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[ Personal Narratives ]

Falling In Love With Life After Active Addiction

My experience with addiction has changed me in multiple ways: physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually. You’d be hard pressed to find a recovering heroin and/or opiate addict that doesn’t feel exactly the same way. Of course, there a subtle differences. Every addict has their own habits and rituals, but not a single one could say that these life altering substances have not affected their lives in a negative manner at least eventually, if not immediately.

It was when I took a deep breath one day that I realized just how much these substances had changed me and I could not stand to think about what a worthless piece of human garbage I felt like I had become. Track marks up and down my entire body, from endless days of trying to hit a vein and constantly getting frustrated and missing causing more harm to my body in the long run than any sense of relief I got momentarily in the end when I’d get “lucky” and actually find a vein I hadn’t already ruined with my constant drug abuse.

But the struggle didn’t start out “illegal” or “bad” in the eyes of most people in society. It all started in July 2006, when my best friend (who was driving drunk) flipped her black Jetta over seven times on the Whitten Road in Augusta, shortly after the bars had all closed at 1 a.m. I was in the backseat, her boyfriend in the front. We survived. She was not so lucky. I don’t remember much from the immediate crash except feeling the tires hit a soft shoulder on the side of the road, and BAMMMM! My life changed! Just like that—and hers ended! Her two young daughters, left without their mother.

I remember thinking, “Why? If there is a God, then why would he take her instead of me? Why would he take the life of a mother of two beautiful young girls?” I didn’t understand it and I still don’t to this very day.

My counselor called in “survivor’s guilt.” I couldn’t even express how I felt for months following the car crash. I barely spoke at all for a couple of months following this experience. I was basically forced to seek counseling for this by my family and friends because I wasn’t talking to anyone about what happened or how I was feeling. I was numb. I had lost my very best friend, the person I called whenever I had good news or bad news, the person I leaned on and opened up to more than anyone in my entire life and she was just gone. I laid awake most nights just crying quietly, hoping my parents wouldn’t hear me and come in asking if I wanted to “talk.”

I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t really have the desire to even live at this point. It’s difficult to express exactly how I felt. I was not suicidal—but I was, for lack of better words, completely and utterly numb.

Things that once meant the world to me no longer seemed to matter to me at all. I felt like a zombie or a ghost, just wandering around aimlessly never with any purpose or meaning to it at all. I believe this was a defense mechanism, a way to allow me to live with my many life experiences, this one just being the most tragic and the most recent. But, it was no way to live at all.

At first, my doctor prescribed me anxiety medication as well as pain medication for my aches, pains, and extreme anxiety and panic attacks.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have never taken that first oxy in July of 2006. For a long while, I only took my pain medication as prescribed legally, but after about a year and a half, things began to spiral out of control. I was taking more and more of them to deal with my chronic back pain from the car crash.

Then, one day a “friend” if that’s what you want to call her, asked me if she could have a couple of my oxys. I didn’t see the harm in letting her have a couple of them because she was complaining about her sprained ankle and how much it hurt to walk on. Immediately, when I handed them to her she put them down on the table, laying a cellophane over them, and crushed them up with her lighter. She pulled her debit card out, put the powder into a line and then used a small straw to snort the line. Apparently, I was naive and hadn’t ever thought of this or thought that people did this. This is how it all began. This was the beginning of the end.

Slowly, I began trying this as well. I was realizing how much harder the drug hit me and how much better I felt instantly—then slowly turned into frequently, and frequently turned into that being the only way I would administer the oxy to myself anymore. I should have known then what was going on and how slippery this slope was but I either ignored those feelings or just truly didn’t care in the moment.

A few years of this, I was starting to run out of my pain medication too early every month. I ended up needing to spend money on the streets, purchasing more. Then I was introduced to a much less expensive but deadly concoction known as heroin. For a long while, I would only purchase it if I couldn’t find oxys, but like everything else, that changed with time as well. I began to prefer it because I was suddenly broke way more often than not, and I couldn’t stand how I felt without opiates in my system.

After a couple years of this struggle, I became curious about “shooting” the drug because it seemed like a lot of my “friends” at the time were doing it and that they got a much more intense effect than I did. And so it began.

Needles. Yuck. To this day, I am only a little over 9 months clean and sober from all opiates but I still can not believe I allowed myself to go down this spiraling path of hell. At first, I couldn’t even shoot up myself—I had my “friend” doing it for me. Just like with everything else, over time the addiction grew worse and worse and I began trying to do it on my own. More often than not, I was unsuccessful, but once you do anything at all for a certain amount of time you begin to figure out tricks and how exactly to do whatever it is that you want to do.

I realize now that during my time of active addiction I became someone I had promised myself and prided myself in not being. I was lying constantly to family and friends—and had absolutely no problem doing that. I was high and didn’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thought of me. Honestly, I’ve kind of always had that attitude, but not like this. This was different. This felt wrong, down to my core. It hurt. It hurt my heart and my soul. I didn’t want this for myself any longer. I didn’t want to feel like I couldn’t live without a certain substance running through my veins or up my nose. I just wanted to feel normal again, whatever that feels like.

I’m still not even sure if I know what that feels like yet. Recovery is new to me at just over 9 months sober, but one thing I do know is that I feel in control and during active addiction I definitely was not in control whatsoever. I still to this day am not sure why I ever did all of the things I did, except maybe to mask all of these emotions and all of the physical and mental and emotional pain I had been in for so very long.

I contemplated quitting multiple times, probably thousands. I actually tried to quit on my own several times but just couldn’t seem to get myself through the withdrawal stages of addiction. If there is one thing that reminds me that I never want to go back to that life it is the pain and misery I went through when I was in withdrawals.

Another is realizing just how few “true friends” I really had. I must have deleted over 100 numbers out of my phone. One day, I up and decided enough was enough. I had a doctor’s appointment that morning, and I could barely walk. I was so messed up on a concoction of prescription drugs and heroin—but I spilled my guts to my PCP. I had finally done what I had talked about and had wanted to do for so damn long. I told him everything.

One would think that it would be a miserable feeling to admit to such a huge mistake, but it actually felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I just had to get through this. I had to go check myself into the hospital as my doctor suggested and beat this thing once and for all.

At the hospital, many of the nurses and other individuals had also suffered from addiction as well and were wonderful people who had turned their lives around for the better and were now helping others with the same issues. This gave me a sense of purpose, a sense of commitment and hope! I began to think about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. This was a question I had not pondered at all in about 10 years and the answer was simple for me. I just wanted to be healthy and happy and to eventually be able to help other addicts get the help that they needed and to be a sounding board for them like so many of you have been for me.

No, I don’t attend NA or AA. Those meetings tend to wind me up worse than anything, so I found my own individual way of coping and getting through my tough days in a more private individual manner by talking with my amazing counselor, my family, boyfriend, and only close friends.

I began to do things I loved again! I began to write stories and poetry as well as in a journal, and I began coloring in adult coloring books to fill my free time and to once again experience my creative artistic side. I began reading again—a lot. I couldn’t go back to playing sports like before because of my back injury but my parents bought me a Fitbit for my birthday and I began taking walks, longer and longer walks. I found my love for nature again. I found my love for life again and for all of these things I will be forever grateful.

For each and every day that passes, I am grateful to still be here for my family and friends. I am even more grateful that I am really here. I’m not high: their words don’t go in one ear and out the other. I listen and I connect with them on an emotional level which I definitely didn’t do for about 10 years.

I know, I know, that’s a long time. It took a long time for me to admit I had a problem. I was just too afraid of what my family and friends would think and do and how they would react. Surprisingly, they supported me, they loved me, and they saw me through it all and they still are.

If there is one thing you can take from my long monotonous story it’s that recovery is possible no matter what you think, no matter how far gone you are, you can always come back. You can always reach deep down inside to your heart and pull out the good in you and put that good on blast! DO IT! And do it proudly!

Do I regret my actions during my active addiction? Absolutely.

Do I feel ashamed? I did at first. But now, I realize addiction is an illness and should be treated as such. No one should ever be ridiculed or harassed over their past when trying to change their future for the better! Remember that!

Before I decided to quit doing drugs, I felt hopeless and alone. Now, I feel empowered by my decision, empowered by my sobriety and determined to help others fighting this battle that I had been fighting for so damn long, all alone. Now, I have family and friends that support me and that I can talk to about things on my harder days.

The only thing I wish I could change is, I wish I could have been honest and open with my family and close friends sooner but I did it and that’s all that really matters.

Always REMEMBER you CAN do ANYTHING you put your mind, heart, and soul into and so I shall and you should too!