My History of Non-Fatal Overdoses

Over a period of 19 years, I overdosed multiple times on multiple substances.

Wanna know what the silliest part of it is?

Each time was an accident.

I thought I could handle larger amounts and not suffer any consequences. The possibility of overdosing didn’t enter my mind at all.

Using and abusing substances is similiar to gambling. They can both be addictive behaviors, and with each of them, either you’ve got to know your limit and play within it, or else avoid them entirely.

I now know my limit and play within it for alcohol, and I now avoid the other substances that I’m going to be covering as I take you on this tour through my history of non-fatal overdoses.

Overdosing on Anti-Depressants When I Was 14

I was an only child. I never met my dad. My mom and I didn’t have much of a social life.

Those and other factors played a part in me having depression. When I was 14, it got to be too much. I didn’t want to feel that way any more. Where was the happiness in life?

I wanted to be happy. I also wanted to meet with a doctor. I had the idea that anti-depression medication would help.

So after long talks with my mom and then with the doctor and my mom, the doctor prescribed anti-depressants for me. And the anti-depressants did help.

My mood improved to the point where I thought I could take a risk, except I didn’t think of it as being a risk.

One day, I felt like having the daily pill without water. Okay, I did that. It was easy enough. Then I thought, “Hey, why not make a game of this? If I feel this much better with only 1 pill a day, how much better could I feel if I have as many pills as I want today?”

Yes, I was chasing a high. With antidepressants.

I took a second pill. Then a third pill. Fourth. Fifth. Sixth.

Did I stop? No, I kept going.

I had more pills until I considered it to be enough. I had counted how many pills I had. It was 17.

With my improved mood over those last several months, I had gained a friend. It was summertime. We had a couple months off from school. Matthew and I played video games and went for bicycle rides. I went to his place twice a day during that summer and the next summer.

Those 17 pills got me really happy that day. I couldn’t help but laugh. I did notice a side effect though. My teeth chattered for a number of hours, and I didn’t have any control over it.

Matthew and I were playing video games and joking. Whenever my teeth chattered uncontrollably, that got us laughing even more than we already were.

I realized I had overdosed, and I promised myself that I would stick to the recommended daily limit for the antidepressants starting the very next day, and I did. It’s been over 20 years since I had anti-depressants. I finished the prescribed time period for having them, and I haven’t had them since.

Overdosing on Rancid Wine When I Was 22

Ever have friends that don’t get along with each other?

I’ve had that multiple times. Enough to wonder why I can get along with them and they can get along with me, but they can’t get along with each other.

When I was 22, two people that I knew were going to be meeting each other for the first time. They had known about each other for years because of knowing me, and I was nervous about how things would go.

The meeting was at my apartment, and I didn’t have to worry. They got along.

I wasn’t relaxed though. I drank too much. I mixed alcohols that don’t belong together. I drank on an empty stomach. I had rancid wine. And I got really sick. The hangover. The nausea. The vomiting. The dizziness. And whatever else I went through.

Eventually, I calmed down, passed out, and got feeling better the next day.

I got more careful about alcohol after that. Though perhaps not careful enough. I got engaged one of those times when I was drunk. Years later, my ex and I got divorced. It didn’t make sense for us to be together.

Overdosing Multiple Times When I Was 33

I met my stepdad when I was 19. He is the one that introduced me to marijuana / weed.

My mom and I moved from our hometown in Ontario to live with my stepdad in Alberta. How did my stepdad celebrate us moving in with him?

He got my mom drunk and me high.

It was like a horror story seeing my mom passed out drunk at the bathtub and me being introduced to a substance that burned my throat something fierce and got me coughing seemingly without relief. I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into.

That night started my long association with marijuana which lasted for 14 years. I’ve wasted more time and money on that substance than I care to calculate.

I kept having people in my life who worshipped at the altar of the weed. I still don’t know what’s so great about weed. I feel like my 20s literally went up in smoke and some of my 30s as well. I look back and I end up thinking, “Well, that was a waste.”

When I was 33, I overdosed twice in the same weekend.

The first time was with having a big dab of butter. This butter isn’t made from cow’s milk. It’s super concentrated marijuana that’s made with a blowtorch. It’s not your grandfather’s marijuana, that’s for sure.

I had had dabs of butter earlier that month, and I was okay with it. I didn’t see how this dose would be any different. Sometimes it hurts to be so wrong.

The second overdose that weekend was from edibles. Marijuana butter can be consumed through dabs. There’s a special device for that. And it can also be consumed through edibles. In my case, it was homemade chocolate cake bites.

I ate way too many edibles that night. Dozens of them. The high didn’t kick in right away, so I thought I was safe.

The effects of both overdoses that weekend were quite similiar. The dizziness. The nausea. The vomiting. The countless out of body experiences. All extremely unpleasant. I thought I was going to die.

I had to keep remembering people’s names, birthdates, and anniversaries, including my own, just so I could keep coming back to this reality.

Those experiences got me to be a lot more careful about marijuana. Until I stopped having it entirely.

I woke up from the nightmare, and I stopped having marijuana enthusiasts in my life.

Avoiding Substance Abuse Since I Was 33

I understand that substance abuse is a very real problem, and I suspect that if there wasn’t anybody else around us using certain substances that the use of them would drop quite severely. I look back over my life, and I see that an overwhelming majority of the time with hardly any exceptions, I used and abused substances because I was around other people that were also using them. I participated countless times in social drinking, social smoking, and so on.

It can be tiresome saying “No.” That’s why it’s so important to only be around people who have healthy habits — as much as possible. Social influence is very real. I’ve done things I’ve known were harmful for me just so I would be accepted. But is that kind of acceptance really worth it?

Of course not.

And sometimes I’ve been the negative influence for myself. It hasn’t always been because I was around other people.

Yes, there were some exceptions such as the time when I walked to a movie theater, watched what turned out to be a depressing movie, walked back home, drank several shots of white rum on an empty stomach, and passed out for 12 hours. It didn’t help that I lived alone at the time.

When I was 17, a co-worker’s boyfriend mentioned that he had overdosed 108 times. He said which drug he overdosed on. It’s one that I’ve never had. I wondered why he kept going back. It sounded like an abusive relationship. But I get it. The addiction can seem like it’s stronger than we are.

When I was 26, a roommate said that he had tried over 100 times to quit smoking cigarettes.

Cigarettes weren’t something that I had all that much of. On those extremely rare occasions when I did buy a pack, it would last me for months. Cigarettes dehydrated me and gave me a headache. I ended up asking myself, “Why am I doing this?” I didn’t have a good enough answer for that, so I stopped having cigarettes.

I had magic mushrooms once. It was entertaining. The high kicked in, and I was overly amused by my own hand. I kept flipping it around, staring at both sides of it, and laughing. That lasted for about an hour.

I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I choose not to spend time with anyone who gets drunk or high. It’s for my own protection. I choose to avoid getting drunk or high. It’s not a good look for me, and it’s ultimately not really any fun. Wtih very rare exceptions. See the previous paragraph.

Conclusion

I realize that my history of non-fatal overdoses can seem really mild compared to what others have been through. For those of us who are lucky enough to survive, we have choices for what to do with our lives.

We can take the experience of overdosing, consider it a warning, and be a lot more careful in the future by knowing our limit and playing within it, or else by avoiding the substance entirely.

Or there’s the choice to take the experience of overdosing, ignore the warning, and possibly end up with a fatal overdose.

We don’t have to die, and we don’t have to become a statistic. We are stronger than any addiction, and we can start proving our strength by asking ourselves “Why am I doing this?”

If you don’t have a good enough answer, then you can stop the addiction. Unless you bring out the strength from within yourself, you aren’t going to discover the wonders that you can accomplish and the genius that you are.

I know you can win, and you can also be the support that someone else needs to kick the habit. Whatever that negative habit might be. And since nature abhors a vacuum, you can replace the negative habit with a positive habit. Like using a gratitude journal. Or meditating. Or using subliminal messages to reprogram your mind.

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Until next time,

James Barnett

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