Thomas L.,

Bucks County, PA

My name is Thomas and this is my opioid story.

I am 46 years old and I’ve struggled with substance use disorder since about the age of 14. Even on my best day I could never imagine how I feel today, that I am sober, clean, and grateful. I spent half of my life incarcerated due to using drugs. I was in and out of the system throughout the first 18 years of my life. Then, I was sentenced to 6 to 12 years in state prison, in which I served 10 years from age 18 through age 28. Once released, it was difficult to adjust back into society. I couldn’t adjust, so, as always, I turned to drugs and alcohol. For the next 10 years, I lived a life of homelessness and addiction on the streets of Kensington, except for the times that I was picked up on warrants landing me right back in jail. Years ago, the stigma around addiction was even worse than it is today. No one understood or even wanted to take the time to understand. I was alone. I just wanted to die. The only reason why I never took my own life was because of my faith in God.  

I had lost all contact with my family. No one wanted anything to do with me. I didn’t even want anything to do with me. As years passed the pain, as well as my addiction to fentanyl and alcohol, only became worse. I wanted to stop and even tried going away into treatment, but it was like my body was so physically addicted to alcohol and drugs that treatment centers would send me out of the facility to an emergency room within two days because of seizures and how sick I would become. I had eventually accepted that this would be my life, that I would never be able to stop. So, I just continued to pour as much poison in my body as possible hoping to speed up the inevitable. My mind, heart, and body were beyond exhausted. I wanted what other people had but could never seem to get it. 

 Fast forward and I was on streets suffering from illnesses. One day I felt so sick I couldn’t move. I ached everywhere and had a hard time breathing. I thought I was dying. I was scared to death to go to the hospital because I was scared of the withdrawal and how I would be treated because I was in active addiction. An outreach worker came along and saw that I was sucking on an inhaler just to breathe. I felt like I was going into withdrawal from everything because I was not able to drink or use because I was so sick. I did have a person drive me to the ER. Most of those three weeks are just a blur to me. I had pneumonia and a sepsis infection going through my body. I was put into a medically-induced coma for two weeks. During that time someone advocated for me making sure that my symptoms were being treated and that doctors took very good care of me. I have had many ups and downs since then because I had to learn to walk again, write again, use my arms, and many other basic tasks. It’s been a process.  

“I was never one to believe in medication to help me get off drugs since I thought it was a sign of weakness. I learned that everyone’s journey is different, and this worked for me.”

This is why I’m sharing my opioid story. I feel that God slowed me down for a reason. I was not able to do it on my own. I had support and medication-assisted recovery to help me along my journey. I was never one to believe in medication to help me get off drugs since I thought it was a sign of weakness. I learned that everyone’s journey is different and this worked for me. Today, I still have medical issues and sometimes still have to face the ignorant people that continue to stigmatize me from my past, but I am grateful for today. I volunteer with a couple of organizations and help others who are out there struggling the same way I once was myself. I could go on and on about Narcan. I was saved by it over 40 times. I should have been dead but I am here for a reason, to help others and give back. I have been sober for 24 months now and have started to take classes to become a Certified Recovery Specialist as I hope to soon work in this field helping others. Recovery is possible! I am living my best life ever.