- Friends & Family
Growing up, my first memory at about three or four years old was waking up in the middle of the night to see my father choking my mother on the living room couch. I remember watching in horror, my first experience in being powerless, and then I went to bed and threw up on myself. I remember my mom putting me in the bathtub to wash the vomit off me.
I never shared that story for 20 years until one day I told my grandmother and she said that I had saved my mother’s life and that I had screamed until my father stopped choking my mother. I never remembered screaming.
This story set the tone for my entire childhood- alcoholic father, co-dependent mother, neglect, abuse, abject poverty. We moved around constantly and my mother went through four husbands during my childhood, each of them abusive, addicts, or both. We were left alone often, many times without food or things like heat in the middle of winter. I was also sexually abused my entire childhood. While my mother never hit us, neither did she show any love, affection or care. When I was 11 she went away for the weekend- and didn’t come back.
We were sent to live with relatives who did the best they could but the situation was only worse and each of my brothers and I eventually ran away. I started drinking in middle school. I was smoking and in high school eventually began experimenting with other drugs. I was the good kid, smart, athletic, helpful, until one day I realized that it didn’t matter how good I was it had never been enough to feel loved, and so I just began to drink and use my feelings away.
I never thought I had a problem with using, despite the fact that I began to experience consequences. I just thought everyone drank that way. I had experimented with lots of drugs, but never felt like I needed any of them. Until one day during college, at about the age of 25, someone gave me a pain pill. I thought I found what I had always been searching for. Pain pills led to heroin almost immediately and daily and I spent the next 10 plus years fighting a losing battle that included many rehabs, institutions and eventually jails, methadone, suboxone, medicine, religion, psychiatry, geographical “cures” and the like.
I used the pain and trauma of my childhood as an excuse to use for a long time and avoided taking responsibility for my recovery. Doctors told me that I was a chronic opiate addict and I would never live without maintenance drugs. I didn’t know any better so I believed them. Over and over, drugs took everything from me.
During the late summer of 2008 I was facing a lot of jail time and I couldn’t stop using. I had used up all my using. I was beaten. I was at rock bottom, there was nothing and no one left. No rehabs wanted me and anyone who loved me had resigned themselves to the idea I was going to die.
I went into a 12-step meeting and for the first time I heard the message of hope. And I asked for help. I got clean living in a house for homeless people. I was terrified, penniless, unemployable, had no family, friends, car, license, I had a criminal record and a bunch of legal and financial wreckage and almost nothing going for me.
One day at a time I managed to stay clean. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. I poured myself into the fellowships. Recovery became my life. Then I learned through the process of recovery that drugs were just a symptom and I began to address the underlying causes and conditions through the 12-steps. I learned that I could not stay clean and live dirty. Keeping secrets and making choices that weren’t in alignment with spiritual principles invited a lot of pain into my life and I used again with two years clean.
Then I realized that drugs didn’t work anymore, and I had no choice except to get clean. That has been almost five years ago. Today I own my own business, I am active in my community and in the recovery community. I work part-time for a local non-profit and facilitate a drug/alcohol education group for at-risk kids, I live in a beautiful home, I am with the man of my dreams, I have traveled all over the world, I have done everything I have ever set out to do in recovery. I have an amazing, beautiful life, with incredible friends and unforgettable experiences. Just as drugs were not the only component of my addiction, not using is not the only component of my recovery. I work out, I ran a tough mudder for my 40th birthday, I do yoga, I seek outside help and inspiration. My recovery program encompasses the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional.
Most recently I have begun to talk openly and publicly about my story and create events highlighting addicts in recovery in hopes of raising awareness in my community about issues relating to addiction and to work toward shedding the stigma of addiction.
I can’t wait to see what happens next. Recovery has been without a doubt the single most amazing gift I have ever given myself and the world and the people who love me. Where I was once a wrecking ball through the universe, today I get to be a light. I get to be the woman I was always intended to be. And I get to light the path for others, just like it was done for me back when I couldn’t see my way out of the darkness.