suicide

Yana Khashper -Filling the Void

Photo by Luke LaPorta Photography, courtesy Yana Khashper

As a social worker, Yana Khashper knew how to connect people struggling with mental health and addiction issues with the resources they might need. But for many years, there was a disconnect when it came to helping herself. Now in long-term recovery, Yana and her partner run ROCovery Fitness in Rochester, New York.

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I came over from Russia with my family when I was 6 years old in 1992. I didn't speak the language. We were refugees so there was some hardship. And it took me a while to kind of adapt to American life.

We were living in New Jersey at first. And a couple years later we moved to Staten Island, New York. That was a challenge for me. I was about 10 years old. New school. I didn't dress like the other kids. There was some kind of bullying or I was made fun of. I just wasn't someone that really fit in. And I felt really awkward and kind of out of place. And just didn't know, you know --there's some nuances with language or humor that I didn't quite understand.

My parents didn't have much involvement in my kind of school life just because they didn't quite understand. They worked evenings. And so when I came home from school, I really was on my own, to do my homework, to, you know, do the right thing.

But it left me a lot of freedom. And I didn't do the right thing.

You know, I would go and hang out in the neighborhood when I wasn't supposed to leave the house. In my neighborhood there were folks that were older than me. And they saw this weirdo little kid, you know, kind of on her own walking around. So they sort of took me in. By twelve is when I started experimenting with drugs and alcohol with them, you know. And really from there my addiction kind of took off.

I did okay in school. I wasn’t a bad student. I sort of went under the radar, kind of unnoticed. I didn't get into trouble. I didn't excel. And I was able to really go through the motions, of going to school and continuing on to college, and then later grad school.

And there was a good period of my life where even though I wasn’t making great choices, I was really functioning, and I was doing well.

I went to school for social work. And I was really drawn to that field for a number of reasons. One of it was that I wanted to help people, and help people kind of find their voice, understand themselves, and, and heal. And the other part is I really wanted to understand human behavior and relations, and what makes people tick, how they function, how they adapt. And really it related to my experience in learning this new kind of the world and new culture.

In 2009, I got the opportunity to work for the New York City Fire Department in their Employee Assistance Program. And it was a program primarily working with World Trade Center survivors and those affected by the tragedy.

It was an amazing job. I felt purpose. I felt like I was really making a difference. And I, you know, met, you know, such incredible, courageous, strong individuals, men and women. You know, I’m left speechless by the folks that I met there.

You know, I didn't quite have the coping skills to deal with the things I was hearing on a daily basis. I was there for about 3 years, and it got harder. It got really hard to hear the stories and the experiences. And when I left work, and when I went home, I just didn't know what -- I don't know how to process it. And that's where alcohol and other drugs became really a huge part of my life.

You know, it was this double life. I went to work. And I do believe I was effective. But when I left work, I became this other person that needed to just numb what I was feeling, what I had heard.

There came a point where I couldn't contain it anymore. And I felt that I was no longer effective at my job.

I didn't know what to do. I didn't understand that addiction was taking over my life. You know, it’s something that I did in the professional world where I helped other people and I connected them with resources and helped them through their addiction. But it was such a huge disconnect, really a disconnect from reality of what was happening to me.

So really out of desperation, I decided to kind of start fresh, get away from my life – well, to get away from, from me.

So I decided to move. And in the process of one of the very first trips up to Western New York for a job interview, I got my first DWI.

And I remember the New York City Fire Department, they find out about these things. And I remember talking to my supervisor and then the supervisor for the clinic about it, and really trying to hide it, you know desperate to believe that it was a one-time experience.

I couldn't stop drinking. I couldn’t stop taking pills and using cocaine. I really became this really shell of a person, without coping skills.

So in the process of that move, I got another DWI, and I was facing legal consequences, you know, from the very first one. I was able to get out of it kind of unscathed. And so I relocated to Western New York in 2012.

I had gotten a job. I really thought I was going to be okay. Even right off the bat I really couldn't function. I wasn’t a functional human being really. I drank every day. And my alcoholism really kind of progressed because I wasn't using drugs but I was using alcohol in much, much larger quantities and much more frequent.

And within that first year I got another DWI. And with this 3rd DWI, I was facing really serious consequences. I was looking at prison time. And I was scared. I was really scared and I somewhere kind of understood that I wouldn't be able to drink anymore.

I didn't know how to live without alcohol. I didn't know how to even function. So that was such a scary thought for me. That took me to a place where I didn't want to live.

I attempted suicide. And I ended up in the emergency room in the hospital. And from there I-- really I advocated for rehab. It was 2013. I learned about recovery in a way that I could finally apply to myself.

I was able to abstain and I was able to start to have some hope. But there was still something missing, you know. I was in my late twenties, and I just couldn’t see my life being, you know, going to work, going home, going to a meeting, and that's it.

What do you do to fill that void? To fill the isolation? You know, when I got out of treatment, I looked at my phone and I had nothing but phone numbers of people that I drank and drugged with.

I didn't have hobbies. I didn't know how to socialize. Everything I knew revolved around alcohol.

So in recovery, I found exercise and fitness, and really the outdoors. And it really just changed my life. That was something I learned -- that when I was anxious or afraid or lonely, or I wanted to drink or I wanted to use, I could get outside. I could go for a run. I could go for a bike ride, and it would go away.

And then I met a person. I met my partner in recovery. An athlete through his whole life. A service member, he's coming up on 20 years in the service. And he really helped to introduce me to this world of health and wellness.

Right before I had about a year in recovery, he and I were -- it was a record-breaking cold winter up in Western New York, and he and I began to isolate. We weren't going outside. We weren't connecting with our recovery supports. And we were headed towards relapse. You know, we’d both been there before, and we just didn't want to go there again.

So we decided to go on a hike. And we posted this hike our personal Facebook page. And it was just a kind of open invite, you know – We’re going hiking on such-and-such date, at such-and-such time and Join us!
And people came. And we had a great time! We weren't thinking about our depression. We weren't thinking about using drugs or alcohol. We were just having, you know, pure fun.

And someone asked if we could do it again the following weekend. And we did!

It just, you know, blossomed from there-- from weekly hikes to park workouts to kayaking and bike rides, to peer-led retreats to the Adirondacks.

The possibilities felt endless.

And I knew we had something. You know, we tapped into something that had been missing in our lives, in the recovery community as a whole.

So we -- I did a little bit of research, and I came across an organization out of Colorado called The Phoenix. They are a peer-led, sober active community. And I reached out to their founder, Scott Strode. He's mentored us. He shared all his knowledge. They’ve developed an evidence-based and trauma-informed model for their program. And, and we mimic what they do.

We created ROCovery Fitness, here in Rochester, and we are a peer-led sober active community.

We now have a gym. We have a yoga studio. We do social gatherings for every holiday, times that can be really triggering for folks. And we've created this safe, supportive, nurturing community -- really a place where shame and stigma doesn't exist, where clean and sober is the norm.

You don't see folks relapsing when they're in an out patient group or when they're at church or when they're in a mutual aid meeting. It's that time in between.

So this is such an important place because it -- it gives people an outlet. It helps them build the confidence that they need to believe in themselves to obtain long-term sustained sobriety.

It's so important to have these outlets. And it's so important to not have shame, to not feel that they are somehow unworthy or fundamentally flawed.

You know, we’re, we’re incredible people. We’re mothers and fathers and friends and children. We’re productive members of society. We’re taxpayers. We hold government positions. We’re just everywhere.

We have a disease and our disease is substance use disorder. And recovery is our solution.

My name is Yana Khashper and this is my story.

Angel Traynor -Recovery Housing

From her own experience, Angel Traynor knew that if you don’t give someone a structured place to go after treatment and send them back into their old environment instead, they are at a high risk to relapse.

So she stepped in with Serenity Sistas housing, a safe haven for up to 47 people in recovery.

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The last time I walked out of jail, I was 45 years old. I had been using opiates for about 11 years. I was absolutely convinced that I was never going to use again. I was never going to use. I was never going to go back to jail. I was never going to hurt my family. And I tried to do it on my own and that never worked for me.

So what that led to was for the next 9 months I used and I got to the point where I was homeless. I had pushed everybody away from me, except for the people that were doing the same things that I was doing.

And, Labor Day of 2007, I had been using for 9 months. I wanted to die. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know where to go. But I knew that I had to do something. I called a former counselor and said to her, “I need help.” And she got me a bed in a treatment center.

I was supposed to report the morning of September the 6th. When I came to that morning, I was so full of fear. I was afraid of failure, because I had failed so many times before, and I was also afraid of success, because if I succeeded even for a small amount of time, and then I failed, in my head, I was still a failure.

So being trapped in that fear on that last morning, my solution was easy. My final decision in active addiction was suicide.

By 7am that morning, the people that were in that room with me were reviving me.

I was just touched that day when I walked into rehab that I knew, I knew quickly within three days, I was willing to do whatever it took to never go back to using drugs.

And I’ve continued to do that for the last 11 years. I’ve not found it necessary to use drugs or alcohol since September 6, 2007.

I find it very important to share my story publicly. People need to hear that we can recover from our addictions.

I was an addict for 33 years which meant that I started when I was 13 years old. Through that time I was a teenage mom. I was a battered wife. I was a business owner. My business was successful. I owned a home. I raised not only my child but I raised two other children as well.

For the first 20 years, I really didn’t suffer any consequences. And about at year 21, I tried opiates and that was the beginning of the end for me.

The last time I walked into a rehab I had absolutely nothing. I had lost everything. I had lost my family, my business, my home. I was a three-time convicted felon. My dignity, my own self-respect. All of that was gone. So I really started from the very bottom.

I was 45 and three days later I celebrated my 46th birthday. I had no idea what I was going to do with myself. I had half a backpack of clothes and nowhere to go. Gratefully, I had a friend that was willing to take me in and let me sleep on her couch and quickly I had to – not only did I have to learn to live without drugs and alcohol as my coping mechanism – I had to figure out what I was going to do with myself.

I got my GED. I went into college because I wanted to be an alcohol and drug counselor. And I started my – I started my journey.

If it hadn’t been for other people supporting me, I don’t know that I would have made it because what I’ve come to find out is that there is no way you can overcome an addiction yourself.

I guess about 5 years into my own personal recovery, I saw a lapse in housing for women, in my town. There was nothing in the town of Annapolis. So I decided to start doing recovery housing.

The recovering addict, specifically women in the beginning, they didn’t have anywhere to go after treatment. And if you didn’t give someone somewhere to go after treatment and you send them back into the same environment, I already knew from my own experience, they were at a high risk to relapse.

I decided to start the houses, Serenity Sistas. I think I had about $983 in the bank and that was it. Right before Christmas of 2011 I was shopping, I was shopping at Kmart, and I saw bedframes on sale, for bunk beds. I was like, “Oh, I need those. I’ll just put them on layaway!”

Three weeks later, I got a very tearful phone call from my mom. She said, “You’re never going to believe what happened. Layaway Angels went in and paid off your bunk beds!” Which to me was, to me it was a God shot. They paid the entire amount off.

Three weeks after that, I received an anonymous check for $3,000 with a letter that said, “Go out and buy your new mattresses, and go out and buy your new sheets for your house because everybody deserves fresh linens and new mattresses when they start a new life.”

That was in 2012 and we now currently have 6 locations – single women, single men, mothers and children’s, and then I have a location that I use for crisis beds, people who seek treatment through our safe stations here in Anne Arundel county. They go there seeking help but they’re not going to get into treatment for 4 or 5 days because you just don’t get in right away. So we house those people as well.

So on any given day, we house up to 47 people that are entering recovery. And residents anywhere from 18 years old to 77 years old – that was my oldest resident.

These individuals, they’re just like me. They come and they either have lost the skills that we need to get by, or at 18 years old, they never had them in the first place. And they can be as simple as doing your laundry or parking correctly in the driveway. But then there’s other things like resume-writing. You know, if you don’t have a good resume and you can’t get that out there, how will you get employed? And I think at the end of the day, that’s all any of us want – we just want to be happy, healthy, productive members of society.

Often I go out and I try to educate the community. There are things they don’t know or maybe they aren’t thought about. And I have been told on a regular basis that, “Addiction does not affect me. I don’t know anybody that suffers from addiction. Why should I care?”

I’ve had people say that to me, and thank goodness, I have gained a filter because in the beginning, it was a little -- I stated this a little differently.

But we are all impacted by addiction.

I personally went to rehab or detox on public funds, through medical assistance, so that increases everybody’s insurance rates. It puts our taxes up.

There are times that I wrecked cars and I was an uninsured motorist which means your insurance went up, your insurance rates went up.

Theft – that’s how I made my living for a while is I stole things from people which today I’m certainly not proud of that. That also raises the cost of living.

So if you are to say to me that you are not impacted by addiction, I’m sorry but you are.

You drive a car. You’re out on the road. There are people who are under the influence whether it be from drugs or alcohol. You’re, you’re at risk.

So everybody is impacted by addiction.

I got to hit my own personal rock bottom emotionally and physically. With what’s going on in our world today, people are not making it to rock bottom. They are dying and they’re dying young.

So we have young parents that are dying, so there’s a generation there, and then they’re leaving behind children that are severely impacted. I know families where the children in that family have lost both parents to the disease.

It’s a societal issue.

If I were to ask one thing of anybody that can hear me right now, I would ask that you get to know somebody in recovery because the people that I know that are in recovery are some of smartest, funniest, most hard-working people that I know.

And I think that that stems from -- I know for me that it stems from knowing that I took from my community for so long, I just want to give back. I want to balance the scales if you will, and make that right.

Jenny Beetz -Human Contact or Heroin? You Can't Have Both

Jenny Beetz loved how heroin made her feel but she appreciates the stability of her life without it.

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It’s very hard for me to pinpoint when exactly my addiction started, or even what started it. I would imagine I started doing drugs at around the age of 12, really. It just just always seemed to be part of my life. It wasn’t something I even thought about. Which has been an ongoing problem by the way. I’ve always missed that middle part where you maybe reflect and think, Well, should I do some drugs? As soon as that thought hits me, I’m already driving to go buy drugs.

By the age of 16, I had discovered opiates. The heroin. It was, This is my drug. I felt like I found finally my peace. And that is something that it has always given me is a sense of peace. And also a sense of wellbeing. A lot of people, it seems, when they do opiates, before you know it, they’re licking the floor, or their head is about a foot from the concrete. Contrary to that, I feel energy. It puts the skip in my step and I go around the house singing or humming.

Honestly, I have often felt it’s a financial problem more than a drug problem because when I have had plenty of money, gainfully employed and all that, it didn’t interfere in my life in any way. I wasn’t being arrested. I wasn’t crawling around half sick, trying to get my drug. But when it gets to that point, which it seems to for virtually everybody, that is the hell.

It feels like you’re missing a couple of layers of skin. And you’re jumping into rubbing alcohol. It’s hell.

But I took a long break and I thought that it was simply a passing phase. I had gone to college. I got a degree in philosophy. I thought philosophy was all Sartre and Camus, and all of that really great stuff. No! It’s this really boring analytical crap—Hegel, Heidegger -- oh my God, you know, that’s torture! They should use that at Guantanamo.

But I’m not sure what started me again, at all. A lot of my drug use has been because it’s just been right there in my face, most of my life. Every time I’d gone to New York City when I was younger, part of my visit there included good New York dope. So when I moved there, it was like Wow, I live in the land of good New York dope!

And it started out very slowly. I had a boyfriend who was not a drug addict and we started using together. I became a raging junkie and he stopped the first he got a habit. He was no, this is awful, this sucks. And I just kept going with it.

I spent pretty much all of my time in New York City being a heroin addict. In my 30’s, I went to a methadone program. I was very, very, very stubborn. I did heroin every day of my life for a least a year, knowing I’m not even going to get high because methadone has a blocker in it.

Again I was very stubborn. And I still am. I am on a methadone program now. I have a lot of resentment about it, in a way. In general, in life, I have a lot of resentment about my use or not use of heroin.

Why can’t I do my drug?

My friend for example, he – he gets drunk virtually every day, and it’s fine. You know, it’s socially acceptable, really. Well, to a degree. And, I’m not allowed to do my drug. It that pisses me off. It really does.

If I were to win the lottery, all bets are off. I’m, I’m buying land in Afghanistan. I’m going to marry Hamid Karzai, and I’m just going to have acres and acres of poppies. Drug lord, whatever, you know. I’m really looking forward to it, in fact. I mean, this is the sort of thing that comforts me.

But being a drug addict, weird things tend to comfort me, like Oh, I can always just kill myself! That’s a comforting thought to me. There’s always that option if I’m sick of this, I can always just, you know, do my last shot and be comfortable and …

What motivated me to go on a methadone program at all or even to consider quitting is I did lose that well-paying job, which by the way, was answering phones in a whorehouse. But I became homeless. Theoretically the methadone program, it’s there to help a person get off of opiates. Great! Wonderful! You can’t get addicted to methadone in two weeks. They would taper you off and then hopefully you have follow-up care.

Methadone maintenance? To me, it is solidly absurd. I have traded basically an illegal drug and illegal activities for a legal thing called methadone maintenance program.

I can’t get take-homes because I take Seroquel and that’s a whole other horrible – and that’s a -- by the way, a lot of mental illness mixed in with all of this. I am disabled, officially, with major depression. I’ve been hospitalized. And also with post-traumatic stress disorder. Like serious -- like my childhood was outrageous including kidnapping, gang rape. Just horrible things.

The benefits again are I’m not getting arrested two and three times a year. So now I’m on as low dose as I possibly be, and my life has been – it’s stable. I realized wow, I actually feel, both physically and mentally, I feel engaged in the world around me. And it’s pleasant.

And then I realize, and this is a strange way to realize it, somebody just rubbed my back in an affectionate gesture, and I realized I had had zero affection or anything like that, by choice. By choice. And it was again revelatory. It was like this is what I’m missing in my life. -- human contact.

And the less methadone I was on, the more engaged I became. And I got to a point where I was down to 10 mg of methadone, and that was great. My tits came back. I started fucking again which I enjoy a lot. But -- and you can’t have both. It’s human contact, and caring about people, and sex, and boobs and all that -- or it’s heroin addiction. You can’t have both. Heroin ends up being a kind of a boyfriend.

When I rejoined the living, I noticed all these benefits that I had not foreseen. And it’s good in a way. I really miss heroin. I do. And I feel jealousy when I see somebody licking the sidewalk out front – I feel jealous, actually. You know, it’s like, I want what she had!, you know.

I think this is definitely part of my nonuse rather than using, that my writing has exploded with regard to how much. But the quality as well is really good. And then, I started making collages. And I just started with one and now I think I have about one hundred and twenty. And I do them all by hand. And that’s been really great – the art work, you know.

I believe that from the day, the year, whatever age you are when you begin taking drugs, that’s pretty much when you stop maturing -- emotionally at least. And so, in a lot of ways, I’m this, you know, annoying, intellectual artist type. But also I am a, a 12-year old, you know. And if you start doing drugs at a very young age like I did, I mean you’re kind of fucked in a lot of ways, you know, being this 12 year old and negotiating the world supposedly as a 53 year old, you know.

I’m trying… I might cry. Yeah. I don’t know why that makes me cry but --

Because I’m the 12-year old for a second here, you know.

I’m Jenny Beetz and this is my story. Thank you for listening to my story.

Ted Stout -The Doctors Who Failed Me

If Ted Stout had continued to follow the advice of his doctor, he might not be alive today.  The prescribed opioids reduced the physical pain he suffered from Postherpetic Neuralgia -- until they made him much sicker. Then he took matters into his own hands.

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I was 38 years old and I thought I had a sinus infection, up towards the forehead, above my eye, behind my eye. The pain in my trigeminal nerve was intense. Eventually I went to the doctor, and he said, “Look, you’ve got a rash under your hairline. You have shingles. It should last about a week and you should be fine after that.”

Well, I wasn’t fine after that, and it just lingered. I went back and he said,“Well, we’ve come to the conclusion that you have post herpetic neuralgia.” The nerve was damaged and would never fix, that the only thing to do at this point was pain control.

Well, I didn’t quite trust this doctor and found a doctor who was a very well respected doctor in the Fredericksburg area. Right off the bat, he prescribed opiates. And I saw some pretty immediate help with the pain. But it kept coming back. And it kept getting worse. The doctor just kept throwing more medicine at me. And he said, “Well, if you feel any pain, if you feel a tingle, take the drug. You want to nip it. The more you allow pain to happen, the worse off you will be.”

Ultimately I was on something called morphine sulfate ER, and it was a time-release morphine. I came to find out that the stronger medications would take the pain down a little bit. For a couple of hours, it was like oh, whew, relief. And then after about two hours, it started to creep back in. And I kind of would joke that the pain was made at me because I was trying to get rid of it and it was coming back with a vengeance.

Frankly, I never got a buzz off of that. I didn’t even know I was taking it. ut I sure knew if I didn’t take it. And it just felt like I had little boa constrictors wrapped around my bones, my tendons – there was no comfort. It probably took a couple of times before I put two and two together, and I started feeling that it was time to get off of these things. If my body was this dependent on this drug that I didn’t even feel! So I went to the doctor and I said, “I think I should start to get off of this stuff.” And he was adamant that I don’t. He said, “You’ve come this far. It took us this long to get to this point, why would you want to mess this up?”

The doctors who you assume were doing their best – they are humans too. They will take the easy way out when they can. Plus they want to give relief. You know, I was in pain. “Here, take a pill, you won’t be in pain anymore.” I said, “Okay, but I still feel that we should start trying to get me off of this.”

So in 2014, I had a TIA stroke. It was scary. I was 49 years old, lying in a hospital bed, and I said to myself, “You’ve got to make a change. You have to take control.” This had been going on for about 13 years. I decided that I would get off of all medications, every single bit. And I found a facility in Virginia. I contacted them, told them what was situation was -- pain from post herpetic neuralgia in my trigeminal nerve -- and I said, “All right, well, I’m sure you can get me off of this stuff but what about the pain that happens afterwards? Because it will be there. The pain will come back and I have to have a pain management program to fall back on.”

They assured me that they did. They said part of you know, getting rid of this addiction was having a very comfortable bed and comfortable surroundings and all these things. OK, great. So I show up there and it’s-- it might as well have been a mattress off of a gurney. It was rubber, or plastic, with an old sheet on it. And I get that that’s how it should be, because when you start getting off of these drugs and it’s just nasty, nasty, nasty. And there were times that I couldn’t even make it to the bathroom in time. I couldn’t do it and I was lying there in my filth.

After three days there, and I’m getting off the morphine, I had not seen a doctor yet. And I was talking to the nurses there, saying, “When does the pain management part kick in? The pain is bad right now. You know, I’m off of this one drug and the pain is so bad, I would say it was a ten.” Now a ten probably is I want to hang myself and die. I really felt that way. I said, “If you don’t let me see a doctor right now, I am driving out of here.”

One of the nurses I called Nurse Ratched. She just kind of told me I was being a baby, and that if I left this facility she would call the sate police because they give – they give you something, I don’t know what it is, to try to help you get off this stuff and that that impairs me. And if I get in my car to drive, she will have me arrested. We’re in the parking lot, yelling at each other. I mean it was – it was awful. I’ve never been treated that way in my life. And I was paying for this, you know.

The fifth day I was there, the head doctor of the whole place called me into his office --beautiful, lavish office -- sat me down, and I’m thinking Great, now I’m going to get the plan. And the plan was to tell me that they had no plan. They talked about it. They monitored me, did some more research into it and found out that they had no plan for me. But I was welcome to stick around for 30 days if I’d like.

I broke down and cried. It was – I get a little…

I felt betrayed. They told me they had something. I put up with crap. I put up with Nurse Ratched. I put up with being an inmate. And now they’re telling me, Oops, I guess we should have looked into it a little more.

I did have Plan B. There is a place in UNC – UNC Chapel Hill Healthcare-- and they have a very well recognized trigeminal neuralgia program there. And, two and a half hours I talked to these people. I felt listened to for the very first time. It was like Hallelujah! They go to the root of the problem. They don’t mask it. They’ll be no drugs given. They told me to try Tylenol and ice. What they did was they gave my body a chance to get strong and knock this thing out.

He suggested that I go see a chiropractor every week and get a massage every month. Change my diet – organic everything. Don’t drink coffee. Don’t drink alcohol. Drink a lot of water. He said fat will help repair the nerve damage. You need good fats like avocado fats to heal your nerve. He said your body wants to be good. What you put into it, what you put on it, is going to affect everything, and if you are predisposed to this condition, every bad thing you do is going to cause you a problem. Every good thing you do will strengthen your body and it will make things so much easier for you, you will be able to do this without drugs.

I believe that the nerve is mostly fixed. It took about a year and half for me to get totally good. And I know that opiates will make it flare up again. And I know that some will say,Wow, that’s great, but I could never do that. I know people who’ve done it and they are happier people for it. Do they still have pain? They do, a little bit. But are they better off for it? Yeah, they are better off without the opiates. Opiates should be a temporary thing, not for chronic pain. It will kill you. Or you might kill yourself. I came close because it just seemed like there was no way out of this.

I’m a very private person but if my story can help one person realize the dangers of extended opiate use, it’s well worth being uncomfortable with my story being out there in this world. If you hear this, know that you can do this. If I can do it, you can do it. And please try. Give it at least a try. You won’t be sorry.

I’m Ted Stout and this is my story.