- Friends & Family
Submitted by: Susanne Johnson
Before I started using, I had a home, I was married, and I had children. I had everything; I had a life. Although I tried alcohol at an early age, I only truly started using substances at age 24. My main drugs were heroin and crack, although I basically used everything I could find. I finally got sober at age 36. I am now 41.
I lived everywhere when I was a kid. My family and I moved often, but my drug use started in Baltimore City. When I grew up, we moved yearly between Baltimore City and a small town in New Hampshire. My parents never stayed in one place long. I smoked some pot during high school and had some drinks starting at about 15, but nothing took me down until almost ten years later. At 22, I got married, had my first child at 24, and started to use Vicodin after I gave birth. Before that, I had never done heavier drugs. I worked as a paralegal and my life seemed just fine.
Looking back today, I now see that I had already many problems before age 24. As a child, I was sexually assaulted by my stepfather when I was around four years old. I suppressed all feelings and memories about it.
One day, I was with my son at a birthday party, and the smell of fresh cut grass triggered a memory and I totally lost it. It was terrifying! I went to a doctor to get help and ended up with some mental health medications. I didn’t understand all that happened to me at that time, and my then-husband was of no support. He felt uncomfortable about it all and kept asking me why I had to remember those things right then, while I was with him.
The flashbacks got unbearable and I started to talk my doctors into giving me more Vicodin again and again, until it ended up in an addiction. One night at a bar I was introduced to heroin. One use was all it took– I was hooked. From that day on, nothing else in the world mattered to me anymore. I quit my job, I had no interest in seeing my child anymore and eventually lost custody. The drug became all that mattered. My marriage was already lost; I was alone, hopeless and addicted.
I had another child during my times of using. My sister took that child and cared for it selflessly. I felt embarrassed during my using years. I didn’t want my family to see me like that and I usually disappeared for long amounts of time.
My family was lovely and readily available, I felt disconnected and stayed on my own. My mother was protective of me and my sister was my best friend. I couldn’t look into their eyes. Once or twice a year, I contacted someone to let them know that I was not dead. That was the extent of my contact.
The child at my sister’s home is fine with me today, we have a great relationship. My first child, who lives at his father’s family, was very angry with me for a long time, but we have finally built a relationship again today.
Two more children entered my life later. One of them arrived after I got sober. I’m married to their father today. We used drugs together and got sober at the same time. Our relationship has not only improved, it has thrived. Today, we both have our drivers’ licenses back. My husband started his own successful business. We finally custody of our daughter returned to us, which we temporarily lost for a while. We live in a dream home in Florida by the water.
If someone walked up to me five years ago and told me how my life would look today, I would have never ever believed it. Five years ago, we were living in a motel full of roaches. I had a special pair of flip flops set aside to kill those bugs. I had no money for bond when I got arrested one morning for a probation violation, and I knew that I would be gone for a while. The charges stacked up against me felt like a different world. I had no memory of anything and all I knew was from reading the police report. It was all very violent, and none of it sounded like me at all, but I knew I did it under the influence of drugs.
I accepted the first offer that was made to me and went calmly and without any resistance to jail. I got clean in jail during an eight-month-stay. When I entered jail I weighted 98 lbs. at 5’8″.
The same day of my arrest, my husband packed up our few belongings and called his mom to get him and help him to get clean and sober. He began his sobriety at a treatment facility two days after I went to jail.
By time I got out of jail, he had an apartment set up and a business started and it all grew from there. I have never been to a treatment facility, but I did try to get the most out of my jail time. I taught yoga classes and meditation in jail to others and was working on myself. Jail worked for me, and it also helped to know that I had a sober husband waiting outside for me to start our new life together.
After so much substance use, I only had a few teeth left in my mouth. It was awful. I got my smile back after I got sober. I was embarrassed to even go to school with my daughter. I thought the entire world was judging me by my looks.
Getting clean and sober was not easy. Nothing worth having comes easy. My biggest impulse was always to run, even when it starts hurting just a little bit. If you can just sit through it, and don’t run from it, you find a way better life on the other side. I finally stayed in it long enough to go through the pain. I had to remember those things in order to find healing. I ran for so long- I wish that someone would have told me earlier to wait, instead of run.