the news coverage on CNN. We saw that about 15,000 Iraqi’s and “only” about 300 Americans had been killed in Operation Dessert Storm. As the 300 names of the deceased scrolled across the screen, Chris cocked his head and looked at me. He said, “They act like it’s nothin’ but a thing, but everybody is somebody to somebody else.” No one should lose their identity to one facet of who they are. No one should be defined by their disease, disorder, disability, ethnicity, skin color, age, by who they love, or by any one facet that makes them the beautiful person God created. Every life matters. “Everybody is somebody to somebody else”. Chris was SOMEBODY. He was a big guy with a big personality. He was successful, a great friend, someone who was excellent with children, and someone who would come to your rescue at the drop of a dime. There are many sides and facets to each of us, that when put together, make us beautiful and brilliant. Chris did the best he could to beat his disease. He was one of the strongest people I have ever known. If “love and try” could have saved him he’d be here today. He said, “No one in their “right mind” would “choose” this life. No one. No one wanted to become addicted, and those that are, are fighting a constant battle”. Please join me in continuing to fight in memory of those that have lost the battle, and for those still waging the war. Together we can help those suffering, and we can “Stop the Stigma” by starting the conversation and by listening to the stories. “Everybody is somebody” and everyone has a story. How each person developed their substance use doesn’t matter. Everyone is somebody and everyone deserves access to medical treatment for whatever ails them.

Chris died on 12/23/16. He saved lives with his organs on Christmas Day. Since Christmas will forever be “Chris” “Miss” for me; I will conclude by saying. “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with each of us.”

With much love and empathy,
Chris’ Ma

Brenda Stephens Deckman

My Son Served Our Country With Honor. But His War With Opioids Took His Life.

On November 4, 2017, we lost our only son, John Ryan, to a fentanyl overdose. He was an Army Veteran who was injured while stationed at Ft. Wainwright, AK. John was in chronic pain for the last year and a half of his military service. By the time he was honorably discharged, he had lost his hope in ever being pain free again. He was disappointed that his military career was cut short, depressed, and when he came home he quickly became addicted to opioids. It was a battle that took his life, but it doesn’t have to take yours. You are not alone in your struggle.

I remember John saying “Mom, don’t you think I hate this even more than you do? Do you think I want to be an addict?” He was so filled with shame and guilt. What he couldn’t wrap his mind around was the fact that we are our worst enemies, and the courage it would take to walk away, to admit he needed help, and to ask for it, would be the bravest thing he could ever do. Braver even than his willingness to give his life for his country. The most LIFE GIVING thing he could possibly do. He needed to ignore the voices he heard that said he wasn’t enough, and to listen to the one who created him, his Heavenly Father, who says, “You are enough. You’ve always been enough. You are deeply loved.”
As this epidemic is sweeping across the nation, it’s including people from all walks of life at an alarming pace. My plea to you today is that you be brave. Be brave enough to share your struggle. Be brave enough to ask for help. Know that you can have a happy life and a successful story just as so many others on this site have proven. The decision is yours, please chose life. I cannot tell you how devastating this loss has been on our family. We miss our son every minute of every day, and we’ d give anything to have him back. Don’t be a statistic. Don’t let the drugs win. Don’t let evil win. God will give you the strength to beat it – but you have to want it. Do it for your yourself, do it for your family, do it for your future, do it for John.

My Son’s Doctor Killed Him With a Prescription. Now, She’s Serving 30 Years for Murder

At sixteen, Jarrod broke his collarbone and the nurse gave him Vicodin. He liked it…

After the loss of my 19 year old son to an accidental prescription drug overdose, I found out where his friends were getting the opiates Jarrod was hooked on. The first words out of my mouth were, “where is the regulating?” How was Dr. Lisa Tseng able to OVER prescribe 90 Opana, as well as deadly combinations of hundreds of more pills during during one visit?

Then my thoughts were, “my son’s death and his close friends deaths were preventable!” Was I going to hide this information from other parents by saying Jarrod died from a heart issue? Hell no!! Why would I not want to save other parents and siblings from going through the devastation when it can be prevented through awareness and education. I could care less what others thought.

Had I known the signs to look for, if I knew my son was crushing pills, if I knew that combining benzos and opiates were deadly, maybe my son would be here today. After discovering Jarrod in the middle of the night outside nodding off, I realized he was on something strong and had no idea what he was taking.

My husband and I were referred to the “best doctor’ in Orange County. At the first visit, he promised me all Jarrod’s cravings to weed and opiates would go away. In three short months, my husband and I discovered our son sitting up, barely breathing. Jarrod had snorted a quarter of Opana. He also took (as prescribed) 2 Klonipin and 3 Seroquil which Dr. C prescribed.

Prescribing these medications (as well as Cymbalta) to a teen in an outpatient setting knowing he could relapse on Opana was extremely dangerous. There was no warning! No mentioning during the visits that if he combined the benzos and Seroquil with Opana he will die.

Today, Dr. Lisa Tseng is in jail 30 years to life convicted of 3 counts second degree murder and 21 more counts.

Dr. “C” is on ANOTHER 5 year probation.

To learn more, log onto www.overtakenlives.org

My Son's Doctor Killed Him With a Prescription. Now, She's Serving 30 Years for Murder

To join the Ryan Hampton #VoicesProject and submit your story, please go here.

I’m in Recovery From Opioids. Today, I Find Power in Telling My Story.

I am Amanda.

I am 29 years old.

I work full-time as an Employment Counselor to adults and adolescents.

I have an awesome family and friends, an amazing boyfriend, and an adorable English Bulldog.

Between the ages of 15-20, I had a severe opioid use disorder.

September 2017 will mark 10 years of sustained remission from an opioid use disorder.

My story is so similar to many already told. I was legally prescribed opioid medication for a medical condition. At 20 years old, I sought treatment. I would be lying if I said the last 10 years were trouble free. Many years were spent alone and isolated from the world, I feared the stigma society has on those with substance use disorders.

Two years ago, I became involved with the county prosecutor’s office opiate initiative. I was tired of being ashamed and afraid. I began to tell my story to students, at public forums and anyone who would listen.

I don’t consider myself an inspiration or a hero.

I see myself as someone given a second chance at life who has the ability to tell my story with the hope of helping to educate one person. I want people to realize this disease does not have to define them.

They can overcome this and be the person they were always meant to be. Xo

Three Weeks After My Wedding, I Lost The Love of My Life

My son, Carlos Castellanos, died at age 23 from a drug overdose, just three weeks after walking me down the aisle at my wedding.

On that day, he was happy, healthy and loving life. He had a job and was expected to get a promotion the following month, loved his girlfriend dearly, and was planning to resume taking college courses. Carlos’ dream was to become an aerospace engineer and to work for a company that would enable him to be part of the Engineers Without Borders program so that he could help others. He was sensitive, humble, kind and loving. He was precious to all who knew him.

Carlos was smart and witty with a great sense of humor, musically gifted, perfectionist, always excelling; but he never felt like he was good enough. Those feelings of inadequacy are what drove him to start smoking marijuana at age 15. Very quickly though, he went looking for a “better high” and moved on to cocaine, heroin and other similar drugs. He suffered a grand mal seizure at age 18 from crystal meth and stopped drug use for a very short time. However, pressures that he imposed on himself led him to resume his drug use.

Carlos was in and out of rehab facilities and went through intensive outpatient care a few times, as well. His most successful clean period was for a period of 20 months, during which time he became very involved with helping others to get and stay clean. He volunteered at a local rehab and facilitated recovery sessions for other young people who were fighting to stay clean like he was.

After relapsing again, my son got and stayed clean for the last 10 months of his life. We will never know what caused him to use again – this time, with fatal consequences.

The drug that he took on December 23, 2016 was laced with fentanyl. What will I miss about Carlos? Everything. I will miss his smile, hugs, his “I love you Mom’s,” his joking around with me and teaching me how to use my IPhone 6. The photo albums that we will create as a family going forward will not be filled with pictures of our beautiful son and brother as our wedding album is now. We will never again hear his laughter, see him drumming, singing and playing the guitar or just goofing around with his cat, Simon. My husband, Mike and I will miss having Carlos outlive us – nothing any parent should ever have to endure.

How do we go on? How do we survive without the son, brother, friend who we lost to this terrible disease? For Mike and me, we have chosen to do what Carlos would have done had he lived. We tell his story – one of an amazing human who thought about others before he thought about himself. Who dreamed of a future without drugs, a future with hope and life and success and love.

So we share the story of who Carlos was and we preserve his memories by fighting when he cannot. We want everyone to know that drug addiction is a primary, chronic disease that alters who you are. It’s a disease that is often progressive and fatal. No one chooses to be addicted to drugs. We urge other parents to educate themselves about the signs and symptoms of addiction. We encourage them to get help for their loved one and for themselves. We fight to get laws enacted to help those who struggle with this disease so that they have full access to treatment and care.

Most of all, we rest in God’s embrace, knowing that Carlos is our angel and that we will be reunited with him one day.

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

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.

For 19 Years, I’ve Been A Police Officer. Today, I’m Clean from Opioids and I’m Done Hiding.

My name is Steve. I’ve been a police officer for 19 years and a narcotics detective for the past 10 years. My job like many of you know is high risk, high stress. I worked undercover making drug buys, utilizing informants and conducting raids on residences.

Early on in my career, I was involved in a shooting where a fellow officer accidentally shot at me during a foot pursuit but thankfully missed (the bullet actually went right through my jacket). Also around the same time, I was intentionally struck by a suspect vehicle during a vehicle pursuit causing a severe back injury.  Of course with such an injury I needed surgery. After getting that surgery I was prescribed large amount of narcotic pain medication.

Now I never really knew how powerful the medication was, only from what I heard from people that worked for me (arrestees, informants, etc). I learned the hard way. I was taking this medication everyday and realized when it was gone I felt sick. Unfortunately, I was stuck. I developed a large habit and hid it from my family and people at work.

After being on narcotic opioid medication for about 3 years, I decided enough was enough and went to my work and admitted I had a problem I could no longer hide. I was sent to a rehab facility for detox. My first day there the nurse taking my blood samples said, “make sure you DO NOT tell the patients here what you do for a living!”  So I lied again – telling everyone I was an electrician. During my five day stay there, I was given Suboxone and then let go with just my willpower to get by. I mean I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. How could this happen? I’m a narcotics cop, this isn’t supposed to happen.

After about a month away from work, I went back. My supervisor put me right back into narcotics work where I was running the show. I was floored that I was placed back into that line of work after coming forward with my problem. I thought it was a little reckless – but I didn’t want to let anyone down.

I was clean for 2 years. Then all hell broke loose. I was stressed due to all of the pressure put on me to make cases and seize assets to help my police department. It all fell on my shoulders. Also during that time, the pressure got too intense. My wife and I began having problems and separated. I was devastated.

So, I relapsed. I began taking opioids again but was not getting it prescribed like before. So, like any good addict I graduated to heroin. Never in my wildest dreams would I believe that I would stoop so low, but I did. The guilt was immeasurable! I couldn’t go to my work and admit that. I couldn’t face my wife and kids. And I couldn’t tell my father. I was stuck and didn’t even see it coming.

A good friend at work who knew my past recognized my behavior and forced me to get help. I told him “I’m good” and “I got this” but I didn’t. I was spiraling out of control and had no where to turn. So I accepted the help.

I went to detox once again.  I told the staff at the facility that I needed and wanted a fast taper off Suboxone and they obliged. I spent this past Easter at the facility away from my kids and family. I got out the day after and tapered down off Suboxone myself and haven’t looked back.

I’m clean today and I’m done hiding in the shadows.

After finally speaking to a good therapist, I was diagnosed with PTSD due to all the crazy things I have seen and witnessed in my career.

As I write this, I am 7 days clean and feel great. I have a newly formed respect for opioids and I know I am powerless. No matter what I can’t go back. They have taken a lot from me.

I am happy to say my wife and I are patching things up and she’s been great. I have a great support system in place and I thank God everyday.

I don’t know what the future holds with my job but I am a lot happier now.

My story goes to show that addiction does not discriminate at all.  I wish all of you luck and please be strong!

I Love Someone In Recovery, My Big Brother

My brother Garrett and I grew up in a “nice” family. We were taught about having good morals and values, about the “golden rule” and that family was the most important thing. We looked like the perfect family from the outside, but on the inside we were very dysfunctional. My parents sheltered me, or tried to, from what was going on with my brother – that his heroin and opioid addiction wasn’t affecting our family. I was 16 when our father passed away, and my mother needed me to help her deal with my brother, as if I was supposed to have already known that he was having problems with opioids and heroin but at such a young age I didn’t know how to do that. Plenty of people offered suggestions – such as joining al-anon, but I ignored them and essentially ignored that there was a problem at all.

Freshman year of college, I was only two towns away from home but rarely spoke to my brother except for a few quick phone calls. “Hi, are you alive? You are? Ok, good,” was the extent of our conversations., I had distanced myself from my brother’s health crisis and felt very much alone. After one semester, I left school and moved around the state of Florida for a while but eventually ended up back in South Florida. I moved into an apartment and at some point, still not knowing how bad things had gotten for my brother amid his opioid and heroin addiction, I invited him to come stay with me and that’s when I finally saw how bad things really had become. He was so thin and emaciated, his face was sunken in, he would steal my cash to support his heroin and opioid addiction, stay out for several days and come back when he was hungry or needed to steal some more cash. Our mother kept telling me to cut him off, that I was enabling him but I didn’t listen. I had lost my dad and needed my big brother, but at that time he wasn’t in a place to be that for me and it was selfish of me to expect that of him rather than helping him with his health issues. Eventually my brother left for another try at rehab and I realized that I needed to get my own life back on track. I left town again but this time to do better for myself and get an education.

I never cut off communication with my brother and after several attempts at treatment, he eventually started to get his life on track. When he told me about meeting his now best friend and business partner at treatment and how he had started his own business, I was skeptical but I wanted to be supportive. When I was 23, he asked me if I would help jumpstart his business by driving them up the DC and they would take me to the presidential inauguration and the inaugural ball. I couldn’t even believe how focused and driven he had become. It was surreal to me that I had a big brother that I could look up to again. For the next few years, he became my best friend. He had moved out to California but we would call each other almost every day and have real conversations. Seems like a normal brother-sister relationship, but for us, that wasn’t the normal we were used to. That fact that my brother could fly back to Florida to watch me walk the stage and graduate college, that he even gave a speech at my graduation party that moved everyone to tears, was hard to comprehend. Without a plan after graduation, he suggested that I move out to California as well and invited me to stay with him while I come up with a plan for grad school or anything that I would like to do next. He is such a pleasure to be around, so calm and just an inspiration to so many other young men in recovery.

This week, he celebrated 2 years in recovery from heroin. Recovery is possible and it’s given me my brother back. Garrett’s found his purpose through helping others achieve sobriety and it is such an inspiring experience for me. I can’t wait to see what happens next, he’s going to change the world.