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Walking the road of a broken heart and coming back on top with help from cannabis

Photo by The Daily Beast

Most boys spend their days playing video games or at sports practice but that was not the case for *Kel* who, by age 13, was buying opioids off the streets due to the aftermath of a four-wheeling accident.

“I didn’t go to the doctors for a longtime after the accident but I was in pain and I was hanging around the wrong people,” he said.

Unfortunately for Kel, this would be the beginning of an on-again, off-again relationship with drug abuse and addiction. Kel said that his heavy drug use started with flexeril and hydrocodone. By 15, he was snorting heroin. However, he said he did not become addicted to heroin at the time. Rather, he saw heroin as an occasional party drug.

“The first time I tried it was with a friend after school but after that I only did it in the moment. I enjoyed the rush.”

Over the next two years Kel would also dabble in Xanax, Percocet and salvia but he said his real addiction started when he was 18, after he drove a former friend to meet up with a person who owed his friend money but once they had gotten to the location where they had agreed to meet, Kel realized that the trip wasn’t about the money.

“Once we got there this guy pulls up, my friend gave him some money and the other guy gave him three bags of heroin and started crushing it up when he got back to the car,” Kel said. “He asked me if I wanted to join him and I thought sure, I’ve tried heroin before, I’ve just never shot it up but I’ll be fine.”

Kel added that he decided to inject the drug for the first time that day because his friend told him that it was cheaper and it would get you higher that it would if he snorted it. But Kel didn’t try it out of curiosity, he tried it in an attempt to mend his first real heartache. He said what pushed him over the edge was hearing the song that he and his first love had shared before their breakup which had occurred two months earlier.

“When my friend and I were on the way to meet this guy, our song came on and I was beside myself and distraught. It was hard because she knew me when I was the best person I have ever been. I wasn’t touching drugs at the time so I had more clarity.”

“I had my Trans Am, I had her and I had just graduated high school. Things were really starting to look up but things didn’t end up like I imagined and about two to three weeks later, I was addicted. I just kept going down until I was back on the pills, partying with friends until 3 a.m. and stealing cars and money to get drugs. I was a mess,” he said.

In total, Kel said he was addicted to heroin for three-and-a-half years. In that time, he spent nearly $80,000 on heroin and had hit rock bottom six times before he accepted the fact that he needed help.

One may read this and say to themselves, where were his parents during this time? How could they let this happen? The truth was that he didn’t tell his parents about any of his drug use until he asked this mom to help him seek out rehabilitation services for his 19th birthday.

“I always had someone there for me but when I started doing the drugs, I pushed away. I didn’t have the heart to tell them so I wouldn’t go home. I would stay with friends and I would only show up for holidays or birthdays but I started losing their trust so I finally told my mom. She was mad but she agreed that I needed to go,” he said.

Another factor that led Kel to realize that he had a problem was seeing what was happening to his friends who were also using opioids.

“I’ve seen four of my friends die from heroin and some of them are in prison now,” he said. I can count on all 10 fingers how many times I could have died by the time I was 18. I look back now and think, how am I alive when all the kids I grew up with aren’t?”

But the definitive moment of no return for Kel was when a friend who he had met in rehab relapsed and died after one year of being sober.

Kel said that they met during his last stay in rehab and described his friend as an older brother and safety net.

“That was the line in the sand. After that, I knew I was never going to go back to heroin again,” he said.

Like many people who go to rehab, Kel found the process to be very difficult. From ages 19 to 21, he had been to rehab seven times in four different facilities and had been put on the opioid blocker, Subutex while he was there but still suffered from withdrawals.

“When I was going through withdrawals from heroin I could hardly ever sleep and I had restless leg syndrome real bad. There were nights when I wanted to cut my legs off,” he said.

While the physical symptoms of heroin withdrawal were hard for him to overcome, Kel added that the symptoms that bothered him the most were the psychological effects the withdrawals had on him.

“You’re constantly fighting battles with your brain. You want to get clean but there’s still a part of you that says, yes, go get the heroin by any means necessary.”

Despite all of his struggles, Kel said that cannabis was not suggested to him in rehab as a treatment to combat opioid addiction and he didn’t consider it as a treatment until a friend suggested it to him.

“When I was in rehab, all of the facilities I went to strongly discouraged marijuana but a friend of mine had just come back from a rehab program in Maryland and he told me that they told him it could possibly work...I had smoked pot before but I would have never thought it could be a treatment for this,” he said.

Once he found out that cannabis was a potential treatment, Kel started to realize that just the smell of cannabis would help him with his cravings so he decided to get his medical marijuana card.

Since leaving rehab, Kel said he has been using thought techniques that he learned in therapy in addition to cannabis to help him resist going back to any of the drugs he had used in the past.

“It helps when you feel the urge to do it, it helps with the anxiety and it helps with taking your mind off of using other drugs. It also helps me knowing that marijuana comes from the ground. It’s a plant, everything else you have to make yourself and all the chemicals in it can kill you.”

Now 24, Kel is 51 months sober and working as a computer numeric control machinist and is a new dad. He has an 8-month-old son who makes him even more motivated to stay clean.

“He’s changed my life and if I was still addicted to heroin I wouldn’t be able to have him in my life and I couldn’t imagine that now at all.”

Kel added that he wants to share his story in hopes that it will help someone else who is suffering from drug abuse or addiction

“I’ve trashed my body, I’ve filled it full of chemicals, I’ve ruined relationships and I’ve taken advantage of people. I look back now and I realize that it’s a real burden that I have to carry around for the rest of my life but I know I’ve changed. I’m happy with what’s happening and things are getting better for me now but I want to help people,” he said.

“I want to let people know that if getting clean was easy, anyone would do it and if you stay sober after your first time (in rehab) that’s amazing but don’t feel bad if you have to go back. It’s gonna suck but it’s a better option among the three you have; still being addicted, being in jail or death.”


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