Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
Reflections of an Addict in Long Term Recovery
Drug use is on the rise in this country and 23.5 million Americans are addicted to alcohol and drugs. That’s approximately one in every 10 Americans over the age of 12 – roughly equal to the entire population of Texas. But only 11 percent of those with an addiction receive treatment. It is staggering and unacceptable that so many Americans are living with an untreated chronic disease and cannot access treatment – Dr. Kima Joy Taylor director of CLOSING THE ADDICTION TREATMENT GAP (CATG Initiative). There’s no doubt we have more people struggling with addiction now, than ever before. The aggressive marketing of OxyContin in the early days resulted in the opiate epidemic we are facing today. Addiction is a controversial topic. With social media and cameras on every phone, it’s hard to keep anything secret. Maybe that’s a good thing. It’s difficult to argue something when you’re caught red-handed, or in this case… on the nod. Still, I’m very grateful my drunken/stoned behavior never made it to Facebook or Twitter. Once upon a time, long ago, my world revolved around drugs. Drugs were… everything. They came before food, bills, work and even, my kids. I’d tell people my children came first, but like every other addicted person I know, my actions didn’t match my words. Although I said I loved my friends and family, I spent very little time with them. Being an addict was a full-time job. Getting drugs, doing drugs, keeping drugs, stashing drugs and thinking about drugs – consumed my every waking moment. I was a polysubstance user (meaning I used more than one drug). I liked most drugs. Anything I could get my hands on was good. I especially liked opiate medications. I used pain pills to get out of bed in the morning. Not because I was in pain, although they did help with a hangover, but because it seemed easier to get out of bed in a good mood. The pills made me feel happy and relaxed. I equated getting high to happiness and being sober was, well, awful. If I wasn’t happy all the time, I was miserable. Drugs took the edge off – reality. They were my jump start, quick fix and morning cup of coffee. But it didn’t stop there. What I was really gearing up for in the morning hours, was cocaine. Or more specifically, crack. However, there was a routine to be observed. I thought I had control of my habit. If I didn’t smoke crack in the morning, I wasn’t addicted to it. So I’d start with a handful of pills and a cup of cider. I justified my usage by telling myself I needed the energy to get through my day. I choreographed laundry, vacuuming, and other household chores – with another drink, another line and finally, crack. Then I got serious. No more housework. No more kids. Just me and my pipe, until there was nothing left to smoke. Unless you’ve been addicted you can’t know the empty, hopeless place that exists on the other side of high. The shame is demoralizing, suffocating and heavy. The come down left me contemplating suicide every time. You might even think I deserved to feel that way… ashamed. I mean seriously, what kind of mother puts drugs before her kids? I felt like the worst mother on the planet. Drugs are a powerful thing. Nothing else will separate a mother from her child. Years later I learned I wasn’t the worst mother, but I was a very sick one. Looking back I’m surprised at how easy it was for me to get drugs. The opiate medication was prescribed by my doctor. He didn’t know I was addicted and I certainly wasn’t going to tell him. I was a good actress. Most of us who use substances are. I had multiple complaints. A sore back, a toothache, menstrual cramps, every new twinge had me walking out of his office with a prescription in my hand. Manipulating people and over-exaggerating my thoughts, feelings and actions were unhealthy behaviors I was called on when entering rehab. I learned that my hell was self-absorption. It’s weird, I thought I knew so much. I could read you like a book, but when it came to me… I was blind. Working with newly sober patients today it’s hard to imagine I ever lived in such chaos and drama, let alone created it. But I did. With many years abstinent, it’s easy to forget the devastating impact drugs once had on me. I don’t have using dreams anymore. My hands don’t shake when I see a TV commercial advertising alcohol. A spoon is just a spoon. My obsession has been lifted. The life I have today is far too incredible to give up, for a short term buzz. If you can relate to my story, or you know the devastating hopelessness on the other side of high, I hope you find the courage to reach out. I know you probably have a million reasons why you can’t go to treatment, but here are three reasons why you can. You are worth it. Your life matters. You don’t have to keep suffering. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease. Without help, it can be terminal. If you think you can’t afford treatment, think again. When I added up all the money I spent during my addiction, going to rehab was the least of it. There are scholarship programs and many other resources available to you. To start your new life all you have to do is pick up the phone. If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance 844-470-0410.