CNN —  

Those in the grips of prescription drug addiction may feel trapped, but the countless stories of recovery show there’s hope.

CNN hosted a town hall Wednesday night with Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta to address the opioid painkiller epidemic in the United States.

CNN asked viewers to share how they broke the bonds of addiction. Here are some of their stories of recovery.

NFLer opens up about addiction

During the town hall, former NFL quarterback Ray Lucas shared his story of addiction. He admitted that at one point, he was taking up to 1,400 pain pills a month after suffering a football injury.

At the height of his addiction, Lucas continued to make the TV appearances required as part of his job with the New York Jets.

“I was a functioning addict,” he told Anderson Cooper. “The day before I would go on TV I would stop taking the pills.”

But his addiction kicked back in full force the moment he was off air. Lucas would rush off set to take 15 pills right away and then another 15 on the way home.

“I bankrupted my family, he said. “And I put my wife and kids through hell.”

Lucas continues to share his story of addiction and recovery to inspire others to overcome addiction.

Overcoming grief

Kim Manlove turned to prescription pills and alcohol to mask the grief of his son’s death. His son, David, died because of drug addiction.

Manlove found himself in a deep depression. When he was on the verge of taking his own life, he decided to seek help instead. While in rehab in 2003, he said, he sat in the same chair his son had months before.

Now, Manlove is celebrating 13 years in recovery. He and his wife have devoted their lives to advocating for those who are battling the same demons.

Are you in recovery after battling addiction? Tell us how you quit.

Starting anew

Anthony Sideri hit rock bottom while wrapped up in a blanket on the floor of a jail cell.

He was shivering, sweating and throwing up, going through withdrawal. Sideri’s opioid addiction evolved into a full heroin addiction, which led him to rob a bank for cash to get a quick fix. “Jail was the catapult for me,” Sideri said. “It finally made me say, ‘It’s over.’”

He is now nine years in recovery and a family man with a stable job that he loves.

How many are addicted?

Opioids are often prescribed painkillers, such as morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone. Heroin is an illegal opioid and the use of it has drastically increased nationwide.

In 2014 an estimated 2 million Americans were dependent on prescription opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Every 19 minutes someone dies from accidental drug overdose,” said Dr. Sanjay Gupta. “Most of the time it is from prescription drugs.”

Opioids and overdoses: 4 things to know

Lessons learned

Matt R.’s opioid addiction quickly spiraled out of control when he began self-medicating after a bad breakup. His entire income went to paying for pills and alcohol, he said. When his money ran out, he admits he did unthinkable things to fund his growing addiction.

“I’ve done some pretty awful things, but nothing compares to taking advantage of the people who love you unconditionally, your parents,” he said.

Three years later his addiction came to a screeching halt, he said. Everything came crashing down around him. His mom confronted him about charges that were showing on her credit card bill. Matt broke down and admitted to his family that he was an addict and needed help.

He is now six years in recovery and he has paid back his family and rebuilt their trust.

“I’ve learned many lessons going through this,” he said. “But the best lesson I’ve learned is that I have a wonderful family who will always be there for me.”


Bryan Garrett lived a life of chaos at the height of his drug addiction. He described his addiction days as drug fueled, dark and desperate.

Garrett’s oxytocin addiction quickly spun into a heroin addiction and he continued to chase that high for six years. After multiple attempts at rehab, in 2007 he succeeded in leaving his drug-using days in his past.

Garrett is now eight years in recovery and attributed his sobriety success to finding new supportive friends.

If you’re addicted to prescription drugs or know someone who is, help is available.