I’ve been feeling like I’m in some sort of weird limbo lately for two reasons. The first reason is that I’m stuck between now and my big PET scan October 15th. This PET scan will be so important. It will be even more accurate than the previous ones I’ve had and it will be the one that will give me the “all clear” so to say. Even though my oncologist feels confident that the scan will come out clear - I’m still kind of a nervous wreck over it. I feel like this is a common feeling with any patient awaiting a big scan.
The second reason for being in limbo is the fact that I’m between now and the rest of my life. I’ve already decided that I’m going to live my life much differently than I did before. There’s so much to appreciate and so little that should be taken for granted. I know that now and I want to live life to its fullest. Because of being in this limbo state, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect. The more I think about the past few years, the more I realize that if all goes well will the scan and I truly beat this thing that this won’t be my “second chance at life” it will be my third.
Something that I’ve never seen a reason to mention in my blog or even bring up very often is that I used to have a very serious drug problem. This problem developed in 2010. At the time I was taking classes at NSCC and life was pretty normal. I wasn’t a big drinker or interested in parties, but I decided to try pain killers because the people around me at the time were doing them and it didn’t seem like a big deal. I’ll never forget my first experience…it was great. I had never felt that good in my life. That same night I decided to try Oxycontin intravenously. I had no idea how dangerous that was. Because other people were doing it and loving the feeling it gave them, it again didn’t seem the big deal. Once I tried it I was sold.
It didn’t take long for me to become physically addicted to opiates and opioids. Within weeks I had dropped out of NSCC. All I wanted to do was buy pills and get high. I spent all of my money on drugs. When I ran out of money I found ways to come up with more money like a typical addict does. I sold everything I owned…my Itouch, lap top, old CDs. The addiction was so strong that when I ran out of my own things to sell I sold my family’s belongings. My thought process became so irrational I would just lie to them expecting them to believe their belongings just went missing unexplained.
So in less than a month I went from living with my father and going to college to becoming addicted to drugs, selling all of my things and moving out into the home of someone I barely knew promising to pay them some form of rent as soon as I found a job (like that was going to happen). From there things only got worse.
Each day the people I was running with (who I obviously will not name) and myself had one major goal. It was to come up with enough money to get us all high. By this point, 2 months into my addiction, painkillers became too expensive. I moved on to heroin. I became an expert at coming up with 40$ each day. My strategy was always evolving. It was getting more and more immoral and dangerous. One of most regrettable things I did was steal from a man who had been like a step-father to me for over a decade. I knew he kept his doors unlocked and I entered his home when he wasn’t there and stole a bunch of his checks which I later forged and some giant buckets of change. Addiction makes you think so illogically. Forgery is a major crime and anyone with half a brain knows they’d eventually get caught but I didn’t care. I thought for some reason maybe he wouldn’t notice. How foolish is that? Needless to say the bank notified him that something was up with all of these checks I was cashing amounting to close to 1,000 dollars. My secret finally was out to my family.
If he pressed charges I would probably be facing jail time. I was given a chance to get into rehab. At the time I had stopped using for 4 days so everything was out of my system. No rehab would take me. There was a policy that you had to have drugs in your system to be admitted. So I did a day program instead (half-heartedly). I was lucky to be given the chance to get help and I took it for granted. I was still in deep with drug addiction.
I continued to run with the same crowd and do the same things. I continued to live in that random home and lie to my family. They demanded drug tests from me and I was already brainstorming ways to cheat them. After being caught stealing I decided to find a different way to come up with money…ripping people off. Selling fake drugs to people, making up lies about being in a tough situation and needing financial help - everything that came out of my mouth was a lie. One of the biggest lies I told often was to the pharmacists who worked at CVS. I always bought clean hypodermic needles and I always told them they were for a diabetic cat I had. Like they really believed that…
By the third month in things were getting more and more difficult. Money wasn’t coming in as easily as it was before and I was on thin ice after being caught stealing from my step-dad weeks back. We would get so desperate for drugs sometimes we would do what you call a “cotton shot”. I had no idea how dangerous this was at the time. A cotton shot is when you use an old piece of cotton that you had previously strained heroin through before hoping to get remnants of it through the needle and get some sort of high from it. More than once I developed cotton fever. I didn’t know how cotton fever occured at the time but after being educated I learned that it happens when a tiny fiber of cotten gets in the syringe and finds its way through your veins. It’s extremely unpleasant - and dangerous. No matter how sick I got I would never go to the hospital in fear of “getting caught”. It seems so sick thinking back to this point in my life.
At the end of this third month something happened. The drive to get heroin had become so bad that one particular method of getting it became especially incriminating. The people I ran with at the time would find someone interested in buying the drug who didn’t have any connections. We’d purchase the drug for them and meet up with them to exchange the drugs and money. The catch to this is that we’d “pinch” the bag…taking a little bit of the drugs that the other person bought without them knowing. How much lower could we have stooped? These kinds of deals went down countless times a week for a while. You know you’re in deep when you start making drug deals in front of a donut shop.
Eventually the owner of this shop caught notice and notified the police. Long story short the police set up a STING and arrested three of us. The very public arrest was mortifying, scary, well-deserved but mostly, life-saving for me. Getting arrested is what made me decide to get clean - for real this time. The ironic part of the story is that I wasn’t even involved in the deal that was going on. I was just present, which is a charge in itself when dealing with this drug.
Maybe it should have been the cotton fever that pushed me over the edge and made me want to get clean? Some would say it should have been breaking my family’s heart by lying and stealing from them. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t really matter why I got clean. It matters that I did.
The punishment was pretty harsh and I’ll have to live with a drug charge on my record for a while. It wasn’t one of my proudest moments googling my own name one day and seeing myself making it for the dean’s list at NSCC on one link and then arrested for being present where heroin is kept right below it. 3 months of danger and chaos complicated and impacted my life for far longer. Even though my active drug involvement was short-lived compared to most other people’s, I feel so lucky to have made it out alive. I’ve been clean for well over a year now and it’s something I take very seriously. So seriously, that when I was prescribed vicodin and ativan for the complications I’ve had during chemo I even questioned myself and reminded myself to stay strong (which I have).
The moral of my story is that drug addiction is a battle I’ve won. I know that I’ll have to keep my guard up because it can reclaim anyone, but after making it through an experience like that and now making it through a major health crisis like this I am truly blessed to be given the oppertunity of life! I’m so blessed to have such an amazing family who stuck by me through my worst times. They were there even when I chose a terrible path for myself and they were there and still are here when I’m dealing with something that came out of the blue at no fault of my own. I love them to pieces and am so grateful to have them.
I truly feel like this is my third chance and I’d better take it. I’m so glad and I feel proud of myself for coming this far. I know that I won’t truly feel secure until I reach my 5 year remission point, but until them I know I’ve got to do my best to stay positive and keep moving forward. It’s proven difficult at times - especially lately with all of the adjustments I’m going to be making, but I’m confident I’ll get through this limbo period just like I’ve gotten through everything else, but again - I couldn’t have done it without my family.