Behind that white picket fence was a battle no one knew I was fighting.

Growing up I had everything I could have wanted. I had two loving parents, a cool little brother, a nice house and even a white picket fence. Even though everything looked well on the surface and my family was ‘picture perfect’, I felt different from other people. I couldn’t figure out where I belonged or why I was so separate from other people.

These issues came to a head for me in middle school, so I turned to drugs. I started hanging out with an older crowd and was introduced to drugs and alcohol. I had found a solution. Drugs and alcohol gave me an “in” to hanging out with the popular crew and they melted my worries, fears, insecurities and anxiety away. I so desperately wanted to be like everyone else. I craved that sense of belonging. I just wanted to fit in. I didn’t care that I was in an abusive relationship. I didn’t care that these people didn’t truly care about me. I didn’t care about anything. I just didn’t want to be me. I would do whatever I had to in order to get some relief. I felt so misunderstood, but drugs and alcohol took those feelings away from me. I thought I had found the answer I was searching for.

As my problems and struggles got bigger, so did my using. Eventually, what started out as my solution became my problem. I was labeled “burn out” “party girl” among a variety of other names.  Most people I knew didn’t think I was going anywhere in life. I managed to get into a good college where I thought I could redeem myself. I put down the hard stuff and did well my first year. Things were starting to look up for me, until I came home from school that summer and my father committed suicide.

People started making up a bunch of stuff surrounding his death. Some said he was crazy, some questioned me and my family and my entire life crumbled down around me. My world was shattered. I threw myself into school and tried not to feel a damn thing. I started using stimulants to do more work, take more classes, and to never stop moving. If I had to stop moving, I took downers to go to bed. I held on like that for years, but no one knew how bad I was struggling or how much pain I was in because I masked it with being on the honor roll, being on student government, holding down a job, and excelling in school.

Eventually I broke down. I couldn’t take it anymore. I started using whatever I could get my hands on with no limits and no questions asked. I didn’t know where to turn and I felt like an outcast. The judgment was too much to bear and no one took me seriously because I wasn’t homeless or failing out of school. There is this idea of who or what a drug addict is and apparently I wasn’t living up to the standard. I felt completely unheard, terrified, and utterly alone.

Sobriety has been very colorful for me.

When I was in rehab I realized that was the first time in my life I found a group of people who I felt like I belonged with. I had found what I was searching for. Getting sober and coming out as a drug addict to my family and friends was terrifying. I thought everyone I knew was going to disown me, but it turns out most of them already knew anyway.

The first 90 days of my sobriety stretched on for about an eternity. I didn’t think I was going to make it. I was pounded with all the emotions I had been pushing down since I was 13 years old and I didn’t know what to do with them. I had no idea how to live. Through the help of other people I’ve met in sobriety, I’ve been introduced to a way of life incredibly more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. I have true friends today who would do anything for me. I feel that my life has meaning and purpose; that I have meaning and purpose. I am so much more than a drug addict. Sobriety has been very colorful for me. Everything seems to be brighter and more powerful with nothing to numb or fade it out.

I chose to share my story because everyone I know is a fighting a battle. I may not know what it is, but everyone has something. Drug addiction doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter if I’m rich or poor or smart or tall or athletic or anything. Addiction touches the lives of people from all different backgrounds. Behind that white picket fence was a battle no one knew I was fighting. I am proud of who I am today, and I’m not going to hide in the shadows of the stigma surrounding addiction.