- Friends & Family
Submitted by: Susanne Johnson
I drank a little bit and did a little bit of pot during my high school years, but I was pretty high-functioning at that time. I made my way through high school and college and things went well. After my graduation from college, I had some dental work done and was prescribed opioids to relieve the pain. Everything before was not a problem at all, but it was “on” from there. It was the first time I took opioid painkillers and I still remember the relief I felt.
From that moment on, I did anything I could to get more: I would doctor shop, I would buy them on the black market, I would do anything I had to do to get my hands on those pills.
It was a slippery slope from there. My disease progressed, and I also started to make poor life decisions. My life became unraveled. I was shoplifting, and I was in and out of jail. Things got progressively worse. By the time I was done in May 2010, I was living in a crack house with a very abusive crack dealer as a boyfriend, using IV heroin, crack, and anything else I could get my hands on.
It took my parents a while to figure out what was wrong with me. I had all crises all the time, but they had no way of knowing that it was because I was spending all my money on drugs all the time. I needed to be bailed out constantly. I was not living like a normal person. By the time they found out, things were extreme. I was living in a crack house that my parents could see from their balcony. I avoided contact with my family during that time, but I know how painful it was for them. On my birthday in April of 2010, my mom reached out to me and started a dialog that propelled my recovery a little bit.
My dad is a doctor and my mom is a microbiologist. They never drank much in their life or used drugs. Both my siblings are high functioning and do not use any substances. It’s not that I grew up with any substance use around me, yet still I couldn’t imagine my life without the use of substances by that point. I was living a very painful life at that time. I was a heroin addict and I didn’t know how to get out of that hole. The conversation with my mom on my birthday reminded me on the life that I used to have.
One morning, a few weeks later, my relationship to my drug dealer got abusive again and as he backhanded me one morning, I found myself lying on the ground, hurting and dopesick. I called my dad and said, “Okay, I’m done.” It took a couple days for them to get everything in order. I needed to stay at the crack house until it was time, because couldn’t give up using. Four days later, my mom pulled up in her car at the crack house and picked me up. I was on probation at that time, and after a few hours and some struggle with my parole officer about me going to treatment, I was sitting in the plane on my way to a new life.
My little brother was my sober companion for my flight. Bless his heart– I was a nightmare! I had secretly used something before I went on the plane and I also had a prescription for some medication to ease my symptoms during the travel time. Still, I was frantically running around the Seattle airport, looking for a bar that would serve me a beer, simply because that idea all of a sudden came to my head. I couldn’t find anyone to give me anything on my expired license and my poor little brother wasn’t at all prepared for that kind of transport. He is a very gentle, kind soul, and that was probably not what I needed that day, but we made it to California.
My dad lived in California at that time and he was waiting on the other end for our arrival. I had not seen him for several years by that time. He came just to briefly see me before the treatment center picked me up at the airport and took me with them.
I have not been back out to use since then; I never relapsed so far. I was in residential treatment for 90 days, followed by sober living for seven months. Recovery is a process and it often takes a long time. I invested this time into my life, and that’s why I’m sober today, almost seven years later.
Messy space, messy head. Clean space, clean head. Finally, I’m very present with the people around me. As long as I can remember, I was wanting to numb myself. Together I simply enjoy sitting with myself.
I was an athlete when I was young. Obviously, during my active addiction I didn’t do any kind of exercise at all. I remember riding a bike one time in order to get to a dealer who was only one mile away. I was so out of breath that I could only barely make it at all. Today I run, I row, I bike, and I go to the gym about five days a week. I also lift weights. Going to the gym today is my therapy– it gives me sanity. Our body is amazing. It’s incredible how it can heal.
I believe I had a hole in my soul that I tried to fill with a substance. My higher power and I have a great relationship today. My recovery absolutely included a lot of spiritual recovery insight. I go to meetings and my 12-step program has been a huge part of my recovery life.
My relationship with my parents is amazing today. It was a true gift of my sobriety. I see my father often, and I talk to my mom everyday on the phone.
A relapse will happen if you don’t put your sobriety first, and if you start to let other things, like boyfriends, girlfriend, stressors, life, job, or similar things creep in. Hopefully you won’t have to relapse– it’s not good and not needed. But if it happens, be assured that the time of sobriety you had won’t disappear. People in meetings count the number of days that you have continuously, but that time is still there, even if it doesn’t count for coins or keychains. That knowledge and that experience don’t just go away. If you get back on track, you will not be starting from zero.
Today, I have a career I love in the treatment field. I’m 38 years old and have dreams about the future of someday maybe being married and having kids. Generally, I just hope that I continue feeling fulfilled with anything I do on a daily basis. I love to share my story to help break the stigma.
I come from an upper-middle class family and I have a college education. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. Regardless of your social life or environment, it can hit anybody. We need to get rid of the shame and the fear and have people talk about mental health and addiction more.