Taking recovery from heroin addition one day at a time
Editor’s note: The Park Record has chosen to obscure C’s identity in the interest of preserving his and his family’s privacy. Both C and his parents said they hope his story will serve as a warning for other local youth.
C was born and raised on the East Side of Summit County where, by all measures, his life was turmoil free. He grew up in a small, close-knit town with a loving family that has strong ties to the local church.
But today he is struggling with problems that some believe only happen to youth in big cities, or come from broken homes, or stray outside conservative norms.
At age 21, C is a recovering heroin addict with a criminal record.
"I can’t blame anything in my house. I wasn’t mad at my parents. My family is perfect. I had a good life," he said in a recent interview.
C said he wanted to speak out because he believes that narcotics abuse is increasing at an alarming rate in Summit County. "Everyone knows it’s here, but no one wants to admit it is in their home. I just think people are naïve. They are willing to judge but they don’t look to see what is going on in their own family." He warns that kids are taking drugs at younger ages every year.
The problem, he says is as bad in the small towns on the East Side of the county as it is on the West Side. "In Park City it is terrible too, but it is more infectious in a small community. People are so close knit that all it takes is a few to influence a lot of people," he said.
C’s own troubles began in fifth grade when a classmate began bringing cigarettes to school. Then one day the student brought a film container of marijuana that he claimed came from his parents’ room. The two 10-year-olds smoked it at a family member’s home and were later overheard talking about it in the school bathroom. Another student told the principal.
"We got in trouble and I did some community service and put it behind me until freshman year in high school," he said. In ninth grade, though, marijuana was easily available and he was able to buy some from a girl in his class.
At first, he said, the drug didn’t affect him much. But that quickly changed.
"The first time it actually got me high was on a Scout trip. My friend made a kind of bubbler out of car parts and a filter. It was crazy. I loved it."
A month later, C said, he got a call from the same friend who had a new drug to offer.
"He said ‘We found some pain killers and you gotta try them.’"
Once again, C said pills didn’t seem to affect him much at first, so when they would score a few Lortabs or Percocets, he would trade them for marijuana.
Until he discovered Oxycontin, the powerful prescription painkiller.
The pills, left over from a doctor’s prescription, were in his family’s medicine cabinet. C, who was still in high school at the time, said he snorted one and immediately passed out.
"But I really liked it and that was kind of the start of a new thing."
When C graduated from high school on the East Side of Summit County, his life quickly spun out of control.
With lots of time on their hands, he said, "everybody — the druggies, the cowboys, the jocks — was partying. Everybody was doing everything."
He went to California, where his addiction to painkillers was cemented, and then came home. By that time, the drugs were in charge.
C’s time was consumed with finding ways to get enough money to buy more.
With Oxycontin selling for $80 per dose, C said all of the money he earned was being spent on drugs. "At my worst I was spending $100 a day. I was spending more than I was earning, I was spending it so fast," he said.
When he couldn’t afford Oxycontin, he turned to heroin which was much cheaper.
C said his first experience with heroin was "fresh out of high school. I never even looked for it. It was brought to me," he remembers. From that point on, his body craved more.
"It is the worst thing in the world. You are willing to do anything to get it."
Which is what drove him to stealing.
"You aren’t meaning to hurt people. You just think, ‘I can take this and go get some stuff and pay for it later.’ So you start to pawn off things in your friends’ homes. One day you grab some hunting stuff and ladders and tools and your idea is, ‘I just need to fix myself up for now and I can go make this money back.’ Before you know it you are a couple grand in on stuff that’s not yours."
In hindsight, C realizes that he had fallen into the drug’s age-old trap.
C who is on probation for committing a felony explains, "I actually didn’t get a drug charge. I got caught for what it takes to do drugs. For pawning off things that weren’t mine.
C was arrested and taken to jail where he went through a painful withdrawal.
"Coming down is terrible. You get achy, you can’t get up, but it hurts to sit down. It’s all you can think about. After that you just get so sick, you start throwing up and diarrhea so bad. You get hot sweats and cold sweats, it’s like the flu times 10."
And, worse than the pain of withdrawal, C was filled with remorse over the pain he was causing his family.
"I know it was hard on them. I was fighting with my family all the time. They were trying to help me, but I just didn’t want the help, so I would fight it."
Now that C is on the road to recovery, he is grateful for their support. With obvious emotion he says, "They don’t understand why I did what I did, but they are understanding about what I am going through."
Their unconditional love, he says, is giving him the strength to stay clean.
Many of C’s friends from his drug days are gone. "At least four or five that I have done drugs with are dead now because of drugs. My old group is pretty broken up. They always say there are two places that drugs will lead, and it’s jail and dead."
As to his own future, C is hopeful but admits that his recovery is still fragile. He has found support in a local LDS 12-Step program and says the programs offered by Valley Mental Health in Park City have made a big difference. He said he is also lucky to have a supportive probation officer.
"It is one day at a time. You wake up and you say, ‘How am I going to stay clean today?’ I am staying clean because I am not going to be around anybody that I shouldn’t be around. I am going to go to work and I am going to stay with my family and it’s working."
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Several people approached Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council this week pressing issues important to senior citizens. The issues include the availability of housing for people who want to age in the community.