This is the first of two articles from an interview that I conducted with two guys in recovery who work at Hope for New Hampshire Recovery in Manchester. This week is Adam’s story, about how he became addicted to opioids and his journey to recovery.
One thing that I will mention before continuing is that the intent of this article is not to set the blame for the national opioid crisis on doctors or pharmaceutical companies. I believe that there are many players and that opioid addiction is a complex issue. One never knows if they will become addicted or have an addictive personality. The Mayo Clinic states it best when they write that we cannot “predict who’s vulnerable to eventual dependence on and abuse of these drugs.”
“With me, it was after surgery. I had massive shoulder surgery and was prescribed big time Percocet’s and Vicodin and from there it just spiraled out of control. After having surgery, I just went down hill with it. I should’ve looked then and realized that maybe I like this a little too much; maybe I like this feeling a little too much. But I never knew; I was so blind to what addiction and alcoholism was, I had no idea. Back then you only think about the guy under the bridge and the junkies you see in the movie ‘Trainspotting’. That’s the only thing that I could equate addiction with, so on a pharmaceutical level my thought was, ‘this doctor prescribed this to me, so it can’t be harmful. This doctor prescribed this to me so there can’t be anything wrong with it.”
“I grew up in an incredibly good family; I went to college. I had it all going on and addiction came in for me. I figured out very good ways to manipulate the doctors. I could get anything I wanted from them. I could call up my doctor’s office and have them fax a prescription for me…every single month. I figured out very quickly that I was very good at that. So, my addiction spiraled down, and down, and down from there. I was getting prescriptions of pills every singe month and they would be gone quicker, and then I’d be buying them off the street. Even then I didn’t see anything wrong with it because I saw it as ‘these are just pills, these aren’t anything more’. And so, I’d be buying them off the street more and more and more and more and then I went looking for and would be buying Percocet’s and Vicodin. I met a guy who had Oxycontin that told me that it was a bit more expensive, but it would last a lot longer and it was a lot better. So, I bought Oxycontin from the guy and that was the ticket right there.”
“One of those pills was a great thing…I loved it. I figured out very quickly how to manipulate the pill. I would take the coating off the pill – crush that for a while, sniff it and it would just take little amounts of that pill; little amounts were all that I needed every single time to give me the rush that I was looking for. I was buying more and more and more and more and then it would get more and more and more expensive, it got up to a dollar a milligram . They were everywhere at that point and pharmaceuticals had changed the way that doctors looked at pain medication and pain control. They realized very quickly that they can manipulate doctors and get them to prescribe their drug. They changed the way that doctors looked at pain; the way the whole country looked at pain – that no one should have to be in pain again. Then they said, ‘we have a drug that will help with that; we’ll give you a drug that’s gonna take care of the pain, and don’t worry there’s a safety coating on it so it can’t be abused.’ Addicts very quickly realized that they could just take the safety coating off just by licking it. I had T-shirts that had green spots all over and it would be stiff from where I’d lick off the coating and rub it off onto the shirt.”
“I was even so good with the Oxycontin – I did my research – I found out that there were six milligrams of Oxycontin in the coating, so I wouldn’t put it on my T-shirt anymore; I’d swallow it because I didn’t want to miss out on the six milligrams. So Oxycontin was just pumping. I then discovered Fentanyl patches…throw a couple of those on and work up a sweat and it gets right in and gets the job done. I even had the Duragesic lollipops, the Fentanyl lollipops. I had a buddy who had a whole case of those at one time. Getting those was very easy too. Things were getting more and more expensive and all of a sudden you can’t afford it anymore.”
“I was hanging out with a kid one night and he told me that he could get heroin. I said ‘no, what are you crazy? I don’t do that,’ but then it took about six seconds for me to say, ‘yeah I’ll try it.’ He said that it was much cheaper and that you got more bang for your buck, so I started off with heroin. I ended up meeting his friend in Derry who left it in a Burger King bathroom for me. He hid it, so I went, left the money and took it – very clandestine style. I went and tried it and I was off and running from there. The next morning – I can remember that I needed more; even though I still had some, I needed more. That right there turned into a 10-year span of misery for me. Ten years of me just ripping, running, getting into trouble – going to any length to get it. I also spent a lot of time in Boston, I ran the streets of Boston. I spent a lot of years running in Boston, running in Cambridge – tearing that city apart and tearing myself apart at the same time.”
“For a good 10-year span, I demolished everything I ever had in life. I became a criminal, I became a liar, I became a cheat. I became all those things that my family did not bring me up to be. I spent seven years without even a phone call, without even a syllable to my family – they didn’t know if I was dead or alive, nor did they care. I spoke to my mother the other night and she told me that she has a friend that is going through what I put them through and her friend says that they are just waiting for them to die, and that’s what she was waiting for – she was waiting for that phone call for 10 years with someone saying that ‘he’s dead’. Maybe there is a sense of relief in that because the wonder is gone. After seven years of not even a phone call to them, I went back but would have in and out spans here and there. I would finally say ‘I have hit bottom, I have had enough, I can’t do this anymore. What I would do is go back to them, build them up, get into treatment only to tear them down again. I would get into treatment and they would get so hopeful thinking that maybe he is going to turn around this time – maybe there’s a possibility he’s going to do it – maybe he’s not going to break our hearts again and inevitably I would. Some of them were private treatments, spending a lot of money. I would go to private treatments; I’d build them up again – build their hopes up so high only to pull the rug right out from under them and just destroy them again. And so, they became very, very guarded self-preservation – they had to become very guarded against me because I was a manipulative, lying, cheating asshole. I just became this awful person that was not me; the person was not me because that person was a drug-induced psychotic. A real sociopath honestly, because I didn’t care about anyone else, I didn’t care about what happened to anyone else, I just cared about anything but myself.”
“It was a revolving door of chasing that next high. I would one-up myself every time by saying, ‘at least I’ve never done this’, ‘at least I’ve never done that’, or ‘at least I don’t look like that’. And every time I’d just one-up myself and go farther than what I’m looking at and judging. I stopped loving myself, I stopped loving anyone else, I stopped getting close to anyone else, I lost faith in humanity … all of the above. And for a long time, even in the beginning, when my parents first started seeing that things were wrong, when things first started they obviously thought something was wrong up here (in my head). What’s going on…is he depressed, is he bi-polar…any of the above. I remember them bringing me to a doctor in Hampstead, who said that I could possibly be bi-polar but there’s no way that I can evaluate him and figure out what’s going on with him until he’s off the drugs. Because you can’t; they mirror each other so well that you can’t get down to that until you got a lot of clean time under your belt. And I’ve had other doctors who said that I was bi-polar, he’s this, he’s that, he’s that. All of these things when I was either on drugs or going through withdrawals and all that – not clean, not sober enough. The way that I look at – even though you’re off the drug, the insanity of the drug – yes, it’s lessened – but until your brain can clean up and defog and get all this shit and this pollution out of your system, because you’ve been polluting the water for so long a diagnosis can’t be made. It can’t. So long story short, nowadays I don’t take any medication.”
I asked Adam why he decided to start recovery and he said, “I was just ready…I don’t know. That’s the thing that makes this so special to me, and honestly so hopeful, is the fact that I don’t know what it is. All the times before I had hit a rock bottom, I was just so horrible I was just so depressed, and life couldn’t get any worse and I hit a new low. And now there is no new low here because other times when I stopped before I was in a lot worse shape than I was this time. I don’t know, and that’s the beauty of it this time, is that I don’t know what it was, but it’s working. I’m in a mindset that I am changing the person that I was.”
I asked Adam if there is one person who is his inspiration. Adam said that he doesn’t know if there is one person who is his inspiration but that he has a group of people. He said that he now has a group of friends that he never thought he would ever have in his life. He said that his group of friends and loved ones that he wouldn’t trade in for the world and that they care about his well-being and they care about what’s going on with him. He said that his group wants the best for him and want him to reach his potential.
Adam now lives a life of recovery and a life surrounded by his friends – as well as his family. He also has a girlfriend that “means the world” to him.
Adam’s story is common in its origin. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 75 percent of people who began abusing opioids in the 2000s reported that their first opioid was a prescription drug. Unfortunately, Adam’s recovery story is not very common as opiate relapse rates tend to be higher than the 40-60 percent relapse rates seen with other addictions.
Adam is on a successful recovery journey because he has a strong network of friends and peers – he has people who have been through what he has so can help him in ways that others cannot. Adam also has his loving, patient, and graceful family. Having a strong network is important for someone in recovery.
Next week we will conclude with Eric’s story.
Brian Chicoine is a New Hampshire native who has come home after spending several years living in Providence, Rhode Island. Brian and his family are excited to be back in Manchester and are focused on contributing to their community. Brian is the founder of Manchester Forward, a group that is dedicated to celebrating our city, honoring its history, and advocating for its smart growth. Brian merges his life experiences with his passions for innovation and community to develop his articles. Brian and his family live on the West Side. Brian can be reached via email at email@example.com.