My Name is Jory and I am a Recovering Addict

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Nobody ever says, “when I grow up, I want to be a drug addict.”

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My name is Jory and I am addict; an accidental addict, yet still an addict indeed. In fact, I just graduated from 41 days of inpatient rehab on March 4th of this year. This was the fourth rehab I have been to and the second program I did not “escape” from and actually completed. It was extremely difficult, but also an experience that I will always treasure.

I felt God so many times in this 41-day journey. I suffered in the dark many times, but Jesus was holding my hand the entire time I believe. I learned so many character lessons about humility, having the courage to be my truest and greatest self, forgiveness, patience, tolerance, honesty and the list goes on.

I also learned a lot about people and how to actually share my honest feelings and work problems out by talking face to face. I also learned that the real world is filled with many people who will be two-faced, gossipers and back-stabbers. I tend to run from folks like this, but this time I could not run. Running meant running back to constant health issues combined with the disease of addiction.

I learned a lot about how addiction actually alters one’s brain and it does seem that I am genetically prone to addiction (as well as mental illness) based off my family history.

Breaking the Shame Cycle

Addicts don’t keep relapsing because they want to get high in many cases; but rather, addicts keep relapsing because our brains have been altered to such a drastic degree that we actually take substances to feel somewhat normal.

Over time, addiction is much less about trying to achieve positive experiences and much more about trying to avoid overwhelming negative emotions, physical breakdown and social consequences.

The truth is that addiction is a disease that breaks down the brain, the body, our emotions and our spirits. In fact, it crushes our spirits because it compels us with intense force to do whatever is required to survive and sometimes this means compromising our own moral codes. This leads to a fragmented soul, as the brain continues to crave one’s substance of choice, while the heart feels immense guilt for what it must go along with to keep the brain and body functioning as typically as possible.  

This is why addicts not only struggle with their disease on a daily basis; but also, immense soul-crushing shame.

This emotion of shame is so painful that those suffering with it chronically often convert it into anger to survive emotionally, because anger is a less painful emotion than the unnatural feeling of shame (which is basically self-hatred at its roots). The anger and self-hatred can be inward or outward; but no doubt, anger is a much easier emotion for one to handle daily than shame is.

This chronic shame is also the reason that addicts tend to blame those around them on the outside when we become angry; because on the inside, the self-blame and regret has become just too much to carry on our own anymore and that same shame keeps us from being able to ask for help in healthy ways. So many times we lash out like a wild animal trapped in a tiny cage, because this is exactly how we feel.

And so, the “numbing cycle” continues and the only way to stop it is to discontinue the numbing agents and feel all of the anger, shame and whatever pain one has been trying to numb and avoid for years. This. Is. Excruciating.

Addiction’s Power

To understand addiction’s power to influence an addict’s brain, think back to “caveman times” in which a caveman had not ate for days and suddenly he comes in contact with an animal. His brain would have been in total “survival mode” and his instinct would have been to kill and eat this animal no matter what it takes. But just because the addicts “animalistic brain,” which is addicted to dopamine highs (something addicts are generally low on anyways; often causing severe and chronic depression, mood swings, physical pain and anxiety), controls too much of our lives, we still have our intelligence and creativity.

It seems evident that addicts are often of high intelligence and/or creative geniuses, which is why we see so many artists and inventors struggle with this disease (which often starts as an attempt to self-medicate underlying, undiagnosed and untreated mental illnesses). Unfortunately, we addicts have a sickness that gets in our own way and often takes us out of this world way too young

I lost my best guy friend, Brandon Hester, who died of a heroin overdose last year. Brandon loved God and was one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. Even though Brandon and I were about the same age, he challenged my thinking and taught me so much about defending the Christian faith (apologetics), evangelism, theology and philosophy.

We bonded over our similar passions and my work today has certainly been influenced by him as we spent hours upon hours discussing and debating theology throughout Bible college and on the phone after we graduated and moved apart.

Brandon and I met at Christ for the Nations Bible Institute and then we both transferred to Southwestern Assemblies of God University (both near Dallas, TX). Brandon was so gifted in apologetics that he interned, researched and wrote for the famous Christian author, Josh McDowell in his early twenties.

Brandon had recovered for about a year before he relapsed and died. The heroin he picked up after being clean for a while was laced with fentanyl (which is thought to be 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine).

Addiction & Faith Leaders

When these things happen, people wonder what in the world compelled such a young brilliant minister to make such a decision to pick up again; but we don’t have to wonder because we know the answer: the disease of addiction.

Addiction is a relentless, progressive, chronic, incurable sickness and it does not discriminate against spiritual people or faith leaders. 

Brandon loved Jesus with his full heart and sought to defend the Cross on a daily basis. He was proud of his faith and enjoyable to talk to due to his high intelligence and contagious passion; and yet, he was also a drug addict.

Brandon is not alone; and although I am anxious about releasing such personal information, I sense a personal duty to tell both his story and mine for the rest of my life in hopes of informing families, saving lives and putting a stop to the opioid epidemic and addiction in general.

In my last rehab, the community came together and lit candles for every person we knew who passed away from this disease. I lit my candle for Brandon. While the abundance of candles burned for our lost loved ones and the tears flowed, one counselor shared on how he lost his brother to this illness and that he did not understand it; “but some must die so others can live,” he said.

When he said that, something in my spirit clicked and I thought about Brandon’s sacrificial and selfless personality, combined with his passion for the atonement of Jesus Christ. Of course Brandon would lay down his life if it meant I and others could live. Of course he would. His death was not meaningless.

Brandon did not die in vain (and neither did any other human being who has died of the disease of addition) if we who are suffering & surviving with this illness find the courage to tell our stories and the stories of those we have lost to a world that often misunderstands addiction as “criminal” when it should be treated as a serious terminal disease (such as cancer or diabetes) that can be brought into remission with treatment; but without treatment, is fatal.

A Snippet of My Story

I have struggled with addiction for the past 13 years, except my “drug dealers” were doctors and pharmacists for the most part. It all started with chronic headaches and migraines, which began when I was 13-years-old. This condition was severely painful and in my case was likely caused from neurological (chemical) and hormonal imbalances that were seriously misunderstood by doctors back then (and still today in many cases).

In fact, western medicine still does not have a cure for this neurological disease of Migraine; impacting many Americans (especially women), but they have gotten much better at understanding how to effectively treat the disabling symptoms that chronic headaches and migraines bring.

Due to paralyzing physical pain along with terrible anxiety, agitation, depression, nausea, sight and sound disturbances (all that accompany migraine), I missed out on many special events and everyday events beginning at 13-years-old.

During this age bracket, my addictive brain began to manifest more intensely; even though I had no access, knowledge or desire for mind-altering substances. I did not party at all in high school. I was the leader of the “church girls,” passionate about God and dedicated to my calling as a minister. But since I was often in physical, mental and emotional pain due to chronic migraine symptoms, I sought relief in things like boyfriends, food (especially sugary foods), and over-the-counter pain meds (especially Ibuprofen) found in my parent’s cabinets.

My folks had no idea how much Ibuprofen I was taking and since I was not yet taking mind-altering-drugs or drinking alcohol, and did not know much about addictive tendencies at that time, my folks did not see any of this coming and neither did I.

In retrospective, I see the signs. When I was two-years-old I climbed to the top of a refrigerator so that I could swallow an entire bottle of yummy-tasting vitamins. Thankfully they did not have iron in them so I was not harmed. My mother tells me that I did smell like a vitamin for a week.

When I was 17-years-old, my friends and I got the bright idea of buying caffeine-energy pills. While everyone else took a few, I was “careful” to take at least 10. My heart began beating so fast that I had to call my mother to come get me. She had to sleep with me all night long with her hand on my heart to make sure I did not have a heart attack in my bed that night.

Throughout college I continued to suffer with chronic headaches and migraines, which often forced me to lay in a dark quiet room in severe pain, while my friends went out and had a good time. While they would go explore the city of Dallas where I went to undergrad, I would lay down alone in darkness praying that I would sleep the pain away.

This lack of control over my own body (especially my head) and life, along with doctor’s and pharmaceutical companies intentionally and aggressively pushing pain meds on Americans in pain a little over a decade ago, put me in the perfect position to become dependent (and then addicted) to prescribed opioids.

It was the devil’s “open door” to walk right into “my house” and begin working overtime to kill, steal and destroy me; and yet, I am still alive today and recovered enough to write this blog post with confidence, self-love/forgiveness, and genuine hope for the future.

“If there’s a silver lining to the emptiness, here it is: the unfillable is what brings people together; I’ve never made a friend by bragging about my strengths, but I’ve made countless by sharing my weakness and my emptiness.”

~Glennon Doyle Melton

 

 

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16 Comments

  • Thank you for your courage, Joey, in sharing this part of your story. My daughter has 12 years clean and sober; she is a recovering addict too (cocaine and alcohol). She has two alcoholic grandfathers and is also bipolar; her two sisters have other issues but not cocaine and alcohol addiction. Recently she had a genetic test that told her she has a specific gene involved in addiction, two genes associated with bipolar, and two genes that cause low levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain.
    Anyway, your sharing will help many. I met you in a coffee shop in Pasadena two years ago, and I know you are a gifted young woman mightily used by Jesus.

  • Excellent Jory. I hope this is just Part 1 of at least a 12 Part Series. I know you have a whole lot more you can share that will help others in their struggle with addiction. Thanks for your transparency.

  • Very wise and courageous stuff! Destigmatizing addiction can only reduce the suffering of those who struggle with it. It’s always been amazing to me how folks will immediately rally around anyone with a purely physical malady–cancer, heart attack, etc. But while things like depression and addiction are no less serious, folks shy away, as though the sufferer is somehow “tainted.” May your words go a long way toward changing that!

  • Thank you for sharing Jory! So brave and honest. I think your story proves that addiction can strike absolutely anyone – no one is protected or immune. Glad you are on the other side and can share the experience, strength and hope of recovery. XO

  • I thank God for you, your courage and your faithfulness to speaking the truth. May he bless you with peace and the assurance of his unending love for you.

  • Jory, I totally understand the chronic migraine thing. I’ve had them for more than 13 years. I used to work as a family physician but can’t work any longer. It’s rough. And I’m so pleased that you’ve been able to get free from addiction as well. The migraine brain is messed up as it is, even before you add opioids to the mix. I can’t wait to read the rest of your story . . .

  • Thank you so much for this. You give me hope for my loved one who is currently struggling with addiction. All I can do is pray.

  • Wow! You are amazing! You have great bravery and honesty that is beyond measure! Thank you God everyday for you and your victory. Can’t wait to see what you do now. You did so much despite you’re suffering. Love you and behind you 100%. Can’t wait to hear more !

  • Thank you, Jory, for being vulnerable and sharing your story. I know I don’t understand the issue of addiction, so I find this helpful. May God bless and continually heal you.

  • Thank you for sharing. I am sorry that you’ve had these experiences in your life, but as I learned long ago, once you have earned the right to speak about something, nothing can stop you.

    I am doubly sorry now that I wasn’t able to meet you last year here in Phoenix, but I hope you return soon.

    From one to another, you only have to take this one day at a time. May God continue to watch over you daily.

  • I pray that you can continue to lean into God’s strength to stay in remission from this insidious disease.
    Bless you, for sharing your journey, that others may be blessed and educated by your wise words for themselves, or to understand more in relation to a loved one.
    I am sorry for the loss of your friend, he sounds like he was an amazing man of God.
    Here’s to the day that mental illness will no longer be stigmatised.

  • Thank you for sharing your story jory. You are so gifted in writing with your enthusiasm for sharing about real biblical women and using our gifts. So thank you for being so vulnerable and letting us know what you’ve been going though. I pray for you to be comforted by all those who love you. Take care.

  • I am a pastor, and I am an addict. I never hesitate to say that anymore because the two are not mutually exclusive! I have lost several friends and relatives to OD’s, and suicide because they thought they could never be more than their addiction. We as the church have failed them! If only you prayed more, were in the word more, had more faith then…

    I had the pleasure of seeing you speak at Nevertheless She Preached and I could see your courage and sincerity. It shines through here just as brightly! Thank you for your courage in sharing your life with us.

  • Jory, Thank you for sharing your story. Addiction and Mental Illness are very real and it takes courage, faith and belief to tell your truth but mostly it takes love. Love for yourself as a woman and human being. Your healing has begun because you decided and although everyday is a new step we are all here to support you, some of us strangers, some acquaintances and those who have always loved you unconditionally. My strength is being sent to you with unconditional love. Always love who you are because your story will help so many who need you!

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