MOUNT VERNON — Statistics shed light on all manner of human behavior, drug use among them. Behind the cold, hard numbers, though, are faces of real people enduring real pain.
The experiences of one recreational drug user who spiraled into addiction, and of a husband and father hooked on painkillers, are cautionary tales. Their common thread is that both have broken the cycle of addiction, but at great cost. The names Dave and Jim are fabrications, but their stories are true.
Dave is 26. He grew up in Columbus and spent time with relatives in Knox County during the summer. It was here, between his freshman and sophomore years, that a cousin introduced him to marijuana. Smoking pot soon became an almost daily habit, and he occasionally took “ecstasy” tablets and sniffed cocaine.
“My grades suffered, but I was good with my hands and apprenticed as a plumber after I graduated,” Dave says. “By the time I was 21, I was making pretty good money.” With few responsibilities outside of work, Dave spent much of his money on partying, and his occasional use of cocaine became chronic.
“I loved it from the first time I tried it,” Dave recalls, “but it was expensive, so I started selling to friends to support my habit.” One of those friends turned him on to heroin, which was cheaper than cocaine and often easier to find.
“I had heard scary things about it, but heroin was unbelievable,” he says. “All my problems just went away when I was using. The first time was great, and after the second time I had to have more. It happened that fast. It took over my life.”
Dave was on a three-year journey of heroin addiction. He lost his full-time job, and when he couldn’t find spot labor he dealt drugs. He managed to evade any serious brushes with the law, but was eventually arrested for possession and public intoxication. After a night in jail, a hefty fine and probation, he began to re-examine his life.
“I wanted to quit,” Dave says, “but I couldn’t on my own. I’d try, but withdrawal was terrible.” After relapsing several times, he checked himself into an inpatient treatment program in Columbus. He went through the painful detox process and intensive therapy, and emerged six weeks later with the first clarity he had felt in several years.
“I feel very lucky,” he says. “A lot of people never come back from heroin addiction. I’ve been clean and sober for almost two years, no drugs or alcohol of any kind, and God willing I’m never going back.”