No matter what brought you to where you are, it is not the end.

My story is pretty standard, but sadly, I never knew and always thought it was just me. 

It reads like a high bottom as I didn’t seem to lose much on the outside or inside. However, I was dead at 30, I was too scared to participate in life and because of that, did only one thing a day. That one thing whatever it happened to be, took all my courage, energy, and willingness. Then I would run home and smoke pot to make it all stop. 

I knew I was different, I didn’t fit in, and never felt a part of anything. I knew deep down that I was ugly, stupid and worst of all, needy. I couldn’t bare for people to see the real me and pretending to be someone else was exhausting. I went out, did what work I had too, and rushed home to get high. This routine also included "spontaneous detours" into the corner bar for shots of Tequila. That was my life.

Always, escaping to the world of nothing. No expectations, no one to let down, no one to judge me. There, I didn’t suck, and so there, I lived for years, alone.

I grew up the youngest of six in Greenwich Connecticut. My house was big and beautiful with plenty of food, but not in comparison to the town norm. I was a pretty little girl on the outside, but inside, I felt like a lost cause. I acted out regularly by throwing violent tantrums and stealing. By 5th grade, I owned every teacher's edition, taken my favorite teachers wallet, another teacher's wedding plus engagement ring, and a neighbors bike. Psychically, I'd bite whoever got me mad (especially authorities), broke my 4th-grade teacher's foot and was feared by all the teachers and counselors. Nobody wanted me in their class, nobody wanted to deal with me, and nobody knew how.

I don’t remember my first time smoking pot, but I remember it becoming my thing. I was superb at using pot, and I found my voice.  Suddenly, everything wasn’t so bad. I started to feel like I belonged and I began to have friends that thought like me. I was finally alive and breathing freely. I started smoking pot at about ten because my brother's friend told me, I was buying it from him at 12.

So here is where my story begins to take off, with my great love for pot. Please don’t get me wrong, as time passed, I became flexible and would try any drug, but I always came home to pot. Pot to me was the only way to end a day; it was a necessity for me to stop everything so I could start life again the next day. A mandatory daily reset, my oxygen. 

Pot allowed me to be the person I needed to be and saved me from being alone in my head with all my thoughts. My head, always so loud, telling me how bad and wrong I was. Always working so hard to make the “perfect” decision. Pot allowed me to dream and “be free" and quiet the voices. 

My attitude and actions became pretty uncontrollable by 8th grade, and I ended up at boarding school. By my second year, I got kicked out and was off to another one. After numerous suspensions I just made it through graduation with college being pretty much the same, the only difference, by my second year I dropped out.

I so wanted to be a part of a life where I was free, free outside of me, yet I couldn’t and wouldn’t.

I moved to Boston and then to NYC. I managed retail stores, did some modeling, and worked in restaurants too. A drunken night led me to a job at a big nightclub in NYC called The Limelight, which resulted in becoming a bartender. I moved on to the Palladium, a bigger club and stayed for a while. In all honesty, life was good.

Years passed at the clubs, and eventually, I returned to school while bartending at night. I was studying to be a Fashion designer, and with only a few credits shy of my degree, I dropped out again. 

By my 30th birthday, I knew the jig was up. I knew I could no longer keep doing what I was doing, and I was afraid of being an old woman, stuck behind the bar. My friends were fed up with me always saying no to going out. My life was empty, alone and nobody knew the hell I was stuck in. It was also getting harder and harder to pretend I was “fine." I so wanted to be a part of a life where I was free, free outside of me, yet I couldn’t and wouldn’t. I needed to stay small and safe. My bottom, I ended up isolating in a NYC basement apartment watching a soap opera and living vicariously through them. I know this sounds crazy, but to me, it was a beautiful, safe world. The characters in the show were extremely important to me. They were a constant in my life, and I knew their secrets. I also didn’t let them down, and they didn’t judge me— a fantasy world that to me, was very very real.

One day, in my little world, the character Erica Kane found herself with a pill addiction. I started watching the show even more closely. My head spun with questions as she entered the Betty Ford Rehab. Questions about the details, her room, her roommate, the nurses — everything. I became aware of my uncanny interest.

Weeks later when the show wrapped up that part of the story, the actress Susan Lucci (aka Erica Kane) came on as herself. She said addiction is very real and that if anyone knew someone or was struggling with an addiction, that there was help. It was then that I opened up the yellow pages and looked for help.

I put myself into a rehab shortly after that and honestly, I hated it, I was planning to leave. They made me share a room and be around lots of others. I could only escape people by short walks, but usually someone “a friend” wanted to join me. I fought all the authorities and refused to believe in their plan. Luckily though, I did get it. I got it through the people like me there and listening to their stories. I heard that it wasn’t just me, others felt the same way I did and did the same stuff. I wasn't screwed up; it was just a part of addiction. I left there sober and have remained that way since.

I never relapsed and oddly enough, I was always really ashamed of that. My head told me that I didn't belong and that once again I was different, didn’t fit in and wasn’t that bad. Luckily though, I have learned that my head (known to some as my disease) wants me to feel bad no matter what's going on. Good or bad, it will find the angle to make me feel less than. If I relapsed, it would be because I couldn’t do anything right and if I didn’t… that was because I didn’t belong, never did and never would. Leaving me feeling alone and different.  I share this because I wanted to tell whoever might be reading this if they relapsed and are feeling bad that they are not. Relapse is just part of the addiction. If it were that easy, it wouldn’t be the epidemic it is today. Whatever path you are on, you are good… just feeling bad. No matter what brought you to where you are, it is not the end. I admit, it’s still hard and my first thought is often based on fear, but I no longer run. I take chances and because of that, continuously see that I am somebody and I do matter. 

There is one more part I really want to share… what believing in myself and just showing up turned into.

At rehab, I cried endlessly about my music collection waiting for me at home. I couldn’t imagine ever being able to listen to all my CDs without it being a trigger. Music was (and is my world), and I just couldn’t grasp the idea of listening to it and not getting high. I was so very wrong though, not only do I listen to all kinds of music today, but I was able to find my passion and follow it. Today, I am a music photographer and through my lens go deeper into any song that I ever did. I photograph all kinds of music and get to show the world what it looks like through sober eyes...

So twenty years later, clean and sober, I still struggle with thoughts of not being enough, but I can take chances and make mistakes daily. Why? Because I no longer get paralyzed by them and finally know down to my core… that it’s not “just” me, it's just being human. I am enough just as I am.