- Mental Health
Submitted by: Abby Foster
There are two situations that changed my life: one is the day I entered recovery and stayed there, and the other is the day I found myself addicted to prescription pills. Both are equally beautiful and terrifying.
I believe there is magic in the pain and there is magic in the growth. I would not be the person I am today if I did not go through my addiction. Thus, I am grateful for my addiction because it brought me here, to today, to such a rich, fulfilling life.
When I was 28 years, I was prescribed Adderall. I had experimented with prescription pills in my past, but my full blown addiction did not begin until I started taking Adderall. I was introduced to prescription pills as most people are: from a doctor, because of a surgery or some type of accident.
I first realized I had a problem with prescription pills when I was 21 years old and started taking prescription opiates for non-medical reasons. I was prescribed them for a minor surgery, but after the pain went away, I found myself taking them to relax or go to sleep. At the time, I was in my last semester of college and studying for the GMAT’s. I had plans to go to graduate school and obtain an MBA so it was important to do well on this exam. I was pressuring myself and future-tripping so much that the opiates truly helped take the stress away and provide calm and peace in my life. They allowed me to live in the moment. When the pills ran out, I stopped taking them. It didn’t seem like an issue.
Months went by and I moved to California as I had been accepted to an MBA program out there. In the summer after my first year of school, I found myself abusing opiates again. I had been taking a pill a day for over a month and I recognized that this was a problem. I went to a psychiatrist at the school and I told him that I had been abusing pain killers and felt depressed. He prescribed me Xanax, Ambien, and an anti-depressant and advised me to go to therapy. I was able to stop abusing the pain killers, but my psychiatrist never really addressed the abuse or made it a big issue, so I didn’t think it was an issue. I didn’t abuse the Xanax or Ambien, and I continued on to finish my MBA program and start my career.
When I quit my job to move states in order to please my fiancé, at the time. I began feeling more isolated and more depressed. I slowly fell back into the habit of abusing prescription pills. In 2009, I was involved in a car accident, and I was prescribed more pills than imaginable. I had access to any pill I wanted and I finally had a reason for it. There would be times when I would abuse the pills and there would be times when I didn’t need them at all. I wasn’t controlled by these pills, even though I was abusing them.
My chemical addiction and destruction really began in 2010. I had just landed a role as the VP of Sales for an entertainment group out in L.A and I felt like my life was going to change. I was going to have a career again. I was going to find my identity. Life would be magical again. I would be someone. Two days before I was supposed to start my job, the investors of the company pulled out, and they were not able to bring me on. In that moment, I felt like my life was over. I truly did. There is no explanation as to why this was so devastating besides the fact that I tied my entire identity to my career. Without this job, this title, I felt like I was back to nothing.
I called my psychiatrist, the same one from the school, and told him I wanted to die. He told me he had the answer for me. He said he would call in a prescription and I could pick it up the next day. The next day, I drove up the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu, with tears streaming down my face. I was so sad, so miserable, so hopeless. However, when I got to the pharmacy I discovered I had been prescribed Adderall. I had very little experience with stimulants, but I had taken a small dose in college, and I remember how much it allowed me to accomplish. As soon as I swallowed those pills, I felt power. The sadness was ripped away. I was euphoric. I felt like I could take on the world.
I do not have ADD or ADHD, in which Adderall is normally prescribed for. I was honest with my doctor about my depression and my suicidal thoughts. It is safe to say that my psychiatrist prescribed me Adderall because of depression and suicidal ideation, which makes no sense. But, it’s the truth.
That day in Malibu was the day my life was changed forever. I entered a merciless addiction that I could not escape.
I realized I needed help about 6 months after being prescribed Adderall. My family had told me that I was changing because of the drug. They noticed I was more isolated. I laughed less. I kept to myself. But, to me, I did not see that. I saw myself finally released from the constant need for validation. I found myself writing poetry all night. And I felt like I was entering into a spiritual journey.
In September of that same year, I called my parents to tell them my roommate was spying on me. I said she had set up cameras around my apartment and she was taking pictures of me. My parents are psychologists so they knew it had to do with the Adderall. They flew out to California to try to help me. They explained I was experiencing drug-induced psychosis, and or Adderall-induced psychosis. They told me my paranoia was being caused by the drug that I loved so much. Well, I wasn’t going to listen to them. I didn’t want to believe it. I loved Adderall.
They convinced my psychiatrist to stop prescribing me the medication. When I came off the Adderall, I became suicidal and entered a psych ward for the first time in my life. I could not believe my parents had me committed. I was so angry with them.
Overtime though, as I started using Adderall again, psych wards became my second home. I was in and out of them so often because of the psychosis. It became my new normal. I was also in and out of rehabs, and sober living homes, and detox units. I lived in seedy hotel rooms. At one point, my father saw me in a hotel room, weighing 80lbs. and completely lost in delusions and hallucinations. He told my family to start planning my funeral, because I was going to die soon.
My parents were constantly trying to help me. I would stay sober in treatment with no problem, but as soon as I got out of treatment I would relapse. I could not stay sober. I felt like I had lost my entire life. There was no hope for a career or the life I used to envision, so I gave up.
I don’t know what caused me to finally maintain sobriety. I think it had to do with the act of surrender. In my addiction, I lost faith in God. I was so mad at him. But, I remember praying at night. Even when I was in psychosis and the voices were mocking me, I would pray. I hated God but I knew he could help. I could think of no other answer, but God.
I say I found recovery because I stopped thinking about what I deserved and instead started thinking about what the world deserved. I put one foot in front of the other and I did the work. Step by step. I stopped talking and started listening.
Rebecca Campbell says: “Bless the thing that broke you down and cracked you open, because the world needs you open.”
My addiction broke me down. It brought me to my knees. It devastated me and my entire family. It led me into so many rock bottoms. I can never think of one rock bottom, because I’ve had too many rock bottoms to count. However, it also led me into recovery, into sobriety – I found a spiritual path. I found myself. I found connection and love and joy and awareness. I awoke. My addiction woke me to the poignant beauty of this earth.
I used to live in validation. My greatest desires were about my career and status and wealth. Although, I was a kind and loving person – I was attached to an identity that wasn’t me. I lived for things that truly don’t matter in the end: a nice home, an expensive car, a flashy relationship. I lived in the material world. I was validated only by my success in life.
Now, the things that matter are connection, love, service, and joy. My addiction led me to myself. I am so proud of the woman I have become. I am so proud of the life I lead. I would never have arrived at this moment, so awake to this life, without my addiction.
It is my greatest gift and the best/worst thing that ever happened to me. It showed me how strong I am. It showed me I can fight. It showed me I can overcome something that most people don’t even address or will not be able to overcome. It led me to my voice. To my truth.
I started a blog when I a little over two years sober. I started speaking out loud about what happened to me and how I felt. I stepped out of shame and I owned my story. I became a truth-teller. I am not defined by a relationship, a career, or the amount of money in my bank account. I care about what God thinks of me, and very little about what the world thinks of me. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about people, because I do. I care so much. My service to others is the rent I pay for my time here on earth. But, the truth of the matter is that the most important relationship I have, is the one I have with myself. And the one I have with God.
This is where my growth has occurred. This is why I continue to rise.