While shooting heroin one day, Eddie missed a vein in his arm, triggering an abscess that became severely infected.
“The abscess was festering, and my arm got all swollen and nasty,” recalls Eddie, 41, now an Ideal Option patient. “I took myself to the ER, and they had to operate asap. I almost lost my arm.”
But the experience, harrowing as it was, didn’t prompt any soul searching. In fact, while Eddie was hospitalized, a friend brought him heroin, and he smoked it in the bathroom.
“I didn’t think about quitting,” Eddie remembers. “I just thought: I’ve got to do this better. I can’t be missing any veins.”
Shortly after the incident, a group of friends staged an intervention at his house. They told Eddie they were worried about him and available to help.
“I blew it off,” recalls Eddie. “I was like, Thanks, I got this. I didn’t care. I still had money. I was sitting pretty.”
He’d taken a medical leave of absence from his job in manufacturing, scoring a paycheck for 6 months, followed by 6 months of unemployment.
“I blamed all the stress on my marital problems,” Eddie says. “I was putting in 15 hours day at work, and I was like: Screw that, they owe me.”
In retrospect, Eddie says, he had to put in long hours at work because he was addicted to heroin and unable to stay on task. He’d nod out after shooting up in the bathroom or in his car at lunchtime.
For over a year after taking leave, Eddie was flush with cash. But gradually, his money dried up. He cashed in his 401k. He sold his car, his bike, his watch, his iPhone.
As his bank account dwindled, Eddie’s stress escalated. He knew if he went more than 15 hours without using, he’d feel ill from withdrawal. “I’d get the sweats and chills, and I’d get pissed off at everything.”
Every morning, he’d wake up worried about where he could get his next fix.
“My whole day was planned around doing drugs. I had everything timed out so I wouldn’t get sick.”
At this point, he was still living with his wife and daughter, although his marriage had dissolved. He slept on the couch and barely saw his daughter.
Mostly, he tried to disappear. “You don’t want people to see you and judge you. I had access to a mirror — I knew I wasn’t looking too hot.”
When his money finally ran out, Eddie says, “that’s when it got real.”
Painfully thin, with sunken eyes, Eddie was forced to take stock of his life: “I’m addicted to drugs. I have no money. I don’t have a job, and I can’t get one because of my appearance.”
He wanted to quit using, but he didn’t know how.
Then one day, scrounging around for something, anything, to stave off withdrawal, Eddie shot up a substance — he’s not sure what — that stopped his heart. He managed to call 911 just in time.
“I was dead, basically. At the hospital, they put me into a coma, and they weren’t sure if I was going to have brain damage.”
Eddie spent three weeks in the hospital, working to regain his motor skills. His soon-to-be-ex-wife issued an ultimatum: If he didn’t stop using, he’d never see his daughter.
“That scared the crap out of me,” Eddie recalls. “I wasn’t going to let that happen. I was like: Am I going to be a bum and burn every bridge and end up dead? It was the perfect segue into recovery.”
Eddie started taking Suboxone in the hospital and continued on an outpatient basis when he was released. “Suboxone saved my life,” he says.
Today, three years into recovery, Eddie has no cravings to use.
“Every once in a while, if I see someone on TV shooting up, I think: I remember that. I’ll reminisce about the good times. But I never miss it. I know what the bad times are like, when you don’t have any money and you’re jonesing. I keep that stuff in the front of my mind.”
Eddie works full-time as a receiving manager for a hardware store, and his daughter stays at his place several nights a week.
“I like waking up in the morning,” he says. “I love my job. I’m not clock-watching or irritable. I’m level-headed and nice.”
He goes to work, goes to the gym, and spends quality time with his daughter, riding bikes, making bracelets, painting rocks.
“My life isn’t exciting,” he says. “That’s just how I like it.”