By David “R.J.” Vied
My intention for this article is to spread hope to anyone feeling defeated, hopeless or lost. If you have read my previous articles, you know I write with vulnerability and honesty. You also should be aware that I am not an educated man when it comes to writing. Having said that, I write with passion. What you see is my true self and my views on addiction.
I no longer hold my head down and stigmatize myself as a junkie. Today, I am a son, father, husband, brother and a friend. I have four beautiful children, an amazing wife and the career of my dreams. I go home every single day after work to be there for my family. Yes, a home. I actually have a home with clothes in the dresser, food in the fridge and electricity lighting up smiling faces.
A lot of people look at me with a crooked grin and wonder why I am so grateful for things like this, why I appreciate running water and getting to lay in a bed at night. It is quite simple really. About 26 months ago, I was lucky to find a couch to crash on. I once lived off bread crumbs and the neighbor's hose water. When my parents weren't having to watch their son detoxing in their spare bedroom, I was living in a spacious truck, supplied with cool AC and leg room. I was content. The seat belt was long enough to wrap my arm, the center console supplied plenty of room for my needles and bags, and the window tint was just dark enough to hide me from the world.
Lets not forget the hundreds of deaths on a daily basis from drug overdose. Lets not forget, as you are reading this article, 10 more people will have died due to this disease. I sat with men and women who overdosed next to me, and I would pick their pockets and steal the same drug that killed them. I remember looking at them wishing it were me. I envied them. The fact that I had to live another day hostage to this drug was nothing short of hell. I always said I must have really messed up in my past life because I'm in hell. There was nothing sexier and more appealing than not waking up after a hit.
To an active addict, the word fear doesn't exist. The mindset when sick and craving for the drug left me with one motive: survival. No matter who, what or how, I found a way to survive. Don't be misled. I'm not talking about getting food and water or a bed to sleep in. No, I'm talking about robbing, lying, stealing, cheating and manipulating my family and closest of friends, looking into their tear-filled eyes, knowing they were supporting my death. My grandmother found her son, my uncle, dead in his home. His three sons had no idea Daddy wasn't sleeping but had passed. To this day, she is traumatized. I had this woman go get me OxyContin after hours of manipulating and lying about going to get help. I had this woman not only go buy but also hand me the same drug that killed her son. I sniffed those pills in front of my daughter’s mother, watched her hold my daughter with tears flowing down her face, and my only concern was getting all this powder up my nose so I no longer felt sick. Tell me any human being with a heart can sit there and say this is a choice.
Once caught in this vicious cycle, there is nothing more relevant than getting the drug. I get very frustrated at times and have to remind myself that not everyone is educated, nor wants to be. on addiction. We are stigmatized as bad people, losers, druggies and deadbeats. Tell a person with autism or dual diagnosed they are these things and you will see a much different response. Agree with me or not, this is a physical allergy and mental disease.
Please understand that you do have a choice and a decision to make. All of you reading this who may be in active addiction, we both know it’s no longer about that warm, exotic feeling of the first time we shot up. No, we can agree that the fun left us a long, long time ago, and it’s a matter of feeling normal and not sick. And for all of you that aren't active drug addicts, yes, we get to a point where the drug no longer gives us a high, rather it makes us physically able to get up, go to work, play with our kids or just even eat. All this bullshit prisoner to heroin stuff can stop and can stop today.
No one can force a bottom or sobriety on anyone. I'm sure if you gave families one wish, it wouldn't be money, clothes or even world peace. It would be the ability to get their child clean and sober. This is a power, unfortunately, us as families and advocates will never hold. Yet we can encourage hope. I tell my stories not to tell my story but to possibly reach one or two people who can relate and get some hope out of what I’ve been through. My story is no different, better or worse than a lot of people, but it is my story. And this once hopeless, homeless, needle-driven addict is now not only clean but also living a life beyond my wildest dreams.
Wouldn't you like to wake up one day and your biggest decision be what to wear or what to eat for breakfast? Wouldn't you like to wake up and not have to figure out who you were going to rob, steal and lie to? Because let’s get real: That shit takes more energy and work than any 9 to 5 job I have ever seen. You have a decision.
The day I last used was May 14, 2014. On that day, I wrote goodbye letters to my kids and family. I remember the warm feeling of death flowing through my veins as I attempted suicide. I remember the feeling of gratitude that I was about to die and I wasn't going to hurt anyone anymore. I didn’t have to see my kids cry anymore. My parents will now sleep at night. God stepped in that day and disrupted my death with a vengeance. After that day, I realized I had a purpose. It took me awhile to know what that was, but I knew it was something. I will never forget that day. I will always look at that day as my rebirth, the day I stepped out and God stepped in.
You and only you can make the decision. Once you have made the decision to get clean, brace yourself. You’re about to experience life at all its levels. You will feel again. You will start to discover a person you never knew existed. Imagine waking up, looking in the mirror and saying, “Well, damn, I look and feel great today. I hope there’s enough time to get done all the stuff I have to do!” Sound crazy? Tell me about it. The only time I ever looked into any mirror was to sniff a line of coke or Percocet. Your life can and will change. You must make this decision for you, not your mom, dad, wife, kids but you and you alone. Yes, this is a selfish turned selfless way of life, but I promise you everything you ever loved and everything you want in your life will at some point come, and you will be present to enjoy them. You will someday look into your kids eyes and start crying with gratitude. You will visit Mom and Dad and laugh with them. Most importantly, you will hold a gift like no other. You will be able to help the thousands out there needing that one person to believe in them.
Once you make the decision to get clean, you are no longer powerless and living in a hopeless state of mind. You are now on your way. You have bailed yourself out of heroin's prison, and you never have to go back. Freedom from active addiction is available to anyone willing enough to take a suggestion.
David “R.J.” Vied is director of public relations at Reliance Treatment Center.