Guest Blog: A Student Athlete Overcomes Opiate Addiction

PrintA brave, confident young man candidly shares his story of opiate addiction – initiated by using a friend’s prescription pain medication following a sports injury during high school. Now in recovery, he has an important message for parents, coaches, student athletes and more.

It will never go away. The pain, excitement, joy, sadness, fearful, obsessive, happiness, fulfilling, and euphoric feelings I still experience when just hearing someone mention any form of opioid. I can still feel every emotion bundled into one every day of my life. Having experienced the addiction of opioids I am forever lost in its vice grip that will never let go.

It honestly came out of nowhere.  I was the stereotypical high school jock playing two intense contact sports, football and lacrosse. I came from a wealthy, supportive, and loving family with both parents and a younger brother.   I went to a well-respected high school with high academic standards. I grew up with every advantage in the world.

I started drinking my freshman year of high school like many others do. I took my first hit of weed my sophomore year and usually mixed the two on most weekends with several friends. I had access to all the money I ever needed so no amount of anything was out of reach.

My senior year of high school was when I transitioned from a weekend user to an everyday abuser.

I didn’t drink alcohol every day but smoked weed before, during, and after school. Two of my best friends sold large amounts of weed so I never had to worry about getting any and never paid a dime to smoke. I continued to smoke and never considered myself an actual addict of anything. I was still getting high marks in school and still excelling on the sports field. It was one day at lacrosse practice during the spring of my senior year that everything changed.

I suffered a minor knee injury during a practice but thought it would keep me out of upcoming games. Our team was ranked top 3 in the state and I played on the first line so I believed I owed it to my teammates to make sure I stayed on the field. One of my teammates had surgery the previous year and was prescribed 30 oxycodones to help manage his post-surgery pain. I told him about my knee and said he had something that could help me manage my pain and possibly keep me playing.

That day I used opioids for the first time and never looked back. Some people describe their first time using opioids as making them sick, drowsy, or nauseous but not me. It was the most euphoric feeling I ever had.

Smoking a little weed on top of taking that cannot even be described in words. I was HOOKED. I did anything and everything to continue to find them from peers or strangers.

I continued to dabble through the summer after my senior year and into my freshman year of college.

Once I began college, I had cut back considerably for the most part with my usage mainly because I did not know anyone right away who had access to them. I actually stayed clean for the most part during my freshman year and the summer after but my sophomore year at college is when everything changed. I moved into a house with people I knew and some I did not but one thing we had in common is that everyone used opioids and I again had access. I also had met someone who did not go to school there who told me he could get me large amounts of oxycontin for a cheap price. Being they are extremely marked up because the demand is so high (sometimes $1.25 per milligram) I took full advantage. I continued to use this connection for the next year in which I would obtain roughly three hundred 80 milligram brand name oxycontins for half of the street value. My friends and I would pool our money together but buy every single one of them.   I started using them every day again. At one point I would regularly use 80-120 milligrams, smoke an eighth of weed, and drink 10 beers every day. I was completely lost in the addiction and did not even know what would soon come thereafter.

About three years ago is when it went from bad to worse. In an attempt to stop the abuse of oxycontin, manufacturers created a pill that was wax based and people were unable to crush and snort the pill anymore. I saw what happened next coming from a mile away. Because people could no longer get high from the prescription opioids, they began resorting to buying and using heroin. This was exactly how I started. After my sophomore year I had dropped out of college and moved back to my hometown to live with parents.

My hometown was and still is a place where heroin has taken over. I bought my first “foil” of brown heroin and it was 1/10 the price of what I was paying for the prescription drugs. I used that for several months while I lived there before eventually moving to Minneapolis. Once I moved back I connected with a fellow user from college friend who was now using black tar heroin as a result of the oxycontin extinction. I began using this with him every day and was considered now a regular user again.

Over the course of the next year or so I had drained all of my bank accounts and went flat broke. I would call and ask my parents for money weekly to help me get through life. It had taken over me.

It was when I finally met a girl through a mutual friend that finally made me stop. I began hanging out with her more and more and began weaning myself off of the drug.

It took the power of a connected someone through a friendship and eventually a relationship to make myself realize there was still a future for me and I could still get back onto my feet.

I no longer am dating this girl but am forever grateful for the hole she helped me dig myself out of.

I am extremely proud to say that I have been clean for 3 years but still find myself thinking about it every single day.

Our community, teens and especially parents, need to understand the dangers of prescribing synthetic opioids to people to manage pain from sports injuries and injuries in general. The downward spiral that happened to me from managing pain to play a high school sport is something I can never get back and even though I have been clean, I am forever an addict.

©2015 Our Young Addicts      All Rights Reserved

Gift-Giving Guide for Our Young Addicts

Midwestern Mama struggled in the early years of her son’s addiction with what to give him for Christmas – torn between what was kindness and enabling.  She poured her heart out in a column (below) for the St. Paul Pioneer Press in 2011.  Last year, her son was in a residential treatment program.  Now six months sober, she’s as excited as a “kid at Christmas” to have her son home for the holidays.

Without hesitating, parents are natural givers. It starts with the miraculous gift of life and continues with gifts of protection, encouragement, sustenance, love, praise, boundaries, hope, strength and more.

We give our best without expectation for anything in return. All the while, we’re prone to question ourselves if we could do better or do more. It is the unwritten code of parenting, the natural order, the way it is. Our parenting report card may not be perfect, but it’s all A’s for effort. It is our heart that tells us if we’ve given well, if it’s good enough.

When our son was little, it was easy to give gifts that absolutely delighted him emotionally and materially. It showed in his face and in his behavior.

During this season of giving, I’m at a loss what to give our 19-year-old son. Certainly there are things he needs – things we’d ordinarily give him if he was not living a transient, unemployed, addicted lifestyle further exacerbated by deceit and denial. It’s far more complicated because material gifts (clothes, food, money, and housing) fall within the taboo category of enabling, the major no-no of addiction.

Instead, we give him our prayers daily – actually, multiple times day and night when I wake up at 3 a.m. and wonder if he’s warm and safe. We give him our love. We give him our commitment to help. We give him our best wishes. We give him all we’ve got and we keep trying to come up with something more, something better, something of affirmation and value.

We’re learning to give him the freedom and respect to live with the outcomes of addiction and mental health, to own his problems, challenges and choices. This is the gift I understand in my mind, but find difficult to reconcile with my heart.

There are other things we have given him that I wish we hadn’t, at least not for as long as we did. We gave him benefit of the doubt way too many times. We gave him chances to change, only to be shortchanged by more of the same. We gave him a clean slate more times than he’s aware, including paying off substantial debts all with the idea that we don’t want a poor credit record to hurt him once he gets his life together.

We also forgave him for all we went through these past few years because we finally realized that he didn’t do these things on purpose or to us. A combination of drugs and mental health has influenced his actions and choices beyond his control.

We’ve made amends, too, by realizing he is emotionally starved for the comfort and joy that home and family represent. And while we can’t give him our trust these days to live in our home, we do welcome him to visit, to curl up in a blanket by the fireplace, to play with his little brother, and to hold hands around the table in grace before sharing a home-cooked meal.

Emotional gifts are sustaining but often aren’t noticed or appreciated unless these are absent. Material gifts, however, can be just as important because these are physical reminders, even symbols. And this is the season of material gifts, things wrapped up in paper with ribbons and small notions that Santa puts in stockings.

I suggested he put together a Christmas list, so we’ll see if he does and whether there are items we can give with good conscience – items we don’t think he’d sell or things that will go unused. The last couple of years, he’d open his presents and then these would stay unused in a pile on his bedroom floor.

The idyllic mother image in my mind compels me to pile gifts under the tree that will magically trigger a transformation in him from despair to delight, from pessimism to optimism, from stubborn to open minded, from addiction to recovery.

During the gift-opening frenzy, sadly, I know that we’ll keep an eye on any cash that his siblings or cousins receive from relatives because our son has had sticky fingers. (Three times in the past year he stole his little brother’s wallet full of allowance he’d been saving for an i-pod; his older sister has had cash taken from her purse; and, this summer he stole money that his grandmother gave to his cousin for doing chores around her house. Parents of addicts nod their heads, yep, it’s part and parcel.)

Any ideas what we should wrap up for him? I know we’ll give the gift that keeps on giving – love, commitment, hope … and probably some socks, underwear, gloves, books and favorite candies.

With no job at present, he said he won’t be able to give presents this year. It’s nice that he wants to give, but we don’t expect anything nor do we want something he picked up at the store.

The gift we want is a gift he’ll give himself – the gift of help, of sobriety and recovery, of health and happiness.

Midwestern Mama

Absolutely, please share!

Last week I was talking with one of the professionals who has been with us from midway in our son’s journey.  As I was sharing updates, including pride in the progress Mid Atlantic Mom and I are creating with Our Young Addicts on WordPress, Twitter and Facebook, the professional asked if he could share these resources with another client.

Absolutely! (By the way – BTW – I never knew an online experience could prove so valuable until I gave it a try. So,we encourage others to see if it can help them.)

I was once just like this client – a parent looking for resources and trying to do the right things for my son and for myself not to mention for my husband and our other children.  Some days, I truly felt like my roles and responsibilities were colliding. I was acting part on gut and part on advice from others. In time, I was acting on a more spiritual, Higher Power  I desperately wanted someone to give me a simple three-step solution to stop my son from abusing drugs, to get him into treatment and recovery, and to get him back on track with a happy, healthy life.  It felt like there should be something like 1) have a direct, caring and honest conversation with him about our concerns, 2) take him to a doctor or counselor who will enroll him in treatment, and 3) go back to college … and BTW, tell your parents you are sorry for all the concern you caused and thank us for all the time, money and emotions they spent trying to help you.

That plan is far from simple and even farther from realistic. No matter what we said or did, these steps didn’t go as hoped or planned.  Every effort was met with resistance, hurdles, and more.

What I’ve learned is by acting on our gut as well as taking professional advice (conventional and alternative), we continue to do “all the right things” even if the outcomes haven’t always been “right.”  I’m grateful that none of those more experienced than I have said something like,  “OMG what were you thinking Midwestern Mama – that’s the worst thing you could do.” I’d have been mortified that I was not doing the best by our son and family.  Yet, sometimes, I wish someone would have spoken up and said otherwise.  Instead, we have a report card of As for effort but results TBD and I so much want an A (or at the very least a passing grade) for results – not for ours but for our son’s.

Neither Mid Atlantic Mom nor I have the answers, but we’ve each hit on a trifecta that works – one part gut (mom radar), one part advice (a mixture of professional, parental and alternative) and one part faithful spirit (Al-anon or similar).  Please share our resource so that it becomes richer with your contributions – be these experience, professional, alternative, parental, spiritual or whatever works.

We will keep sharing.  Please keep letting us know what’s working – or not working – for you.

Here for you,

Midwestern Mama

Let’s Chat

One of our goals at Our Young Addicts is to provide a place where family and friends of young addicts can talk to each other in a relatively anonymous way.  We expect to be able to provide a forum for that kind of interaction on our web site, it’s just that we haven’t developed it yet.  It’s in the works though!

In the meantime we are offering a secret Facebook group to those of you who want to connect in a meaningful way.  To join the group you must first friend our Facebook group Our Young Addicts.  https://www.facebook.com/OurYoungAddicts   After you join, send us a direct message asking us to add you to the group Family and Friends Place and we will  add you.  From there you can chat with us or others in the group.

Your profile WILL be visible to others in the group but the general Facebook public will not see that you are part of the group.

We respect the privacy of you and your young addicts and expect all who join the group to have the same respect for each other.

Looking forward to connecting with you.

Our Young Addicts

Email ouryoungaddicts@gmail.com

Twitter @ouryoungaddicts