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Fighting the stigma of opioid addiction with stories of recovery

October 5, 2017 at 5:40 PM EDT
People working on the front lines of the opioid crisis at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation offer their Brief but Spectacular takes on addiction and recovery.
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Link to our complete series, America Addicted.

 

CARRIE KAPPEL: Opiates. My drug of choice was opiates.

DAN FRIGO: Barbiturates, quaaludes, downers, and then heroin finally.

JEREMIAH GARDNER: I actually lost my mother to an opioid overdose. This was two years ago. She was 59 years old, the most important person in my life.

DR. JOSEPH LEE: I don’t have a personal story, per se. And I think the humanistic spirit of addiction is what really drew me to it.

CARRIE KAPPELL: Began self-medicating with prescriptions that were left over in my own medicine cabinet. When those were gone, I began to do and divert medications from my place of employment as a nurse.

CECILIA JAYME: I was coming off of an amphetamine binge. And what would happen is that I would become very tired. So, I lay down on the couch with my little boy. While I was asleep, I started coughing.

And when I coughed, it woke me up a bit. The house was filled with smoke, and the house was on fire. And in my mind, I said, thank God it’s finally over. Then, my son coughed. And I heard in my mind or in my — wherever it came from, the voice said, you can do what you want with your life. You have no right to take his.

JORDAN HANSEN: The first time I used chemicals, it felt like the universe slipped into place.

JEREMIAH GARDNER: At its best, addiction was a comfort. It was a friend, actually. Addiction at its worst was a monkey on my back.

AHMED EID: Such a bad feeling physically and psychologically. And the only way really to effectively stop it at the time was to use again and again.

JORDAN HANSEN: It’s totally illogical. I didn’t want to get high. I didn’t want to use. I didn’t want to drink. It was ruining my life.

AHMED EID: My parents, when they’d see me high or if I had used, they’d think I was OK. They get worried about me when they see me in withdrawal, because that’s when I look bad.

DR. JOSEPH LEE: We make a lot of mistakes about the opioid crisis, partly because of the stigma. Whenever it comes to addiction, especially to opioids, we talk about drugs, and we don’t talk about people.

DAN FRIGO: People are afraid to ask for help. Families don’t want to talk about it.

AHMED EID: Like, standing here now talking about it, I’m — I’m a bit uncomfortable, because I am not sure how people react to it.

JORDAN HANSEN: I was in my undergraduate program in college, and I needed to go to treatment, and I told someone about it who was in a position of power.

They looked it as a — I think a character issue. I would love for my kids to know that, if they’re struggling with mental health or addiction, it’s not that there’s something wrong with their character. It’s that they may have this illness.

DR. JOSEPH LEE: It’s been around forever. And there have been communities devastated by addiction, even opioid or heroin addiction, long before it became national news. When why kids in the suburbs started to die off is when the country started to pay attention. And there’s a shame in that.

JEREMIAH GARDNER: Part of my mission in life and my mission at work is to expose the public to the other side of the story, the recovery side of the story.

AHMED EID: I owe people out there who don’t know about recovery and don’t know that recovery is possible, that I owe to them to — to let them know that it is.

JEREMIAH GARDNER: If I could talk to my mother today — and I guess I do in my quiet moments — I would really want her to know that my recovery is because of her.

JORDAN HANSEN: I have two beautiful children. I have a 4- and a 2-year-old. I have a wife. I have a job that I love. And I’m happy.

AHMED EID: I have two kids. I’m in Center City, Minnesota. And I have to stop and remind myself of that sometimes. I’m from Cairo. And if you had told me, you know, 15 years ago, you will be standing in a basement, Richmond Walker (ph), in Center City, Minnesota, talking to people from PBS, you know, I would — OK.

(LAUGHTER)

JEREMIAH GARDNER: My name is Jeremiah Gardner.

CECILIA JAYME: My name is Cecilia Jayme.

AHMED EID: My name is Ahmed Eid.

CARRIE KAPPEL: My name is Carrie Kappel.

DAN FRIGO: My name is Dan Frigo.

JORDAN HANSEN: My name is Jordan Hansen.

DR. JOSEPH LEE: My name is Dr. Joseph Lee.

And this is my Brief But Spectacular take.

CECILIA JAYME: Brief But Spectacular take.

DAN FRIGO: This is my Brief But Spectacular take on addiction and recovery.

 

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