Tom’s family life during childhood was like many others. Finances were not a problem for the family of five, but there was something missing. Fights were a daily ritual between mom and dad, that over time led to separation.
Tom was introduced to marijuana at the age of 13. By this time his parents were divorced, and it was rare that he saw his dad. “Mom just wasn’t mentally stable. I never knew where her rules stood from day to day, so I made my own.” Tom was told drugs were bad, but for him they worked. “Drugs made me feel good. I didn’t see the problem in using.” Without realizing the connection, the drugs led to criminal activity and Tom was labeled “bad”. Sometimes we speak things into existence without even realizing it. The more Tom was called a “bad kid” the more he believed it and felt the need to prove it.
At 16, Tom was kicked out of his home and began couch surfing*. This “worked” for some time but eventually he grew tired and returned home only to discover his mom had moved and not told him. Tom then moved in with his dad and his dad’s girlfriend. He became a master manipulator. Tom played his dad from every angle possible. The father/son relationship had weakened due to seldom visitation after the divorce. And the girlfriend? Having no kids of her own she was clueless and an even easier target.
Tom, being somewhat of a functioning addict* did graduate from high school- barely. Around the same time his dad moved off and Tom was living in a motel. He fed his addiction readily and heavily after receiving a large, non-restricted family inheritance. As his tolerance grew, Tom moved on to harder, more dangerous drugs. That’s when he did what he said he would never do; OxyContin, and it worked.
Opioids are like no other drug. The chemicals pass through the bloodstream into the brain releasing dopamine and endorphins at a rate that’s not naturally possible. This extreme feeling of euphoria and pleasure takes over every logic a person could have. Natural feelings thereafter are so low in comparison that the person using cannot stand to bare life. The only way the addict can feel good at all is with use of the drug. By this time, a physical and mental addiction has usually taken over.
“My body ran on a six-hour time clock”. Every six hours, Tom’s body would crash into a state of mental and physical pain. He would endure extreme flu like symptoms including shaking and vomiting. The only cure was to use again. Over time, Tom’s tolerance grew so high that the drugs didn’t work anymore.
Tom tried to quit cold turkey. He would stay sick for weeks at a time while suffering severe insomnia. The only way for him to keep his body temperature down was by laying in the bath multiple times a day for multiple hours at a time. Detoxing from opioids without medical supervision is not recommended as the body can undergo life threatening complications.
Tom would inevitably smoke marijuana to help ease the torture of the unbearable detox. This in turn lowered his inhibitions and before Tom knew it, he was using OxyContin again. The craving to satisfy his addiction had taken over his body, mind, and soul and he would do anything to feed it.
After three desperate and unsuccessful self-attempts to get sober, Tom made a phone call to his dad that saved his life. “I wasn’t afraid of dying from drugs, I was afraid of living on drugs.” Aware of how severe the addiction had become and without question, Dad flew his son to his new home state. Together they admitted Tom into a lifesaving treatment facility. “I didn’t want to get high, but I wanted to get high.” The devil stayed on Tom’s shoulder while he shed many, many tears. The months ahead included inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, multiple weekly meetings, the most reliable sponsor he could find, and a lot of humility. The hard work didn’t stop as Tom crawled his way out of the dark, deep, pit that addiction brought him to. He would graduate from one rehab program and ask for more time. As Tom became more confident in staying sober, he moved on to rehab programs that encouraged more independence.
Tom’s first job sober was scrubbing toilets and he loved it. “It was nice to be a productive member of society”. He appreciated every sober day although he still struggled with depression. He kept fighting. Tom obtained a scholarship to college and did very well. He learned how to manage his time and study while keeping his connection with God close. Today Tom runs a successful business and gives back to the community. “I do not have everything figured out by any means, but life is good.”
What does it take for one to find sobriety like Tom? That’s the million-dollar question. For him, it was God.
Lori Youngblood is a recovering drug addict. Her mission is to help others gain knowledge about the disease of addiction.
*Couch Surfing- What someone who can’t afford rent on their own and/or can’t find roommates quick enough does when they are “between” places. -Urban Dictionary
*Functioning Addict- A person that has an addiction whether it be to alcohol or drugs and still able to maintain a “normal” life. -Urban Dictionary