In 2020, the world experienced an event like no other. The coronavirus pandemic has ravaged all corners of the globe – thousands upon thousands of lives have been lost and we are still feeling the effects a year later.
Whilst everybody’s experience of the pandemic has differed, drugs and alcohol became a relief and a way to pass the time for many people; both those who have suffered with addiction prior to the pandemic, and those who had never experienced addiction before.
However, for Rohanie Cabezas the start of the pandemic signified a turning point. The 32-year-old hailing from Seattle in Washington says it guided her to a road of recovery from her addictions.
“It’s way more of a risk now during the pandemic.”
When asked whether her addictions worsened throughout the last year, Rohanie spoke about how the pandemic prevented her from purchasing drugs from the local dealers.
“[It was] surprising to me because cravings and relapses are often triggered by stress and there was a whole bunch of that going on. I’ve been so determined to stay clean and I think I would be terrified to go and pick-up now.”
“I know they’re not being safe, those dealers probably aren’t wearing a mask out there. You never quite know [if the] drugs are cut with anything. That’s dangerous in itself. You can’t really trust the people you’re buying from.”
Rohanie’s addictions to heroin and methamphetamine began after a long and hard divorce, and her subsequently losing custody of her children. Rohanie’s boyfriend at the time introduced her to heroin as a way of “cheering” her up, catapulting them both down the slippery slope of addiction.
“I was crying all the time, like buckets, and his idea to cheer me up or help me stop crying was to give me a shot of heroine basically. And he was right, I stopped crying and the tears never came back but then it just slowly escalated from there.”
Rohanie notes how the effects of each drug would collide with each other; the heroin having one effect, and the methamphetamine another.
“I started using more and more often and then we were combining it with meth because heroin kind of makes you nod off and sleepy but then when you do the meth it sort of wakes you up so you kind of get the best of both worlds type of thing.”
“It kept getting worse and worse, we both lost our jobs and we both ended up homeless and living out of my car.”
Before her addiction, Rohanie worked as a nursing assistant in home care.
“Looking for drugs felt like a full-time job.”
As addiction began to consume more aspects of Rohanie and her boyfriend’s lives, a tragic incident changed the way Rohanie saw her problem.
“On what was supposed to be our 6-month clean date, he overdosed, and he passed away.”
“I wish he had told me what he was feeling. I had no idea. We were going to go and see a movie that weekend. I got a phone call from our mutual best friend [telling me] that he was gone, and I was really devastated.”
Rohanie overcame the traumatic events that had engulfed her life, all while still struggling with her own addictions. She successfully recovered after seeking help and putting herself through a rehabilitation programme.
Rohanie wants to share her story to spread awareness about the detrimental impacts that addiction can have, whilst most importantly helping others who are struggling to seek help and find their way to recovery.
“[I’ve been clean] for about 28 months.”
“I’ve got my own place now, I’m not living out on the streets anymore! I see my kids every week.”
Kris Ally, another former addict, also reflects on their experiences of past addictions.
“I’m a recovering addict of basically everything but primarily opiates, starting with pills and ending with heroin and fentanyl.”
Kris now uses the social media forum site Reddit to help encourage other struggling addicts to “believe in themselves” when starting recovery.
“Today I am one year clean so I’d just like to be a voice of encouragement to others. I was as badly hooked as one could be and lost everything due to my addiction.”
“Fighting for your recovery isn’t easy, but overtime gets much simpler.”
Throughout the last year, another user claimed that “the pandemic increased my consumption significantly.”
“I probably would have used less if I could entertain myself in ways that the pandemic took away.”
Rohanie and Kris now stand as shining beacons of hope for anyone struggling with drugs, addiction, loss and mental illness, particularly during the unprecedented times of the last year.
Overcoming addiction especially during a global pandemic can be a long and difficult battle. However – like any battle – it can be won. Rohanie, Kris, and many other survivors of addiction are proof that what feels like the impossible can be made possible.