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How a Sports Injury Lead to Opiate Addiction

— September 3, 2019

There are times that the “cure” for something – in this case, an injury – can create even worse problems, such as opiate addiction.

I grew up trying out and playing every sport I could. I wanted to figure out which one I was best at and which one I enjoyed the most. I started out playing T-ball, baseball and soccer as a toddler. Once I turned 8, I was allowed to play the sport I watched on television every Saturday and Sunday – football. I was average at every other sport. I fell in love with the game of football. Autumn was my favorite season due to the weather cooling down, the leaves changing color, Halloween but most of all, football. I studied it, practiced it, lived it and breathed it. As kids, we’re often asked what we want to be when we grow up. I had a dream that a lot of kids do – to make it to the big leagues. I wanted to play the sport I loved for the rest of my life. I wanted to earn a living playing every Sunday. Yes, football might have been an addiction but it was a healthy one at that. If only I knew at a young age just how much my life was going to change for the worse after a devastating injury in high school.

A lot of people’s opiate addiction begins with some form of painkiller. I think it is fair to wonder just how many become addicted due to prescriptions from freak injuries and accidents. Opiates are well documented as being one of the most addictive substances. The feeling of euphoria is like none other. I would begin to misuse my prescriptions. By the time I was recovered from surgery and my injury, I was a full-blown addict at the age of 18. My grades slipped in school. I didn’t even care about college anymore, in part because I was no longer able to achieve my lifelong dream. I gave up on myself, my family and my life. I felt as though my purpose was lost. I was constantly scheming of ways to get money for my newfound addiction, even if it meant lying, cheating or stealing. My misuse of prescription drugs created a snowball effect which ultimately led me to injecting heroin when the opportunity presented itself. 

Most heroin addictions begin with the discovery of prescription opioids, regardless of whether it’s by curiosity, chance or temptation. Opiate addiction really is a black hole. Once you get sucked in, it is very difficult to get out. The withdrawal effects are unmanageable. I resorted to any means necessary to get my next fix just so they would stop. The worst part about it all was that my family knew something was wrong, but they were too afraid to intervene. I was constantly irritable, agitated, moody and unpredictable at the peak of my addiction. I cut myself out of my own family and tried to stay away as much as possible, as most addicts do. I was in denial that I was an addict. I was just a victim, having difficulty with living life on life’s terms. I was not able to cope with certain truths. I lived in my own, self-centered world. My reality was distorted. I was living in a world where anything goes. I played by my own rules. I was exhausted mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I was numb to every emotion. If anything, I held a lot of resentment, hatred and anger towards most. Self-loathing fueled my addiction. I was incapable of loving myself or anyone else for that matter. My next fix was all I cared about. My family would eventually grow tired and worried of my self-destructive ways. Something had to give.

Signs by fence line: “Don’t give up,” “You are not alone,” “You matter.” Image by Dan Meyers, via
Signs by fence line: “Don’t give up,” “You are not alone,” “You matter.” Image by Dan Meyers, via

My family finally reached out and offered to get me into a medication assisted treatment program. Opiates are a double-edged sword. Overdosing can be fatal but so can the withdrawals, which is why finding the best treatment option is important. Due to the highly addictive nature of opiates, effective treatment and aftercare to prevent relapse is necessary. Addiction can happen to anyone. Opiate addiction is a matter of life and death.

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