I remember in July of 2012 living in a halfway house and going to Intensive Outpatient therapy with others suffering from addiction. My roommate had gotten a call that his grandmother had passed away in Ohio; we were in Florida. He was very upset, but also adamant that he had to go home. All of his peers let him know it was a bad idea—he had just gotten out of treatment and had a history of relapse at home. He went home anyway. A few days later, I searched for him on Facebook because I wasn’t friends with him on there. I found his page and saw a post from his mother; he had overdosed and was on a ventilation machine to help him breathe. She was asking for prayers for her son. He didn’t make it, and I was horrified. I would find out that, unfortunately, this was a very common instance of an overdose.
The leading cause of death in America for people under 50 currently is an accidental overdose. The key word there is “accidental.” Along with the recent opiate epidemic, there has also been a call to action for more treatment centers to help those struggling. More people than ever are now going to rehab for their drug problems, which is a tremendous thing. But even so, where things get truly dangerous is when somebody is about to discharge from rehab. The story I just told is all too common an occurrence. Usually they are told to take certain precautions, whether it is a sober living house, joining a fellowship (AA/NA), or to just simply not go back home.
Many people who have gone through treatment for at least 30 days feel great toward the end: they haven’t been off drugs in quite some time, and the prospect of living a new life is thrilling. I know for me it was always an exciting time. I would be told that it was great that I felt that way by the professionals at my treatment center, but they would make it clear I still had a ton of work to do, and that I should still be following the guidance of others who knew better. For years, I would say “thanks but no thanks” to their advice and do things my way. Let me make this clear to anyone struggling with a drug issue: my way leads to relapse. It took me a long time to realize that relying on my own mind to stay clean and sober was not going to happen. I would have good intentions, and then my addiction (which centers in the mind) would convince me it was okay to get high one more time, and off I went. This happened many times.
I tell that story because many people do the same thing. Even more disturbingly, an accidental overdose can occur when a person uses the same amount that they used to—except that their tolerance has gone down, and their body can’t handle that amount anymore. I have seen it happen to people for years.
August 31 was International Overdose Awareness Day. If you are struggling with a drug problem, I plead with you to look into what it means to truly surrender and give up your way of life. I was a chronic relapser, and it wasn’t until I completely stopped listening to my own ideas and used new ideas I learned from sober individuals around me that my life changed. I always tell people, “If you were able to get clean on your own you would of done it already.” That statistic I stated in the beginning says accidental because those who passed away from it had no intention of dying. They thought it would never happen to them. How many times have you told yourself it will never happen to you?
**Please note that this article is written by a person in recovery who has vast knowledge and experience but is not a licensed professional. For professional advice and help please contact MindPath’s Addiction Recovery Center or see a licensed addiction therapist near you.**
Daniel Wittler is a writer in recovery from New Jersey who writes for sites like Stodzy Internet Marketing along with many other sites. Daniel believes absolutely anyone can get sober provided they are ready to take action.