Growing up, I was in Cub Scouts, I was involved in sports, and I had a really nice family. Life was good, but then I got to middle school and that’s kind of where my life started changing.
My marijuana use started when I was 13 years old. I was hanging out with people who were smoking and one of my friends asked, “Do you want to try this?” I could see how they were having a good time, and I heard it wasn’t as bad as the school anti-drug programs made it out to be. I was changing and my thoughts on life were changing. I thought, “These people do it and their lives aren’t horrible.”
I started smoking marijuana on a regular basis, and I started hanging out with a lot of people who were smoking pot and strayed away from friends who weren’t. Slowly, over time, I became heavily involved in drugs. One day, a kid had some pills—Xanax and Traminol—and I tried them. When I was 15, I started drinking. Then I was introduced to opiates—Percocet—for the first time. I really enjoyed that.
I started taking Perc-30s, a stronger opiate, and stealing from my family. I took my dad’s pain medication. I was robbing people left and right, taking whatever I could that wasn’t bolted down and selling it. I sold my little brother’s video games. When I was 16, the same person who introduced me to Percs introduced me to heroin. I was in love with it, but I still didn’t go out and get it quite yet. I thought it was a little much – I wanted to stay away from it.
When I was close to 17 it switched, and I don’t know how it did. I was probably trying to get some Perc-30s and a friend had a heroin connect. For a while I was just snorting it and smoking it and promising myself I’d never shoot up because that’s what junkies do, and I’m not like that. But then I stopped getting high, and I started dreaming at night that I was shooting up. I said, I’m going to try it and see what all the buzz is about.
Once I started shooting it, I never went back. All my money from work went to heroin, and I started using it wherever and whenever I could—in the bathroom at school, during my driver’s ed class.
At one point, I poured my heart out to my family and told them I was doing a lot of pills and heroin. They cried, I cried, and we began going to counseling as a family. While we were in counseling, I lied and told them I was clean and that I was only smoking weed. I kept shooting up. During my Christmas break in 2013, I was using every day. I spent all of my Christmas money on heroin, I stole money from my mom, and I realized I was at my knees to my addiction—literally stealing Christmas money from my family.
Finally it was just too much. It was like something just clicked in my brain and I knew—I can’t keep doing this or I’m going to die. I was sick of the crap that goes along with using and stealing. I wasn’t functioning very well. My grades were slipping, I was on the verge of not graduating. So on my 18th birthday, I went to detox.
I was comfortable in detox. After about a week, my clinician needed to discharge me soon, either to a facility with longer care, or home. My parents and clinician wanted me to go to Phoenix House for further treatment, but I was stubborn and didn’t think I needed that. They tried so many ways to convince me, but I kept refusing, reassuring them that I’d be fine, I got this. My parents made the hour and a half drive home, but I promised them I’d think about it over the next few days. Then I found a penny, and decided to let the penny help me decide: Heads: I’d go to Phoenix House, Tails: I’d go home. So I rolled the penny, but it stayed standing on its edge. I realized that I had to make the decision. I couldn’t let the penny decide for me. I knew if I truly wanted to stay clean I had to suck up my pride and go into further treatment.
I went to Phoenix House Academy in Dublin, New Hampshire. It was much more uncomfortable for me. The first few days I was kind of miserable. I told myself, It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Just stick it out to the end. I’m glad I did.
Phoenix House showed me the Narcotics Anonymous program. They taught me how to deal with certain triggers that make me want to use, how to deal with anger and other emotions. It made me unhappy—but it showed me how to deal with being unhappy. I got a Narcotics Anonymous sponsor. I started going on passes and coming home for longer visits. My family came to Phoenix House every Saturday for family and parent groups. I started building trust with them again and it even brought us closer together. We had heart to heart conversations and we grew stronger over this whole experience. I started going back to school. I started applying things that I learned – when I’m angry I don’t have to scream and shout and break things. I can sit down and talk about it and try to get through it responsibly.
After I left Phoenix House, I went back to school full time and started working again. I graduated from High School. I’m still going to meetings and I have a goal for a career—to become a licensed drug and alcohol counselor. I start college classes in September. Phoenix House gave me the tools to deal with life on life’s terms. It showed me recovery is possible. It gave me my health and my life back. I’m happier now than I have ever been since I started using.