As a recovered addict/alcoholic who is into his tenth year of sobriety I not only have a vast amount of past experience being caught up in active addiction, but I also work in the field of behavioral health and substance abuse addiction so I see people battling their demons on a daily basis. There is a stigma attached to individuals such as myself who suffer or have suffered in the past. I’m Iranian, and in our community alone anybody associated with the word opium or heroin are automatically frowned upon and looked as low life bottom of the barrel good for nothing junkies. So the shame and guilt we carry throughout our lives in active addiction in most cases has us living in secrecy and too scared to ask for help.
I’m a prime example of this. As I said I am Iranian, born in Germany to Iranian parents and raised since my first day of kindergarten in Salt Lake City, Utah. Being the odd ball that I felt I was, I began experimenting with drugs and alcohol at the age of twelve. It started out with weed and drinking so my curiosity was unleashed. We moved to California when I was fifteen, and over the next few years my using expanded and increased. At the age of seventeen I experienced a tragic car accident where I was the driver and somebody lost their life. I wasn’t under the influence on that particular day but to overcome the pain and guilt I felt I became a full blown drug addict for almost the next two decades.
I feel the reason I used for all of those years was to mask my fears and numb out the emotional pain I had endured as a result of the circumstantial events that I felt victim of. During this time I was arrested on numerous occasions and incarcerated for drug charges, both possession and distribution. Although I preferred using stimulants I remember there being such dark moments in my life and existence, that I wouldn’t hesitate to put anything in my body. My cousins in LA had been using opium distributed from the old country regularly and I was quick to join them. It was an insidious and conniving drug. I would use it with them but was never quite sure what kind of high I was looking for. I would complain to them I don’t feel anything and they would laugh and say this is a body high it’s not going to alter your mental effects like the other drugs you’re used to.
I’d tell them I don’t like it I’d rather do the other, but find myself back in their house the next day and for the next few weeks and months. I was hooked and addicted and didn’t even know it. There was even a heroin stint I went on in this period as we had not been able to obtain our regular opium supply. After a while I realized I’d rather do this than anything else and the day came where I found it almost impossible to get out of bed. I started experiencing withdrawals from the opiates and I’ve never felt more sick than for the next few days. I called my cousins and they laughed and said “dude your hooked, you’re dope sick.” I spent the next few days in a cold sweat shivering and crouched over next to the porcelain God, (the toilet) profusely vomiting. I vowed to myself I never wanted to feel like that again and being the stimulant user I was prior to this episode I returned to meth usage which lasted another 10 years until I entered treatment.
I was in rehab with several men kicking methadone. I had little knowledge of that drug but came to learn that it was harder to kick than heroin. Hot baths with Epson salt were a commonly had by some of those clients in that treatment center. The amount of pain they endured in their bones and back seemed excruciating and insurmountable. Unfortunately none of them stayed sober in that treatment stay. I went on to become a drug and alcohol counselor and work in the field of addiction both with adolescents and adults. Over the years I have learned and seen a lot, specifically the increasing amounts of opiate use nationwide.
I have seen a fourteen year old teenager in treatment who was addicted to smoking oxycodone pills that he had found in his grandmothers medicine cabinet. Never knew people could smoke pills, I was baffled. I have also seen a rise in the extensive use of young adult males and females ranging between the ages of eighteen to thirty years of age who are full blown heroin addicts in which many started using pills first. They obtained these pills in their schools, homes, through pushers, and even on line outlets like Craigslist. Some even had legal and illegal prescriptions. The ones with legal prescriptions had some kind of bodily injury that required pain medication. Through not being monitored in the amounts they took many of them developed a dependency that was to hard to control. When the pills ran out they resorted to the streets to obtain heroin. It’s a major epidemic and the disease of addiction does not discriminate. I see people from all walks of life, races, creeds, and ages hooked on opiates. I have seen countless people die and only a handful gain recovery. My message is if you or a loved one is caught up in this madness there is help readily available, don’t be scared just ask you are loved. I have a special place in my heart for anybody suffering from addiction and my ultimate duty in life is to assist in finding anybody help that needs it. I’m honored to be a part of the Way Back Home movement. Sincerely – Pej