In recent years as a professional counselor in metro Atlanta, I have seen an explosion of opiate addiction. The problem is multi-faceted and very difficult to deal with. I wanted to offer some hope to those who are either openly dealing with this problem or who are still in the pretreatment stage of addiction — learning through painful consequences that they have a problem. With a structured plan for recovery, this devastating disease can be dealt with. The following story is one that keeps me inspired and hopeful as a professional who deals with this on a daily basis. If you have a problem with any addiction or know someone who does please don’t hesitate to get to a health practitioner who can get the recovery process started. I tell people that procrastination = pain squared.

Andrew R. Warnecke, MA, LPC

A Story of Addiction

Danielle – Age 22 – Marietta, Georgia

I remember the exact moment I lost my soul. I was standing in front of a mirror somewhere in the state of Kentucky highly sedated on a mixture of marijuana and OxyContin. As I leaned closer and closer to the mirror, I realized not only could I not see my pupils, I could not see myself. I remember that moment vividly and recount my treacherous journey into opiate addiction. 

I grew up in a loving household in the prevalent area of East Cobb. I attended the renowned public schools in the area and never had any trouble with my grades or making friends. Things started to take a turn for the worst when I was in eighth grade. A friend of mine committed suicide and everyone in my grade felt the need to escape, we had lost our innocence and things took a turn for the worst. I found myself doing the things I was taught never to do. I was smoking marijuana religiously with normal teenagers in a normal suburban environment. Marijuana quickly lost its luster so the sensible thing to do was turn to harder drugs. I found a bottle of painkillers in my house and the minute I took the pills my need for escape was accomplished. From there I took off running from crowd to crowd looking for the next high and finding any opiate I could. I found that there was an abundance of OxyContin and OxyContin users that were close in age and all living in the same area. The only problem that we all faced as dependent teenagers was the cost of a single pill. Many of us turned to the west side of Atlanta, only a thirty-minute drive, and found something cheaper and more effective, Heroin.

At that point in my life, my wrong turn turned into a downward spiral. I did all I could to prevent my parents from knowing of my drug-use. I still made good grades, I was still involved in extracurricular activities and yet I was high on heroin. My parents were not absent from my life nor did they turn away from any obvious signs that their child was abusing drugs; I did anything and everything to not expose my use. After four years of perfecting my addiction I graduated from the number one high school in Georgia with AP credits and went to the University of Kentucky to pursue a journalism degree. Unfortunately my addiction followed me and within a year I had dropped out of school and was doing unimaginable things for drugs. In the two years following my departure from home, I had dropped out of college, totaled my parent’s car, burned down my house, overdosed twice, and experienced seven friends die of opiate overdoses.

After that night staring into the mirror searching for whatever part of me that was left, I realized I had hit bottom. I was fortunate to get the help I needed and asked for. I went to an in-patient rehabilitation center and then transferred to a halfway house where I stayed for nine months. With the help of after-care, a 12-step recovery program, intense therapy, and a supportive family, I am grateful that I have two years of sobriety and that I am back in school and still pursuing my writing career.

Sometimes I wonder how I got mixed up in the world of addiction coming from such a secure foundation and family. Sometimes I wonder how I let this happen to myself. Then I realize that addiction is no joke and neither are opiates. OxyContin use has become an epidemic in quaint suburban neighborhoods. I am lucky to have survived such a dangerous series of bad decisions and such a life-threatening epidemic. For me it is not a daily struggle to stay sober because I have put in the necessary work. I have chosen my sobriety over my addiction.