Looking back on my life and where I came from, no matter how bad it seemed, it has shaped me into the woman I am today. I did not come from a privileged family. We grew up in filth and poverty. I had a mom who loved me very much.
She was a single mom who took care of my brother, who was six years older, and me. With my dad not being around, my brother figured he could do whatever he wanted to do. Including being abusive to me. My mom went through a lot of depression because she didn’t know what he was doing to me when she was not around. I hesitated to tell her because I was scared that she would fall into a deeper depression and cause more problem to where I might not see her for a very long time.
The relationship I had with my brother was one that siblings should never have. He physically abused me and mentally corrupted my image of what an older brother should be. He made what he was doing seem as like it was a game we were playing. I believed my brother would do what he said he’d do. On one occurrence I was considered a “missing child” because I went home without telling an adult. My mother was contacted by the school, and the police were called. That day was when my mother found out that he had sexually abused me.
This was not the first time, but it was the first time anyone knew about it. I was taken immediately to the doctor, where they held me down and clarified the damage that had been done. That experience was horrific because they basically reinjured me emotionally as a child who had been through such a traumatic event. My brother was taken from our home, but when he returned, the abuse had not suppressed. I had realized I was done being the victim. Two years later, I left my house and never looked back.
I grew up feeling like something was wrong with me. My life growing up was very chaotic, so I connotated that into what was supposed to be normal. My meter of what was bad or should be scary was completely broken. I had no gauge anymore of what I should fear or what was really bad in my life. I had a strong desire to be loved and wanted to be with somebody who loved me for me and try and fill that void where God’s supposed to go. I wanted to fill that void with sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, and love. Not really believing that I deserved to be loved in a healthy manner.
I would drink on the weekends, smoke pot, party and sing in a band at the bars. I looked like I had my shit together and had a good life going. But really I was fucked up inside, all while not ritualistically using hard drugs.
I was an occasional user. If I or the people around me had drugs, we would use it up until we ran out. We did not go looking for the drugs. We just used if we had them in the moment. It was not until I had become interested in harder drugs that I knew I was becoming an addict. But I did not want to admit it to myself.
For 13 years with my ex-husband, I was unhappy with the life I was living. This was not the father of my children. He was a drug addict at the time we were together. I spent the last eight years of our relationship being the person who went out and looked for the medicine he needed to stay well and not in a violent state. In my mind, I did not think that I deserved anything better than that. I had not found my worth yet. I had a co-dependency of wanting to save him and make him better. I was justifying why he was the person he was. How I was going to live my life each morning, good or bad, depended on how many pills were in the bottle he had. I complained for many years to all my closest friends and family, but I did not know how to leave.
I’d done cocaine, acid and even mushrooms. I’d never really liked pain medication. I now see it as a blessing in disguise that I’m allergic to morphine, so I never wanted to do heroin.
Then meth came into the picture.
I started off smoking it. Maybe once on the weekend every week. Then it increased to a couple times during the week on top of as well as the weekend. We went through a lot of money: about $100 every day for two months. I tried to back off a little bit, but it’s hard when everyone around you wants to keep doing it. I had a mental breakdown when I could not remember what day it was or how I was functioning at work anymore.
I was mad one day because my husband, Brian, and some other people were in my house shooting up, and I was judgmental. But finally, I just watched him get really high, and I was like “Fuck it, I’m doing it”. Either I was going to do it myself and hurt myself, or Brian was going to do it for me. He finally shot me up. I had such a preconceived thought of what was going to happen; but that had all went out the window the minute I felt that first rush.
That was all it took. A that moment I understood why [users] were the way they were. I understood why it was easy to get hooked.
At that point, I lost the control I thought I had once I put a needle in my arm. I no longer had control over my moral compass, of my life, of my kids, of anything that mattered to me, including myself. As soon as I did it, I had never felt that high in my life. Once I figured out how to shoot myself up, that was it. I was hooked not only on the drug — on the feeling — but on the needle. Just the whole process: putting it together and every step of shooting up you get addicted to. Not just getting high … that whole process becomes an addiction.
As time went by, I could see changes in myself and in Brian. The things I would never consider doing before were things I were contemplating doing now. As soon as we moved down the street was when our lives became a nightmare.
I was hallucinating figures that were not real. I had the hindsight somewhat to say I know that this is completely out of control, and I can’t control it anymore. And I don’t want my daughters to be in the fallout of anything that might be coming. Brian and I had several conversations where I looked him in the face and begged him to send everybody away and to stop. The chaos of that, of slowly, literally, losing my mind and not being able to think logical thoughts or put things together in the right order of what was real. I hallucinated the state police coming up my stairs three separate times before it really happened.
Two weeks later, Brian and I were arrested. I did not think the police would ever take me to jail. It didn’t sink in until about day three, when I finally didn’t have any drugs in my system and my head started to clear. Every time that cell door shut, I realized I was not going anywhere. I had really screwed my life up. I stayed there for 31 days.
I did have a moment of surrender. That particular moment was when I was talking to my oldest daughter on her 17th birthday, and it was the first time I wasn’t going to be with her on her birthday. To have to hear my little girl’s voice, I don’t think my heart had ever been broken to that point. It broke that last thread of me holding onto thinking that I was anything but a worthless addict … because that’s what I was at that moment. I knew from when I was a little girl that knowing about God was not a religion, but a relationship with Jesus Christ and letting Him fix what is broken inside of you.
I started going to everything I could while I was in jail. I attended the Reformers Unanimous group that was available while I was in jail. After I got out, I tried going to meetings, but it wasn’t easy. I was hard because I didn’t have Brian with me. We were not home at the same time.
I was staying at his father’s house while he was still in jail. I had relapsed and violated my house arrest because I didn’t care at that point and had not been taking the meetings seriously. I was taken back to jail for three and a half months. At that point, I surrendered completely and gave up everything. After that time was over, I was living at the rental house where we had gotten arrested the night of the fire.
Working the 12 Steps Fellowship Program with a sponsor was hard and scary because I lived most of my life telling people that I was “okay” and having them believe it. But now I have a solid rock: a foundation of happiness I stand on. And I am grateful I have turned the terrible experiences in my life around to help someone who is hurting. I am an active sponsor for people who are trying to turn their lives around. Brian and I both talk to men and women about staying clean, and that it is possible. It is even possible for a couple to do it. By helping other see there is hope, I want them to see there is a better way to live a life free of addiction.
Happiness is a choice. We choose to be happy or sad; we can make a choice to be happy and not be miserable, or we can choose to be depressed and sad for the rest of our life. I still have to choose to have a certain perspective to keep myself on track, and I have to maintain my sobriety every day. I work as hard on my recovery as I did getting high. That is how I stay clean.
The urge and desire to use is gone. I haven’t picked up since. I have a five-second rule. In five seconds if I don’t walk away, it’s going in my arm. I’m an addict. I’m just going to be real with myself. The most significant thing for me is that I realized I’m comfortable in my own skin. I actually know and like who I am, even with my flaws and imperfections.
I’m okay with that.
This story originally appeared in Facing Addiction in East Central Indiana, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Dr. Adam Kuban and the Louis E. Ingelhart Scholars at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.