Editor’s Note: Overdosing on opiates is the most common cause of premature death of Warwick adults between the ages of 18 and 50. With this in mind, two Warwick residents, a 29-year-old female and a 28-year-old male, shared their personal stories about their opiate addictions, as well as the hard road to recovery. Both were happy to provide their insight in order to help others who may be struggling with addition. Their names have been changed to protect their identity.
“I look at it like I am still a drug addict,” says Veronica. “I don’t even use the word ‘former’ because it could came back at any time.”
Veronica started using heroin intravenously as an 18-year-old college freshman and began snorting cocaine by the time she was 21. She became drug free more than seven years ago and said the high rates of overdose deaths in Warwick don’t surprise her.
“I was ashamed thinking that I was the only one doing it, but when I went to a methadone clinic [to help me get sober], I saw people I knew,” Veronica said. “I was like, ‘I went to school with these people.’ I’ve actually gotten messages on Facebook from people I went to high school with that tell me their friends are using or their brother is using.”
During her lowest point, Veronica said she was unable to work and was put on disability for three years. Through her addiction, she lost friendships she had since she was a child, no longer had the trust of her family and was severely depressed. She also took part in criminal activity.
“I was stealing from jobs I worked at and I’d pawn things that weren’t mine,” Veronica said. “I would do anything to get money for drugs.”
While she dabbled with pills such as OxyContin and Vicodin, which are often prescribed to fight depression and pain, she said she never became addicted. However, she said because these drugs are in pill form they are viewed as more acceptable than heroin and cocaine.
“OxyContin is not looked at as ‘bad’ as heroin but it’s the same exact thing,” she said. “Eventually, people find out that heroin is cheaper and their tolerance builds up so they turn to heroin. If you’re doing oxy and someone tells you heroin is the same thing only cheaper, you’re going to go for what’s cheaper. It’s sad.”
For Noah, he became addicted to OxyContin and Vicodin but stayed away from heroine. He started taking pills when he was 21 and took them for six years.
“I was doing three, 1,000 milligram pills in one shot and I kept doing more and more until I was doing 15 in one shot,” Noah said. “I was chewing them because it hits you quicker. After that, I said to myself, ‘one pill has got to be better for me than 15,’ so I started taking one 40 milligram oxy. I was taking so many and I was selling them, too.”
Eventually, he was snorting OxyContin, as well.
“I thought I was fine,” said Noah. “I wouldn’t go to bed until seven in the morning, wake up at four in the afternoon and do the same thing all over again.”
When he was dealing, Noah said one Vicodin cost $5, while one 40-milligram OxyContin sold for $30 and one 80-milligram OxyContin sold for $60. He said he used to deal to people who would steal money and possessions from loved ones to get funds to support their drug habit.
“Oxy is the worst drug in the world,” he said. “It’s a legal form of heroin.”
While Veronica found relief in a 12-step program, Noah’s recovery process was far different, as he was arrested in November of 2009 and jailed at the ACI for three weeks. There, he experienced withdrawals, including extreme diarrhea, sweats, chills and lack of sleep.
When he was released from jail, he was sentenced to 10 months of home confinement and was getting drug tested every two weeks. However, he said being arrested was the best thing that happened.
“It was good because I could have started up again but I didn’t,” he said. “Once you get wrapped up in it, it happens so quick. I was doing six to eight 80s a day and spending more than $2,000 a week and more than $100,000 a year. That’s all I thought about in jail.”
Additionally, Veronica said it’s important for people to remember that addicts aren’t “bad” people. She said addiction is a disease that no one asks for.
“People look at us like we’re scumbags,” she said. “I don’t think I’m a bad person. We’re sick and need the correct help. I’m lucky that I got clean and was introduced to a 12-step program. I went to a meeting and could relate to the feelings people were talking about. I knew in my heart it wasn’t the life I was supposed to have. I knew there was something better for me.”
These days, Veronica works full-time at a law office and Noah operates his own business. Both are pleased they’ve been able to turn their lives around for the better.
“I just put one foot in front of the other and I have a great job with salary and benefits when eight years ago I was told I was never going to work again,” Veronica said. “Now, I have some of the best friends and they are all people in recovery.”