You can see clearly from the “then” picture posted above that I was not healthy. I was underweight and my eyes, well, they just look awful. My name is Amanda Burns, I am 26 years old and it has been 3 years, 8 months, and 22 days since I have been free of addiction.

I was 15 years old when I first felt the effects of opiates. I remember my mother had taken me to the orthodontist to have two of my wisdom teeth pulled. It wasn’t long after the procedure that I had begun to feel the pain. The doctor had prescribed Percocet, so my mom handed me a pill and I gulped it down without any given thought.

About 20 minutes had passed and then I realized… I was floating, I was warm, and I felt great. I hadn’t taken the magic pills many more times after that, but I never forgot how they made me feel.

I was 19 years old when I gave birth to my first-born son. I was prescribed oxycodone. I gulped the first dose down without any given thought. It was different this time. I knew what was going to happen, and I was excited.

About 20 minutes went by and… I was floating, I was warm, and I felt great.

This experience was even better, it was a stronger form of opiate. God, I loved it. I began to take double doses, and I never once thought that I was abusing my medication.

My son was born with a very rare and life-threatening heart disease and at just 4 days old, he underwent his first open heart surgery. So, once I ran out of the oxycodone, I wasn’t too upset. I was a new mom, and I had a newborn who took up all my time.

Two weeks went by, and he was finally strong enough to come home with us. I was so excited. But I was 19 and naive. I hadn’t realized how hard it was going to be, having to care for a newborn with a serious illness.

About 3 months went by and I found myself to be really stressed, and tired, and just angry. I remembered that my mother took a bout of medications. I didn’t know for what, I just knew she had some, and that they were somewhere in this house.

I can remember frantically searching, and googling what each medication was, what it did. My heart was pounding, and I began to feel frustrated that I wasn’t finding anything useful, until… “Tramadol, narcotic” came up on my phone.

I looked at the bottle I had just googled and with shaking hands, poured about 10 to 15 of the mysterious pills into the palm of my hand.

I sat on my bed just staring at the white, oval shaped pills. But it wasn’t long until I popped one in my mouth, gulped it down without any given thought and before I knew it… I was floating, I was warm, and I had just began my first long-term addiction.

About 3 months went by and I was taking up to 6 a day now; 3 in the morning and 3 before bed. My mom had realized that I’d been stealing them from her, and she began to hide the bottle in secret places, and even confronted me on the matter.

I would find a way to get those pills though. It wasn’t until she bought a safe and put her medication inside that I went into withdrawal for the first time.

Back then, I didn’t know it was withdrawal and my mom didn’t tell me, I just thought I had an awful bout of the flu – I even had a high fever. I overcame this “flu” within a week and I began to feel like myself again.

About 5 months went by, and I found myself crouched over my mom’s safe trying to break into it – with success. She quickly knew and confronted me about it, and said she would do anything in her power to keep me from her pills.

My life and my childhood were not bad. I mean, I had my fair share of ugly memories, I had experienced some abuse throughout my life – not by my parents, but they both did have their dark secrets.

I always knew my dad was an alcoholic, but it wasn’t until I came clean about my heroin addiction (don’t worry I’ll get there) that I found out about a lot more. Their own addictions, about their abuse, both of their terrible childhoods.

My parents loved me and my sister as best as they could. We were never well educated on drugs, or that they caused something called withdrawal. “Don’t get pregnant, just finish high school” is what I was always told.

The little knowledge I held about drugs came from the kids at school, and that just made me more curious. I never expected to become an addict, having to swallow or snort a pill just to feel normal.

Even while I was doing all the things an addict does, even while my life was unfolding right in front of me, I hadn’t realized. Maybe I just didn’t care enough to realize. Maybe, I was trying to avoid realizing. These pills were the only thing that made me feel good anymore.

I began to search for pills elsewhere. I turned to the streets, to people I didn’t know. All I knew is that if I gave them money, they gave me my pills.

But one day, I called her and this is what she said. “No girl, I don’t sell percs anymore, I’m trying to get clean from them, but hey, I got something else you might like, Dope.” I had no clue what “dope” was until she told me.

I told her that I didn’t use needles. I thought heroin only came in liquid form and that the only way to use it was to shoot it up through a vein. This is how uneducated I was about the drug.

And then she said, “Girl, you don’t need to shoot it, you can snort it, just like the percs. It’s stronger and cheaper.” Those few words began my two year long journey with my frenemy Heroin.

Twenty one years old and I’m calling my dealer asking to meet up, waiting on the location. My whole body aches, my skin is clammy, my eyes are watering, nose is running, heart is pounding. I hand her the cash, she hands me my dope, we exchange a few empty words and I can hardly wait.

I snort the white, gray powder through my nose; I began to float, I was warm, and I felt great again.

I did a lot of aweful things while hooked on heroin. I stole, I lied, I manipulated, I sold my sons things for money, I was not acting like the mother I should have been. I did the things I said I’d never do.  But, most importantly, I hurt and lost the people whom I loved most. All I had was my heroin now.

My mom would tell me, with tears running down her cheeks, that she hated when her phone rang, because she wasn’t sure if it was going to be “the call.”  The call that let her know that her first born daughter was dead. That her grandson would now grow up without a mother.

I didn’t care. I was sick, and I needed my dope

The first time I told my mom about my heroin addiction, was on her birthday in 2014. Happy birthday, mom. I think we were both in denial, not knowing how bad it was, not knowing how ugly it was about to get. She tried to help me detox at home and gave me some of her medications to help take the edge off.

It worked… For a short while. We kept it quiet, didn’t talk about it. I got my license and a job. I made almost 2 months clean.

We messed up, though. We weren’t talking about it. We didn’t talk about what was going on in my head, or why I began using, that I was still having cravings, and that I was sad and empty inside. I relapsed.

I wasn’t coming home anymore, I didn’t want my parents to see me this way again. I didn’t want to anger or hurt them anymore.

But they knew, parents always know. After about a month long binge, I had to come home, I needed to find a way to steal some cash. I remember the withdrawal creeping up on me.

My mom had had enough, she didn’t want to feel like she killed her daughter by letting me roam free without any consequence. That’s when she said “If you don’t smarten up, I’m taking custody of my grandson, and you won’t be welcomed in this house anymore.”

We were driving up to a detox center the very next day.

It took countless relapses, 3 detox visits, 8 months worth of drug abuse counseling, and all the support I could accept to finally get it right. To finally understand that life is just too precious, that I am worth it.

When they say, “one day at a time” that is exactly what they mean. I am now a mother of 2 beautiful little boys, ages 7 and 1. I am happily in love with my boyfriend of almost 11 years, and I am majoring in Human Services, studying to become a Substance Abuse Counselor. I want to help every addict that I can, show them that they are not alone, and that they are very much worth it.

My name is Amanda Burns and I am 3 years, 8 months and 22 days free of addiction.

I wrote my own story of recovery. Check it out here.

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