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Heather C's Story

Heather's Story - Freedom From Addiction

Oh, where do I begin…sigh? Well, I guess I’ll start this at the VERY beginning. When I was 13 and experienced my first menstrual period, my mom and I knew something wasn’t quite right. Long story short, at 8 I had extremely painful periods for someone so young. When this severe pain never subsided, I was forced me to find and visit a gynecologist at the tender age of 13 to see what could be going on. The doctor wasn’t quite sure since he said I was “too young” for most reproductive disorders. But even though he couldn’t successfully diagnose me, he was more than happy to prescribe my very young and naive self with strong painkillers. I walked out of the office with Percocet AND Vicodin. I call that moment the first step into hell.

I wouldn’t and couldn’t have known for another 6/7 years that that day was the official beginning of my life altering addiction. I took these painkillers on and off throughout the rest of my high school years but they never had any real effect on me until I was 19. I was out with friends one night when my pain flared so I popped 2 Percocet like I had done for several years. However, THIS time everything changed. This was the very first time that, for whatever reason, I actually FELT the high of narcotics. Game over. 

As I sit here today I cannot possibly express enough just how different everything was from that point on. As soon as I felt those pills, I immediately wanted more. From that day forward my life slowly went downhill a little more every day. Between that first “accidental” high in the year 2000 until my absolute rock bottom in 2008 I really, really made an ass out of my myself, and of my life. I started taking more painkillers than I actually needed. This then caused me to fake my pain to my doctor to get more. Then I started visiting multiple urgent care facilities and emergency rooms weekly, with a different excuse for why I needed pain meds. Did I still have a legit medical reason to need these narcotic painkillers? Absolutely. But I was also very much abusing the system. I wasn’t even slick or smart about it–I eventually got caught “doctor shopping” in 2007 and was charged with 13 felony counts of deception to obtain a dangerous drug. Even THAT apparently wasn’t enough for me to see that I had a major problem, sadly.

The felony counts were dismissed in lieu of an early intervention program but I was able to ‘glide’ through my probation easily since I was legally prescribed these meds. So I still wasn’t forced to change my lifestyle in any way and I’m positive that’s why these serious felony charges didn’t affect me (at the time) in any sort of way. It would take a full year after those charges for me to finally take action, and I don’t even take full credit for it. 

I had met a new friend at my mandatory, court-ordered AA meetings, named Terry, who had been cleaned up for one year at the time and he was in a new MAT group (medication-assisted treatment). There was a brand new treatment drug on the scene called Suboxone and it had completely changed his life for the better so he tried to persuade me to try this supposed “miracle drug” for months and I kept refusing–basically refusing to accept that anything could help my screwed up self. 

One day in August of 2008 I was tired of hearing him preach about his treatment with suboxone–so I gave in. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and I was way past desperate. Hell, at that point I probably would have jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge if someone told me. I could once & for all end this vicious cycle of addiction. So okay, sure Terry, give me some of your medication so I can see what all the hype is about. (For the record, I don’t condone sharing medicines with friends in any way, but let’s be honest here: after pleading guilty to 13 felony drug charges, what’s breaking one more law going to harm? At least that was my perspective at the time.) Well, can I just say that it was in that moment of trying Suboxone for the first time that I FINALLY saw a light at the end of a dark, pathetic tunnel. I wasn’t dope sick anymore. I actually felt genuine happiness, I felt normal for the first time in almost 10 years. It was a bold awakening and to this day I thank God that Terry’s path crossed mine. 

Within one week of that beautiful moment of seeing what life is like minus the narcotics, I was visiting with his addiction doctor to get on my OWN treatment plan. That day was September 8th, 2008 and not a single time have I EVER looked back! 9-8-2008 is my sober birthday and I’m so proud to say that, God willingly and one day at a time, I just celebrated 8 years being clean! I’m not on Suboxone therapy anymore but I can say without any doubt that medication-assisted therapy was KEY in my transformation. And so was my friend Terry. I thank God everyday that Terry’s path crossed mine because if it weren’t for him and his desire to see the good inside of me and for helping me, I honestly don’t know what would’ve happened to me or if i’d even be here today. Who knows? Only God knows. 

Terry has also maintained his sobriety for 9 years today. How do I know? Because I married him. Yes, he is now my husband and together, we live a beautiful, drug-free life. Anytime someone asks me what specifically helped me clean up and turn my life around, here’s what I say, in summary: "God, my supportive and loving parents, Terry, Suboxone, therapy, AA meetings and focusing solely on the present". Every addict is different so therefore what worked for me may not work for everyone. But the main reason I’m open with my dark past is simply because if I can persuade or inspire just ONE addict to seek treatment or see that it really IS possible to get through addiction and on to the other side in one piece, then I can sleep easier at night. Plus, I firmly believe that we MUST start discussing mental health, addiction & treatment openly in the same way we talk about cancer or diabetes.

The poor stigma that is associated with addiction needs to STOP! Addiction is a lifelong, chronic disease just like many others and it’s time that we stop whispering and hushing ourselves! I believe that the only way we can rid drug addiction of its stigma (and therefore encourage others to get the help they need) is to openly discuss the problem at hand, encourage municipalities to rehabilitate criminal addicts as opposed to simply jailing them and to address the huge demand for addiction specialists. Because there are FAR more doctors in this country that will happily prescribe huge amounts of narcotics than there are addiction specialists and/or rehabilitation centers. And it’s up to all of us to change that.

Thank you so much for listening to my story. God bless.

* This story was submitted voluntarily to share hope and inspire others. This story is of their own experience and does not represent the point of view of Freedom From Addiction. Freedom From Addiction believes recovery is a personal journey and peoples experiences vary.

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