Learn about Patch’s struggle with drug and alcohol addiction, and how treatment helped turn his life around. Patch is a Utilization Management Coordinator at Starlite Recovery Center.
Growing up, I remember giving myself a few ground rules for things I would not do and I had every intention of sticking to them. Intravenous drug use seemed like a given to avoid. My life would take an entirely different path than what I had planned. It would turn out to be a very expensive and disastrous path.
My childhood was fantastic. I had two loving parents, a brother, and a sister. We would travel as a family to all sorts of destinations. I was super lucky. We lived in Texas, so of course I played football. Making friends wasn’t very difficult for me and I got a long with most folks I met. Fitting in was not a problem for me. I enjoyed meeting new people and having new experiences. I was happy and always had a positive outlook. I started to dabble with drinking from time to time – stealing the occasional beer. Near the end of 8th grade, I started wanting to try everything. I started smoking pot with my friends and all previous views I had on drugs drastically changed. I started to experiment with whatever was available. For the next 16 years, I was on something just about every single day. Suddenly, most things that were important to me did not matter. I got arrested for the first time at the age of 15 for attempted distribution and was taken to juvenile detention. The following year, I was arrested for a DUI at 16, and lost my license. Neither of those arrests changed anything for me. I kept doing what I was doing. I realized I should just keep my head down and try to stay out of trouble. I gave the minimal effort required for school and graduated in 2006.
I was accepted into the University of Mississippi and started in the fall of 2006. Cue up all the cliché college experiences of freshman year and that was me. I’d done my share of experimenting with drinking, drugs, and partying in high school, so there wasn’t much that shocked me. When I returned home for the summer, I started taking a few pain killers here and there. Over the next few months, it quickly morphed into every day. I got back to school in the fall and started to realize that I missed that feeling. Every chance I had I was taking pills. For multiple semesters, I would go to the health clinic to manipulate the doctors into giving me cough syrup with narcotics in it. My junior year, I tried OxyContin and it trumped everything. I was done searching for any other feeling. The next year and a half of school my main goal was to feel that way every single day. I was a broke college kid, so I worked and sold drugs solely to support my habit. No matter how much I was taking, I still went to class and created this illusion that I could stop whenever I graduated. As the school year was coming to a close, my roommates, who were guys I had grown up with, let me know that my drug use was alarming and that I needed to stop. I told them I was just enjoying the time I had left to indulge before life got serious. In December 2010, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in marketing and went back home to Texas.
I graduated college with high hopes of working my way up the corporate ladder. However, that was not the case. I was able to stop using for a short time, but internally, the urge to use was there every day. I ended up going to Australia for a 3-week visit that turned into a 13-month long trip. I worked on wind turbines, picked cotton, and backpacked across the country. Being in a foreign country with limited connections, I resorted back to drinking as much as possible. I had some time off from work and booked a trip to Thailand for a few weeks. Once again, I found myself able to manipulate their pharmacists into prescribing what I wanted. I thought I was in heaven. I returned back to the United States in 2012. Within 24 hours of my return, I was back on Oxy. I got fired from my job as a bouncer because I was incapable of showing up sober for a five hour shift. I was able to find a job working on cell phone towers that took me all over the United States. Everywhere I went, I found what I was looking for. I tried heroin for the first time somewhere in West Virginia. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. To me, pills were the “safer” choice and people were less likely to hassle me about them. I became a foreman with the tower company I worked for. More responsibility, more money, and more drugs followed this promotion. This type of validation allowed me to overlook just how bad things were getting because on the outside, it would appear I had my life together. I landed a rare job in the industry where I could go home every night, and by this time, started using heroin every single day.
Predictably, things got much worse. At a certain point, I was fired and I was shocked at this development. Getting a job was out of the question because I couldn’t stay sober long enough to pass a drug test. The money was gone and my tolerance had skyrocketed. I would try to stop using every couple of days and would fail miserably. I kept my use a secret from anyone around me that could have helped. I could not admit to myself that I was a junkie and that heroin was controlling my life. I landed a job at a gas station near my house. After three weeks of being there, I decided to steal all the money I could put my hands on. This was all on camera and I just did not care. Luckily, the owner called me instead of having me arrested. At that point, I confessed for the first time to anyone that I was viciously addicted to heroin. Of course, she fired me and I turned my paychecks over to her. I would like to say that I got help then, but I wasn’t done. I had a few more brilliant decisions to make and a few more awful experiences to go through.
When I reached out to an old friend to find out what his secret was to getting clean, he told me about a treatment center. This was the first glimmer of hope I’d seen in a long time. I contacted them and had to wait a month to get into treatment. I had to make a phone call every single day and give them a depressing update of my last 24 hours. That last month was the worst four weeks of my entire life. My main goal was to use as much as I could. I gave myself about a 50/50 shot of being alive to make it to treatment. It was a blur of whatever substances I could put in a spoon.
Going to treatment was the best thing that ever happened to me. I still view it as a miracle that I even showed up. This was the first time I started to realize I was not alone. It also opened my eyes that addiction does not care where you come from or what your background is. I never blamed Big Pharma or anybody else for my use because it was obvious to me that I picked up. Once I started hearing others voice their struggles and how they had overcome them, it was empowering. Previously, I was unable to honestly face myself and to admit I was powerless over drugs and alcohol. I knew that I couldn’t stop on my own. I enjoyed the way it made me feel and that’s why I did it. I had failed to understand the simplicity of that statement for years. When I had that broken down to me, all of the other excuses were stripped away.
I moved to Kerrville, Texas in July of 2016, and started my life over again. The thought that I was moving into a sober home at the age of 28 because of my heroin addiction crushed any sort of ego I had. However, I looked around and saw that people just like me were able to overcome addiction and they were happy. I made friends that were there to truly support me. I was told that I had to rid myself of selfishness. Sharing my experience with others just like me was a huge step on this journey. This is something that is an integral part of my life now. I started working in the Utilization Management Department at Starlite Recovery Center in the fall of 2017. All of my past experiences with which I destroyed my life have proved to be infinitely valuable for me. I get to work in an industry where people have the opportunity to start their lives over again in the same way I did. It is a constant reminder of where I came from. I am able to put myself in their shoes because I’ve worn them.