For a long time, I debated as to whether or not I should write about my path to personal growth. After much reflection, I decided that if there’s at least one person that can be inspired or learn something from my story, it’s worth sharing. This is a story about how one day changed my life; the day of my overdose.
A Curious Boy
Since I was a young boy, I’ve always had a desire to figure out how things worked, taking them apart and putting them back together. Although the putting it back together part didn’t always work so well. My curiosity for how things work led to me explore how my inner world operated. I questioned the religion I was born with; I questioned the government; I questioned life; I questioned society, education, love, humanity, purpose, and beliefs. You name it, I questioned it.
My interest led me to Eastern philosophy and I began to question my beliefs about reality and how they affected my life. The first book that led me to taking an active role in responsibility for my life was The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I first picked up his book in November 2006. I finished it a few days later.
Reading the Four Agreements changed my perspective on life completely. The Four Agreements essentially says that your life is determined by the beliefs or agreements that you have. You agree that things are a certain way and because you put your faith in them, it becomes true for you. I made a promise to keep these agreements with myself. I wasn’t always successful, but I kept the promise to do my best.
On The Edge
Despite my best intentions to improve my life, I had a highly addictive personality. I would often drink 5-6 times a week and smoke a pack of cigarettes a day. I smoked pot almost daily, as well. For me, having fun and using were synonymous. If there was no alcohol, pot or some other drug, our sole mission was to find some. While this definitely wasn’t harmless, it was beginning of something much worse.
On Halloween night of 2006, a friend at the bar in the bathroom offered me a line of coke. I felt elusive; I could think faster, it boosted my creativity. It felt like nothing I had ever felt before. It felt like heaven. Coke liked me and I definitely liked coke.
Despite how it made me feel that night, I knew the dangers of the drug. Pot, beer, and cigarettes were fine, I thought. But coke? That’s not something I ever want to get involved with. I stood true to myself and didn’t touch it, that was until I moved into a new neighborhood.
4 Liquor Stores in a 2 Block Radius
It wasn’t exactly skid row, but it was definitely wasn’t the nicest neighborhood I’ve lived in. Anytime there are 4 liquor stores within a 2 block radius, chances are it’s not exactly gentrified. One of my roommates was an English major and the other a Vietnamese exchange student who would often warn me about seeing “suspicious behavior” around the neighborhood. I don’t think he knew the full extent of things.
The state of the neighborhood never really bothered me. I saw it as temporary until I could move in with my girlfriend (who is now my wife) in a better neighborhood.
My best friend at the time and I ended up going to my neighbor’s apartment to hang out often (my apartment was not the most ideal place; my roommate stayed in the living room). Apparently, my best friend and my neighbor went way back. I immediately thought his roommate was shady, but my friend assured me he was alright.
Just This Once
The first time I went over to his apartment, his roommate offered me a line. I thought, What the hell, one line couldn’t hurt. A few days later, I bought two grams from him. Being the business man that I am, I figured if I’m going to buy it, I don’t want to waste my money, right? I’ll do half a gram and have him sell the other one and a half. I would make my money back and that would be the end of it. Naively, I trusted him. That was my first mistake.
The next day, I went over to see if he had sold the coke and had my money. He told me that they had stayed up all night doing the coke and would pay me back soon. This guy was a professional hustler and I got beat. It was taking him forever to pay me back and I was getting restless, but since I was his neighbor, he couldn’t avoid me. I knew that he was always broke, but he somehow always had drugs. I told him instead of paying me back in cash, he could hook me up with a line here or half a gram there. If he’s not going to pay me, I thought, I might as well get something. That was my second mistake.
Basically, him paying me back in coke over a period of a week or two made me end up wanting more when he couldn’t come through. I cut out the middle man and started going directly to his dealer. Coke was fun at first, but after a few weeks, the come down was unpleasant. Not to mention, sitting in paranoia half the night, wondering if my roommates could hear me snorting coke. The enjoyment had worn off. It was now an addiction.
Attempting to Start Over
In the midst of all this, my girlfriend and I were moving into a new apartment in a better neighborhood. She had no idea I had even done coke and I made a promise to myself that now that we were moving in together, my affair with cocaine was over. The day my girlfriend moved in, I told her that I wasn’t feeling well, in an attempt to explain my strange behavior (I was really high). She was naive – she had very little experience with drugs – and assumed “my sickness” would pass in a day or two. After she went to bed, I spent most of the night in the bathroom snorting coke into my now obliterated nose or outside smoking. I spent every minute sniffing, not wanting to waste any of the intoxicating drug. My paranoia was getting worse; I became increasingly on edge.
It was somewhere around 3am when my paranoia reached its peak. I couldn’t handle wondering if my girlfriend or the neighbors could hear me anymore. I had bought two grams earlier that day and had about one and a half left. I decided I was going to swallow it. That was my final mistake.
I swallowed everything I had left; I was pretty much out of my mind at this point. I felt a strange mix of paranoia and euphoria. It was as if there was a master control switch to the universe, and it had just been turned from three to two hundred and ten. Sounds I never would have noticed seemed like they were having a live concert inside my head. Endorphins rushed like lightning through my bloodstream. My heart was racing, my body was shaking and I was having heart palpitations. The intensity had become too much. I decided I was going to go upstairs to our loft to lay down and try to relax. The last thing I remember was telling my girlfriend that I loved her.
I didn’t know whether I had been sleeping or had gone unconscious. When I woke up, my girlfriend was on the phone with the paramedics. I was trying to make sense of everything, but every logical faculty within me had been shut down. An ambulance was pulling up to our house and she was directing me to go downstairs. I had a seizure due to overdose. My girlfriend had no idea what happened.
I was rushed to the hospital, hooked up to IVs and given two shots of Ativan, a sedative that is common in the treatment of anxiety and acute seizures. My heart rate was well over 200 and my blood pressure was in the 180’s before I received the medication. My blood pressure finally stabilized after the medication, but my heart rate would not go down. The doctor told my girlfriend it was probably due to anxiety and the emotional stress of what happened and advised her to leave until I calmed down. It was very obvious that I felt like I had completely betrayed my girlfriend; I couldn’t stop thinking about her or what I had done. I was kept in the hospital for 12 hours before my girlfriend picked me up to take me home.
When I got home, the Ativan was still heavily in my system. According to my now-wife, I slept for a few hours, woke up and used the bathroom, where I peed out some of the coke, which was excruciatingly painful. Later that afternoon, my sister arrived from Santa Barbara to give my wife some much needed moral support. My wife was 19 at the time and had just moved out for the first time in her life. Needless to say, she was traumatized. I don’t know how she handled the situation as well as she did.
The next morning I sat down with my girlfriend and sister to discuss what I was going to do to get help. Without them, I don’t know what I would have done. They had a list for me of all the things I needed to do, otherwise my girlfriend couldn’t be with me anymore.
- Break ties with all of my old friends.
- Change my phone number.
- No alcohol, no smoking, nothing.
- Talk to my family and admit my mistakes (as well as with my wife’s dad).
- Go to Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings.
Within days, I did all of these things diligently. Eventually I stopped going to NA meetings, because I didn’t feel they were helping me. While some people really need the help of meetings, I felt they perpetuated my problem. Calling myself an addict just seemed to reinforce my identity with being an addict. I wanted to move past that and identify with something else. I wanted to identify with sobriety. The hardest part of this was when someone asked me “What are you doing to get help?” and my answer wasn’t very concrete. I couldn’t show them a slip my sponsor signed off every week or that I was in a rehab program. “I’m working on it within myself,” was my response.
A few things helped me overcome – my therapist prefers the word “integrate” – my overdose and addiction. I began taking my personal development seriously. I quit drinking and smoking pot immediately after my overdose. I broke all ties with my old friends, including my best friend. This was one of the hardest things for me, but I knew that if I wanted to change, I had to change the people I affiliated with. I also didn’t touch alcohol for a year. I quit smoking cigarettes a few weeks later, after being a smoker for 5 years. I began walking to work everyday, four and a half miles each way. I started journaling and meditating. I began reading Steve Pavlina’s personal development blog. A few weeks later, I had read every article on his site (over 700 articles). I was committed.
May 27th was the anniversary of my overdose and the day that changed my life. I still struggle with how to integrate this experience with my life now, it’s hard to think about how careless I was. Somehow I feel sharing this experience with others will help me though, and hopefully help someone else. I felt a lot of guilt within me and dealt with feelings of betrayal from my wife. I still don’t know how she had the courage to love me through everything, through my deception and dishonesty. She is an amazing woman.
I’ve learned that when something knocks you down in life, you have two choices. You can either lay there and wonder why bad things happen to you, or you can get back up on your feet and make the choice to learn from your mistakes. In my case, I didn’t have the option of letting my pride get in the way. I knew that I had made the biggest mistake of my life. If I didn’t change then, I’m not sure if I would have ever had the opportunity again. I couldn’t take that risk.
I made the choice to learn from my experience and take control of my life. If my life was going to turn around, it was going to be up to me. I don’t know where I got the courage to face my mistakes and move forward the way I did. I think there was an angel watching over me that day. I know there was a chance I could have not made it out of that seizure, but I did. It’s funny, I’ve always told my wife she’s my angel since we first started dating. I think she was my angel that day.
A Light in the Dark
I always wonder if I could go back and change it, would I want it to happen again? I’m really not so sure. Sometimes it takes the most difficult experiences to smooth out the rough edges in your life. In my case, it wasn’t just the edges, but the very core of my being.
I wanted to share my story with you, to let you know no matter what situation you’re in right now, you have a choice. You can always choose a new path. Your path might be littered with obstacles, but it’s those challenges that define your character. Those challenges are opportunities in disguise. They are there to test your strength and your faith. It’s in those moments that we see our light truly shine. We only need to remember, that it’s through the darkness, we can see the light.
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