OxyContin Activists: Mason and Michaela

Like many young adults, Mason and Michaela of Marin County, Calif. saw their lives spin out of control after getting hooked on OxyContin in their teens. Today, Mason (now 24) and Michaela (now 23) are finally free from Oxy’s grip and are speaking out about the devastating effects of the prescription painkiller at high schools and youth leadership camps. Oxy Watchdog asked the pair – who met in recovery and have been dating since Aug. 2010 – to share more about how they got to where they are today, and their efforts to help prevent others from going down a similar path.

Watchdog: Tell us about how you grew up, and how your addiction progressed.

Mason: I played sports growing up, and I aspired to be a professional baseball player. I was picked to play on the varsity team as a freshman in high school, but after two games I got caught smoking weed and was kicked off the team. After that I began failing out of my classes and became lost. Eventually I was sent to a continuation high school, which was like a training ground for drug addicts. I met a girl who had a prescription for Darvocet and Percocet to treat her rheumatoid arthritis, and she was always taking these pills, so I started taking them too. After a few weeks I tried OxyContin, and after a month I couldn’t afford the Oxys anymore, so I started doing heroin. Soon I was shooting up to 4 or 5 grams of heroin a day and also doing cocaine and pills, as well as methadone.

Michaela: My dad drank, and my mom didn’t like it, so my family life was difficult and I took on the role of the hero. I thought that if I was the perfect kid, popular and pretty, maybe he would stop drinking and my mom would be happy. The summer going into high school, I had my first drink while sleeping over at my friend’s house. It was tequila and orange juice, and she hated it, but I loved it. I was obsessive in everything I did, so I started drinking more even though I maintained a 3.4 GPA, I was volunteering, I was singing the anthem at sports events. But the way I drank was embarrassing and shameful. I never had a “that’s enough” button. I was waking up in the ER and being told that I had almost died. It didn’t faze me. I had ruined so many relationships that I transferred schools, and promised myself it would be different this time. By that time my mom had split up with my dad and had joined Al-Anon. I went to meetings, but I kind of felt like my life was over. How do you be sober when you’re that young?

Then I met a guy in AA who talked about Oxy and was shocked that I had never done drugs. His dad had Oxy around the apartment, and one day he was doing a line, and I was curious. I thought I would just do it once, I thought “my problem is drinking.” But it was instant love. It was so much better than alcohol. I felt numb, nothing could touch me. I wanted to feel that way all the time.

W: When did you know that you had a problem, and did you seek treatment?

Mason: I went to my first treatment center when I was 20 years old, but I didn’t get sober. I was still beating the system and getting high. I flew back home, and started living on the streets, sleeping on couches, and using. I kept thinking that a geographical change would help, so I moved around a lot. I would stop using for periods of time, but my relapses always started with Oxy. I was so battered. I had a breakthrough on March 17, 2008 when I started opening my ears more to Alcoholics Anonymous. I realized that the key to sobriety is honesty. Then I moved to New York City to go to acting school, and I brought four 80s with me. I thought to myself, “this is the end.” I was running and eating healthy, but doing Oxys at night. They were gone in three days, and I was up in Spanish Harlem looking for heroin. Seven months in, I’d caught pneumonia, I was failing my classes, I was selling all my possessions for drugs. I was close to death.

Michaela: Within seven months of using Oxy, I wanted to die. I was going to dangerous places to get pills, and I wasn’t even scared because I was so high. I had no fear, no happiness, all of my feelings were gone. I felt untouchable. But I also felt angry, irritable, and bitter. And I felt myself drifting away. One night I felt my soul was leaving, like it was above my body. I felt like death was around the corner.

W: Did you have a “rock bottom” moment?

Mason: My dad was in a motorcycle accident and was in a coma. I flew home and sat with him, it was 50/50 whether he would live or die. And despite that, I stole his credit cards and flew back to New York as if nothing had ever happened. That brought me to my knees. I realized I couldn’t live like that. I called my mom begging for help and she agreed to get me into another treatment program. On March 17, 2010, exactly two years after my first sobriety date, I went into treatment and the same guy checked me in.

Michaela: On Sept. 13, 2008, it hit me. I thought, “we’re not going up from here.” I was a little girl with all these dreams, and they were all gone. I thought of myself playing soccer as an 8-year-old girl, with such freedom. I had a “God moment.” I turned on the TV and the 700 Club was on, and they were saying, “if you are addicted to drugs, you don’t have to live like that anymore.” The darkness seeped away, and I felt like I just had to walk out the door. I was so broken down that I was willing to do whatever it took to get sober.

W: Why do you think some people succeed at staying clean – was there a particular turning point for you, or did it just sink in over the course of time?

Mason: For me, I think it was a combination of being so desperate, my willingness to be honest, and being open-minded. I can name multiple times that I overdosed; you would think that kind of rock bottom would do the trick, but it didn’t. I was terrified of death; I would nod out, and hear myself stop breathing, feel myself turning blue. Not everyone makes it back, but I did. It takes a complete surrender. The people that came before you hold you up and support you, it’s like being born all over again.

W: What do you think parents and kids need to know about the dangers of prescription drugs?

Mason: These drugs are so prevalent, and kids are dying. People need to educate themselves about it. But for addicts, they need to find their own road. Unfortunately, Oxy is synthetic heroin, and it’s more expensive, so heroin is the next logical step.

My desperation was a gift. My life is amazing today; I have a beautiful relationship with Michaela, I work at a treatment center, and I’m trying to become an addiction counselor. I have the life I used to lie about.

Michaela: My parents were totally in shock about the extent of my addiction. As for myself, I used to think that I would never do drugs. But it was like slipping into a wormhole. Oxy became a fad, and everyone is doing it. These aren’t bad kids, but if you stay on it long enough, you’ll go to heroin. Whether you’re an addict or not, you’ll get hooked. And there’s such a bigger world out there. If you get addicted, you’re not going to be able to be a part of that world.
Get in touch with Mason and Michaela by emailing them at MacMic11@aol.com.

About Erin Marie Daly

I’m a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. My book on prescription drug and heroin addiction was published in August 2014 by Counterpoint Press.
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