Nick began consuming alcohol and smoking marijuana in his mid-teens, but it was the six prescriptions of pain medication following numerous surgeries that ultimately ignited cravings for increased potency.
“I had biopsy surgery,” he said. “One day I took two pills instead of one and, man, I felt great. So, I continued that and then started taking them more often.”
In “no time” Nick was strung out on opiates. Lortab gave way to Oxycontin which he took orally until he unlocked the door of the intravenous high.
“It got crazy,” he said. “I stole checks from my parents and got sent to the methadone clinic.”
Nick then shifted his focus to Suboxone and Benzodiazepine, which were prescribed to help combat the chemical dependency and to cope with his anxiety. But soon he was in and out of psychiatric wards, had been charged with repeated DUIs and even public intoxication.
“I had lost control and it was debilitating. It was complete hell and agony, but I couldn’t stop.”
Nick did find sobriety through mandatory treatment and within a year had even worked his way into a management position at a popular restaurant chain. But the rungs in his ladder of success collapsed after a decision he made during a chance encounter with an old companion.
“The woman who used to sell me opiates walked in one day to order food,” he said. “She saw me and asked if I wanted to buy some methadone. So, I went across the street and cashed my paycheck.”
Oxycontin quickly reclaimed the status of his drug of choice, but when the supply eventually ran out, his appetite shifted to methamphetamines.
Nick developed a clever plan to ensure the uninterrupted flow of the expensive drug into his system for a fraction of the usual cost. He also became fascinated by the chemistry in the development process and began assisting in the production of the dangerous stimulant.
For nearly eight years Nick maintained this lifestyle before a manufacturing charge wrecked his world. Faced with prison time, he turned to drug court – a program that would wipe his record clean if successfully completed.
For 18 months Nick never touched an illegal substance, despite spending time with people who were actively using. While his strength to resist the temptation left many in his friend circle in awe, the willpower lasted only as long as required. The same day he graduated the program, Nick gave in to his cravings.
“As soon as I got my certificate, I went into the bathroom and ate pain pills and washed ‘em down with sink water,” he recalled. “Later that night I hit a meth pipe for about an hour straight until I couldn’t hardly walk.”
The three years that ensued were the darkest of his life. Nick lost his job almost immediately and he began hearing voices, blacking out and becoming violent with those he loved while high. He was also in and out of treatment programs and constantly at odds with law enforcement.
“I ended up back in front of a judge,” he said. “I was told I had to go to treatment to avoid prison. I knew a guy who’d come through Royal Pines so I sat in jail for a month waiting to get in. It was hard, but good, because I saw what it would be like if things didn’t change. I was on the floor in the cell one night and prayed, ‘God, I need you to do something. I can’t live like this.”
“I realized that I would either die or end up in prison.”
For the first time in his life, Nick genuinely wanted to change. “That’s what’s so special about this place; it’ll give you every opportunity to change,” he said excitedly. “I was in other places, but never saw an option for a better life. The Pines offers you that.”
Nick is now a resident assistant at Royal Pines and has earned an associate’s degree in psychology from Bevel State Community College. He is working toward his drug counselor certification and hopes to help others who are struggling as he did. “I like this,” he said reflecting on his work at the facility. “It’s hard and there’s a lot of sadness, but to me, it’s not a losing battle.”
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