article originally published in the Summer 2019 SOR Justice-Focused Update Newsletter 8/22/2019
Hey. My name is Ahmad. I’m 25. I came over to the United States when I was four years old. I never thought I belonged in any sort of group; I thought I was different from everyone else until I came into recovery and met other people who were like me who struggled with substance use.
I’ve been addicted to one substance or another since I was 13 years old. I have a single mom and two siblings that I love dearly. My mom, not only a single parent, but also a refugee coming from Afghanistan, always tried to raise me the best she could. Growing up, I just felt like I was different from everyone else. I didn’t know who I was or where I was supposed to fit in. As a way to cope from always feeling like the outsider, I started smoking weed when I was 13. I remember that first time I got high, it felt like an epiphany, like I finally had a reason to be alive. I had a purpose in my life; I was born to get high. I felt like I finally belonged somewhere. Like I could finally be happy. I thought, I want to do this for the rest of my life. And I tried to, and things sort of went downhill from there.
My using always carried consequences. I remember by the time I was in the seventh grade I was using almost every day. I had my first run in with an officer when I was fourteen but I just kept on getting high off of anything and everything I could get my hands on; it wasn’t just weed anymore. I started doing air-duster, and Z-Quil, cough and cold medicine, Benadryl, and Dramamine, all on top of smoking while also trying to go to school. Needless to say my grades suffered. More problems with the law which led to house arrest and a stint in a juvenile center for a couple months. After I got out, I went back to school and started going to an outpatient program. That was my first treatment I ever went to. That was the first of seven other treatment programs before I finally stayed sober.
I was around fifteen at this point and I had gotten into harder drugs. I started tripping acid and doing shrooms and popping pills and stuff like that. At sixteen I started using heroin. I went back to treatment. It didn’t stick. I kept thinking that if I could just get sober, I could stay sober but I just wasn’t getting to that place mentally or physically by myself. On my own, I would go back to getting high every time.
I’ve been locked up 37 times. I have over 50 misdemeanors on my record. I got caught in a couple felonies. All of the the arrests, every single one, I can trace clearly back to my addiction. I felt really hopeless, like I didn’t have a way out and that this life was my destiny. I felt like I was just going to have to keep living like this until I finally died as an addict.
My using lead to not only using heroin but I also started using meth. I would always promise myself that it was the last time. I would promise myself that I would just smoke weed but not do heroin anymore. I promised myself I would just pop pills, or I would only use meth, but not heroin. Or maybe I would only use heroin but give up everything else. I would always try to figure out a way to manage my addiction but it was just too big; it always took over. I lived like this for a really long time. I was abusive to my family through all of this when they were always there for me; my sisters would always cry whenever I would OD. I’ve have overdosed 10 times and they were around for 4 of them. I was breaking their hearts almost daily but I just couldn't stop.
I wanted to stop. I went to a lot of treatments, I went to a lot of Psych wards. I’ve been to six psych wards. Any help I could get I was trying. I finally tried 12-steps when I was 19. I was getting out of treatment and I was using Suboxone® to get off of heroin. A lot of times I would just try to kick it on my own but I was giving Suboxone® a shot. On Suboxone® I was able to stay sober for a little over three years. I was working the 12-steps, I had a sponsor, I had fellowship, I had friends, and a good support system. I bought a house. Things were going really great up until a particular traumatic event. It really shook me to my core. I won't go into it, but I relapsed after that and I ended up overdosing three more times. I was causing more chaos and pain to the people around me again. I knew that if I wanted to stop again and stay stopped, I would need to go back into the 12-step program and get some medical assistance.
So I swallowed my pride and walked back into the rooms of 12-step fellowship and immersed myself again in the program. I got another sponsor. I went back to treatment at Bridgeway. I started taking Subutex®. I rebuilt a support system and today—life is pretty good. I mean, it’s hard. Life didn’t get easy, but it got pretty good. I have made some of the best friends I’ve ever had in recovery. I’m patching up my relationship with my family. They still love me and have always supported me. I bought a house. I am starting my own business. I have two lovely dogs and a truck. I am finally at a healthy weight. I started going back to the gym. I’m doing pretty good, man.
Wrapping up, I would just say, if you’re out there in addiction, just keep trying to stay sober. Don’t give up on yourself if you have relapsed. You can always try again. You can always get help and try again and one day sooner or later, things will get better. Don’t lose faith in yourself. It will get better.
Stories used with permission. Specific authorship and identifying details may be redacted to protect anonymity. Editor reserves right to redact content involving coarse language as well as content that could be triggering to readers in recovery from Substance Use Disorder. Additional edits made to grammatical choices to provide cohesion of text.