Read how this patient went from going to college to overcoming addiction
I’m sharing my story in hopes that others will find a better way to live. That somehow this will help someone, somewhere. I am in no way, shape, or form glorifying my drug use, I just want people to know how low I was in life, some of the pain I went through, and how far I’ve come. I want people to know that addicts are worth helping, and that their lives are valuable. I want people in active addiction to know that there is another option for them, and that the pain and suffering can end before they reach a body bag.
I was born and raised on a farm in southwest Florida. My stepfather is a pain management doctor and my mother is a nurse. My mother and stepfather worked a lot so my older sister and I were unsupervised a lot, and we were known for the parties we had at the house. I started smoking cigarettes at age eleven, started drinking and smoking weed at age fifteen. I maintained great grades and played sports growing up, my biological father was my coach for a couple of sports. I graduated high school when I was sixteen with a 4.2GPA and partial scholarships to attend USF in Tampa, FL. I started attending USF shortly after my seventeenth birthday, to pursue a degree in veterinary medicine.
I was living on campus and taking classes full time. I made friends quickly and was able to develop a social life fast. During the day we would go to classes and at night we would go to parties, on and off campus, drinking and smoking weed in our dorm rooms, living the typical college kids life at the time. I met a group of friends that introduced me to cocaine and ecstasy at an off campus party. The friends I went with all took lines of cocaine and popped ecstasy on a regular basis, and they still all had good grades and did fine with school. I did some lines and popped a pill. It seemed completely harmless, at the time. I continued to party at this house after that night. I met the guy who’s party it was and we hit it off great, soon after that I was a dope dealer. I started selling ecstasy, weed, and cocaine on campus to anyone who would buy it. By the age of eighteen I was addicted to ecstasy. After the first night I took it, I never stopped. I don’t remember a day that went by that my eyes weren’t popping out of my head. I hardly ever slept, and I had stopped going to all of my classes. I was academically dismissed from USF after three short semesters. My family had no idea anything was going on with me until I had already flunked out of school, but I never admitted to them what was going on, and by then I was already so lost in psychedelic drugs and the dope dealer lifestyle that I was unsure of what was right or wrong anymore. My friends continued to excel in school, and now I was living off campus in a party house with a different set of goals in mind.
One of my high school friends stopped in for a visit and she was completely shocked to find me in the state that I was in. I had been up for four days, completely out of my mind, I had lost at least fifty pounds since the last time she saw me and I hadn’t showered in days. It didn’t take her long to convince me to move in with her and her girlfriend in St. Augustine, FL. I didn’t tell my family I was moving, I just packed up and left on a whim that I would get my life together if I removed myself from the situation.
My new roommates were the party on the weekend only type of girls, and they were both still enrolled in college. They did Oxy’s on the weekends, and I didn’t like those. However, I didn’t think twice before I crushed them up on the counter and snorted them. After all, I had been addicted to uppers, there’s no way I would get addicted to downers because it wasn’t my thing.
I got my first job at a gas station shortly after I moved to St. Augustine. I didn’t know at the time, but the gas station was in a run down neighborhood that was overrun with drugs and prostitution. Customers tried to sell me drugs my first day on the job. There were drugs everywhere, I would find pills and little baggies while sweeping the floors and out in the parking lot. I would always consume what I found, or sell it to someone. My assistant manager at the gas station sold xanax and Oxy 30s.
With my first paycheck I bought ten Oxys from him. I started using opiates and xanax everyday, from the time my eyes opened until they closed. My mother helped me get an apartment after I started working, she was hours away from me and was still consumed with work. She knew what I told her, and that was “I have a job and am doing well.” My assistant manager lived in the next building of the apartments. Him and I became close friends and I found a different hustle.
Whispering Woods (The Woods) was the name of the apartment complex I moved into. My assistant manager and I had people in and out of there all day, everyday. I worked forty hours a week at the gas station, and I had some of my friends posted in The Woods, handling my work there. I would come home to stacks of money and a house party every night. At one point, I had eleven people living with me. It wasn’t long before cops started getting called for people fighting outside, noise complaints on the music, or the traffic coming in and out. I got lucky back then, I was always at work when the cops showed up. The Woods would not allow me to sign another lease with them because of the number of complaints I had against me.
I moved in with one of my friends and his family two blocks away from my job, right smack in the middle of all the action. I would hit the blocks on a stolen BMX bike, selling to anyone who needed anything. I would stay out all night and talk to anyone I passed by. I soon ran into my old friend who introduced me to a needle. I started shooting up shortly after my nineteenth birthday. My life turned very dark after I started using intravenously. I dated the girl who put a needle in my arm for awhile, I even got her name tattooed on me. I was fired from my job at the gas station shortly after this. Her and I moved in with her sister in Gainesville, FL to “get away.”
We ended up spending the next few months making the two hour trip back and forth from Gainesville from St. Augustine everyday. We would wake up dope sick, drive to STA and get our drugs and get high the rest of the day. We’d wake up and the vicious cycle would take place again. We stole ten thousand dollars from her sister during this process, to support our habit. Her sister went through our stuff and found hundreds of dirty needles in one of our dresser drawers. Her family sent her to rehab after that, and I moved back home.
I detoxed on my own in my mother’s guest house. I have a feeling my mother knew something was going on with me, but she was in extreme denial about it. She still worked all the time, and I really hadn’t seen my family much since I graduated high school. I got clean for awhile, I think it was around eight or nine months. I obtained two jobs and started going to the state college in my hometown. One of my coworkers had some plans to make some money, and I was ready because my two part time jobs weren’t going to help me move out of my mothers house.
Shortly after I started dealing again, I relapsed when I was handed a bottle of pills that I had been using intravenously in the past. I stopped going to school after two semesters, and lost both of my jobs very close together. I was introduced to crystal meth and crack shortly after my coworkers money plan. He stopped letting me sell his pills because I would do them all and have no money for him. His best idea was to give me an ounce of meth to sell. I started mixing the drugs, I’d put pills and meth in the same needle or I would smoke crack and shoot up pills. I ended up owing this guy a lot of money, I would trade the meth for pills and spend what I made on pills. I started robbing people and prostituting to pay my debts to him. He still doesn’t know that I sold myself to pay the debts. My mother wanted to send me to rehab, and he was trying to get me on board with it. I went to that rehab for 24 hours, and I checked myself out against medical advice. My boy was so mad at me, he told everyone in town if they bought me drugs he’d cut them off, and he meant it. He wasn’t a bad guy, he just got lost in the dope dealers lifestyle. He ended up getting arrested, he was sentenced to twelve years and is currently incarcerated until 2026.
After 24 hour stay at the rehab my mothers eyes were opened to what was going on. I admitted to her that I was shooting up and needed help, but I couldn’t fathom the thought of actually getting clean. It seemed impossible and it was terrifying. At the beginning of 2015 I sold pills to a criminal informant, who happened to be one of my best friends at the time. Three months later March 31, 2015, I was pulled over for running a stop sign and three cop cars rolled up around me. The drug task force officer looked at me with my ID in hand and said, “I already know who you are, I have warrants for your arrest.” I was taken to jail with six felony charges and I had an $18,000 bond. I was on my way to pick up more pills when I was arrested, my dealer drove past me when I was handcuffed on the sidewalk. I was questioned for what seemed like hours, after I refused to work for them as a criminal informant, I was thrown in a booking cell. I was only in jail for eight hours, my mother had me bonded out and she hired an attorney, I was facing three years in prison.
I went to court in July, I was sentenced to two years house arrest in a rehab facility. Upon completion of the six-eight week rehab program, I was allowed to be bumped down to drug offender probation. I left home the next day for that rehab, it was a couple of days before my twenty third birthday. My mother and I picked out a rehab in Palm Beach County. I didn’t know that I would spend the next nine months at that place.
I went to group therapy sessions, one on one therapy sessions, and family therapy sessions over the phone for nine months straight. Some of our group meetings had 150 people in them and we had guest speakers come in. They would tell us to look to our left and to our right, they said one of us would recover and most of us would be dead or in jail.
I was diagnosed with bi polar disorder, anxiety, and hepatitis C in rehab. At one point I was on seven different medications to treat my mental disorders. They told me if I refused to take my meds they would have me put in the psych ward. I couldn’t stay clean for longer than sixty days there. At the rehab facility I was at if you relapsed, they just started you over at the beginning of the program. The first time I relapsed, I was introduced to heroin. I started the program over seven times in nine months because I couldn’t stop using. When I went for the eighth time, admissions would not take me in, no matter how much money my mother paid. I had just violated my house arrest.
After a few weeks of living out of motel rooms using, I found a ride back to my hometown and was hiding out in a barn down the road from my house. Cops had been to my mothers house multiple times looking for me, so I was laying low.
I was carrying around a trash bag full of white clothes in case I was arrested, I would have my jail clothes with me. I ran out of places to crash, I had stolen from everyone I knew and was staying in the woods for a few days.
About a month after rehab, I got tired of running. On April 21, 2016 I managed to con a hundred bucks out of someone and bought a few pills and some meth and got as high as I could. Around two in the morning I got a ride up to the county jail and I turned myself in. I was sentenced to nine months, I spent the next seven months in that county jail for violating my house arrest.
Within my first month incarcerated, I got to spend ten of my days in solitary confinement for popping off on a lieutenant. Jail wasn’t hard for me, it was easy, I knew the other inmates and no one ever messed with me. It wasn’t pleasant, but my life had structure for once. I got fed three times a day, there was a roof over my head, I had a job working in the jail’s kitchen, and my family knew where I was for once. I spent my twenty fourth birthday incarcerated and I missed my only sisters wedding, by eleven days. I remember pacing the six man cell less than a week before I got out, I looked at one of my cellmates and said, “I want to fight someone so I can catch another charge and stay here.” I felt safe there, I had only used once in there, at the beginning of my incarceration. I wanted to be free, but I was bound by a drug on the outside world, on the inside I was sober and aware for the first time in my adult life. I remember crying because I was scared, but not of anything other than myself and the habits I spent years creating.
I was released from jail November 16, 2016, just a few days before Thanksgiving. I had to stay with my grandmother awhile because my stepfather wasn’t fond of me living at home, and I never blamed him. I relapsed two days after I was released, someone hit me up on social media looking to score some meth. I didn’t have a lot of money and my family had cut me off financially at this point, but I knew how to get money from the streets and my body. I had to move in with my mother and stepfather after a few weeks. I started working a few shifts a week at a fast food joint, to try and live a normal life and appease my mother. My drivers license had been suspended upon my release, and I had to walk past my drug dealers house everyday to get to and from work. I never was able to walk past that house without stopping.
In January of 2017, two months after my release, my name came up in the cops database for stolen jewelry. The day before my friend convinced me to pawn some of her husbands jewelry so we could score. A cop came up to my job and put me in handcuffs and my job called my mom to tell her what was happening. I was able to get ahold of my friend before getting booked into jail again, she went up to the jail and signed an affidavit, saying she gave me permission to pawn her husbands jewelry. That kept me out of jail, but my mother had had enough.
My mother was planning a trip to Mechanicsville, MD to visit her brother and his family. I had only met this part of my family once in my life, but I went to visit them with her. I detoxed in their guest room for five days. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, couldn’t keep liquids down, I had diarrhea, cold sweats, and restless limb syndrome. I took Advil and Pepto Bismol to detox, that was all my mother would allow me to have. I remember every second of those five days I spent in Maryland detoxing, freezing because of the weather and cold sweats from the drugs leaving my body. A few days into my detox my family members approached me and offered me a place to stay with them. My mom tried to convince me to stay, my cousins, aunt and uncle all talked to me about staying. I was belligerent, all I wanted to do was detox and go back home, not stay with them.
My mother and I got on a plane to go back to Florida, and my body wasn’t even done detoxing yet. I was high two hours after the plane landed. I sold some stuff at my moms house and she turned my cell phone off. I didn’t come home for two weeks after that, and my mother had no idea where I was or if I was alive. I showed up to her house, looked her in the eyes and told her, “If you don’t get me out of here, I’m going to die. The best idea I have right now is to kill myself.” I had hit an all time low. I was crashing with whoever would let me stay with them. I was selling my body for twenty dollars, and I was using fifty dollar pills at the time. I usually asked my mom for money and got shut down, but this time all I could ask for was help.
My mom supported my drug habit for the next couple of days to keep me home and as safe as she possibly could. If I wasn’t high I wouldn’t have stayed home and I wouldn’t have got on that airplane.
On February 18, 2017 I got on a plane and moved to Mechanicsville, MD. I came up here with two suitcases filled with clothes that didn’t fit me. The physical detox wasn’t as bad that time, but the mental battles were my struggle. I was still unmedicated for my anxiety and my bi polar disorder. I went to a lot of AA and NA meetings my first two months in Maryland. I wasn’t a shy person and I met a lot of people through the program quickly. I had heard about cannabis helping people get off of opiates. Rehabs pounded into my head that if you consume any substance, you’ll be back to your old habits at some point. The substances included in that was cannabis. But, I had to try something new because everything else hadn’t worked. I felt like that was my last chance to do things right in life. It took me about a week to find some on the street. At the time, I had no idea Maryland offered medical cannabis.
I got denied for a few jobs because of my criminal record. My friends from AA helped me look for a job, and I soon I found one, working at a local restaurant/bar as a hostess. I started self medicating myself regularly with cannabis after I got the job. One of my coworkers that befriended me said she was applying for a medical cannabis card. I couldn’t afford the doctors appointment at the time, I was still trying to get on my feet and become a productive member of society. I started the process to get my medical certification around November 2018, and received my card at the beginning of February 2019.
Since moving to southern Maryland and starting my journey with medical cannabis I have accomplished so many things that once seemed impossible for someone like me. I saved up and paid over two thousand dollars to get my license back, I signed a lease for an apartment with a coworker, I got approved for a car loan, I opened a checking and savings account, I received three promotions at work, I can afford to raise two cats, my relationships with my family have flourished into something better than I ever imagined. I’ve been present for holidays and birthdays, and I can actually remember them. I haven’t had a run in with the cops, I haven’t relapsed, I’ve been free from my addiction for two and a half years now.
I can’t count how many friends I have that are in jail, I can’t count the number I lost due to opioid addiction. I just turned twenty seven, and the majority of those people were younger than me when their lives ended. Very few people that I was in rehab with are clean now. I was one of the lucky ones that made it out. I know that moving from town to town, multiple rehab programs, and jail didn’t work in keeping me sober. What I do know is this; cannabis has treated my mental disorders and has truly saved my life.
ctive to us. Since then I can truly say that my life has done a 180 degree turn. I am able to be as active as I ever was. I am in the gym 6 days a week, going on 5-7 mile hikes weekly with my wife. My marriage is amazing because we don't argue over pills anymore and my wife is so thankful I found medical marijuana. We have traveled more in the past 18 months than we did the previous 6 years. I don't have any of the side effects I suffered with pain pills and I truly feel I am free from that time in my life. I am so grateful because I feel I have been saved from an impending death and can now look forward to life again.