My name is Katie, and I entered long-term recovery almost 8 years ago which means that I haven’t had a drink or used a drug since 2008. Jesus Christ brought me into recovery, and I haven’t looked back since. As a result, I’ve been able to live a full rewarding life and now have inner peace and joy that I never knew was possible before. Recovery has given me the ability to help others and become someone that can be depended upon, relied upon, and trusted. It may seem simple, but I live on my own, I pay my bills on time, I’ve been able to take care of my family, and I’m working now to show that people can and do get well. The things we've done and the things we do are only a part of us, they can change at any time and I’m living proof that change is possible.
As a kid I was an honor roll student, an athlete, and my mother taught me manners and how to be respectful. I knew how to act, but I was a sad kid. I also had a lot of anxiety as a result of different experiences and trauma. I just never felt right, but I was raised to always pretend like everything was fine. I was exposed to drugs at a young age and due to the conflicting messages I received, from what I learned in school to what I saw on the TV and in my own life, I became confused and got the false impression that if I didn’t get caught and stayed out of trouble maybe smoking and drinking weren’t such a big deal. Mistake number one of many to follow. We really shouldn't underestimate any decisions we make, let alone the consumption of mind-altering substances.
Things snowballed and I managed to dupe everyone, including myself, that my life was perfectly normal, but when the time came that I could no longer convince myself that things were okay, I just couldn’t stop, and I was too afraid to ask for help. I was afraid of what people would think of me, of being judged, of being a disappointment. I literally felt bound by my secrets. First I tried using medication and self-discipline, but that didn’t work. Then I tried 12-step meetings, but I still couldn’t find a way to open up and talk about what I had kept hidden for so long. I was ashamed because of the stigma that is associated with addiction. Shame exists so that we can live up to a higher standard and that’s a good thing. However, we cannot let shame prevent ourselves and others from getting the help necessary to overcome our problems.
Eventually, I reached out to a counselor I found online who agreed to help me for a very low rate without going through my dad’s insurance because I was adamant my family never know. Finally I had someone to talk to, but I still continued to use. Then, at some point I became desperate enough to pray. And everything changed when I heard back. For the first time I had real hope. Up until then, everything I heard and thought told me that I would always be struggling and there was no way out. But in that moment, I knew that wasn’t true. I knew I didn’t have to be stuck anymore and I could recover from this. Although I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to get there, I had faith that I would somehow.
Shortly after, I had the opportunity to leave the country for a few months, and I took it. My teenage years passed by in a fog. Even now thinking back to that time, there are still many gaps, I get confused with certain time frames, and I can’t always line up the sequence of events. In that space and time while I was away, I began to physically, mentally and spiritually feel the fog rise, it was like coming out of a cloud. I started to feel, think and see a little more clearly. Meanwhile, rumors got back to my family and their suspicions turned into discovery about my substance use. My mom panicked, frantically called rehabs, spoke to a psychiatrist, grabbed my brother and hopped on a plane to get me and have some sort of intervention. They didn’t understand why I had left and when they surprised me, it was just as shocking for me to find out that they knew as it was for them to find out. My whole fake world came crashing down just as I was beginning to enter recovery, and I had to be honest for once. My family didn't really know how to handle it, and neither did I. As time passed I began to feel liberated from carrying that burden alone, and telling my story now is liberating. After years of never saying anything, pretending to be fine on the outside, while falling apart apart on the inside, of always being around friends, yet feeling very alone, I learned that speaking is a necessary step toward healing.
There is no reason for anyone to be isolated in their struggles. When someone is drowning we don’t question how they got into that situation. We just do what we can to save them. There are people drowning in the effects of addiction, begging for help, and most often they’re told to wait. We’re in a crisis that not only affects the individual, but their families, friends, and community as well. We’ve all seen or experienced tragedy, but I’ve also seen and experienced healing and transformation, so I know that it’s possible for others to experience that too.
It’s important for those of us who can speak out and put a face to recovery to spread that message of hope. I got involved with recovery advocacy in 2014 and have since found a new purpose to my past. I also recently started working in the field and became a certified recovery coach with the intent to share what I’ve learned. Change is possible for every person. Recovery is real, and it’s only the beginning of greater things to come.