Vicodin Created a Mental Prison I Couldn’t Escape Without Narconon

Prescription drugs

It was Christmas 2011 when I was invited to my friend John’s house for dinner and a few drinks. We started to play fight in his basement and it went too far. We were drunk and the playing didn’t end well, I got punched so hard in the chest that it left a very painful bruise. For two days, the pain continued and the bruise got redder and redder and swollen. At the end of the second day, I decided to visit my doctor and find a solution for the pain I was in. That’s when I got my first Vicodin prescription and my life changed from that moment on.

I remember the first time I took Vicodin (VIC). I was in my car driving home from the pharmacy and I took two pills, not knowing what effect they would have on me. Ten minutes after taking them I felt a numbing feeling all over my body, the pain in my chest went away, and my cigarette started to taste lighter and much better, I started smiling and all of the sudden all my worries went away. I felt like I was the king of everything.

Taking pills
Photo by lechatnoir/

In my second month of taking the VIC, I would take some in the morning to wake up, one at lunch to help me work, some after work to help me relax, one after dinner to help me spend time with my kids, and then I took some before going to bed to help me sleep. I never ran out of reasons to take the pills.

I started researching all the different pain medicines available on the market. I found out what they look like, what colors they are, the round ones, the square ones, the big balloon-shaped ones, and how many milligrams were in each of the different pills. I was hooked.

I started making appointments with different doctors trying to find the one who would give me the largest amount of pills in each prescription. I started asking people if they knew where to get the pills and if they knew anyone who was taking them so I could buy from them. I got to the point where I was getting my pills from the doctors and from the streets.

When I ran out of medication, my body would go into shock, I would lose all my energy to do anything, I couldn’t focus on anything I was doing, my hands would shake, my eyes would blur and every bone in my body would start hurting. I couldn’t go to work or even do any work, and I couldn’t take care of my responsibilities as a father or a husband. My life stopped when I didn’t have my pills and it continued when I found them. I pulled money from my savings, I wouldn’t pay a certain bill because the pills came before everything else, and nothing was more important than my medicine.

I was in a mental prison. Every time I took the pain meds, I would take other drugs as well, I would drink and do stupid things. I would hang out with people I wouldn’t be with if I were sober, I would drive to certain areas that I wouldn’t go to if I were sober, and I would argue with friends about things that didn’t bother me when I was sober.

Before the end of 2016, I got arrested for a DWI. Even though I’d had only a couple of drinks that night, the mix of alcohol and medicine together was a bad idea. I felt really drunk and very lightheaded, but I didn’t care and I drove my car. When I went to jail, I couldn’t bond out because I was on probation and I had violated the terms by getting another charge.

Depressed man in a jail

The jail nurse called and questioned me because I wasn’t eating, and I ended up telling her about what was going on. I remember she said: “I see people come here with organ failure and dying slowly because of these pain pills, Heni do you want to be one of them?” I looked at her and I said “NO!” She told me that she would help me, but it was not going to be easy. She started giving me medicine that helped just a little bit and only for 5 days, she gave me Gatorade because I had dehydrated my body to the point where I could have caused serious damage. That was all the help I got. It was just enough to survive. The shaking kept going, the stomach pain continued, and I couldn’t sleep properly for 25 days.

I remember the day I woke up about 47 days later. I had fewer withdrawal symptoms. I opened my eyes and noticed that I hadn’t had any bad dreams, I noticed that my body was somewhat rested and I felt hungry. I got up, showered and ate. I started playing spades with the people around me and laughing like I never laughed before. I started making friends, reading and talking a lot. I started tasting the food and enjoyed eating. After 60 days, I felt back to normal, but the craving hadn’t stopped. I thought about Vicodin a lot and I was waiting for the day I could get some.

My drug addiction continued until 2021. Even though I didn’t touch painkillers again, I was drinking a lot. I took Xanax, smoked weed a lot, and I did cocaine and basically anything I could get my hands on. I spent so much time in jail, I lost my relationships with family and friends, I lost a lot of money and of course any job I got.

One day I woke up in the hospital getting stitches in my eye. I couldn’t remember what happened. My friends were all around me and the cops came because they thought I had been beaten up. I still can’t recall what happened, but I can never hate that moment because that’s when I decided to get help. I called my sister and told her that I needed help, and I started looking for a rehab center outside the country away from everything.

I found Narconon on the web. What attracted me to the Narconon program is that they don’t give any medication. I had a problem with pills, so I needed a place that wouldn’t give me any medication. I called them and connected them with my sister.

Even though I badly wanted to go to rehab, I kept postponing the trip. I never saw myself living sober and I stayed with what I knew. I kept drinking, popping pills and sampling different drugs every day.

Someone from the Narconon center would call me every day, encouraging me to fly there and start the program. One day I booked my ticket and took the flight. They picked me up from the airport, we arrived to the center and did the paperwork. I was so confused, but I was happy that I was doing something about my addiction. I remember when they took me to my room and I went to bed, I had the best sleep I’d had in many years. I felt safe and the fact that no one knew where I was, gave me peace.

“I feel happy, I feel love and support from my family and friends, and I hear the words ‘PROUD OF YOU’ a lot.”

Five months later, I graduated from the program as a different person. I feel happy, I feel love and support from my family and friends, and I hear the words “PROUD OF YOU” a lot.

Sober man
Photo by monkeybusinessimages/

Every day is a learning experience for me. My problems didn’t go away, but I deal with them differently now. My group supports me and I support my group, I gained another family in my life and I am paying it forward to whoever needs help with addiction by working at a Narconon center. I feel happy from the little things I have and I enjoy the things that matter. For example, buying a new pair of shoes gives me more happiness now than when I bought a Mercedes years ago. The Narconon program saved my life and taught me how to deal with different situations.


Heni Azzam

Heni earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Video Production from the Art Institute of Houston and went on to work in the media for 16 years, eventually becoming an Operations Manager for a television station. Having witnessed the harm that drugs and alcohol wreak on people’s lives, he is now utilizing his skills to spread awareness about drug and alcohol addiction and to bring hope to families and individuals who are battling addiction.