Addiction is an equal opportunity pollutant. It knows no boundaries as it destroys all in its path all the while doing so with a blind eye. Unlike a virus, which usually just needs to run its course, addiction uses the individual as its course. And everyday it is allowed to continue, it lays down more and more road for which it travels along until that road ultimately runs off a cliff. The final destination of every addict unless they choose to come clean and turn to another road. I know that road all too well. And I should know it, I travelled along it for 14 years.
So how could this happen to me? The decision to live in an addiction is not of the question, but rather how could I allow it to survive for so long is. To ask that question is to answer it. Not only did I want it to survive but I utilized an image to conceal it. I simply used the facsimile of me to get people to look right through me. They would look at me and see the mirage of a guy with a dental degree wearing a tie to work. Surely someone who is educated, clean cut, dressed properly and speaks with confidence cannot be a drug addict. Right? Well, we all know that is completely wrong. If addiction were in the business of sales, it would have a nice bridge in Brooklyn for one to buy. The big deceiver offering large expectations but delivering none. An underboss of the Devil himself.
I was addicted to narcotic pain medication from 1990 to 2004. I graduated from dental school in 1989 and as a dental provider back in the early 90’s, this kind of addiction was just way too easy to get up and running. I am referring to the days when pharmaceutical companies would just drop off boxes of sample pills all for ones own taking. It was like an opium tree sprouted in my backyard and all I had to do everyday was just go out there and shake it, open my mouth, and let pill after pill fall into it. After a day or two of feeling ill, suddenly the high I would get from hydrocodone was like nothing I had ever felt before. It fits in my pocket, it doesn’t smell, the eyes look clear, I am energized but not out of control, and I can talk just fine. I had found the perfect drug, or so I thought. What I did not realize is that the Devil just sold me that Brooklyn Bridge. And although I would never see that purchase, the day would come where he would come looking for payment.
What started out as 3-5 pills a day quickly ramped up and come the last year of my addiction I was taking between 25-30 pills a day. Other than those in my tight circle, the high majority of the public had no idea. The public perception of what a drug addict is, I failed to fit that requirement. I believe one of the biggest reasons for this concealment was my education. I knew how to use my degree, not to earn a living only, but for a new found asset. The asset of hiding my addiction. I knew if I could only stay in the publics confidence there would be no revealing of what I was hiding. You see, doctors do have drug issues but only those who get in trouble time after time. Those who want to be in the limelight. The shadows is where I needed to reside. I knew I had to fly under the New Jersey State Board of Dentistry’s radar and I could continue to fly (addicted) undetected. And that is exactly what I did for 14 years.
The mask of sobriety I presented to my world was painted with the colors of no domestic issues, no financial concerns, consistent public contribution, proper etiquette and daily presentation. Why would anyone think I was a drug addict? I didn’t look like one. I didn’t act like one. I wasn’t employed like one.
These were all the circles of my radar system I projected to hide my addiction. But just what does a drug addict look like? The funny thing is that it was only after a few months back in 1990 that I knew I was one. My radar system was so effective that it even hid myself,at least enough, to fly on even without my own acknowledgement to the point of intervention.
I am alive today most likely because radar systems, no matter how effective, can fail. And mine was no different. The failure mine allowed in was that of my ex-wife and my close (real) friends. And you know what happens when a defense system fails? It usually allows great damage to occur to the one it was protecting. The Devil left me exposed and I got rained down upon with a hail of bullets. Tossed out of my house after numerous repeated requests to get help from my ex-wife, a cold war set on me from those friends, fatigue from sustaining my habit, and finally understanding that my Loving God could restore me to sanity all led to the death of my addiction. Do you think being an addict is an easy business? You don’t have to be a scholar to understand how hard it was to keep up the consumption of a Federally controlled substance at what was most likely about 12-15 pills a day on average for the entire span of my addiction. Being a successful drug addict requires creativity, stamina, lying, deception, complete ignorance, and a loss of ones relationship with Jesus Christ. I was great at all of those.
All addictions, no matter with whom they reside with and however strong, come with a soft underbelly that you can cut open. You must locate that spot if you wish to kill your addiction. I found that spot (and Jesus Christ) on May 8, 2004 (11:59 am to be exact) when I checked myself into Friends Hospital in Philadelphia and simply said…”Can you help me”. With those four words the monster that I was hiding for 14 years started to stumble. Who would ever think that four simple words could set in place such a wave of events that would not only kill my addiction, but also teach me how to keep it buried for the rest of my days that the Good Lord Above grants me. I truly felt propelled and found the strength to carry through with this most scary part of my life, because of Jesus Christ. Alone in a hospital, yes. Alone fighting my addiction,no. As of May of 2016, I will have been clean for 12 years. That’s 12 continuous years with no relapse. I am so confident in my sobriety that relapse isn’t even an option.
Today, I have a life I never knew existed. I am part of a group dental practice working with the three greatest men I could ever wish to work with. A staff that not only accepts me but one I could not envision to be any finer. My friends are still in my life. My family relations are as good as they ever were and I have taken advantage of Gods Gift to visit my 81 year old mother more than I ever had. I have learned to appreciate my weekends and completely enjoy the time I have left here on this Earth. And there is nothing more that an ex-addict could ask for. A world where the only requirement is for one just simply to be himself. If I knew how much fun I would be having sober, I would have come clean years ago. All of this was only made to happen because of my relationship with my Saviour Jesus Christ. May God bless all of you.