As a person struggling to recover from the devastating effects of substance use disorder, a typical day is one full of false promises, shame, fear, guilt, and questions about what dread the day ahead will have in store for me.

Getting up in the morning is akin to preparing for a funeral. I have no drugs in my “stash” to alleviate the discomfort of withdrawals I face in the morning, and the ways and means to support my “habit” now consist of acts of manipulation and deceit with my family, friends, and anyone unfortunate to encounter me in that day. If having a job is still an unlikely reality, getting to work on time to put in a day’s work is even more burdensome due to the overwhelming despair of my emotional state.

Can I get through this day without using drugs? The desire to use (or more appropriately called obsession) is described in Dorland’s Medical Dictionary as a recurrent, persistent thought, image, or impulse that is unwanted and distressing (ego-dystonic) and comes involuntarily to mind despite attempts to ignore or suppress it. It is this irrational thinking that is compelling me to put something in my system. My drug of choice is opiates (OxyContin) but I can’t get any more from my doctor because he finally figured out that I’m not using them as prescribed. I know that I can purchase some oxy’s on the street, but illicit oxycontin cost too much money (up to eighty dollars a pill) the kind of cash I simply don’t have. I can’t borrow any more money from my family and co-workers. They’ve heard the excuses time and again, whether it was needing to pay my utility bill or facing eviction due to back rent. When people see me coming, they hold onto their wallets and wait for another “sob story” in an attempt to get cash. If I really push it, I can try to manipulate my family by agreeing to seek treatment if they let me get high one more time!! As the saying goes, “I sound like a broken record!”

It’s only mid-day, but it seems like midnight!! The constant call from an imaginary unrelenting force is telling me to get high. If I don’t, the symptoms of withdrawal intensify (a runny nose, the cold sweats and other flu-like symptoms). I certainly can’t stay in this “morose” much longer. I try to come up with a solution. I’ll fake a mouth injury and go to a dentist, hoping I can get a script for some type of narcotic. Anything to relieve the anxiety of the impending doom. They call this doctor shopping. Going from one doctor/dentist to the next one. The only motive for this type of behavior is to get drugs. Nothing else! But this type of desperate “self-seeking behavior” usually has bad consequences, like leaving the dentist chair without a prescription for opiates. Any other option to get drugs today will likely lead to a dead end…

This is the world I live in every day. Using drugs to live each day and living each day to use drugs! Everything else gets put aside. My family, my friends, my co-workers, and other priorities I had one time in my life are no longer viable with my condition and the road it’s leading to, “jails, institutions and death.”

I sometimes think there is solution to my drug dependency. Get help. Even though many people consider me to be a hopeless case because the numerous drug treatment programs I’ve been in, only to leave and almost immediately use again, I was always told by my counselors that “I don’t have to be a statistic (death by drug addiction) and recovery is achievable if I admit I’m powerless over my addiction. “In other words, I can’t beat it, if I try to do it alone!!

My day is now winding down and I’ve barely made it through work. I would not call it a productive day because all I thought about was how I can relieve the pain and suffering that comes from being addicted to a powerful force that won’t let me go!!  

Tick, Tick, Tick. I tried going to bed early to erase this awful day from my life but unless I do something different, like seek help, then tomorrow holds the same as today. What do we call that? Insanity, doing the same thing over again expecting different results.  

As the celebrated Harvard Medical School teacher Elvin Semrad once said, “the greatest source of our suffering are the lies we tell ourselves.”

I know there’s a way out. I’ve been to twelve step programs when I returned to the community from treatment settings and saw how other addicts just like me with monster “drug habits” were clean and sober. Happy and productive members of society with family reunification.

That’s going to be me soon. I’m picking up the phone right now to ask for help. Mom, Dad, Sis, Bro, Kids, Counselor Joe. I’m ready. Will you help me???????

About Robert Pezzella, Dr. James Direda, and Jack Maroney

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