I’m going to deviate from my typical submission to this site and talk about my opinion on the latest in what I hope isn’t just a passing fad…the addiction awareness awakening. Though I might seem a bit cynical, I’d like you to read deeper into my intentions and think.
Let’s do a reality check.
I’ll start with a bit of background on me. In 2011, I was dragged through the mud in a dress as my huge ankle bracelet scraped the ground to a police car, nearly passed out after trying to overdose on my remaining stash. I was booked into jail WITHOUT bond.
I was a severely addicted woman and mother. I wasn’t your typical usage story and I wasn’t a casual user. I was straight up hardcore in my use, hidden among the middle to upper middle class homes in suburbia. I had become an accidental addict after legally prescribed due to an accident.
My tolerance had grown so much in such a short period, using 25 to 30 Roxicodones, aka “blues” a day, as well as several long acting opiates like oxymorphone, oxycodone ER, morphine ER, hydromorphone ER , Xanax and Adderall and even heroin, as required. My preferred method of use was inhalation via nasal, but I also shot up whenever the desire reared itself . I started every single day with a cocktail of Adderall and opiates and because of my significant use , I started writing my own prescriptions , forging at least one full RX and having it filled every other day.
During that time the only people who really knew what was going on was my inner circle, though a few detectives eventually caught on and shit went to hell in a hand basket real fast. They were sure I was involved with an organized crime group. They threw around titles like kingpin and escort and exaggerated and came up with outlandish plots and theories . I was so piping hot pissed, they couldn’t just see ME. I was defiant in the face of their crazy accusations and took it out on myself. Yes, I talked myself into believing it was my human, if not American right to use. I knew they were bending the facts so it became a good and evil mind game. I talked myself into believing I was far more efficient high and that I couldn’t kick it. I had tried. I had tried so many times and I just couldn’t . I turned myself into hospitals eventually begging for help and well, you know the story . There simply wasn’t resources enough to help me. Even the medical community believed that if I really wanted to quit, I’d quit.
While in jail I physically “kicked” my habit and yea without having to find a Sober Coach, I survived the withdrawal I always thought would kill me. Don’t get me wrong though. It was SO miserable I certainly wished for death. My blood pressure rose and dropped. I couldn’t keep food or liquid in me. I sweat and leaked and cried and moaned. I writhed in pain and I bargained with God. I fantasized and I hallucinated. I passed out and I paced on cold floors. I woke up soaked and my nerve endings fired and misfired in crazy order. My nerve endings related to pain and sexual stimuli seemed to interchange and did what they wanted WHEN they wanted. I had used cocaine pretty heavily in my teens and dealt with a withdrawal syndrome that was mostly mental in nature. This thing here though, this thing was a bitch!!
I know I was absolutely treated harshly by the all female nursing staff at the jail. They were judgmental. They were inconsiderate . They were sarcastic. They only checked on me enough to say … “she ain’t dead yet, as if, she’ll live, no lawsuit”. Fortunately for them, after nearly a month of this unusually long process , I DID survive. Though the day would come while I was locked there , believing I was well but knowing deep down I wasn’t , that I really would want to end it all.
My daughter died in my 7th month of jail while I waited for a trial or plea bargain offer to come together. REAL REALITY CHECK.
After that, I actually asked myself , if I could bring my daughter back by enduring withdrawal forever , would I do it? I knew the answer was yes but, the thought was crazy and of course completely unrealistic . I thought and prayed that if I could bring her back I’d go to hell . I’d go to hell if I knew she was in heaven or spared from more pain.
But then there’s the reality check and you have to face that we are talking pure hypothetical. I know I’d do anything to have her back but, if it was a real possibility, would I slow to the decision? And if so, why? The truth was, I did have the choice many times to choose life over death; My kids over my drugs. As much as I cringe to think, I chose drugs…and I chose death. Sadly, so did my daughter . Death decided to oblige her …and torture me. Reality check.
Since then, I’ve alternately danced and dodged my addiction. I know I will never succumb again to opiates but, I struggle in other areas and with other behaviors. I suffer off and on from a disease of sadness. Addiction was a crippling symptom. Reality check.
I’m proud to report I’ve been winning most of the battles these days. So , the thing I thought I could never do while she was living is something I’m doing everyday after losing her and almost everything but my son. Hmmmm….reality check.
One thing I’ve always hated is the whole prodigal child story. The stories of the saved addict who took life all the way to the edge just before surviving to regale us with the details of their disgusting deeds. It seemed like a contest of who was the dirtiest sinner and raised the most hell, IN TACT. I thought , wow, what a crock of crap and no, I will never ever be that person. I mean, so, you’re saying we can all just treat people however , fuck whomever , completely destroy our lives and the lives of others and then humbly admit all, ask for forgiveness and become a hero? Ha!! Save it for the church crowd.
When the DEA agents turned their attention from me as a suspect or witness and instead as a survivor , they had decided it was time for the government to put out a documentary of a different kind to save lives . They asked me to participate and I was like, uh…nope. I’m not going to come across as the victim addict who lost her daughter and now has wisdom for all. It felt contrived and it felt opportunistic and I couldn’t stomach it. I mean, after all , I’m still a mess over here???! Reality check.
Slowly, there was a shift in my conscience and I decided to do it. I decided to interview as the fuck up I was. It felt selfless enough but it also took the power from my critics . I was coming out on my terms and there was nothing that could be said to hurt me more than I’d hurt myself. Yes, I wanted to make my daughter proud and I also wanted to stop hiding. I wanted to love myself for the first time, and that starts with forgiving myself.
Let me get to my controversial point. I lived with so many secrets and lies for so long that I’m now pathologically drawn to truth. I smile and I’m happy more than unhappy these days. I’m getting there. The documentary is now complete and when the agents approached multiple rehabs , etc for a screening , so many expressed the same concerns . They said the film was dark . They were concerned that it doesn’t send a message of hope. They asked me what I thought…and this is what I said… REALITY CHECK.
I’m alive today and seemingly in okay shape. Yes, I’m writing and advocating and doing everything I believed I never would. So many people have commented that I’m “strong”, whatever that means.
It’s not strength, it’s realization. The root of pain is ego. As in, “I’m the only one”. “Why me?” “No one understands”. “Why should I go on?” “Life’s not fair”. “God is a sadist!” Oh, I hear ya…and I’ve been there. But you see, I decided I needed a reality check. There’s way too much suffering in the world for me to really go on like that.
Yes , I believe in triumph over tragedy. I believe God can take something we destroyed and make it a beautiful testimony . I believe that pain is learning and life is a perpetual lesson. But, here’s what you can’t see with your eyes or necessarily hear with your ears. I’m alive but I’m living as if I’m a brain damaged, quadriplegic who may be breathing and may technically sound and look like I’m doing just fine, yet I’m not. I’m simply choosing to make due with what I have left. I have come to acceptance . Maybe, just maybe, I have more control over now than I admit . I have control over my OUTLOOK. While I still feel pain and longing constantly, I also believe I’ve been given a great gift from my experiences. The gift of empathy. That doesn’t mean my actions and my disease didn’t come with a price too steep to imagine…however.
Addiction and abuse of drugs brings consequence to your soul, if not your life; injury to your heart, if not your body . I will never ever be the woman I was. I have to deal with that. So, while peace and recovery sell and are most IDEALISTIC, let’s talk REALISTIC.
If we are trying to educate our youth on the dangers of drugs , do we not want to warn them, in the interest of full disclosure, that they MAY survive to tell the tale… or they MAY NOT?? They may come out with JUST an experience to share or an experience they can never get away from. They may hurt their loved ones and be forgiven or they may never get a second chance to make it right .
Yes, I’m choosing light over dark but it’s not easy . It’s a conscious choice rather than an subconscious one. A decision I wish I didn’t have to make , with every single breath I fricking take.
I’m so relieved that we have the government, public and celebrity attention to this epidemic costing us our youth and parents, our brave military, our gifted artists, our brilliant doctors and athletes. Though the government reaction was definitely way slow in coming , I believe it IS coming . Still, I am concerned . While celebrity and publicity has been great with all of the major battles of our day between pious morality and humanity, the government has notoriously been the last to the table. We will still see afflicted rot away in jails and prisons and the general public turn a blind eye because it’s not THEIR problem… YET. I see more propaganda on gun control and gay marriage on my Facebook news-feed than I do anything on addiction. I turn on the news everyday to more of the same, with only random reports on drug reform . If addiction and overdose claims more lives everyday than car accidents and gun violence combined and is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, why the hell the deafening silence ? I mean, we had a rally on the mall with some of the best artists of our time and everybody seems to be coming out with their own “come to God” admission on their struggles . So, okay, what’s the breakdown here ? REALITY check, CHECK.
My not so humble opinion as an addict? When former addicts with a brain, voice and backbone sit across from the lawmakers and say , “I’m your constituency and guess what? YOU could’ve been me and I could’ve been YOU, and maybe you ARE me, so where do we start?” When the affected become their own advocates instead of relying on the non addicted to be our voice , we will rattle cages. When the well meaning advocacy groups engage more experts in the field of addiction, aka ADDICTS, we will make a difference. When those who’ve survived to tell, stop trying to out shock and look our reps dead in the eye and say, I want this to end for others because I’ve been through hell, not just read about it…things will change . When someone can admit an addiction in the PTA meeting, and not just a Barbara Walters special, weve made real strides. We aren’t helpless losers who need others to spout statistics and make vids to save us from ourselves.
Yes, draw inspiration from others, I mean we are all human and we are all as mighty as we believe we can be. Sometimes we are weak and lean on others and sometimes others need to lean on us. We are not victims of this disease, we are warriors of it, waging our wars every single second of our lives . Reality check? I hope you believe so. Every person on this planet struggles with the condition of emotional frailty. Sometimes asymptomatic and sometimes it comes out as… an addiction.
Finally, when we look at every single effort on the war on drugs or better yet , the fight against the oldest ailment in time , melancholy… as a unified effort, we will make strides. When we stop waiting for the government to come out with cures or the survivors to come out with stories or celebrities to come out with interviews before we feel worthy to step up for ourselves, and instead claim this battle is waged in ME everyday and I have to save myself …we will overcome . When we stop judging the personal pain of another and show compassion , we will win. No, you may not win by a landslide EVERYDAY but, as long as you keep fighting, you’ll win by a hair …and that’s more than enough.
I respect your right to disagree but , I speak from a place of firsthand knowledge. I choose not to be a victim but to defy… and I reserve the right to give myself a REALITY CHECK.
The Federal documentary on the opiate abuse crisis is scheduled for release within weeks. A media announcement will be made by late January, 2016.