Addiction to Oxycodone and Xanax Nearly Destroyed My Life: My Recovery Journey
Oxycodone and Xanax, when used together, are extremely dangerous. Oxycodone, an opioid painkiller, is highly addictive and is a depressant. Xanax, less addictive but also a depressant, is used for anxiety. Together, these two drugs can lead to a fatal overdose, as they both slow and even stop breathing. Getting treatment for an addiction to these drugs is essential and literally lifesaving.
My story of addiction turned out to be more about mental health. I didn’t know how profound my anxiety was until I developed a habit for drugs that relaxed me, which in turn led to a nearly fatal overdose.
The journey to recovery has been long and difficult, but the real healing has occurred with management of my anxiety disorders. I still struggle most days to resist the urge to self-medicate, but thanks to the strong foundation of treatment I received in residential care, I’m happier and healthier than ever.
How I Started Using Xanax and Oxycodone
My issues with anxiety, and therefore the root of my addiction, go back to childhood. I don’t want to put the blame on my parents and family, but I grew up in a household where we didn’t talk about feelings. “Mental health” were words I never heard. We were supposed to be strong and to simply internalize any bad feelings.
I have been a worrier for as long as I can remember. Even in elementary school, I worried about grades and about fitting in. In junior high, I had my first panic attack. I thought I was dying, and when the doctor told my parents what it really was, they dismissed it. What does a 13-year-old have to panic about?
Anxiety only intensified in high school, when we moved to a new city. I felt paralyzed by fear when trying to talk to other kids or make friends. This was when I discovered the power of self-medication.
Desperate to have some kind of social life, I accepted an invitation to a party. I tried to drink from my parents’ liquor cabinet before going out, to relax myself, but I couldn’t find a key. Looking in their medicine cabinet, I found oxycodone, leftover from my dad’s back surgery.
I took a triple dose and hoped for the best. The sensation was amazing. I felt relaxed, my anxiety disappeared, and I made friends at the party. From there, I formed bonds with other kids over misusing prescription drugs. I went to pill parties and tried Xanax and other benzodiazepines and opioids.
Addiction Ruined My Life and Nearly Killed Me
What I thought was simply a way to fit in and to finally release all my worry and anxiety eventually turned into an addiction. By the time I got to college, I couldn’t function or go a day without an opioid for relief. Xanax helped, too, but I took that less often.
I felt like I was fine. My anxiety seemed under control. Yes, I needed the oxycodone, but as long as I could get it, I functioned. What I realize now is that it was all an illusion. Everything fell apart in my second year.
I kept using more and more to get high and to suppress the dread and worry that kept threatening to arise. I felt nervous about going to parties, so I took more. I worried about a big paper due, so I took more.
Failing every one of my classes, knowing I would be kicked out, and the fact that my parents didn’t know any of this led me to a nearly fatal binge. I took more oxycodone than ever before and followed it with a few doses of Xanax. I woke up in the hospital, alive thanks to my roommate who had called an ambulance when I stopped breathing.
I Didn’t Understand the Risks
Yes, I knew there were risks to self-medicating and misusing these drugs, but I had no idea they could kill me. I thought I had everything under control and that these drugs couldn’t be that bad since they were prescriptions.
I found out later that both opioids like oxycodone and benzodiazepines like Xanax are depressants. They slow down both breathing and heart rate, which is why they made me feel so good. But the cumulative effect of taking both together was basically suicidal. If I had actual prescriptions to these drugs, I would have seen the warning label.
And I’m not the only one to make this mistake. The number of overdose deaths that involve both an opioid and a benzodiazepine has been steadily rising for years. I had no idea that on top of becoming dependent on these drugs, I was risking my life every time I took them.
Residential Treatment and an Anxiety Diagnosis
The emergency room and my roommate saved my life that night of the overdose, but the real life-changer was going to treatment. I resisted at first, and it wasn’t my parents who pushed but my brother and sister. They convinced me I could not control this addiction. I also think they knew I had anxiety disorders, but it was just something we never talked about.
On the second day of treatment, my psychiatrist diagnosed me with social anxiety disorder and panic disorder. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. I was just ignorant about mental health issues and what that means. Now it seems so obvious that I used prescription drugs to manage undiagnosed mental illnesses for years.
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The Power of Therapy and Mutual Support
Residential treatment provided me with so many options. I enjoyed hikes out in the hills to learn how to relax in nature rather than self-medicate; I practiced yoga and meditation; I even learned about nutrition and how food affects my mood.
But the two things that helped me the most in treatment were working with my therapist and getting to know the other residents. In therapy, I uncovered all the reasons I used drugs, how I got addicted, and how I could manage anxiety in healthier ways.
From the other residents, I got to practice those strategies and learn to overcome my social anxiety. I learned from others and found out how beneficial it is to rely on the support of friends. Once I overcame my fear, deep conversations with my new friends helped heal me.
My Family Came Around
A key part of my therapy involved talking about my family. My therapist helped me see how those early relationships shaped many of my later decisions. My parents initially did not want to acknowledge that I had an addiction or anxiety disorders, but once my brother and sister started coming to therapy, they relented.
We had a few family sessions that were so difficult. Nobody wanted to open up because we had been so set in our damaging communication styles for years. Slowly, though, my parents talked. We all talked, and our relationships are so much deeper now and more meaningful. I now know I can go to my parents with worries and problems, and that they will listen without judgment.
Recovery is Ongoing
Treatment saved my life, but I know I will always struggle with anxiety and addiction. Recovery is a journey, not a destination. My therapist and new friends in treatment taught me so much about how to live life in recovery from addiction.
I use the tools learned in the facility every day: meditation, exercise, talking with friends and family and recognizing and removing triggers that worsen my anxiety. I have some setbacks, including fears about meeting new people or having a panic attack in public, but I have not relapsed on drugs or even alcohol.
I feel good about my future, but I won’t become complacent. I know I cannot use drugs or alcohol moderately. I know my anxiety will return if I don’t remain aware and purposeful. But with treatment and my family, I also know that my future is bright.
Alta Mira offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders.
Contact us today to start the journey toward lasting recovery.