By Victor Milani
Nichole Tuma expressed an interest to tell her story of battling, and beating addiction. You hear most times of the toll heroin and opiates takes on the victim, and their families. Here is one story to give hope to those who may think it’’s hopeless. I applaud and admire Nichole.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where you were raised, high school, family, current age?
My name is Nichole Marie Tuma, I am 25 years old, I grew up in and graduated from Bedford High School. I come from a family of five. Mom, dad, older brother and a twin brother, with a large extended family as well. I’ve always been the chameleon type, growing up fitting in with whoever I met because I love people and being around others. I graduated in 2010, attended Tri-C for nursing that same year, and thus began my journey of adulting on my own.
- Where do you currently work and how long have you been there?
I currently bartend / serve at the South-East Harley Gears and Cheers in Bedford Hts. I’ve been there for seven months and am hoping for many more. I love my job and the people I work with, all of whom I consider family.
- At what age did you first experiment with drugs, and which drug was it?
I was 19 when I took my first Percocet pill not knowing it was going to turn into an addiction later on. I had received them from injuring myself with a burn and took a few and thinking nothing of it and gave the rest away. I then began taking Adderall, I loved hanging out with my friends and partying but I had to work to support myself and it was catching up to me, therefore I was introduced to Adderall where I would be able to work all day and party all night and do it all over again and again….Still not thinking anything about addiction or that I may have formed one I continued on thinking I was living a normal life. At 21 the relationship I was in is where my Percocet addiction took off.
- What do you think lead you to become addicted to your drug of choice?
At 22/23 is when the percs weren’t enough and they were hard to find so I was then introduced to heroin, something cheaper of the same quality. I cried the first time doing it, I knew then that I was in trouble but I didn’t want anyone to know what I had stooped too. I hid my addiction, I was ashamed of who I was and what I became.
- Where your friends into drugs as well?
When I got into the percs I completely shut out all my family and friends cause like I said I was hiding my addiction. I’ve always been a people pleaser and being a disappointment to the ones I cared about most was harder than asking for help in my mind. Of course, looking back now I could have spared a lot of heartache and stress to not only myself but them as well had I done so.
- You mentioned that you were on drugs for 6 years. During that time, did you try rehabilitation or drug counseling?
Within the years of my use I had discussed getting help but I didn’t think that I needed it. I always felt I could do it on my own, that I wasn’t that bad to need actual help. I watched someone I cared about go to treatment a few times and it never clicked with me that I needed the same help. Looking back I definitely feel I was the problem of the codependency because I was so stubborn. In 2014 I did quit for four months on my own and unfortunately relapsed that summer, which caused me to overdose for the first time. After that my addiction got worse and still I didn’t want anyone to know or think that I needed help.
- What was your average cost per day when you were on drugs, and how did you get the money?
The average cost per day for me grew over the years of course as I got worse to where it was 1 to 2 hundred a day towards the end for myself roughly. I still maintained a job through those years and I went weekly to take out loans to support the habit.
- Did your family try intervention to get you clean?
If I had been around my family and friends and let them in more I’m sure there would have been an intervention. They knew something was going on but didn’t know exactly what. I stopped coming around, I let myself go dropping weight and not caring so much about myself like I used too, and eventually stopped talking to them for days and weeks at a time. Before my last year of use my family did beg me to move to West Virginia and get help with family but I refused it.
- What finally got you to the point of kicking the drug habit, and how did you do it?
2015/2016 were the hardest years of my addiction for many reasons, I felt lonely, lost and broken. I saw my friends and family starting careers, getting married and starting families and there I was worrying about my next high before I had the next one. It was awful. I hated the person I became. I used to love life and was always joking around, constantly laughing and wanted to be where everyone was. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. I was so angry, and upset with what I had done to myself, instead of laughing I cried and I hated being around people. I was a joke. One day I was so fed up with myself, I literally had been crying every day, no matter how hard I tried to quit I couldn’t, I finally gave in and agreed to a week of detox. I figured no one would know and I would be fixed. I was admitted February 22nd, 2016 at 1:30 PM, and as mad and upset as I was at myself, that was just the beginning of freedom for me. During my week of being there they encouraged me to go to an inpatient program, which of course I was against because I didn’t want to be separated or away from anyone for what seemed like it would be forever. I was so scared but I wanted my life back so I did it. On February 28th, 2016 I was taken to the Jean Marie House, a recovery home for women in Brookpark, Ohio. I didn’t tell anyone, nobody but two people knew where I was and what I was doing, I caused a big scare of course for my family and friends who hadn’t heard from me in almost in two months. But on St. Patrick’s Day I built up the courage to let everyone know I was okay, where I was, and what I doing. I had no idea how loved and supported I was. Till this day, it feels good to know I have so many people who love and care about me and don’t judge me for what I did, but look up to me for overcoming it.
- What advise can you give people that are battling the drug demons
My support system I have today is amazing. I not only have my family and friends back in my life but I built a family within the surrounding Cleveland area with many others who are doing the same thing every day. I’ve gained many more family and friends as well. They’re all that keep me going every day to be better than I once was.
- At 25, you are a promotional model for a beer distributor, have a full-time job, and seem to be the picture of health and beauty. Is there ever the fear of relapsing into the drug abyss again?
Advice that I can give someone else who is battling the drug demon is don’t give up on yourself, your worth it and life is so precious and beautiful and it continues to be everyday if you apply the footwork. Every day the fear of relapse crosses my mind. But a’s long as I stay true to myself and the ones I love around me I know everything is going to be okay.