“At 16, I got into a car accident, and I was given prescription painkillers. I knew those pills were going to run out, so I called the doctor and said the pills weren’t working,” recalls Sumner, Miss. resident Nathan Casburn. When his doctor gave him a prescription for a different prescription painkiller, Nathan says he realized that he “was in love with [opioids].”
Growing up in the Mississippi delta, Nathan’s first experience with substance use started the first time he drank—at the age of 15. “I got uncontrollably sick and passed out on the floor,” Nathan recounts. “It was cool, and it changed how I felt.” As time passed, Nathan began experimenting with marijuana and different types of pills, but it wasn’t until his car accident that he started using opioids.
After graduating from high school, Nathan enrolled at the University of Mississippi where he worked at a liquor store and a restaurant. His use of opioids continued to increase, which eventually led to DUI’s and legal woes. “This was my first taste of what powerlessness may feel like,” Nathan says.
In high-risk occupations like farming, construction, and hospitality management, many people are susceptible to serious injuries that may lead to a substance use disorder. Nathan explained how easy it can be to be prescribed opioids from healthcare providers working in these occupations.
Nathan’s academic career began to spiral. “I got kicked out of school at Ole Miss and put on probation. I didn’t get a degree,” says Nathan. Soon after leaving school, Nathan lost his job, and his cash flow stopped. “But, my habit was still there,” he says. “I went from pills to heroin, and I justified it. My tolerance jumped up, and I started using the needle.”
Spiraling down faster than ever, Nathan wrecked two or three vehicles, including an accident in Clarksdale that led to several charges. After this episode, Nathan’s family gave him an ultimatum—go to treatment and avoid more charges or suffer the consequences of whatever charges surfaced.
Nathan checked into treatment in the summer of 2016. “I appreciated what they said, and I heard everything they said,” he recalls. “But I didn’t really hear it.” Nathan believed that once the drugs were out of his system, he would be okay. He soon found out that wasn’t the case.
“I’d gotten out in July, and I relapsed within two or three weeks,” says Nathan. “Things got considerably worse. I fell out two or three times in the same day, sometimes.” Nathan taught a friend how to do CPR in the event he passed out again. This brought on a new bottom that Nathan had yet to experience. He began to realize the only way out was to ask for help.
And that was the turning point.
Even though going back to treatment was not a part of Nathan’s story, he attributes his recovery to a 12-step fellowship. “People cared for me when I was at my lowest. The way of life I live today is one I can be proud of and I know all I have to do is continue to give away what has been freely given to me.” He’s been in recovery now for more than two years.
Today, Nathan’s life is much fuller than he ever expected. A sense of community and connection exists with Nathan and his recovery family, and those bonds are something he cherishes. Through all the experiences and lessons learned during his life, Nathan tries to encourage others. “Sometimes, you have to change everything to get to a place where you feel like a human again,” says Nathan. “Life does not immediately get great, but it immediately gets better.”
The views, information, and opinions expressed in this story are solely those of the subject(s) and do not necessarily represent any official policy or position of the Mississippi Department of Mental Health or any of the Stand Up, Mississippi campaign partners.