In high school, Willy was a baseball star, a pitcher with exceptional accuracy, a bright future, and offers to play college ball in Oregon.
“I was the jock, the cool kid in my school,” recalls Willy, now 30 and an Ideal Option patient.
“People liked me, so I was able to get away with a lot. It took me a long time to get in trouble.”
His senior year, Willy blew off the baseball league’s all-star game because he and a friend were high on oxycodone. Though he’d let his teammates and coach down, he shrugged it off.
In the years that followed, he got heavier into prescription pills, without much thought to any consequences. He’d buy pills from parents in town and sell them to his friends.
“I was making money, and thought I was all cool selling pills to my friends,” Willy says. “I was living in a small town, and everyone was into it.”
But then the nation’s opioid crisis exploded, and Willy’s county began cracking down on illegal pill sales. Suddenly, Percoset and oxycodone weren’t so easy to come by.
“I’d get hot and cold sweats super bad,” he remember. “I’d spend the whole day lying in bed feeling sick.”
Still, he managed to hold down a restaurant job. That’s where he found his new solution to withdrawal from pills: heroin.
“One day I was super sick, and a friend who lived in a little apartment at the restaurant — this guy who was super clean, a really nice, organized person — pulled out some heroin and let me smoke it. I would never have expected it.”
Willy says he was blown away at how much cheaper and easier it was to smoke heroin than to take pills. He was all in.
“Heroin became the big thing in town — it went from pills to heroin. Everyone I surrounded myself with was doing it. They were my good friends, so it didn’t seem so bad.”
For a while, Willy managed to hide his addiction from his family. “For a long time, I wasn’t a needle user, so you could never see it.” It wasn’t until he got arrested for possession that his parents found out.
As a first-time offender, Willy was able to avoid jail time by attending a court-ordered diversion program. But he didn’t take the program seriously. He wasn’t ready for recovery.
“I was able to charm my way through treatment,” Willy says. “I would be clean for four days and then use for three days. I’d flush my system as much as possible, and somehow I would pass the random urinalysis. I’d be sober and normal in the meetings, and then I’d go back to using. I thought I was super cool.”
After six months, he graduated from the diversion program and dove deep into heroin use.
“All day, every day, I just focused on getting heroin. I didn’t work. I didn’t do anything. I lived with my family, but half the time I wasn’t even there.”
By this time, he’d switched from smoking heroin to shooting up. To maintain his addiction, he’d steal money from his parents. “I knew I was addicted,” he says. “I hated it what it did to me, and I felt like I was always running from the cops. But I was too addicted to stop.”
His family, feeling helpless, hoped the law would catch up with him. Eventually, it did.
Willy got arrested again, this time landing in jail. For the first time, he genuinely wanted to overcome his addiction.
Now he had extra motivation: a baby son.
“My son needed me,” says Willy, who has custody of the boy. “I woke up and felt it was time to fight for myself.”
Willy says Suboxone changed his life. His cravings vanished, and he went from feeling sick and helpless to completely normal. The first time he took the medication, he was amazed: “I was like, holy crap, I feel perfectly fine.”
Soon, Willy was able to get a job at a marketing company, rent an apartment, and buy his first truck. “I worked as hard as I could and took on more roles in the company,” he says. “I was really thankful to get that apartment and pay for it on my own.”
Today, 4 years into recovery, Willy is co-owner of the company and oversees 200 client accounts. His son is in kindergarten.
“I wake up every day and get to drive my son to school. I’m on the phone with professional businesspeople every day, and they respect what I’m doing. My life went from completely terrible to completely awesome.”
Every so often, he thinks about what might have been, had he stuck with baseball instead of “partying like an idiot.”
“It’s a large regret in my life,” Will says. “But you can only move forward.”