When I was younger, I thought I would never be the type of person that was going to have a history of opioid addiction. I was the “good girl.” I was homeschooled. I was one of seven kids who had Christian parents (my Dad was a pastor!). Drugs were never even on my radar.
Life is so unpredictable though, isn’t it?
In 2005, when I was 21, my Dad was murdered. We had no idea why it happened or who killed him but it ripped through our family in the most devastating way. My Dad was the cornerstone of our family. What were we to do without him? How would we pick up the pieces of a shattered and broken family?
About a year later, as I was emotionally “limping” along, I was in a bad car wreck. My neck and back were irreparably damaged and I was told I would have chronic pain for the rest of my life. I was put on pretty large amounts of heavy narcotics. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow. This drug doesn’t just numb the pain in my body. It numbs the aches and pains of my heart, too.”
I was never advised by my doctor to be careful with this potentially addictive substance. It was prescribed like anything else. I remember very distinctly the day that I ran out of my pain pills early. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal but remembered that my brother would also take pain pills occasionally. He said he didn’t have any but that he did have something else.
“I have oxy. I will crush some down and you can snort it. It will hit you faster and your pain will be gone quicker,” he told me.
I remember as I inhaled the powder it was as though I was Alice in Wonderland, falling down the rabbit hole. With that one line of powder, my life was irrevocably changed. I would spend the next 12 years in pursuit of that high. I would lose jobs. I would go to jail. I would lose the trust of friends and family. I would be promiscuous and get pregnant outside of marriage. I would be in and out of hospitals and emergency rooms trying to manipulate doctors for my “fix.” I would almost lose my life.
I would get clean for a few days, or a few weeks, or a few months, only to relapse if I had surgery or a medical emergency. I have chronic medical problems with pain and they have afforded me the “perfect” reason to keep going back to my one true love: opioids. Opioids were what I was true to when I was true to no one else. Opioids were what I went to bed thinking about and woke up thinking about. I would degrade myself to get opioids. I would borrow, lie, cheat, or steal to get them.
Fast forward to 2020. I had bounced in and out of 12-step meetings for years and had also lived in the Catholic community called Comunita Cenacolo, which was started by Sister Elvira for drug addicts. I was trying to go to meetings and also desperately trying to be true to my faith. The pandemic had eliminated in-person meetings, and so a friend of mine told me about Catholic in Recovery, which was holding virtual meetings. I was a convert to Catholicism and while I had certainly fallen away from my faith in many ways, I never lost my love for the Church.
I started going to meetings in December of 2020. In May of 2021, I was in the middle of a terrible relapse. Since oxy and hydrocodone were no longer widely available, the only thing I had been able to find was fentanyl and heroin. I was having intense panic attacks, borderline hallucinations, and was afraid for my life. I didn’t want my three beautiful children to find me dead on the bathroom floor after snorting heroin.
My sponsor urged me to get into a detox and a friend from CIR was advising me to do the same thing. In all of my years of addiction, I had never once reached out for professional medical help. But this was it. This was the rock bottom I had heard about. I called the local detox center and before I could talk myself out of it I told them I would be there that day. I called my sister and confessed everything regarding my addiction and asked for her help with my children while I spent five days in detox. I called my husband who knew nothing about my relapse, and I told him I wouldn’t be home when he got off work that night.
Since that day I have been regularly attending virtual CIR meetings and have started a Catholic in Recovery meeting at my parish. Today I have over a year of continuous clean time. I’m truly a new creation in Christ.
My life was mercifully spared, and I no longer want to waste a single minute of it. Instead, I hope to spread the good news of recovery, and “practice these principles [or recovery] in all of my affairs.” Praise God for the gift of recovery and for the gift of Catholic in Recovery!
Emily R. is a beloved daughter of God, Catholic convert, and recovering opioid addict. She blogs on Facebook at This Little Light of Mine: My Journey through Addiction and Recovery, using the weekly Catholic in Recovery reflection questions to prompt many of the thoughts in her writing.