Recovering heroin addict tells of his long-fought battle
Recovering heroin addict Bill Addis hit rock bottom four years ago after he lost everything he cared about.
Addis was living at the City Mission shelter in Uniontown. His children had been taken away from him. He lost his job. His relationships with family members had ended.
With his life in shambles, Addis knew it was time to fight his drug addiction again. But this time, he was determined to win the 25-year battle.
And that's exactly what he did.
Addis told his story earlier this week when he served as a panelist during a presentation titled “Prescription Drug Abuse: The Cost of Getting High,” presented by the Fayette County Drug and Alcohol Commission Inc. at Connellsville Area Senior High School.
Addis proudly told the crowd that he has been drug- and alcohol-free for 4 1⁄2 years.
“I have been clean and sober for more than four years and five months,” said the 41-year-old man. “Drugs and alcohol impacted my life for almost 30 years.”
Addis does not blame his family for his drug problems, but he said his mother suffered with alcoholism for many years.
“My mother was an alcoholic,” he said. “I had no skills to deal with my life so I turned to drugs and alcohol. By the time I was in my late teens, I was getting high and drinking every day.”
Addis said he quickly fell into the dark world of heroin addiction, and his downward spiral began.
“I was the last person that people would think would become a drug addict,” he said. “I went to Catholic school. I was an altar boy. I seemed to be moving in the right direction until my life took an unsuspected turn.”
Addis said he first began seeking treatment for his heroin addiction in 1998, but he didn't get clean until 2009. He had tried methadone and suboxone, opiate replacement therapies, but his drug addiction always came back.
“I went to rehab eight times to try to stop using drugs,” he said. “CYS (Fayette County Children & Youth Services) came and took custody of my children. I lost jobs. I even set myself on fire when I was using drugs. Every woman I had a relationship with was also a heroin addict.”
Addis said his third child was born addicted to drugs and was administered a synthetic opiate to help with the withdrawal symptoms.
“It didn't matter. I hated myself,” Addis said. “I swore I would never use drugs again. But I did. My 6-year-old son called 911 to tell them that his dad wasn't breathing.”
When he had finally given up hope, Addis said he started to get clean. He joined Narcotics Anonymous and attended meetings on a daily basis where other heroin addicts encouraged him and told him how they got clean.
“I finally accepted the idea of drug addicts helping each other get clean,” he said. “Unless you walked the road that we walked, it's very difficult to relate to us. I really believe that God intervened in my life and put the right people in my life to help me.”
Addis said he finally surrendered, let go and turned his life over to God.
“I had nothing left in my life,” he said. “I had already given it all up. That is when I finally got help.”
Elaine Stano, treatment specialist at the Fayette County Drug & Alcohol Commission, said the agency offers outpatient therapy, group therapy and short-term suboxone treatment, supervised by Dr. Bob Woolhandler, a Pittsburgh doctor who is an expert in opiate addiction.
Although some doctors and agencies offer maintenance suboxone treatment for opiate addicts, Brian Reese, treatment supervisor at Fayette County Drug & Alcohol Commission, said Woolhandler offers a short-term, 20-week program. Drug addicts are placed on 8 mg of suboxone or less and the dosage is decreased while they undergo extensive therapy.
“We try to keep them in therapy and on opiate replacement therapy until there is a crack,” Stano said. “That's when they become open to getting clean.”
Reese said Fayette County Drug & Alcohol tries to move alcoholics and drug addicts to a clean and sober life.
“We really don't believe that long-term methadone or suboxone treatment is the answer,” he said. “We believe that addicts can live a clean and sober life.”
Cindy Ekas is a contributing writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- St. Rita of Cascia Roman Catholic Church marks centennial in Connellsville
- Highlands Hospital reports strong 2014
- Flooding hits streams, basements
- Home invasion suspect from Uniontown guilty
- Suspect in Uniontown woman’s homicide surrenders to police, claims innocence
- Charges dropped in dad’s stabbing in South Connellsville
- Fayette County motorist accused of firing shots when good Samaritans stop at crash scene
- Carnegie Free Library plans Big Book Sale
- Local lawmakers question Wolf’s budget plan
- Laurel Highlands Ambassador Program offers insight into history of Connellsville coal, coke region
- Dawson church fundraiser to aid those in need