Dan with his wife and daughter.

Dan with his wife and daughter.

Once a promising high school athlete, later a homeless heroin addict, Dan Brugger would sometimes remember how it all started with a back injury and a prescription for Percocet.

“I thought I was going to become a successful person. And then my life unravelled.”

Such is the tragic story for so many whose lives are derailed by opioid addition, often starting with a trip to the pharmacy, doctor’s orders.

In Dan’s case, the pain from his back injury escalated, as did the strength of the opioids his doctor prescribed. Then, when the prescriptions stopped, Dan was officially hooked, and he took to the street.

For a year, he was buying 80 mg pills to ease the symptoms of withdrawal.

Normal life caved in. He lost his job. He began selling drugs to pay for his habit. Three years into the cycle of addiction, he was arrested. He moved on to heroin, a comparative bargain at $10 a bag.

At this point, he was a married man, betrothed to another addict. Together, they had a daughter, who they lost when they couldn’t get clean. From there, he moved from snorting to shooting heroin.

Battered by chronic illness and anxiety, he withdrew into a snow globe of pain.

Finally, a life-threatening infection brought him to the UVM Medical Center, where he met Patti Fisher, MD.

“She saved my life.”

Dr. Fisher tapered him off the drugs. She helped him through his withdrawal. She put him on suboxone, to help him further manage his withdrawal symptoms.

Today, Dan has a job. His wife, too, has kicked her addiction and is pregnant with their second child. He pays his bills. He sees his daughter. “I’m a productive citizen. And most importantly, I’m alive.”

He’s also doing his part to share his cautionary tale with others.

He plans on continuing with the suboxone until he feels like he doesn’t need it any more. And in the meantime? “I’m so excited to be a dad again. It’s nice to know that this baby is going to be mine right from the start.”

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