"Times" Readers Share Stories Of Addiction & Recovery

By Kelly Burch 01/14/19

New York Times readers shared their personal experiences with opioid addiction and recovery.

woman reading stories of addiction and recovery in the times

The opioid epidemic can be covered with statistics and numbers: the 72,000 Americans who died of drug overdoses in 2017 or the five-fold increase in babies born dependent on drugs.

However, that only captures some of the picture. To really grasp the effects of the opioid epidemic, The New York Times asked readers at the end of last year to share their experiences with addiction and recovery

Charlotte, North Carolina resident Cindy Chandler, 64, reminded readers that the issue of drug addiction has been affecting families since long before it started getting press coverage. Her brother overdosed on heroin in 1997 at age 40. 

“He took the entire family on psychological roller coaster rides throughout his life. We never knew when the phone rang from then on if it was the end for him,” Chandler wrote. “Turns out it took 28 more years of family torture.”

Some readers, including Michele Sevik, a 58-year-old from Vermont, described the initial euphoria that kept them coming back to opioids.

“It was like offering an emotional and social paraplegic a drug that would suddenly allow them to hop out of their wheelchairs and walk and run,” Sevik wrote. “Even knowing about addiction, even knowing about HIV, it was irresistible.”

Stephen DePasque, a 35-year-old from Pennsylvania, was more productive than he had ever been when he started using opioids, but the new energy was short lived. 

“Before long, the upkeep of my back-pocket superpower took the top spot on my priority list,” he wrote. 

St. Louis resident Heather Hudson, 27, found that even facing the heartbreak of addiction head on wasn’t enough to make her stop using. 

“At age 26, my little brother and I found our big brother dead on the floor from an accidental fentanyl overdose. I actually took the rest of his dope and did it in a McDonald’s bathroom while the coroner was loading him into a van,” she wrote. “As sick and twisted as that is. But that’s addiction. Sick and twisted. It’s like being in an endless tunnel. You can see the light at the end, but you never feel like you’ll reach it.”

Despite the heavy answers, some readers wrote in to share hope for recovery. 

“Recovery is not an exact science, or a recipe that can be applied to different people in different ways. But many of us do recover,” wrote Katharine, a 29-year-old from Philadelphia. “I wish I knew the answer to this current crisis. All I can do is keep my hand open and available to the next person who may need help.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.