I grew up in a very comfortable home. I went to school and did pretty well for myself, though I did start experimenting with drugs in high school. I graduated and started studying psychology at Western Carolina University, and while I was there, I was prescribed codeine syrup, an opiate, for a cold. After a while, I went back to the doctor, and they prescribed hydrocodone syrup. This was the beginning of my addiction.
Eventually, I’d move from opiates to pills and then heroin, and ultimately, pills and heroin laced with fentanyl. When fentanyl started popping up around 2014 or 2015, dealers started putting it into pills. After doing heroin for a while, it wasn’t working for me anymore. I couldn’t get the same high I was used to, but then I found out that what I’d actually been using was heroin laced with fentanyl – and by that point, it was the only thing I could use. Nothing else was strong enough to prevent me from going into withdrawal.
Throughout college, I’d always had a knack for medical and clinical work, and I really liked it. While I was studying to become a nurse, I learned how to administer IVs safely, and that’s when my addiction really started to go downhill. I withdrew from nursing school before they could kick me out, and I tried to go on methadone, but it wasn’t strong enough for me after spending so many years taking fentanyl-laced drugs.
I was able to complete my bachelor’s degree in psychology at Western Carolina in 2016 (ironically, with a concentration in pharmacology) but I continued to try to live this double life, always justifying my behavior and lying to cover up what I was doing. After graduation, I moved back home to Greenville, North Carolina. I didn’t have any friends there when I moved back, and my addiction continued.
I started getting pills from a dealer, but I didn’t realize they were laced with fentanyl. However, they were so much stronger than what I’d been used to, I knew something was different. Shortly after that, I started seeking out fentanyl, and for the next several years, I was using drugs heavily and doing whatever I needed to do to get my next fix.
I kept trying to convince myself and my loved ones that I wasn’t an addict. I even became engaged and married to my middle-school sweetheart during this time, and she had no idea that I was addicted to drugs.
Eventually, it started to become apparent to my wife and family that something was going on with me. I couldn’t keep a job for more than a few months. I had a four-year degree but I was working at fast food restaurants, car dealers, anywhere that would take me. After a few months, I’d either quit or get fired because of my erratic behavior. Every vehicle I’d had got totaled. Eventually, I started stealing things from my family and lying to them to get drugs.
I’d tried methadone and suboxone clinics, but they hadn’t worked for me. I went to my first treatment facility around 2019. My parents and my wife set up an intervention and told me that if I didn’t start treatment, they’d have to say goodbye to me for now. My friends had also distanced themselves from me by this time.
That program was in Wilmington, and it was a 30-day program. I was asked to leave after a little over two weeks there because a guy in the program had drugs, and I started using with him in the middle of the program. They called my emergency contact – my wife – and drove me to a McDonald’s parking lot with my belongings. My wife was boarding a plane when they called her, so she got off the plane and drove to pick me up at McDonald’s.
I went home for a few days and then found another program called Fellowship Hall. I completed the program but still had no real intention of staying sober. I decided I would do the 30-day program and then pretend to be sober once I got home. I knew I could keep myself from getting as bad as it was before.
As soon as I got home, I called my friend to bring me some drugs. I asked him to leave them in my mailbox so I could pick them up as soon as I got home and no one would find them. I would do drugs alone at home when my wife was gone and my parents were away. Everyone was watching me so closely. That was probably the closest I got to actually overdosing because I was alone when I would get high.
I managed to get a job, and one day, I made up a lie that I was going to some training sessions for work, but I was going to pick up drugs. While I was heading there, I got hit by a car. When I regained consciousness, instead of calling my family or 9-1-1 first, I called my drug dealer. I was so worried about missing the drugs I’d gone to pick up. That’s what did it for me. That was my ‘rock bottom moment.’
My wife’s family knew about a program in Raleigh, and she drove me there. I spent the next ten months at Healing Transitions, completed the program and became a peer mentor. Eventually, I was approached about working here, and in September 2022, I started working as a Recovery Engagement Specialist in the detox center at the men’s campus. I got to talk to other men who were coming in the door, often for the first time, about recovery and connected them with local resources if they were interested in beginning their recovery journey.
My story is proof that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you grew up, you can still fall into addiction. But my story is also one of hope. Today, despite the many years of addiction behind me, I’m reconnecting with my wife and my family. I got to see them at Christmas for the first time in a long time. I’m living at a sober living house, and I’m celebrating every day of my recovery since that first day on October 28, 2021.
I realized that my entire personality had been wrapped up in drugs. Today, I have real interests, real hobbies, and real friends. People who care about me. I’m experiencing life again!