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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

From Addict to Graduate: Recovery Through the Eyes of A Student

Looking back, I realized that my battle with opiates began long before I even knew a problem existed.

On July 20, 2009, I was the passenger in a vehicle with my close friend behind the wheel. We were sitting at a red light, laughing and having a good time like we always did. The light turned green, and as expected, the driver hit the gas. However, this is when my life instantly changed. While the driver was hitting the gas, so was the oncoming car. I was painfully pinned in the passenger’s seat. All I could hear was my friend asking if I was okay. In that moment, I thought I was. Upon arriving at the hospital, I was quickly poked, prodded, and injected with high-level painkillers. This is where my story begins.

I wasn’t only walking out of the hospital with crutches, but with a prescription that changed the next five years of my life. I was prescribed OxyContin to help manage the pain I was experiencing.

With continued follow-up appointments and check-ins came more “pain management prescriptions.” Roughly a month after my accident, I noticed that I needed the pills in order to function, not just for my pain.

A few weeks later, I had an appointment with my doctor for my last follow up. During this visit, he informed me that he would no longer be writing prescriptions for OxyContin. He felt as though I was no longer in need.

My heart instantly sank and fear set in.

In the following days, I quickly realized I was in need of something to fill the void I now felt. The withdrawals had set in and I was lost. I turned to a man who I knew could help. He told me that instead of doing pills, I could pick up heroin for a cheaper price with the same high. This is where my experience with street drugs began.

Two months after getting into a car accident, I was a heroin addict. Everything I knew changed.

In September of the same year, I not only began shooting heroin, but I also began my first semester of college. I was a freshman at UMass Boston, worked full time, but secretly, I was also a heroin addict.

Heroin took a hold on me before I could even think about an escape. Being shy and socially awkward, heroin gave me the calmness and confidence I needed to make it through classes, all while managing a hectic schedule. I kept my addiction a secret from everyone I knew, including my close friends and family.

While I thought keeping this a secret was beneficial to me, I now see that it was the worst thing I could’ve done. Even though I kept a full time job (even getting promotions), took five college classes, and maintained a decent GPA, I looked like I had it all together. In reality, I was risking my life several times a day shooting up.

Keeping my life in order on the outside was false justification to me. It told me that I could “handle using” and “Well, I’m good at it so it’s okay.” Looking back, I realize how absurd this all sounds. I was deep in my addiction. I clung to anything that justified my “using.”

I sit here, writing this a week shy of being a year and a half sober. On August 31, 2014, I woke up and said to myself, “Enough is enough. This is the last day I pick up a needle and get high.”

Getting there wasn’t easy. It took three overdoses in order to open my eyes. I went through a solid week of withdrawals—on my own. It was one of the worst things I have ever experienced, but I made it through. At this point of my recovery, I still hadn’t told anyone what I was going through, due to fear of judgement.

A few weeks after that, I began my last semester of college. Trying to go through the beginning stages of recovery alone while trying to complete coursework was becoming impossible. I reached out for help and support without knowing what the response would be. To my relief, UMass Boston could not have responded any better.

After countless meetings with the Dean of Students (and much push back from me), it was decided I would withdraw from classes and put all my energy into recovery. I took that time to focus on myself and the work that needed to be done in order to remain clean. I ended up re-enrolling at UMass Boston that spring to finish my undergraduate career. Since then, my recovery has not stopped.

I continue to learn and grow daily. I have also learned of the medical issues and complications that my heroin use has led to. I now suffer from seizures due to the excessive drug use over five years. It has led to minor brain damage. Along with the seizures, I have also tested positive for Hepatitis C.

Although these may seem like negatives, it’s okay with me. Nothing can compare to being clean. It has been the toughest thing I have accomplished in my life. It’s also my proudest. Since getting clean, I have graduated from UMass Boston with my Bachelor’s degree in psychology, got promoted again at work, and more importantly, I have learned what true happiness feels like.

In the midst of those years, I forgot what it was like to feel. I used no matter what the circumstance was: happy, sad, overwhelmed, or bored. Not today, though. Today, I look forward to good times and have learned how to process the rough times.

At the end of the day, all I want to do is help others who are struggling. I know what they are going through. I also know how great the good days feel. They deserve to experience that as well.

This may not be a typical addiction story, but it’s mine.