Red Ribbon Week: Businessman says addiction nearly ruined relationship

ajjohnson@ledger-enquirer.comOctober 22, 2013 

JESSICA WILT / JWILT@LEDGER-ENQUIRER.COM

He's a successful businessman with a beautiful fiancee and a loving family.

But he nearly lost it all through an opiate addiction that caused him to blow up to $30,000 a year.

The 30-year-old male, who the Ledger-Enquirer contacted through a local rehab center, has been sober for about a year and a half. He didn't want to embarrass his loved ones, so he asked not to be identified. He could have been called a "functioning addict," but he says that's a misnomer.

"Just because you have a job, and you provide a living for your family, that really has no bearing on whether you have a drug or alcohol addiction," he said. "'Functioning addict' is a term we use before we realize there is a problem."

Drugs have no boundaries. They are as much of a threat to the working

professional as they are to the homeless person on the street.

A 2012 national survey found the rate of illicit drug use among the unemployed at twice the rate of those fully employed.

But of the 21 million illicit drug users ages 18 or older, nearly 70 percent were working a full- or part-time job, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

About 65 percent of full-time employed adults 18 or older drank alcohol, compared to 55 percent of unemployed adults.

About 74 percent of heavy alcohol users were employed.

The local businessman, a native of east Alabama, went to a small liberal arts school in Birmingham.

He did a triple major in philosophy, political science and economics.

When he graduated from college, he clerked for a judge in Birmingham.

That's when he aborted plans to go to law school and became a businessman instead.

In 2006, he moved to Columbus and opened a transportation business.

He said he started drinking alcohol in high school and began using prescription drugs in college. His drug of choice was Adderall, which is normally prescribed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It's also a stimulant.

"I got to the point where I was taking thousands of milligrams of that drug a day when I was prescribed 60 milligrams," he said.

He said he hit rock bottom about three and a half years ago.

Prescription drugs were all he could think about. He couldn't sleep or eat. He said he got pills from multiple doctors and on the street.

But he still didn't think he had a problem.

"I didn't think of myself as a drug addict because I wear nice clothes and have a nice car," he said.

"My perception, which I think is a common misconception in society, is that you have to have lost everything. You have to be walking around peddling money or digging out of a trash can to be a drug addict or alcoholic, but that's not the case."

He began to manipulate friends and family members to feed his addiction, and it took a big toll on his relationship with his now fiancee. She gave him an ultimatum, and that's when he decided to change.

"My business was on the breaking point. I was about to lose my girlfriend and my family was losing trust in me," he said.

"It all kind of happened at once, and I got to the point where I wanted those things more than the drug.

"I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Tired of being a liar and thief, tired of being who I was. Everything in my life was going to hell until I admitted I had a problem."

He said he was on his way from a wedding when he finally admitted to his mother and girlfriend that he needed help. The next day he called Talbot Recovery and enrolled in a treatment program. Now he attends Addicts Anonymous classes with doctors, nurses, lawyers and even people who live under bridges.

His wedding is set for May.

"Addiction is brutal on relationships. It's brutal on finances," he said. "It tears you apart."

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