On today’s episode of The SHAIR Podcast Jason Smith, the author of The Bitter Taste of Dying, takes us through 16 years of addiction to prescription drugs more powerful than heroin and morphine. During High School Jason get’s into a car accident and is prescribed Norco and Soma for pain relief and overnight becomes addicted to painkillers. After college in order to get off of the pills his doctor prescribes a time release patch called Fentanyl that takes him to the bottom of all bottoms. Jason overdoes 6 times, ends up in a Mexican jail trying to score drugs and ultimately attempts suicide when all hope is lost. It’s an incredible story of survival and an inspirational story of recovery and hope. Join us now!
About Jason Smith the Author
JASON SMITH is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, whose work has been published extensively in both online and print media. Jason Smith is also the Creative Director of TheRealEdition.com, an online community that allows addicts and their loved ones to publish their stories of addiction and recovery. Jason is heavily involved in the recovery community, where he frequently shares his experience, strength, and hope in getting out of the hell that is addiction. He currently lives in northern California with his wife Megan and two children, Jaden and Isabella.
In his first book, author Jason Smith explores the depravity and desperation required to maintain an opiate addiction so fierce, he finds himself jumping continents to avoid jail time and learns the hard way that some demons cannot be outrun.
While teaching in Europe, he meets a prostitute who secures drugs for him at the dangerous price of helping out the Russian mafia; in China, he gets his Percocet and Xanax fix but terrifies a crowd of children and parents at his job in the process; and in Mexico, Smith thought a Tijuana jail cell would be the perfect place to kick his Fentanyl habit, but soon realizes that the power of addiction is stronger than his desire to escape it.
The Bitter Taste of Dying paints a portrait of the modern day drug addict with clarity and refreshing honesty. With a gritty mixture of self-deprecation and light-hearted confessional, Smith’s memoir deftly describes the journey into the harrowing depths of addiction and demonstrates the experience of finally being released from it.
Clean Date: 12 – 12 – 2012
Here are Jason’s SHAIR Podcast interview highlights and suggestions for the Newcomer.
So Jason, let’s dive right in. Tell us how your life is today. Take us into your normal daily routine, including recovery and also since we’ve got you on the show right now, Jason Smith is the author of “The Bitter Taste of Dying – A Memoir”. I just read the prologue and it’s pretty intense so I’m really excited to hear your story.
Tell us a little bit about this book and how it came to be.
Jason: So this book began, let me start off by saying the last year of my life has been insane in the sense of none of it was planned. The whole writing thing was never planned. I never wrote before and I was never a writer before. I had no writing background at all and, in fact it was a year ago this month in July, I walked into a newspaper, at that time I had about a year and a half clean, and I was going to a lot of 12 step meetings and I kept seeing these 19-20 year old kids coming in strung out on heroin and I live in a small town what you would consider an upper middle class small town and nobody was talking about it. Nobody wanted to say anything about it.
The newspaper wasn’t saying anything about it. I mean everybody just sort of pretended it wasn’t going on but I could see the kids coming into the 12 step meetings so I knew there was something there. I walked into a newspaper and I pitched this idea for a three part series and the editor of that paper let me run with it and so I ended up writing this three part series titled “Heroin in the Foothills”.
The positive response that came from that article sort of drove me and I said “maybe I have something here” in terms of this writing thing and then at the same time when I wrote, it felt good. It felt like this release and I learned that I could write about some of the things that I have been through and I really got to experience this cathartic release of energy that was somewhat dormant inside of me. I didn’t even know it was there until I let it out. I didn’t know how heavy the weight on my chest was until it was gone and so that’s sort of how it all started. I began writing about my experiences in addiction and a publisher came across it and asked if I’d be interested in writing a memoir and so here we are.
Tell us about how your life is today. Your hobbies, what you do for a living. Take us into your normal daily routine, including recovery.
Jason: Recovery wise, every morning I wake up and I have to pray and for me what that looks like is just going out on my back porch, taking the dogs out and just sitting there relaxing for about 20 minutes, just sort of in reflection and meditation and always reminding myself of my first week clean or my first month clean when I’d wake up in the morning and be sick or wake up in the morning and not know what to do with my time because I was so used to getting high every morning that I wasn’t sure what to do with this hour now. I remember that and it was two and a half years ago, but I remember it very vividly and so those mornings are a good time to be thankful and have some gratitude in terms of not being there anymore.
From there, I mean I’m a dad. My wife and I, we have a four year old and a five year old which keep us busy, how cool is that? You know, a drug addict like me gets to have this beautiful life now and that’s something I always have to be thankful for and no matter how much success comes with the writing, I have to always remember that I have to be thankful to my higher power because this wasn’t my plan. To get a publishing deal in your first year, that is just a story purchased for film rights. That kind of stuff isn’t supposed to happen. You know people have been writing a lot longer than I have and haven’t had these opportunities so when they’re presented to me, I really have to be grateful and thankful for them.
It can never go to my head. It can never be because I’m that good or because I write that well. I have someone looking over me and I just have to put one foot in front of the other and as I’ve heard many people say, God will steer the boat, but you still have to paddle and so basically my day just kind of looks like I paddle. I try to paddle as hard as I can. Outside of that, I try to make at least three meetings a week. I’d be lying if I said I was perfect on that. For me, meetings are big, are a very important part of my recovery. I can’t ever forget that.
At what point did you have a spiritual awakening, that ‘aha’ moment in recovery when you accepted that you were powerless over drugs and alcohol, but for the first time had developed the hope that you could recover?
Jason: It was probably about day three or day four of my kick and I remember I was fighting the urge to pray. I was fighting the urge to ask for help. I was fighting that urge and I remember I hit my knees, so every morning on waking up sick and not sleeping and not knowing what to do with myself and I remember hitting my knees and for the first time really saying “my God, I need help” and as sure as I’m sitting here now, something changed like at that moment. Sometimes we want that spiritual awakening and it happens right there on the spot and this was one of those times where something just felt a little different. For the first time I felt like I’m not doing this alone and maybe I have a shot at this.
Do you have a favorite book you would recommend to a new comer that you read in early recovery?
Jason: I really like Jerry Stahl’s “Permanent Midnight” it’s a memoir. He’s a fantastic writer and it’s something that for me, I read it before I got clean, but I remember when I read it thinking about getting clean. It made me think about getting clean because some of the things that he was doing to maintain his habit were things that I was doing and so to me, it’s like you said. Hearing stories and hearing other addicts share their experiences on a podcast, I think for me I also get that same experience reading what other people have gone through and it shows me that I’m not alone and maybe I can do it.
O: Also, there’s “The Bitter Taste of Dying” by Jason Smith.
Jason: Hopefully one day you’ll have a guest on and they’ll answer the question with that book.
What is the best suggestion you have ever received?
Jason: Quit thinking. You’re thinking is fucked up. Maybe you should follow directions, which isn’t to say I think that now, but at that time of wanting to get clean and wanting to be clean, that was the best suggestion I’ve ever had up to that point in my life.
If you could give a new comer only one suggestion, what would that be?
Suggestion’s for the Newcomer!
“Shut the fuck up and quit thinking, get a sponsor and follow directions”
Jason: Shut the fuck up and quit thinking, get a sponsor and follow direction. It’s the same. Just like my sponsor, I’ll give that same advice because that’s the best I’ve ever gotten.
O: That’s the same way I sponsor. The same, exactly the same information I got, I give it right back.
Jason: Isn’t that how it should be? If that was the best for me, then I’m assuming it’s going to be the best for someone else.
Thanks again for your SHAIR Jason!
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Disclaimer – The opinions shared on this show reflect those of the individual speaker and not of any 12 step fellowship as a whole and though we discuss 12 step recovery and the impact it has had in our lives we do not promote or endorse any 12 step anonymous program.