My name is James Puckett and I am a person in recovery from substance abuse. This means that I have not used drugs or alcohol since February 6, 2014. I am here to share my story to give hope to others who may be struggling and to definitely help break down the stigma and shame surrounding this disease! Who you think an addict is, is important because if you see the faces of who we really are then maybe you won’t be so quick to judge! You might actually have more of an understanding as to what this is really about because a lot of people still think that addiction is a matter of choice, but it’s not. It’s a very complex sickness that involves everything from your mind to the way you feel, to your physical makeup. The bottom line is our solution is to pick up a drug because that’s what makes us feel better about life pretty much and it’s very hard.
I started using drugs when I was 14 and eventually the progression of my disease took me to heroin. When I found heroin all the focus went to getting and using that drug! I was doing drugs before that obviously too and my life was pretty chaotic, but once I started putting a needle into my arm there was no sense of maintaining anything at all. My life revolved around the drug and there was no way possible to have a life and to do dope at the same time. It’s like you have to do one or the other. For the past few years of my life I chose to do heroin instead of trying to get help because I didn’t know that there was a way out. I felt so hopeless and alone! I felt like this substance was telling me I had to use it no matter what and it’s such a degrading feeling to feel like that!
I pretty much gave up on myself and I had accepted that this is what I was going to do for the rest of my life. You know committing crimes to get what I needed to do and being homeless and living on the street in the middle of January with nowhere to go because I couldn’t go home anymore. Either being in my car with no heat or being on this boat with no heat which I would stay on because I knew the owner …… it’s really cold and there’s a bed, but at least I had heroin right? I remember one night I was thinking about it. I actually chose to live like this because I needed heroin….my body needed heroin and it’s not a choice. At the same time there is a choice. You can take the steps necessary to get help. That is where the choice comes in. The choice isn’t about getting high or not, it’s a survival instinct that I have to get high, but the choice comes in when you get willing to do something like go to treatment. I remember I broke down and realized that I couldn’t live like this anymore. I knew I was either going to go to prison or I was going to die. I had already overdosed once at that time and that was a very scary thing. I didn’t want to be another statistic, the kid from Long Island that had his whole future and messed it up because he wanted to shoot dope.
At that point I realized I needed to do whatever it took to get clean because it’s not just me that I hurt. I’m leaving behind my family and my friends. I knew that there was something more to this… like I’m meant for something more than just being one of those statistics. That’s when I decided I needed to get help and I was going to go to a long term program which I’ve never tried on my own before. I was desperate. I didn’t know what else to do. So almost eight months later here I am. I’m happy and I’m glad that I went! I am glad I surrendered!
What I really want to say is no matter what anybody tells you or whoever tries to help you it comes down to how you feel. It took me years and years of suffering and doing it the hard way and coming from the school of hard knocks and it just came to a point of desperation. There was this open window of opportunity and I knew I needed to do something in that time while I was vulnerable and in enough pain to do something about it.
I know that my path took me to where I am today and it’s like you have to go through your own journey to understand certain things. Even though that I’ve relapsed and I’ve gotten clean I learned things. Every time I did relapse on a standpoint of really trying to stay clean I learned something from that, every time I went back out it got worse! The feelings of not being able to get clean again got worse, so it’s very dangerous to go back out there! It’s very dangerous to relapse. What I knew at this point is that physically getting clean is the hardest part of it. Now that I am on the other side I can’t imagine ever feeling the way I felt those few days before I went to a program, but it can happen you know?
I never would have thought that everything I ever went through during my addiction would have such a strong purpose now that I am in recovery. For years, I struggled with such suffering and loneliness that I thought only I was enduring it. There came a point, after several failed sober attempts I almost believed I was destined to shoot heroin for the rest of my life, and I was going to be another young man from Long Island robbed of his life by the needle. At least I could be an example of how not to end up, right? Everything in me cried out that this was my purpose, to die in a volatile relationship with dope or to end up in prison. There was a feeling though, deep within myself. I truly thought that yes this was the end, but not the end of my life…. only to the life that I had been living. During that complete mental and spiritual breakdown I came to the realization that God gave me the challenges I’ve gone through because I would one day, with his help, be capable of overcoming them. I would continue on and be able to share my experience with people who are struggling with the same illness that I have. Today, I am clean through the grace of God and I bring a message that there’s always hope and when I look back now I can realize that this was truly a blessing in disguise!