“My name is Britt. I am from Philadelphia, PA. I moved around a lot with my job. However, one consistent thing is I have always had my fair share of struggles with addiction and mental health since as long as I can remember. Funny how the two, addiction and mental health, always seem to go hand in hand. One disease fueled by another and vice versa. I never experimented with drugs until after high school. And even after that I always just considered myself a recreational drug user and thought I knew my limits. Little did I realize that was far from the truth.
In 2001 I was working a corporate job and bartending on the side. One of my customers had to have ACL surgery and when I went to visit, I was offered a large bag filled with what looked like an opiate Pez dispenser threw up inside of it. The bag was filled with pills for weeks. Right after this I was in a serious car accident and out of commission for quite some time. Of course the doctors prescribed me more pain pills and I took full advantage of those, as well as the bag full of those that weren’t. I was popping pills left and right. Benzos to opiates and back again. A pill to bring me up. A pill to bring me down. A pill to even me out. A pill just because it was there. I dropped from 195 to 162 pounds on a good day. Never did I imagine this would eventually lead to be one of the biggest downfalls of my life.
I was able to eventually get myself away from the pills for a while. I was able to recognize there was trauma I wasn’t dealing with in my life and I needed to regroup. I realized the years of low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence coupled with unhealthy relationships, really just brought on deeper issues that all seemed to stem from my avoidance of my mental health issues. Picking up a bottle and popping some pills was only a temporary fix to some much deeper-rooted symptoms. I truly worked hard at balancing my mental health, staying away from the pills and only dabbling in smoking cannabis and drinking. The latter I was not the best at either, at least from what other have told me. All the while I thought I would never go back to where I was. Again, never say never.
In 2011 I had left my corporate job after almost 18 years and started my own small business. It was growing and things were going well. I felt a lot of anxiety at this time due to the new start and risk. Things one day can be great, the next day not so great. Then the not so great part came along. I met someone. The wrong someone. A friend. Or so I thought. Someone who just wasn’t healthy for me and of course it was a two-way street. Pills were a part of this person’s life. Eventually they became a part of mine again. With the anxieties building with my business becoming successful, I started to slowly sink into manic states again. I felt my mental health issues coming back full force. I knew this wasn’t going to be a good situation at all. Especially when it progressed from pills to heroin. From there it was a four-year, downward spiral into Hell.
Before I knew what was happening to me, I was catapulted into a world that no one should experience. I started to find out the best corners in the city where they sold heroin. I ran into some of the darkest bowels of the city and faced some of the most unfathomable things in life — both mentally and physically. I went into some of the places most people only see on tv. I was jumped. Twice. I was pistol whipped two days before Christmas. Imagine the bullsh*t I fed everyone who asked about my face. I became someone far from that experimental, recreational user. I became a dependent on a disease that has been killing a nation for years. I had lost all decency in aspects that getting my next fix and chasing my next high was all I cared about. I isolated myself from family and friends. I lied to everyone. Mostly myself. Weirdly enough, all the while, I was running a successfully growing small business. Because of this, I never stole, well, only from myself. I stole a lot of money that I earned from my business and a lot of time I can’t ever get back while in my active addiction.
I overdosed once. I came to and I was lying on a ‘friend’s’ kitchen floor. Standing over me were two paramedics and a police officer. The cop looked at me and said, ‘You’re lucky we’re not busy today.’ Sadly enough, this wasn’t the first overdose. One time I ‘woke up’ to police and paramedics over me as I lay in my driver seat, in my car, which was on a sidewalk, and the next thing I knew I was lying in a jail cell being charged with a DUI. My life was the worst. I hated myself. My every being. I wished I was anything but alive. I couldn’t fight this disease that had taken over and had challenged my life all these years. I wanted out. I wanted to feel no pain anymore. But this wasn’t my cry for recovery, this was my cry for my ticket out of life. I was self-destructive and I didn’t recognize the person staring back at me in the mirror anymore. Actually, I detested what I saw in the mirror.
I remember waking up that last day and going out on my search early in the morning for a few hundred dollars’ worth of ‘medicine’ to get me through the day. It was raining. The sky was black and the storm wasn’t letting up. I felt this strong feeling of evil just hanging around me that day. It was the 28th of October, 2015. Bizarrely enough, the 28th was actually the same dates during the month of my overdoses, and it seemed to mean something. I remember my ‘friend’ was with me. We were in a state that really bordered comatose. I made it to the bathroom, feeling sick and detesting myself. I thought I was going to throw up and tried, but nothing came out. I just felt violently ill. I looked in the mirror and at that point I had no clue who was looking back at me. It was at that point when I saw someone totally unknown to me staring back at me, someone I didn’t like. I knew I had to fight to salvage my world. I remember throwing the person out of my house and making a commitment to myself to fight the demons that were destroying me for so long. I made a commitment to myself to take back control of my life. And that’s what I did.
I didn’t check into a rehab, I went the IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) route. I found a great group that would accept me for me. I didn’t do detox in a facility. I detoxed on my own. At my home. Surrounded by my Zoo (3 dogs and 4 cats that are my world) and the remaining true friends I had. I found relief from many different areas to help me stay focused and on track. After what felt like a Mack truck has run over you, three times, and that someone is ripping the insides of you out, and you sweat from being so hot to shaking from being so cold, I was able to look in the mirror again. Finally, I began to recognize the person that was looking back.
I began to share my story of trauma and addictive behaviors and pent up emotions with people. Not just people in my IOP or my life but to an audience on social media that has rallied behind me from all across the world and allow me to be vulnerable to them. They allow me to share my life and my feelings and my journey with them and this is my recovery. I started a non-profit almost three years ago that has a mission to bring advocacy, awareness and cohesion in the communities towards societal issues such as homelessness and to the fatal epidemic of the opioid crisis. I have found my mission. I have taken peace in healing through bringing compassion and harm reduction to those who need it most. I work the front lines to ensure that those who are lost like I was, have a voice and know that they are not alone.
This coming October marks 4 years of being clean. I continue to fight my demons, but each day they are less and less. I don’t focus on the where I was, I focus on the where I am and where I am going. I know I have work to do and that my mission is just getting started. I try to be a good friend to my friends and a good family member to my family. I have learned that the most important thing in life you can do is show up. So I do just that. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh. The rest always just seems to fall into place. All you have to do is truly believe in yourself and the possibilities are endless.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Britt James Carpenter of Philadelphia, PA. You can follow his journey on Instagram here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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