I am not my past. I am simply human. Today, I love myself. Today, I am a miracle.

My name is Jessica Hershman, and I am a person in long term recovery. I am only alive today due to other recovering people’s help and love. I have what is referred to as an addictive personality, and I have, way before I ever used a substance. I have the disease of “more”.

I grew up in an upper middle class neighborhood in Pennsylvania. Most of the people I knew were wealthy. Most of the people I knew were educated. Most of the people I knew were white. A great majority of the people I knew were Jewish. No one in my family used drugs or drank excessively. My parents got divorced when I was young and as the oldest child, a lot of anger and resentment was taken out on me. I used food as a way to cope with the inexplicable pain inside of me. I was extremely overweight by the age of twelve years old. All I remember from school as a child is being teased and tormented, feeling not good enough, feeling like I was not a part of, feeling sorry for myself, and wishing I could be anyone other than myself. I was smart and artistic and was in groups such as AT (Academically Talented) band, and choir. If anyone reading this remembers what it’s like to be twelve, you might understand that these hobbies didn’t really help me fit in. In hindsight, I understand that the only reason I didn’t fit in, was because I believed I did not fit in.

I remember when I got high for the first time like it was yesterday. I was fourteen and for the first time in my life I felt at ease, comfortable in my own skin, and like I was someone important and liked. It was an adventure and so much fun. Little did I know, that the fun I had on that day was going to be my motivator: My life’s purpose was to replicate that good feeling for an additional nine long years. By any means necessary. My teenage years are a blur. I acted out as a way to seek the affection of others and was a pathological liar, always trying to be liked with facades, since I believed through and through no one could possibly like me for me. I was constantly told by my parents and teachers that I had to live up to my potential. I was so afraid of failing; of not reaching the “potential” they spoke of, that for the most part, I didn’t even try. I got kicked out of high school for having drugs on school property and the out of control downward spiral of my life came to a temporary stop. I was sent to rehab and got my first taste of recovery at the age of seventeen.

The first step to recovery is accepting you have a problem. I could not do this at age seventeen. In my mind, I was just a normal teenager: Having fun, partying, drinking, and getting high. The fact that my usage caused so many problems in my life was simply because I didn’t do it well enough. I had to try harder to manage it. Nonsense. I just wasn’t ready to stop. After many more years of pain I was homeless, in an abusive relationship, and disowned from my family. I was jobless, heartless, and soulless. I was now ready.

The first step to recovery is accepting you have a problem.

I entered rehab again at the age of 22. This time I listened with an open mind and heart because I had done all of those things I said I would “never” do as a youngster. I sopped up information like a sponge and when released, immediately forgot about my old life and old associates. I call them associates because how can you call someone a friend that allows you to harm yourself the way I did? You can’t. They aren’t. I had a fresh start and a second chance at life. I moved back with my parents and started going to meetings on a daily basis. I got a sponsor, a home group, and began making connections with men and women in long term recovery.

Today, I am 26 years old and have not used any mind or mood-altering substances for over three years. This doesn’t even feel like “my” life. This feels like a dream that I’ll soon wake up from…I have a beautiful home with the love of my life and we have an amazing little boy who is one year old. My life today is beyond my wildest dreams. Today, I am a stay-at-home-mom and a full-time student. I am finally striving to use the potential my higher power gave me. I am finally happy being me. Every day I am still learning how to get the voice of my twelve-year-old-self out of my head telling me I am fat, ugly, and not good enough. Every day I don’t use drugs or alcohol, I have a chance at life.

Life to me isn’t just about surviving anymore, it’s about LIVING. Regardless of all of the horrible things I have done in my past for the “next one”, I am not my mistakes. I am not my past. I am simply human. Today, I love myself. Today, I am a miracle.