One of my favorite people in this world is my brother-in-law, Ronnie Delaune. I met him in 2011 when I began dating my now-husband. Ronnie is married to my husband’s sister. I did not know Ronnie during his struggles with active addiction. Hearing his stories over the years, I just could not imagine him being in the situations he laid out in his stories. It goes to show you addiction does not discriminate. It chooses who it wants to. He is one of the most chill, laid back, funniest, and sweetest people I know. My kids adore him and he is even our baby girl, Finnley’s, godfather. I thought it would be eye-opening for many people to hear from a recovering addict, to better understand their struggles during addiction and even post addiction / recovery.
Interviewer: Erika Lockhart
Interviewee: Ronnie Delaune
Clean Date: November 12th 2006
Erika: Tell me about your childhood.
Ronnie: I was raised in an average middle-class, supportive household. My mother and father were involved in every aspect of our lives from school to sports and everything in between. My family supported my sister and me in anything that we wanted to be involved in and made life fun. My mom was a little overbearing and strict but overall, my childhood was good.
Erika: Did you see addiction prior to your journey?
Ronnie: I did not see it firsthand, but I know now that alcoholism and addiction ran in my family. I was not aware of drug or alcohol use being an issue for anyone until I was late in my teens. At that point, I was already on a path of destruction that would last over a decade. My paternal grandmother was an alcoholic and my maternal grandfather suffered from extreme anxiety and depression which led him to become addicted to benzodiazepines. I had a few uncles by marriage who were involved in the drug trade which is who I tried to emulate as a young adult. I attribute this to most, if not all, of my drug related issues that followed.
Erika: How did your family handle your addiction?
Ronnie: My family did not know how to handle it. They were all blindsided by my abuse of substances and were ignorant of how to react or proceed. They did the normal things that families do. They tried talking to me, begging and pleading, asking why, and blaming themselves but little did they know that they bore no responsibility for my actions or choices. They believed that they played a part in it which meant that they could help me get out of it which was false. They tried supporting me, they tried shunning me, they tried the tough love approach, getting me into rehabs, and setting me up with therapists and counselors, psychologists, and addictionologists which were all in vain. What they did not know at the time was that you cannot force someone to change. Change happens only when the person is ready to change and not a day sooner.
Erika: Start of Addiction?
Ronnie: My substance use/abuse started like most people did. I started using alcohol and marijuana late in my teens. I started selling marijuana and got accustomed to fast money and buying whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I was introduced to pain pills by a family member. Opioids were readily available at that time so getting them by the handful was a common occurrence. I was also introduced to cocaine, MDMA, and psychedelics. After a few years of taking Vicodin, Lortab and Percocet abuse Oxycodone hit the market. I was also using IV cocaine at this point. Once the government started to crack down on the “pill mills,” the availability of high-powered opioids such as Oxy and Fentanyl was significantly diminished. For me, the switch from pain pills to heroin was an economical one. The cost of maintaining an eight, 80mg pill a day oxy habit ranged from $320-$400 but the cost of a gram of heroin that also lasted one day was $100. Once I found Heroin it was game over for me. It did not take me long to figure out that with opioid abuse comes opioid withdrawals. My entire life revolved around avoiding being “dopesick” at all costs. I pushed all in at that point. Nothing else in life mattered but my next fix. Everything took a back seat to my determination to avoid withdrawals. Food, hygiene, employment, family, friends, responsibilities, and relationships became a thing of the past. A fleeting memory of things that used to matter.
Erika: Drugs Used/Abused: (if comfortable noting)
Ronnie: See above. I have used any and all drugs in all forms and routes of administration (smoke, inhale, snort and IV). The only drug that I have not used is methamphetamines. I knew how insane I felt after being awake for 48 hours on cocaine and meth keeps people awake for days and days so I knew that I would need to be in an institution if I was awake for that long.
Erika: Lowest point of your addiction?
Ronnie: I cannot name one instance. My life was a series of lows. Seeing the hurt and pain in my family’s faces as a swore to them that I would stop. Seeing my wife’s face as she uncovered the fact that I had drained her savings account or pawned her jewelry, seeing my mom and dad crushed because they could not take my pain away, getting stabbed with a screwdriver, getting shot at, getting kidnapped and left for dead, getting robbed, robbing people, risking my life and freedom daily for the next high, family visits through prison glass, getting beat up by police for making them chase me, My lowest point was locking myself in a hotel in Alexandria La for about eight weeks in late 2005. I stayed in that hotel room for weeks without hardly eating, drinking or bathing. I did not see a live person (besides the person bringing me cocaine and morphine tablets) for the entirety of that period. The drug dealer even told me that I needed help and looked like I was dying.
Erika: What made you decide to get clean? How many attempts were there?
Ronnie: There is not one instance that made me decide to get clean. For me, it was a series of events that slowly boxed me into a corner in my own mind, slowly dug me into the deepest darkest corner. I did not see a way out. I did not want to die but did not care if I did. At this point, I had been in jails, emergency rooms, detoxes, outpatient rehabs, and inpatient rehabs countless times. I had finally had enough of the cycle of addiction, but I did not know where to even begin to pick up the pieces. I had hurt everyone that I loved and cared for. I felt that everyone had given up on me, which was untrue, but the actual truth was that I was close to giving up on myself. I had been on the run from probation and parole for 18 months and they finally caught up with me. I sat in jail for a few months (still using cocaine daily) when the judge offered me long-term treatment instead of completing my sentence in jail. I took him up on his offer. I had finally reached a point where I felt that I had nothing to lose by giving real, true, and honest recovery a shot. I mean really, what is the worst that could happen? I finally reached the tipping point where I was willing to be uncomfortable in early recovery which is key to building lasting recovery. I did not know it yet, but my life was about to change and change in a big way.
Erika: Highest point in sober life?
Ronnie: I have no complaints about my life since getting clean. I have reengaged with my wife, had two sons, graduated Magna with a bachelor’s degree in substance abuse counseling and prevention, Magna again with a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling, became a member of the national honors society for mental health counselors and a national board certified counselor, started a private practice to continue to help people who suffer from substance related disorders, became the son, husband, brother, friend, uncle, and father that my family and friends deserve.
Erika: What is your family life like now?
Ronnie: Life is tough for everyone, but sober life is far easier on a bad day than addiction is on its easiest. My family life is not always fun, but my goal will always be the same. Be there for my family. Accountability is one of the things that I hold dear in life and in my recovery. During my addiction, I was as unreliable as a person could be. I did not do what I said I would, I was not where I said I was, and I would not go where I said I would go. I made a promise to my family that if I said something, I would stand by it. I spent so much time not being available for my family while they waited patiently for me to get my life together that I owe them and being dependable is my way of paying them back. They will never need to worry if I will be there or be available because I am and will continue to be.
Erika: What are your thoughts on the recent fentanyl crisis?
Ronnie: It’s a nightmare. Pharmaceutical-grade fentanyl has been around for decades but when we would buy it, we knew what we were getting. We knew how much to use and how much would kill you. This Chinese fent that is being added to heroin and in garage pressed pills is a disaster. I wish I knew the answer but smarter minds than me are working on it so I hope they find it quickly.
Erika: Advice to young kids who want to “experiment?”
Ronnie: This is a question where the answer is meaningless. Kids (including me) have been told for decades “don’t do it” but kids will experiment. There is no avoiding that. With that experimenting will come the triggering of addiction. I believe that the minds of kids/teens are so early in the developmental stage that they believe it will not happen to them. They believe that they can control it, but they cannot. Once we start on that path, the only thing that can get us off of it is a disaster. The simple answer is just do not do it but if you do, there are resources and people that can and will help you pick up the pieces when your life falls apart.
Erika: Advice to current addicts who may read this.
Ronnie: Get help. Do not be afraid to reach out. Many addicts think that no one knows what they are doing but the truth is, the only person being fooled is themselves. Most of us feel that we will be judged for the things that we have done and that is just not true. Most of the addiction counselors and therapists are also in recovery. We know the secrets that they do not want to tell people. Go to treatment if needed, go to meetings, surround yourself with people in recovery, build a network of sober peer support, get a sponsor, work the steps, do not pick up no matter what. Recovery is not easy, but it is much easier than a life of addiction. If recovery was easy, everyone would get clean. You have to be a pretty badass to get clean and sober, it takes guts, grit, determination and a willingness that most nonaddicted people just do not have in them. Recovering addicts have a kinship, an unspoken mutual respect because we know what it takes to recover, and we know how hard it can be. We also know there is a way out.
Erika: Anything else you want to share?
Ronnie: “Normal” people do not and will never understand the energy that it takes to stay high day after day, week after week and month after month. All while maintaining a double life and normally with a high degree of secrecy. The level of stress that comes with that is unmatched in regular life. Addicts have a drive and determination that is unattainable by most “regular” people in society. For most of us, this is why when we finally get sober, we become doctors, lawyers, CEOs, we run major corporations, and we become dependable responsible adults, parents, and members of society. To steal a line from the NA basic text, “We Do Recover.”