My name is Hunter Johnson. Four years ago yesterday, May 25th 2013, I decided to use my voice and finally tell someone about what was going on with me. I had spent the previous 6 years battling depression and a crippling addiction to heroin. The best decision I’ve ever made was to speak up and let someone help me do what I could not do for myself. My life today is incredibly beautiful, full of friends, family, empowering work. Here is my story:
I grew up in Denver, Colorado. As the only child in an upper middle class family, my parents gave me the world. I played all different kinds of sports and traveled all around the country. If only child syndrome is a real thing, I suffered from it. My parents enrolled me in private catholic schools my entire life in hopes of me achieving a better education. However, I was never an over achiever or academic and more of a problem child. I would mess around with girls, play pranks on people and often visited the principal’s office. I look back on my behavior now and believe I was always seeking attention from someone and would do just about anything to get it. I never suffered from any abuse, no divorce, no family problems. I always had friends. My upbringing seemed to be a picture perfect American household, but early on I recognized something was different about me. My parents and teachers couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t stop messing around in school and not focus on learning. Around the age of 6, I was diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and placed on a variety of different combinations of Adderall. This shit made me feel like a zombie. I was 6 years old and taking a medication that killed my diet, caused sleeplessness and eliminated any resemblance of a personality I may have had.
The first time I drank alcohol was the summer before high school. A friend in the neighborhood, who was a year older than me, brought my friends and I to his house to drink. My two friends didn’t want to drink and didn’t succumb to the peer pressure. Myself, however, was ready to go balls to the wall. Before I knew it, I pounded 6 shots of vodka. I then proceeded to walk back to my parent’s house and had a conversation them shit face drunk. That conversation went terribly wrong and was followed by profuse vomiting for the rest of the night. The thing that separates me from normal nonalcoholic/addict people is that the next day I remember telling myself, “Damn, when can I do that again and get away with it.”
I was constantly high during class throughout high school. I smoked weed for the first time by myself on the roof of my house. I failed miserably at selling weed, got caught and kicked out of high school my junior year. On my 18th birthday, I went to a Ben Harper concert and decided it would be a good idea to drive and get hammered drunk. After the show, I drove home with my girlfriend and a friend. Everyone was passed out in the car and I got completely lost driving around and passed out at a stop light with my foot on the brakes. A cop found me there and I couldn’t even pronounce my name. That’s the story of my first DUI. In the next few years I would acquire two more DUI’s but always convinced myself that I was just in unlucky situations. Playing the victim will keep you sick for a long time. Being enabled by family and friends will also keep you sick and addicted and that’s exactly what happened.
I was certain I was different when I decided to take mushrooms alone and go to state championship basketball game. I knew my exploration of recreational drug use wasn’t “normal” when I took ecstasy for the first time at college orientation and walked around thinking my heart was going to stop. College was nothing but a big party for me. I was trying different types of drugs, blacking out on a weekly basis and doing the bare minimum to slide by in school. I floated through life void of emotion. I could not open myself up to an honest relationship with anyone. My daily goal was to get my responsibilities taken care of and then find any drug or drink I could abuse.
I vividly remember the day that I found the love of my life, opiates. Freshman year of college, my best friend introduced to me to Oxycontin. I crushed up the pills and put them up my nose, I felt the warm embrace of everything I was ever missing in my life. Once I did that, nothing else mattered. School, friends and everything else became insignificant in comparison to finding and using those. Anyone who is familiar with what occurred in the US with prescription opiates, knows that oxycontin and other forms stopped being prescribed as often as they once were. Doctors prescribed and patients were hooked on powerful opiate pain medication. On the street, these pills sky rocketed in price and the cheaper equivalent was heroin. It wasn’t long before I switched to heroin. I went from snorting to smoking and then injecting with a needle. The first time shooting heroin took me to a whole different level. At that point I completely compromised every value and moral I ever held dear, I started stealing money from my friends. I stole college text books from the book store and would turn around and sell them for money to buy dope. I would drive to my parent’s house in the middle of the night, sneak in the dog door, take my dad’s debit card, find his pin and take money from the ATM and return the card before he woke up. I stole my mother’s jewelry and pawned it. I pawned all my personal belongings. I stole money from my grandmother, my aunt, my cousin. I reached the point where my parents wanted nothing to do with me. They tried everything they could to help. I was sent to three different treatment centers, suboxone maintenance, therapy, acupuncture, but nothing worked for me. I pretended to be the star student of treatment while plotting to get high the whole time. There was only one reason why none of that worked for me, I was not ready and willing to accept help.
One winter, I spent a month living in my car. I shot dope with dirty water under a bridge with other homeless people. I lied and scammed my way through life to the point where I believed my own lies. I had been arrested for 3 DUI’s, possession charges, theft and still only cared about getting high. At this point, I had failed out of college. Meanwhile, all of my former friends graduated, received good jobs, bought houses and formed great relationships. For a long time, I believed that I could still live like them and drink at bars like them but it was all a huge lie. I AM A DRUG ADDICT ALCOHOLIC TO THE CORE, but I couldn’t believe it myself.
When I reached my bottom, I knew. I knew I was ready. Ready to stop using. I am not talking about a circumstantial bottom, where something bad happens that causes one to change. I am talking an emotional bottom. The feeling of having an empty soul, ready to kill myself but afraid to do it. All I knew was put drugs and alcohol in my body whenever possible no matter what it takes. I was living in the basement of some house, the room covered in needles, robbing my roommates, with track marks covering my arms. I spent the previous two months robbing people’s houses in the middle of the night. Taking anything I could to pawn under different people’s names to get the heroin I needed to stop being sick. At that point, getting high was no longer fun. It was just to stop being sick. Being dope sick is the most miserable experience one could ever go through. It feels like the inside of your body is rotting, you cannot eat, you cannot shit, you vomit, you cannot sleep. The feeling of dying. The moment I knew I was done, I prayed to something I had never believed in. I called and said something to friend. The next day I was awake all night drinking vodka to curb the withdrawals and try to fall asleep. At 9am, my parents showed up at my door and dragged me out. At that point, they had completely written me off, but my mother convinced my father to give me more chance. The next day I was on a plane to Florida to live in a sober living facility.
From that day, May 25th, 2013, I have been clean and sober. I was willing and ready to take any suggestion that was given to me. I have embraced a beautiful way of life. I do not need drugs or alcohol to have fun. I no longer need a substance to feel confident, to talk to people, to make me feel ok. I found the person I thought was absent for so long when I was filling the void with drugs. I never had any motivation to be anything worthwhile in life. Today, I started my own business and I have a successful career. I take care of my responsibilities and set goals for myself that I can attain. The most important things in my life today are my sobriety and the relationships I have with my family and friends who want nothing more than to see me happy and succeed. I wouldn’t trade this way of life for anything in the world. All you have to do is use your voice. If you want it bad enough, someone will be there to listen and help you get better.