I refuse to be ashamed anymore. All my life I was waiting for the storm to pass, but I have finally learned to dance in the rain.

My name is Faythe, I am 29 years old.  I lived most of my life at the Jersey Shore.  Oh yeah, and I am a person living in long term recovery.  What that means to me is that it has been over four years since my last drink or drug.

The biggest misconception I have come across when dealing with an addiction to drugs is that, it’s a choice; that people who use drugs deserve to die because we brought it upon ourselves.  People seem to believe that because they were “strong” enough to ‘just say no’ that that must mean we chose not to say no and we are “weak.”  I know for me personally, I never wanted to become addicted to heroin.  I never wanted to hurt my family or lose my friends.  I hated the fact that I had become a liar and a thief.

Unfortunately, addiction is not so black and white, it’s more than “did I chose this or not?”  I guess you could say that when I was eleven years old and tried marijuana for the first time, I chose to do that, but so did many of my friends who did not develop a substance use disorder. I had no idea back then that it would become a major issue for me.  I did not know that 14 years later I would lose everything due to my drug use.  I found myself at 25 years old sitting in the county jail, about to be considered a two time felon facing a 5 year prison sentence.  Now, a lot of things had happened in those 14 years and I can’t really say at what point it turned into a problem, but I knew I had to figure it out and do something to change my life.  I had to become completely honest with myself for the first time ever.  I could not deny it any longer, I had a major problem.  I had considered this fact for many years, but always pushed it away; I was fine.  Well, I wasn’t fine, and I had to admit that.

For me, the major turning point in my journey to change was to finally accept responsibility for the things I caused, and let go of and forgive for what I did.  Because see, I had it backwards, I blamed myself for the things I had no control over and blamed others for the way I had become.  I had to learn forgiveness and understanding, for myself as well as others, and let go of all the pain and resentment I was holding on to.  I had to realize I was hurting nobody but myself and the people who really cared about me.

Now, there is one thing about drugs that many people don’t talk about, and it’s that they work.  They do what you want them to.  They help you cope with pain and run from your emotions, but the consequences that come along with them are far from worth it.  For me, the pain of my addiction had to become greater than the pain I was avoiding, which unfortunately was a lot of pain.  I was running from a past of sexual, verbal, physical, and emotional abuse at the hands of people whom I trusted the most.  This created a lot of negative emotions within me that were pretty tough to handle.  I felt ashamed, worthless, scared, lost, anxious, lonely, embarrassed, depressed, overwhelmed, confused, and insecure…just to name a few.  I had no idea how to deal with it all, and that’s where the substances came in.  At first I just liked the fact that when I smoked marijuana I was able to relax and be at peace.  When I drank alcohol I seemed to gain the confidence in myself in which I was lacking.  After a while though, that was no longer enough.  I tried to find anything and everything that would get me away from me.  Anything that would help me escape the reality of the torture I was going through inside my own mind.

My life slowly spiraled downward.  Sometimes getting better, but mostly getting worse.  Then came the day when I fell flat on my face.  The day all my problems seemed to truly disappear. This day I finally found what I had been looking for all my life, opiates.  This was also the day I became known as the “scumbag,” the “fiend,” the “junkie,” the “loser,” the “dope head,” and the “drug addict.”  This was not something I ever wanted and I knew I needed help.

I started to reach out.  I went to see a therapist and told her I had a problem.  She recommended an outpatient rehab, but first I had to be detoxed.  I could not find a bed so I walked into the emergency room and told them I was afraid I might hurt myself which at that point was not too far from the truth.  I had two weeks until my intake at the program.  All I had to do was stay sober.  I failed.  I was back in the emergency room once again and this time I made it to my appointment without using, but it was only a matter of time.  Soon after, they told me I had to leave the program and go to an inpatient rehab.  I went gladly, but couldn’t make it.  The urge to numb my emotions was too much for me to bear.  I really wish I could answer the age old question, “why couldn’t you just stop?”  Honestly I was trapped inside of a prison in my own mind.  I wanted to stop but I just couldn’t.  It was a vicious cycle, and the pain seemed too much to handle.  I ended up back in the emergency room a few weeks later and was setting myself up to go inpatient again.  Two more weeks and I would be free at last.  I swore I would make it this time.  Unfortunately, I never made it to that second inpatient because the day I was supposed to go was the day I landed in jail.

Honestly I was trapped inside of a prison in my own mind. I wanted to stop but I just couldn’t.

I can look back now and see that getting arrested was the best thing to happen to me.  I was forced to sit down and evaluate my life.  I was forced to deal with my emotions.  I spent the next 34 months incarcerated, 14 months of which I was in a behavior modification drug treatment program inside the prison.  I was finally getting to know ME.  Most importantly I learned to LOVE me.  I finally learned to accept my past for what it was and realized only I can control my future.  I went through some pretty tough stuff during that time.  The worst of which was the sudden death of my father, but I did it without drugs and I didn’t die.  I realized I could survive and work through some of my worst emotions, and it really was not that hard.  This is the mind frame I kept as I re-entered society, constantly reminding myself there was absolutely no situation that getting high could ever make better.

My time since I have been home has probably been the most stressful and overwhelming time in my life, but also the most rewarding.  Getting my life back has not proven to be easy, but I promise it has been worth it.  I have gained back trust that for so long, I never had.  I have gained back relationships I thought were irreparable.  I have gained respect from family, friends, my community, as well as from myself.  I have discovered a new passion for life and the drive to be the best me that I can be.  I am officially enrolled in college, and for the first time in my life, I am excited to go to school.  My life finally has purpose and I am truly proud of who I have become.  My family and friends are proud too.  I know because they tell me all the time.

In order for me to keep my recovery I have to check myself along with my thoughts and behaviors on a daily basis.  I try to do the right things for the right reasons at all time.  I refuse to compromise what it is I believe in, and I try to help whomever I can whenever I can.  This is just who I have become.  I feel it is important for people in recovery to speak out about their experiences in order for others to truly be able to understand.  We are all human beings and not one of us is perfect.  We all have flaws and just because I happen to have a substance use disorder does not make me a bad person.  I did a lot of things in my addiction that I am certainly not proud of, but I have suffered the consequences of those actions and they do not define me today.  My past is what has happened to me and not who I have become.  I can honestly say I am grateful for every single thing I have gone through because every experience has shaped me into the woman I am today.  And today I would not change a thing.  I refuse to be ashamed anymore.  All my life I was waiting for the storm to pass, but I have finally learned to dance in the rain.