as told to Joe Schulz
“I was 12 when I first started using drugs. Smoking weed was socially acceptable with my friends, and their parents gave us weed and got us drunk when we were young, and it slowly escalated. I was addicted to Oxycontin and Xanax. I didn’t touch heroin until I was 21. I got treatment and I was sober for a while. Then it all started again when I went back to my doctor and they prescribed me opiates again, and it all escalated from there. I didn’t use needles until I was 26. I first started using Oxycodone to shoot up, and I got an infection in my arm that almost took my life. I ended up going back to the hospital and I had surgery and I got prescribed more pills. I went to jail and I had the mentality, when I got out, that I was going to be smarter about it this time. I was going to change. I was only out for a month before I progressed to using meth, which led me to prison. I got released from prison in July (2019). It was terrifying. I definitely made a lot of changes in there and said, ‘I have to do this differently now,’ because addiction is a really selfish disease. You’re not thinking about everyone you hurt, and there are people who need me out there. My biggest struggle in recovery is coping skills, because sometimes your addictive behavior will come back. I have to check myself and realize that was how I was for so long, but it doesn’t mean I have to stay that way. I have a wonderful support system; I don’t know what I would do without my family and friends.”
Leah relapsed shortly after being released from prison, but her family stayed by her side. She hasn’t touched drugs since the relapse and has developed a healthy and positive lifestyle. Leah is a strong advocate for those still struggling with addiction.