I’ve been struggling with how I was going to begin to tell my story for some time now. But Thanksgiving presented me with the perfect opportunity to do so with a perspective that makes me appreciate life even more. It allows me to tell how everything has come to pass, where I was, where I’ve been and how I got to the place I am now. I am 37 years old and I was an opiate addict for over 10 years. The latter portion being heroin, the former being prescription pain killers. I used drugs of all kinds from the age of 16, so name it and I’ve probably done it, except crack, because even a junky needs some sort of dignity, right? Currently I am a handful of days away from celebrating 9 months of sobriety. And as this Thanksgiving passed us by, I was left to contemplate what I was thankful for and exactly where I was a year ago on Thanksgiving day.
I grew up in Daytona Beach into my early 20′s. I moved all over the south, never staying in one place for very long. Savannah, St. Louis, Raleigh and up and down the central Florida coast. In 2010 I moved to Atlanta, GA to pursue a master’s degree. Already several years into a prescription pain killer addiction, I transitioned during a short period of clean and sober time to heroin after my roxy dealer informed me that it was cheaper and more abundant than pills. So after giving up on being clean, I made that switch. After snorting heroin every day for several years, blowing through thousands of dollars until I was broke, I began riding down with a friend for 20 dollar bags. He was an IV user and the jealousy I had from watching what it did to him and what it wasn’t doing to me ultimately lead me to the needle. After years of daily use, 2 arrests, multiple stories of a myriad of horrible situations I placed myself in, I found myself homeless, jobless, addicted to shooting heroin and cocaine in to any vein I could find.
On Thanksgiving day of 2016 while living in my car with the few possessions I had left, I sat parked at a Kroger in neighboring Mableton, Georgia. I had been sleeping in my car in a Walmart parking lot for a couple months, by choice, after leaving the last friend who had taken me in at 3am because I didn’t have rent money for them the next day. I had lived in my car before and the idea was fine with me, less people to dance around and hide my addiction from. It meant not explaining myself daily, coming up with excuses to leave or to be alone and alone is what I wanted to be. But on Thanksgiving Day, Walmart was closed so I was at a 24 hour Kroger because it was the only establishment open where I could sit and not draw attention to myself. Yet all day cars pulled up next to me filled with people from churches who handed me brochures and told me I didn’t have to be alone as long as I had Jesus in my life. But my only savoir was that next fix so I just listened politely; I figured if I was going to be a junky then I might as well be a polite junky, which was just another tool of manipulation I kept.
Looking back on that cold, lonely depressing decade, let alone day, I couldn’t help but look around at the friends and family I was with, the food offered to us, my beautiful wife, having a job, having prospects and simply overall, a willingness to be part of it again. This is just the beginning of a new life and the start of a story about a chapter of my life that I hope people will take interest in, and maybe even cause someone to ask for help because this crisis is like no monster you could ever imagine and it is taking lives at the rate on 1 less than every hour. I’ve known people who have died from this epidemic, I know people who know people who have died. It reaches across all of society’s classes and races and shows no mercy at the same time. It is the Opiod epidemic and this is my story.