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Getting to know ... a recovering heroin addict PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, December 08, 2013 9:04 PM


Times Bulletin Editor

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VAN WERT — It’s just a matter of days for Johnny Murphy. The local 28-year-old Van Wert man is admittedly a heroin addict but for 204-plus days, he has been clean.

“I did a lot of things during my addiction that aren’t me,” he admitted. “I don’t try to blame it all on that. I’m not avoiding any responsibility for my actions but [the heroin] really does change you.”

Murphy has had issues with drugs since he was 19. Then in 2008, an impacted wisdom tooth sent him to the dentist. To get through until surgery could be scheduled, he was given a prescription for vicodin.

He remembered: “When I took them, I thought that it was helping with the pain but I felt great! Mentally, they made me feel good. I had the surgery, they gave me one more prescription, then I ran out. From there it went to ‘How can I get more?’ From 2008 through late 2010, I’d get them wherever I could — doctors, buy them off the street.”

Murphy described a problem that kept escalating to the point where he was spending more money on pills than on anything else. Then one day, he tried to get more from his dealer but the dealer was out of vicodin. But he did have something else that could do the trick; heroin.

“It was stronger. I knew it was stronger. I knew I could do less. And it was cheaper. It was more readily available. It was always there,” he said.

Murphy moved on to heroin. It was a step that would change him. His attitude changed. His whole life became about getting more heroin; not just for the high but to keep the sickness from withdrawal from the drug away. His relationships with friends and family became strained due to a personality change. He snapped at family members, participated on Internet discussion sites by insulting and ridiculing others and was generally being unpleasant to most everyone. He said his wife, who had overlooked the pill use, wanted him to stop but he was in deep. And the drug was everywhere.

“In Van Wert, it’s here but it’s not as cheap as everybody thinks. Dayton is where it’s cheap. I started out here and I was just going to do a little bit. I never thought I would shoot it up, I never thought I would use a needle; I always looked down on people who did,” Murphy explained. “It started slow and next thing you know, I’m driving to Dayton and coming back. At the end, I was up to using like two to three grams a day.”

At that point, Murphy was going through more than $600 worth of heroin each day but didn’t have to come up with the cash for all of it. The important part was making sure he could get it to keep the withdrawal sickness away.

“It turned into every day being about that. It wasn’t about getting high any more, it was about not getting sick. You don’t realize it until you are in it that you can’t stop,” Murphy admitted. “I didn’t realize it would be so hard for me to quit. I think the big thing with it is that you’re so sick when you stop and you know that relief is just so easy to get. That’s what did it.”

Murphy developed quite a reputation. A natural tendency toward debate was magnified under the influence of the drug. He became mean, even with people he did not know. He indicated that he understands that now.

“I’m truly sorry for the way I acted toward people during that time,” he stated. “I’m embarrassed to see the way I acted, the way I treated people, the way I put that over everything. It was insane.”

Finally, he reached bottom. He started to see the effect heroin was having on his life, his relationships with his wife and 5-year-old daughter and the rest of his family. Murphy knew he wasn’t being the type of person and the type of father he should be. He was focusing more on finding more heroin than he was on building a good relationship with his daughter.

“They say everybody hits their own rock bottom and it sounds corny, but it’s true. I was tired of waking up everyday and being sick, the whole day being about how am I going to keep myself from being sick and how am I going to keep functioning today. It just got old,” he said.

He decided it was time to take action. A trip to check in at an inpatient treatment facility in Columbus resulted in a quick trip back home. The facility would not accept Medicaid and Murphy had no other way to pay for treatment.

“We came back and I got right back into heroin again,” he noted. “That was my excuse, ‘I tried’!”

A second try in Lima was another failure. The program was the victim of a budget cut. But for Murphy, he discovered that he had to go into rehab for the right reason.

“At first, I wanted to for the wrong reasons,” he said. “I wanted to quit because my family wanted me to quit. That won’t work. You have to do it for you.”

A call to Westwood Behavioral Health Center put Murphy on the right road.

He revealed: “Westwood is what helped me the most. I see a drug therapist there. I go to groups there. I had to do the whole detox and withdrawal at home. But to this day, I’m going to Westwood. They’re great. They’re awesome.”

Murphy is also participating in Celebrate Recovery, where he is exploring his new-found faith. The religion he had considered an enemy has now become a friend.

For Murphy, life today is not perfect. He has not fed his drug habit in over 204 days. He knows he is not perfect but he is making progress.

“Life from then to now is totally different,” he shared. “I’m not where I want to be yet but I’m so much better than where I was last year at this time. I can see that now. The big thing is, when you’re using, you don’t see it. You think everything is fine. Now it’s a totally different world — waking up and not having to worry about how you’re going to get through the day without going through withdrawal.”

Now, Murphy wants to do good. He wants to right the wrongs he made while under control of heroin. He wants to lend support and assistance to folks wanting to quit. He wants to let people know there are options possible where help is available. And he wants to show people it is possible, even after years on drugs, to come out of that lifestyle and live for more than the next dose, for 204 days and beyond.

He has put together a list of resources locally to help anyone looking to take the next step. He has offered his support to his former friends when they decide to give up drugs. And he insists that there is help that can make a difference for others, just as assistance made a difference for him, but they have to want to quit for the right reasons.

He warned: “Heroin isn’t worth it because you pay for it. Every good feeling you got you have to pay for in the end. Nobody when they pick it up ever thinks they’re ever going to be a junkie but once you do it once, it’s very, very hard to stop.”

Recovery is a slow process. Murphy is still looking for a job. He’s cut out relationships with those still into drugs because that’s how people slip back into that lifestyle but he reports that his relationships with the family are better. He stays busy during the day and stays away from that old temptation. He goes to group meetings and explores more than finding another dose of heroin.

It’s a matter of days for Murphy — 204… 205… 206… and counting.


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