“I am originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When I was about 12 years old, doctors removed my gallbladder and put me on oxycodone. I was regularly taking pain pills by age 16, and realized I was in full-blown addiction at age 18.
The first time I took opiates, it gave me a warm sensation and took away my pain and stress. It calmed my nerves and gave me courage.
It was a loving feeling that felt like everything was going to be okay. We call that chasing the dragon because you’re chasing the first high that you ever got. You will never be able to reach that first high, but psychologically you have to try.
I began taking painkillers to cope with other problems. I thought I was in control until I woke up sweating in the middle of the night and couldn’t keep my legs still.
I had a temperature and was coughing and sneezing. I felt like I had the flu, but when I took an oxycodone, it went away in less than a minute. I Googled for an explanation and learned that those were withdrawal symptoms from the medication.
In my twenties, doctors removed one of my kidneys, and an oncologist put me on fentanyl strips. I didn’t have cancer and tried to only use the fentanyl in extreme pain, but the doctor told him to keep the drug in my system.
I was only nine months away from graduating from college with a degree in physical therapy and a minor in psychology, I kept taking the fentanyl strips thinking that the oncologist knew best.
One day I showed up at my doctor’s office for a refill, but the doctor’s office had been raided and closed down. I was left high and dry and addicted to opiates. I had to find a way to keep getting drugs to avoid withdrawal.
Drugs were hitting Pennsylvania hard. One oxycodone pill cost $30 to $60, but heroin cost just $5. I switched to heroin and got the same high. I took the opiates to stay normal. I needed a fix as soon as I woke up just to feel OK. My tolerance got so high that I started shooting opiates in my veins.
I went to the hospital because my veins were infected from shooting up. The patient in the bed next to me called a drug dealer who snuck in some fentanyl. With an IV already hooked into my arm, I thought it was a chance to take fentanyl.
I was not in a sober mind. I have an addictive personality, and anything I love to do, I’m going to do it. I can’t put a limit on it. I instantly overdosed from the fentanyl and the nurses hit me with Narcan to reverse the effects of the drug.
I came to a little bit and heard a nurse say, ‘Oh my God, I’ve never given anyone this much Narcan in my life.’ They gave me one more dose, and I was revived.
That overdose scared me. I was living with my mom, who did her best to care for me, but she was ‘sick and tired’ of my lifestyle. She heard about Wings of Life in Mobile, and I arrived here on June 6, 2019. That program saved my life.
I was only planning to stay a week or two at Wings of Life and detox, but God had bigger plans. After finishing the 90-day program and giving my life to Christ, I became the outreach coordinator, mentoring others who were going through the same thing.
There has been a major increase in fentanyl usage since I came to Mobile in 2019. People were predominantly using crystal meth, crack, and cocaine. But the dealers are lacing these with fentanyl because it’s cheap and highly addictive.
The user gets hooked without even knowing that they used fentanyl, then keep going back for more. The craving is so strong, and it makes you physically sick when you stop.
Quitting is hard, but it helped to come to Mobile for a fresh start where he didn’t know anyone. I couldn’t go back to the friends I used with.
You have a higher success rate when you are in an unfamiliar place. I had to go 17 hours away.
Addiction affects everyone in a family. I see parents and grandparents crying out for help.
Some stay at Wings of Life for a short time. Even if they come to our program for 30 to 60 days, it gives the family a chance to relax and slow their nerves. They sleep a little easier, knowing that their child or grandchild is safe for that moment of time.
We say at Wings of Life that we aren’t dope dealers, we are hope dealers. If I can save one person’s life or give them hope, it’s worth it.”
September is National Recovery Month. We have so much to learn from people in recovery or family or friends who lost a loved one to a drug overdose, so I am going to share some of these stories over the next four weeks. If you have a story of recovery, substance use disorder, or losing someone you care about to an overdose, message me because I would like to hear it.