Until I got clean and sober, I never knew that other people experienced the same pain and emptiness that I used drugs and alcohol to escape from. Even when I was a little girl I felt like a part of me was missing—I felt alone, afraid, uncomfortable, and incomplete. I remember looking up in the sky at airplanes and wishing I could trade places with someone on them. It didn’t matter who it was or what the destination was, I just wanted to be anyone else and anywhere else…and I didn’t know why.
I started using drugs and alcohol in my early teens and they took me very temporarily to the place I thought I always wanted to be. They gave me relief from myself, my insecurities, my fears, and my loneliness. They made me feel “okay” with who I was, where I was, and who I was with, but they came with a price. At the time they seemed worth it. In the end, I sacrificed much more than I ever imagined I would. As time went on and my addiction progressed, it got easier and easier to give things up, and in the end I had nothing. I lost my son and everything else imaginable as the result of a severe addiction to heroin, cocaine, and other substances. Despite experiencing every possible consequence of my disease—including homelessness, arrests, assaults, overdoses, hospitalizations, and complete degradation—I was enslaved to my addiction. My life and my family’s lives were absolutely devastated.
I had been in and out of almost thirty treatment facilities before I was 23 years old. There were so many times that I sincerely wanted and desperately needed to get clean, but my disease was so powerful and the obsession to use was so strong that, despite my best intentions, I always found myself living in the same nightmare again. I wanted to stay clean. I wanted to be a mother to my son, and I wanted to build a new life, but I didn’t know how and I didn’t know where to start. After so many failed attempts at recovery, I stopped believing that I could get better or that I even deserved to get better. I didn’t know what it meant to “recover,” all I knew was that life without drugs and alcohol was unbearable and the only choice for me seemed to be to continue running from myself and the guilt, shame, horror, and remorse that I carried with me. I wasn’t afraid of dying, I was afraid of living. I hated living the way that I was and I was disgusted with who I had become and the things I had to do to get high, but I was convinced that there was no way out. I felt less than human, void of emotions, and so disconnected from reality that I could no longer feel anything at all. I couldn’t even bear to look at myself in the mirror. I gave up on myself, my son, and my life, and believed that I was destined to be nothing more than a “junkie.”
Thankfully, God had other plans for me. He gave me the strength and courage to try one more time and on November 11, 2011, I was finally able to surrender and begin my journey to what I can only describe as freedom. In the darkest, most hopeless and desperate moment of my life, God intervened and placed me exactly where I needed to be exactly when I needed to be there and has since given me a life that is truly incredible. I had to open my mind, heart, and soul to a new experience and a new solution because I had proven to myself countless times that my way didn’t work.
All along, I was searching for a way to overcome my addiction, but I learned that the addiction itself was actually only a small piece of much bigger and deeper problem. Contrary to popular beliefs (and my own beliefs about myself at the time), I was not a bad person and I was not making the “choice” to use drugs and destroy my life. This is one misconception that I believe keeps addicts and alcoholics from seeking and receiving the help they need. I was physically, mentally, and spiritually sick. I was literally incapable of living life and I did not possess the power to “choose not to get high.” The choice was made for me by my disease. Many people who are addicted, who’s loved ones are addicted, and even professionals in the treatment industry don’t fully understand the nature of addiction or recovery. The depth of this illness reaches far beyond the outward symptoms and appearances and into every aspect of our lives. “Just not getting high” or “just not drinking” is not enough. Abstinence is necessary; but it is only the starting point. Getting high was the only solution I ever knew and it took a lot of pain for me to discover that I had to change internally or else my return to drugs and alcohol was inevitable. I hope and pray that others will not have to suffer as much as I did.
In order to get better, I had to be willing to honestly face the truth, take action, and learn from the experience of others who had walked in my shoes and had truly found a way out. As a result, my life has been transformed in a beautiful and miraculous way. I used to think “recovering” addicts and alcoholics were doomed to a life of misery, boredom, and frustration. I never thought it would be possible to live life fully, peacefully, and usefully, but that is what recovery has given me. I don’t struggle through each day wishing I could get high. Instead, I am free from the desire, the obsession, and even the thought of using. I was given another chance to become who I was always meant to be, and today I get to show up and truly live, be a part of life. First and foremost, I am a mother to my 6 year old son, Nicholas. I was either absent from his life entirely or very inconsistent and irresponsible as a mother for a long time, but now we are deeply and beautifully connected in a way I never thought possible. I am able to be present with him and for him the way I always wished I could be. I have rebuilt broken relationships with some members of my family and built brand new relationships with some that my addiction never allowed me to even know at all. I have true and lasting friendships and relationships with amazing people—many who walk this path with me and who I wouldn’t have made it without. The dreams and ambitions I had once given up on have been restored and I am now a college student with hopes and plans for the future. I am also privileged to work for an organization that not only helps women in recovery, but helped to save my life. This is just the beginning of an endless list of miracles and blessings that have happened in my life as a direct result of my recovery.
Recovery is not about sharing about my problems in meetings or talking about getting high. It’s about living life according to God’s plan and offering a solution to those who don’t know one exists. For me, it’s about letting go, showing up, and trying to be useful to others. My recovery has given me everything I was looking for in drugs and alcohol–and so much more. It gives me the power to live life presently, joyfully, and wholly. The shame, guilt, self-hatred, and hopelessness that I was trapped in for so long has disappeared, and I am blessed with opportunities to use those experiences to help others. I am, on most days, filled with gratitude for the simple things in life that I never saw or felt before and never even knew I was missing. I definitely believe that it’s the grace of God that not only kept me alive, but that keeps me clean, sober, and free today; every day. I didn’t do anything to earn or deserve the life that I have, it is a beautiful and priceless gift that was given to me. I try (although I sometimes fail) to live a life that not only speaks of gratitude, but that truly lives it. I know that I alone do not have the power to change or save anyone, but I hope that God can use me along the way to reach someone who is as afraid, confused, lost, and hopeless as I once was and inspire them to try just “one more time.”