That one word has so much depth, and brings back so many memories. The extent to which I could discuss this word endlessly when it relates to my active addiction. I could talk about the times I missed my daughter, the times I voluntarily missed family events and the times I was not invited to family events at all. I could tell you about all of the times I missed work, or deadlines or appointments. About the times I missed laughter and joy. I could even tell you about the times I missed myself so much that I barely remembered who I was before my every thought was consumed by alcohol or drugs. But today, I am going to tell you about the time I went missing, in the literal sense of the word. The day I decided I could no longer go on living that way, and I vanished…
At the end of my active addiction, I had come to the conclusion, as many using addicts do, that I was unworthy of the life I was living; that everyone would be better off without me. I had no intention of ever returning. My plan, and I admit it was a terrible plan, was to buy enough of my substance to hopefully put an end to all of the misery. My hope was to finally find peace, and I truly believed I was doing everyone in my life a favor. I believed, with every breath I took, that I was giving the people in my life who loved me peace as well, or at the very least, allowing them to sleep at night.
I was considered a missing person for 5 days. For 5 long days my daughter, husband and family didn’t know if I was dead or alive. Sadly, I hadn’t even thought about what would happen to my family and friends if my disappearance actually DID mean something to them; the people who still saw something in me that I just couldn’t see in myself. All I knew was that I was miserable and I didn’t believe I would ever get better. I was so consumed with my own pain, I barely noticed anyone else’s. I was tired of disappointing the people who loved me. I was tired of looking in the mirror and not even recognizing my own reflection. I was tired of the lies, manipulation, fatigue and emptiness. I was exhausted...
I remember the night the police officer found me. I could barely walk, I hadn’t eaten in almost a week and I was in the same clothes I was wearing when I left. I remember being furious with that officer for finding me, and even more furious with the motel employee who told him I was there. I had specifically told that employee that I did not want to be found. Apparently, that request is only honored until the police show up looking for you…
As the officer entered my dingy, disgusting motel room, I remember thinking, “I can’t even kill myself right!” I was not a lady that night, and I am sure I did nothing to deserve that officer’s respect. As I was escorted to the crisis center, and then lawfully committed to the mental health facility, I was unrecognizable.
I refused to see anyone that came to see visit me at the crisis center. People were relieved and overjoyed and I was outraged and beside myself. My family filled the waiting room. I remember thinking how ridiculous it was that I was even taken there. “I wasn’t hurting anyone! I shouldn’t be here! I have rights!”
And then the woman from the center gently knocked on the door and told me my sponsor was there…and my head fell to my chest. I knew I had to see her. I thought she was going to walk in and let me have it; tell me what a horrible person I was, but she didn’t. She walked in and hugged me as I began to sob. She sat with my in silence while I cried. She reached into her purse, dug out a granola bar she had packed for me and instructed me to eat it. She asked me if I knew how long I had been missing, if I knew how many people had been looking for me? I answered no to both questions. And then she told me…
I had been reported missing on a Sunday morning by my mother, which is the same day I turned my phone off. I was located late Thursday night. In my absence, flyers had been posted and passed around town, friends put together search parties and family members called every single hotel/motel in the city. Friends had posted my picture on Facebook and it was shared hundreds of times. I was suddenly humiliated and all I could think of was my daughter. The despair hit me so hard I could barely breath.
I don’t know what happened to me that day, call it a spiritual awakening, surrender or acceptance, but I realized I was going to have to make a decision about my life.
1. My daughter could grow up with a mother in active addiction.
2. My daughter could grow up without a mother at all because she died from her addiction.
3. My daughter could grow up with a mother who had once lost herself, but persevered and overcame her demons.
I still remember vividly the first thing my daughter said to me when I was finally able to call her.
“Mommy, I thought you didn’t want to talk to me anymore.”
She cried. I cried. She was 4 years old and I was heartbroken. How could I do that to her?
I knew then my only choice was recovery. I didn’t know how I was going to do it and I was scared to death, but in that moment I knew that I would be willing to go to any lengths to get healthy. I started that day, by taking the suggestions of my sponsor, a woman who has not left my side since. I ate that granola bar, even though I told her I wasn’t entirely sure I could keep it down. And I have continued to follow those suggestions throughout my journey…one day at a time.
Something I appreciate about my recovery is that it has taught me to offer my hand to others who are struggling. When I was almost 1 year sober, I returned to that same crisis center I had been taken to after I was located; only this time I wasn’t there for me, I was there to help a friend who had found herself in the same hopeless situation I was once in. When I arrived, I calmly talked to my friend and agreed to get her home safely.
There was an officer there who asked to take down my information. I remember him giving me a curious look while he was taking the information off of my driver’s license. I thought maybe he was taking pity on me, questioning how one addict could possibly help another stay clean and sober? He proceeded to hand my information back to me, told me good luck and my friend and I were on our way.
The next morning, my parents received a knock on their door at about 7:30am. It was the same officer that I had seen the day before. I’m sure, although my mother probably won’t admit it, my parents were thinking, “Oh Lord, here we go again!” Because he was, after all, the same officer who had found me when I had gone missing a year prior. I hadn’t even recognized him, and I am not surprised he had trouble recognizing me.
What happened when my mother opened the door is just a testament to what recovery was starting to do for my life. He told her not to worry, I wasn’t in any trouble. He said that I had been at the crisis center the day before, in an attempt to help my friend. He wanted to tell her how proud he was of me, that I was willing to go back to where I had been on that fateful night in order to extend a caring hand to a friend. He said that he rarely gets to see what happens after people leave and go about their lives. Sadly, he usually only sees them again if they find themselves in trouble. He said it was pretty amazing to see someone who was once so lost, turn their life around the way that I had.
Wow! I still get tears in my eyes when I reflect on this. That officer DID NOT have to take time out of his day to go speak with my parents, but he did. I am forever grateful to him for doing this. Because of his kind gesture, I started to realize that I had changed. It made me want to continue working even harder to be a better person.
To this day, I do not remember that officer’s name, but I remember how he made me feel. I am thankful to him for seeing me as a sick person and not a bad one.
My life has grown so much since that day. The gifts of recovery are abundant and I can honestly say I feel my Higher Power working in my life every single day. I have continued to change daily. Some change is uncomfortable, and along with it comes feelings of fear and countless tears. Some change is so beautiful I can hardly believe that it is happening to this once hopeless addict.
When I came into recovery, I was an absent mother, my husband had filed divorce and I was up to my eyeballs in legal and financial consequences. Today, my life has been restored. I am a loving mother who actively participates in her daughter’s life. By the grace of God, I am still married and have a new appreciation for my husband. And I have finally found the woman who went missing for all of those years. I am alive, I enjoy life, I laugh often and I set goals.
I have hope and I carry that hope with me wherever I go, whether it’s into the rooms, treatment centers, hospitals or prisons.
When I first came into recovery, they told me to keep coming back. Today, I have decided to just stay.
We do recover!