Growing up, I got the typical drug talk. And by that I mean I had one class in 6th grade that taught me two things:
1. “Just say no”
2. Addiction and alcoholism only happened to a certain group of people.
Once I got to high school, my parents would warn me about the dangers of drinking and experimenting, but it was more like “if you get too drunk, call us and we will come get you.” So, in my distorted 15-year-old mind, I had a free pass to party as much as I wanted — as long as I didn’t drink and drive or get pregnant. Throughout my early years, I wasn’t really exposed to addiction, specifically to drugs and alcohol, up close until my stepbrother began using when he was 11. The chaos that ensued for years would end up being something I myself would do.
My senior year of high school, I drank almost every night of the week and smoked a lot of weed, but I never did anything harder. I was that rebel who didn’t want to listen and just wanted to party and get attention. After graduation though, when all of my friends left for college, I hadn’t really planned for anything. I wanted to go to fashion school, but I was so busy partying that I didn’t put things in place to make that happen. It was also at this point that I realized I was definitely a lesbian. What do you get when you add an angsty teenager who is bipolar and has just figured out that she is in love with her straight best friend? The worst kind of storm. So, rather than investing in my future and dealing with my problems, I ended up continuing down a dark path of drug addiction and criminal behavior.
It was during this time that I ended up meeting someone who would forever change my life.
I met Mal in late 2006. We immediately clicked and were instantly inseparable. Mal and I were like two lost souls who found something in each other. Of course, I had other best friends and more stable relationships, but with Mal, it was like I felt chosen. She was so beautiful and popular, and she picked me to spend almost all of her time with. The problem was we both loved drugs.
For about six months we spent every day and almost every night together. We went to parties together, we bought drugs together, we shoplifted together, and we even spent time with our families together. Soon this would all come to a screeching halt.
In the summer of 2007, my family went on vacation to Florida for two weeks, leaving my stepbrother and me at home alone. This, of course, meant party time! Except for that party only lasted one night.
That night, Mal and I mixed a handful of substances: alcohol, marijuana, methadone, and cocaine via IV needle. I remember her being upset about a boy and just wanting to go to sleep in my bed, so we did. What I didn’t know is that Mal had taken Xanax to come down from all the coke she had been doing. No one knew, and we went to bed not realizing the dangers that lay ahead.
When I woke up in the morning, I decided to let Mal sleep because she had work later that night. But when I came back to wake her up around 5 pm, she was grey and her eyes were rolled back. I quickly called my step brother and he tried waking her, but to no avail. Mal had died of a lethal combination of opiates, benzos, alcohol, and cocaine.
Soon after Mal’s death, my parents sent me to a drug rehab for the first time — but I wasn’t ready. All I could think was “I should’ve known better. I should have stopped her. This is all my fault.” I began using even more and, eventually, I became a full-blown IV heroin addict. My life spiraled out of control. I tried rehab so many times, yet I just couldn’t stay sober. I was homeless, full of guilt and shame, and ready to give up on life.
Then one day I overdosed and was legally dead for a few minutes. The only thing I remember from that near-death experience is seeing Mal. She told me it wasn’t my time, and that she was sorry, and that there was more for me to do in this life. Granted, I kept using when I woke up, but things were different this time around. After a few more drug rehabs and a few relapses, I finally found it: sobriety. I gave it my all and now I have over four years of continuous recovery.
Thanks to sobriety I was able to come to terms with Mal’s death. It was no one’s fault, not even fully hers. None of us understood the dangers of drugs. I hope this story reaches one person who needs to hear that there is life after addiction. There is a way out — death doesn’t have to be the end.