My Journey

matthew tilfordMy story is like so many others across our country, as I have come to learn. Good kid. Great grades. Finished college. Toiled for a few years learning the ropes at a big firm before getting that life changing promotion, and I was on my way.

Then there was the skiing accident.

I will not bore you with all the details, but I tore up my leg and knee pretty bad. Two surgeries were required to fix the damage. That was followed by 6 months of rehab. After surgery, my doctor introduced me to a painkiller called Vicodin. Little did I know at that time how this curious white pill would change my life.

I remember how the physician just casually mentioned that he would be writing me a prescription for a painkiller to help after surgery. There was no conversation about exactly what that medication was. The words addiction and addictive were never uttered. I take that back. No talk of side effects.

There was mention of one side effect. A stool softner was recommended for the likely bout of constipation that would be brought on by the Vicodin. That was it.

For many of you, I will not have to fill in the details of how this story went from there. Fast forward a year later. It was no longer Vicodin I was taking, at least not all the time. It had become too hard to get regularly, and believe me I tried. Like many others before me, and surely after me, I had moved on to heroin to replace it when I could not get it.

I remember the day I really realized that I needed help.

Here I was. A 30-something, up and coming defense attorney at a well-known law firm in a big city, and I was sitting in a public bathroom stall administering my routine dose of heroin that I had just scored a few blocks down the street.

I was getting to a point that I could not function anymore. Nobody around me at work said anything, but they had to know that something was not right. My behavior had become erratic. My mood was unpredictable day-to-day. I was willing to do just about anything, sacrifice just about anything for my next dose.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I had a boss that was completely understanding when I told him the whole story. I was given time off to get myself clean and back together. I realize many others in my same situation would not be afforded that same opportunity. Many probably would have been told to pack up their things that day and never come back.

Getting help was not easy. Anyone who has fought with an opiate addiction can tell you about the grip they can get on you. A physical addiction, like the one your body experiences with opiates, is not just difficult to overcome. It can be painful. Intensely painful. I think the best description I have ever read of someone describing going through withdrawal was imagine that you have the flu. A really bad case of the flu. It’s ten times worse than that.

I did get myself clean though, not without a few stumbles, but as of this writing it has been 500 days since I last ingested an opiate. I decided for my 500th day that I wanted to do something to try to help others who are going through the same thing I went through. I also want to try to help those close to someone battling opiate addiction. And so, I decided to start this website.

I choose to remain anonymous. It is not that I am embarrassed or ashamed of what I went through. It’s made me a stronger person today. However, there is still a stigma in our country about addicts in general, and especially anyone that has used heroin. As a defense attorney who defends those accused of crimes, sometimes drug related, there are potential clients who would not have a lot of confidence in me if they knew of my past. On the other hand, having been in some of their shoes, just lucky enough to never get caught, some might say I’m the ideal advocate. (And do not even get me started on mandatory minimums for drug offenses…)

Even though I have chosen to remain anonymous, I hope that my story and what I share here helps you or anyone you know on their journey through addiction… and out the other side.