By Joshua Hudgens

I knew I hit rock bottom the day I stole money from my dying grandmother. I looked into her eyes while I was taking money from her dresser along with bottles of pain medication: Vicodin, Percocet, and Oxycontin. She looked at me, unable to move, let alone speak. It was Sept. 30, 2007, and I was there to watch her as she was dying, to see she was looked after and cared for. In my mind, I just scored big time.

Photo Illustration by Drew Scofield

I started as an innocent kid, at the age of 12. I started experimenting with different narcotic and mind-bending substances after I found a sack of marijuana. Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States. In 2003, more than 25 million Americans (more than 10 percent of the population) used marijuana.  Growing up in The Swamps, many peers were older than me. Everyday drugs passed hand to hand and I would partake in drug use to numb the pain of physical abuse at home. I lived in a household with a depressed mother putting me down, and an alcoholic father who ignored my existence.

In 2004, approximately 22.5 million Americans aged 12 or older needed treatment for substance abuse and addiction (alcohol or illicit drugs). Of these, only 3.8 million people received it. My story of battling addiction is no different than most. Rates for addictive diseases usually are in the range of 50-90 percent; these rates vary by definition of relapse, severity of addiction, drug of addiction, length of treatment, and elapsed time from treatment discharge to assessment, as well as other factors, as stated on the site,

A large file cabinet fell down a flight of stairs and landed on me at work when I was 19.  My mother took me to a family doctor in North Ridgeville and he prescribed Percocet, with a narcotic muscle relaxer, Soma, to ease my pain. Having two parents who had addictive qualities, I still never expected the devastation and powerlessness that lie ahead.

In 2001, at the age of 19, working as a residential home painter and making $10 an hour I used my medication to ease the aches and pains that come with hard labor, helping me make it through the work day. I met with some coworkers that took the same medications. If someone ran out, a user would give some of his own personal supply to help the other get to a refill date. I was introduced to Oxycontin by a carpenter who had Multiple Sclerosis. I would sell his Oxycontin and in turn have my own pills to use and still make a profit. Once the profit dwindled and I started owing the carpenter money, I knew I was addicted. I relied on the medication to wake up as one would drink a cup of coffee; I needed 120 mg. of Oxycontin to start my day. I enjoyed the fact I was an addict because it gave me an identity and put me in a circle of users who looked out for each other. So it seemed.

The turning point was when I ran out of pills and a “fiend” not a friend introduced me to Heroin. He said it had the same effect once inhaled through the nose as the pills, and heroin was less expensive than pharmaceuticals. The fiend then told me that if I intravenously took the heroin by shooting up with a syringe, the effect of the heroin would be at a much higher level than I had previously been used to with the pills. He was right; I tied a belt around my left arm and pulled tight. After locating the correct vein, I put a quarter gram of heroin in a large spoon and added water to liquefy the heroin. The fiend had a candle lit and I remember holding the spoon over the flame for a very brief moment. He placed a small piece of cotton in the spoon off a Q-tip and pulled the dose into the syringe. I pushed the needle into my vein and drew back so blood was present in the syringe and I knew I had a good vein. As I pushed the plunger into the syringe I instantly went to another plane of existence. My head fell back, needle still in arm and I nodded out briefly. The rush was so intense every muscle seemed to atrophy and I was extremely aroused. It felt as if a million ants were crawling all over my body. I was hot and sweating. I had never felt so free from myself. No money, love or even sex would supersede the rush from heroin. I decided right then that heroin would rule my life because I knew I would be using it every day.

Addiction was my main reason for narcotic drug abuse. Once addicted, all hope was lost to me, the addict, and I was blinded by illusions of being functional in life. An addict finds himself acting in desperation and nothing is more important than acquiring the drug.

Many medications have a street equivalent and an addicted person will find themselves resorting to the most disgusting measures known to man to continue getting high; murder, rape, prostitution, jail time, prison, grand theft auto, stealing from loved ones, petty theft, grand larceny, using dirty needles, homelessness, abortion, and manipulation of those who have trusted the addict. The end result is incarceration or death. In 2012 to date there have been 20 overdoses of heroin in Lorain County which is the total number of overdoses in 2011, according to the Lorain County coroner’s data base. Only with pure willpower can an addict recover, but recovery is a life-long journey: the cravings don’t disappear. Recovery begins when an addict recognizes his or her dependence, though in some cases that may be too late. For a majority of those affected, addiction to a narcotic is a death sentence. Only with the correct rehabilitation and recovery can addicts overcome their reliance on drugs. If help is sought, addiction doesn’t have to be a life sentence.

As I kept using drugs daily, I noticed it took more heroin than before to get high. I went to clubs to party with friends. They would say, “Open your mouth!” so I did, and in went whatever drug they had. I did it because we all did. Peer pressure was the secondary cause of my addiction because a drug that was not known to me was introduced and I used it as a way to fit in. Throughout history, drugs have been taken to participate in social groups. Sharing a prescription or street drug as heroin or cocaine may seem a vital part of a social group because a person may feel uncomfortable being the only one at a party who doesn’t partake in the group’s activity. This is the leading cause of abuse n the adolescent demographic and is very unfortunate because the individual is hooked for life at such a young age. SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that about 510,000 youth aged 12-17 used stimulants non-medically in the year 2006.

Seeking help is the one part of the recovery process I didn’t have a hard time with. I knew I was an addict; I was tired of running the streets, being a criminal, not having a bond with anyone but my dope. Facing prison, a judge gave me a chance to sober up and learn coping skills to use when the phenomenon of craving occurs. It’s simple to get narcotics when an addict is locked up but I didn’t want to deal with a group of gangs and hustlers. I attended a twelve step group 3 times a week and had family who supported me and my decision. I was placed in Community Assessment and Treatment Services or C.A.T.S., which is a prison release program to help convicted addicts and prevent recidivism. I was able to get help because I was so devastated from the way I lived. I was tired of being week and powerless. I surrendered myself to the program and I learned how to live life on life’s terms. I noticed that the counselors truly cared for me and my outcome. That was a turning point again because I felt as if I was worth getting sober. I knew there was a good guy inside still. Drugs were the only reason I was in trouble. Yet I still crave today.

It’s a daily battle, with each day that passes getting easier. I pray only to have God help me make the right decision today. I am also thankful to God for giving me a chance at being a father to my son.

Now being a good father is my focus. I will not raise my son around drugs or alcohol. He will not see a party environment as I did. My son resembles purity to me. The chance to stop a way of life that pre-dates me and my parents is important to me for my son. Retribution to those I’ve hurt by making my son a good person.