Hello, my name is Donny, and at 6’6” and 300 lbs, I may not look like the typical heroin addict. But then again, these days there really is no such thing as a typical heroin addict.
I am 23 years old and have experienced a condensed but intense version of the worst that drug addiction has to offer. The trouble all began during my junior year in high school when I broke my thumb playing football. My doctor gave me a prescription for the opioid painkiller Oxycontin, to help me manage my post-surgical pain. A three-sport athlete in high school, I dreamed of earning a full-time scholarship to play football at the Division I level, and it was during a tryout for a college scout that I suffered this debilitating injury.
Unfortunately, the doctor who prescribed me the Oxycontin didn’t warn me or my mom about how addictive this medication could be. I admit I was rather casual about my use of Oxycontin, which did bring me relief from my pain. But after two surgeries, and several months on the drug my doctor refused to supply me with any more of it, and after experiencing intense withdrawal symptoms I realized to the horror that I had become addicted. The strength and depth of my dependency caught me completely off guard, and soon I found myself scrounging and scraping for cash so I could afford to buy the pills.
But just when it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse, my future careened out of control and smashed into a concrete wall. Without a reliable source of income I resorted to stealing—often from family members—to support my addiction. Shortly before the end of my senior year in high school I was arrested and charged with burglary and this arrest cost me my college scholarship that I worked so hard to earn and changed the course of his life. And making matters worse, my addiction to prescription pills ultimately led me to heroin without missing a beat. By this point my heart and soul were completely crushed by my heroin addiction.
The next two-and-a-half years were spent moving from one inpatient rehabs to another (both inpatient and IOPs). But none of it made the decisive difference; even after overdosing at home on heroin in 2012 and suffering severe complications that left me unable to walk for months, I still couldn’t overcome my heroin dependency. I would get clean for a while but my escape from drugs was always temporary, and those closest to me feared the inevitability of a dark and sad ending.
And then came the fateful day that changed everything. On November 22, 2013, after about 6 months clean, I overdosed and was found unconscious and unresponsive in my mother’s car behind a Walgreen’s drug store in Paterson, NJ. I was told a Good Samaritan was walking by and saw me in the car while it was running. The police said he tried knocking on the windows to wake me but I was not responding – he took it upon himself to go into Walgreens and have them call police. As the police and ambulance arrived, they broke into the car and administered CPR, and paramedics literally brought me back to life after given a shot of Narcan. If it wasn’t for a Good Samaritan or the paramedics not carrying Naloxone, I wouldn’t be here today telling you this experience with Narcan saving MY LIFE. I am forever grateful to a man that I have no idea who he was. Just a Good Samaritan.
Maybe some will not believe it when I tell you this was not my last time of using. I did manage to get another good 5/6 months again without heroin – but I ran right back to it this past spring after a difficult breakup. Thank God, I was only running for a few months and so grateful I’m here today with close to 7 months clean today. I have been receiving Vivitrol shots every 3 weeks since I overdosed in Paterson.
Recovery from addiction is a lifetime process, and I am still far too new to sobriety to become overconfident or complacent. I’m pledging to live in the moment and to live intelligently, as I finally realize that good physical and mental health require a now-oriented approach that concentrates on making the right decisions over and over again every single day. Those who know me best rave about my character, sensitivity and refusal to let bad circumstances keep me down; and despite past disappointments there is much optimism among family and friends, who believe in me and trust in the depth of my commitment of getting up every time I fall down.
I have to trust and believe that I may indeed win this fight against heroin addiction. But in order to do so I will have to stay strong and commit to the process of healing for the rest of my life. An argument could be made that this is unfair, considering the context within which my addiction developed. But drugs and alcohol don’t play favorites and they don’t play fair, and unfortunately I will not be the last victim claimed by a class of drugs that are every bit as sneaky as they are dangerous.
Today I am grateful that the gentlemen, not even knowing he was saving a life, saved mine. And I am even more grateful I was in the City of Paterson, where they carry Naloxone – and was so freely given to me. Many towns in NJ do not carry it – and if that was the case – my mother’s worse nightmare would be true. Thank you for taking the time to read my story on Narcan.