At the age of 22, Jay Arruda was banned from any family gatherings because of his addiction. He’d hurt so many of his relatives far too many times.
His addiction to oxycontin and fentanyl had taken a toll on the young man, who sold most of his possessions and stole from whomever he could to help pay for the drugs.
Just a few years out of high school Arruda had already lost so much. He lost his job. His family disowned him. Many nights he wandered the streets looking for a place to sleep.
His story is similar to many others. A young person struggling with confidence and insecurities turns to drugs and nearly loses everything. Fortunately, Arruda is one of many people who took the important step to seek help and get clean.
“When I started to hit my rock bottom, I knew I needed a change,” he said.
“When I started to hit my rock bottom, I knew I needed a change”
Arruda’s addiction started in high school. He met a group of friends who smoked weed and he started doing the same for fear he would lose any of the new budding relationships.
Smoking pot, though, was just the beginning. He quickly moved on to cocaine and eventually the oxycontin and fentanyl. These types of drugs were life changing for the young man, who suffered from social anxiety. The drugs took all that away.
“It loosened me up,” Arruda said. “I was able to laugh, have fun, talk to girls. I was able to go to a party and jump around like a maniac really … and not be afraid of people judging me.”
But the confidence gained from the drugs quickly disappeared as the addiction took hold. By the time he was in Grade 12, he realized he needed the drugs in order to function in any sort of capacity.
“I wouldn’t’ go out to the movies, I wouldn’t go hang out with friends, unless I had that little kick, whether it was smoking a joint or taking a pill,” Arruda said.
Eventually he was waking up to instant withdrawal. His body ached with immense pain. Some days he would throw up right away and stay in bed all day until he figured out how to score his next high.
His lifestyle would take even more from him eventually. His addiction led to him ripping off his parents, his family, his friends. He was no longer welcome at home, turning to couch surfing until he hurt his friends and they too gave him the boot.
“That was the real rough part. I was having suicidal thoughts,” Arruda said. “I was couch surfing, I didn’t know where my next meal would come from, I didn’t know where I would sleep that night.”
His low point also included an overdose he only survived because a friend used naloxone, the medication used to block the effects of opioids.
His addiction had taken almost everything from him. But more than anything, more than almost any other reason for wanting to get over his addiction, Arruda remembered the pain he caused his family, particularly his mother.
“Not being able to go back to my mom, that’s what really hit me in the heart,” he said. “This is what I’m doing to my own mother. I couldn’t believe it.”
Arruda turned to a friend, who had been in recovery for years, and talked to him about how to get clean. A couple months went by after that initial conversation, but he eventually got himself into a detox program and then into a recovery home.
Since then, he’s created an entirely new lifestyle for himself, which he says has helped him stay sober.
“I didn’t get into recovery to have my life back,” Arruda explained. “I got into recovery to get a new life. It was all about finding myself and finding out who I was.”
Just waking up in the morning is a blessing he appreciates. Waking up without that need to get high was a huge change. He has renewed his relationship with his mother and his family. He has a whole new network of friends who are sober.
Arruda encourages anyone to ask for help. Whether it’s talking to family, friends or professionals, making that call was the most important part of overcoming his addiction.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t pick up that phone and be vulnerable and be willing to make a change,” he said. “It’s amazing to be here now and look back nine months ago to where I was. It’s mind blowing.”