Why does Maine need overdose prevention sites? A survivor’s story.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Merrill.

My friend Steve recently shared this story with me:

When I was 15 years old, I began binge drinking on weekends with other students at my high school and smoking cannabis on an almost daily basis. When I was 21, I was prescribed Percocet after my wisdom teeth were taken out, and shortly thereafter, I became hooked on Oxycontin. Within a year, I had developed a full blown daily heroin habit.

It’s hard to say exactly why my life went in that direction. I don’t want to blame it on my parents or the other kids I grew up with. But whatever it was, I just really liked the way opiates made me feel, and before I knew it, they had taken over and consumed my life.

Today, ten years later, I feel blessed to have been able to attain recovery. I am now working a twelve step program with a sponsor, and I was recently hired into a new job educating the public about MaineCare. I’ve found a healthy, supportive community to be a part of, and I look forward to spending the rest of my life being a responsible sober adult, both for myself and for those around me.

It has not been an easy or straightforward road for me to get here.

I overdosed twice in the years that I was using, most recently last summer. Had there not been somebody in recovery nearby who was trained in how to recognize an overdose who called the cops, I’d almost certainly be dead. Many times, I shot up in my car or in the bathroom of a Dunkin Donuts. I’ve even done it in the open, behind a grocery store in Portland, as cars passed by all around me.

One time, I was using with a friend when somebody with us started overdosing. My friend tried to give him CPR, and I called 911, but I also ran away as fast as I could to avoid getting sent to jail. Other times, I’ve seen people pass out and turn blue, and nobody would let me call the cops. This disease is vicious. Dozens of people I knew are now dead, including ten of my close friends.

I believe strongly that opening professional medically supervised overdose prevention sites across Maine could go a long way toward helping people like me remain alive long enough to attain the recovery I have today. Several years ago, I contracted Hepatitis C because I didn’t have access to a clean needle. With an OPS, that wouldn’t have happened. With an OPS, my friends might still be alive. When I was using, I went years without seeing a doctor or asking for help. For over a decade, my life was defined by a cycle of self destruction – had such a site existed, I think there’s a good chance it might have helped me interrupt that cycle a lot sooner.

It’s scary to share all of this, knowing how little sympathy many people in Maine have for me, but I’m so grateful to be alive, and I humbly pray that more people can have an easier path toward achieving recovery like I have.

Thank you for your time.

Rob Korobkin

About Rob Korobkin

Rob is a software engineer, community organizer, teacher and musician. He can often be found at Peloton Labs, staring at his laptop, drafting diatribes and programming software late into the night.