A contributor with OD interviews me in this discussion. We talk about my past, my progression into substance abuse, my vision for the movement, and where I would like to see it go. I hope this provides additional insight into who I am and what I hope to become. Here is our discussion…
What inspires you as a person?
Good question, what inspires me is the hope that I can inspire others. My mission is to leave the world a better place. If I can prevent the suffering caused by addiction based on my experience, then I would consider my goals met.
When/how did the idea for OD apparel come to you?
While working in retail the company I was with sold this brand, Tentree, that i was instantly drawn to. Their mission is simple, for every piece sold, they plant ten trees. It was like the idea planted a seed in my mind through exposure to their brand.
There is nothing I know better than addiction. It just made sense, it clicked. I knew this was what I was meant to design. I want to create social change and challenge others to recognize self-worth and break through the stigma of addiction.
How do you envision Open Discussion Apparel?
I want to reach the largest audience possible. Our mission is to change the dialogue surrounding addiction, to provide help to those in need, and to reassess the problem. Along the way we’ll look to educate the masses to develop a better understanding for those suffering. We want to be able to change the way that we cope with addiction as a society.
Where do you see OD Apparel in five years?
Nationwide. I want this to be the most interactive apparel brand ever designed. It will be completely unique, something that has never been done before. I mentioned Tentree and one of the things they do is give you a QR code with each purchase that lets you see exactly where in the world the ten trees from your shirt are planted. I want to take this a step further, each piece tells a story, with each of our shirts you will get a QR code that unlocks an interview with the inspiration so you actually get to hear them tell their story. With social media, I feel we can raise awareness and set the bar to a whole new level.
When did you become an addict?
This question is hard for me to answer because I feel like I’ve always been an addict. If you’re specifically talking about the drugs I was fourteen or fifteen years old but it was really long before that. Whether it was food, video games, sex, or anything that resulted in pleasure it was like I didn’t have an off switch.
What was the first drug you took?
I was fourteen and it was a Vicodin, from my grandmother. I had a migraine or maybe my back hurt one day and her remedy was having me take a pill. It felt awesome, like this was how I was meant to feel, I was hooked instantly. My grandma would do anything to solve my problems or make me feel better so it was easy to manipulate her to get more, more of that awesome feeling. My parents always provided for me but weren’t emotionally nurturing, they divorced when I was 5 so I had emotional issues that never really got addressed, their relationship was volatile, they hated each other and I never realized how much of an impact it had on me Also, I was very naïve. I remember sitting in elementary school during a D.A.R.E. program thinking to myself, “I’m going to be a drug addict.”
Why did you like the feeling that drugs gave you?
I felt like it was an escape from all the pent up shittiness, from the emotional imbalance of my parent’s to unaddressed mental health issues. I had this extreme desire to alter my mental state because for the first time in my life I felt free.
If you could use one word to describe addiction what would it be?
You spend a lot of time around addicts does this affect you negatively?
In NA, they talk about a spiritual awakening. I feel that my awakening made me realize that my desire is now focused on educating people against the struggle of addiction. It lessons my fear of relapse. I am focused and a different person then I was in the past.
What do you do if you get the urge to use?
Talk to someone, usually I’ll go to a meeting because I like talking with people who can relate.
Tell me about the progression of your drug use?
I feel with addiction that are two different kinds of progression. One’s gradual that evolves from casually using on the weekends or during parties which inevitably leads to chemical dependency. The other, my progression, is instantaneous I jumped into my addictions. Within months I was taking Vicodin almost daily.
Did you know you were addicted to prescription pills?
I knew once I got to college. I could see through the bullshit of my own rationalization to some degree.
What happened in college?
Up to that point I was maintaining my addiction. During my junior year is when things got bad. A few different things happened, my girlfriend moved away, my brother went to rehab, and I started to use to feel normal. I always thought I could just stop whenever I chose but, it got to a point where I couldn’t stop. My girlfriend at the time was like my security blanket. I could always talk to her, and she was my support. When she moved I took a big turn, this was at the start of the school year, she moved to Tennessee for an internship. Some time after my family found out Pete was shooting heroin and I felt terrible. My use really skyrocketed at both of those points. People turn a blind eye to themselves, they lie to themselves, and that’s what I was doing.
What substances have you tried?
All of them, it got to the point where I was seeing therapists after my first visit to rehab, that give you a sheet with all these different drugs listed, and I stopped filling them out because my sheet looked like the board of a long lasting game of BINGO. But opiates were always my thing I was taking Vicodin, Fentanyl, Morphine, and Methadone mostly.
What about Heroin?
I’ve snorted it a few times but it’s always scared me. My later college life. Around 2010. My brother used heroin a lot, it was his drug of choice, and at some points I was snorting whatever it was he was giving me. I never shot heroin.
What is the most difficult thing you have had to go through because of your addiction?
The self hate. Life becomes this Catch 22. The hardest things for me are internal. My mental state was a wreck. You almost feel like you could go insane trying to navigate through the mess you make so instead you get high. It turns into this façade, a web of lies, it becomes this house of cards that you know will eventually crash but you keep building higher. You would do anything to cover up your addiction, and the shame you carry because of it.
What helped you work through your addiction?
The winter of 2014, December 6th , I overdosed. I was given two doses of Narcan then was put on a Narcan drip, I was in bad shape. They intubated me, I was in and out of consciousness for the first four or so days, maybe even comatose I don’t remember I ended up in the hospital for two weeks. I have been through three or four overdoses, but this one was different. This is going to sound weird but I basically decided I couldn’t kill myself. Not because I wanted to live but because no matter how hard I tried it didn’t work. I mean that literally because I was dosing with the intent to not wake up rather than figuratively over the course of a lifetime. I couldn’t kill myself and I got tired of hating myself. I knew I had to change something. Not wanting to die anymore was the first step to working through my addiction and I would say O.D. has been the second step. I finally wanted to take an active role in healing myself. Open Discussion Apparel is a part of that healing process. I want to help recognize pain and realize we need change. It all starts with an open discussion.