Ever since I started drinking or smoking I would definitely try to do as much as possible. Wouldn’t really care about how fucked up I was. The more the better. I never was able to think through how much I would use, I would always just go full throttle.
I had my first sip of alcohol at like 13. I had brought a bunch of booze to a football game and drank as much as I could as fast as I could. It was euphoric, it was amazing and from then on I did it rarely on the week days but as much as I could on the weekends. Consistently from that age until like 29 when I started to get clean. I smoked my first bit of weed at the same age, 13. And I figured out that I could use weed during the week and it was a little bit more manageable than if I had been drinking. Not as noticeable to my parents and teachers if I went to school hungover versus if I went to school high.
It didn't come out of nowhere, I have ADHD (undiagnosed until after college) and impulsivity is a symptom. I don’t know how much you believe in the disease of addiction but my mom’s side of her family, her dad was an alcoholic that died early and there was a lot of just bad stories of him throwing his life away for alcohol. Her sisters, a lot of them have overuse issues, a lot of my cousins have it in them. If I were to guess I’d say there was some kind of genetic predisposition for me wanting more and always taking things to the limit. It could be a part of my personality as well, my sister and brother I wouldn’t say are the same way.
When I was in my early teens and maturing a little bit I definitely saw that my mom drank a good amount, and I knew my grandpa died from alcoholism so from an early age I was like “I’m not going to drink alcohol or become an alcoholic, that’s my main goal because I know it runs in the family. So Im going to stay away from alcohol or stay away from indulging my alcoholism” Did I do that? Maybe, just from choosing other intoxicants that got me messed up to as much as I can handle.
In high school we were always experimenting with different things, just trying to get fucked up. We would drink robo (robitussin) before class, we would huff spray paint which was really, really bad. You could tell the next day how much you couldn’t use your brain from huffing. We took mushrooms, we took acid, we took ecstasy, pretty much whenever we could get it. Throughout everything the weed and alcohol use was very high. There wasn’t much opiates then, there were some at parties but I wasn’t super interested. It was a good time but It wasn’t an idea I was really in to because it was harder to get than other things.
I sold some weed in high school and that helped the financial situation of the habit but in college I was essentially a pretty big dreamer when it came to my financial success selling the drugs. So it want further and further. I lived with a bunch of guys where we threw parties and sold a lot of drugs. Sold a lot of weed, sold a lot of benzos, sold a lot of ecstasy, lot of acid. And we were doing all that on some weekdays, but definitely all the time on the weekends. I was high all the time, all day every day on weed at least. Eventually I reached the point where I was doing cocaine or ecstasy whenever I could. The ecstasy use got pretty intense and that was one where you can definitely notice how its effecting your brain. My eyes would droop, for weeks my speech would be different, more slurred.
You could definitely see the tendencies of an addict built in there,
but it was nothing like the opiates.
There were times where I would have drug testing lined up so I would try to get clean, mostly from the marijuana because that stays in your system the longest. It was a battle to just not do weed so I would just be drinking more. Kinda forgetting about the whole “I’m not going to be an alcoholic” and definitely some really bad hangovers where you’re anxiety stricken that you reach the point where you’re like “Im definitely an alcoholic”.
Started becoming more aware of my overuse being regular or really detrimental to my mental health. Physical too but mostly mental health. Just reached another rock bottom after wanting to drink so much. I started researching alcoholism and what I could do to help myself.
I was 21 at the time and that really started the journey of “Ok, I’m different. I can’t use in moderation well. How do I manage this and still find a way to succeed and win this battle. What do I do?” So I really started educating myself, reading different books, doing whatever I could to get any information that I needed about it. I started seeing a psychotherapist from the school about my use. I stopped having random drug testing somewhere in that so I was smoking a lot of weed and doing a lot of other drugs.
I would say from 18 to 24 cocaine, ecstasy, psychedelics, ketamine. Ketamine kinda came into play around 22, I liked it a lot so I started using that a lot. It was definitely a variety of substances that I wanted to use. All the while trying to manage my addictions and better myself but not having a lot of luck.
Not being hooked on one thing 100% delayed the realization that there was a problem. For the longest time I was like “I’m looking for these answers through these psychedelics and party experiences” and turns out the fucking answer was not doing anything and being sober. Which I’m really grateful I understand now, but for the longest time I was just searching for an answer and I’d be like “I’m gonna go on this trip and this will enlighten me” “this ketamine is self care” there were times where I definitely believed that. And the variety, its like any other experience like eating a certain food that you love, eating it every day is not fun. Before opiates that’s kind of what it was like.
There defiantly was a way of thinking “I’m not an addict because I did X this weekend and Y last weekend and I’m doing Z the next weekend”. I remember the last time I did ecstasy I was so comfortable doing it that I did so much I couldn’t move for four days. It was brutal. I had to be nursed by my mom and I’m forever grateful that she is the way she is. But a lot of these drugs would fuck me up so bad I couldn’t go to work on Monday, that’s why I eased away from those.
When Opiates Took Over
I graduated and went into the work force still high all the time, drinking crazy amounts on the weekends. Cocaine, ecstasy and psychedelics were still pretty big. Just went on for years doing that and partying. Staying high until I was 25 or 26. Thats when we discovered opiates maybe 2017-2018. Me and my friend started with pills we found it on the internet, there wasn’t a lot of information about it. Knew that we could get it for cheap and it was a good time. I realized “Ok this is a drug that makes me feel really good. I didn’t even need to mix it with anything.” I definitely fell in love instantly with the opiates. Mixed them with either alcohol or weed, probably both. Would I have wanted to do opiates mixed with all these other drugs? Yes, but I was at a point where I just wanted to have a stable mind.
It was helpful at the time to me, I was definitely depressed. At first I would only do it after work and it would be a way to feel good in the misery I was in. It was a lot more manageable than doing party drugs. I just found I could use it on the week days and I could get home from work, do a bunch and it would make me feel good. Its so accessible and a little more affordable than doing other drugs. It was a drug I could use and kind of manage like I could get really really high, like I did with these other drugs, but I could manage my life more than if I was up all night doing cocaine or ecstasy.
As I started to become more focused on my job and I realized I couldn’t be out with these crazy nights and I couldn’t be spending all this money. So I got further and further in, I loved the high of the opiates. By itself was fine but mixed with weed and alcohol was fantastic. I grew to love that space and it turned into more and more opiates. Alcohol and weed levels stayed the same, but the opiates just wanted more and more.
I reached the point where I could figure out which strain I needed because there’s different types of it that give you different experiences. One of them really helped me, gave me a really good high and also I was able to be productive with it too. So I would get home and I would be energetic and motivated to do whatever chores or whatever stuff I wanted to do. I was doing a lot of woodworking at the time so I would be trying to get stuff done in the shop that I really didn’t want to do but with the influence of the drug I would be able to do it a lot more willingly.
It was beautiful, it was a perfect fit for my life, until it sucked.
You’re pretty quickly physically addicted but you don’t notice it until you try to stop and get withdrawals.
The more I did the less high I felt so I moved on to different opiates that I could get around town. It snowballed from there. More and more, more and more. Using at work, itching to get home to use. It was about 4 months into COVID and work wasn’t really high pressure so I would get home from work and be like “There’s nothing really wrong with my life externally, why am I so miserable.How can I be this miserable? Even while being high?” For months and months, maybe even a year or so of the same, not being able to enjoy the high, just feeling miserable. Just more and more miserable.
I wasn’t getting as high. So I would either go in the direction of taking a lot more or trying to take less. Not really to try to get sober or clean but more to pull back my tolerance so I was able to feel higher. The goal was always to be higher. I would try to go a few days or something without or just less and I just couldn’t control myself. Whenever I would actually go cold turkey and just experience crazy withdrawals.
I was never doing cocaine every day, never doing ketamine every day, never doing benzos every day, I know withdrawal after using them a lot could be pretty terrible but I never got to the point of it being a daily thing. But the opiates were so manageable in my life, well they seemed to be manageable. I was able to go to work the next day and I was able to go out and enjoy myself while being fucked up every day. As soon as you’re doing something that much, stopping is a nightmare. A full on nightmare.
Once I started to feel the heavy withdrawals I was like “Fuck, I’m fucked. What do I do?” They say when you hit your knees, when you surrender, when you hit your bottom you’re just like “I'm fucked”. I had that realization I was like “Fuck I need help, I can’t do this myself”.
Trying to sleep is one of the craziest things about opiates. Having restless leg syndrome sober is one thing but coming off of opiates is a whole other monster. Just horrible experiences, definitely a lot of crazy irritability, poor appetite, crazy anxiety. Overall frustration and despair when not under a high dosage of the opiates. Sweats were crazy, sleep was terrible but the worst thing I can remember is the restless leg syndrome stuff. You could be as exhausted as your could possibly be but once its time to go to sleep its basically like (what I was told) electrical systems going through your nervous system shooting down into your feet and back, just this weird shock. Its super uncomfortable and it doesn’t go away and keeps you awake. Close to the worst, might be the worst or most frustrating thing when trying to get sober.
I was looking out my back porch one day and I was like “Yeah, this isn't working”. One of the main motivations was I was trying to get clean for a drug test for a job and I was trying to do it on my own. A little bit of weaning little bit of cold turkey experimentations. But I would always go back to it. I was doing psychotherapy with a guy I liked a lot for about 4 or 5 years and way back in the beginning I told him I had substance use issues. And he was like “Have you ever thought of rehab?” And I just was like, that’s for people who are out of control, I’m not an addict. I was in denial but I couldn’t control it. I thought and I just needed to work harder on myself to get to the point where could manage it.
After years and years of it getting worse I was just looking out from my porch like “yeah, I can’t to it.” So I called my therapist up, I didn’t really want to go through the whole looking for a rehab thing, so I asked if he could help find me a place and he said yes. Rehab was the answer for me, and its not for everyone. I’ve talked to people who were like “I'm done and I did it myself” and that’s crazy impressive to me, I would’ve never been able to do that.
From there I checked into rehab.
Rehab was the best decision I’ve ever made.
It was the most powerful experience I’ve ever had and probably in the beginning it was the most I’ve ever suffered for sure. They had me ween off my opiate levels with Suboxone in the first few days of detox and by the time I got to rehab it was no substances. Those first two weeks of rehab were definitely hell. You’re having long days of basically classes, you’re meeting new people in a new environment and it can be stressful. They make it as easy as it can be but it can’t not be stressful. Definitely a lot of overwhelm and some panic attacks in the beginning. I remember calling home in tears just overwhelmed I never really cry. I was just overwhelmed, thinking this is not going to get better, I feel terrible all the time I’m miserable. Just uncontrollable sobbing and for some reason my nose was bleeding like crazy, not sure how that works. By the end of days like that you’re just exhausted and you’re in desperate need of rest because you have a busy day tomorrow of group classes where you kinda go over addiction stuff and talk about different things. You share your experience with what was going on and you’re just trying to get better and you need your rest. I just couldn’t get any sleep. Eventually by the end of that two week period it started to wear off a bit and they put me on a new medication which I still take to this day and its a huge blessing for sure. I sleep like a baby and I feel good waking up which is nothing I’ve ever experienced in addiction.
The first two weeks were brutal, I was begging to go home every day. Somehow I was convinced to stay one more day, “lets try and just do this one day at a time” and every day I would fight to get out of there. The staff were the biggest support figures for when your having a tough time, they can be there and say “I know exactly what you’re going through” and they do. They know exactly what to say to have you make the right choice or do the right thing. Theres so many instances, especially in the first two weeks when it was hell, that I was talked out of leaving or talked down from a crazy level of stress. My goal was just to clean up for this drug test so I was like “alright I’m two weeks in, give me a couple more weeks and I’ll be able to pass this test that’s all I care about. I’ll be able to have a lot of shit out of my system and Ill be able to get high in a controlled way maybe again, I wont be as extreme."
As time went on week by week, day by day I kind of started to see some light at the end of the tunnel. I had crazy clenching of my jaw due to stress/anxiety and they didn’t allow gum so I was chewing on straws and pens. I would just tear them up, chewing on pens my tongue would get all cut up so that just added to my misery. For whatever reason, I don’t know if it was the mix of drugs they added me on, they upped my dosage of an SSRI (Pristiq). I don’t know how all that stuff works, mixed with coming down from all the stuff I was on, 15 years of marijuana and alcohol abuse, all these other drugs and opiates. I was going through crazy stress and for whatever reason my light sensitivity was crazy high. I was the only one who had to do this but I had to wear sunglasses all the time, indoors outdoors it didn’t matter. I had to wear sunglasses all the time other than when I was in bed or my eyes would shake. So that was not enjoyable although it did create a little bit of humor with the people at rehab which I went along with and kinda liked. You kinda make like ‘how fucked up you are’ jokes which is kinda nice. It breaks the ice a little bit between yourself and what you’re going through.
I just felt better and better, the first week anyone that saw me there was probably like “wow this kid is miserable” probably more miserable than the average person going into rehab. I was all fucked up I had a hard time even just talking to people.
By the third or fourth week it was like night and day, lot of smiles, lot of friendliness a lot of feeling good. The fourth and fifth week were like “alright, I feel amazing” and at that point I was still like “maybe I can still do a little here and there” It was just amazing to have a clean slate with no tolerance to any of these drugs, just using a little here and there. I could use them as like “wow, cool drug” rather than a way to relieve withdrawals I was having.
As time went on I started to really started to enjoy my time there. By the third week I was comfortable with the program, the rhythm we were in, I was really bonding with the people that were there. I was feeling way better, I was eating healthy I was exercising and I was learning, I was getting good social interaction with all the people and the staff. I was becoming (Im not sure if this is everyones experience with rehab) but I definitely found that I felt really good there by the third or fourth week. By the fourth week I felt really safe, I had all these amazing people around me, I felt they all really liked me and enjoyed me being around. I felt really secure and confident in this place.
You’re surrounded by people who are trying to do the same thing as you and there’s defiantly times where there’s toxicity in rehab which, with something as extreme as getting off drugs there’s gonna be some toxicity. When you're just thinking I want to do drugs again. There's defiantly times where you’re talking about ‘ugh I want to use drugs again’ and someone responds with ‘we’ll be using drugs again eventually, this is just temporary”. But the majority of it is ‘you can do this’. All the staff is sober and has been through (or is educated on) addiction so they are very supportive. Theres definitely times where its not easy, everyone that’s in there isn’t fully dedicated or even there voluntarily. So not everyone you can go to and say “I don’t know if I can get through this” but most of the staff and especially the psychological doctors can help you sort through the more complicated issues whether its substance related or your own stuff. Being there, being around those types of people, being on a schedule that doctors have created and designed to help you get clean it all works together. But, it definitely matters how much you want to get clean, how much work you put in while you’re there.
I’d worked really hard to prepare myself to not slip post rehab. There’s like a million different tools you can use from rehab or use moving forward out of rehab.
I made a list of all these things I thought would help me manage my stress or make me feel better and help me deal with what I was going through. I had basically a team, I had the psychotherapist I was bonded with quite well at the rehab, I kept working with her for maybe 6 months. I had my original psychotherapist I’d had for a while, he kept working with me post rehab. And I added a substance abuse counselor who specialized in this stuff and she was great. She helped me with very specific substance related stuff I was going through. I had really really good support from my family members, my parents, my brother, my sister all my cousins and relatives. Everyone was really really supportive and that was really powerful. I definitely lost touch with friends that were not a fan of my decision to get clean but, I had a few good friends who were supportive. So getting out of rehab I had those supportive tools. Getting out of rehab I was like “I’m going to eat better, I’m going to exercise a lot more, I’m going to do a lot more mediation and nervous system work like yoga maybe” just to help manage this process of being fully sober as an adult for the first time. Relearning how to spend my time after work and on the weekends.That was a crazy experience, figuring out how I’m going to spend my time.
They recommend you do 90 meetings in 90 days once you leave rehab so I did. Probably 120 or something, and they have a lot of resources. Just check in on zoom and find a meeting you like, there’s some good meetings that I went to habitually that were really helpful at the time. AA and NA meetings were really helpful for the first 4 or 5 months until I started to just become less interested. Just found that it wasn’t as powerful or useful as it was in the beginning so I moved away from that and look for sober support in other ways.
Reddit is really amazing. I can get support from family members and friends but they don’t really directly say what I hear on Reddit, which is like someone sharing their story, saying “This is me, this is what you can be. You’ve been through it all and you’re really strong and courageous” and just hearing that on a mass scale is overwhelming. I can’t say enough about the support I get on reddit, maybe 1 out of 500 people are like ‘go fuck yourself’ but that’s easily overpowered by the positive stuff. People have helped me through reddit, keeping me inspired and clean. I was talking to someone today who is going into rehab in a few days and it was crazy, “The day I saw your post I’m not really spiritual or believe in God, but it was a message from beyond that this is my chance to start again and I’m checking into rehab” after seeing my post, I can’t even believe what he said was real it blew my mind completely.
Going out was a bit of a strange adjustment. There would be times where I’m like 6 months out of rehab and I’d be going to social events, family events or just out to bars and there would be alcohol around. There were some moments where I thought “that looks so good” but after a couple months of exposing myself to that I got really comfortable with not using.
I ended up finding out that I’m a very likable and fun person to be around when I’m sober and that make me a lot easier to be around. Maybe I don’t feel as chemically euphoric, but I kinda get the euphoric feeling just from how I’m able to socialize and experience what’s going on around me. I’m so much more sensitive to what’s going on around me, in a good way. Its all positive. Ill be out until 1 in the morning with a friend sometimes and I just feel good the whole time. Its kinda weird how your body can adapt and readjust itself. When you’re using its like “Alright, this hits gonna last a while and another is coming in a few hours”. You’re always chasing it and so its just weird how now,
I can relax, feel good and enjoy things.
I’ve defiantly matured a lot and grown a lot from being sober and being able to process things, feel in a new way and experience life in a new way. I just feel really good, a lot of good momentum. Not everything perfect of course, work can be stressful and finances aren’t perfect for sure but things are definitely a million times better than when I was stuck in that cycle.
I’m at a place where I’m feeling a lot better about my life, I feel very stable and good and confident. The work that I do I’m decent at it and I don’t hate it for sure but Its not giving me a whole lot of meaning. As I’m sober I’m realizing that I'm not getting any younger and I really want to spend my time doing something important.
This job is ok but at the end of the day I'm not extremely motivated by it and I think that’s from its just not giving me a whole lot of purpose and meaning. It’s giving me some but from a clear mind I can see that I had a vision for something, work or a project that would give me a whole lot of purpose and meaning and after hearing a lot of the responses from the reddit post I was like ok, maybe there’s a platform I can create to try to help people get through what they’re going through.
I want to create something that I would’ve wanted when I was in my deepest darkest place.
Something that was really entertaining, that would put you in a good place but also had some information. The Not Dead Yet Podcast will be a discussion about addiction or mental health issues. Its me and a few other people I’ve met on my journey, we’re trying to just do a YouTube show where we’re trying to show things we like or enjoy, whatever content we find across the internet that we like and we share it and the mental health and addiction stuff to just try to be something, a resource for some people struggling in addiction or in recovery. So that is something that I’m finding a lot of value for giving me meaning or purpose right now.
Something that’s been a big realization over the last year is that to really overcome this addiction thing, you have to give yourself meaning. You can’t just take care of yourself, along the way you need to find a way to find more meaning and purpose. I think lacking that could’ve been a big part of what contributed to the usage going as far as it did. Finding a purpose and meaning would’ve definitely helped me manage it if not escaped it entirely. So that’s what I’m moving towards and Im feeling good, feeling better than ever.
Addicts can be some really great people, especially recovering ones because they know the suffering. You reach a point where you’re like “I need to help people who are still suffering”. I’ve lost some people. It's not easy and its definitely not going away, its an epidemic for sure. People of all ages are suffering. It’s a good cause to try and educate to whatever length we can.
ADHD's impact on Patrick's addiction
I was diagnosed late. I was out of college before I got diagnosed. I was suffering with different things others weren't “its hard for me to do this, its hard for me to hold a job” and they were like 'You have ADHD'. Basically from there, without even thinking about working on the addiction, I was trying to move to towards a life where I can manage the ADHD. I don’t even know what that means anymore. Ive been building my life around making it suitable for me and not what “regular’ society people would do to make them happy because it just doesn’t work for me that’s for sure. I had desk jobs when I was 18 or so and it just didn’t work, it brought me to tears a few times, huge despair.
Now I work a job where ADHD is helpful and it works for me. I'm a carpenter so there’s a lot of stimulation in that. Theres also a lot of addicts and people with ADHD in construction, it goes hand in hand. I need to be active, I need to be highly stimulated, that’s where I feel good.
Had I had an earlier diagnosis my drug use would've been different 100%. When I first learned I was all about researching what type of actives and what types of lifestyles are best suited for people with ADHD and that gave me a good idea of what I needed to do to manage it and live well with ADHD. If I had learned that at 16 it would’ve been different. I was good at math and science so I went for engineering which is not good for people with ADHD but everyone said ‘you’re good at math and science go do this, its a good job, its stable, well paid you seem to be interested in it’. If I knew I had ADHD I definetly would have chose something different, I don’t know what that would’ve looked like but I don’t think it would involve as much school as I did.
Not knowing about it and not knowing what to do about it, just suffering through school and jobs I didn’t like. I just thought I was miserable and couldn’t do anything about it. It didn’t help my self esteem to see people around me go “Oh yeah things are great at work and things are cool at school, I'm happy.” and I’d be succeeding at work or school, but I’d be miserable. And the misery just lead to more intense usage of the substances.
It’s tricky to manage, you want to escape your own head. You’re miserable usually and you don’t know why so you just want to not feel that. A lot of the older generation I see they have no idea that that’s why they are the way they are. And they’re managing but they often have heavy addiction issues that they have no idea how to address. I know how that suffering is and I just want to do my best to help with it.
They say it in AA a lot that giving back and helping others is a way to stay sober and I didn’t know what that looked like for me. Through reddit and trying to do stuff online and create a resource for people, it's the opposite of a double edged sword. Its helping others feel good but I feel so good when I can help. Its the fulfillment I’ve been looking for. The universe has a strange way of working its magic. Im very grateful for the path that I've been on and what I've been through because now I’m able to help people that are going through it. Like if I had figured it all out at age 15 and been successful in a certain way I might not have been able to help people the way I’m helping now. I’m grateful and fortunate to be alive, there were a lot of situations where it could’ve not gone the way it did. I feel good.
How Patrick manages his sobriety day to day:
Keeping it in the forefront with people you trust and that support you. With my family, they all support me and I definitely trust them but we don’t talk about it that much and that’s fine. I have not a whole lot, but a few really close friends that support me and we regularly talk (maybe once every week or two weeks) about how it’s going with me as far as usage and stuff, if I’m thinking about using again. Just taking the time to hear how supportive people like that are is very important to me, its very powerful. Same thing with Reddit, I decided to do a monthly post about sobriety and there’s always crazy positive feedback. I would’ve never thought before doing that that the messages from strangers would be so powerful but to me it means so much. They’re taking time out of their day to cheer on and be there for a person they don’t know. In relation to support from family members, its tough to say but it seems to be a lot more powerful because these strangers don’t have anything invested in you. They don’t have relationships with you, they’re total strangers on a screen. It makes it that much more powerful.
Psychotherapy I’ve always been into just as far as managing my path and growth which its 10x easier to grow while not being intoxicated. I see someone once every other week at this point, we don’t have a whole lot to talk about usually. Like there isn’t a big thing stressing me out or destroying me, I'm never in crazy despair at this point I’m kinda finding my footing and developing myself in what I think is a really healthy way. But I do think that it's important to let my feelings flow. Usually I don’t know what I’m going to talk about because there’s nothing pressing on my mind but I just, go. And we’ll break it down and there’s no gigantic breakthroughs usually but its enough to kind of get some good guidance on things that sometimes I didn’t even know I needed guidance on.