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My Name is Aidan and I am a drug addict. This is my story.

I am 25 years old. I spent some of my childhood in Belfast, Ireland. I also spent some of my childhood in Edmonton, Alberta.

At age 14, I was smoking marijuana and tobacco daily, multiple times a day. Smoking marijuana helped me forget who I was, the feeling of getting out of my own skin was amazing. Since that first hit, I loved it. I knew then, I am able to get out of myself and I can use this substance to change how I feel, or not feel at all. That’s exactly what I wanted at that point in my life.

At age 15, I was smoking marijuana any moment I could and soon found out that everyone around me was drinking alcohol so I thought I would try it. I thought “my parents and siblings drink so it couldn’t be that bad.” I drank so much that first time that I got very sick. Truth is I didn’t like drinking but it was socially acceptable so I drank as much as I could. I couldn’t seem to get enough. My drinking and using marijuana continued for two years.

At age 17, I began to wonder, I began to realize I was not good at school or sports, so what am I going to do with my life. I was hanging around with the wrong people who told me that I didn’t need school and all I needed was them, and it will be alright. I believed them. I was looking for something to belong to. I felt at home.

I said yes and used cocaine for the first time. It didn’t phase me and I began using cocaine at school and eventually got enough so that I could make some extra cash. One of my mistakes was bringing this substance to school to sell to my classmates. I was very “successful” but the principal caught on and long story short, I got kicked out of school. My family was furious. I continued my schooling at home and did quite well. My family thought it was all over there. But it did not change who I was spending my time with. It did not change my relationship with drugs and alcohol.

From what I remember, it was to be “cool” to fit in with a certain crowd. As far as I could remember I did not fit in with anyone and wanted to be apart of something. I just wanted people to enjoy my presence and to like who I was, but to tell you the truth, I didn’t know who I was and I didn’t like myself. I felt worthless from a young age and that developed into an even lower level of self-esteem as a teenager.

A few years went by, which were the most eye opening years of my life, now that I look back at them.

Brown sugar. That brown substance was heroin. Something that I had never felt before in my life. I had never felt so lost in my mind. It was amazing. I was hooked. I loved it.

At this point I am in my 20’s, and didn’t drink, didn’t smoke marijuana, didn’t use cocaine anymore. I was using strictly heroin, that substance I was so curious about.

What I thought was heroin, turned out to be a substance called fentanyl. Something I didn’t know about. I loved it, I couldn’t feel worthless, I couldn’t feel in pain, I felt loved, not by people but by this substance. This was the sickest and most toxic relationship I have ever experienced in my life. I was addicted since day one. Since that first time I smoked a joint. But I thought this was the life. This is the way to live. This was the connection I had longed for. Nothing stood in between myself and the relationship.

I was lonely. I lost everything. An amazing career, lifelong friends. I burnt those bridges. I didn’t mean to.

Even before we were born, my twin brother, Ciarín, and I were inseparable. It’s hard to describe the bond of siblings, as many of you will know, but it’s probably even harder to really understand the connection between two people who’ve shared a womb together, at the same time, and took almost every breath of life not more than a few metres from each other. But the only way I can put it is that, my twin was my other half.

Ciarín and I found ourselves, without really understanding how or why, addicted to opiates among other things. We hid our addictions well from our family. But things got bad really fast. Ciarín and I began to not get along so much, even though we lived together, worked together, partied together and even used together. We still kept our secrets and nobody seemed to know what was going on with us.

Then, on November 25, 2013, he and I talked. We made up after a period of not being together. We told each other that we loved each other and hugged. He did his drug test that day at work. On the morning of November 26, 2013, I noticed his truck was still in the driveway, and I went to get him out of bed.

I found Ciarín had passed away at some time during the night. He overdosed on fentanyl. It was the moment my life changed forever.

We had done everything right. We worked hard. We loved and were loved by our families. We were young with everything ahead of us. But Ciarín didn’t make it. And I did.

If that wasn’t hard enough, it’s crazy to know that I still used for a month after finding my twin brother dead from an overdose of fentanyl. That’s how hard this thing is. It wasn’t easy to take the first step, even after that. Don’t ever underestimate the power of addiction.

But I went to treatment at Cedars at Cobble Hill and began my life of recovery on January 5th, 2014. I have been clean and sober ever since. And every day I live and am clean because of the strength I have been given by my brother, my family and an amazing network of people around me supporting my recovery ÔÇô for some, it is also their recovery. Ciarín is still my other half, though he is not physically with me; he is guiding me on my path through life ÔÇô clean, conscious and coming to terms with the darkness of my grief, loss and sadness.

I lost him, and I may never know why. I only understand what his loss compels me to do: to choose life, every day; to live for myself and the people I love; to help others so that they might not be faced with the same fate. Addiction and recovery involves everyone they touch. My family has undergone major transformations ÔÇô some positive, some not so positive, but with each change, a consequence of dealing with and moving beyond addiction and toward a more conscious life path.

Drugs didn’t do this to us; addiction did. That is what we have to overcome, because there will always be drugs no matter what. Even if drugs were eradicated, there would be something else feeding addiction. We must deal with and think beyond addiction.

When Ciarín passed away that was the deciding point in going to treatment for addiction. My decision changed my life for the better, I got help with that problem. That’s not to say that I am perfect. I do absolutely have problems. Being at Cedars helped me realize quickly that it wasn’t so much the drugs but my behaviours as well. I found out through my family history that I was wired an addict since the day I was born. But now I can deal with that. I have the tools to be alright with myself. I love myself today. I love who I can be and who I am. I learnt that it is okay to be who I was. I’m proud of who I am today. Thanks to a 12-Step program I can work through all of the behaviours and catch myself before I act out on them.

The program I am in today helps me actually feel my feelings and I am constantly reminded of the fact that my feelings will not kill me. The program gives me a meaning today, it helps me move forward in life. The 12-Steps are amazing tools for myself and others to work on throughout my life.

I thought that I had been through it all but I was mistaken. When I thought all was well, tragedy hit my life again..

Once again, I lost the closest person to me, my best friend. In January 2016, my best friend overdosed and passed away. He was the person who understood me, who understood what exactly I was going through with my brother. He was always there for me, always. Now I have lost two extremely important people in my life.

I got through it clean and sober. All thanks to my recovery and the 12-Step program. Being in a 12-Step program gave me the tools to get through tragedy. I sit here today writing the story of my life, grateful for being alive, for being able to live again. I am not here to say that it was easy, because it is extremely difficult to keep going, without my twin brother Ciarín and my best friend Matt. I know that they would both want me to be happy and continue on in my recovery.

Ciarín and Matt are with all of us. They are here with me now, giving me the courage to talk to all of you, to courageously share my story and to encourage others to feel compassion for people like us, people who love and are loved and who need your solidarity to overcome this powerful thing called addiction. I am finding ways to complete myself, to compensate for the loss of my other half; as well as my best friend and I will get there if it takes a lifetime ÔÇô because I am worth it.

We appreciate all the support we get, even if it doesn’t seem like we do.