Ronnie settles into the love seat in his sister’s living room and prepares to tell his story.
He asked 8News not to share his full name or show his face during the candid conversation, but the 62-year-old’s message about hitting rock bottom is as clear as the scar on his chest.
It is a reminder of the day doctors had to crack it open to save his life.
“It’s really a one day at a time thing,” Ronnie says about his opioid addiction.
Ronnie explains it started with knee pain in 2004. Surgery soon followed, along with pills to control the throbbing and the pressure.
Insurance eventually stopped covering his opioid prescriptions, despite a stack of medical records saying he needed pain management.
By then, Ronnie says the throes of addiction consumed him, and he turned to heroin.
“Every day is a danger because you’re playing Russian roulette by getting something from someone that you don’t know what it is,” he describes. “I was back on that road of doing it myself.”
Years passed, but finally last year Ronnie reached out for help.
During enrollment in a methadone program, a health screening sent him to the emergency room stat. His aorta had ballooned.
Ronnie says years of drug use and not taking care of himself had taken their toll on his heart.
“There’s danger all the way around,” he says about addiction.
Ronnie is in recovery now. In his treatment, he sees plenty of older adults.
Baby boomers are one age group seeing a spike in opioid addiction. Many of them are dealing with pain from chronic conditions, and denial that there is a problem puts them at an even greater risk.
They are grandparents of all walks of life who are getting clean and coming clean, especially to themselves.
“After a while, that skeleton will come out of the closet and people will be able to tell,” Ronnie explains the transparency of drug use. “Get your life back on track and start being yourself.”
If you are an older adult who is struggling with addiction, these are two resources available in the community:
The Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine — https://www.addictionva.com/
The McShin Foundation — http://mcshin.org/mcwp/