I’m a mom and a wife. I’m a Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant and Peer Recovery Support Specialist for BrightView Health in Cincinnati, Ohio, supporting those struggling with substance use disorder.
And I’ve been in recovery from heroin addiction for five years.
Five years ago, I was sprawled on the pavement getting a dose of naloxone. I had overdosed on heroin. It was a near-death end to a reckless existence that had started without warning.
Naloxone didn’t just bring me back to life, it gave me a second chance at life. But more than that - naloxone was the bridge that got me from the brink of death to treatment and recovery.
When I was young, I had several knee surgeries. I was prescribed pain medication on a regular basis, whether or not I needed it. And at no point was naloxone part of any medical conversation.
If it were, maybe I would have been more aware of the high risks and addictive properties of prescription opioids.
Suddenly, I was hooked. By 15, I was diagnosed as an addict and the cycle of addiction consumed the next decade of my life. I doctor shopped for pills, took opioids, used cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy to get my fix. I dropped out of high school, gave up the rights to my first child, and married an abusive man whose drug use was like my own.
What started as a prescription from my doctor spiraled into a deadly mission of finding the next, stronger high – eventually leading me to heroin.
I committed felonies for drug money and couldn’t hold a steady job. My young life was decaying. I became associated with members of a Mexican drug cartel and eventually became a drug mule, buying and selling black tar heroin.
I was so far gone, until thankfully, I overdosed. I say thankfully because had it not happened then, I may not be here to share my story.
Addiction is no joke. It’s not a choice. Yes, I chose heroin, but I didn’t choose to be an addict. Naloxone gave me the chance to correct my wrong choice. It didn’t enable me to keep using, like some may think.
The only thing naloxone enables is breathing.
When I overdosed, my body was pushed out of a car and onto the pavement of a parking lot. I was revived by naloxone, I woke up to strangers around me. I refused treatment and within minutes, I stood up and walked away from where my body laid, moments from death. Six weeks later, I entered into treatment, March 9, 2012.
For ten days, I slowly purged my body of the deadly drugs that brought me to that place. I left clean and with a conviction to stay that way.
Quitting heroin was the easy part, rebuilding my life was hard. But it is possible.
I cleared my criminal record, I mended relationships with my family – my daughter that I had walked away from so long ago. I remarried and gave birth to another beautiful baby girl.
As I rebuilt my life, I decided to focus my energy on helping those that were in the same nightmare I had just escaped. I went through a certification course to become a Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant. I have worked incredibly hard to build my credibility as someone working in the field to show other addicts that recovery is possible.
So today, on International Overdose Awareness Day, what I want everyone to know is that if it weren’t for naloxone, I’d be one of the mourned, not one of the recovered.
The second chance I got is only possible with the ability to enter treatment. If an addict is still alive, there is still hope.
When a person is revived with naloxone, that is the crucial time when we as a society must offer love and compassion to them. That is the moment to look at the patient and say, “You’ve been through a lot, I want to help you find treatment and change your life.” Because no matter how far a person has gone in their life to support their addiction, as long as they are alive, hope is never gone.
I carry naloxone with me everywhere I go. It is the world we are living in today, that I need to be prepared to reverse an overdose at any time. The only way we are going to change this epidemic is if we as members of society and fellow human beings call upon each other to show compassion and love. Not one person is immune to addiction. Addiction has no prejudice and does not care who you are or how much money you have or what you look like. I am living and breathing proof why naloxone needs to be in everyone’s possession. My life is beautiful today, because of naloxone.
Amy Parker is a Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant and Peer Recovery Support Specialist for BrightView Health in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is a member of the WCPO 9 News Heroin Advisory Board and a Motivational Speaker. Amy has been in recovery from heroin addiction for more than five years.
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.