My name is Alyssa and I am a recovering addict.
Addict….What does that mean exactly? I can only imagine what those unaffected by addiction possibly think when they hear that word. Addict…To me “addict” was always such a filthy word. Growing up I remember people would toss around the term as an insult on a regular basis. Saying things like, “so and so is or looks like a drug addict,” was pretty much the equivalent of saying they had some terrible, highly contagious, flesh eating disease. Never in my wildest dreams would I have EVER thought I would be sitting here today, openly admitting that I am in fact an addict and alcoholic.
When I stumbled across this project I was in awe of its purpose. Other addicts and alcoholics, just like me, openly talking about their recovery journeys and the negative stigma surrounding recovery in a public forum? How courageous. How beautiful. How right. How perfect. Especially after two days prior I had just acknowledged the shame that I had been feeling about my personal drug and alcohol use which I had been internalizing. I decided that day that I needed to let it go. I needed to let myself let go of the guilt and shame of my past. I took stumbling across this project as a sign. I just had to be part of this.
I was open about my recovery from the get go. I talked about it freely to people in my life and didn’t think twice about it. I didn’t care what they thought. I mean why wouldn’t I share? I was doing something amazing. Something difficult, that not everyone could. I was doing something I was proud of. I felt empowered. As anyone in recovery should, but that is not how the world sees it.
I was in a class once and I mentioned that I was six months sober and the person I was speaking to replied, “Oh so you’re like an alcoholic?” With a nasty emphasis on the last word. I wasn’t bothered by my classmate’s response, but after class an older gentleman, also a student, pulled me aside. He said he had been sober 12 years and that I really shouldn’t just talk about my sobriety like that because, “People don’t understand.” I was irritated by this but I soon realized that he was right. Society doesn’t understand recovery.
No one in my life ever tried to understand my recovery, like really truly understand it. They were proud of me but did they know what for? It takes a lot of effort to really understand what recovery entails unless you yourself are recovering. I felt so alone for so long. No one understood what I was going through. No one knew how hard it was. I needed someone to understand what goes on behind those doors. I didn’t want to struggle and recover in secret, only being able to open up in 12 step fellowship halls.
So how did I end up here? 28 years old and in recovery…To be honest I don’t think that it can be contributed to any one thing. I have racked my brain over and over torturing myself trying to figure out where it is that I went wrong. What if I had something different? What if I didn’t go to a certain place, befriend a certain person, or fall in love with a certain someone? What if I could have avoided this? What if I could have somehow possibly not wasted 10 plus years of my life not living up to my full potential or even close to the standards I had previously set for myself?
These are the kind of thoughts that kept me from recovery. I had wasted so much time already. I had already done things I wasn’t proud of. I was never going to be successful. I would never be good enough for anyone. I didn’t even like myself. So why stop now?
I mean I never ever actually HAD to do drugs or drink. I never had a physical NEED to use. I have never had withdrawals. I have never had to detox. Sometimes I went for extended periods of time without doing one or the other, or either. Amazingly, I maintained two jobs and completed my Bachelor’s degree, with honors, all while drinking and drugging.
Because of this I think I skated by everyone thinking I was “fine.” Take that word as you will. I mean it was no secret that I drank too much when I did drink. Which was always socially but became more and more often as time went on, and I got more and more inappropriate, but what did I care? If anyone judged me for being a sloppy drunk whore I would just drink to forget the insult.
I first started drinking when I was about fourteen and from the start I drank till I either threw up or passed out. I went zero to wasted. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. There was never a middle ground for me. Moderation? That didn’t exist. Throughout high school I just attributed it to being young and stupid and fitting in. I mean that is what teens are supposed to do, right? Everyone else was drinking alongside me, but looking back I am pretty sure I am the only one who took it to a whole ‘nother level. I would drink and drive and make all sorts of bad choices. Still, even with the partying on the weekends, I maintained life. I did really well in school, had a job, a boyfriend, and plenty of friends. I thought I was happy…
Then I went away to college. I was far away from home, didn’t have a car, and although I drank and partied, I think it was pretty contained, mainly because of lack of resources. I moved back home after my freshman year and that is when all hell broke loose. I was 19, 19 was the year that my life started to go downhill. It was the year that I tried my first hard drug. It is when I stopped caring about myself. This was the beginning of an era.
I used any excuse to go out and drink. I would drink when I was happy, I would drink when I had a bad day, I would drink when I had too much on my mind, and I would drink just because I was bored and couldn’t sit still. I would drink to not feel. As soon as the slightest thing, good or bad, happened that’s where I went. Straight for an escape. With the crowd I started hanging out with, drugs became readily available, and when alcohol wasn’t strong enough to numb everything, drugs it was. Anything not to feel.
Over the course of the next few years I simply existed. I didn’t live or thrive. I was just there. I never dealt with any of my feelings about anything, and believe me when I say I have A LOT of feelings. I worked and went to school but never applied myself to anything I did. I was in a bad relationship and I just couldn’t get out. I was a mess.
It wasn’t until April 2013 that I had finally had enough. I had become terribly depressed and after a night of partying, I was done. I woke up in my bed at my parents’ home with two options. Either die or get sober. I chose the latter. Because my addiction was not an everyday thing I had to make the choice that sometimes or just once was never an option. Life as I had known it was over.
So…Even though I really didn’t want to, I fought myself tooth and nail to get out of bed each day, and I knew it was not going to be easy, I began a new life. I went to an outpatient program. I learned to cope with my feelings and handle everyday life, I got treatment for my depression and anxiety, and I finally began to see a glimpse of Alyssa when I looked in the mirror. I didn’t have the option to hide from myself. There was nothing to numb the pain. I had to be strong all on my own. I had to stand on my own two feet. I had to be honest, with everyone in my life, myself included. I had to seek help and I had to take help, on terms other than my own. I was actively working towards my recovery.
Since then I have got married to a wonderful man who loves me unconditionally. I have two great jobs. I am on my way to getting my MBA, and I have wonderful people that care about me in my life, but I am not going to sit here and pretend that my recovery has been perfect. NOT. EVEN. CLOSE. It has been hard. Very hard. It remains the hardest decision that I have ever made. I didn’t make it till today without relapsing. With relapse came more shame. I felt as if I failed myself, failed my family, and just failed in general. I felt worthless again. This ate away at me, but I had to a make decision.
I chose life.
So here I am.
Alive, thriving, and no longer anonymous.