National Recovery Month 2023 – Together We Are Stronger
From Chaos to Healing – My Journey Through Addiction, Redemption, and Self-Discovery
National Recovery Month 2023 – Together We Are Stronger
Table of Contents
“As soon as I looked in your eyes, I knew I wasn’t going to love you,” my mother noted after one of my ‘episodes.’ “Should’ve had you aborted when the doctor gave me the chance.”
As if I needed further validation that I, the weird nerdy goth chick, wasn’t the child she wanted.
Growing up as a blonde, blue-eyed, state-fair pageant queen, she envisioned creating the perfect mini-her, to continue the legacy of… I don’t even know what.
I had a semblance of connection with my dad; he’d been a cop since before I was born, but when I turned 13, he leaned back into his Christian faith, re-entering the church community and becoming a deacon.
That was the time he decided everything was Satan. The video games, the music, the hair dye, my esoteric ideals – all Satan. He would throw my belongings out of the window, though he put on a special production for all my black clothes, carrying them out to the yard and lighting them on fire… as if that would “fix me.”
I met my brother, Josh, when I was ten, when my addiction journey began. After bleeding for two years straight, it was discovered I had multiple uterine fibroids with tumors that had to be removed, and just like that, at ten-years-old, I was introduced to opiates.
Allowing my body to escape the pain of reality felt like the only olive branch of relief, so even when I wasn’t in physical pain, I would lie to the doctor. Nobody’s going to tell a ten year old they’re not really in pain, and so, they kept on prescribing.
Around 13 is when my suicidal ideation really blossomed, and after various attempts didn’t take, I figured pain pills was my only option. My mom was convinced I had a mental illness which made no impact on my dad who seemed to see things more in black and white.
Though we didn’t click immediately, my brother became my escape; he was just as wild as me if not more so and his ability to just be himself made me feel seen and accepted.
I don’t think we knew we were addicts for a really long time. We thought of ourselves as partiers, you know, because that’s what we were doing – partying and having the time of our lives.
Managing to sustain decent grades was perhaps the only feeling of normalcy I held on to, and with that, I decided I wanted to go to college; Kentucky accepted me and I jumped at the chance. Shortly after I started, however, I found myself selling drugs. I’d been the middle-man, flipping things here and there to support my habit, but when I realized drugs in Knoxville, Tennessee were much cheaper than in Kentucky, I formed myself a nice little interstate trafficking business, at just 17 years old, selling cocaine and acid mostly.
Word got around and eventually my roommate asked if I could sell a bottle of Xanax for her; I was thrilled with the opportunity to flex my new skillset, but instead of selling them, I decided to go on a bender with my brother.
Five days and 200 pills later, we woke up in West Virginia, and to this day, I have no idea what happened, though I do remember how quickly I got kicked out of school.
Did I mention it was the school my mom went to?… just imagine her reaction.
At this point, everything disastrous in my life was funny – like – haha, what a crazy adventure, right guys? It never crossed my mind what could’ve happened to me, or that my life had become this horrifying display; making everything a joke was the only coping mechanism I knew, and I knew it well.
After the school debacle, I moved back to Knoxville, into a friend’s apartment, or if we want to get technical, it was a high-class trap house. I was welcome to stay on the couch so long as I supplied drugs.
Seemed fair, and I considered myself a professional addict at this point; I researched the best ways to take drugs and best ways to stop, and I was building myself an impressive clientele list. Plus, no other women were doing what I was doing; it felt like this is what I was made for – it was the only thing I’d ever been good at in my life and I desperately wanted to keep that.
Naturally, the entire operation was shut down within a few months.
Assured I could keep the party going elsewhere, I convinced my grandparents to buy me a house which really highlighted my priorities… and now, I had a boyfriend.
Being with him over the next few years showed me life isn’t always funny; the day we got married is the day he became violent, and it only got worse.
I put up with it for far too long, but eventually I made a move for myself and filed for divorce. As empowering as that felt, the paperwork didn’t stop his bold intrusions. Out of concern for my safety, my brother moved in, constantly sticking up for me when my ex (at least 200 pounds heavier) would kick the door down and start throwing things just because he could.
Eventually that wore down, but the partying didn’t… four straight months of living large. It was a shit show, and I continued to ‘not care.’ With a growing list of self-image issues, my only sense of purpose was in selling drugs. I allowed it to feed my ego, assuring myself I was responsible.
WIth that feeling at the ready, I did the impossible, convincing my grandparents to buy me yet another house… I told them I was making better choices after dumping the loser, and I was ready to get my act together.
Jokes on them, I wasn’t ready… I couldn’t have been ready even if I wanted to be, I was re-living my patterns on a loop and no one was qualified to help. My family knew nothing about addiction, so even after crashing ten cars… ten… they didn’t know what to do with me.
Remember when I said my brother and I didn’t know we were addicts for a long time? Well, we’re about there…
I ended up in the hospital for a month and a half with gallstones, officially being diagnosed with gallbladder disease. Another month for hepatitis and I was back in my primary care doctor’s office from when I was a kid; I told him I’d become dependent on Roxies because I was getting physically sick when I didn’t have them. He referred me to a nearby pain clinic and sent me on my way (that doctor is now in federal prison).
I was 21 and it was the time of the pill mills… I walked in and within minutes, I was prescribed four Xanax a day, two Morphine a day, and two Ambien a day… if that was the cliff, I was off.
Over the next year, I made frequent trips to Florida’s pill mills where they handed out prescriptions like candy; I was blacked out when I got married in Kentucky, and I started manipulating more and more doctors to prescribe me pills, adding Gabapentin and Lyrica to the mix.
When the FBI finally intervened in the distribution of pills at pain clinics, I was called in for a pill count which is when I was kicked out of the program. My then-husband was stealing from me in the sneakiest ways, pulling back the bottle’s label, carving a little hole and popping a few out whenever he wanted.
After that dried up, I was so sick, I convinced my grandparents to support my habit.
Eventually I connected with my brother and his friend who’d been introduced to Opanas (Oxymorphone). They were dirt cheap compared to everything on the market, and despite claims the drug was resistant to reformation, my brother’s friend locked himself in a barn for days and found a way to inject them. This was my undoing – the potency was astonishing; more powerful than anything I’d experienced by a long shot.
A girl I knew became paralyzed due to abscesses caused by Opana use, and while I developed my own share of abscesses, they seemed almost trivial compared to the agonizing withdrawal that followed shortly after consuming the drug. My desperation to avoid torturous pain pushed me to start dividing each pill into 16 pieces, disrupting my sleep multiple times each night to fend off the relentless body aches.
If I could have gotten up to kill myself, I probably would have. I’d never experienced pain on this level.
Coincidentally, this was the time Vivitrol came on the market. I went to my primary care doctor and he told me I had to be clean for ten days in order to take the Vivitrol injection. If I could stay sober for ten days, I wouldn’t need the injection, now would I?
And so, on the day of my scheduled appointment, I took an Opana at 8am, followed by the Vivitrol shot at 12. Those were the worst four days of my entire life, living in my Grandparents’ basement, unable to do anything but writhe in pain. After those four days, however, I didn’t experience any cravings… it seemed to work!
I allowed that whole experience to mark a turning point in my life. With the cravings subdued, I felt like a human ready to participate in the world again; I moved in with a friend and got a job at Toys R Us that would allow me to pay rent. Things were looking up.
Over the next ten months, however, with no understanding of recovery, I was drinking, smoking, taking hallucinogens, and using ecstasy every night. Managing to keep my job and pay my bills on time afforded me the facade of normalcy… as long as I wasn’t taking opiates, I thought.
After ten months of good behavior, I decided I was ready to stop taking Vivitrol, and with that, I was off to the races. Soon everybody in that house was getting high. That’s just how it worked – if I got high, everyone around me would get high, and I felt good about that; I felt like a really good friend giving drugs away… people didn’t give drugs away…
Not long after, I was back in contact with my ex from the trap house; he was living with his dad at the time but his dad was never there so I moved in. He told me if I ever shot up, he’d leave me which solidified – this guy is good for me.
We were snorting pills for a long time before we started losing everything, forcing us to switch to heroin because it was cheaper.
Heroin instantly became my #1 love – it was the most soothing warm blanket, giving me a sense of comfort I’d never felt before. My life goal became: nod out, drool on myself and not remember my past; heroin did exactly that.
After two weeks, however, I understood I would completely destroy my life if I kept using heroin; my family had been begging me to go to treatment so I decided it was time.
They wanted to take me but I told them I wouldn’t go unless I could drive myself. Reluctantly, they agreed, and my Grandparents gave me $200 to help my recover journey.
With that, at 7am, I drove straight to the projects, deciding I would spend $100 for a gram of heroin, leaving me with an extra hundred for rehab. I had a three hour trek ahead of me and did not want to stop, so instead of dividing out the gram, I melted it all down and took the full dose before driving.
I was about halfway there when a state trooper pulled me over. He came to my window and I tried selling him a story about how I was messing with my GPS.
“No, you’ve been going 45 miles an hour and swerving through three lanes of traffic,” he answered, unamused.
I told him I was going to rehab and to my surprise, he said if he searched my car and didn’t find anything, and I passed a field sobriety test, I could go…
Ten minutes later, I was on the road again; I downed the rest of my prescribed Gabapentin and Lyrica and somehow made it to the treatment center. I have no memory of this, but the Director told me I pulled up, opened the door, threw up in a bush, fell into it and passed out.
After 30 days of fishing and bullshit workbooks, I left, getting high on my way back home. The heroin use continued, and I soon found my second love – crack. Not long after that, my ex and I were kicked out of the house; after hotel money ran out, we started squatting in abandoned homes and apartments.
At that point, I had a $2000/day habit. Sleep became a luxury I couldn’t afford, not because of the drug use, but out of fear of missing sales.
My so-called partner, consumed by the same cycle, was dreadfully inept in the drug trade. One night, when I finally decided to sleep, I left him with the bags, detailing how much each should be priced at… his first time and he ended up selling to an undercover cop.
After that, I realized there was money to be made in selling Sudafed; I had a list of 50 people I would distribute to, and the meth cook started buying heroin from me, which helped support my habit.
Over the next several months after my dad retired from law enforcement, I collected ten misdemeanors and five felonies, and within that span, my brother died. He’d been up on meth for almost six days, took a shot of heroin and fell face down on his bed, suffocating on his own pillow.
I really spiraled at that point, deciding I didn’t care anymore. I was stealing ungodly amounts of money from my Grandma, at one point taking $10,000 in nine days. I was charged with four counts of forgery because the bank pressed charges (my Grandma wouldn’t, bless her heart). The identity theft charge came from a stolen debit card I’d found in a parking lot, and the arrest came shortly after.
I was in jail for 3.5 months before being released to a treatment program – lucky number 14. I had a grocery bag of donated clothes and that’s it; everyone, including me, was so done with my shit. After going back to jail for a month, they agreed to my release only if I agreed to an 18-month Vivitrol program. I decided in that moment I had to get serious; it was now or never.
And just like that, I was in IOP four days a week, with one individual session, as well as one Vivitrol shot each month. My dad paid the deposit, bought me groceries and wished me luck.
By the time I graduated, I had an apartment of my own, a steady job at a nursing home, and my dad told me if I fixed up his Durango, I could have it. I put $700 into the engine and I was ready for my new life.
During treatment, I recognized my complete disregard for consequences and kept myself busy enough with meetings that I didn’t have time to get high.
October 16, 2017 was the first time I got clean.
With enormous grit and will-power, I managed to stay clean for almost a year before relapsing at a show… I thought I would just have one drink, but after that one drink, I thought, you know what would go well with this?… crack.
And so, I went on a month-long crack binge. I was back in the world of selling and using until one morning, I woke up at 3am and thought, ‘what the fuck am I doing?’ I handed an eight-ball to the person next to me, walked out of the trap house and never came back. That was on August 02, 2018 – my new sobriety date.
I can’t attribute it to a sense of confidence; in fact, I felt real stupid for the next year. I went to meetings but I was miserable the entire time, and I started spending more and more time with a new guy – he was using… it was all just a mess.
Not using was the only thing I did right.
After that year, I met this woman who laid it out for me – ‘here’s what’s gonna happen,’ she explained. Everything she said would happen, did, outside of me using. I asked if she wanted to be my sponsor and that’s when I felt serenity for the first time.
I wanted to make a genuine effort to live differently. I didn’t want to just ‘exist’ anymore, I really wanted to maintain this new-found peace. Interestingly, my parents didn’t cut off contact until I got clean, but I don’t focus on that anymore.
Recovery has afforded me a life, and having worked in this industry for almost four years now, I feel I have a real sense of purpose. Actually, now reflecting back on my motivation all those years ago, I realize it’s the same purpose – to help people – only this time it’s sustainable, and it’s real healing.
Outside of work, I connect with a lot of people on social media; I tell them I’m their invisible cheerleader, encouraging them with the importance of healthy relationships.
For the longest time, I felt like I couldn’t get clean because it meant I’d have to be a normal person that fits into a box. I have blue hair, tattoos, piercings, and still wear all black, and you know what? Nobody says anything to me. Nobody wants me to fit into a box.
I have my weirdo friends that love me, and I realize I can be exactly who I want to be.
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