Marty, a 31-year-old male, talks about his real life experience with heroin addiction and his journey of recovery. He is a client of The Gault House Sober Living Environment in Santa Cruz, California and he bravely shares his inspiring story of overcoming the tough experiences and the mental battles with addiction. Starting with being diagnosed with cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma, he talks about how that nihilistic view affected his decisions. He lays down the path to progression in taking pills and drugs – going from one to another – and soon the withdrawals that led him to pursue the path to recovery.
In this episode, I’ll be talking to Marty about his addiction and his recovery from addiction. He is a client at the Gault House Sober Living Environment in Santa Cruz, California. He is 31 years old and he has been addicted to heroin and benzos amongst other things.
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Marty: Blood Cancer To Heroin Addiction And Back
How are you doing, Marty?
I’m doing great.
Thank you for coming. Why don’t you tell us how your addiction got started?
I was a late bloomer. My addiction got started naively. At the first year of college, I heard things through the grapevine about Vicodin, rap songs and Eminem songs. I always heard about it, but I was very naïve. My sister had issues but not with hard drugs. I never had met face-to-face or knew anybody personally who went through that journey of addiction, the ups and downs, and mainly downs. I was bouncing at a venue up on my college. I was going to a specific town in Southern California at the time and one of the bouncers had Vicodin and offered it up. Me and my buddies were down because we didn’t know. All we thought were good things about it. It was the first time I took it and because it was the first time, you have some of the negative things that happen with the way you feel from the actual drug. That was the first time I’ve experienced it and it was good feelings of euphoria. The things I’ve gone through at that point made me more willing to go down that path or experiment.
Do you want to expound on that a little bit?What you had gone through?
I had Hodgkin lymphoma. I just had a bone marrow transplant. That was the second time I had gotten sick. At that point, I was old enough to at least be like, “Screw the world. I’d been clean cut up until that point and this is what happens when I did that.” If I was ever going to be open to experimenting, just by the nature of growing up and being in that young college age, I was even more so. It was amplified times a million because I didn’t care. The cuffs were off and I was going to not hold back and not say no to anything. That’s where I was at. Not only was I naïve but it was amplified because of what I had just gone through. I wasn’t necessarily looking for any escape but in hindsight, I was definitely susceptible and waiting for that first thing that would take me out of my head.
It almost sounds like a duality between a nihilistic pursuit of it on one hand but also like, “I’m grateful to be alive. I’m going to live it up,” approach.
The nihilistic part, for sure, but the flipside to that would be not necessarily I’m glad to be alive but the statistics that they have to give about, “This is your chance of making it this age. This is your chance of making it to that age.” I had to have it twice, those things meant something at this point. The first time I got sick, I was a little bit younger too. Those things wouldn’t have mattered to me because a lot of it had to do with if you have a medical relapse. Once I had that, then the statistics do matter because it’s all about that relapse. It was like, “I’m not going to make it to this age. I’m not going to make it to that age.” I’m absolutely going to go balls to the wall in my own way.
Had you been exposed to opiates through your cancer diagnosis?
I didn’t get anything prescribed but the times when they took the bone marrow out, times when they put the catheter in, I did get things because I was always ready to be that guy that was into the details of those kinds of things. I was interested in what makes this happen. Why do I feel this way? What are the things that are like that? The only thing I got somewhat frequently, and I didn’t even care at the time, was Ativan. Those few times that sent me to whole another world. It was a combination of Dilaudid, Versed and Demerol.
I joked about it with the nurses and it was a running joke while I was in the hospital. I would make comments about the things that I was getting. The main thing I got all the time and at the time that would mess me up was the Benadryl. I was getting it through my catheter that was going straight to my carotid or right to my heart without any tolerance to any drugs at the time. That, in hindsight comparing how that messed me up to other things in the future, messed me up probably more than anything I ever did in the future. Every time it was a joke like, “Here comes the Benadryl.” It has developed a thing with the nurses and the doctors who even though I had never touched any drugs or anything like that thought like, “This guy is susceptible. Be careful.” A few times I got some pretty hardcore things but the only thing I got was Ativan.
Let’s go back to what you said about the first time you abused. You’ve got the Vicodin from a bouncer.
I didn’t know the guy. I knew him from that venue. He was some huge, monster Sasquatch guy that I’m sure that even probably helped too like, “Look at this cool guy. He is a huge dude with all these tattoos.” It was some random dude.
What happened after getting the Vicodin that first time?
The first time was you get the fuzzy, warm, you lose that thing inside all humans that makes you worry. The thing that makes you care about things goes away. You still care but it’s completely fabricated. It’s a complete chemical care. Everything’s great and this and that. There’s no room for any worry and nothing sticks. Even if somebody were to mention something that was bothering you before you started getting high, it comes in and it comes right out. Nothing bad sticks because you’re on this cloud. At the same time I was doing that, if I look back, as I said the thing I got a lot in the hospital, I didn’t realize it was the Ativan.
They gave me a bottle of that out of the hospital. This was the first of everything. Sitting in my dorm room that freshman year, I got a panic attack and I didn’t know what that was. I know now what it was, but I didn’t know at the time. I wasn’t thinking about anything. It wasn’t something bothering me and I was panicking. It was physical. My heart started racing. I had a nurse at the time that I could call. When I called the nurse, they said, “That’s why we gave you that Ativan stuff.”I took it normally a few times. This was with never doing drugs. I didn’t drink more so than any other high school kid who drank. Pretty quickly, I started to like, “I’m going to take two this time.” I fought off the guys in my dorm that were smoking weed or this or that. I had still never smoked weed up at eighteen at this point but after the first semester or pretty close to a few months after saying, “No, it’s not me,” I started smoking weed. That, combined with the Ativan, what I would do is I would start taking a few too many Ativan and smoke and isolate. That was going on in the background of when I would take this back. I had a little bit of experience of stuff.
They gave me all this medicine in the hospital. I was like, “Why can’t I take whatever to self-medicate myself now? If it was okay for them, it should be okay for me.” That was an F you way of thinking. It wasn’t like a thought out. It was more like, “You gave me all this crap, I’m going to take whatever I want.” I took that Vicodin and it put me on a cloud. I was never meant to be a drinker. I don’t like being out of it. Out of it in a sense where you can’t palpably grasp your ID. I can feel I’m Marty still with pills up until that point. I’d be down but I was still Marty in my head. Whereas when you drink you, lose that inhibition of who you are and you’re wild and wacky. I was always positioned to be that kind of person.
Where did your addiction go from there?
While I was still at that school in Southern California, it stayed pretty much like that. Looking back, I was taking the Ativan, taking more than prescribed and smoking weed. Less than a college kid would drink, but now if you throw in the Ativan, I would have blackouts. I remember waking up in gutters and not because I was some dirtbag or whatever it was because you take those Ativan and mix with alcohol you’re going to blackout. Exactly how the word says blackout. You’re done and you don’t remember when you wake up.
While I was in California if I remember correctly, my personal addiction stayed similar to that. There were a few times where I took more Vicodin and things like that but there wasn’t necessarily a pursuit for them. All the while, I saw a lot of things very closely. I had particular friends who were deep into opiate pills and I would see that pretty much that whole year. I would see this stuff going on right in front of me. At least at the time, it was like, “That’s hardcore. I’m not going to do that. It’s not my style.” I didn’t take off that initially until I had changed schools and went somewhere else.
Were they snorting Oxys?
We’d go to parties and they’d be snorting coke.
What happened when you moved away?
When I moved away, I went to school in Las Vegas. It seemed like a good idea at the time. All my buddies had gone there. When I went there, I still had that mentality. I almost had freedom. It was even more a release. I’m a different person. It was a new identity of this Marty in Las Vegas. I was even more susceptible to what was to come. What was to come was a journey of continuing what I had already done. It was slowly escalating to more hardcore things and more hardcore things. Vicodins turned into Norcos, the milligram went up. I was given those and still being super naïve not ever seeing or knowing or experiencing the plights of addiction. It was innocent, very fun taking these Norcos and were like, “This is the answer. This drug, this drunk is the answer for me.”
I hate drinking. I hate being hungover. I hate having to drink all this crap to get to where you want to get you. It was like, “This is quick.” You feel great. You’re still totally with it. You love everybody. I’m already a social person and this makes even more social. Little did I know that years down the road, what makes you social at first turns into the exact opposite. You’re like, “This is it.” It was Norcos. Many people with similar tastes, Norcos, turned into at the time were Roxys. They called it Roxys. Without splitting hairs, it’s like three Norcos or three Percocets in a little itty-bitty quarter to the size of an Altoids or probably even smaller than that pill and that was even better. That had no Tylenol and I didn’t snort those.
That was the thing that people would most associate with those that would be snorting them. I did and I would eat them. That played a big role. I was eating them, I was not snorting them. It kept getting better and better. There were no negatives. I was still young. My parents didn’t know anything about this. It was me and my buddies. They didn’t know anything about the plights of addiction either. I was a recipe for disaster, but that disaster wasn’t going to come quickly. It was a slow burn. That ended up quickly when you do Roxys for a few years and when Purdue Pharma changed the formula of the Oxy 80s, which I did a handful fair share of times, I didn’t see those out in Las Vegas.
Most of the time I did those in California. It seemed like Vegas was flooded with the Roxys, which was the same drug, but it was still different to me. I could pop those Roxys. When I would pop 80s, it wouldn’t do the same thing. When Purdue changed the formula for the Oxys, they took it from abusable to non-abusable. You could if you wanted too, but it was never going to be the same. That changed everything. What was once an $8 to $12 sometimes $15 Roxys pill, which added up, you would pay $3 to $5 for a Vicodin or a Norco from where I was at. It added up and made sense. Once they changed that formula, those pills went to $30 apiece and I’m a practical guy. I had started having issues once after a few years.
I went through some withdrawals and things like that but no life type of things. Those were all personal things that didn’t bleed out into other people, bleed out into the family, bleed out into the people you cared about, bleed out into the jobs, bleed out into society. It was still all internal things that I could hide or I could deal with myself and nobody would be affected or know about. Once they changed that formula, I remember seeing one of the people I would get these from, they had a chunk of heroin sitting on the table. At that point, I was taking so many Roxys and it didn’t matter how many I had taken at that point, my tolerance was so high. I was never going to get the feelings I got three years prior, two years prior but I had never seen that.I was like, “Can I try some of that?” We were trying it. “This is cool.” Whenever they smoke it, I would smoke it.
Slowly but surely, it makes itself in there to where I was like, “Let me buy that. I don’t feel like spending this much money. It’s way cheaper. Maybe I don’t get that euphoria. That was amazing like this is it. This is the pinnacle of euphoria. This is the pinnacle of life.” When you have that opiate in the beginning when your brain hasn’t adapted to it, it’s tricking all your brain receptors out. It feels like there’s nothing else. It cannot get better than this. Slowly but surely with those factors that were happening in my life, the factors that were happening in the world with Purdue Pharma changing formulas, I slowly found myself only buying heroin. That’s the path of progression of where the pills and where the drugs went.
Where did the consequences come in that ended up pushing you into recovery?
This would have been around 2010, it was the guilty conscience. I had done the withdrawals several times at that point but coming to terms. This is not the same for a lot of people but for me, I never had a problem with denial. After the first couple of years where I was naïve and having fun, having a blast, you didn’t have to tell me I was a drug addict. You didn’t have to tell me I had a problem. I knew it and I wasn’t going to argue with you about it. I knew how hard it was. It was hard waking up every day trying to find the drugs. It takes a toll on everything, your relationships. My memory isn’t the best particularly, but I can remember an event where my mom gave me some money and I spent it on drugs. She called and they knew I had a problem, particularly my mom. Being on the phone with her and she had mentioned something about what I was supposed to do with that money. I got drugs or I got high and I remember hearing her voice and that was around the same time.
Back then, it was a combination of like, “I’m tired of doing the withdrawal thing. I’m better than this. I want to get this taken care of quickly. I don’t want this to drag on for ten years,” but then mainly the toll it took on my family, it was a lot going on. My sister had already passed away. I could be wrong but if she hadn’t, she was still not well and so that was affecting the family. With my crap going on, that was affecting the family. You tie all those things around it, the money, the crap that goes on, the withdrawals, losing material things. The moment where I decided one of my withdrawal times, I came back from Vegas. I was going to live at home and I was detoxing. I brought whatever I could that would help me, but I hadn’t had a full understanding of how you could take care of yourself to an extent through withdrawal. I brought some Xanax but that’s not going to do anything for you when you’re withdrawing from dope.
I was in the bathroom and things were coming out at both ends. At that moment, it had been the worst I had experienced from the withdrawals. I’ve heard both ways but the one I remember them saying, “Every time it gets harder and harder, it gets worse and worse.” Couple in the fact that I don’t know how much I have to imagine any logical person would say that because of what I went through with cancer and the chemo. I had a rougher go about it with the stomach issues and things like that. I could not stop heaving and throwing up. I was sitting on the toilet and my head was in the bathtub and I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t move. It was uncontrollable. Even though my parents knew I had an issue, I could still sometimes finagle by not being so direct about what was going on and say, “Something is wrong, something’s not right,” because it wasn’t far away from the chemo and the treatment.
Nobody would delve in and think deeply about it. They would surface like, “Let’s get you help. Let’s take you to the doctor.” That time the ambulance came and carted me off. I remember being in the hospital and something happened. The doctor gave me the wrong meds or something like that and I had a breakdown. I was crying. I thought I was going to die in the hospital and it was scary. At that moment, my dad sent me a text and I was like, “I need help,” and I called. I didn’t know anything back then. I went on those numbers on TV that was like Pax Prentiss, “He used to be an addict.” I called one of those numbers and they call you back in two seconds. Somehow later I found a rehab and it was up in Northern California. It was Azure Acres up in Sebastopol or Petaluma or one of those cities up there. It was the first time I got into recovery.
How was the program?
It was cool. It wasn’t what I expected. You have an idea before you go in of what rehabs are going to be. You can have this one-on-one treatment and they’re like, “Tell me about Marty. What’s bothering you?” none of that happened. There’s zero one-on-one. It was group stuff, homework, very peripheral. I’ve come to call it, which is a $25,000, $30,000 detox. It’s a great safe place to be away, get meals fed to you and have things right there for you. They detox you with nice detox meds. You’re pretty much loaded the first five days with Suboxone, baclofen, clonidine. I didn’t learn anything.
All the while I was thinking about the pen that I would smoke heroin out of. I had it back home and all the while I was thinking about jostling back and forth like, “Who cares about that? I’m over that. I’m definitely going to hit that up. I’m barely going to need anything when I get home, I’ll get faded.” Nothing monumental broke through to me. I met some cool people. You laugh a lot. It was fun. It was a blast but there was nothing that they’d teach you, nothing game. That means it was exactly what it is at $30,000 detox. All the healing and all of the progress comes from within. There was nothing that they could do that’s going to make it better.
What happened after you got out of there?
I went right home and got high. That was $30,000 down the drain. I had already known at that point that a couple of months from then, my roommate from my freshman year, who’s a good guy, he was born in Ohio like me. We were going move back to Ohio where I was from. We were going to move to Cincinnati. I was still in that geographic, “I’m going to go to this new place. Everything’s going to get better. I’m going to go to this new place. I’m not going to have the same connections and everything will be better.” I wasn’t fully immersed in that phase. I came home from that first rehab and I was getting high for those couple of months before we did the geographic. I had some Suboxone with me, detox on the cross-country trip to Cincinnati. It was cool for a month or so out there until I felt comfortable enough to ask a brother, “Where’s it at? I got it,” but full blown. Now I’m snorting heroin because out there it was China white. Geographics don’t work is the moral of the story.
How did you end up getting back into recovery from that point?
When I went to Cincinnati, I was cool for a month. Then right back to full-blown addiction. I flew from Cincinnati to San Francisco right back. I was picked up from the airport where I took a shuttle to a spot and somebody from that same rehab came and picked me up. I went to that same rehab twice in six months even though I didn’t learn anything, but it was safe. It was comfortable for me. I was a lot more knowledgeable now about this insight that I have towards rehabs which I didn’t necessarily have so much of it then. I thought if I try harder this time in this rehab then it will work. That was a big deal.
The same thing about rehab, they dropped me after 21 days because insurance kicks you off. Some families can afford $3,000 a day or $2,000 a day but we can’t. Thinking everything was going gravy, I called my parents to let them know and said, “Are you going to give me a bus back to Clairemont or wherever?” They said, “No,” and that was the first time ever that I was like, “I can’t just go back home.” Even though I moved out when I was eighteen and lived on my own for a long time, I still thought knowing somewhere in the back of my head that I had my parents to fall back on probably let me be more flippant with my decision-making. When they did that, it was a big shock. I was angry at the time but those moments right there were part of the catalyst for everything. Even to get to where I’m at now because of that, I had to scramble to find an SLE. They said, “You can’t come home but we’ll pay your first month’s rent in SLE to go to the sober house.”
When they gave me the list at the place of all the sober houses, they were all in these random cities. These were old people. I called a few of them and they were full. Luckily, I had a buddy at that rehab who left and went to Santa Cruz and me being from Southern California, all I know of Santa Cruz is skateboarding. I have a general vibe that it was hippie-dippie and Nor Cal but like its own thing. This place was open. It was in Felton, which were the mountains out here. I was stoked. All of a sudden, I went from a turd to a diamond. I went there and it didn’t last.
I went to Santa Cruz and it was very sad. I was very sad. I still had so much growing and progress to do even at that point. I wasn’t mentally or emotionally prepared to take on that task because I was depressed. I didn’t have any money. I didn’t want to ask my parents for anything even though I had no problem asking them when I don’t have money and I needed drugs. I have a huge problem asking them for anything when I’m sober. It’s just not who I am. It was very depressing and all the while I had a Xanax prescription that I know I could get filled. It was another perfect stew of things that were going to leave me right back down to my addiction. That’s where that led. It only lasted there and from there to the Greyhound Bus ride back to Vegas to continue doing my thing and using the stuff.
Once you got back to Vegas and back into your addiction, how much longer did it take? Did you go further down in your disease before you made it back into recovery?
Somewhere in that mixture of times, I went and lived in Colombia in South America for a while and that was awesome except for the detoxing in the third world country. It’s not a third-world but it feels like that vibe when you’re from here. The moment we were talking about when I went to that Greyhound back to Vegas, I look back at it as more depressing. I had a lot of friends and connections out there. I was able to get a job right where I had before which is a lower-end apartment complex where my guys who sent me to Colombia own it and run it. There was my job there and there was my house. I didn’t have to try hard to do those kinds of things.
It got worse. I didn’t think I was sober. I was skipping little things here and there. I got worse until I lost a job in Ohio due to drugs. That same thing continued to happen even with my buddies, the guys who loved me and saw me grow up, who gave me that job and sent me to South America. I came back and they embraced me immediately. With the drugs, I would show up high. I’d do something. I get drug tested, I would fail. I would sarcastically or rhetorically say, “What is this?” showing me the results and stuff. They’d go, “You’re fired.” I always had to find a little thing. At that point, I got another girlfriend who was a heroin addict too. I didn’t know she was a heroin addict until we were hanging out after the first couple of nights. I had mentioned something and I saw the glimmer in her eye and it was off. With her, it was more depressing, isolation. You don’t hang out with anybody. Your day consisted of, for me, working, lunchtime, coming in and getting high, going back out when you live and where you work. It made it very easy.
There were a couple of months there where I tried shooting up. I wanted to try it because I was down. You’re in such a gnarly underworld with so many weird creeps. You’re in a counter world to the real world. The herp derp and the kooks that you’re associated with, when you’re using heroin especially, it’s like two different universes. We existed in that underworld and the underworld was depressing. You don’t do any of the normal things that normal people do that give you happiness. Your brain has been rewired for its reward system to be straight from those drugs. Lots of shady apartments, shady people stealing, tweakers and depressing things when you’re in a relationship with somebody who does the same thing. It is completely chaotic. The fights, the arguments, the emotions that you have that are completely fueled and potentiated, misconstrued by the drugs makes it absolutely a gnarly existence. You get lights shut off, your parents have cut you off, you have a cell phone that only gets Wi-Fi so you have to kook around to find a Wi-Fi.
You’re watching the basic six channels that you get with the regular TV so you’re watching The Lone Ranger all day. The only channel that you get with decent reception is the channel with the ‘50s shows. You can only watch so much of I Love Lucy and be sleeping on a floor with bedbugs crawling on you because you sold your mattress to get dope. You’re completely isolated and separated from the world half because that’s the world you’re in. You have to be in order to do those drugs. The other half is because you’ve created that. Your consequences have taken you away from normal people that don’t want to mess with you anymore, your family included. They may love you but what business do normal people have with heroin addicts? They are on two different wavelengths. I wouldn’t call it a bottom or anything like that because I had a lot of crappy moments. It is depressing things. Not necessarily that I was directly involved with, but I was certainly present in there. You’re stealing things from stores and you’re that guy, you’re those people. For me, it gave so much anxiety after a while. The only thing that keeps you doing it is because the most important thing to your brain is that drug, so you’ll put up with it.
Luckily, if you have some plan and it happens to everybody who eventually gets sober. No matter for how long, somewhere along there, the real you who is strong enough for a moment will be like, “I’ve got to break away from this.” It was so much crazy crap that I never thought I’d be a part of. The anxieties that only come from those types of events when you’re stealing carts of stuff from Target or from wherever and your girlfriend is posting fake prostitution ads on Craigslist so when the guy can come then they can rob them, take their money. You’re getting robbed because you don’t have a proper connect at the time so you’re giving people, “I can get you that. Here’s $20.”
At that time, $20 is all you have coupled with the insane fiendish addiction that you gave that $20 away to satisfy, to quell. When they don’t come back, it’s the equivalent of somebody that means everything to you dying. The feeling you have, that knot in your stomach knowing that that was your last $20 and now you’re going to be kicking and you’ll feel like death is the worst feeling. At some point finally in there, my parents gave me an olive branch and I was like, “I can’t do this anymore.” I still remember what it was to not be like this. As far away as that thought is and far away it seems that I can grab it I’m going to try to reach for it. At that point in Vegas, I left everything and walked to the bus station and headed back to California as I still had things going. Some other things happened after that but that was the next chapter.
What happened between then and when you first came here to the Gault House?
I got back home to my general area. My parents had moved from the houses that I grew up in. At this point, my sister had passed away and so it was just us. It was awesome in the sense that my parents wanted to see me. It had been a long time. They had given me the grief and they had given me the cold shoulder and everything for a while rightfully so. They were ready to mold me again and try to see if they could make me better. It was great. I came home and I had all the food I wanted. I had a huge bed in my own room. My parents were working all day. There was another room with a big screen TV and couches that was mine because nobody would go in there. My parents were in the living room even if they were at home.
All I did was come home and go to the gym every day and eat whatever I want. I borrowed my parents’ car, watched all the TV that I could possibly watch. That continued and continued but for a drug addict, it’s not going to sustain you and not going to keep you sober plus if you’re not ready, which I wasn’t. It didn’t take long until I found a connect. Even at that point, I had gotten a psychiatrist. Anything I had told him were half-truths or quarter truths. I do have anxiety. I do have sleep problems but I wouldn’t say no when he would recommend things that I knew I didn’t need. I was getting insane amounts of things prescribed to me that were not good for somebody with lack of discipline when it comes to narcotics. I wasn’t doing any heroin or anything at the time, but I was still taking those but then that’s going to eventually lead into heroin.I reacquainted with a girl I had known and I fell in love. For maybe a year and a half that I had been home, I caused enough BS. Dad gave me the deadline, “You’re out by this date.” I had to get out. I had this girlfriend who thought she didn’t see me enough. I was like, “We should get an apartment,” and we got an apartment. That was awesome and cool as my parents helped me get a car, but I was using heroin.
For me, I know when I’m using, I’m not at any denial. I know whatever I have right now if anything’s good, I’m going to eventually lose it. It was like, “Whatever I have right now, if anything is good, I’m going to eventually lose it. That’s coming. I don’t know when, but I know it’s coming.” I’m never using heroin or using drugs thinking like, “I’m going to continue this forever. This is going to be great.” I know the impending doom that awaits. I knew that was going to happen. That was going to crumble at some point and it did. After I had crashed a couple of cars and I crashed my car and the girl I was with had enough. She gave me the boot but I still had a guy, a great dude. A former teacher of mine from high school. He had a PC café back in the day. We’d go and have LAN parties and stay up all night, drink soda and play Counterstrike. We used to make fart jokes in his class. This was a dope dude.
For some reason, a guy like me hates when people post things on social media about personal things. It should be statements of general happiness which I hate too, but it should never be anything personal. That was so lame. When I was high, I do things that the normal Marty doesn’t do. I had to cry for help. When that happened and I was getting kicked out, my girl gave me the boot. That was real and I had to leave. I put on social media a cry for help like, “Anybody who knows a place where I can go and where I can stay?” The only one who hit me back was this teacher I had in high school. He had a spot in a city not too far. He had a house in what was technically like an Aptos where I was in Santa Cruz. I went there. A big-ass room, a big-ass heroin addiction and that was absolutely depressing.
I had a warehouse job, not to put down a warehouse job, but the one I had was brutal. It wasn’t cool because I was a temp worker. I don’t say I was a temp worker because I felt like crap. I’m not even a real employee. They would look at me and like spit on me, look down at me type of deal. I’d get high in the bathroom stalls, smoke heroin and come back out and work. If I didn’t have heroin or drugs before I went in, the work would be shady because it was a physical job. I was throwing up in my room randomly like waking up and there was throw up. I didn’t know how that even got there. It was disgusting living in trash filth. I’ve never been in denial. Every time I’ve ever done it I know I’ve got a problem. I can’t be doing this, but that drug overpowers any rationale, reason or anything that you have.
Once again, I had enough and this was around November of 2016. I was still Facebook friends with the guy who ran that SLE back in 2011 in Santa Cruz and I hit him up, “Do you still have an SLE?” He said, “Yes.” It’s not out in Felton anymore, it’s down in town. Right in the heart of it. I was like, “I’m going to get there. I don’t know when or how. I’m going to run out however much money I have but I don’t have anymore. I’m going to do my little best detox that I can do by myself and then I’m going to come up there.” I did that. I run on my money and scooted on up with a bag full of whatever I had. I took a Greyhound up to San Jose and that guy picked me up. I went back to SLE and this was back in ’17.
What happened once you got there that brought you to the Gault House?
The drug addiction and the behaviors, you can put them at bay and you can find ways to overpower them or at least prevent them from coming out, but I still have those. For the first time in that SLE, a lot of us were like the most amount of weight off your back once I got there. It’s quiet. Everybody’s laughing and joking. It was like it hadn’t been a long time of the BS, the craziness and the chaos. One of my roommates had a bottle of something. It wasn’t narcotic but something that I was like, “I know this will change my head a little bit,” so I started taking it. Little by little and little by little and somebody snitched and said, “Marty passed out on the couch,” which was a lie or an exaggeration because I wasn’t taking any narcotics. I wouldn’t have that not passed out but neither here nor there because I was taking the guy’s pills so I’m not denying that.
Then they tested me the hardcore way in the lab with everything that’s in my piss. It came back, “You’ve got to leave.” There’s no way my parents are going to help me or anything like that. I’m not even going to ask them for help. I’ve been going to church out here and I called my church and whatever I could do. They said, “We don’t have anything here, but call this lady. She has a bunch of properties.” I called this lady and she put me into her properties. She said, “You can come and stay at my house for a little bit.” I went up there. I stayed at her mansion, which was overlooking Santa Cruz. It was with glass walls. It was epic, free food and free roofing. I was not paying anything there. For those two months, I was using heroin every day up there. It started with me seeing one of her guys who lived with her because she’d let people come and rent rooms. One of the guys who had a room there as like a fallback room for when he would cheat on his wife or something. He had a bottle of Vicodin and I spotted that immediately.
One day she said, “Can you help me move this dresser?” Going into the room, I’m already thinking my eyes are going to be focused to see if I see anything because that’s where people would keep it on top of a dresser. I went in there and this guy randomly happened to have twenty bottles of things. I know he’s not a drug addict. I guarantee one of those bottles was some Vicodin or something because lots of people that do that don’t use them. They’ll be five years old because it will take one every blue moon. I remember taking those and going to church. It had been a while since I didn’t take anything. It felt good and I was back on the heroin. I was smoking it, not shooting it. The shooting, it didn’t go back far. Those couple of months that I shot it, to me it was completely overrated. I didn’t have the technicolor dreams that you see in the movies. It was a different type of the same feeling. I coupled that with the ridiculousness of finding veins and shooting. I missed and my arm got huge. I had to go to the emergency room and got scolded by the doctor telling me I’m a piece of crap and making snarky comments. That was enough for me.
I was up in this lady’s house smoking heroin and I burned that bridge. I burned that candle as long as I could. I had to get out. I had some legal things going on at that time too that I didn’t realize required me to be in that SLE. That was half of why I went up to the SLE because I had one of the cars that I crashed in 2016 was for a DUI. The punishment that I volunteered for he agreed too, which was the SLE. I did realize he was hardcore. He was fervent that I had to be in there for a certain amount of time, but I didn’t know that. God or a higher power directed me. It so happened that in Santa Cruz, if you’re looking to rent a room to share or whatever, the easiest place to get into are SLEs. The regular places they want recommendations and all that crap. I was like, “I have no problem with that. I need to get sober anyways.” Gault House was the one that I got to. The lady who runs the Gault House was giddy. I was like, “I’ll go here.” It was right next at 24 Hour Fitness and I love to work out a lot.
I went to the Gault House and I was still using. When I got here for the first five days, I knew that I was going to get the initial time to be clean. I had a different approach and experience with SLEs. The first one was its own weird animal. Everybody were eighteen years old and it was super strict, super hardcore. I looked at that as an outlier of my experiences. This was like the real SLE where you have freedom and you’re going to get tempted and things. I came here and continued to use for those first five or so days that you have to get out of your system. The lady said, “You could stay here but you can’t detox. You can go away and detox then you can come back.” That’s what I did. I went to that old lady’s house. I gave her a $100. I stayed here because she wasn’t a fan of me at that point because I caused some problems. I detoxed and I came back to Gault House and that’s where I was going to stay for a while.
What do you think has worked best for you in your recovery in terms of staying sober?
Initially, it’s the impetus for keeping me sober and then the other thing that blossomed into that is not going to be homeless. Broader is not wanting to live like that, not wanting to be that. Luckily, being raised to know that I’m worth something. I’m valuable and there’s no reason that I should be in that position. I’ve been given all the tools. I was raised right. I’m competent. I’m blessed with a normal brain. I don’t have any disabilities that would keep me from being a productive member of society. Beating yourself down for so long until finally, you can stop for a second, realize that and put it into practice.
What that looked like for me was my consequences were going to lead for me being homeless. That was one thing that jumped out at me like, “I’ve got to take care of business now.”Then it happened amazingly that these SLEs were the answer to that. They don’t let you come in there and be a drug addict. The SLEs will give you the tools and the path to become sober and give you that ultimatum. Here’s a great place for you to stay. It’s easy to get in but if you use, you’re out. It’s not an unreasonable thing to ask. If you want to be sober, great. Here’s how you’re going to do it. Here is a bed. Here’s a place to stay. All you’ve got to do is stay sober and if you do that, you can live a normal life.
What does your future look like from here?
I don’t claim to be some amazing orator especially of the programs like AAA and all that stuff. It’s a day-by-day type of thing. I know that if I can stay sober then the things will present themselves, things will evolve, and opportunities will come. There is no future. There is nothing without that first thing, which is staying sober because nothing will come from that. If I’ll stay sober now and I’ll stay sober tomorrow, things naturally do because this is life. If you’re a good person, you’ve been blessed with cognitive ability and if you’re sober, things will arise. Things will come, opportunities for new ventures, classes and new things. You can go to school and people will see you. They’ll say, “I want that guy. Do you have a job? This is what I’m doing and I want you to be a part of it. We’re going here. We’re going to this hiking over here.”
These things will start to arise but if you’re using and I’m using none of those opportunities ever present themselves because I’m sitting by myself in my car or in my room getting high all-day watching YouTube.I don’t necessarily care what my future is. I care but I don’t care because I care most about me being sober because I have faith in my higher power and faith in this life and people in general. If I stay sober now and the next day and the next day, those things will come. I don’t have to push for them or worry about them or fret. I have to do what I have to do, which is stay sober and those things will happen.
Everything always works out in the end. Marty, thank you for joining us on the show. To all our audience, we wish you to stay sober and to be happy. Take care.
Marty is a 31 years old male from Santa Cruz, California. He has survived cancer and an addiction to heroin. He talks about his life experience and his journey of recovery.
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