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Don’t Give Up On Hope!
Learn Words Of Wisdom From A Young Man Who Has Lived A Fast Life
In this episode of Stories of Addiction, I’ll be talking to Blake about his addiction and his recovery from addiction. Blake is a client at the Gault House Sober Living Environment in Santa Cruz, California. He is 26 years old and his drug of choice were all forms of opioids. Blake is from Concord, California and he is 95 days clean. Blake, how are you doing?
I’m doing great. How are you?
Thank you for joining us here. Why don’t you start us out by talking about how your addiction began?
I have always dabbled with drugs. I have always been curious about drugs and alcohol, growing up in an alcoholic family. I’ve always seen my dad drinking from as far back as I can remember. I first became curious with alcohol and drugs around the time that my parents got divorced. Alcohol appeared to be the stem of all the problems that tore the relationship apart. It caused a lot of issues. I was curious about why someone might choose to drink regardless of all of the consequences that were apparent. In middle school was my experience with my first beverage. It was a tequila mixer for Margarita and I just drank it lukewarm. I enjoyed how it felt. Me and my buddies drank it, then went out and just partook in some shenanigans. From then on, it was a weekend thing, going out drinking. Then the following year, I tried marijuana for the first time. That one took me a little while. I didn’t care for it too much. I had to keep on trying until I did.
In high school I was a wake and baker every day, leave on lunches. I’ll miss school, always smoking pot. I dabbled with ecstasy, cocaine, basically anything I could get my hands on in high school. That was more of a social thing. I definitely enjoyed altering my state of mind and altering how I felt. Before I tried my first hit of marijuana, I remember this very vividly. I was on a bike trail. I used to do a lot of mountain biking. I remember thinking to myself, “I wish there was something that I can take that just made me feel good.” I just remember that so clearly. Once I found opiates in high school, my stepdad had little yellow Norcos and I would steal those from him. I remember the first time I took them, thinking back to that time on the bike trail, that’s exactly what I had made up in my mind of what the perfect drug for me would be. I continued taking opiates and whatever I could get my hands on in high school. Outside of high school, I joined the Carpenter’s Union. I was making good money and I would be sore and tired after a long week of working. That’s when I moved to Oxys. It completely relieved my aches and pains. It made me content. That was just my favorite way of relaxing after a long, hard week of work. Since I was doing hard manual labor, I felt I deserve it.
In high school, had they transferred into using opiates? It’s a question I ask everyone. Did you notice the way you used substances, particularly opiates, were different than the way your friends use them? Did you notice the addiction more strongly in yourself?
The opiates in high school, I didn’t notice them as a problem. I was taking drugs, how I saw other people taking drugs. I didn’t notice that it was a problem. I always knew that there was the potential for a problem based on my family history with drugs and alcohol. Once I got out of high school and I continued taking opiates, I took it more for myself. I didn’t care if I was doing it with anyone. I didn’t care what other people thought of me because I felt like I was keeping it a secret. I didn’t see it as much of a problem at the time.Learn words of wisdom from a young man who has lived a fast life. Click To Tweet
You didn’t experience consequences from the use at that point?
No, I didn’t take it on an everyday basis to experience withdrawals either. I wasn’t fully aware of the ramifications at that point.
What happened once you got into the Oxy and stuff?
I loved it so much that I just continued taking them between the ages of eighteen and 21. I took them for a good amount of time, I remember. It was probably about a year. I got two consecutive days, consecutive weeks, months of taking them. I remember having a hard time finding them at one point and feeling very sick. That’s when I was introduced to heroin. At first, heroin is such a loaded word. When you think heroin, you think of a junkie, a prostitute, someone homeless that would literally sell their souls to get a bag. That’s what a lot of people think of heroin. I had second thoughts of trying it. What I was told is they would take away my withdrawals. I was like, “I’ll do it this one time.” I remember doing it and realizing, “This is the same high. What makes this so much worse?” At that point, it was how people lie to you about drugs to get you scared away from them. When you finally realize that it’s not that extreme, you think everything they’re telling you is a lie. That’s what I experienced. I continued my use with heroin. At that point, I knew that I was an addict and I didn’t care. If something was going get in my way of using, I didn’t want to bring it up or avoid it because I didn’t want to stop.
You were still living at home at this point?
Yes, I was living at my father’s house.
Did your father have any idea if you’re using drugs, especially once you’re using dope?
He’s always been okay with me drinking since I was young. As long as I got my work done, do what I was supposed to do around the house, it didn’t matter. If he knew about the heroin, it would not have been okay. As long as everything looks good on the outside, there’s no reason for him to sit down and talk with me about it. I was able to get away with avoiding that whole situation by holding a job, paying my bills and just keeping a clean outside appearance.
You’ve gotten into heroin and you’re still working at the Carpenter’s Union. What happened next?Everything that you buried ends up coming up eventually. Click To Tweet
I’ve been a functioning addict for about a year and a half. When I say a functioning addict, obviously I have a bunch of problem with. The way I made my money and my motivation to make my money and to keep working were to get drugs. I was making good money. I have a good stable job. My employers like me. I’ve always been a fast learner and I have been skilled at my job. As long as I had drugs, I would show up to work and I do a very good job. I would go home and I would run through my checks, spending it on minimal bills and all on drugs. My hustle was a legal hustle of just working and just keeping it together that way.
Did they notice a change in you at work at all? Did they ever catch you nodding out or anything like that?
Work didn’t know up until about two years. That was around the time where I was going through drugs way too fast to where if I was dope sick, I wouldn’t call into work, I wouldn’t show up to work until I got well that day. I would call them and be like, “I slept through my alarm,” or whatever. They saw a pattern, every Monday that would happen or close to payday. Never on payday because that’s how I was going to get my drugs. They knew something was up and they were like, “We’re going to have to can you if you keep doing this.” I did this a lot. They must have liked me to not do it any sooner.
Using heroin and Benzos, that was all I did. I would go home from work and I would get my sack. Me and my girlfriend would use. I remember going on vacations with my girlfriend’s family. We’d buy a half ounce to last us not even a week. Maybe four or five days and every time we would run through it, we’d end up having to rush home dope sick to try to get more. That was just the worst feeling. Up until 2017, I wanted help. At that point, I was using heavy opiates. I was using Fentanyl, Xanax. I was using just heavy opiates and they saw them. My mom, she’s a recovered alcoholic. She always knew something was there, but she hadn’t been in my life at that point. She couldn’t say anything to me. 2017 was just a constant battle trying to get my life together, get on the straight narrow and start mending relationships. Trying to live a productive, normal, meaningful life with genuine relationships.
Did you experience, either with yourself or your girlfriend or anyone else around you, an illegal or health repercussion from using? Have you seen an overdose or anything like that?
I’ve seen a lot of overdoses. Those have shaken me up a lot. The first few times I’ve seen some people overdose, I freaked out. I didn’t know what to do. The more that I saw, the calmer I would be. People would freak on the background. I’m like, “If you’re going to freak out, you’ve got to leave.” You’ve got to check his heartbeat, got to breathe for him and just keep shooting them with Narcan until they wake up. They’ll be okay as long as they have a pulse and as long as you’re breathing for them. That was a big major toll, losing friends and seeing all the ODs. I have OD’ed a couple times and it is scary. You don’t realize how evil the drug is until you see people overdose or start losing friends. It’s an ugly disease. The sad thing is every time I’ve seen someone OD, immediately after I’m like, “It’s my turn. That’s the dope that I want. I want to get on that level.” When you OD, you don’t know that you OD’ed until someone tells you. Half the time if I see someone OD, I’ll have someone videotape it while me and another guy are resuscitating him. Just so that way when they come back, you can show them. Half the time they’re like, “I didn’t. Shut up, give me the dope.” It’s sad.
I definitely can relate to that feeling. When I OD’ed, the last thing I remember is during the shot and then waking up surrounded by paramedics and firefighters. I’m glad to hear that you had Narcan on hand. Many addicts don’t take that extra step of responsibility. There’s no point in talking about recovery if addicts don’t survive long enough to make it to that point. I’m glad to hear that you had taken that step with it.
All we’re using was Fentanyl and that’s the devil right there. Especially people that are heavy on the heroin, they think they can handle it. I’d say about 75% of the time they OD right there. I’ve shot someone with Narcan eight times and they just barely woke up. There were some times where I didn’t have Narcan. There’s this one time, one of my buddies, he was sitting in the passenger seat of my car and I didn’t want to give them any Fentanyl. He was dope sick and I was like, “If you do it, you’re going to take a tiny hit with me.” He ends up roping it, taking a fat hit and I’m like, “Why did you do that?” He instantly just turned blue, slumped over. It was just me and him in the car. I’m trying to pull over. He’s turning all blue. I pulled over and checked his heart. I keep breathing the mouth to mouth. He doesn’t have health insurance, so I’m avoiding calling 911. I’m constantly giving him mouth to mouth, keeping my hand on the pulse. I put a sub under his tongue and constantly people are looking at me, calling the cops. I’m having to drive to another spot, give him mouth to mouth. I’m trying to drive to the ER. That’s the insanity too. Why should a hospital bill matter to life? I felt like I’ve seen enough people OD, I knew what to do. He ended up being okay, but still thinking back on the insanity of that, it’s just crazy.Learn from everyday experiences and continue building meaningful relationships. Click To Tweet
That’s hectic, that’s super gnarly the limits that drugs push us to. In saying that, I’m curious what your breaking point was? It sounds like it got pretty bad. What made you decide that enough is enough?
My breaking point was losing every relationship that I had. In 2017, I came clean and wanted the help. Once I got dope sick, I didn’t want the help. From that point on, I pushed everyone away. I was living out of my car. I started selling drugs and quit my job, which was a good job. Selling dope is easier. Who wants to work in a construction job, living out of a car, trying to find places to shower? My breaking point was just being alone, living out of my car with no true relationships or true friends. Loneliness drove me to insanity and I wanted my family back. I wanted to either repair the relationship with my girlfriend or get the help that I needed to move on with my life, rather than just covering up all my emotions with drugs. It works for a little bit but at the end of the day, you still have to deal with all of those emotions. Everything that you buried ends up coming up eventually. Loneliness is the main thing.
Did you ask for help at that point?
I’ve been in five different residential programs all in 2017. The first time I asked for help, the second and third time I was talked into going. This last couple, I chose to put myself in. This last time I only told my sister. I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up and then let them down again. I literally almost told no one and I just went by myself. Once I was there working on myself, that’s when I started telling my family, “I’m in rehab.” They were shocked that I didn’t tell anyone. That last time I have been doing it for me before I was doing it to make other people happy or in order to get someone back in my life. This last time I just want to be okay with myself.
What happened with the four times prior to this one? Did you use immediately upon getting out of the program? Why do you think it didn’t stick the first times?
I thought that since I’m an opiate addict, I’m just physically dependent on it. I don’t need to work a program. They were shoving a program down my throat. I was fighting it. I was trying to find my own easier, softer way. In a couple other places, I just left AWOL and then went straight back to using. In other times it was just like self-will, not going to meetings, not connecting with people. The last two times, I was more open, willing to do whatever it took. This last time, I’ve haven’t had any resistance. I love going to meetings. I’ve been connecting with people on real levels, talking about real things. Everything is different this last time.
I assume you didn’t move into an SLE after the initial time. What did you do differently? You’re going to meetings, going to an SLE. Was this last treatment center different than the previous ones or did you always go back to the same rehab?
I went to the camp and I was there in 2017. I loved the camp. I loved all the people on it. The community out in Santa Cruz is awesome. The last time, I went back to my hometown. I made all these connections in the camp. I went home and didn’t have any too antisocial, too shy to go out and make new ones. I just tried to be a lone soldier and do it myself. This time, I have moved out here and carried those connections that I made in the camp out here. I’m still continuing to build new ones. A big thing for me was getting out of that hometown, getting out of those constant reminders that if I wanted to, I could get drugs. I was starting in a fresh new city with new relationships and a lot more structure. I’m doing the Kaiser Outpatient Program and sticking with that. Everything is new this time. As I went from the first time I went to the program, it was slow. Each facility was like, “I need to do this.” It’s been a long learning process.If you don't get it the first time, you’ve got to jump-start on the second time. Just try to stay alive. Click To Tweet
What sorts of realizations would you say you’ve had about yourself and your recovery this last go-around compared to previously?
I have realized that I am an addict. I will always be an addict. The use of drugs is only a symptom. It’s mostly my behavior and me wanting to change how I feel because of things that have happened to me and things that I’ve done in my life. It’s realizing that I cannot do this alone. It’s realizing how much more out there, there is to life. There are all of those things and there’s so much to recovery. It’s like my work in construction. You can work construction for 40 years and always still learn something. It’s the same thing with recovery, always learn something. You can always do something different, do something better. As long as you’re trying, giving it all and being honest, that’s all you can ask for.
I believe that everyone has something to offer, whether they have a week in recovery or compared to the person with ten years. The person with ten years might have a lot more experience than the newcomer, but there can be an insight that’s just as profound on both sides. What are your hopes for the future from this point?
My hope for the future is to learn from my past and just strive to be a better person. I can still slip up in the future. My hope is just to constantly learn from everyday experiences and to continue building meaningful relationships, just to be content with myself. I can struggle with depression and that’s okay. It’s okay not to feel good every single day. That’s not what recovery is about. Recovery isn’t being this happy go lucky person the rest of your life. It’s just learning how to cope with life on life’s terms. If you’re sad, that’s okay. Reach out to someone and talk about it. At the end of the day, that will better your relationship with yourself and with those other people that you share your feelings with. Just family and just experience life, that’s all I can ask for.
Do you have any goals with maybe getting back into the trades, some other idea or direction you can go in that part of your life?
As much as I’ve thought that I’ve burnt my bridges with my employer, they’re still asking for me to come back, which is crazy to me. I still plan on going back in working construction when I’m ready. I’m just taking each day one day at a time. I plan on continuing my carpentry and move up one day, become a supervisor possibly. I might end up going back to school and learn project management or something, maybe start my own company. I’m just taking life as it comes.
It’s amazing how many doors open for you when you get off drugs. The possibilities are truly endless. What advice would you have for somebody else who’s considering getting into recovery? Maybe they’re hesitant or feels trapped in that lifestyle.
If you’re considering recovery, give it a shot. If you’re not happy with it, you can go out and you can definitely keep doing what you’re doing. Hopefully, you’ll get another chance to come back and keep trying. What I’ve learned is there’s no shame in coming back to the rooms. It happens to everyone. There are guys that had been sober for fifteen years and ended up going out. As long as you keep coming back and giving it a shot, that’s all that matters. I feel truly blessed to not be dead. It is definitely worth it. If you don’t get it the first time, you’ve got to jumpstart on the second time. Just try to stay alive.
That was a powerful story. I appreciate you doing this with us. Thanks to all of our audience for joining us on the Stories of Addiction podcast. To all our audience, we wish you to stay sober and be happy.
Blake is a 26-year-old man from Concord in the north San Francisco Bay Area. Blake works construction, primarily as a framer and carpenter.
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