My name is Daniel LaPointe, and I am a person in long term recovery from a substance use disorder; what that means to me is I haven’t had alcohol or any other drugs since April of 2012.
Recovery to me means life. Recovery is freedom, freedom to make healthy decisions on a daily basis to lead an active, productive, fulfilling lifestyle. I have been afforded an opportunity to share my lived experience through my struggles with addiction, and more importantly, to speak about the life that I live now as a person in recovery. My journey has been a long and tumultuous one, to say the least.
I was raised the youngest of seven children in a household with two loving parents. I excelled academically, and partook in several extra-curricular activities. My emotional development, however, was severally thwarted. I suffered from an extremely poor body image, as I was classified as overweight, and my self-esteem and self-worth were non-existent. I remember wanting, more than anything, to be “part-of.” These feelings of insecurity and depression made me vulnerable. Ultimately, I wanted nothing more than to be out of myself. In May of 1997, at the age of 12, I won the D.A.R.E essay contest hosted by my local municipality. The topic of the essay was “Why I Wont Try Drugs.” In June of 1997, one month later, I started smoking marijuana.
Smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol continued occasionally for the next two years, though the progression of my addiction had begun. I received a partial scholarship to an all-male parochial high school. In high school, the ridicule over my weight and seemingly overly academic personality continued. As a result, I developed body dysmorphia, and ultimately anorexia. By the age of 14, I was introduced to hard drugs such as methamphetamine, ecstasy, and hallucinogens. My weight loss and drug usage lowered my inhibitions, and provided me with a false sense of confidence. I began to drink, smoke marijuana, and use hard drugs on an almost daily basis. This pattern progressed throughout high school. I developed a habit of cocaine and prescription narcotic use and for years, and distributed narcotics to help pay for my addiction. Nevertheless, I continued to excel academically and graduated with a 4.4gpa, earning a full academic scholarship to one of the top-ten business schools in the nation. The summer after my first year of college, however, I attended acute treatment at a 28-day rehab facility for the first time. I returned to college for one semester following, but ultimately lost my scholarship due to my addiction.
The next 8 years were characterized by a continued progression of addiction in which I spiraled downward to a dark depth of despair. Then, at the age of 22 years old, I began to use prescription opiates. Within a week, I was using oxycontin regularly; within a month I had developed an opiate addiction. For approximately a year and half my dependency on opiates became more severe, while I continued to mix other drugs into my usage. Well aware of my addictive tendencies at a very young age, I had always promised myself I would never use heroin, but my prescription opiate habit had become increasingly expensive. As new, more stringent laws limited the availability of such drugs, I turned to heroin. Again, I promised myself that I would never inject heroin, or any other drugs for that matter. Within four months of trying heroin for the first time, I was using heroin intravenously at a dosage of up to nearly a gram per injection. I also “speedballed,” injecting dosages of heroin and cocaine simultaneously. Over the course of my active addiction specific to opiates, I was arrested five times (related offenses), lost numerous jobs, attended a detox facility three times, attended an intensive outpatient program, and sought the help of private therapists. I buried 5 of my friends, all under the age of 33. To my memory, I overdosed 11 times. To be candid, at the darkest hours during this chapter of my life, death was a welcomed alternative.
While in active addiction, my life reached paramount unmanageability. I say life, yet what comes to mind is existence. There was no progress, no goals, no productivity, and no friendship. My day to day activities centered solely on maintaining my dependency. I severely damaged the relationships with those who loved me unconditionally.
Then, in a moment of abject desperation, I again sought help; help I received, in part, through those whom I have hurt so much. Desperation sparked willingness in me, a willingness to take any measures necessary to change. The fear of change became miniscule compared to the fear of living every single day as I was living, and my new journey, that beautiful journey into long term recovery from addiction began.
In stark contrast to the previous chapter in my life, my path thus far in recovery has continued to improve with each and every day that I am alive. Once I was medically detoxed off of the substances, the real work on me began.
After about two months or so, I awoke to a then startling realization – I had no idea who I was. What did I stand for? What did I believe in? Why had I been unable to enter into recovery earlier in my life? All these were among questions and uncertainties that seemed to overwhelm me all at once, like a sudden rush of insecurity. I sought the counsel of others in recovery regarding these feelings, and the answer I received set me at peace. The question of “Who am I” was yet to be answered. My story was just beginning, and I had a pen and a blank notebook in which to write that story.
In recovery, I am constantly growing, learning, and experiencing new things, so the person that I am is constantly evolving. More so than anything else is recovery, I am grateful for the opportunities for growth which I encounter. These opportunities present themselves to me in many different forms – through education, through interactions with other people in recovery, and often through hardships. Remaining aware that these situations are just that, opportunities, has completely opened my eyes to a world of personal development.
A peer to peer support group is an integral part of my process. After about six months in recovery, however, I also became involved with Young People in Recovery (YPR) is an advocacy organization which aims to influence public policy, making it easier for our youth to find and maintain their recovery from addiction, and to make America “recovery ready.” I choose to step out from a cloak of anonymity and to share my story of recovery, with the hopes of helping to break the stigma of those in recovery from addiction, and to advocate for more recovery supports services on a local, state, and national level. If we can stand together, united, and share with the world the strides that we as people in recovery continue to make, I believe that as we can actuate change.
Today, in recovery, I have worked to restore the relationships I have destroyed. I am a son to my parents, I am a brother to my siblings, and I am an uncle to my seventeen nieces and nephews. Today, I am accountable. In recovery, I have been able to acquire a New Jersey Contractors License, and to form an LLC as a sole proprietor. Today, I am a successful small business owner of a growing company. I am a productive member of society, and today I am again a contributing citizen of the United States of America. Today I live, and today I will continue to grow as a person in long term recovery.