I’ve lost two cousins to opiate addiction right when fentanyl started hitting every batch of smack in Baltimore. My dad ultimately succumbed to cancer, but for decades, struggled with dependence on opiates which he was legally prescribed. While I’ve managed to steer clear of opiates, I’ve struggled to maintain my own boundaries around marijuana and amphetamines. This came to a head when I experienced a resurgence of my severe anxiety disorder, and I was not able to cope with daily life or fulfill my professional responsibilities. I lost my job and entered a partial hospitalization psychiatric program where, for the first time, I owned up to the harm that my relationship with drugs was causing me. I thought since I didn’t use “hard” drugs, I wasn’t doing real damage. But I became dependent on weed and speed to function. I couldn’t sleep without smoking or wake up without snorting. My appetite disappeared on speed and I binged on weed. I had lost control of my life.
I’m a devout atheist, and 12 step programs just don’t speak to me. I relate to Josh when he said he was jealous of people who used the programs. I just couldn’t connect with it. I took a harm reduction approach and took a hard look at my drug use. It took the most effort to get over the shame that I had ended up here. But once I started to let go of the shame, the progress began. I’m now clean from amphetamines and my marijuana use is about 25% of what it once was. I’ve made a major transition out of the arts and entertainment industry and am starting law school this fall. I aim to research drug policy and its impact on communities and those in addiction and recovery. I will be working with legal aid organizations to provide direct representation to vulnerable community members whose legal issues are impacted by their substance use. My goal is to provide these people with compassionate representation and a trauma-informed understanding of their struggles. If we can move from a punitive-based model to a recovery-based model in our justice system, we can save lives.
Thank you, Josh, for sharing your story. Always, always, always – One Among The Fence.