Opioid addiction affects millions of people in the United States each year, and the drugs can have serious consequences for a person’s health. Now, one woman is sharing photos of her recovery process on Reddit to demonstrate what addiction really looks like.
In a series of photos, the woman, who prefers to be identified just as Keri, goes from being gaunt with dark circles under her eyes, to lying in a hospital bed, to looking fresh-faced, healthy, and happy. “First picture was when I was using, second picture was the day after I was admitted to the hospital, third was when I was three months clean (still in a nursing center) & last picture is me and my fiancé a month or so ago,” she wrote in the comments.
Keri said that for “a long few years,” she was addicted to prescription and nonprescription opioids, and “it felt impossible to be able to start a new life.” She eventually turned to heroin and repeatedly tried to get clean, with no success. Three years ago, she landed in the hospital in septic shock from MRSA, a superbug that’s difficult to treat, after injecting her foot with heroin. “I was close to dying that first night but luckily I pulled through and was hospitalized for the better part of a year,” she wrote. “I went from bed rest and oxygen, to learning to walk again with and without oxygen, months of routine IV antibiotics, and countless hours in physical therapy, weaned off of fentanyl and oxycodone with the help of gabapentin, and eventually was able to leave the facility.”
A year later, Keri met her now-fiancé, who helped her wean herself off of gabapentin. Now, she’s “the closest to being pain free and drug free as I have ever been in my life.” She added that she only takes muscle relaxers, which she’s starting to wean herself off of as well.
“With hard work, strong will, and the support of my loved ones, I feel as if I’ve overcome something that years ago seemed impossible,” she wrote. “Back then I felt like my life would never have a purpose, but now I realize my purpose of struggling through all of those years was so that I could give hope to others struggling with addiction. It’s never too late for a change. If I could make it this far, everyone else can.”
The comments were overwhelmingly positive, with many people applauding Keri for her honesty.
Keri tells Yahoo Lifestyle that her addiction began when she injured her wrist years ago after tripping on the stairs. Doctors couldn’t figure out what, exactly, was causing her to be in pain, so they prescribed opioids for the next two years so that she could continue to work. Eventually, she saw a new doctor who refused to write her another prescription for opioids, and she went through serious withdrawal. “Withdrawal feels like you have the worst flu that you could ever have,” Keri says. “It’s the worst hell that you could imagine.”
Her boyfriend at the time was a former heroin addict, and he used his connections to get her heroin. “I felt iffy about it, but I was stuck in the throes of withdrawal, so I decided to try it,” she says. Keri eventually decided that she wanted to stop using and put herself in rehab. However, she says, she felt that she was being treated like a criminal, so she left. “I ended up starting to use again after that,” she says.
It wasn’t until Keri developed the MRSA infection that she decided she needed to finally get clean. Now, she says, her health is the best it’s ever been, although she admits she probably eats more junk food than she should.
Keri says she was nervous to share her post, but she’s happy at the positive reaction to it. “I just want people to know that addiction does seem like it’s hopeless at the time, and it may feel like you have nothing to live for, but it’s only because you’re stuck in this place and you can’t see the big picture,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “You have the power to overcome anything — it’s just what you set your mind to.”
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