In Their Own Words
Frontline, producer of countless documentaries, asked their viewers to share with them their own stories of addiction to opioids. The results offer an unvarnished and raw look into what opioid and opiate addicts go through. How they got addicted, and how they turned their lives around, and unfortunately how some are still tangled in drug addiction.
We’ve collected some of those responses here and hope they will act as a warning to some, and an inspiration to others.
How I Got Addicted to Opioids
Emily from Rochester
It doesn’t always begin with a conscious choice to become a junkie, and it certain isn’t just a poor, under-privileged minority problem. I was raised in a white, middle- to upper- class suburb and am well-educated with a masters degree and my opiate addiction began with prescriptions from my doctor who one day decided to stop writing the prescriptions without any instruction or attempts to wean me off even though I had been taking opiates for years. Physically dependent, I had no choice but to either be sick or self-medicate.
Already in pain from the fibromyalgia and arthritis that had been the reason I was taking the pills to begin with, I was not going to suffer through a withdrawal so bad that I thought I was dying as well. So I bought pills on the streets. When it got too expensive to keep buying pills and with supplies not always being consistent, I turned to heroin. I am a perfect example of how addiction does not discriminate.
K.M. who started off using opioids for pain
For opioids, the entry is to manage real pain. For me, a near fatal bicycle wreck broke my back and every bone in my skull. Thus, real pain results from real trauma. Enter painkillers. Enter dependence to not only chase away the pain, but to invite the velvet, where for a moment, there is no more fear, no more anger at the injury, only the velvet lie of a fleeting potion that over time, steals more than it heals.
And then you are back to the beginning, what to do about the pain?
Someone from Toledo, Ohio who has overcome addiction
You can become addicted to prescription opioids and not even realize you have a problem, till it’s too late. In the haze of the high and loved ones saying they’re worried about you, you lie to yourself and them and say you need the pills, that the doctor wouldn’t give you something that would hurt you, that you need them or the pain will be unbearable. So you pull away from everyone so they don’t see you high. Not realizing you are not just taking the medicine for pain — you now need it daily to just to get out of bed. Without it, you’re physically sick. Your whole body hurts, and you know the answer to fix it all is the opioids.
I stopped using, I got help and got to see there is still life left to live. My younger brother passed in December 2014 from a combined drug intoxication and heroin was one of the drugs that helped take his life along with prescription drugs. He lost his battle but I am fighting it in his name to try and help bring this front and center, and let people know there is help out there, there is life after all this. They have to want to get clean, more than they want to get high.
Brittney who has been sober since 2014
This opioid addiction is terrifying to an outsider looking in, but as a user it seems natural and normal. People don’t wish to be this… it seems to just happen. No one grows up saying, “When I grow up I want to be a drug addict.” I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I’m a person in long term recovery. …It means I haven’t had a drink or drug since February 23, 2014.
I was that hopeless broken girl, the girl with no purpose, no goals, no values. I felt as though I didn’t matter, I didn’t have a voice, and I would just die a “junkie.” I hated myself and thought “people would be better without me.” I had goals and dreams, I had a great family and friends, I had the world at my hands and I traded it first for a pill that later turned into a needle. The needle took me to a whole new world of addiction. It took my morals and values away. It took my family and friends; it took my education, my purpose. Lastly, it took me.
Heroin changed me into this “other” person. When looking in the mirror I didn’t recognize my reflection, I no longer was the girl I knew. …At the end my family was done, they couldn’t take it any longer. I got an ultimatum get sober or get out. I always thought they hated me but I was wrong. I decided I couldn’t live as an active user any longer. I’ve changed my life around. I work in the field of addiction and I’m a student… taking classes for my drug and alcohol license. I work in a recovery home for women. I see how powerful this disease really is from a different perspective and it’s scary. I had so many great accomplishments in a short amount of time. I’ve rebuilt important relationships that I broke. I worked really hard to get to this point in my life.
Advice? Never lose hope in a person with substance abuse disorder.
The best part of my job is seeing that broken lost girl find her voice and purpose in life just as I did. Seeing the light come back into a girl’s face and seeing her shine. I think because there are so many unsuccessful and sad stories out there we miss the successful stories. The stories with hope attached to them. The stories where mothers and children are being reunited, the stories where women are standing on their own two feet and working towards goals and achieving them, the stories where that broke lost girl finds her way and makes it. These are the stories of hope, if you look hard enough they’re on every corner… Advice? Never lose hope in a person with substance abuse disorder.
There is Hope For Opioid and Opiate Addicts
What we can learn from these folks is there is always hope. No one is doomed, no matter how bad their addiction has become. If you’re struggling with opioid addiction or abuse, reach out for help. Most every community has organizations dedicated to helping those with addiction problems. And our National Opiate Hotline is here 24/7 staffed by people who can provide guidance and help you determine treatment options and opportunities. 1-888-784-6641
Learn more: Opiate Hotline Heroin Facts
And our report on The Difference Between Opioids and Opiates