I am a married 51 year old father of three adult children. I am also an addict. If you're reading this you are either interested in getting help for someone you love OR you are looking for a way out of your living hell. I have lived in Phoenix, AZ my entire life. I was raised on a farm by two incredible parents along with two sisters. We had our horses and 4-H/FFA animals to keep us busy. My parents taught my sisters and me to be moral, ethical, honest and to never EVER do drugs. In other words, with the kind of life I had growing up I never felt the need to emotionally run away from anything. My life was very, very good.
I was always afraid of drugs and still am today. When I was 13 I tore the meniscus in my left knee wrestling with a classmate at school. The meniscus is the soft tissue between your femur and tibia that cushions your bones while you walk. Today it's a simple arthroscopic surgery but in 1975 it meant a total invasive open knee procedure to fix the problem The problem started for me when the doctor that did my very first knee surgery was a butcher and completely removed my almost perfect meniscus causing me to have bone on bone. Over the years, until I was 20, I had 19 knee surgeries by this man on both knees. I was a mess and he set me up for a long and painful life.
I quickly learned that to help with the pain my solution was in that little pill bottle as per the doctor. As I look back on it now, that was a learned behavior. One of many “learned behaviors” I would have to look at later in life. For me to feel better I would take two pain pills. What's wrong with that? It came from a doctor, was legal and everyone knew about it. My first memory of taking two pain pills for fun was when I was 16. I took two percocet and crawled into bed to experience the high from it. I liked it. That was the first time that I remember not telling my parents that I took them and that was the beginning of my addict thinking. At 18 as a senior in high school with pills in my pocket I do remember having the thought that if I ever put a needle in my arm I would never stop. Thank God I never did that.
After graduation I got a very high profile job in radio and television and have spent a lifetime building a career in the public eye. My personality is such that I have never met a stranger and I could hide my insecurities and secrets behind a large and confident personality. Yes, I had multiple doctors in the 80s before everything was linked up by computers. Because I didn't look like what people thought addicts looked like and because I could present myself in a way that was responsible and professional, AND the fact that I had bone on bone in both knees I had a license to get whatever I wanted because in the doctors eyes I had a legitimate problem. When I look at myself in the mirror today, I see every addict. I have learned that there aren't any differences in any of us. We may drive different cars and take different roads to get there but we all end up in the same place: jails, institutions and death.
I mentioned earlier that I never felt the need to emotionally run away from anything. That is until my innocent dependence on opiates turned on me and that dependence silently turned me into a monster addict. All the things people do to survive in active addiction I did. I was totally reduced to surviving any way I could, just like an animal. I lied, cheated and stole from anyone. Going into someone's home I would wait until the guest bathroom was occupied so that I could ask my host if there was another restroom. Yes they said. down the hall to the right. It's our master bath. I immediately would go through their medicine cabinet to see what was there.
Skip ahead 35 years to 2009. I'm now 49 and have had a total of 41 knee surgeries. Both knees have been replaced and I was now on massive amounts of Methadone, Oxycodone, Soma and Ambien. It all came from my drug dealer, my doctor and was filled at my crack house, my pharmacy. In the end this addiction spiraled me so out of control that all I wanted to do was go to sleep to end my “emotional” pain. I was now suffering from emotional pain because I COULD NOT STOP and it was destroying my wife and three kids. My physical pain should have been gone because of metal knees, however . . . I had been taking opiates for so long that the narcotic actually had the opposite effect on me as it does on everyone else. It causes the body to be in agony from head to toe. It's called “Opiate-induced hyperalgesia” and I learned that at LVRC. I was taking so much stuff that there was no way to stop. I was powerless over this monster and I was prepared on May 14, 2009 to do what I was going to do just so I could sleep and not hurt anymore. In the process I lost the respect and dignity of my family and respect for myself.
On that morning of May 14 a miracle happened that saved my life and redirected it. That was the day I found out about Las Vegas Recovery Center. I was told that Dr. Pohl was the foremost doctor for methadone and pain pill addiction and I knew that if I couldn't find a way to get there that I was a dead man. I picked up that 1000 pound phone and spoke to Josh Koop, a young man who gave me hope, and Josh helped me to get into detox and rehab at LVRC. That was over three years ago and because of everyone at LVRC, I was able to go through the process of detox very safely and humanely. Thanks to the hands-on attention that I so desperately needed and received from the staff, I was able to feel safe for the first time in my life. Little did I realize that “The Gift of Desperation” was the very thing I needed to alter the course of my life. Since my problems started so young I never had the chance to grow into a normal thinking young man and adult. Everything I have learned about my life had been a lie. The way I thought, the way I lived, the things I did to get those pills was all a lie. It was all a lie in the sense that what people saw in me was not the broken lost person I really was. I just didn't know what I didn't know. The doctors, counselors and staff at Las Vegas Recovery Center gave me hope and the belief that the journey I was about to start was going to be an E-ticket ride. They weren't kidding.
As you start this process you will learn about the Twelve Steps of Recovery. You might have heard of the Steps before and like me didn't know anything about them. The Twelve Steps have helped me to learn a different way of thinking. A way of thinking that brings peace to my life and more importantly in my mind. I have also learned, like the addict before and after me, that it isn't our fault this has happened to us but it is our responsibility to correct it. I learned the very first day while in intake at Las Vegas Recovery Center that I did not have the power to change my life on my own but that with the help of the experts like Dr. Pohl and the LVRC staff I could find a way out of the insanity. Dr. Pohl told me to trust him and I did.
Today at the age of 51 my family is learning to trust me again. They will sometimes ask questions about this “new” me and sometimes I have to tell them that I can't explain what it is like to be this age, to have a normal everyday experience . . . for the very first time. Does my family understand me today? Sometimes they don't because no one can relate to the pain and agony of addiction unless you have been through it yourself. Do I understand myself today? Not all the time. But I'm learning and learning why I did some of those things. I am learning everyday that my way of thinking can and will get me into trouble. I am also learning not to be afraid of who I really am. Today my life is not a secret anymore and I know that I am on a journey now that had originally ended when I was 13. All those things I did while in active addiction I have made amends for and that is thanks to the Twelve Steps. I still have to deal with life on life's terms but today I DO NOT TAKE DRUGS of any kind nor do I want to. The only pills I take are two blood pressure pills. What's even more amazing to me is that all those obsessive thoughts about how many pills I had, when my next doctors appointment was, are completely gone. The biggest thing that I don't have to experience anymore are the CRAVINGS. All those cravings that are driving you insane right now are gone and THAT is the MIRACLE of recovery. I know that may sound totally foreign to the addict that still suffers but it's true.
If you are considering this investment in the rest of your life you can't in my opinion do better than LVRC. Please know and understand that you can get over the dependence and obsession to use drugs. It will go away but you, like me, will always be an addict, and I'm okay with that. What I am today is an addiction SURVIVOR, the same as any survivor of a deadly disease, and for that reason I am grateful to call myself an addict. I have no shame about who and what I am because today for the very first time in my life I am learning to be the man that God, my higher power, wants me to be.
To be able to wake up in the morning, take a breath and realize this is an amazing new day, and NOT have the desire, thought or need to take pain pills is a freedom like I have never known. I never thought that I would ever have a life like I have today. A life FREE from the obsession and compulsion to use drugs, any kind of drugs, PERIOD!
One more thought. Sometimes I wish I could go back and experience detox and rehab again. I had so much fun getting to know those around me who were suffering the same way I was. I learned that first day at LVRC that there are people like me everywhere living in the darkness of their secret. My hope for you as you read this is that you will make that call, talk to the voice on the other end and find a safe place to go to start your new life. Maybe you're like me, having lost all hope, but please believe me when I say YOU DON'T HAVE TO LIVE LIKE THIS ANYMORE. THERE IS A WAY OUT. If you started using a drug so young like I did, get ready for something incredible to happen. It's an amazing journey and you can do it.
Las Vegas Recovery Center . . . you saved my life. THANK YOU for helping me get my life on track.
—My name is Steve and I AM an addict!