“I had accepted in my head that I was going to be a dope fiend for the rest of my life.”
Josh is 29 years old and was born in Boston to an Air Force family. He moved to Middle River, Maryland when he was seven and he graduated from Eastern Technical High School.
Josh started using marijuana around the age of thirteen. He remembers the older kids in the neighborhood using. “Curiosity was a big part of it,” and he thinks the media had something to do with it, too.
Throughout high school, Josh used the party drugs – ecstasy, acid, mushrooms, cocaine, etc. It wasn’t until his senior year that a friend introduced Josh to opiates and he explains, “I fell in love immediately”.
After high school, Josh worked in sales and went to community college. He managed to do okay balancing out a life of partying, working, and going to school. Eventually, he realized that managing his social life and friends had become overwhelming. “I had no rest. So, if I wasn’t at work and if I wasn’t at school, I either had a group of friends over at my house partying, or they were hitting me up. [They wanted to know] about what bar are we going to, or can you get me this drug and do you want to do some of it with me? Josh remembers that “it became a burden to continue in that role.”
Josh’s friends at work reintroduced him to oxycodone during this time. “I started to lose interest in work and school and hanging out with friends.” At first, oxycodone helped and kept him motivated to keep going. “Eventually, my friends started seeing different changes in me, that I was becoming a straight addict with these pills [as opposed to a social user]. They started not wanting to be around me. I started resenting them not wanting to be around me. Then I started lying about how much I was using. That’s when the isolation started to happen.” Eventually, Josh dropped out of college, and his life became about going to work and getting high.
When he was twenty-four, taking prescription drugs became too expensive and more difficult to find, so he moved on to heroin. “The idea of shooting up had disgusted me [in the past].” I had always taken a lot of pride in myself and had a lot of confidence in myself, and the needle took that away from me. I couldn’t do it in a room with a mirror because I didn’t want to see myself.”
After a while Josh wanted to get clean, so he called Mercy Hospital’s detox unit and went through three days of detox. “Luckily I had a friend that was clean at the time, and he introduced me to Narcotics Anonymous. I went to a meeting, and I didn’t like it. The guy who shared, I judged him the whole time. Even though I was an addict, I judged everyone in there the whole time. I left there and got high. I called my buddy, and he told me to come back.” Josh kept going but decided he didn’t want to do anything they were telling him to do. “It sounded like a lot of work.” He refused to give up alcohol and six months later, while he was drinking, he started using heroin again.
Josh overdosed four times after he started using again. He explains, “Before, when I was disgusted about what I was doing, I didn’t hate myself. I just hated what I was doing. I knew I was better than that needle. But, at this point, I had tried all these different things and had lost the willpower to get clean. I had accepted in my head that I was going to be a dope fiend for the rest of my life and I was okay with that.”
Eventually, Josh was arrested and charged with possession and disorderly conduct. He had also received several traffic violations over the years. At his hearing, he was sentenced to four years in jail because the judge was afraid that Josh would either kill himself or someone else if he was allowed to go free.
When he was clean, Josh had met graduates of Helping Up Mission. He told his dad about HUM and said he wanted to come here. So, when Josh filed for a modification of his sentence, he came to HUM.
When he arrived, adjusting wasn’t that difficult. HUM wasn’t what he expected and “looked like a hotel.” At the end of his blackout period (the first forty-five days), he started to show up to non-mandatory meetings, hearing the NA literature again and met a good group of guys who seemed to want the same things he did. “When we got off black-out, we were [out at] meetings every single night.”
Josh came to Helping Up Mission just before Thanksgiving. “That week was just amazing. We eat well here, anyway, but that week I ate amazing. We had the Ravens players come out, and it was cool meeting those guys. A lot of people were festive and in good moods. I was used to being in jail where everybody was angry the whole time, and there was a tension that you could cut with a knife that they didn’t have here. It was relaxing to me.”
Josh’s parents visited around Christmas, and he sees them more often now. He is working on building up the relationship with them. His brother has even brought his dogs to meet up with Josh at local parks.
While at Helping Up Mission, Josh has grown through his work therapy experiences. He started off as a peace-keeper and then moved to work as Pastor Gary’s assistant. He was there for several months when another opportunity presented itself. Josh had a casual conversation with Martin, the IT director at HUM, and mentioned some of his experience. A little while later, Martin asked Josh to work for him in IT as an undergraduate intern. The opportunity to work on technology has been incredible for Josh as he rediscovers his interests, especially in network security.
Josh has a bit longer before his graduation. He wants to stay active in his twelve-step program and has been asked to lead a group here at the Mission. He plans to eventually go back to school to study the field of IT and network security. He says, “I’ve learned to trust the process and God’s plan for me.”
Josh and a friend at HUM recently reminisced, “When we got here we didn’t want to stay for a year.” Now, they might stay beyond a year to continue to grow. “This is a good place for me right now. As long as I keep doing the next right thing, then I will never know what it’s like to get hit with NARCAN again.”