Life with opioid addiction: It’s not what Patrick Walthall had ever imagined growing up in North Carolina.
“Your whole life is focused on this little powder,“ the Belmont University student told News 2′s Hayley Wielgus. “The first thing I would think of when I would wake up in the morning is, ‘what can I do today to get $60?’ I was stealing stuff and pawning it off, a lot of things that aren’t me at all, things I’m not proud of, but the disease is very real. It makes you do things that you never thought you would do you.“
“I just pictured myself graduating high school, choosing whatever college I wanted to go to, getting a business degree and being super successful,“ Walthall said.
But a few doses of morphine for a high school football injury altered all of his plans.
“It was like I went to sleep one night when I was 19 years old, and I woke up at 25 years old and everything else in the middle had been this awful whirlwind,“ Walthall said.
it started with doctor shopping for opioid prescriptions.
“I can just take these pills; I’m never going to get into heroin. I’m not that kind of person who is going to get into heroin,“ Walthall said he would tell himself.
But he found out heroin was easier to get, and it was cheaper and stronger.
“We would actually seek out the heroin we knew was laced with fentanyl,“ Walthall said. “A lot of people think that fentanyl is scary, but when you’re in that mind state, if it’s going to get you a little bit more high, then that’s what you’re seeking out.“
But there’s a fine line between getting more high and dying.
“It was a Saturday morning I overdosed. I had been using the night before. When I woke up, I was going through the withdrawals, so I used a little line of the fentanyl-laced heroin before I got in the shower,“ Walthall said.
And that’s where his parents found him, unconscious.
“My dad was trying to administer CPR to me, but I was flat-lined when the EMS showed up,“ Walthall said. “They gave me two shots of Narcan, and I came to and they took me to a psych hospital for a 72-hour hold.“
Walthall’s parents had tried an intervention in the past, but this time he knew his survival depended on it.
A few hours later, in July of 2015, he was on a plane from Raleigh to Nashville to seek treatment at Integrative Life Center.
“I knew I didn’t want to keep doing what I was doing because my life was miserable, but I also didn’t know how I was going to stop doing what I was doing because it was so ingrained in me,“ Walthall said.
That’s the challenge of recovery. Walthall relapsed and returned to Integrative Life Center in May of 2016. He’s been clean ever since. Now he’s working at the place that changed his life, as ILC’s lead resident assistant.
“People see me and they see what I’ve been through, and they get hope out of that,“ Walthall said.
He has found his passion in addiction recovery. Walthall is a senior at Belmont University with plans to get his master’s degree in social work.
“In my opinion, you’re always recovering, you’re never recovered,“ he said. “Just like anything else, if you get complacent, then it will sneak up. I make sure I go to meetings; I’ve built a fabulous support group in Nashville.“
He also has the support of his family, who never lost hope.
“They’re really proud of me. I’m very thankful that they’ve afforded me all the opportunities they have and never gave up on me, even when it was really tough not to,“ Walthall said. “Me and my family, there is a lot of love there.“
Walthall is telling his story to help break the stigma of addiction and mental health disorders. He said no one should ever feel shame about what they’re going through.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, you can contact Integrative Life Center at 615-891-2226 or visit their website.
News 2 is investigating the impact of fentanyl across Middle Tennessee. We have special reports all day Thursday in every newscast. You can also join in on the discussion during a live town hall meeting airing at 6:30 p.m. on News 2.