Over the past four years, I have lost a lot of friends and acquaintances to drug overdoses. It's becoming common to go onto Facebook and see another status that says “R.I.P” and I cringe to read the name following it. It has been over 12 years since I graduated high school, but when I read the names of the people who have past due to overdoses, it hits very close to home. When we were in high school, we were all so young and naive. We thought we were indestructible and nothing could slow us down or stop us. So many lives have been ruined because of opiates during the past decade of graduating and things only seem to be getting worse.
People who have not been affected by the opiate epidemic usually think it's because the addicts were uneducated or were brought up in bad homes. The scary thing is a lot of them had everything they ever needed and had parents who did everything for them by the book. So what caused the epidemic to spiral out of control, taking many lives with it? I live in Ocean County, NJ, which is a town down nu the shore that is getting hit very hard by the opiate epidemic. Getting painkillers, opiate patches, or even heroin has become very easy to acquire as there is no shortage of users.
I've been getting over a really tough cold these past couple of days. It's been hard to work and the fatigue is really keeping me down. Whenever I get sick like this, it automatically makes me think back to the time when I was going through withdrawals. The main difference is knowing that this is a measley cold and it will be over and done with in a few more days. With the extra time I have had laying around trying to get better, I have put a lot of thought into all of those people in my hometown that have been affected by opiates. Not only the users, but their friends, and families.
It's crazy to think how these painkillers flooded the town and took over so many lives so quickly. When I first found painkillers back in the mid-2000's I felt like they were the greatest thing since sliced bread. I was amazed that I never knew about them beforehand. It was also shocking how quickly that love affair shifts and leaves you feeling betrayed and alone. The pills that I thought were my new "best friends" were really my enemy. They brought nothing but false promises, and I myself, nearly became a statistic.
I've been clean now for over 4 years and surround myself with a lot of people who are in/have been in recovery. Most of the people I work with today are still in recovery. I'm obviously not a big fan of anonymity, and a lot of the people I talk with are pretty open about their pasts as well. We share stories throughout the day of the struggles we had and the lessons we learned. What is so unique about living through a battle of addiction is that there are no “cool” stories. No one is trying to sound or make that time of their life seem good. Most addictions have a common theme and an ending that makes you wish you never experienced it in the first place.
Hearing each others stories and encouraging one another keeps our minds “green” as they say. It helps to keep the feelings fresh in our gut to makes sure we never forget what kind of misery is lurking around the corner. When I was using, I always told myself I was going to quit. I just wanted to "try" it one more time. I made promises that I was going to stop right after I did it once more. We all know how that normally ends up.
Any person successful in their recovery knows that there is no such thing as “trying” it again. It all comes down to appreciating the second chance you have at life and learning from the mistakes you had made. I know in my case, it made me a much better human being and has taught me more about life and consequences than any book ever could. I only hope others use their second chance like I did to become a better person, and to help other addicts do the same.