Hey! My name is Brittany. I am a woman who is finally LIVING in long-term recovery.
My story is like so many others. I feel like I was desensitized to drug and alcohol use from a very young age. The earliest memories I have are ones of constant violent arguing, strangers in and out of our house at all hours of any given day, pipes lying around and the smell of alcohol lingering at all times. Like thousands of other children who are saturated in dysfunction from an early age, I experienced and witnessed horrible scenarios and situations that almost sound unbelievable to anyone who had what you would call a typical upbringing. This was all that I knew, and it became my normal.
I learned to cope by becoming self-reliant and self-sufficient. I also taught myself to escape mentally. I was able to hide and escape the drama, the smells or the unwanted company by pretending I was somewhere else, by making up stories in my head to get away. Resentment, frustration and anger were definitely something that I remember struggling with early on, although at the time, I had no idea why I was such an angry and apathetic little girl.
Fast forward about 12 years to my adolescence, a time where I was supposed to learn how to make more adult-like decisions and hold myself personally accountable for my decisions. I was doing the exact opposite. I was still the same angry young woman, but the coping skills that had rescued me for so long and had become my refuge simply weren’t useful or effective anymore. I found myself seething with bottled-up resentment and felt so angry towards the adults in my life. I had no moral foundation whatsoever and felt like I just didn’t belong anywhere. I think deep down I had always craved attention and yearned for consistency and something that made me feel like it mattered that I existed.
When I began using drugs and alcohol in high school, I was 16. It started out as recreational fun. I enjoyed being with people I thought were my friends and whom I had things in common with. I especially loved not feeling anything and not having to think. I began using cocaine and eventually moved in with a boyfriend. I was caught stealing cash from my place of employment and got fired. Shortly after beginning my senior year of high school, I dropped out. By the end of that year, I found out I was expecting a baby.
Looking back the few years of recreational use that led up to my addiction problem should have been some kind of red flag for me. I was the intoxicated person who always fought, cried, got into trouble or blacked out with no recollection of the previous evening. We did coke for hours and hours, but I was the only one who “needed” to get more while everyone else seemed to be okay with calling it a night. I can recall being the person who always took things a little further than everyone else.
In my heart I wanted to be the farthest thing from my mother, a crack addict for over 20 years. I wanted nice things. I wanted to lead a fulfilling, happy life. By the time I had my first son, I was 18, and I knew that it was time for change in my life. I had some kind of awakening as a result of his birth and truly felt a love for another person that I had never felt before in my life. I was ready to change. I was ready to move on my own, get away from my teenaged, dysfunctional and abusive relationship. I wanted to give my son every single thing that I knew he deserved.
This is where things took a turn for the worse. The more positive progress I made, the more I came to realize how much I didn’t know, how unprepared I was and how much like my mother I actually was. I had no idea how to cope or manage life. I would take a step in the right direction and then fail every time. I enrolled in college after I got my GED and dropped out after one semester. I was too tired and overwhelmed as a single mother. I started taking pills and stopped doing other drugs. In my mind this was a way to get the high I needed to function without my son stumbling upon any of the treasures I had found when I was young.
I didn’t know the power that benzodiazepines would soon have over my mind, body, strength, soul and dignity. Over a period of about four years, I overdosed more than once and continued to use ridiculous amounts every single day. I was up to well over 20 pills on a good day. I was stuck in that famous cycle of wasting my days away on the phone, driving to get more and figuring out ways to make money for the next day. I had been in and out of jail dozens of times, I lost my driver’s license and warrants and bondsmen from multiple cities were looking for me.
The last time I overdosed, something happened. I have no idea what changed for me, but I just knew something had to change. The person who I was living with at the time told me that I would not be welcome back unless I agreed to go through some kind of treatment.
My recovery journey began in December 2006. I was 23. It took me almost a year to get through withdrawal, complete detox and get to a point where my mind felt clear. It was the hardest year of my life.
What I have learned over the past seven years, eight months in recovery is invaluable. I learned about me, about who I am. I had never really done that before. I feel alive and free to be exactly, unashamedly me. I learned how to live by choosing contentment. I learned how to take the trauma and pain from my childhood and understand it, appreciate its importance and let it go. I have learned how to forgive and how to be forgiven. Recovery gave me everything that I had always yearned for. I met God through this journey and have experienced that unconditional, unchanging, reliable kind of love that I had been yearning for my entire life. Because of this experience, I am capable of loving others and encouraging them to keep pushing through all of the hard parts of recovery. It does get better. We do change, and we can live healthy, happy lives.
My main desire today is to ensure that families’ generations of drug abuse and addiction stop right here with me and my generation. My children know all details of my past and upbringing, and it is not a dirty little secret. It is a real thing that happens to families and has certainly been allowed to destroy my entire family. It will continue to be the nastiest gift that keeps on giving unless lasting changes are made.
I do my best to spread the word to other people who struggle. No matter what some people in the world may tell us we are worthy, capable humans! I want other people who struggle with addiction to know that they deserve to live healthy lives just like anyone else. Addiction is everywhere. The stigma associated with addiction is slowly but surely fading, praise the Lord, and it is because the truth is coming out. Addiction crosses all barriers and knows no bounds, but people come back!
I am now married to that person who almost threw me out after I overdosed and who gave me the ultimatum of going to treatment or being homeless. We now have three beautiful kiddos. I have been blessed to have my best friend by my side throughout this crazy journey, and we are celebrating nine years of being awesome together.
I am grateful for all that God has allowed me to have. This new life is more than I could have ever imagined.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story.