Jay's Story

How Jay turned his losses
to lessons.

When I think back about my 5 years using alcohol and marijuana, starting at age 14, the word that comes to my mind is “LOSS.” I have lost so much.

It began in 7th grade with some shaky mental health and my friend, who took her life. I couldn’t understand how she came to her decision. My feelings were out of control and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling. I was really good at hiding it.

I told my mom about another friend that attempted to take her life and was able to help her get help. If only I could have done that with my first friend, she might still be alive.

I was still struggling with my demons and I turned to Vaping Nicotine. Soon, I needed more and something new. I turned to Marijuana and Alcohol. I started smoking twice a week and drinking on weekends. It was fun and a good distraction from my thoughts and feelings.

The first time I got arrested was at the end of freshman year for possession of Marijuana. I lost my mom’s trust and had a curfew and she tracked my movements. Then I lost my privacy because everyone knew I was using. I did 2 months of probation and soon after was right back to drinking and smoking. I soon needed more and more because I had built up a tolerance. I quit sports because I never had enough time to use how I wanted to. By my junior year of high school, I was showing up to class drunk and high. Not doing schoolwork, skipping class, not listening to my teachers and failing as a son at home. I was losing friends that didn’t want to be around me anymore. I stopped caring, I only cared about being drunk and high.

“All day, every day, my mind wanted to know when I would use again.”

All day, every day, my mind wanted to know when would I use again. I was addicted to Marijuana, Alcohol, Pills and Vaping.

Junior year was over and it was summer. At this point I needed to use one of these substances just to get out of bed and take a shower. I couldn’t eat if I wasn’t high. I needed these substances every second of the day to feel normal and I didn’t want to be alive anymore.

I was so tired of using but the substances had become the only thing to get me through the day and I couldn’t let them go. I started cutting my arms with the sharpest blade I had. I had to wear long sleeves so my mom and friends wouldn’t see. One night I tried to overdose on my medication. I took the whole bottle and washed it down with Tito’s. I tried so hard to keep it all down but I ended up throwing up and waking up on my bathroom floor.

In May I drove home after a party, completely intoxicated. I crashed my car into a telephone pole and got back on the road. When my friends found me I was passed out in the grass. I didn’t learn anything from this experience and crashed my car again 10 days later.

In June, I met a new friend and we started hanging out. One night we were sharing a bag of Marijuana with some other kids. He smoked the first bowl and started to nod off. We grabbed him before he fell. Then he started to shake. We called for help, but he died in front of us because the Marijuana was laced with Fentanyl. All you need to know about how addiction damages the brain is to know that when I learned about the Fentanyl, I told myself I would not buy from that source ever again. I didn’t care that my friend died in front of me or that I could have died. Addiction means losing the ability to care about anything but the substance.

Near the end of July another friend took her own life and it crushed me. I lost two people within a month. I was sad, depressed, and didn’t know what to do, other than use more. I went to her funeral drunk and high, a shell of a person. I gave up on everything and didn’t care what happened to me.

“I gave up on everything and didn’t care what happened to me.”

I went to a beach party in August and told my friend I wasn’t going to get too drunk or high so I would be able to get her home safely. That was a lie. The cops were called and we needed to leave. With my friends in the car, I sped down the road with the cops following me. I ran the stop sign to try and get away, but they pulled me over. My two friends watched as the officer put me in handcuffs. I had no emotion, being in trouble was nothing new to me and I had lost the ability to care. My mom got me around 2am from the police station and got me home and into bed.

The next day there was a lot of drama retrieving the car from the police station. When we finally got home, I was crying and yelling at my mom. I said, “you have no idea what is going on with me, do you?” I rolled up my sleeves so she could see my arm cuts. I pushed her, went inside the house. My mind was made up, I was going to die today, using my sword. My mother followed me and grabbed the sword away from me. She pushed me and I stood there looking right through like she didn’t exist. She called the suicide hotline number and eventually I agreed to talk to them.

After the call, I cried myself to sleep. When I woke my mom and her friend (who is the mom of my friend who took her life just weeks earlier), are sitting together in a state of despair. My friend’s mom wished that she had been able to help her daughter because now, she only had a picture of her resting on her mantle. This impacted me greatly and I promised her I would get treatment.

Detox was really hard but I got through it. Next I was off to rehab 3 hours away from home. After 34 days, some ups and downs and meeting amazing people while there, I went to sober living in Portland. While in sober living I met more great people. One was like my big brother. We went to the gym together and he helped me with my writing. After he went home, we talked every few days to make sure we were both doing well.

One night after I had returned home I texted him at 12:15 am saying “hope you doin good”. He didn’t respond and it didn’t feel right. I soon learned that he had relapsed and died the day before I sent my text message. I was 4 months sober at the time and this is when I learned more about loss. When you enter the world of overusing substances you meet a lot of new friends. Recovering from addiction is super hard and many don’t make it.

“Recovering from addiction is super hard and many don’t make it.”

For example, my favorite teacher in recovery handed me my chip of completion and I gave her a big hug when I left. Two months later I learned that she had taken her life. I remembered what people told me about my other friend who died, “he won’t be the only one.” I had lost two friends in recovery and was sad but I stayed sober.

There are many ways to think about loss. I lost many of the things a kid has when growing up, like sports and educational opportunity. I lost my license and the ability to graduate with my friends. I lost my very self as I stopped caring about anything but the drugs and alcohol. Most tragically, I have lost 7 friends to overdose or suicide. So far, loss is the thing that defines my life, but that is changing.

“I am almost 18 months sober and finally happy with who I am and who I am becoming.”

I am almost 18 months sober and finally happy with who I am and who I am becoming. I still attend parties and have some friends who use, but I am loving the sober life. I have never felt better. Looking back, it seems to start so innocently, like just vaping Nicotine, but for too many of us, it ends somewhere else. The last substance I need to shed is Nicotine, still working on that.

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