I’m 24, recently divorced, and the mother of a two-year-old boy. I’m an artist, a closet musician, and an animal lover. I hold numerous state certifications in the healthcare field. I’m hard-working, overachieving, spiritual, and too trusting. I’m the girl next door with an outgoing spirit and quick sense of humor. I’ll give you the shirt off my back without hesitation. I believe there’s a good heart inside of everyone, and I give generously without expecting anything in return. I’m the friend and girlfriend that all the parents love. I’m the girl who people say has “never met a stranger”.
I’m also a drug addict.
Growing up, I was very sheltered. My parents homeschooled me and my sisters, and we never missed a church service or bible study. My dad was a deacon in the church, and my mom stayed home to prepare us to be great wives and mothers one day.
At fifteen, I got my first job, where I would later meet my first boyfriend. I was suddenly exposed to the real world, and I wanted to know everything. That job was my first real-world experience, and I loved it. Soon after I started working there, I began to experience debilitating headaches and migraines. It would be another two years before I would find the cause—Petrous Apicitis. Something so rare, even my neurologist hadn’t heard of it. It starts with the HIB virus, which I contracted at work. It causes persistent headaches, facial pain, and spinal meningitis.
To control the pain while I tried treatments, and I was given narcotic pain pills. I had no experience with opiates and no knowledge of what they could do. I didn’t know about pills, drugs, sex, or addiction. I quickly became physically dependent on them, but I didn’t even know what that meant. My first boyfriend, though, he knew exactly what opiates were, and he loved them. He would often ask for them, complaining of back pain. I gave him handfuls at a time (not knowing it’s illegal) and then he started taking them without my permission.
I soon had my first experience with withdrawals.
He’d taken over half of my prescription. To ease my sickness and migraine, my boyfriend suggested getting pain pills from his friends. They were much stronger than mine, some of the strongest narcotics available. I happily agreed, desperate to end the withdrawals, but still unaware of the magnitude of my actions. We began selling my prescribed pills to get money for stronger ones. I had built quite a tolerance to mine, and the more I used, the more I needed.
Fast forward a year, and I could snort 50-60 pills a day with ease. I found out that I could numb my emotional pain as well, pain that stemmed from a twelve-year nightmare of sexual abuse by an extended family member. I needed 30-50 (depending on what I could find) just to stave off withdrawals. Another year passed, and I was in a living hell. I would steal anything I could from family, friends, and even strangers, pawning anything I could get my hands on. I became someone I didn’t recognize, someone I didn’t like. My boyfriend became sexually, verbally, and physically abusive as his own addiction grew. I knew he’d had multiple affairs, but I stayed with him until I literally caught him in the act, and couldn’t deny it anymore.
We broke up, but I got even worse. I no longer needed him and his connections, as I had better ones. I failed my classes at the community college, lost numerous jobs, and wrecked my life. It was a downhill spiral. I also used self-harm as a way to cope with the emotional pain of the sexual abuse, and later to cope with the abuse I was inflicting on my family.
I attempted suicide three times.
I had done so much damage to myself and my family, and I couldn’t possibly fix it. I wanted to put myself out of my misery, and rid my family of the pain I had caused. I was a mess, and I was broken. I hated myself, God, and everyone else.
It’s exhausting to be in active addiction, you never get a break. You’re always worried about your next high; so much so, that you don’t even enjoy the high you’ve got. It’s exhausting keeping the lies straight, trying to meet new people to steal from, and trying to keep loved ones off your back.
One day, I was sitting in my parent’s basement playing solitaire on the computer. I was out of pills, out of money, and so was everyone else. As I sat there, I started to realize how tired I was. Tired of being a slave to my addiction, realizing for once that I no longer had control over this monster. I was disgusted and repulsed by myself and the things I’d done. Things I never would’ve done if I been in my right mind. Things that still haunt me today.
I was at a crossroads, and I knew I had to change something. I was done. I got clean and sober on January 17, 2012. I started seeing an addiction counselor and going to meetings. I’d tried so many times to get clean on my own, only to relapse three days later. But this time was different… I found the tools, coping skills, and a network of support; including a sponsor and two accountability partners.
I have a beautiful son, a good job, and I’ve mended the relationships with my family and friends.
I sponsor two young women, and helping them helps me. It reassures me that I’m not fighting in vain. I respect and love myself now, and I know I’m worth the work it takes to stay clean. My break-up took a toll on me, and it was a pain I can’t describe. But I stayed strong, and I stayed clean. That wound has healed, and it’s a scar these days. I now have a beautiful and healthy relationship with a wonderful man; a man who knows my flaws, respects me, protects me, and loves me more than anything.
Life hasn’t been perfect since getting clean, but it’s always getting better. Don’t get me wrong, addiction is the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with. And recovery isn’t all rainbows and flowers, either. But I’m so thankful for my struggles, because without them I wouldn’t be the strong woman I am now. I still have the headaches, but they’re not as bad anymore. I can handle them without pain pills.
I’ll always be an addict, it’s a constant battle. But for now—for today—I’m winning. Winning because I have God and an army of people beside me. I will keep winning if I fight one day at a time, work my program, and let others fight with me. I can’t do this alone, I’ve tried and failed miserably. I have to step back, admit that I’m imperfect, accept who I am, and accept help from others. I won’t survive this alone.
This post was contributed by Heather.