I’ll never forget the first time I tried opioids. The memory is almost as strong today as it was more than 20 years ago.
I was at my friend Morgan’s small but cozy 2-bedroom apartment on Del Mar Ave, 200 feet from the Pacific Ocean, in San Diego, California.
It was a classic summer day in the town of Ocean Beach. 75 degrees, a cool ocean breeze, and a blue sky without any clouds.
I was a 22-year-old pot dealer at the time, a stoner, and I had drunk my fair share of alcohol and tried LSD, mushrooms, and Valium, but that was the extent of my experimenting to date.
Morgan was about to add a new type of drug to my collection of experiences, and it seemed totally harmless and innocent, so why not try it?
The waves were flat that day, and surfers like Morgan and I still liked to get high even if we couldn’t do so naturally by riding some fun waves.
My First Use of Opioids as a Resource
Morgan reached into his shorts’ side pocket and pulled out a prescription bottle then pulled it up a few inches from my face and shook it so I could hear the tablets clattering.
His facial expression and sly smile told me two things. First, that he had something fun to do, and second, that he was going to share.
Curiosity and a bit of excitement came over me, and I asked “whatcha got there Mad Mortegen?” That was the nickname I gave him.
Mad Mortegen was the human warrior that protected Willow in the 90’s blockbuster movie of the same name.
“Vicodin! You want one?”
“Hell ya,” I said emphatically and without hesitation.
We both took a tablet each that read “M365” on it, making it a generic Vicodin containing 5 mg of the opioid known as hydrocodone along with 500 mg of the NSAID acetaminophen.
45 minutes after we both swallowed our pills with a glass of ice cold and refreshing water, the effects peaked.
However, I quickly became confused.
I was puzzled because even though we both took the same pill, it had completely opposite effects on us.
Morgan was sitting in his computer chair, nodding forward, sleeping, and drool was coming out of the left side of his mouth. The 5 mg of hydrocodone appeared to affect him much like a sleeping pill.
Meanwhile, I had never had so much energy in my entire life.
But that wasn’t even the best part.
I felt more confident than ever before.
I had always struggled with:
- Low confidence
- Low self-esteem
- Social anxiety
- Generalized anxiety
- Intermittent panic attacks
- Intermittent depression
I was a sensitive guy, deeply intuitive, and very emotional.
I honestly felt like everyone else had something I was lacking.
I felt different, and I never felt like I fit in.
As the AA saying goes, “I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin.”
However, 45 minutes after taking one of Morgan’s hydrocodone, I did feel comfortable in my skin. 22 years of feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, and all it took was a teeny tiny pill to solve literally all of my problems.
Social anxiety… gone.
Generalized anxiety… gone.
Opioids Made me Feel Superhuman
These mental health disorders that plagued me for so long melted away faster than the sun melts away the morning fog.
I had always been shy with girls, but under the influence of opioids, I felt like I could talk to any girl.
I had always felt this underlying fear of the future, but at that moment, I was fearless.
In short, I felt superhuman.
That wonderful little pill made me feel like I’ve always wanted to feel.
Actually, it made me feel even better than I could’ve imagined a human could feel.
Along with the energy boost, confidence, and happiness, I also felt euphoria, love, and a deep feeling of connection.
My brain usually interpreted the world as a scary place, but once the hydrocodone altered my brain chemistry, I now saw the world as Heaven on Earth.
Over a decade later I found out why this happened.
Hypomania is less severe than the traditional mania experienced by someone with bipolar I.
The manic episodes of individuals with bipolar 1 can be completely debilitating, but hypomania is not, and in fact, it can be a very desirable state to be in for a lot of individuals.
Some of the common symptoms of hypomania are:
- Elevated mood
- Reduced need for sleep without feeling tired
- Grandiose thinking (meaning unrealistic thinking about your powers, talents, or abilities)
- Feeling intensely driven to accomplish specific goals
- Unusual talkativeness
- Excessive involvement in activities associated with high potential for negative consequences (such as spending sprees, gambling, sexual indiscretions, or risky financial investments)
When at least three or more of these symptoms are present, an individual could be diagnostically classified as experiencing hypomania.
In my 20’s, alcohol consumption made me hypomanic almost 100% of the time.
From the very first time I took that 5 mg Vicodin at Morgan’s apartment, I experienced enough symptoms that I could technically be classified as having hypomania.
And opioids continued to induce a state of hypomania on me all the way up to my very last hit of heroin that I smoked on aluminum foil.
Life can be difficult and it’s often full of obstacles after obstacles after obstacles.
So, for those of us who experience the opioid-induced energy and especially the symptoms that mirror hypomania, it can often make life easier, at least at the beginning.
Opioids were a Multidimensional Resource for Me
The word resource has several definitions that could be applied to it. In the description of substance use being described as a resource, it means “a possibility of relief” or “a source of support.”
Opioids were my resource for:
- Self-medicating anxiety
- Self-medicating depression
- Giving me the energy to work full-time as a single dad
- Making my job fun instead of stressful
- Numbing my emotional pain
- Dulling my fear of life
- Dulling my fear of people
Indeed, opioids were a valuable resource for me, albeit an unhealthy resource that led to more pain and suffering than I was experiencing prior to becoming a daily user, but a resource nonetheless.
Essentially, opioids can quickly become valuable assets in two main categories:
- Physical resource
- Psychological resource
When opioids are a resource for pain relief, energy, and delayed ejaculation, these are physical areas of resource.
When opioids help a person to not feel anxiety, depression, loneliness, guilt, shame, and other emotions, opioids are acting as a psychological resource.
The people that get addicted to opioids nearly always get both physical and psychological resource benefits in ample quantities.
Opioids become their ‘Ultimate Resource for Making Life Better.’
Opioids made me:
- More empathetic
- More creative
- More motivated and energized
- More productive
- More confident
- More resilient
I just loved feeling a high amount of joy, confidence, and personal power, because without opioids I almost always felt generalized anxiety, social anxiety, intermittent depression, fear, and other difficult states of being.
Opioids as a Resource for Pain
I’ve worked with a superabundance of clients that said opioids were a very helpful resource for treating their fibromyalgia and/or chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms.
I commonly get clients that love how at least for a while, opioids dulled their physical pain and also made them much more physically energized and thus allowing them to live a better quality of life than before they began using opioids.
And most of these clients also told me they received the psychological resource benefits of opioids as well.
Dr. Gabor Maté says all addiction is to treat pain.
One of my favorite quotes by Dr. Maté is:
Do not ask why the addiction, but why the pain.”
Dr. Gabor Maté, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction, writes “The attempt to escape from pain, is what creates more pain.”
Whether a person is using opioids as a resource for physical pain, emotional pain, to self-medicate mental disorders or trauma, or to help them be a better lover or a more productive, energized, and creative entrepreneur, it’s all for the same purpose.
They are using opioids as an Ultimate Resource to Make Life Better.
Opioid Resource Benefits Get Diminishing Returns
Unfortunately for many of us, the positive benefits from using opioids as a resource usually begin to fade away, and in their place often come negative consequences.
This is devastating, and in many cases, which are all too common, eventually, opioids are no longer a resource, but something else entirely, and once they become this new thing the longer a person continues using opioids the worse their lives typically get.
Using Opioids as a Resource Without Doing Research First
My opioid use started off so innocently. I literally had no idea that opioids could cause tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal.
Morgan didn’t tell me, no one else told me, and I didn’t even know that Vicodin was related to heroin.
I didn’t have any opioid-addicted friends and at the age of 22 and I was very naïve about the potentially addictive properties of prescription pills.
In short, I was completely clueless as to what I could be getting into.
Despite my ignorance, I was easily able to use opioids recreationally for eight years straight with very few negative consequences which were greatly outweighed by a superabundance of positive benefits.
Remember, opioids gave me energy, confidence, and a relief of anxiety and depression to name a few benefits.
For eight years whenever I took them, I felt amazing and almost always had a great time, even if I was just home alone cleaning my house!
For eight years I never felt the need or even desire to take opioids every day.
To me, they were just fun to take from time to time, and buying them illegally was expensive and I was constantly poor in my 20s, so even if I wanted to buy a bunch the most pills I could ever get were 10-20 in a given month.
The Perfect Stars were in Alignment for Me to Get Opioid Use Disorder
However, when I was 30 years old and living in upstate New York, the stars were all in alignment for me to finally get addicted to opioids.
I had a stressful job that I didn’t like, a newborn baby, and I was experiencing lots of emotional pain from the breakup between my baby’s mother and me.
Additionally, I had lots of friends that knew where to get pills and it seemed like there was an endless supply at the time.
To mask my emotional pain, relieve my anxiety and depression, and give me lots of energy to work full-time and take care of my newborn, I began using opioids daily.
I had a steady income and cheap rent, so with nearly all of my income beyond bills, I purchased:
- Fentanyl patches
- or any other RX opioids I could get on the streets
I had a seriously awesome two months getting loaded on opioids, but my euphoria came to a screeching halt when the pills dried up and I wasn’t able to purchase more.
I didn’t think too much of it when I took my last two 10 mg Norco’s on a Sunday afternoon at 1:00 pm.
But the next morning I sure did.
It was one of the worst days of my life.
My First Severe Negative Consequence from Using Opioids as a Resource
I went into work at 8 am, drank a cup of Tanzania Peaberry coffee, and went straight into the bathroom to vomit.
Next came the severe anxiety.
My boss was so awesome.
He could tell I felt awful and told me to go home and wished me to feel better soon.
But I didn’t feel better soon.
In fact, I started to feel worse and worse, and the crazy thing is that I didn’t even know I was going through an acute opioid withdrawal syndrome.
That entire first day off opioids I simply thought I was having a severe panic attack.
I drank a 12-pack of beer throughout the day which really helped me calm down, but the next morning I felt even worse.
Now I was on Day 2 of acute opioid withdrawal and I also had a hangover on top of that!
To make a long story short, one of my friends/dealers texted me and said “you’re not having a panic attack you ran out of pills and now you’re sick.”
I went online and ran a search on “opiate withdrawal” and learned all about what was happening to me.
I also found out that Valium could potentially help me feel a lot better, so I scored a bunch of those and they worked!
Opioids Start out as a Resource Yet they don’t Always Remain a Resource
But after a week I decided that now I could use opioids responsibly and non-daily again, just like those previous eight years.
However, instead of using them recreationally from time to time, I abused them all day every day, and over the next few years, I only had a total of about 4 months of clean time.
For a long time, opioids were my Ultimate Resource for Making Life Better.
After 8 Years Opioids Went from a Resource for me to an Exhausted Resource
They gave me lots of benefits with almost no negative consequences. But after several months of using them daily and not really being able to afford them, it wasn’t long before they gave me almost no positive benefits and such numerous and negative consequences that they were destroying my life.
The negative consequences became severe and soon it wasn’t just me that was being negatively impacted by my addiction, as my addiction was now causing harm to my daughter, girlfriend, and family.
There is a name for this phenomenon, which is a principle of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).
According to this principle, addiction is an ‘exhausted resource.’
Here’s the basic premise…
If a person uses opioids for the first time and gets a negative reaction they don’t like, if it’s significantly negative, they will probably never use an opioid again.
I’ve talked with several people that have been in this situation.
Opioids are Not a Resource for Everyone
For example, one of my co-workers at the restaurant I worked at in upstate New York had such a bad reaction to his first 7.5 mg ES (extra-strength) Vicodin that he vowed never to take them again.
He had several of his molars yanked out of his mouth in one dentist appointment and was prescribed a bottle of around 20 or possibly 30 Vicodin.
When I saw him at work after his dental procedure, he asked me if I wanted to purchase his pills. He was one of the few co-workers that knew I loved opioids however nobody knew that I needed them daily to avoid withdrawal.
The few co-worker friends that I felt comfortable sharing my love of pills with had no idea of the extent of my opioid obsession and didn’t know I was an opioid addict, although some of them may have realized it without me saying it out loud.
Anyways, my co-worker that was prescribed ES Vicodin for pain tried one tablet upon filling the prescription at the pharmacy and stated that it made him extremely agitated and downright mean.
He stated that he couldn’t mellow out one bit and was a total asshole to his wife until the Vicodin finally wore off many, many hours later.
After it wore off he decided that Ibuprofen 800 mg tablets would be the only thing he’d use for dental pain from that point forward, which was lucky for me because I got a really good deal on his entire prescription bottle.
I, of course, purchased all of his ES Vicodin and they of course only lasted me a couple of days before the bottle was empty.
My co-worker, after trying an opioid for the first time had such an undesirable and negative physical and psychological reaction that opioids did not become a resource for him.
Instead, opioids became something to avoid at all costs.
Timelines of Opioids going from Resource to Exhausted Resource
Having opioids as a resource is a wonderful thing. However, depending on the effects opioids have on a person, the amount of stress in their life, and the accessibility of opioids this resource can eventually start to deplete, sometimes slowly and other times quickly.
When the negative consequences of opioid use outweigh the positive benefits from opioid use, I consider opioids an exhausted resource, because if the negative consequences outweigh the positive benefits, then mathematically speaking opioid use is creating a net deficit to your quality of life.
For some people, it takes a couple of months for opioids or another drug to go from a resource to an exhausted resource.
For other people, it can take years or a decade or longer before it becomes an exhausted resource.
Some people use opioids as a resource for their whole lives and they can use opioids here and there for pain or recreationally to feel good or at a party.
Other people might use opioids as a pain management resource for a decade or longer and although they’re physically dependent on opioids, they never get a psychological dependence or addiction, and the positive benefits always greatly outweigh the negative consequences of long-term daily opioid treatment for pain management.
My Formula for the Transmutation of Opioids from Resource to Exhausted Resource
Here is my formula for knowing whether or not opioids have become an exhausted resource for you.
Negative Consequences > Positive Benefits = Net Deficit to Quality of Life
- Long-form version – You get more negative consequences than positive benefits which results in continued opioid use causing a net deficit to your quality of life (with this caveat):
- You may still be getting some benefits from opioids but if you’re getting a lot of negative consequences that override the benefits — such as you’re spending too much money or it’s causing pain in your relationships — or maybe you’re not as present of a parent or maybe you’re lying or stealing, these different negative consequences can begin to outweigh and then heavily outweigh the positive benefits.
When this occurs, in NLP we call it an exhausted resource.
It’s also an exhausted resource if you haven’t received the good benefits in weeks, months, or even years and you’re basically using opioids just to avoid getting sick and prevent the withdrawal syndrome from coming on.
Personal Continuums of Opioids Losing Their Resource Status
For close to 100% of the people I’ve counseled, coached, and corresponded with, opioids started off as an awesome resource for making their lives better.
Then, eventually, whether over the span of weeks, months, or years, the positive resource benefits began to fade considerably while the negative consequences started to outweigh them, eventually tipping the balance in favor of the negative consequences, thus making opioid addiction an exhausted resource rather than a resource.
Whether a person started off using opioids as a resource for shoulder pain relief, chronic pain management, dental pain, energy, to self-medicate mental disorders, for recreational fun, to delay ejaculation, or for other benefits and more often for a combination of these benefits, when they hire me as an opioid detox and recovery coach or come to my website or podcast to learn how to quit opioids, they’ve gone through their own continuum of using opioids as a resource and eventually exhausted their precious resource until they no longer wanted to continue being on opioids.
The paths that can get a person to this destination are varied and numerous, but the continuum is always the same, going from a resource to an exhausted resource.
Continuing Daily Opioid Use After Opioids Have Become an Exhausted Resource Leads to Pain & Self-Punishment
Once the resource is exhausted, the longer a person continues life on opioids, typically the more negative consequences and difficulties they will experience.
This is a life of pain and suffering, which ranges from mild to moderate to severe depending on the situation, but it’s always pain and suffering.
I commonly work with people that are spending all of their money on opioids, hiding their addiction from their spouse, losing their mental, emotional, and spiritual health, and feeling a lot of guilt and shame and other negative consequences, while simultaneously not even feeling much from opioids anymore and really just using them to avoid the withdrawal from coming on.
This is an all-too-easy predicament to get yourself into since quitting opioids is much harder than getting addicted to them.
It sure was a difficult obstacle and challenge for me to overcome and eventually transcend, and it is for the majority of people.
However, it doesn’t have to be nearly as hard as it was for me.
I didn’t know what the heck I was dealing with.
It was a long and hard process of stumbling my way to success and failing my way forward.
Eventually, luck, timing, grace, and the universe all lined up and fortunately, I used that opportunity to get the job done.
And for the past 10+ years my life has been dedicated to helping people recover from opioid use disorder and other substance use disorders.
Take good care of yourself and I hope this article was helpful for you.
If you have any comments or questions, please post them in the comment box below.