Clean Date: March 12th, 2017
From: Philadelphia, PA
“In a very generic type of way, I never felt very worthy or lovable. Very early on, I’d find ways to get people to tell me that they liked me by being loud and funny, or by getting really good grades. Regardless of what it was, I always sought validation in external ways. I then discovered alcohol, and found out that I could get really drunk and obnoxious and get the attention that I wanted. Eventually, it got to the point where someone put a substance in front of me and said it would change the way that I felt. I didn’t care what it was, or where they got it, or what the consequences were. They just said those magic words: ‘you’re not going to feel the way you feel,’ and it was a breath of fresh air. After taking my drug of choice for the first time, it just kind of spiraled. The drugs just started to come before everything else. It was like I was in a very intimate, serious relationship with my drug of choice, immediately.
I don’t think hitting ‘rock bottom’ was a specific moment. I think it was a cumulative thing where I just kept hitting bottoms. The consequences were never enough, and it was never scary enough. I was just was completely immersed in that lifestyle. I never knew that there was another way. I would have visions of me in a wedding dress, trying to find a vein. Not living as an addict was never a possibility for me. If I had to pick one, I would say my rock bottom was when I was living in this motel room, and I hadn't looked in the mirror. I hadn’t seen my reflection in a long time. I could do my hair and my eyebrows, but I wasn’t actually looking at myself. One day, I caught a glimpse of myself and it was almost demonic. I didn’t look like myself. It looked like someone was wearing my skin… My eyes were red, and I was covered in bruises from men and needles. I had started to do a lot of things that were demoralizing that we do as addicts. And, it got to the point where I couldn’t even recognize who Abby was anymore. There was no me left. I had become an object.
Although I didn’t know what kind of life I wanted, I did know that I didn’t want to be doing what I was doing. I never knew anyone who got clean or had gone to treatment successfully, but I figured that I had nothing left for me there- I had nothing more to lose. So, I very impulsively called a help line, got on a plane and woke up in a detox in Fort Lauderdale. I had a couple of criminal charges, I was in a really abusive relationship, and just figured there was nothing else to lose, nor was there anything else better to do. I thought, ‘let me just try to save myself.’ A very small part of me thought that was possible. I wish I could say that I stayed clean after treatment, and that I had this very beautiful, eye opening experience. But, I got about four months [clean], and I didn’t listen when they told me to change people, places and things. I immediately hooked back up with the guy I came to Florida, and we started using together. I got high with four people and one of them dropped dead in front of me. After that, I thought, ‘I don’t really want to do this anymore.’ The next day, I went back to treatment, and I’ve been clean since then.
In my opinion, I think treatment helps get you clean, but I work a program of Narcotics Anonymous that keeps me clean. One of the very first things that I learned was that not only were there people who were just like me, and told the same story, but those same people made it out and were better people because of it. All of these idiosyncrasies weren’t coincidental. And, through this shared sickness, they were able to find relief and reprieve. I had always felt so alone- but somehow, I could identify with these people. They would talk about themselves and their situations, and I didn’t feel so defective. I began to feel some unity- like maybe there are other people like me. I learned that I’m not terminally unique, and that was so important for me in the beginning, because I had never felt that before. Now, in the rooms, I am able to see that it’s not just about drugs, it's about other behaviors that we all struggle with. Today, other people offer me hope, and if they can’t offer me hope, they can at least empathize with me. That is a quality in other addicts that is really important to me, because for so long, I was completely alone when I was using. I don’t feel that way anymore.
Today, there’s no chaos. Any chaos I have, I can put down and walk away from. I have such a sense of serenity, and it’s not even boringness, it’s just peace. My problems are all just high class problems. I work on myself every day. When I was using, there was no growth. My life was always either deteriorating or stagnant. Now, I continue to evolve and change, and learn to have intimate, important relationships based on love rather than materialistic things, or give and take. I have a life full of love, and hope, and gratitude, even on my bad days. Before I got clean, I never felt that.
Sometimes, I wish I could just shake people. Or, just shake the version of myself that waited so long to get help. I had always felt like, ‘that won’t work for me,’ or ‘these people don’t understand.’ But, if I could give any advice, it would be: ‘I know exactly how you feel. WE know exactly how you feel. And, there is such a better life waiting for you.’ If you feel like this is not possible, or that you are not worthy, or that seeking help is all nonsense, my advice is: you probably have nothing else to lose, so you might as well just try. Then, you can tell us that we’re wrong.”