By the time I was in my second year of my PhD I had published/presented 54 medical papers, published 6 peer reviewed medical papers, was contributing author on one book, owned and operated my own consulting company in respiratory medicine, developed a patent for respiratory devices, and was progressing successfully in my PhD [program]. I was 31 years old and I was proud of my accomplishments and my continuing success in respiratory medicine. But, that was all about to change. Addiction would enter my life and take away from me my possessions, my profession, my loved ones, and my sanity.
My pathway to addiction started when I made a [doctor’s] appointment for migraine headaches. In a time frame of eight months I was prescribed 6,647 controlled substance pills. I had pills to help me stay awake and study, pills for helping me sleep, pills for anxiety, and pills for pain. I knew about addiction but I thought I was too intelligent to become addicted. Anyway, these pills were provided to me by the school’s doctor who said he had taken pills when he was in medical school to help him succeed. My ignorance would cause me to lose almost a decade of my life and would bring me close to death many times as a result of my severe drug addiction.
My first of numerous addiction-related detrimental events came when I was presenting a medical paper at a conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Before my lecture I forged a prescription on my computer and proceeded to the pharmacy to have it filled. Since the prescription was for Demerol, the pharmacy called the doctor and verified the prescription was forged. The police were waiting for me (at the conference lecture hall) to finish my lecture and when I did they handcuffed and arrested me. I was taken out in front of all my colleagues and conference members and taken to jail.
For many years I was doctor shopping. I would acquire my drugs in many ways: the internet, hospital emergency rooms, forged prescriptions, clinics, private doctors, and in other countries. I would stay employed by various companies because of my experience in respiratory medicine. But, I would ultimately get fired when my drug addiction interfered with the quality of my work. Eventually, word of my addiction became known to my colleagues and the respiratory medicine industry. From that point on, I was not called upon to lecture, to consult, or in any way work in the respiratory medicine industry.
Shunned from my profession, disenchanted from my family and friends, and homeless, I fell into a deep depression. It was at this time that I wrote a suicide note and attempted to commit suicide. Over the next 9 years I would attempt suicide one more time, have 35 toxic overdoses, and 45 seizures. All of which brought me close to death each time.
During the 9 years of my addiction, I would periodically give rehabilitation a try. Nine times I made a serious effort to get sober. But, every time I would relapse within weeks of being discharged. After 9 years of being an addict, I completely surrendered to my disease and came to the understanding that my addiction was not going to be successfully addressed in weeks or even in a couple months of treatment. I realized that my recovery would require at least a year in a long term residential program where I could work on my addiction issues every day with no distractions. I found that in a year-long cognitive/behavioral rehabilitation program. This program not only worked on my addiction issues but also worked on my cognitive/behavioral issues that caused me to seek out the drugs.
Now my life is finally in a direction I can be proud of. I graduated from a year-long inpatient residential cognitive/behavioral rehabilitation facility. My sobriety restored my clarity of thought and determination. Two attributes which are essential for completing my autobiography, “From Hopkins to Homeless: My True Story Of Prescription Drug Addiction”. I believe I can inspire and educate others about addiction and recovery with my memoir.
My future is [full of] possibilities. I do know that I am very thrilled and inspired living life as a sober individual. And, for the first time in over nine years I have a sense of self-confidence and respect for myself. This confidence reminds me that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. For this reason, I have enrolled and been accepted to complete my doctorate in public health education. I have also enrolled in the peer specialist training program at the Colorado Mental Wellness Network. As a peer specialist I can apply my experiences and knowledge to assist others on their own journey of recovery.
It has been a long, arduous, and self-revealing journey to recovery. Unfortunately along the way I became deceitful, dishonest, unreliable, and untrustworthy. On the other hand I can proclaim that through my suffering and adversity came great rewards and prosperity. Today, I will continue to advocate for those affected by the diseases of addiction and mental health. It is a passion and a pathway that I will pursue for the rest of my life.[Please visit www.fromhopkinstohomeless.com for further information about David’s story]