Citation: White Stallion. "A Long Lonely Struggle: An Experience with Opioids (Hydromorphone, Oxycodone & Hydrocodone) (exp90114)". Erowid.org. Nov 29, 2012. erowid.org/exp/90114
I started experimenting with drugs in high school, and I will never forget the first time I took opiates at age fifteen. I truly felt that all was right in the world, perhaps for the first time since I was a young child. As much as I loved the feeling, from this time until my sophomore year of college I only used opiates on the rare occasions when they came around, and most of my drug-related activities focused around smoking pot, consuming dextromethorphan, and occasionally using psychedelics, dextroamphetamine and cocaine.
During my sophomore year of college, I had an opportunity to try snorting heroin while out of town visiting a friend one weekend. The pain in my nasal passageways was nearly unbearable as the drugs went up my nose, but as the feeling morphed into an intense, orgasmic buzz that left me in a blissful stupor for the better part of four hours, I was reminded of why I loved opiates so much and my interest was awakened anew. I also had the opportunity to witness the friend-of-a-friend who got the drugs for me, intravenously inject her share of the loot. The casual attitude and relative cleanliness with which she did it surprised me, as I was up to that point accustomed only to the fear-mongering stereotype of the desperate junky stooping to unfathomable lows of uncleanliness to get their fix.
I told my brother about the whole ordeal and he confided in me that he had been using Oxycontin fairly regularly for some time, and had even started injecting it on occasion. I started using that with him from time to time, and pretty soon I was shooting it as well. Not long after I started doing this, he introduced me to hydromorphone. The rush from injecting hydromorphone was unlike anything I’d ever experienced; moreover, the high was mild enough that I could do it and still function, perhaps better than while sober, and when used in moderation, withdrawal symptoms weren’t really all that bad. Ironically, though perhaps not so to anyone who’s ever struggled with opiate addiction, my sophomore year of college was my most academically fruitful one - every day I would go to class, work out, study, and then, if I happened to have drugs in my possession, shoot up, do whatever for awhile, and then go to bed.
While I wasn’t addicted at this time, as I did not have regular access and was still mentally strong enough to recognize the fine line between casual use and addiction, I began to develop a pattern of regular use that increased steadily into the first semester of my junior year. I spent the second semester of my junior year abroad in Japan, a situation that would seemingly render any drug use impossible (no way was I going to mess with trying to score drugs in Japan), until one day when, while searching for cold medication at a local pharmacy, I discovered that one could purchase preparations containing dihydrocodeine over the counter.
The stress of living in Tokyo with a host family who didn’t understand me and with whom I was unable to communicate effectively due to a seemingly insurmountable language barrier drove me to excessive use of these medications, and I soon found myself using them nearly every day. Unfortunately, the increasingly introverted and antisocial behavior that resulted from my drug use further strained my relationship with my host family, and I found myself trapped in a vicious cycle of using increasing amounts of opiates in order to compensate for an increasing level of tension caused to a great extent by my drug use.
After returning to the U.S., I resumed using hydromorphone whenever I could get it, as well as other opiates when it wasn’t around, and my pattern of use was now such that drugs were the primary focus of my life. I still managed to do fine in school, and if I had to do something important that couldn’t be completed while intoxicated I would abstain from using, but any other time than that I’d get high first and worry about other things later. The peak of my use came during late winter and early spring of my senior year, when a friend and fellow user introduced me to a guy who had a job disposing of unused and expired pharmaceuticals from pharmacies in my home city (located about an hour from school). All of a sudden, for the first time since I began using opiates, I had regular, relatively cheap access to the drugs I loved so dearly.
For the next two months or so I was a legitimate junky. Every day when I woke, I would cook up a shot of either hydromorphone or Oxycontin, go to class, do another shot in between classes, a shot before lunch, a shot after class, a shot before dinner, etcetera. I was shooting up anywhere from five to ten times a day by my calculation. I still managed to get my school work done and perform other necessary functions, but my life was now completely revolved around drugs. I didn’t even think twice about repeatedly dropping hundreds of dollars at a time, and although I managed to alleviate my expensive habit somewhat by selling to a couple of friends of mine, I was still running out of money fast. My tolerance was also growing - I managed to work my way up from four milligrams at a time to eight at a time rather quickly, and if I wanted to get really high I’d do as much as twelve.
Then one Saturday morning a couple of weeks before graduation, the day that I had intended to go cold-turkey and clean myself up, I awoke to the near constant ringing of my cell phone. It was my father. I thought it was odd but ignored it anyway and tried to go back to sleep. Then I got a text from my brother. “Dude, Dad knows.” I sprang out of bed and called my brother. Apparently one of my friends who I’d been selling to, who had a much more open yet troubled relationship with his parents than I, told his father that we were both using (to this day I still don’t know if he meant to help me or us or if he was just too fucked up to care what came out of his mouth); upon hearing this, his father called mine and told him what we were up to. My phone rang again, and this time I answered. My Dad was sobbing. He asked me if it was true and I told him without any hesitation that it was. He asked me if I’d come home. I tried to decline, but he tearfully insisted, so I got into my car and drove the hour home.
Walking into my father’s house that day was easily the hardest thing that I have ever done in my life, particularly because my step-grandparents were there and knew what was going on. It was bad enough explaining myself to my father and step-mother, but trying to tell a couple of 70-somethings from the rural Midwest why I was intravenously injecting pharmaceuticals was an experience I would not wish upon anyone. I glossed over the details, telling them that it was a fairly casual thing, and I neglected to mention that I was using five or more times a day or that my struggle with opiates had been years in the making. I expected to be yelled or screamed at, but I realize in hindsight that the reaction I got that day was far worse: though my family tried to offer advice, perspective, and some degree of consolation, it was blatantly apparent to me that no one knew what to say because they really had no idea what they were dealing with.
I promised to clean up my act, left, got a few more pills from my dealer to get me through the day, and then drove back to school. When I woke up the next day, I was still in such shock from the previous day’s events that I wasn’t conscious of any major withdrawal symptoms. It was also the week before finals, and I had a lot of work to do, which kept my mind occupied. Over the course of the next four days I slept a total of probably eight hours, all the while plugging away at school work in an attempt to graduate on a positive note. I don’t know how I did it, but somehow I managed to get through that week unscathed and graduate without any problems or setbacks.
I returned home that summer with the intention of moving out to the west coast in mid-July, and I temporarily got a job landscaping for a guy I’d worked with previously so that I could save some money for my move (now that my savings was gone). I liked the work and the people I worked with, but my demons came back to haunt me when I learned that my boss was addicted to pain pills. I asked if he would be willing to sell me some and he casually blew off my requests until one payday when I asked him if he’d be willing to just give me part of my check in the form of pills. He gave me my full paycheck and then reached into a little pouch, pulled out six eight milligram hydromorphone pills, and dropped them in my hand. Nearly giddy with excitement, I asked him what I owed him, and he told me I didn’t owe him anything. I thanked him profusely, hopped in my car, picked up some syringes from the local pharmacy, and then headed home to fix up.
Fortunately for me, I’d been clean for long enough that the first shot made me overwhelmingly sick, as did the second and third. I decided to ditch the needles and just eat the pills (in my experience, insufflating hydromorphone is less effective than eating it). Though I had temporarily resumed my drug use, I was proud of myself for having done it in a more respectable manner, and I considered it a major achievement in my ongoing “relationship” with opiates.
I moved to the west coast that July and stayed there until the following June when, unemployed and aimless, I decided it would be a good idea to return home. During my time there I had come across hydrocodone once or twice but basically managed to stay clean and keep my mind off of drugs. Unfortunately, the antisocial behavior that I’d grown accustomed to during the thick of my drug problems lingered, which, coupled with the stress of living in a gloomy, unfamiliar part of the country, made it difficult for me to meet new people or to trust the ones I did meet enough to form meaningful relationships with them.
Soon after returning home, I learned that my brother, though no longer regularly using needles, had developed a fairly substantial hydrocodone habit along with whatever else was around. He had regular access, and pretty soon I was using along with him. I did it whenever it was around and, sadly, stole it whenever I came across it in people’s houses. Though I never knowingly took pain pills from anyone who legitimately needed them on a regular basis, stealing made me feel terrible and marked a new low in my battle with opiates. Sadly, I wasn’t fully conscious of how bad I felt about stealing while my demons were shouting all the reasons why I should steal into my ear, and even less so once the pills kicked in.
Sometime later, my brother befriended a guy who had a prescription for hydromorphone, and things took a turn for the worse once again. Every month when the guy got his prescription filled, he’d call up my brother and we’d buy a few (and shoot them, I regret to add). Then my brother would go back a couple days later and get us a few more. Then the guy got my number and started calling me, and suddenly I didn’t have to rely on my brother any more to get them. Usually I’d get enough to go all-out for a few days, then our guy would run out and I’d be forced to deal with a brief yet intense withdrawal from which I would emerge determined to never use opiates again. Then the next month would roll around, the guy would call me, and those plans would instantaneously evaporate.
The depression, introversion, and self-loathing that resulted from month after month of such a regimen finally caught up to me, and I decided I’d had enough. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, my guy lost his prescription and stopped calling me. My brother went on methadone, and his hydrocodone sources began to dry up as well. Winter turned into spring, and as the world started to come back to life I began to convince myself that I had better things to do than get high all the time.
I continued to use on occasion, though much less frequently, and I relapsed on hydromorphone last summer after my guy got some for me from a friend of his. However, after getting too sick to move after a particularly large hit, I threw my syringes in the garbage and flushed the three pills that I still had down the toilet. This was the first time since my opiate use began some ten odd years prior that, when faced with the choice between using and not using, I chose the option of not using, and it was a decision that made me truly proud.
As I reflect on my experience with opiates, I realize that it took me a long, long time to realize that I was an addict. It was easy for me to compare myself to the characters in movies like Trainspotting and Requiem for a Dream, people whose lives completely revolved around drugs for perhaps years on end and who suffered immensely as a result, and to think that I didn’t have anything to worry about. But what I have finally come to realize is that opiates have occupied my thoughts, influenced my actions, adversely affected my relationships, and caused me to hate myself for years on end. As I write this, I have been clean for exactly nine days, and in that time barely an hour has gone by in which I haven’t though about running to the store and loading up on poppy seeds, stealing some pills from someone I know, or calling an old dealer to see if they might know where to get something. I have struggled with this problem for years, and I imagine that I will struggle with it in some form or another until the day I die.
Nevertheless, in knowing this, I know not to condemn myself when I lose out to my demons in the future, and I have faith that things will get better as I grow and mature.
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