Yes it’s true. What you are looking at is exactly what you think you see. These days I have become accustomed to the uncomfortable glances and stares people give me when I roll up my sleeves and show my arms. I want to say something to you. I want to say something to help you understand, but I don’t.
Society has proven to be unaccepting and harsh. So I stay silent.
We have all received scars in our lives at one point or another. Perhaps as a child you fell off your bike as you explored without a care in the world.
If you are a mother, like myself, you may have stretch marks from the nine months your body miraculously housed your pride and joy.
Some of us have had various surgeries to fix minor and major physical ailments that needed repair. These scars all have a story. Most people are eager to reminisce when asked about their scars.
Yet, not all scars can be worn with such openness.
This remains true for many of us who have used drugs intravenously. They are called track marks. Just saying these two words can induce feelings of disgust and hate.
When I look down at my arms, it invokes so many feelings and memories. Sometimes I map out my scarred veins, it reminds me of constellations in the sky. It’s quite possible I could find the Big Dipper or O’ Ryans belt if I looked hard enough. However, this isn’t the purpose of my writing today.
I want people to see these marks on my arms and others as a sign of tremendous strength. I fought a battle that so many people are tragically losing these days.
These scars have a story and it is one worth telling.
I never want to go back to the hopelessness I felt. I never want to use again. So I want to share my story. Isolation is exactly what my addiction wants, it flourishes in the loneliest of atmospheres and feeds on shame.
I acquired these scars while in the grips of a horrible addiction to heroin and cocaine. These were the darkest times in my life and I was on the verge of death. In fact, I had overdosed numerous times, and somehow managed to escape dying each time, thanks to the lifesaving medication called narcan.
I lost everything important in my life to addiction. My kids, my mom, my sister, my soulmate and even myself.
I was unrecognizable. I can’t even begin to explain, the pain that was caused by my raging addiction.
Even in the midst of such despair, I never gave up on trying to get clean. I scratched and clawed my way out of a hole six feet deep. It took determination and courage to get where I am today. I’m back to being a mom to my beautiful 11 year old daughter and 5 year old son. I’m a sister and an auntie. I’m back to being a daughter. I’m slowly earning trust back from my loved ones and building new healthy relationships in recovery.
My track marks are still visible and while they may fade over time, many of them, I’ll have for the rest of my life. I am writing this in hopes that society becomes more accepting, and loving to addicts in recovery and more importantly to the addicts still suffering.
I’m not naive though. I know that breaking the stigma is not something that will happen overnight or even this year. Yet, I hope to help plant the seed, shed sunlight and water it, as it is a first step in the right direction.
Most importantly I am writing this to help the addicts who bare these same scars. You are NOT alone. You are a warrior whose battle scars shouldn’t have to be concealed. Too many addicts are hiding in the shadows of society as the negative stigma is so intense and the consequences of asking for help can be scary.
What if sharing our stories could begin to open the lines of communication? A domino effect that could potentially impact millions of addicts.
This could provide a learning opportunity to educate and empower others through our own experiences. It’s time we start trying to save lives instead of destroying them through judgement and stereotypes.
Addiction is what tears us apart. We as people should be taking whatever measures possible to do the exact opposite.
I want my track marks to symbolize hope to those who feel hopeless. I am not trying to glorify/ In fact, I’m trying to dissuade others from choosing a life of angst.
I want to say something. I want to share my story. I want to help you understand, but perhaps you already do.