From hurting people to helping people, I found hope after heroin

To: Those looking for hope

From: Nathan (As told to Lauren Brill)

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To those who want to know where to find hope,

I try not to live in the past because it’s so dark. However, I want you to know that no matter how bad it gets, there is one place that you can always find hope.

I should know.

Several years ago, I reached a point where I didn’t want to get high, but I also didn’t want to be sick.  Going through withdrawals, I was always sick – dope sick. It felt like I was dying: cold sweats, going to the bathroom frequently and shaking.

Nathan struggled with addiction starting as a teenager.

The problem started when I was a teenager. I went to a doctor for back pain and she gave me Percocet. At first, I took the pain medication as prescribed. But after five or six months, I started taking more and more until my prescription was not enough.  Between Vicodin and Percocet, I remember getting to the point where I took 45 pills all at once.

My doctor cut me off and I moved on to oxycontin. When my drug dealer ran out of oxy, he offered me heroin. Once I started heroin, I couldn’t get off.

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From my brother’s X-box to my parents’ money, I stole and sold anything of any value. I robbed two gas stations and three hotels all at knifepoint, emotionally traumatizing innocent people.

Despite continuously making horrific decisions to feed my addiction, my mother was kind and loving towards me. She wanted to fix my problems, but she couldn’t fix them.

From my brother’s X-box to my parents’ money, I stole and sold anything of any value.

Doing just about anything to get that high, I turned into a monster. I was miserable. I hated myself and I hated my life.

Facing possibly 55 years in prison for the five robberies, you’d think that would get me to turn my life around, but it wasn’t enough.

Because of a technicality, I only got three years in prison. The judge gave me three years for each robbery, but I served each sentence concurrently. I detoxed in county jail, but I didn’t find hope when I got to prison.  I didn’t do any programs. I didn’t work on myself. So, in prison, I started using again.

When my time was nearly up, they sent me to a halfway house. While there, I tested dirty three separate times for fentanyl. On the third time, they arrested me and sent me back to prison for 45 days.

That was the toughest 45 days of my sentence. I didn’t want to do drugs, but I couldn’t stop. The fact that I spent three years in prison and was about to get out but had to go back because of my drug use was proof that I didn’t have my addiction under control.

Nathan struggled to find hope for many years.

For me, that realization was my rock bottom moment.  I lost everything because of drugs: rights to my son and friends and family that still won’t talk to me. I hurt the people I care about and I traumatized innocent people I didn’t even know. That’s not who I am and it’s certainly not who I wanted to be.

By this point, I knew what would happen if I continued on this path.

When I went back to prison for those 45 days, they placed me in a 23-hour lockdown, which is solitary confinement.

All I kept thinking about was how scared I was of myself. I didn’t want to die.

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That’s when I started to find hope.

When I got out, my mom let me stay with her on the condition that I would get help and eventually move into a sober living facility. Then, I also went into a vape shop. My mom knew the woman who worked there and she gave me a number to call. She said she thought this person could help me.

It was a guy named Randy, who is now one of my best friends. Randy led me to a person who referred me to OhioGuidestone, a non-profit organization that offered me support and treatment seven days a week. I received a peer coach, someone who has walked the same walk but has been sober for a given amount of time. Three days a week, I went to classes to help me understand my behavior. At OhioGuidestone, I learned when life doesn’t go my way, I can’t numb it with drugs. Instead, I should talk to someone. They taught me how to live with myself, love myself, and be a good person in society. The people at OhioGuidestone were there for me.

Nathan received the resources and support he needed to get better at OhioGuidestone.

On September 21st, my mother’s birthday, I will be sober for two years.

That’s not all. I am a general manager at a restaurant.  After years of using women, I learned how to be in a loving relationship and I fell for an amazing person. We are engaged and living together in a house where we pay the rent. I even just bought a new car.

Recognizing the importance of giving back, I am on the advisory council of a non-profit called Hope Recovery Community, which assists addicts.

Sobriety allowed me to go from hurting people to helping people.

I know what it feels to be miserable, sick and sad. Please know that there are people out there who can and will support you and guide you. But it all starts when you find hope.

Regardless of your addiction, your mistakes, or even your prison sentence, hope can be found in the same place for us all. Hope is within ourselves.

Make a choice, be determined, accept help and put in the work. It can get better but it starts with you.

There is light ahead,

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