[The following story comes from a member of the Marriage Helper team and his personal experience of struggling with an addiction to crack cocaine for 6 years. The following was written based on an open and honest interview with him.]
The first time I tried crack cocaine, I was a sophomore in college. A Christian college, at that. What’s worse…I didn’t even know that I had tried it until after I was already high.
I was in my best friend’s apartment one night and fell asleep. When I woke up, my friend shoved a pipe in front of my face and said, “Here try this.”
I had no clue what it was, and I didn’t even think to ask.
All it took was one inhale, and that was it.
One time. That’s all it takes. One time…and I was addicted.
I spent the next 6 years of my life chasing that high.
What It’s Like to Be Addicted
At first, I didn’t feel guilty about it. I didn’t feel anything. All I could think about, all I wanted to do, was chase that first high.
Crack cocaine is one of the most addictive drugs in the world. While the composition is similar to that of regular cocaine, smoking it causes a faster, higher rush that lasts for about 10 minutes.
I would find a way to do crack cocaine every single day. One hit would only last five minutes, so I had to do another one and another one.
When I was in my right mind, I wanted to get away from it. During my first second semester as a sophomore in college, I decided one day, while in my right mind, that I would quit college in order to move back home with my parents in hopes of getting away from the drug. I thought that moving home and moving away from the people I knew who used crack would stop my using it.
I found out very quickly that no matter where I was, I could find plenty of other people who used crack. That’s exactly what I did.
Even though I moved back home and was living with my parents, who knew everyone in our small town, nothing stopped me from doing crack cocaine. All the money that I made went to buying more drugs. All of the free time that I could get, I would take advantage of that time to take as many hits of the drugs as I could.
On top of that, I did an amazing job at hiding it from my friends and family.
Until the night I stole a car and got arrested.
I received an automatic DUI for declining a drug test and spent the night in jail. I should have been charged for a felony, but by the grace of God, my charges would be dropped if I went to rehab. So that’s exactly what I did.
While I still relapsed a few times after rehab, it was because of rehab that I was able to get back on track even when I would fall.
Addiction isn’t a choice. Using the drug in the first place – that is a choice. But once addiction has taken over your brain, it’s no longer a choice. It takes over your mind.
In my case, I didn’t choose to be addicted to crack. I never want to sound like I am not taking responsibility for my actions, but the first inhale of crack that I took was not my choice. I was taken advantage of. That part of it was not my fault. Because of the strength of that drug, it was an automatic addiction. It is insanely powerful.
Every decision I made after that was my choice. It was my responsibility. It was my fault.
What to Understand About Addicts
First off, every type of addiction is different. An addiction to pornography is different than an addiction to gambling. An addiction to crack cocaine is way different than an addiction to alcohol.
Addictions to illegal drugs take things to a whole new level. The intensity of the addiction and the high is much greater than other types of drugs. Many times, there is not a predicating factor that leads to the addiction. For example, many alcoholics drink to overcome pain. With illegal drugs, many times people first try them out of curiosity, and once they experience that first high, it is extremely difficult to stop.
If I could explain one thing to people married to addicts, it would be this: Continuing in a hardcore drug addiction is not a choice. It seems like it is, and when the addiction started it was a choice, but in the middle of the addiction, there are so many psychological phenomenons that are happening that the addict is not in their right mind. Many times, the addict wants to quit. The addict wants to no longer be chained to their addiction.
Realize that the addict isn’t in his or her right mind. Logic is not part of their mindset. As much as they want to quit, something else has taken control of their lives.
I hope that people married to addicts understand this: The addict is not choosing the drug over you. The addict is not choosing the drug over your children. The addict isn’t making their own choices.
The most important thing that you can do is protect yourself and your children. Learn as much as you can about the drug and the addiction. Join a support group. Seek mentorship and guidance from people who have been in your situation. Especially if there are children involved, seek safety. A child should not be exposed to that kind of environment.
If you are still wanting to stand for your marriage, I applaud you. Understand that the stand will not be easy. Understand that the stand will not be over a short period of time.
If you haven’t been an addict, then you won’t understand what the addict is going through. Try and find someone who has been where your spouse is as an addict and has overcome that addiction to speak to your spouse, especially in moments where your spouse is sober. The best thing that you spouse needs for his/her own recovery is a support system of people who have been there, overcome it, and can walk alongside. If the opportunity to go to rehab presents itself, encourage and support your spouse in attending rehab.
Once healing has occurred and is beginning to manifest in your spouse’s life, work on your marriage. Come to the Marriage Helper 911 Workshop to get back on track with your marriage.
If You Are an Addict
If you are struggling with an addiction of any kind, you understand that it consumes your life. If your addiction is anything like mine was with crack cocaine, then I understand that all you want to do in life is chase that high. It’s all you think about. It’s all you want. Nothing else matters.
I get it. I lived it.
I can’t tell you how many times I would get in terrible car wrecks, I’m talking head on collisions and wrecks with 18-wheelers, where I should have died. They all occurred as a result of my drug use. I would go days without sleeping or eating. My sole focus was to get my drugs.
I understand what it is like.
I also understand what it is like to want to quit so badly, yet not have the strength. I understand what it is like to have your family and friends lose their trust in you because of how many times you have lied, stolen, and cheated.
But more than anything, I understand that you have to be the one to make the decision to stop. You can tell yourself one day, “That’s it. I’m done.” …only to be tempted and seduced in the days or weeks later.
If you want to quit, you have to do something about it. You have to join rehab. You have to put your pride aside, admit your wrongdoings, find accountability, and surround yourself with the people and the tools you need to stop the addiction.
I thought about quitting all the time. There were several times I would go a couple of weeks or even a couple of months without taking a hit of crack cocaine. Many times, I thought I was over the addiction and free from it. But inevitably, it would find it’s way back into my life and drag me back in.
You’re not supposed to quit crack. You either end up dead or in jail. To be honest, I shouldn’t have overcome my addiction. It is rare that someone is able to break an addiction to a drug as powerful as crack cocaine.
The only thing I know to tell you is that if I didn’t have a relationship with God, I wouldn’t be the man I am today. On top of that, if I didn’t have the family that I had, I wouldn’t be where I am today. My family completely supported me throughout the entire 6 years of my addiction. They in no way supported my addiction, but every time I would fall, my family was there to pick me up. They stuck by my side through the thick and thin of it all. If my family would not have driven me an hour each way to aftercare meetings after rehab every week, I would not have come clean. Even after my relapses, knowing that I had a family that cared for me allowed me to get back on track.
It wasn’t too long after I went through rehab that I met my beautiful wife. Now that I am married and have 2 wonderful children, I can’t imagine going back into that lifestyle. I have too much to live for.
While I am writing this article anonymously, if you have an addiction to crack or a similar drug and you need someone to talk to, I would be happy to talk with you and share my stories with you. Call Marriage Helper (615-472-1161) and tell them you wish to speak to the person who was interviewed for this article.
My Future Now
I am not even tempted to do crack cocaine, or any other drug, now. I can guarantee you that if someone knocked on my door and handed me $1000 of it, I would flush it down the toilet.
People often ask me if I could go back, would I make the same choices? Would I do it all again? My answer always surprises them.
If I hadn’t have left school trying to run from my crack addiction, if I hadn’t have gone through those six years of addiction, if I hadn’t have gone to rehab, I never would have moved to Nashville. I never would have met the wife I have now. My life would look completely different. I love my life. I love everything about my life now. If it took 6 years of pain in order for me to have the life I have now, I would do it all over again.
God had a plan for my life. God had a plan for what I went through, and the life He has given me after that is one that I am thankful to have every single day.
God does use stories of struggles and addictions to bring good things to happen. It was because of my addiction to crack cocaine that I ended up going to Cumberland Heights rehab facility, where I met my best friend. It was because of meeting my best friend that I moved to Nashville, TN. It was because of moving to Nashville, TN that I eventually ended up working for Marriage Helper. I love what I do, and I would never want to be doing anything else. I love helping people get the help that they need for their marriages. I love that God had a purpose for my pain.
If you are married to a drug addict, realize that this is not a short process. Find safety for yourself and for your children, whatever that looks like for you. Surround yourself with a support system of others who have lived through this. Understand that you didn’t do anything wrong. You did not push your spouse into this lifestyle, it was their choice. The best thing you can do is pray for them wholeheartedly, support them in their times of wanting to quit and encourage them to get appropriate help. You cannot be the one to rescue them from this addiction.
If you are the drug addict and your marriage has suffered because of it, surround yourself with a support system. Go to rehab. Stay in aftercare. Find a mentor. Find something greater than the drug to live for. It does not have to have a hold on your life anymore.
I should know. It is rare for someone to completely stop an addiction to crack cocaine, but I am here to say that I have done it. It can be done, and by the grace of God, I pray that it happens for you.
For one of the best rehab facilities in the country, visit www.CumberlandHeights.org.