My War – Part 2: Recovery and Relapse

Read the first part here, “Part 1: Swimming in Addiction

Read the final part here, “Part 3: Lifelong Recovery

Back to Square One

A couple years before I ran way to Beirut, I had fallen in love with a girl residing in Beirut who is now my wife. I knew her when I was much younger, back during my high school years when I resided in Beirut. We didn’t talk until much later on, when I was well into my addiction in the US. We started a long distance relationship and it became serious. I fell deeply in love with her. Yet, I never informed her about my addiction until it was too late.

I had ensnared her into a relationship that caused her much suffering for a long phase of her life, something I deeply regret. Nonetheless, she became the love of my life.

Fast forward a few years later. As recounted in Part 1 of my Addiction War, here I was fleeing to Beirut, withdrawing from heroin, running away from the law and from my past. I had given the woman I love just a single day’s notice that I was coming to her from the states, a single day’s notice about my life of addiction. She was shocked … to say the least. But we both tried to make a smaller deal out of it than it really was.

“All I needed was a stint in rehab and I would be fine,” we both thought.

We were in love. And so, we naively thought our love would solve all things.

And so I was admitted into my first rehab stint in a foreign country. I did ‘so good’ according to my overseeing doctors, that I was let out early, after a single month. Yet, this was longer than any rehab stint which my government-provided insurance would pay for in the states.

But that single month was not enough. It wasn’t long before the urges hit me full force. I was still withdrawing mentally and physically. For a heavily addicted heroin addict, one month in rehab is simply not enough.

When I think back to all my previous rehab stints in the states – 2-3 weeks would be the maximum my insurance would pay for – just enough for me to relapse and for the system to keep sending me back to rehab, a win-win capitalist model at its finest.

The reality is, an addict who is knee-deep needs a lot more than a single month in rehab to actually rewire the brain with positive habits. And so, I relapsed quickly. It didn’t matter that I was in a foreign country, without knowing anyone that uses. As they say, if there’s a will, there’s a way.

And so I relapsed quickly back to Heroin. Basically, I continued in Beirut right where I left off in the states. I began stealing from my fiance and relatives. I began lying, doing underhanded activities to get my fix and to avoid the nightmarish withdrawals.

But due to the grace and mercy of God, I was re-admitted into rehab quickly, before I did something disastrous. This time, pressure from my fiance and family demanded I stay in rehab for as long as needed. This time, I would be in a six month program.

I was absolutely devastated. I felt like it was a prison sentence, yet it was absolutely best thing for me. I had forgotten that I’d already lost so many years of my life due to my addiction, and I was even lucky to be alive. 6 months to get clean was nothing compared to the time I had already lost.

This time, I would be in a six-month program. I was absolutely devastated.

A Second Chance

And so, I spent half a year in rehab. One month in a long-term detox program and about 5 months in an outpatient facility. It’s interesting how just staying away from drugs for a few months completely restores normal habits and routines for someone with years of addiction. Ever since I started with Marijuana, I had never been clean for a long time. At that point, I honestly could not imagine what life was like without drugs. I had forgotten what normalcy was. So going 6 months without using completely reversed my situation. My urges were completely gone. I was sleeping normally. I was energetic, ambitious. And best of all, I did not rely on any foreign substance, neither for my mood nor for sleep. No pills. No drugs. Just being clean. It was absolutely amazing.

I was energetic, ambitious. And best of all, I did not rely on any foreign substance, neither for my mood nor for sleep. No pills. No drugs. Just being clean. It was absolutely amazing.

But it wasn’t easy and I came close to giving up several times. My fiance came inches from leaving me while I was in my 6-month rehab stint. After all, I’d already let her down several times within a short span of time. But gratefully, she did decide to stick with me. She was never one to give up easily.

And boy did I need her. Without her support in rehab, I would not have lasted. I would definitely have left rehab and gone out to use. I intended to do exactly that, many times, but it was because of her pressure that I ended up completing the entire 6-month program.

Besides, I was almost completely alone in a country I knew little about, around people that were completely alien to me, with no close family or friends. It was a very lonely time for me. Yet she was always there for me. I have zero doubt in my mind that my fiance and now-wife is a clear sign of God’s own love and mercy for me. I never thought I deserved her, yet God knew I deserved her, and needed her. God continued to love me as He does ’til this day. I found out that I am deserving of His love, that every human being is deserving of His love. We all sin. The important thing is to stop sinning and start correcting our behavior. God forgives all, as long as we stop and vow never to continue again.

It must be mentioned that up until this point, and a long while afterwards, I still hadn’t considered returning to the states, thinking my criminal issue was worse than it actually was. I never hired any lawyer or asked any family member to check into my issue. I just took it for granted that returning was out of the question, that my new life was now in Beirut.

A Marriage, A New Born Child …

And so I got out of rehab a new man. I found a promising new job with a sofware engineering firm. It was a dream job doing the things I only dreamed I could do, learning a ton, and getting a decent paycheck. Again, God’s sign that He did indeed love me, showing me that for every step forward I was willing to take, that He would help me skip ten steps ahead.

Between my fiance and myself working, we could make enough to live on our own. And so one day we decided to get married. Without planning a big wedding, we got married only a week after we made the decision to. We moved into a beautiful apartment right on the ocean outside Beirut. It didn’t belong to us (as outright owners) but it didn’t matter. It was ours for as long as we needed, on the shores of the Mediterranean.

The start of our marriage was like a dream. We loved life. We were wild about each other and inseperable. We’d run to each other’s arms after work, and spend all our free time together. We’d enjoy going through the bumps of life together. It was pure bliss, God’s gift of honest, innocent love, the best type of love.

And soon, my wife became pregnant. We later found out it was a girl. I was absolutely ecstatic since I was hoping for a girl. I never had an opportunity to grow up with a sister so I was hoping for a girl more than a boy.

Yet, at the same time, I was nervous. Would I be a good enough father for her? Would I be able to provide like I should? Would I be able to lead by example and be an ideal for my daughter? Or would I become a person that she should avoid like the plague? I mean, would I be cut out for family life?

I was also working long hours, at least 10-11 hours a day, almost daily.

It became a really stressful time for me. I began to doubt myself. And Satan played upon this weakness.

… And Fast Track to Relapse

Through this doubt, and like before, I had no real support or foundation, nothing to truly replace my addiction with. My wife had replaced my addiction for a while, but a relationship can never permanently fill the void of an addict. It may subside that void, but never eliminate it completely.

And same as before, I did not think of God at all. Even though I always believed He existed, I never thought of building any sort of relationship with Him. I never thought of the things God kept giving me. Even during the worst throes of my addiction, He kept saving me, saving my life. But like before in the states, I never made Him part of my life or habits in any way. I also never went to any NA/AA meetings although there were plenty of them in Beirut. I thought getting married and raising a family would be enough to keep me clean. But it wasn’t.

When I think to why I relapsed at this time, there really isn’t a single silver bullet, although there were many factors. Stress and overwork played a part. Not having God in my life. Not relying on AA/NA. I continued to think I was my own key to staying clean. I believe that’s the larger mistake. I also did not talk about my pre-relapse urges to anyone. My urges came on faster, making me want to escape the stressful situation I was in, to escape the fear of becoming a father, the fear of becoming a bad father. They were irrational fears that Satan played up.

I was used to running away from stress at this point. This is the main silver bullet.

I think the final straw was not talking to another person about it. Even a therapist would’ve been a very good idea at this point.

And so, I found a way to get my hands on opiates. This time it was Tramadol, an opiate pill prescribed for pain and in some cases depression. So I began using Tramadol. Its effects lasted much longer than traditional opiates and it wasn’t expensive, so I began using profusely. I remember being high almost every single minute of my waking life during that phase. I was functioning though, but just barely.

A Brush with Death … And Back on Heroin

I was taking extremely high, dangerous doses of Tramadol. In high doses, Tramadol can cause siezures – and any seizure could carry with it the risk of death, the risk of suffocating on your own vomit. The warning was stamped right on the boxes of Tramadol I was taking. Yet I ignored the warnings, thinking it ‘couldn’t happen to me.’

And as fate would have it …. I had a seizure. Luckily, it was at work where my colleagues carried then drove me to a hospital nearby. The experience was extremely scary and I easily could have died, especially if I seized alone. One moment I was working with my colleagues. One of them had asked me a question about what a word meant in English. At that moment, I began having a seizure. It actually took them a moment to realize I was having a real seizure since they thought I was acting out what the word meant!

I woke up tied down to a hospital bed. I thought it was a dream at first. I had no memory of where I was before. It was like I was asleep for days. But when I tried to get up, I couldn’t since I was tied down. That’s when I became horrified. But gratefully, my boss was there and he quickly explained everything. As he explained to me, I had a seizure at work. My colleagues carried me to the elevator. I would wake up and become extremely voilent with them so they needed at least 5-6 people to keep me held down and to drag me to the car and then hospital. My boss explained I kept waking and going crazy, trying to fight them off. But i didn’t remember any of this. It was a frightful experience to discover this after the fact. I’m also glad none of my colleagues were hurt.

The hospital let me go after some monitoring. I did tell my boss the truth afterwards, that I took too many Tramadol. He was understanding and asked if I had any sort of problem, if I needed time off or help. I lied to him (which was to my own detriment). I told him I wasn’t addicted, that I tried it here and there but I went overboard with my dosage this time and it would be the last time.

I continued my Tramadol addiction but since my tolerance kept getting high, I was now deathly afraid of using it, especially after the seizure. This is when I started to think of Heroin as a replacement. Imagine that. If only I had chosen to get clean at this point, it would’ve actually been easy to get off Tramadol.

It’s funny how Satan always makes the decision of getting clean seem so extremely difficult, seem so much harder than it really is.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have gotten clean from drugs back when I entered rehab in the states. Instead, irrational fear kept blinding me. And that led me to the much worse decision of looking for Heroin to replace my Tramadol addiction.

And so I found my source. Compared to what I was paying in the states, I thought I hit the jackpot. Heroin was so cheap in Lebanon (I wonder why ‘til this day). But in the end, it never matters with drugs. Tolerance always builds, and you’ll need more & more of it to get the same effect. What started as a $3 per day habit became a $100+ per day habit.

I managed about 2-3 months before the heroin addiction became unsustainable. My wife was absolutely devastated to find out I had relapsed, and back on heroin of all things. It was her worst nightmare, especially now that we had an infant. I remember the day she found out. It’s a day I wish I could wipe from memory. I knew I needed to get clean. I told her I wanted to get clean. But we had a daughter. We were living on our own. I was the primary breadwinner. What were we to do??

The Pendelum Swings Again

And so, after several years of trying to get clean, I was back to square one, this time with a wife and daughter. I hit yet another rock bottom and needed help fast. I was desperate to get into rehab and get clean. I would do anything to get myself out of the nightmare I put myself in. But rehab was too expensive in Lebanon. We did not have the funds for another 6-month rehab stint, let alone for a single month. We called several rehabs and none would take me for free or for delayed payment. So much of what people take for granted in the states are luxuries overseas. Rehab is one of those things.

Yet, continuing to use was unsustainable. So I began considering a move back to the states. This would allow me to get clean in rehab and to resolve my lingering legal issues, hitting two birds with one stone. I would then be able to gain my financial footing, open a household, and bring my wife & daughter to the states. It was a good enough plan, but would it be enough for me to stay clean??

To be continued in Part 3 …

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