Hi, I’m Kyle and I am a recovering heroin addict. For me, that means I haven’t used drugs or alcohol since September 26, 2018.
My journey has been one of many successes but also a myriad of failures. I was raised in an upper middle class family. I had little to no struggles as an adolescent. I graduated top of my class in high school and went to UCLA. It was while in college I began drinking heavily and experimenting with drugs.
At first, this was all status quo. Everyone I knew drank and used recreationally. I suffered no ill consequences of my experimentation. I had a healthy relationship, my grades were excellent, and was getting ready to graduate early. Then I discovered OxyContin.
While I still managed to graduate, I replaced everything that brought me joy with my new love for opioids. I also used cocaine heavily. I sold drugs to support my habit, but that wasn’t enough. I started stealing from retail establishments to offset the large amounts of money I was spending on cocaine and OxyContin.
I stole from my roommates, from friends, even from my girlfriend. Very few knew I was using these harder substances, and the ones that did know were segregated from my other life as to avoid my addiction being found out.
What’s ironic is at this time, I didn’t even classify myself as an “addict.” I didn’t know any addicts and therefore, couldn’t recognize that in myself. I just fed the hedonistic beast and spent all my time and energy keeping that beast from eating my normal life.
Eventually, my double life collapsed and I lost everything. My girlfriend, my friends, my job, and my dignity. I still had my degree, though, so I opted to move away from LA and closer to my family which was in Oregon.
I got off the oxy and coke through a geographic change. Still, I did not know I was an addict and therefore set myself up to replace these chemicals with the next available options. In Oregon, I became a substitute teacher while I looked for a career with longevity. I liked subbing, so I sought out a teaching job. During this time, I drank heavily, but since I could not find oxy or cocaine, I turned to meth. Again, no one knew I was using meth, and alcohol was widely accepted so I had few problems socially except for the stress of hiding my meth use.
Just when things started to get bad, I was offered a job in Oklahoma. As an eleventh and twelfth grade English teacher. I took the job and moved clear across the US. Again, a geographic change prompted excisement of hard drugs from my life. I continued to drink. Sometimes socially, mostly in isolation. I got into a relationship with a fifth grade teacher. I didn’t use drugs for six or seven months.
It’s hard to identify what caused me to go back out, but I think it was boredom. One evening I trolled a gas station looking for someone to shoulder tap. I found some oxy and some meth, and went right back to shooting up the pills and smoking the meth. My addiction came back stronger than ever. I justified my use with stress and just told myself I was not a “normal” person.
Eventually, I was using the oxy daily and spending all my money, save rent, on the stuff. When I couldn’t get oxy, I got heroin. I shot up in the staff bathroom on my lunch break.
Sometimes my students would look at me strangely, and I now know the look of recognition because I realize their family members were addicts, and they knew I was high.
As goes with addiction, the things I cared about were replaced by my use. I came clean about my use to my girlfriend, hoping I could find support, but she kicked me out and I was alone again. I masked my pain with even more use, and let a using buddy share my new apartment so I’d have ready access to drugs while I attempted to keep my job.
That didn’t last long. Due to my appearance, performance, and attendance, my school asked me to submit to a drug test and I refused. I was suspended without pay and benefits just two weeks before my seniors were to graduate.
Being the resourceful person I am, I vowed to get the money the school district “owed” me for the remainder of the year (this includes summer vacation). I blackmailed them. And I got my “severance.” And I spent that severance.
This was the first time I ever gave up on having a normal life. I surrounded myself with addicts. I hustled, stole, and ripped off whomever I could to maintain my opiate addiction. I got evicted from my apartment and broke in at night to get high and sometimes sleep. I pawned all my belongings. I mostly lived out of my car.
I met someone who needed a driver, and he was a meth cook. I started helping him make drops, then took over the cook when he slept off his benders. I traded and sold meth for oxy or heroin. I realize now how careless I was and thought I was invincible. I don’t know how I didn’t get caught. Eventually, my partnership with the meth cook turned sour and I opted to move back to the West coast where I knew more people.
Back in California, I lived out of my car. Selling drugs, stealing from stores, avoiding my family. I eventually got arrested for meth possession and had my car impounded, then again for shoplifting. I was homeless now that I was carless, and decided I needed to get back on my feet. I moved back to my parents house and got into outpatient treatment to satisfy the terms of my probation from the arrests in California.
At this time, I still drank but I did not use. Mostly because my parents would find out if I had a dirty UA. My outpatient program didn’t test for alcohol. I finished outpatient and had a good job, then I found a girlfriend and we moved in together. It wasn’t long before I found a supply for morphine, and then meth, and I was again using and hiding it from everyone. This lasted a period of a year. A year of using every day and not getting caught. I was good at that. But I was not good at keeping my relationship a healthy one. She eventually knew something was up, and after a little investigation, my ruse was dissolved. She got a restraining order against me, and out of spite, sold a lot of my belongings. I was back on the streets.
I did what any addict does, and amped up my chemical intake to mask my pain. I lived on the street for about a year before I was finally arrested for theft and incurred several drug possessions in the arrest. I went to jail and was offered drug court. I opted in, and made another geographic change to try and stay clean.
I moved in with my brother. I complied with probation. My brother was an alcoholic, and yet again, my treatment did not test me for alcohol, so I drank every day. I took buprenorphine recreationally and soon was buying scripts off the street for daily use. Another substance that wasn’t tested on my probation panels, so I got away with it. I graduated drug court and got off probation. But during that time my brother passed away from liver failure and a good friend passed from complications of cystic fibrosis. So, when I was off probation, I went back to using heroin.
I was working, but I was stealing money from work to fund my drug habit. I sold heroin from my workplace. I got fired due to suspicions of theft. I just found more time to sell heroin and get high. My landlord tried to evict me for suspicions of drug sales, but failed. I moved out at the end of my lease because clearly that place was burned. I lived out of motels. Soon, my name started coming out of law enforcement investigations and a few people told me they had encounters with police where they were asked about me. I got scared and moved somewhere else and passed my clientele onto another supplier.
This started my last leg of my addiction. I failed to keep an adequate hustle going when I moved. I resorted to extensive retail theft, computer crimes, and other criminal enterprises to feed my addiction. In one year, I was arrested sixteen times. I spent over six months in and out of county jail. The other six months I struggled to survive. I often wandered the streets at night because it was too cold to stop walking. I was robbed, I was assaulted, and I lost my will to live. I overdosed six times that I know of. I was hospitalized for absesses, I had bathroom doors broken down to save my life, and I found myself with literally only the clothes on my back more times than I can count. I was on probation in one state, but fled across the border to another state to avoid law enforcement recognition. But, of course, any time I committed a crime and was arrested in one state, I’d be extradited across the border to serve a sanction. Then I’d repeat it all over again. Sometimes I don’t know how I had the stubbornness to get out of jail and find a way to get high and get more money and travel a hundred miles to escape my probation. But the beast is a hungry and resourceful one, so I always found a way.
What finally brought me to the realization that I can never do drugs and live a normal life was not so much a spiritual awakening, but a surrender of my power and inability to do this one thing. So, the last time I was arrested, I asked my PO to help me get into residential treatment. I went, and I had an amazing experience. I met a lot of supportive people. I shared my story. I advocated for myself and made plans for sober living after treatment. I stayed in treatment for 97 days. I transitioned to a sober living house, and I showed up to all my pending court dates after treatment. I found out that it I hadn’t decided to go to treatment, some of my pending criminal charges would definitely have sent me to prison.
Today I am 202 days clean and sober. This is the longest I have ever been off drugs and alcohol since my first use.
I am gainfully employed. I am involved in the management of my oxford house. I am in compliance with my probation. I still have criminal charges for which I am in the process of resolving, but I believe that as long as I continue to do the right thing, I will not be incarcerated. I am cleaning up my wreckage, and I am not doing it alone!
I attend meetings, I am in intensive outpatient, and I have successfully found a routine that keeps me happy and sober and healthy! I am in the best shape of my life mentally and physically and I only see more good things happening every day. I have goals to help others and will be actively involved in my recovery community for the rest of my precious life. I only hope my story inspires others to share their success and can give others faith in the process. 202 days ago I was on the street. Hopeless. On my way to serious prison time. And one decision saved my life. It’s never too late to seek help. I believe every once of us addicts can do it. Please don’t give up.