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Beyond Bars: Not much decision-making behind drug addiction

By Brian Wood, Beyond Bars Columnist - | Jul 8, 2019

About this time nine years ago, I thought I had "made it" in life after landing a software sales gig with target earning potential around a quarter million a year. There was one problem; I was addicted to prescription pain killers. I lost that job after just 17 weeks of training and it was no doubt a direct result of my addiction. I was officially laid off for reasons of downsizing and my pride allowed me to do the mental gymnastics it took to chalk it up to bad luck.

Looking back it's as clear as day as to what really transpired. I fell asleep during presentations. I skipped the better half of days to go to a random doctor (the training was in Florida) and convince them to give me an early refill on my very high dose OxyContin prescription from Utah. I even had someone overnight pills to me, and when the package arrived I left a meeting to pick it up in the lobby and then headed straight to the bathroom to take the pills.

It was either that behavior or the fact that I got pretty intoxicated at the bowling mixer that prompted the manager who hired me to pull me aside and let me know about the company's drug rehabilitation program. He told me about how there was this one employee, who as soon as he was hired took paid leave to go into rehab -- his position was held for him for the 90 days or 6 months or whatever it was.

I don't remember because I really wasn't paying attention. I was so far in denial about my problem and its visibility to others that I did not realize why he was even telling me, let alone recognize the fact that he was throwing me a lifeline. I knew I had a problem, but I thought I kept things together pretty well. I was even more clueless about how bad things were for my wife at the time. I could have passed a polygraph if I would have answered in the affirmative about whether or not I was happily married up until the day she left.

When asked about it now, I let everyone know, I checked out way before she did. I had one priority, there wasn't room for a second. That's how drug addiction works. You can call a drug addict's actions a series of bad decisions, but I'd argue there really isn't much decision making going on. The decision to use and continue to use and seek out more drugs is already made. The addicted brain just responds to circumstance and opportunity. I can't say I felt like a victim nor could I remotely claim that I owned my situation. I didn't really think about any of that. I just lived from one high to the next.

I remember having a couple of moments where I thought I should really try to quit, but that resolve lasted about as long as my high. I've heard of other people who get fed up with the carnage to their lives or the lives of people close to them. Apparently I was particularly stubborn. Everyone's rock bottom is different. I do maintain that in order to effectively combat an addiction there needs to be a desire to quit along with time away from the drug. For me, it took incarceration. Nothing short of that was going to stop me, not losing jobs, money, a home, my family, nothing. My resolve to be done only came after the withdrawals stopped.


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