Monthly Archives: May 2016

A Story of Recovery

By Aaron Emerson

Jay Stauffer lives in Grand Rapids, but if you saw him walking around Michigan’s second largest city, you probably wouldn’t know he’s been in recovery from heroin and prescription drug addiction. 14 months of recovery, to be exact.

It’s been a long journey to get there, though, and Jay will be the first to tell you it’s still a one-day-at-a-time battle for him.

It all started for Jay when he was a sophomore in high school. Dealing with a mentally abusive step-father, he decided to try smoking marijuana, but didn’t like it and didn’t try it again. Not much time passed, however, when he had to get some teeth pulled and was prescribed Vicodin. Unfortunately, he fell in love with the pleasurable feeling and escape the painkilling opioid pills gave him.

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At age 21, Jay had a son with his girlfriend he was in love with, but two years later he had to move back in with his parents after finding out she was cheating on him. The break-up of four years devastated him and left him vulnerable, which showed when he was pressured to try cocaine at a party. He got hooked on the cocaine and drifted deeper into a life of addiction.

He started stealing from his family and pawning anything that was worth money, and the cocaine addiction lasted eight years. That’s when he tried what many addicts do to get clean: move far away from his surroundings to get out of the life he was living. He moved to Hollywood, California with his brother, but he soon found out the place he moved was a complex filled with young party kids.

He eventually moved back to Michigan with his Dad, who was taking heavy-duty prescription pills. Jay started taking Fentynal patches, and one day when he was out of his patches going through withdrawal, a friend hooked him up with one of the deadliest drugs known to man: heroin. He got immediately addicted and blew all of his money, finding himself in an even deeper predicament.

He eventually moved back in with his mom and step-dad, and one night when he was going through withdrawal, he came across his step-dad’s checkbook. You probably know what happened next. Yes, he stole four checks, and when his mom found out their bank account was overdrawn, she called the police. When Jay went to cash the final check, the bank-teller alerted the police and Jay was arrested blocks away from the bank, charged with cashing stolen checks and stealing his parents’ car.

Jay ended up serving two years in prison for the crimes, but he turned his life around. He has had some set-backs, but he’s been sober for 14 months now. He goes to anger management classes, and his son, who is now 14, is a big part of his life and recovery, helping him stay in check in his one-day-at-at-time battle with addiction. Just for today, Jay is clean and living proof that recovery is possible, even for the ones who seemed too far gone to change. Jay is a walking miracle.


 

U.S. City Proposing Heroin Injection Facility

By Aaron Emerson

If you are reading this blog, you are most likely aware that America is facing a heroin epidemic that is taking lives at a record pace. Heroin and prescription drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S. One city in New York is proposing something previously unheard of in the U.S, however.

Ithaca, NY Mayor Svante Myrick is proposing a supervised injection facility in his town to combat the problem. The facility would provide heroin addicts a place to bring their heroin and use clean needles, be in the presence of nurses to make sure they don’t overdose, and access to counselors that can hook them up with treatment.

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Supervised injection facilities are relatively popular in Europe and one even opened in Vancouver in 2003. Supporters of the proposal claim such a place would cut back on infectious diseases and overdoses and give addicts a quick route to get help. But, as expected, many are criticizing the plan, saying it encourages use of an illegal drug.

An injection center would face several legal hurdles and have to get clearance from the state, so who knows if this plan will go through. But I have mixed feelings on it. Places that have injection facilities have been shown to dramatically reduce overdose rates – even drug use – and it does provide addicts somewhere to go where they won’t be judged and can seek help. On the other hand, I know for a fact many people will take advantage of such a place and it could enable a lot of users to get high.

I am not going to give an opinion on this yet. But I do appreciate out-of-the-box approaches to fighting addiction. Our current treatment and law enforcement system is broken and it is so much easier for addicts to find cheap heroin than help. Something needs to change, I just don’t know if a place that allows heroin use is it.


Loving Recovery Again

By Aaron Emerson

Recovery is awesome. Maintaining recovery from addiction is one of the most challenging journeys anyone can embark on, but it is also one of the most rewarding. Lately, I have once again been able to enjoy it.

The last couple months of my life have been pretty crazy, to put it mildly. The power of addiction really manifested and I fell prey to a relapse. When we recovering addicts stop doing the things that kept us sober, that is often what happens. And though I am still upset about letting it happen, it has helped me jump back into my recovery full force.

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For the first time in a couple months, I have been extremely hopeful about life and able to enjoy the little things. I’ve been going to 12-Step meetings again, waking up happy, enjoying my morning routine of coffee and newspapers, and hanging out with my loved ones.

I decided it would be best not to attend summer semester classes, as focusing on my recovery and myself seemed like the best option. After working two jobs and going to class in the spring, it has been nice to actually relax. I was extremely busy this spring, and my biggest mistake was thinking simply staying busy would keep me sober.

I think, overall, it has been a tremendous learning experience. I wish I would’ve made my recovery more of a priority while staying busy, but now I know I can NEVER let up in staying sober. Recovery is a never-ending journey, and I’m just glad to be alive to be able to experience it still.

Blogging and journaling definitely helps me, but I keep up this blog and website to help others and allow other people just like me have somebody they can relate to. If anything, I hope my relapse will show others how intense addiction is. It truly is a disease. But just because it’s a disease doesn’t mean we have an excuse to use. I relapsed because I let up on my recovery. Recovery gives us the freedom of choice, and I messed up.

But one thing I am proud of is the fact that I got back up and fought; I didn’t give up. Now I have that freedom of choice again. This time I’m not gonna’ let up. Just for today I am clean and sober and loving recovery again.


Obama Pushing To Expand Drug Treatment With Help From Macklemore

By Aaron Emerson

Whatever your views are on President Barack Obama, it’s hard to deny that he has one of the most progressive approaches in treating drug abuse in America than any modern president.

Obama is urging Congress to fund more treatment to fight opioid abuse, hoping to get them to latch onto his proposal he made months ago that calls for over $1.1 billion in funding to expand access to treatment for heroin and prescription drugs.

Last week he even teamed up with rapper Macklemore in a video, calling on Congress to make something happen.

“I’m here with President Obama because I take this personally. I have abused prescription drugs and battled addiction,” Macklemore said. “If I hadn’t gotten the help I needed when I needed it, I might not be here today. And I want to help others facing the same challenges I did.”

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The money Obama is proposing would be used for various projects, including making Methadone and Suboxone more accessible. Though a lot of people in the recovery community don’t agree with using medicine to treat addiction, the fact of the matter is it’s been repeatedly proven that, when combined with therapy and support groups, they provide the highest rate of success of any treatment method.

When I was in active addiction, I went to rehab after rehab. They all used the same approach: meetings, meetings, meetings, and more meetings. Every time I got out I would relapse. Nobody ever tried anything different, until I got hooked up with a recovery coach who suggested trying Methadone. It was when I tried that and started going to 12 step meetings that my recovery started. Maybe some people reading this will say that my recovery isn’t real or that I was just substituting one drug for another, but I know the truth about my own recovery.

That’s why I am in full support of Obama’s proposal. The money he wants the government to fund will also give police and families more access to Narcan, a drug that reverses heroin and prescription drug overdoes. It would also give local mental health and substance abuse agencies more money, something that is badly needed, as overdose deaths from opioids have tripled since 2000 and more people are abusing opioids than ever before. Another key part of Obama’s plan is to provide more training to doctors on the effects and dangers of prescription drugs. I know many people whose addictions were started because of doctors prescribing them large amounts of Vicodin and other opioid pills.

I don’t know if Congress will even take a look at Obama’s proposal. But they should. It is easier for people in this country to find cheap heroin than to find treatment. Many times addicts have to wait weeks or even months to find a bed in rehab – if they can even find one at all. Our treatment system is broken and it’s time for a change. More funding is absolutely necessary. If you agree with this, think about contacting your state’s senator or your district’s representative in the U.S. House. In Lansing, our current U.S. representative is Mike Bishop. Here is how you can contact him: https://mikebishop.house.gov/contact.