Former Addict: ‘This Disease Had Me in Its Grips’

Nearly four years ago, Mark decided to leave behind his addiction to pain killers. Today, Mark spoke at a news conference to release to the 2015 Prescription Drug Abuse Report Card.  In his own words, Mark tells how Vicodin led him to a life of addiction and how he fought the disease… and won. 

Hi, my name is Mark G., and I am a person in long-term recovery. It is true that addiction can happen to anyone. It happened to me.

I grew up in a healthy environment. I played sports throughout my life, and I have had every opportunity to have a successful life. A sports injury at the age of 15 was the beginning for me. I was prescribed Vicodin. I became deeply involved in the OxyContin lifestyle. This took me into Mexico and also to doctors in Los Angeles to feed my addiction. I did whatever it took to continue using.

I had a chance to visit Aaron Rubin, who overdosed on OxyContin and can’t speak or walk and is confined to a wheelchair, at the hospital when he was fighting for his life. Seeing Aaron go through this overdose would make most people consider changing their lives. But I had lost the power to choose, and this disease had me in its grips. I have lost many friends to addiction. Addiction is cunning and powerful enough so that I still thought that this would never happen to me.

Something happened to me on March 1, 2012. It’s hard to explain. What I can say is that I wasn’t planning on stopping but I woke up that morning and was able to see for the first time that I was going to die and I must get help. I was lifted out of the life that I was living into something that was better than I had ever experienced. I was given just enough strength to enter a treatment program and start the road to recovery. Thank God! Change is possible!

There are many different avenues to getting help. One must be willing and open to a new way of life. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I did, and it is the best thing that has happened to me. You can live a life of freedom on the other side of addiction.

I will be celebrating four years of sobriety in March. I had the chance to go back to school and was asked to be the class speaker for my graduation. I met an amazing woman and we are getting married in November. I have had many opportunities to share a message of hope in our community. Although Aaron’s story and mine are a little different, we both are able to share our experience and hopefully help someone living with untreated addiction and bring awareness around prescription pills and their effects on our lives. 

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact