I was the second-born son out of three. I was the middle child. I grew up in an average, hard working, middle class family. I had a seemingly normal childhood. I was a B average student. I was a terrific athlete. I had a big dream of playing professional football. I had no doubt in my mind I was capable of doing so. I was confident, driven and motivated to accomplish my goal. I was an unstoppable force. I wanted to make my family proud. An unexpected football injury in high school would change the course of my life. I would become a victim of America's opioid epidemic. My addiction, however, would teach me the importance of family. I would also learn the power of unconditional love, which is something the world needs more of.
I would unfairly place the blame for my addiction upon my family. I blamed them for not trying to intervene. I was too young and naive to hold myself accountable or responsible for my actions. My addiction was my family's fault—not mine. My addiction started with prescription painkillers for the injury I suffered. I was abiding by the label and dosage, at first. Unfortunately, the euphoric effects of opiates are too overwhelming and addictive—especially for a high school student whose right leg and lifelong dream just got shattered. I began abusing my prescription. My family was oblivious and ignorant to it. I suppose that is why I placed a lot of blame on them. I guess I felt like they should have been monitoring my doses. I imagine they trusted me enough and wanted me to hold myself accountable.
My addiction would begin to spiral out of control. My grades in school were beginning to slide. I was becoming more irritable due to the effects of withdrawals. I was constantly finding ways to get money and connections to feed my addiction. I was getting into constant fights and arguments with my family. I had a bad temper. I would break things and punch holes in walls. I was a human wrecking ball. I lost myself and my true essence in my addiction. I was somebody else. I was a lying, cheating, scheming and stealing drug addict. From the outside looking in, if I were my parents, I would have kicked myself out of the house. Looking back, I could not have blamed them for doing so.
It was not until years later after I completed a medication assisted treatment program that I would be able to talk to my family openly. I was told that getting kicked out of the house almost became a reality. My parents had agreed they would offer to get me into treatment, but if I had refused, I was going to be kicked out. I was finally enlightened as to why my parents never threw me out, cut me off or gave up on me. I understood why my brothers always stood by me even in times of chaos. The short answer was unconditional love. My family understood that this person, this monster before them was not the real me. They knew I was still in there somewhere, just begging to be set free from my addiction. My family was able to sympathize and understand rather than pass judgment. My father even admitted to me that he wanted me to make my own mistakes so I could learn from them. I held resentment towards him after he told me that at first. My mistakes could have easily led me to prison or even my funeral. The longer I have stayed clean and sober, the more clarity I have gained.
I believe that when a family is struggling with an addict, giving up on them is never the answer, regardless of the problems it creates. After all, they are still human. Your son, daughter, brother, sister, mother, father, aunt, uncle, husband or wife is still trapped in there somewhere, wanting to be set free as much as I did. It is important for family to stick together and be sympathetic and understanding. Offer them hope and support. Consider all options including a treatment center. A life is a life and a soul is a soul no matter what the circumstances. The negative stigma attached to addicts is unfair. People like us struggle for one reason or another. Mine was a sports injury and a lifelong dream that got crushed in a matter of seconds. The result was a severe battle with depression and addiction. It is important to understand why an addict is struggling rather than immediately pass judgment. My family taught me that unconditional love can conquer all, including the black hole of addiction. If we all learn to show each other unconditional love, addict or not, the world we live in would be a much better place.