I’m Heather. 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, give generously without expectation, and believe there’s a good heart inside of everyone. I’m the friend and girlfriend that all parents love. I’m the girl who people say has “never met a stranger.”
I am also a drug addict.
Growing up I was very sheltered. My parents home-schooled 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. Soon after I started working, I began to experience debilitating headaches and migraines. Two years later we 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 we tried treatments, I was given narcotic pain pills.
I had no experience with opiates, and no knowledge of what they could do. I didn’t know anything about addiction. I quickly became physically dependent on the pills, but I didn’t even know what that meant. My boyfriend—whom I’d met at work when I was 18—knew exactly what opiates were, and loved them. He would often ask for them, complaining of back pain. At first I gave him handfuls at a time (not knowing it’s illegal), but then he started taking them without my permission.
I started to experience with withdrawals, because he’d taken over half of my 260 Percocet prescription, and 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. Desperate to end the withdrawals, but still unaware of the magnitude of my actions, I agreed. 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.
A year later, I was snorting 50-60 pills a day with ease. I found out I could numb emotional pain as well as my physical pain. 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. He had multiple affairs, but I stayed with him until I caught him in the act and couldn’t deny it anymore. We broke up, but my addiction got even worse.
I no longer needed him and his connections. I had my own. I failed classes at the community college, lost numerous jobs, and wrecked my life. It was a downhill spiral.
I attempted suicide three times.
I had done so much damage to myself and my family, and I knew it was impossible to 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.
Active addiction is exhausting. 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 constantly keeping track of the lies, trying to meet new people to steal from and keep loved ones off your back.
One day, I was sitting in my parents 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, finally understanding 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 had 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’ve tried so many times to get clean on my own, only to relapse three days later. But this time is different. I have 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. Continuing to work on my sobriety with others 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 divorce took a toll on me, and it was a pain I can’t even 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 but recovery isn’t all rainbows and flowers, either. 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. Nothing that I can’t handle without pain pills.
I will always be an addict. It is a constant battle.
But for now—for today—I’m winning. Winning because I have God and an army of people beside me. I know that I will keep winning if I continue to fight one day at a time, work my program, and let others fight with me.
I’ve realized that 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 inspiration story was submitted by Heather.