My Addiction story, or coming out as human.

I have been in Inspire Addiction Recovery’s inpatient treatment program for the past month. Here is my story. It is long. But there is (currently) a happy ending.

Love you all!

-Steve

My Addiction Story

When I was 12 a dog bit a hole the size of a quarter in my face. When fixing it, the doctor had to pull my lip up to cover the hole. It made a nice scar.

When I was around 13 my dad was killed by a drunk driver on his way home from an administrative church meeting. I was the oldest of 5 kids with 1 more on the way. My mother moved us from Missouri back to Utah where family was around and could help.

I was numb, grieving, depressed, and hurting.

When I was 13 or 14 and burning trash, I had a spray paint can blow up in my face. I was in the hospital for 3 days and out of school for weeks in pretty bad pain. I didn’t abuse the pain pills I was on, but I really liked the way they made me feel and not just for the pain relief.

While I was on them, I not only felt good physically, but all my emotional pain went away too.

I didn’t have to feel the empty hole and grief and sorrow from my Dad being dead.

I didn’t have to feel the depression and worthlessness from being a teenager in a new town, new school, recently fatherless, with a scarred face and an inferiority complex when it came to relationships with the opposite sex.

And I didn’t have to feel the shame and guilt from being an adolescent boy who had discovered girls, masturbation, and believed that he was damned (blocked) from going to heaven because God’s grace only worked ‘after all that you can do’ (which I interpreted to mean that God couldn’t or wouldn’t help me unless I was good enough) and that ‘depression comes from sin’ and that my normal sexual urges and temptations wouldn’t be happening to me if I was righteous enough. (I think Spencer W. Kimball’s book “The Miracle of Forgiveness”, and the very conservative Mormon culture I was living in were the reason I believed these things.)

I also believed that God took away my Dad. My mother, siblings, and I weren’t as important to God as whatever mission God had for my Dad on the other side.

So a few years later when I discovered that drinking enough beer did the same thing as the pain pills, I started to drink whenever I had the opportunity.

My mother married a wonderful man who had 4 kids of his own when I was a late teenager. He was a good dad, but I rejected him because of my feelings of worthlessness, my rebellion, and because he wasn’t my Dad! I very soon after that I left home and joined the Marine Corps.

In the Marines I continued to drink whenever possible. I didn’t communicate with home much even though my mom wrote me almost daily during the 4 years I was in.
When I wasn’t drunk, I was filled with shame and depression because of my drinking, smoking, and not living by the values I had been raised with. I rarely prayed or went to church and figured that even when I did, it would in no way make up for what a bad person I was.

So I would drink to ‘fix’ me.

After an honorable discharge from the Marines, I went home without any plans for the future.

My parents and most of my siblings moved to a different state, and I got a fulltime job and continued part time college and rented an apartment with friends. I continued to drink almost everyday after work and school were over.

Drinking was a temporary relief from the depression and self loathing that I continued to feel when I wasn’t busy working or otherwise distracting myself.

My friends and I moved into student housing that was closer to all our jobs, but this meant that sometimes we had roommates that were not part of our circle, and so I sometimes had to hide my drinking from some of the other people in our shared apartment, and I always had to hide it from the managers (drinking is against the rules in BYU approved housing, which all student housing in the area was.) I also had always hidden my ‘sins’ from my family and church friends (although I am sure it was known, I just never talked to anyone about it.)

In that student housing we got a roommate that had a big bag of marijuana and a water pipe. Up to this point, I had never done illegal drugs because I wanted to get and keep a security clearance while in the Marines. But I was done with the military, and ready to try anything that might help me feel better.

It did. Instead of getting drunk every night, I would smoke a bowl of weed every night. I had traded my physical and emotional addiction to alcohol for an emotional addiction to the marijuana.

That roommate was only around for a month or so, and after he left and took his weed with him, Instead of going back to drinking, I started praying, reading scriptures, exercising, and going back to church.

I met a wonderful woman who had 3 kids from a previous marriage, and I fell in love and felt that God had brought us together. We got married soon after that, and I thought my life was going to be “happily ever after.”

We went to church together, prayed together, studied scriptures together, and so on. Of course there were the arguments, contentions, and tough times that come from merging two lives that had been separate and self-reliant, but in all, it was a very happy, good time.

We got pregnant almost right away, and our daughter, my wife’s 4th child, and my first biological child, was born. By this time, I was having problems with God and church again. Being sober and active in church, and not ‘sinning’ was not enough to fix my depression and self loathing.

I somehow thought that if I was ‘good enough’ life wouldn’t be so hard! I would be managing everything from my relationship with my wife, to my money, to my children better! There wouldn’t be so many troubles. So I obviously wasn’t ‘good enough.’

I swung back and forth between ‘believing’ in God and ‘doing what I should’ and believing that God disliked me as much as I disliked me and only doing what I had to to keep my marriage and family from falling apart. I took on myself the fault of everything bad that happened around me.

By this time we had moved to a farm in Kentucky. We had another child, a boy, who was born premature, and died after only 3 days. We buried him and I felt a new sharpness to that old familiar hole in my chest that was grief from death.

Somewhere in this time, my wife had some pain pills from a dental surgery that she didn’t use. She hated the way they made her feel.

One day, I had a migraine headache (I got these frequently) and I used some of her pain pills. I had forgotten how good it made me feel! I ended up using all of her pain pills without ever asking her permission or telling her about it. She asked me if I knew where they had gone a while later when she noticed they were missing, and told her I had used them all for my migraine headaches. I was in denial even to myself that I had used them to get high.

We had two more boys while living in Kentucky, one born a little premature who turned out fine with no health problems, and another born a lot premature who we were were told wouldn’t live (but he did and while handicapped is thriving and a great blessing in our lives.)

Each of these three pregnancies had almost killed my wife; not just threatened her health, but if I had gotten her to the hospitals just a half hour or so later, she would have been dead from bleeding.

Our last son had lots of health problems, spent the first year of his life in the hospital more than out of it, and my wife stayed with him in the hospital two hours away while I stayed with the other 5 kids at home and tried to play mr. mom and run a business at the same time.

Thank goodness during this time my parents had moved nearby and were available to help too.

After the dot com crash in 2000, my income went away. We didn’t see how we could continue to make the mortgage payment on the farm, there were no jobs available, and our youngest kept needing to go to the hospital which was two hours away. We decided to move back to Utah where we were close to my wife’s family, jobs were available, and we were closer to a good childrens’ hospital.

We sold the farm, moved back to Utah, bought a house, and I got a job. All was good. We didn’t even have to take our youngest to the (now closer) hospital very much because the drier desert air seemed to be better on his lungs.

My wife’s brother, who is disabled and in lots of pain, needed a place to stay, and we invited him to come live with us. He had lots of opiate type pain pills, and whenever I got a migraine, I could and would ask him for some. I started getting migraines more and more often. My wife noticed I was using these pain pills several times a week. My doctor told me that those types of pills would make the migraines worse, and he put me on some non-narcotic medicines for migraines. The non-narcotic medicine worked, much to my disappointment, but I would still ask my brother-in-law for pills as often as I dared.

I had some lower back injuries and got my own prescription for narcotic pain relievers. I would use a month’s worth in the first week or so, suffer through withdrawals and pain, and then refill the prescription as soon as possible; I also continued to ‘borrow’ pills from my brother in law.

My wife confronted me about my pill usage, but I would deny it was a problem, and then hide how fast I was using them and hide when I ‘borrowed’ or got more.

It finally came to a head in 2014 when my brother in law had to go away to a convalescent home for a few months, and I broke into his room and stole a huge bottle of pain pills where he had been putting his leftover pills (I didn’t understand ‘leftover pills’ as I always used up mine long before I wanted them to be gone, but there they were.)

When he got home and asked where his pills were, I had to confess that I had used them all, and I had been using such a high amount that they were worried I would have a seizure or heart attack while detoxing. I had to admit my drug abuse to them, my children, and my doctors.

I was no longer in denial that I had a problem, but I sure didn’t want anyone to find out!

I checked into an outpatient addiction rehab that met 3 times a week in the evening, started to go to 12 step meetings like AA and NA (Narcotics Anonymous, that focuses on all addictions not just alcohol.)

I graduated the rehab after 90 days and stayed clean for 7 months. My clean date that time was July 4th, 2014 – I thought it was great having the 4th of July as my first day free of drugs.

Although I didn’t stay clean after, that rehab did a lot of good for me and my family. My wife started going to Al-Anon, which is a support group for the family and friends of addicts and alcoholics. Because of 12 step meetings, we found St. Mary’s Episcopal church which matches our family better than the LDS (Mormon) church that we had been a part of.

But in that first rehab, I never was able to let go of my secrets, to surrender to my Higher Power, and so while I was clean and sober, I was just a ‘dry drunk’; my addiction was still a problem.

Seven months after I quit, on my birthday, I relapsed by drinking a whole bottle of cough syrup for the dextromethorphan in it. DXM is a disassociative at the right doses. I found that when I was high on that, I didn’t have to feel anything. It is not so much a high as it is a disconnect – which I really liked.

After using a bottle a day for almost a month, I realized I had a problem again, and had to come out to my wife and the 12 step groups I was attending.

Telling on myself didn’t fix the problem. I continued to abuse DXM off and on for the next few months.

Then I discovered a cheap source of drugs – any drug – on the internet that was anonymous and you could buy with bitcoin. I ended up buying and using Fentanyl – 40 times more powerful than heroin. I would get a little 1 milligram packet in the mail at my PO box, it easily was hidden in an envelope that looked like a regular letter, and then mix it with 120 ml of saline solution which I would then drink 5 mls at a time, and that would last me for several weeks to a month.

In August of 2015, I accidentally spilled some of the powder on my fingers when mixing it, and I knew how powerful fentanyl is and that it could be absorbed through skin, so I immediately washed my hands and didn’t take any that day, but 6-8 hours later while I was asleep, I stopped breathing.

My wife woke up, got me breathing again, and took me to the emergency room. But I hadn’t told her about the fentanyl, and I denied that I was on any drugs at the hospital, and they didn’t find what I had used in their tests for drugs because it is not that common.

So even though I was in the hospital for 4 days while I got back to life, and they ran every test they could trying to figure out why I had stopped breathing, my sick addict brain denied there was a problem.

I used my mixture (that making had almost killed me) the day after I got out of the hospital. I only confessed to my wife and doctor what it had been a month later after I ran out.

The withdrawals are painful. It feels like a bad flu for several days, up to a week. So to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms I started taking lots of imodium. I was eventually taking whole bottles of 48, then 72 then multiple bottles of generic imodium pills at a time.

I found I was addicted to the immodium. The withdrawals from that are even worse, and last even longer, than the illegal opiates.

Then in January of 2016 I took enough to cause me to go into breathing distress. I lied to my wife that I had taken any. Then I had to admit that I had lied and she took me to the ER.

I knew I had a problem and I chose to ask them to admit me. They found me a bed at a psych unit in SLC, and I spent 5 days there. Then I went directly to an inpatient rehab where I spent 30 days.

This time, however, rehab was different. Even though I thought the 12 steps wouldn’t work for me (because of my problems with God) and tried to find a rehab that didn’t use the 12 steps, I was blessed with the gift of desperation.

I knew that if I didn’t control my addictive behaviors I would probably die sooner than later, and I would probably lose my wife. She was tired of worrying that she would wake up and I would be lying next to her, dead. She was also waking up multiple times each night and checking if I was breathing or not. I was putting that poor woman through hell.

So I spent the first few days in rehab praying. I discovered that God was there for me, had always been there for me, and the only thing keeping me from Him was my own pride! I was so prideful that I thought that because I couldn’t love me neither could God. How prideful is that to think that because I can’t do something, God can’t either?!

So with God’s help, I was finally able to work the 12 steps in a completely honest way. I was able to surrender completely and admit that I had a problem and couldn’t fix it on my own. I had to have a higher power’s help.

With God’s help, I was able to admit my flaws, character defects, and the shameful secrets that I had planned on taking to the grave. This is incredibly freeing.

At the rehab I worked on my recovery, and worked hard (I was trying to fit 90 days worth of recovery into 30, because that is all the vacation days I had saved up at my job) and at the end of the 30 days, the therapists and counselors agreed that I was ready to go practice recovery in the real world.

So I now have to put my recovery ahead of anything else.

This means that I have to be totally open – no more secrets or shameful hiding of my problems – because secrets keep me sick.

I have to treat my addiction as a chronic disease. And like other people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, I have to manage it every day – they take insulin, I go to 12 step meetings. They watch what they eat and exercise, I do my daily prayers and meditation, journaling, taking personal inventory, calling my sponsor, and helping other addicts.

But finding my Higher Power has helped me learn to love myself. And He helps me in all that I do.

I have tried to run my own life for years. It hasn’t worked. Now I just have to remember to let go and let God and let Him direct my life, and I have found a peace and happiness and serenity that I have never had before.

-Steve

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