Mental Health

Q&A with an Opiate Addict

A couple months ago, someone reached out to me to do a collaboration with me. She is an opiate addict. In the wake of Demi Lovato’s relapse and overdose, as well as the opioid crisis as a whole, I had a lot of questions about addiction and recovery. So, I asked if she would be willing to do a Q&A piece with me. Here it is:

When and how did you realize you were an addict? Was it obvious or not so obvious and there was a moment where it clicked in?

I remember the first time I realized I had a problem as vividly as if it happened just yesterday. I remember waking up one morning, crushing up a pill before kissing my son good morning. The realization of this insanity brought instant tears and yet I proceeded to get high and instant euphoria outweighed my feelings of guilt.

What was it like being a “drug user”? Could you function and live a normal life at all?

In all honesty, I played it off well for awhile. I was prescribed opiates and who cared if I snorted them? That was my delusion, and I lived it so well. I wanted to maintain the “perfect mother” image so I would indulge in Percocet and balance it out with Adderall. I thought I was super sneaky, looking back my behaviors and outward appearance were not as secretive as I thought.

You mentioned to me you always had the characteristics of an addict from birth. Could you explain what you mean by that?

My behaviors, even as a young girl, mimicked the behaviors that led to my demise. As a kid, I indulged in isolation, victimization, always comparing myself to be less than or better than, avoidant of any/all emotions, overindulgent, complete selfishness, and making self destruction a common ritual.

You also told me you got arrested one time. What was that for and what was that like?

Ahh now we are getting to the good part. I was arrested for a theft-by-taken felony charge… getting arrested on the corner of the town I grew up in, 100 feet from the restaurant I ran with my parents, that was humiliating. But jail traumatized me. I spent 2 nights and 3 days in jail and I didn’t belong there. Jail brought me to my knees. I remember the echo of the metal doors locking every night, ever reminding me of the reality of my consequences. Detoxing in jail was the worst, I was so emotionally dead and ignorant to what I was really up against. Addiction does not discriminate, and it is relentlessly seeking to devour its next victim. Back into the free world, the temptations were overwhelming. The necessity to heal the wounds of my past was far more difficult than I could’ve imagined.

You made the brave decision to voluntarily check yourself into rehab. What made you come to that decision?

CPS (child protective services) got involved. I was working alongside with two angelic women. I had them fooled at first, or so I thought. I would get high before meeting them completely rebelling against sobriety despite their hair follicle tests. Overtime my actions spoke loud and clear. There was no hiding from a hair follicle test nor denying my shameful arrest. When I got out of jail, these two women met me at my house and offered me an option that would ultimately save my life. After collaborating with my father, the choice was stay and try to fight the system and risk permanently losing custody of Liam or voluntarily check myself into rehab and the case would be closed. I was emotionally bankrupt and out of money and seemingly successful ideas. Rehab sounded like a vacation, and a quick fix, but it was not. For 33 days I was forced to face the wreckage of my past, all the while dealing with withdrawal symptoms and traumatic memories of the past.

Did you have to detox before entering rehab? Do you remember anything of what that is like?

After leaving jail, I detoxed at home. I was under microscopic scrutiny, out of resources and transportation, so getting high was not optional. Detox was excruciating. I obsessed over the relief I found in opiates, all day and all night. I spent 2 weeks with unrelenting body aches, unprovoked vomiting, chills, restless days/nights, almost non-existent appetite, and zero emotional/physical energy.

Have you experienced any relapses? Or almost? What’s that like?

I wish I could say I was a “one chip wonder” but that was not my experience. I actually did relapse, after having almost 10 months. I had been battling MRSA (from a vicious spider bite) and frequent ER visits were exhausting. At this point in my recovery, I started to drift away from AA and my sober support. I was caught, by my boyfriend, crushing up my prescribed medication and forced to leave. That was the turning point for me. No one ever caught me in the act, and I was quite the manipulator. But up against another addict, someone who loved me, there was no talking myself out of this one. I felt ashamed instantly and that pain drove me to hand over my prescription and I never turned back. I knew I never wanted to feel like that ever again.

Have you ever come close to overdose?

I have flirted with disaster, that’s for sure. As my tolerance grew, I would continue to indulge in more and more. I would carelessly mix substances and alcohol as if I was invincible.

What are your views on cops and EMS carrying naloxone?

I have seen the widespread effects of the opiate epidemic. I have also seen the benefits of naloxone. This drug has saved the lives of many friends of mine.

What are your thoughts on the opioid crisis?

The opioid crisis is killing my friends and even members of my family. It gets worse every day. The problem stems from the number of opiates prescribed by doctors. That was my experience. Without warning or education against potential and likely dependency, I was defenseless. Then there’s the stigmas attached to addiction, these close-minded ideas that addiction is a choice and a lack in moral compass must be smashed. For me, fear of judgment and lack of resources kept me sick for a long time. This country should promote treatment over punishment. I have so many friends struggling to find work or to even vote. All based on decisions made in the pit of a DISEASE, this idea is insanity. Addiction is relentless and has been proven, by science, to create physiological and psychological consequences. I lost all control over the “power of choice” once addiction took over. Addiction does not discriminate, from your neighborhood store owner, the single mother with 2 kids, to the county clerk. Addiction has spread rampantly throughout this country which is why I am so passionate about spreading awareness through sharing my experiences. Patience, love, and tolerance alongside with the help of God and the 12 Steps is the only way we can end this epidemic.

What is life like now, being two years sober?

Life has continued to show up, and this last year has been tough. The beauty of recovery is, I have walked through unimaginable hardships and never picked up a drink/drug. I have learned how to handle situations with grace and selflessness. Emotional sobriety has played a major role in this last season for me. I have an unbreakable bond with my family and kids. I have built friendships with women that I admire. I wake up every morning, ready and willing to take care of my responsibilities. Today, I am reliable, and I strive to be the best version of myself.

Anything else you want to add?

After demolishing my thinking and warped self image, grace found me. I fell in love with myself for the first time. Think of the concept of a flower blooming through concrete, that was me. I now have two years sober, and I live a life I never would have imagined. I have two beautiful children and we live 5 minutes from the beach. My relationships, with the people that mean the most, have become the foundational support from which I get to chase after my dreams and unabashedly live life to the fullest. I spend my days spreading awareness on the disease of addiction through a recovery-based web marketing company, founded by other addicts just like me. I share my experiences through writing for and  I meditate every morning and I’m able to sort through my emotions, pausing before responding. New hobbies and passions have surfaced, and I no longer feel unworthy of true happiness. Daily, I use my torturous experiences to share hope and bring light into the darkest places.

Jessica Victoria
<p>Jessica Victoria, 24, is a writer and advocate for mental health, disability and LGBTQ+. She uses her personal experiences and knowledge to help and educate others.</p>

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