Addiction: Substance Abuse Community
32k Members
Avatar universal

How/why did your substance abuse start?

Living with an active addict in my life who I want so much to help but I know I can never really understand what they are going through I keep coming to the same question...how did this start? I understand that once you are addicted choice is no longer involved, but why/how do people begin using? Particularly a heavy drug like heroin?

If you are an addict or recovering addict and you feel comfortable sharing your story, please do. How did you find yourself addicted? Why did you start using? Where does choice dissolve?

Thank you and God bless.
13 Responses
11318065 tn?1462988079
Hi and welcome!  I think I have always been an addict!  I started drinking and smoking pot at age 11 and never stopped!  My first time drinking I got drunk and then the world felt OK to live in!  I kept abusing anything and everything from that day on!  So for me it wasnt a gradual process...it was always full on addiction!  I think I was always a depressed kid so Im sure this had something to do with it...the world just never felt good to me until I started using!  Im sure others will respond with their stories!
You should try going to alanon!  You will find other family members who have the same questions and concerns as you do!  Im sure it would be very helpful for you!!!!
6726276 tn?1421130268
I believe your heredity plays a strong part. I'm the child of Bipolar alcoholics.
  I easily got addicted to the opiates given to me by MD's to control migrane headache pain.
   My 1/2 brothers both struggle. So my mom's genes must be strong.
   The decision to stop is by surrounding yourself with healthy people you trust. If you relate to their struggles. And their successes.  Maxy
7163794 tn?1457370413
I agree with hereditary....i am the daughter of an alcoholic father, alcoholic aunt, alcoholic grandmother, addict brother....situations that happen when were younger that make some of us (me) want to escape them.....peer pressure to be cool.....low self esteem.....
i started using around 12/13....am 43 now and i have a little over a year clean. Everyone is different and most addicts have a different chemical makeup in their brains....until the addict smashes that floor, theres not much you can do....but you sure as hell dont want to keep them comfortable.....
Avatar universal
Addicted, I applaud you for wanting to help your significant other. I know when this happened it just didn't happen to him or her. It happened to YOU. Now you have to either hope that your loved one will stop or you decide you can't help anymore. Everyone's story will be unique and different while at the same time being pretty much the same. No one wakes up and say's "hey I think today I'm going to get some heroine or pain pills and I'm going to get addicted. I started my nightmare because of a legit back surgery. At first I took pills for pain but it didn't take long until I took them to just chill. After chilling for a period of about 2 months I decided its time to stop. No sweat right? About 8 hours after taking my last pill I started feeling like crapl. After about 10 hours without a  pill I was freezing and sweating at the same time. Who sweats when their freezing??? At that point I said horse-shiiiiiit and I took another pill and in 20 minutes I felt great. Taking pills and feeling great only last so long. Pretty soon I was taking pills to just feel normal. I was taking pills just to get up and go to work. I would wake up at around 5 am. I would take a pill and go back to sleep for an hour and get up at 6 am and go about my day. This went on for several years and at the end I was taking 7 to 8 80mg oxy cotton a day .Loratabs were like appetizers and I could easily take 20 7.5mg pills at once. I was spending a fortune (easily $125,000). Please understand I say none of this thinking I'm cool. I was an idiot and I was lost.

To answer your question I would have to say you have to understand what abusing pain meds does to your brain. It actually re-wires the part of your brain and you go from wanting  a drug to absolutely needing that drug. I look at addiction like its an actual thing or person. A demon that will follow me around for the rest of my days waiting for me to mess up and give in. The demon is patient and it sits back laughing at me saying I will wait you out. I will wait until you have a huge fight with your wife or a really bad day at work. Even though I feel like this is true I also believe I have to tools to keep the demon at bay. I have AA and NA meetings, I have a supportive wife and family, I have places like this site that I can chat with other recovering addicts and I have a God who wants me to reach my potential in life. I've been clean and sober since March 2013 and life is so sweet now. Like everyone I have my bad days but my worst day sober is better than my best day high. God bless you and your loved one. Peace, BD
Avatar universal
Thank you all for sharing your story.

BD God bless you and congrats on your sobriety. How was your wife able to successfully support you?
Avatar universal
I'm having such a hard time quieting the question of "how did this happen?" We had a loving and happy relationship-granted we had ups and downs- and yet after four years of love he decided to experiment with heroin? Then he hid it for the last two years of our 6 year relationship. I just can't understand why he started using it. I know I didn't cause it...but I guess I feel bad that our love didn't prevent it.
Avatar universal
Heredity does play a role, but anyone can develop addiction. I think many of us start off with curiosity, with predisposition or not. I too used pot at 11, LSD and methamphetamine at 13, I have an addict father, but i only experimented for most my life, I kept switching drugs, to not get 'addicted.' I would call the the abuse phase of my progression. At 26, I divorced, started tobacco and alcohol, though it came and went. Then I grew older and my scoliosis a years of hard work lead to me needing pain relief. I used opiates occasionally, but was not dependent for a long time. Then i found methadone, it killed pain and didn't get me so high as the other opiates. That is when my full blown addiction began. I used methadone, without caution, and started to spiral out of control. You see, I was not addicted to the high, but the escape from reality, I don't even like feeling super high on Oxy, or any fast acting opiate. The difference in heredity and developed addiction is a matter of time and exposure to drugs. Curiosity leads to find the drug we like most, then occasional abuse becomes scheduled abuse, once tolerance starts to build and daily exposure begins, then we are in full blown addition, though it progress to be worse and worse, the longer we use. I do think that underlying, unresolved issues are often the culprit that leads us to find our drug of choice.
4810126 tn?1503946335
Hi! :)

I just read your other thread & I'm so sorry that you're going through this! I wanted to reply here first, though.

An interesting question that I've pondered long & hard about for much of my time on this planet! (Thanks for posting it).

What I've come to believe, is that it's truly complex. While my family is also riddled w/ addiction on one side, I'm the only one of my 4 siblings that has shown a predilection for it. I believe that early environment (how those around you behave in terms of addiction), early stress &/or abuse of some kind (which was the difference between my siblings & me), diet & (perhaps) a genetic predisposition can all factor into it. There have been been several reputable studies conducted that underscore a difference in how addicts react differently to stress in the midbrain which controls our most basic, primitive drives. I remember as an 8 year old & onwards, feeling overstimulated -- almost too 'raw' or bombarded -- by 'life'. It's hard to describe but things could be overwhelming/sensory overload. When I was happy it was incredibly stimulating, when down the weight of it would drive me underground looking for escape of some kind -- into my own head/heart or relief through my body (sports). I noticed as a young teenager that even sensory input from my surroundings was sometimes so vibrant & it's effects so intellectually & emotionally powerful that I'd have the urge to 'escape' or shut it out. I have no idea if this is a common thread with addicts but I've spoken with others that felt the same.

It's a real chicken & the egg conundrum, though because when we use it actually alters our neurochemical behaviors, corrupting the pathways in our brain & the balance of the 'reward' system meant to give us an edge in survival & competition. For those of us who started using one substance or another @ a young age (while our brains were still developing) the whole thing becomes even murkier. It's no coincidence that opiate addicts have either used other substances in the past or turn to them after detox. It's also not a coincidence that sometimes addicts have suffered eating disorders, gambling &/or sex addictions. Society at large sees these conditions as behavioral but what actually drives them @ base (whether they're a result of early environment or not) are chemical processes.

So, you can see how it might take a mighty effort to tackle the ingrained behavioral part of addiction while your very brain is habitually urging you to do something else. I feel that this is the part of addiction that non-addicts (& some addicts) have such a hard time understanding. It's important for you to know that these urges don't disappear after the user detoxes. The tendency to reach for something (& not necessarily the DOC or even a drug per se -- it can be anything that hits those reward centers) continues. This why it takes so much work on oneself: on our lives & how we think, feel & do. All these things need to be understood & then changed in order to stay clean. A tall order for most of us! Personally, it's been a devastating, challenging & highly rewarding path. I wouldn't trade it for anything & am highly grateful to the creative force for granting me the reprieve.

The whole thing, in my experience is a continuum of grays. Though addicts all have things in common, their individual attitudes forged from life histories, current circumstances, understanding of  & belief in themselves & understanding  of what addiction is will all play into whether they'll be able to break free. Often it takes multiple attempts as the addict grows in understanding & learns from his/her mistakes from their last effort to get clean. It takes real clarity, bravery & struggle to get to the point where we can see it through. Sometimes it comes suddenly -- sometimes through many, many attempts.

I wish you & your ex the very best going forward.

Please, let us know how you're doing :)
Avatar universal
I think it is wonderful that you are trying to help someone you obviously deeply care for through their addiction.  While my husband has been very supportive, he has not really taken the steps to understand why I do the things I do and the power of addiction. I would love for him to post a question like this.

For me, there are a few things involved. For one, addiction does run in my family.  Apparently my parental grandfather, who passed away when my dad was in his 20's, was a drinker.  My half brother is bi-polar and has struggled with alcohol and drug use his entire life, particularly when he is not on his medication. My younger "whole" brother has struggled with alcohol and opiate addiction.  I was always very "goody goody" and had a health dose of fear of my parents and their warnings about addiction and did not start drinking until I was at the end of my junior year of high school. I began dating a football star who partied every weekend and there it began.  I usually would drink to get drunk, could never just have one or two. I liked the way I would become more outgoing and social when I was buzzed; that feeling never went away. I was a well liked, intelligent, attractive student but I was always very shy and never truly comfortable in my skin. Drinking took away my insecurities.  Alcohol nearly destroyed my relationship with my husband because I am ten years younger than he and was still partying it up when we met.  He was a social drinker but I would get drunk.  I also experimented with other substances but never became addicted or abused.  I was prescribed opiates for issues with endometriosis and then the love affair began. I would only be on them for short times but then my husband became permanently disabled and suddenly I had a pharmacy in my home permanently.  I started out just taking the milder opiates and then progressed into the harder ones.  I think about it and the first time I took an Oxy I became violently ill; yet I continued down that path as my tolerance increased.  I have dealt with a lot of stress and anxiety in my life due to things that were beyond my control and taking pills became my release.  I realized I had a problem when I decided to stop and became physically ill.  Now I am trying to break free from my addiction. I suppose in the beginning I downplayed my problem because I am a professional working mom with a successful career, well respected by friends and family, yadda yadda. I have never bought anything off the streets or faked a condition. But that does not make ANY difference.  An addict is an addict is an addict.  I can tell you that yes, I made the initial choice to start taking the pills. Once I started and became dependent, I cannot begin to describe the power of the addiction. I am a very intelligent woman and addiction has me in its grasp. I thought suffering through infertility for 5 years was tough; that was a cake walk compared to this.  

Best of luck to you and do not hesitate to reach out with any questions.
Avatar universal
Hi  well most of us our addiction starts with the feeling that your just not comfotable in your own skin and see refuge in drugs most of us cannot tolerate stress and do not know  how to process it for me it has always been the fear of failure  I set the standerds so hi they where impossible to succeed this goes back to grade school long b/4 I found the drugs this is a thinking problem and to overcome it you have to change the very way you think  N/A has been the magic bullet for me  the progam addresses the addiction and helps you understand why you use I recamend it to everyone  but the bottom line is you have to want to quit keep posting for support try to get him to come here so we can help........Gnarly
Avatar universal
My father was an alcoholic and abused prescription drugs. He beat the crap out of me and my brothers and finally left when I was 19. My husband and I have been together since we were 16 and he went thru a lot of my dads stuff with me. So when we got married and started having kids I told him that was the one thing I would not tolerate. He did anything close to what my dad did I would take the kids and be gone. I am completely sad and ashamed that I was the one who started down that path. I believe the same as BD. A demon who gets his claws in your family and will just get stronger with each person. When I started to see myself go down the wrong path with drugs I went in asap to get help. I begged my husband to help me. We have 5 kids and I was so scared he would walk away and take them after what he saw my dad do to us. First I must say my husband is the most amazing and forgiving man. He stood by me and held me thru it all. He prays over me every night and morning. I was in awe of the husband God blessed me with. This in turn made me want to reach out to my dad who had just gotten saved and was sober. I know he had to hit rock bottom and I was very careful the way I went about our relationship. There was a lot of hurt. If you have a counselor at church that you could talk to then I would go that route. I called and asked every question I had whether I thought it was a weird one or not. I got great advice. The best advice was "You do not have to decide whether or not to stick around this moment. You can just see where things go and decide when your ready. No pressure." BEST advice. Plus much more. I will say after my scare with pain pills I can understand why my dad did what he did. I have forgiven him and I told him I won't let it happen again but I won't let it ruin my life either. He passed away a couple years ago and I can honestly say I feel like I did right by him. If you pray then pray. Ask God where to go from here. How far to help but when to stand back. He never leaves you to do this in your own. Your amazing. Just let Him guide you.
Avatar universal
Thank you all so much for your answers. I keep asking myself how did this happen, how did this happen, how did this happen. I can't concentrate on anything else in my life.

I always thought I knew everything there was to know about him....my best friend and boy friend who I saw EVERYDAY...and now there is almost a second life he has been living for 2 years that I know nothing about.
Have an Answer?
Top Addiction Answerers
495284 tn?1333897642
City of Dominatrix, MN
Avatar universal
phoenix, AZ
Learn About Top Answerers
Didn't find the answer you were looking for?
Ask a question
Popular Resources
Is treating glaucoma with marijuana all hype, or can hemp actually help?
If you think marijuana has no ill effects on your health, this article from Missouri Medicine may make you think again.
Julia Aharonov, DO, reveals the quickest way to beat drug withdrawal.
Tricks to help you quit for good.
A list of national and international resources and hotlines to help connect you to needed health and medical services.
Here’s how your baby’s growing in your body each week.