12-step program

Karen McGinnis -What God Gave Me

Photo courtesy Karen McGinnis

At age 37, after 20 years of battling the disease of addiction, Karen McGinnis found a reason to make a change and make it work: the birth of her son.

 "I’m a single, independent, fully self-supporting woman today. And it’s the most liberating thing I’ve ever experienced because there was a time in my life where I took advantage of the system. And I have overcome all of that."

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You know they say that the disease of addiction is greater than the love that a mother has for her child. I intellectually understood that, but I didn’t feel it until it was happening to me.

But at the age of 35, God said to me, “I have carried you through some storms. I’ve put angels around you to protect you all those nights that you were driving in a blackout and you were walking the streets homeless. You’ve had one DUI, you’ve had two DUI’s, you’ve had three DUI’s. You’ve lost great jobs, you’ve lost your soul, you’ve lost your family. You’ve -- you are going to kill yourself. Or you’ve going to end up in prison. So I’m about to do something for you. It’s going to be very tangible. And it’s going to give you a reason to want to live.”

So I had my first child when I was 36 years old. By the time Owen was a couple months old, DCF stepped in – the Department of Children and Families. I was an unfit mother. So he was removed from my care. And I was left with an opportunity to go into the drug courts and work on Karen so I could get my son back.

I was headed down that spiral for 20 years. I started drinking alcohol at the age of 14. The alcohol led to street drugs. The street drugs led to opioids and doctor shopping and -- I had for 10 years already been in and out of treatment centers, and halfway houses, and structured living, and jail and .. you know, so what was so different this time? Because I was still addicted to drugs and alcohol and I still loved my alcohol and drugs more than I loved this beautiful little child that God had blessed me with.

I kicked and screamed and finally went into treatment for a good solid 6 months of inpatient and a couple months of outpatient. And I did everything I could to get Owen back. I fixed the outside. I went and got a great job. I got insurance. I got a nice, fancy Camaro. And it looked real pretty on the outside because I wanted my son back.

And I got him back. But what I failed to do is, I failed to work on Karen. I failed to take a look at what was really going on. What is causing me to continually and insanely – knowing that there is going to be significant consequences, whether it’s loss of marriage, loss of child, loss of job, arrest – still continue to pick up that substance and start the cycle all over again?

I did not do a lick of work on Karen. I did not work a 12-step program. I didn’t reach out to my higher power. I didn’t build a network. I -- I just fixed everything real pretty on the outside, got my son back, went back to work, and before you know it, life started showing up. I started getting stressed out at work. I was stressed out being a single mother, a lot of resentment still towards Owen’s father, a lot of anger. Before I knew it, I found myself at the liquor store.

One is too many, a thousand is never enough. When I put that substance of whatever it is in my system, it sets off a chemical reaction within me and I start the obsession and the compulsion and I want more. Trying to fill that void, trying to find that high.

You know within a couple of days I was a no-call no-show at work. My parents ended up coming to my apartment and found me, naked on the couch with empty bottles of Crown Royal. And my father called DCF again. And Owen was removed from me.

So now we are at Owen is not quite even two years old yet and DCF has already removed him from my care twice. That wasn’t enough to stop me. How did this happen? I was so guilty and shameful, I was off on a mission to really kill myself for the next three months, drinking and overdosing and driving drunk and…

Finally, my parents stepped in and here in the state of Florida we have what’s called a Marchman Act. If you have a loved one that is using substances and you know that they are a threat to themselves or the community, you can take it down to the courthouse and get the law involved. And the law did get involved.

Judge Espinoza who is our drug court judge here in Tampa, he ordered me to go back into treatment. I knew that was my saving grace. That, hey you know what? My parents do still care about me. They care enough about me that they were willing to go down to the courthouse to save my life. They might not be talking to me right now, and I might think that they hate me but they love me. And they saved my life by doing that.

This works if you work it. Recovery is possible. There is hope.

I wanted to start from a fresh clean slate at 37 years old because Owen was the only thing I’ve ever done perfect in my life. And I refuse to let the disease of addiction take that from me too.

And I went back into treatment and I started following suggestions. You know we learn from behaviors over, over time on how to get what we want as addicts. And someone had told me, “Karen, if you could just use those skill sets in a positive way, you will be amazing.”

A large part of recovering is being surrounded by people who are like-minded; people that have gone through what you’ve gone through. Yes, we come from all very diverse backgrounds, and some of us are tall and short and fat and skinny. And some of us are Hispanic and Caucasian and African-American and Chinese but we all have one common thread: the disease of addiction. You know, I think it’s so important for us to come together and, and build those relationships with other people that know what we’re going through so we can feel like hey, you’re not alone, you’re not different, you’re not unique.

And that is one of the reasons that I work in the field that I work in. Because I can empathize with what you, ma’am, are going through, sitting on my couch in my admissions office. I know what you’re going through. I’ve been there 15 times, sitting on that couch with my mom and dad or my husband sitting over there so I understand what you, husband and mother and father are going through.

I do this because life is rich. And life is a gift. And we have to stay in the present. This is a wonderful life.

I’m a single, independent, fully self-supporting woman today. And it’s the most liberating thing I’ve ever experienced because there was a time in my life where I took advantage of the system. I took advantage of Medicaid. I took advantage of food stamps. I took advantage of my mother and father. I took advantage of men. I took advantage of people to get what Karen wanted. And I have overcome all of that.

Never did I ever think at 12 years old, that I was going to be 40 years old, a single mom, and have lived the life that I live. And I’m so grateful, so grateful I’ve gone through what I’ve gone through to find what I found.

And I believe that God will allow us to go through that, to get to a point in our lives to where we have no other choice but to cry out for Him to help us.

And, and, I’ve – I’ve made a mess of my life and I believe that there is something greater than myself that can restore me back to sanity and give me the life that You always intended me to have.

And that is something to be grateful for.

My name is Karen McGinnis and this is my story.

Kim Manlove -Surviving the Worst Loss

Photo by Rocky Rothrock, courtesy Kim Manlove

Grief is an individual experience. When the Manloves' son David died from a drug-related event, Kim's feelings of guilt and shame overwhelmed him  -- but it did not divide him from his wife and together they have found acceptance.     

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You know, we first discovered that he had a problem in late 2000. He was 16 at the time.

It started with marijuana and then eventually alcohol. There were some pills. We didn’t know what they were -- pharmaceuticals of some sort.

We got our son into treatment, and while he was getting help, we were getting some education about the disease of addiction, that it was chronic, that there was also could be a genetic component. And that it could be deadly.

But we of course didn’t think anything about that. We just concentrated on supporting our son in every way that we could.

We began 2001 with a lot of hope. About five months into treatment, he had been doing well and we had been pleased with his progress, and so he came to us on one day and asked if he could go swimming at a friend’s house. We knew the kids he was going to be swimming with, and he’d been doing well, so we decided to kind of lessen the reins a little bit, and said sure.

They swam for a while, and then the girls decided to go in and have lunch. David then and his friend went to a nearby drug store, bought a can of computer duster. David had learned somehow that he could inhale the propellant, which would give him a very brief high, anywhere from 10 to 15 seconds, and it wouldn’t show up on the drug screens. I don’t think he knew is that in some cases computer duster can cause something called Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome, a disruption of the electrical activity of the heart, and can also bring on a heart attack.

They were passing the can back and forth, taking turns, going underneath the water. And then at one point, David didn’t come back up. He’d gone into Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome while he was underneath the water. His body’s first reaction, naturally, was to try and take a breath. He opened his mouth and took in all water.

The main cause of death was drowning. The secondary cause of death was Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome.

While the EMTs were there, the parents had called my wife. So Marissa drove to the hospital, and by that time, he was already gone.

I was actually a couple of thousand miles away in Phoenix, Arizona. I got the call from her saying that he was – had died. I rushed to the airport. This is before 9/11. I basically told the ticket counter what had happened. And they -- they were great. They didn’t ask for any documen-tation or anything. I mean they could tell that I was distressed, and immediately put me on the first plane directly back to Indianapolis. And so --- but that, that was -- that flight was the worst. Just so much going on in my head.

The addiction gene ran on my side of the family. I had two uncles who had -- were alcoholic on my father’s side, and I was someone who overindulged on a regular basis. I had already pledged to my wife that I would know how to help him and get through this, and I failed at that. Between the grief and the guilt, you know, I began to spiral down myself, drinking more alcohol and then I began also abusing the anti-depressants that I was being prescribed for the grief and the guilt and the depression. To the point where I began shopping doctors for the medications. I had a tragic story. It was pretty easy for me to go to another physician and share the same story and immediately get a script for Xanax.

One day, my wife and my son, my other son, my older son, came home and found me in a blackout. And I can still remember coming out of that blackout seeing, you know, my wife screaming at me and saying, “What the hell is wrong with you?”

I said, “I’m in trouble. I’ve been abusing alcohol and drugs, and I think I need to get help.”

My situation was so serious that I ended up having to come in-patient at that point in time.

Part of the recovery regimen, too, was going to 90 meetings in 90 days, and I ended up doing 180 meetings in 180 days. And I’ve been in recovery now for 15 years and I still do 5 or 6 meetings a week. That’s the medicine that I continue to take for my disease of addiction. And the dollar that I put in the basket at each of those meetings is a lot cheaper than the prescription drugs I take.

I’m an academic by training. Spent 28 years as an administrator and dean at the largest university here in Indianapolis. But a couple of years after I got into recovery, I started kind of a new chapter. I went to the CEO of the treatment center and told her that I’d be interested in getting some profession experience in this field of addiction treatment and recovery.

And so we started a parent support group. There’s no question that the death of a child is the worst loss. What we found was, you know, we didn’t have to do counseling in that group. The counseling took place just by people sharing where they were, what they were struggling with, and then hearing others sharing exactly the same things in a same way, and found comfort there for the first time.

After David died, friends, family, and even people that we hadn’t been acquainted with, came to us and often started off by saying, “Well, what went wrong?” you know. And sometimes it would be a little more pointed, you know: “Were there some things that you didn’t do?”

Our children aren’t supposed to die before us. It’s like a violation of some sort of rule. What went wrong? What could we have done differently? All that kind of mental machination is part of what led to my serious depression, and frankly, trying to find relief from the shame, and the guilt – probably more the guilt. Again, because the addiction gene ran on my side of the family. He caught this from me.

We learn in recovery that acceptance is the release of all hope for a better past. That’s become our mantra. And that then has freed us up emotionally and psychologically, and brought us to the point where we can help others, at least try, to work down that path.

I describe our mutual recoveries as kind of what a strand of DNA looks like. DNA has two trunks. I’m one of the trunks and she’s the other trunk. They’re separate and distinct but there are branches periodically that connect those two trunks. And that’s what recovery has done for us. It’s connected us in some marvelous ways.

But at the same time, if you look under a microscope, DNA kind of spirals around. That’s what life continues to do to us is that it continues to spiral us around. And we continue to have challenges and things happen to us. But there is still that tightness and structure of us together.

The most important thing recovery has done for the two of us is that it has allowed us to -- to move on from the worst loss and celebrate our son’s life in a beautiful way.

My name is Kim Manlove and this is my story.

Dr. Faye Jamali -Doctor in Recovery

Photo courtesy Faye Jamali

In 2007, Dr. Faye Jamali broke her wrist.  What happened in the next few months jeopardized her career as an anesthesiologist and made her understand pain in a new way.

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I don’t want to say it’s unusual but for me it was unusual -- because never in a million years did I think I would ever find myself addicted to opioids.

I had never had issues with heaving drinking, using drugs. I even graduated Berkeley without even trying pot.

It was scary how much raw talent I had for being an addict. For someone who had had no history of it, I showed great skill.

At age 40, this is after I’d been an anesthesiologist for almost 15 years, I broke my wrist at a birthday party for my children. This was back in 2007. Had a couple of surgeries. Had some pain. The surgeon, who was actually a friend,, prescribed me a big bottle of pain pills. And back then it was not unusual to do that. We were taught in medical school, in residency, and even in my clinical work place, that we had to treat pain very aggressively, and that if patients were being treated for surgical pain, the chance of addiction was minimal. That was what we were taught. So to me, it wasn’t unusual that he prescribed me a whole bunch and he also said, “I don’t want you to have to call for a refill. Here you go.”

And I took the pills as directed -- every three to four hours when I had pain. Funny thing happened. I noticed that when I had those pain pills in my body, things didn’t bother me as much. I was just less stressed out about everything.

At that time, I had two small children, a two-year old and a five -year old. Life was pretty stressful. I was a full-time anesthesiologist. My husband was a full-time surgeon. Hectic life. But I found out that hey, if I took one of these Vicodin pills, it just smoothed the edges. I just felt like Oh, this is kind of cool – and it’s prescribed!

So I just started slowly taking things once in a while when I was stressed out. But it muddied the water for me.

I also have a long history of very severe migraines that I had gotten all kinds of treatments for. Botox injections in my scalp. I would occasionally find myself in the ER having injection of a narcotic. I was at work when I had a very bad migraine. It was towards the end of my shift. And at the end of the shift as an anesthesiologist, whatever leftover narcotics we have from the cases we’ve done, we waste them. As I was in the bathroom just dealing with this really bad migraine at the end of my shift, I thought, Oh my god, I have this narcotic. This is the exact same medicine they’re going to give me in the ER. And I don’t have to wait. And I don’t have to do anything. And I’m a physician. And I can inject. Let me just do it!

I did it. The headache went away. But I felt so guilty. I felt like I had just crossed a line that should never, ever be crossed.

The next day I got a migraine again. I tended to get them during my period. And I thought this time, Oh, I know exactly what to do. I went and injected myself again. This time though, I felt a rush of euphoria, not just pain relief. It was a euphoria that made me stop, and think, and be angry at myself for having had access to this amazing drug all these years and I never used it!? I mean, what kind of idiot was I?

Over the next three months, I just was chasing that euphoric feeling. And within a three-month period, I had increased the dosage of medications I was taking by close to tenfold. I was terrified. I kept thinking, Well, this is wrong but no, no, no, I’ll stop. It’s just really stressful right now. I’ll stop.

But something would trigger it, and I would just like I just want to feel good again. And I would find myself doing it and feeling worse afterwards because no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t quite stop myself. But I kept thinking, Look, I’m a smart person. I’m a doctor. I have good will power. I can beat this.

Nobody knew. Nobody. No, I did not tell my husband about this. He had no idea. I never used when people were around. It was always in private. And I would use on the day that I wasn’t working. Children were at daycare or at school. I hid it pretty well. I also didn’t know how to ask for help. I felt so ashamed. I kept telling myself, But I can’t be an addict. I’m a doctor. I’m a soccer mom. This is not addiction, this is just some phase.

But I -- I was scared. Anesthesiologists died from overdose but I never thought that that would be me. And I was afraid that if I overdosed and died, I would leave two small children without a mother.

So I had this brilliant idea one day. I would inject into my arms. So I put my daughter’s name on my arm where the vein was, and my son’s name on the other arm where I used. And I told myself, Just think of it, next time you’re injecting there, just tell yourself you’re injecting into their eyeballs. You would never do that, would you? But the craving would hit and I would rip that Band aid off, and I would inject, and I would feel a thousand times worse, because what mother does this? What mother would do this?

The worse I felt about myself, the more I needed relief. And the more I did it, the further down I would get. I would go two or three, four, five days without using and I would see the light. Like, okay, I am crawling out of this crevice, and then fall back down again further.

I had a fight with my husband one night, and I drove to the hospital, went straight into the recovery room. It was like 8 o’clock at night. Said hi to the recovery room nurses, went to the narcotic machine, just picked a random name, a patient’s name, and checked out narcotics. Went into the bathroom and injected. And I woke up, maybe a couple of hours later. I still had a needle in my arm. There was blood. I had vomited. I had urinated on myself. I was horrified. Horrified at my husband for having made me do this. I was angry at him. This is the depth of the change that happens in your brain. The addiction in you does not want you to call it addiction because it’s an existential threat to its existence.

My workplace – they called me one day. They said, “We need to talk to you.” I walked into a conference room. There was like ten people sitting around this large conference table, and they just had all these records of medications that I had checked out that had nothing to do with surgery or the operating room, just a random patient, a patient who had actually died two days earlier who was still on the list and I had checked out a medicine under his name.

I just didn’t even have the presence of mind to say anything. I just said, “I don’t know. I don’t know.” I just didn’t know. It was shocking. They said, “Turn in your badge. You’re under investigation. Until the investigation is done, you’re on suspension.”

And I remember walking out of the hospital wondering, Now what? Oh my God.

And that evening actually we had a marriage counseling session because our marriage wasn’t doing so well at that time. We went home, put the kids to bed. And after things were quiet, my husband said, “Faye, do you want to tell me something?”

And I just looked at him. I thought, Okay, this is it. This is the lowest point in my life. This is how it just completely falls apart. I didn’t even say anything. All I did is I rolled up my sleeves – I used to wear long sleeves all the time -- I rolled up my sleeves, just showed him my arms. And then what he did, was he just picked me up, hugged me and said, “Sweetie, why didn’t you tell me? We’ll get you help.”

And I have never loved him more. Because to be that low, and to have someone offer you help -- it is the world to you.

And also that moment taught me no matter how hard the situation is, the truth is actually easier.

So the next day I called up my hospital and I told them. And I saw this physician who is a psychiatrist at my hospital who is an addiction medicine specialist actually. He had treated me years ago for depression, post-partum depression, so he knew me very well. He’s my angel. He said, “Faye, it’s going to be a long, rough journey, but we’ll take you through it. We’ll walk you through it.”

And I’ll never forget the first day I showed up at the recovery center. I had dressed nicely, wearing a nice pearly necklace, and I sat down and this guy next to me said, “So, hey, what are you here for? Alcohol?” And I’m like, “No, I shoot up drugs.” And he was shocked. Like I didn’t fit the profile of someone who injects. But that’s who I was.

I was extremely fortunate. I had a job where they gave me the opportunity to take a year off. I had insurance that would pay for my recovery program. I was in a physicians’ support group. I had therapy. I had group therapy. I went to AA – I just felt more comfortable in AA versus NA – but just like a 12-step program. I really immersed myself into recovery.

But at the end of that one year, the hospital said, “You can either come back to the job you had before, as an anesthesiologist, or you need to sever your ties with this hospital.” And I was terrified. I didn’t know whether I could go back to being around narcotics. So we came up with a plan for me to come back slowly, be monitored. For the first three months there was another physician with me on every case. I took naltrexone, an opiate blocker. I told people in my group, my anesthesia group, of what had happened. I wanted them to be part of my safety net so that if something looked off, that they would be there and notice it. So we had a big program set up and I was able to return to work.

Most states, except for three, have a physician health program. If a physician has problems with substance abuse, they can be referred to this program, and as long as they abide by all the program rules, like going to meetings, having therapy, urine testing – as long as that is going on, the medical board doesn’t plaster their name on the internet, as long as they are in recovery.

Unfortunately in my situation, California is one of only three states that to this day, does not have a physician health program. So what happens is that if you have a problem with substance abuse, the medical board reviews you. So the medical board took two years before they got to my case – not because they are lazy, because they are backlogged. I was already back at work practicing for a year before the medical board came down on me and said you are under probation for five years. During that time I had to get tested four times a week. I had to take an ethics course because according to them, it’s an ethical failing. I had to take lots of continuing medical education in addiction medicine which was great.

I don’t think being a doctor is a right – it’s a privilege. I was willing to do whatever to do this. But any patient who wanted to could go on-line, put in my name, Dr. Faye Jamali, and what does it say? It doesn’t say I’m in recovery. It just says that I am this addict. That’s hard as a physician. And I don’t think it does the public any good because now physicians go underground if they have a problem.

Who wants their problems on the internet being broadcast? Physicians in recovery actually do much better long-term, 80% recovery rate vs. the general population. Also we have access to good insurance. We have the means to get the recovery we need. The general population, unfortunately, doesn’t.

But in 2015, I was able to finish my probation. During this time of recovery, it’s not like life was peachy. Pain happens. What I learned from recovery were all these tools to deal with life and pain that is inevitable in life. I think prior to that I had wanted to become numb to the pain. I think as a culture we want to do that. We want to numb ourselves. It’s almost makes things worse because rather than actually dealing with the problem, we never address the problem because we just numb the pain. And pretend it’s not there.

I will forever be an addict in recovery. There is no cure for this disease. Your brain has changed. It is not a moral or ethical failing on anyone’s part. And just like a disease we need to have a treatment plan. And recovery is a treatment plan and we should support that, and there should be money toward that.

You know, I always think of this thing when someone is trying to quit smoking, everybody is rooting for them. They’re like, Good job! You can do it! Why can’t we treat it like that? Why can’t we say, Good job! You can’t do it! and be the support that they need. And that’s what I want to be.

We need to have good policies in place, have people buy into it, to realize that this could happen to anybody. Hey, if it can happen to a 40-year old woman physician with no history of this, it can happen to anybody. And, you know, it is happening to everybody.

There is something going on in the brain, a neurochemical disease. It is no different that any kind of other chronic disease. And we have to approach it as a disease, take the stigma away from it, and that way with facts and science, we might have a chance.

My name is Dr.Faye Jamali and this is my story.

Eric Whitaker -Peer Pressure

Eric Whitaker understands the destructive patterns and habits that can rule life. And he's figured out a way to break his. He's clean and he's sharing his story.

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When I was around three or four years old, my parents decided to move us from West Baltimore out to Carroll County, a very small town in Carroll County. It was a shock but it was a welcome shock.

Now, school begins and the first thing I notice is I don’t look like these people, I don’t sound like these people. And I felt different. You know, I am a black man and 2% of the population in that county, to this day, is minority.

At first I tried to work through it. However kids are cruel. For one, I had a stuttering problem. It was fueled by anxiety and everything else. So I was made fun of and I was picked on. But it was stressed in my household to read, to learn, and no one would ever be able to deny you. And as soon as my grades were great – I mean, I was a great student – I was always at the top, I won spelling bees and everything. I felt like I was part of something that I belonged to. So, one could say that like at an early age I was also searching for approval of others. What kid doesn’t?

However, throughout middle school and high school, that same need for approval had me doing things that I really didn’t even care for. I went places with people that I didn’t like or even want to be with. It was a constant need for approval. Peer pressure.

The time I turned 15, I decided to start using drugs. I started to do heroin before I did anything else. I thought that a cool guy my age did drugs and drank. And this was 1995. When I graduated there were four black people in my class, counting myself. What was happening was, I was not black enough to be around them, but I was not white enough to be around the others. That’s when I debuted selling the drugs, because at this point, my heroin habit had gotten insane. I had gone from thirty, forty bucks a week, to now I’m close to a hundred dollars a day.

No one knows what it’s like to need to put fifty bucks in your body before you can brush your teeth. No one knows what that’s like unless you’ve been through this. It’s like waking up with the flu times one thousand.

Every night, I’m not going to sleep. I’m laying down and resting my eyes for three hours, after homework, sports, social time, girlfriend, family time. Getting right back up at four o’clock in the morning. I’m being picked up from a small town in Carroll County, Maryland by older white men that would otherwise not talk to me at all so we can go down and I can get them their fix, their money can get me mine, and I can be dropped back off to get on a school bus and go to school and perform, pass tests, give speeches, and act like nothing was wrong.

One teacher my senior year spoke to me. She said, “You know, Eric, I know you’ve had some problems. And if there was something I could do to stop you, I would. Only you have the answer. Please let me know what I can do to help.“ And I looked her dead in her face, and I said, “There’s nothing wrong with me.”

What can you tell a teenager --especially a teenager that feels like he or she is in charge? When you’re not done, you’re not done. And I was out to do harm to myself. I couldn’t do enough drugs. I couldn’t do enough drinking. Everything I did was just so far off the meter.

It’s not about the drug pulling you. It’s about feeling you have nothing to live for. You have no hope.

So I began to seek the solution. I chose this self-help group. I could show up the way I was. I could be who I was. And within reason, me keeping my story as my story, someone was going to relate and get something from me, even on my worst day. It was about learning how to live again. All I knew was drugs and that’s not living.

So in ‘08 or ‘09, I checked into a sober-living situation. I put together two years clean – my first time getting clean, I put together two years living clean. But I fell again and used. And in 2010, I overdosed for the first time. It was a combination of prescription meds that I was prescribed for anxiety, pain meds that I was prescribed for a broken collar bone, and a couple of beers. So that began my overdose history.

Once you overdose once, you’re pretty much in line to continue that path until you die. And that’s just what I know based on experience. Overdose again, two more times that year. At this point, we know how it goes: I do well, and then I do not. I continue the same behaviors and I get the same results. I didn’t have enough to live for to worry about -- dying. It was as if I always needed someone’s approval to validate me wanting and needing to live. I was never good enough for me.

And I believe that’s what different about this time around. And I’m never going to say, I got this, I’m okay. But I’m definitely all right.

This time I checked into a facility. That was in April of 2017. I now work for a very prominent local hospital. My job is I link people with the help and the hope that they need to possibly seek treatment. Because I practice the principles tolerance, patience, faith, perseverance, I managed to make a career out of my story, my life, and my experience. So this has taught me to look at myself and learn myself. And when someone is speaking, truly listen, listen to learn. Because I don’t always have an answer. But I do have an ear to listen.

I’m Eric Whitaker and this is my story.