Clean Date: August 24,2016
From: Marietta, GA
“My journey to addiction started, I think primarily as a coping mechanism. I didn’t have many [coping mechanisms] and the ones I was taught as a child were kind of ‘use, hurt yourself, or hurt someone else.’ Primarily as a kid I said I was ‘never gonna use,’ because my mom was an addict and I was so against it. You know what I mean? I was so ‘better than that’ and so self righteous. And then one day, I started smoking weed and I started drinking, and no one really had a problem with it. I thought everything was fine.
My addiction before drugs was definitely validation and someone telling me I was ‘doing a good job.’ I did really well in school and I did well in dance. I did theater and I was head of costume crew. I was an overachiever and participated in as many things as I could. I really needed that validation and when I found drugs, which at first didn’t interfere with any of that, I thought it was absolutely fine. My drug use really just started as recreational and fun, but for me it never ended. A lot of people could just do it once or twice, or on the weekends or at high school parties, and that was it. But, especially once I started smoking, drugs were a constant everyday sort of thing for me.
Being in active addiction, for me, meant completely disassociating from reality. My goal was to disconnect, to shutdown my feelings, and to avoid all of the things that I couldn’t find acceptance for. What brought me to recovery was hopelessness. I kept finding myself in situations where I was completely isolated and wanting to die. I kept going to jail and getting Baker Acted, and I had burned my bridges with almost everyone. I was ready for change. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to do things differently.
My life in recovery is very full! I am very busy with a lot of really beautiful things. I have amazing relationships with my friends and I’m in the first healthy romantic relationship I’ve ever been in. I have my own life and she has her own life, and we meet somewhere in the middle. I’m rebuilding relationships with my family and I’m able to show up for the people I love. And I’m able to show up for myself. That’s something that I never had before; I was never able to pay myself any respect.
For others struggling with addiction, my advice is to reach out for help, to let go of your ego and your pride, and let someone guide you. It’s really an individual journey for each person, but you have to be willing to listen. Be willing to open your ears and listen to another human being. That was so important for me, notably in early recovery. I needed to see that it was possible [to get clean] and that someone else had done it. I just never saw that growing up.
I do think a big part of my addiction story is codependency. Codependency was tied-in so tightly with my addiction. I carried the caretaking mentality into all of my romantic relationships and all of my friendships after taking care of my mother, or trying to, and trying to save her. My ability to connect with other people was always about everyone else, especially while using [drugs]. I struggled, especially in early recovery, to identify how I was feeling or to identify what I wanted to do. I gained the ability to say ‘no.’ Nothing feels as good as saying ‘no’ and not having to explain myself and being okay with that.
I’m currently a case manager at Recovery Unplugged. I mainly help put together the pieces of things that are happening outside of treatment. I help with employment and with legal matters. I talk to people's probation officers and attorneys and their bosses. I also help set up after-care planning, although not everyone is always receptive.
My biggest takeaway from recovery is that there’s no lost cause. There’s hope for anyone and anyone that wants to get clean can get clean. But you HAVE to want it. It doesn’t matter where you come from, it doesn’t matter if you’ve done half the things I’ve done or if you’ve done 8x worse; if you want to get clean you can. But you have to do the work.”