They say no one ever quite forgets their first love. Maybe because long after it ends, our first love holds some type of power over us. A haunting, bittersweet grip on our psyches, pulling us back to what was —what could never be again. But why? Why should this one lodge in our brains be any different than the others? Even when the others were longer, better, more right? Probably because nothing is quite as intense as our first. For me, it was Friday, October 20, 2006. I was 17 years-old about to meet mine. Close to everyone I knew had a boyfriend. Except for me. I always felt like a permanent third wheel. But all of that was about to change. At the time, my high school best friend, Hannah was dating this guy, Lee. Technically, he was a freshman at some local community college. Formally, a high school senior, Lee was always a year ahead. But now that his grade was out, mine was officially in. I couldn't believe it was finally my last year at Cherry Hill East. It's like, I knew we'd eventually get here. But it always felt so far away. I didn't think the time would actually come. It's weird thinking about that now. And rather hard to explain. I'm sure you know what I mean. Anyway, Lee and I were friends. All of us were. My group —about eight gal pals and I used to hang out together on random drunken-fun school nights —basically, all of my junior year. Weekends too, of course. Lee had been trying to set me up with one of his friends. But so far, none were up to par. I wouldn’t call myself picky. It's just, back then, I was still a virgin —something most girls weren't. It was senior year, after all. And a lot of people I knew had lost it years ago. I guess I've always been a late bloomer. Because I had just started getting boobs —something I longed for as long as I can remember. Now, I was not by any means a prude. But as non-traditional as I've always been, I kind of wanted my first time to be with someone special. And it seemed like that someone was also very far away. There was this one guy. But he was only nice to me behind closed doors. I knew my first could not be with him. He was from the other side of town. An innate bad boy. A player for sure. But for some reason, he seemed to like me. Because we had been on and off for the past three years. And since you know I was still a virgin, you also know we clearly never slept together. That made me think he liked me for me. But you'll later learn, it wasn't so black and white. Nothing ever is. And at the time, I hadn't heard from Troy (his name) in a few weeks. And so, Lee promised he'd find me, someone, better. Thus far, he wasn't having much luck. He kept saying I was too pretty for most of the guys he knew. But he wasn't about to give up and I was more determined than ever. So one night, a week before Halloween, Hannah and I are at Lee's parent's house. That's when this guy, Lee's friend Zander comes by. Apparently, this kid had his license taken away (too many DUI's). Lee also said he had to get a new cell phone —basically every other week because he'd get rage drunk and throw it against a wall. So yeah, keep that in mind. Because Lee didn't think I'd want another bad boy. Except at the time, I didn't know what I wanted. I remember saying, "I'll know when I know." And this is how it goes.
I'm standing at my bathroom sink. Yesterday. I just got out of the shower. As I brush my tangled wet hair, I stare. I stare at myself in the mirror hanging in front of me. Only, I'm not looking at me. I mean, yeah physically I am. But my eyes are somewhere else. I hear a song. It's playing in the background on my Alexa. My heart starts beating really fast. And I need to sit down. I'm not sad though. But I'm not happy either. It's a strange feeling and it starts to take over as the song continues to linger in the background. It's a song I've listened too many times —a song I haven't really heard since 2011. It's a song that seemed to always play every time I was with them. Jay and Matt. My two best friends at the time. We're strangers now. Maybe that's why it's so weird. Because I'm standing here —in the bathroom I stand in nearly every single day. But at this moment, it's like I'm transported back. And now, I'm reliving memories of a different me. Only it's not. Because I'm physically the same person. And that's the weirdest part. Because it seems like a lifetime ago and yesterday —all at the same time. Because what I see, is this carefree girl riding around with her two good friends. And it's killing me. Because it will never go back to the way it was. And even though I know that's a good thing, at this moment, it doesn't feel good. Why did it have to happen like that? Why did I let that shit consume me? Because no matter how hard I tried to pretend I was OK, I simply wasn't. This is what you need to know.
Opioid withdrawal is perhaps the hardest part of addiction recovery. It consumes you. Both physically and mentally. In fact, I'm not sure which one is worse. I do, however, know that you’re sick. Really sick and in pain. A lot of pain. Your joints ache. Hell, everything aches. All you want to do is sleep. So you lie down, but you can't get comfortable. Restless. So you get up, but you're too weak to do anything. So you get back in bed. And it's the same thing all over again. Here's what you need to know.
It all started because I had nowhere else to go. Well, technically I was still a resident at that Delray Beach halfway house I had been living at for the past few weeks. It's just, my tenant status was about to erupt. And my world was about to go up in smoke. As if it hadn't already. Because that's just it. It was all smoke and mirrors. You can only fake it 'till you make it for so long. And after failing a surprise drug test, instead of getting kicked out (which is normally how it goes down), the house manager said she saw something in me that she didn't see in anyone else. So she decided to put me on probation rather than kicking me to the curb. You'd think I would have been happy. I guess a part of me was. But for some reason, I was pissed. Truth is, I was in a full-blown relapse. Wanting —turned into doing and before I knew it, I was doing it every single day. It didn't help that my new boyfriend was a straight up junkie. Like between the two of us, we couldn't fucking stop. And then, the other night like a few days ago, when I couldn't fall asleep, instead of counting sheep, I spiraled. It felt like I was back there on that awful fucking night. Long story short, I found an article of this guy I used to know. And I say that with a mouth full of rage. Because this particular guy was just sentenced to 35 years in federal prison. What did he do? Well, he raped this 23-year-old girl. And he also raped me. It's not exactly what you're thinking. I'm sorry to say it's probably worse. So when I found out that he's been doing the same shit this entire time to even more vulnerable girls —well, it pissed me off even more. The worst part is, I've never really talked about this shit like ever. I don't even like to think about it. But seeing his photo and his victim's description of the attack, it made me even madder that I didn't speak up before. Because everything she said —like her description of the event, it gave me the fucking chills. Because it's quite literally what happened to me. Here's what you need to know.
I don't understand how something so bad, can feel so good? At least it used too. Because when shit was good, it was real good. But when it was, it was really bad. I’ll never forget the first time I met Aiden's mom. I don't think she will either. Actually, I know she won't. Like if I was nervous about not being memorable, I didn't have to be. I definitely nailed that one. And then some. Was that a good thing? That was yet to be determined. I remember knocking on Aiden's front door. I remember walking in and asking, does anyone need help? Maybe I'd bond with his family over dishware and table settings. Because it was your standard meet the parent's dinner. It started off with your typical clichéd pleasantries —a.k.a. a bunch of small talk; filled with vivid introductions —telling Aiden's mom how much I adore her son. I wanted them all to get a sense of who I was. More importantly, I wanted to imply that she did a wonderful job raising a wonderful kid. For the record, that wasn't totally true all of the time. But she didn't need to know that. Hey, I wanted to make a good impression. For the record, an impression was certainly made. Because Aiden's mom said, she was happy he found such a good girl like me. So yeah, thus far, the evening was going way better than I thought. It's just, I wasn't as graceful as I wanted to be. Because the night ultimately ends with me running away from the dining room table crying. It was more of a laughing cry. But yeah. There were definitely tears. Here's how it all went down.
I was never the type to chase a guy. Things with Aiden were going pretty well. So, I didn't really have too. But then, things took a turn. Not yet though. There was still some time in-between. But when it all came to a head, it's like; how did I not see this coming? Because we were getting high nearly every other day. But I was getting away with it, which made it all seem OK. As if me not getting caught justified our addict behavior. It didn't. I see that now. I was in over my head. But I couldn't understand that back then. Even if I did —because I'm pretty sure that's the case, I wouldn't let myself go there. I remember living with this awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. My anxiety hit like a permanent hot flash. The truth struck like a chain of explosives. Was today the day? The day my mom would decide to drug test me? That was yet to be determined. Because I wasn't sure how long I could keep everything up. It's just, I knew I couldn't call it quits either. Like I said, in over my head. Because once I started, I quite literally couldn’t stop, which is around the time I lost control. Because that's just it. I had the will to do good but not the power. I mean, how can you stay sober when the guy you're seeing always wants to get high? Because relationships are hard enough. They carry enough shit on their own. But when you add in maintaining your sobriety while trying to maintain a healthy relationship —well, it's nearly impossible for you to do both. So that's where I was at. And this is how it all went down.
He was supposed to come over while my mom was at work the following day. I was already breaking the rules. What the fuck, Macey. I don't know what I was thinking. The truth is, I probably wasn't. There was just something about him. Something about him that made me lose control. But I wasn't about to let him know that. I knew how to work it. So at the last minute, I pretend something came up. And I ditch him. Not in a mean way. I was playing hard to get. I guess I played too hard. Because this was around the time he thought I wasn't interested. And I shouldn't have been. But I was. I was also eight months clean, which doesn't really count —seeing that most of my sober time was spent in rehab. There's no temptation when you're behind bars. The true test comes when you transition back into reality. Would I pass? Or, would I fail? I choose the ladder. Because I had been home for less than two weeks and me wanting to get high had already turned into a full-blown relapse. So yeah, that's around the time I lost control. And that's why they say not to date anyone when you're in early recovery. On one hand, yes, it's entirely possible for a romantic relationship to succeed when you're newly sober. However, studies show that most intimate relationships that occur within the first year of sobriety tend to take a turn for the worse. From what I'm about to tell you, I think you'll see why. It's just, if you knew what I was really up too, you'd know I wasn't actually sober anymore. Because what I haven't mentioned is how Aiden and I met. Here's what you need to know.
I guess I thought I was just too far gone. What’s the point anyway? But there was. There always is. If you remember from a few posts back, I was faking it as a healthcare recruiter —my first official post-graduation job. Employee by day. Drug addict at night. Eventually, though, those two worlds collide. When I decide to pick up more drugs instead of going back to work, I end up getting fired. As if I didn't see this coming. Because I wasn’t as good as my boss originally thought I’d be. I knew why. But she didn’t. And that’s the point. “You have so much potential, Macey," she said. Potential I wasn't using; I was using pills instead. I was also using my lunch break to score those pills. Because I had to have something to snort if I wanted to get out of bed. But I didn’t work too well on them either. I remember falling asleep multiple times in the bathroom. "Where’s Macey?" That’s when shit got really bad. Bad enough to accept an offer I should have refused, which initiated a chain of events that really fucked my world. That's the easiest way to put it. From one proposition to another, I became the person I said I'd never be. Here's what happened to me.
I was physically, mentally, and emotionally deteriorating. I had never been this depressed before. I didn’t even look like me anymore. And I hated the person I had become. But I wasn’t willing to change or do anything about it. I'd only complain. And then I'd get high. You could count on me for that. It's just, I'd only get like this whenever I was running low. So I made sure that didn't happen very often. As a result, I dug myself into a pretty big black hole. Rock bottom as they call it. There was no way out. There was no light either. Well, I could think of one. And it came from the foiled reflection whenever I'd smoke another pill. What the fuck was I going to do? This time around, I had no clue. On top of everything, I was pretty much in denial. Because I wouldn't let myself go there. As you know, I'd get high instead. I was literally obsessed with those things. My pills. And it nearly killed me. Because eventually, I became willing to do just about anything to get and stay high. From one job to another, I schemed my way in and out; until there was nothing left. Until there was nothing left to do but sell my damn dignity. Essentially, that's what I had been doing the entire time. I mean, you don't go from 130 pounds to 87.5 because you're healthy. I wasn't healthy. I didn't look healthy. At first, I could hide it. It wasn't that noticeable. But after a year or so of the same shit different day, I remember my dad saying I looked like a freaking cancer patient. And still, I insisted I was fine. I just haven't been as hungry, I'd say, which was true. Except, I left out why. Because I'd replace my meals with pills —hunger was more of an afterthought. Somehow though, I managed to get by. Well, until I didn't. Here's what you need to know.
It was February 2012. And my roommate just evicted me. I had 24 hours to get the fuck out. What was I going to do? There was only one thing. I'd have to beg my sister to let me stay with her. At least until I figured out a more permanent solution. Because I couldn't live with her, in the state I was in, for too long. I could keep up appearances but only for a little while. I mean, she knew what I looked like at my best. And I was anything but that this time around. Like when I first moved to Boca, I stayed with her. But that was when I was functioning. You know —like a functioning addict. It's just now, I was a GOD damn mess. I didn't even recognize myself anymore. I wasn't the happy girl I used to be. I hadn't been in years. My skin, pale. Face, sunken. Eyes, blank. The mere thought of who I had become filled my insides with terror. But no one knew that. I made sure of it. Because whenever I'd get high, which was most of the time, I was on top of the world. I could do anything I wanted. I certainly didn't need anyone either. These drugs became my best friend (my only friend) and my worst enemy. It's confusing, I know. Because if I wasn't fucked up, I couldn't do anything at all. Or, at least that's how it felt. Because once that feeling faded (it always does), I'd feel more alone than ever, which is why I became willing to do just about anything to make sure that didn't happen. And that's how I found myself at rock bottom for the very first time.
It was nearly 3 a.m. and I couldn’t sleep. I’d toss and turn and remanence. Unwillingly. I had gotten pretty good at this whole insomniac thing. For once though, I didn’t want to be good. But I was trying. I was trying a lot of things. I was trying to forget, trying to forgive, and trying my best to move on. It’s just, sometimes, your best isn’t enough. I know I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. But like I said, I was trying. So yeah. I wish I could tell you after I escaped things went back to normal. I wish I could tell you I woke up every morning with a new found motivation to get things right. And I wish I could say that I wasn’t still reeling the loss of everything in between. Because that would be a lie. I mean, I was free. That was true. I was living with my dad and his roommate’s family in Naples, Florida. I was safe. I was sober. But it was far from over. This is how it goes.
I've always wondered what it would be like to look at myself and see what's actually there. When I stare back at my reflection in the full-length mirror that hangs from my bathroom wall, I don't see what you see. The eating disorder community calls this body dysmorphic disorder. I call it my every day. I've also wondered what it would be like to not compulsively obsess about my appearance. Because I'm not vain but my eating disorder would tell you otherwise. Even though I'm not "active" in it anymore, I find that it still creeps up. Because when I wake up each morning, I run to the scale. Depending on what reads back will, in fact, tell me how good of a day I will have. Slowly though, I'm learning that my value and self-worth doesn't change when or if my weight does. If anything, you become smarter when you finally see all of the lies about body size equaling happiness. But to me when I'm in the thick of it, it takes over. It's no longer about facts. It's not rational. Because most of us know it sounds crazy. Hell, it is crazy. But it's real and we simply can't help it. We can, however, control it or at least attempt too. Because I'm not lying when I say I don't see what you see. I never have. And for some reason, I still fear getting fat even though I've never been overweight a day in my life. So here are three reasons why I shouldn't fear any of that. And for the record, neither should you.
For the longest time, I thought I was crazy. And yeah, I definitely am. It's just, back then, during my active addiction days, I kept doing the same thing over and over again, which as you know is the definition of insanity. I was expecting different results. I was lonely and sad and I was all of those things because that’s who I thought I was. I mean, I did some pretty bad things. And I kept doing those bad things as a way to escape from the bad things I kept doing. And because of those bad things, I found myself in some ugly situations I wouldn't otherwise have been in. Because I was addicted to pills. I know it sounds crazy but, it seemed that all the awful things I told myself about myself were, in fact, true. Today, I know that's not the case. But I didn't understand that for a long time. Even today as a recovering addict, I can't erase the bad shit I did. That was me. It always will be. It's like yeah, I'm a different me, but I still get triggered. And when I'm triggered, it feels like it's happening all over again. I feel unsafe. I feel sick. And everything hurts. I'm sweating and I have to sit down. I can't numb the pain away. I couldn't even do that back then. Which got me thinking —if it happens to me, chances are, it happens to you too. The thing is, if you're aware of certain things like why you do the things you do —well, that can help you overcome them too. And we're all different. Each person will experience different symptoms at different times. Making it of extreme importance to know all of them. Here are four.
Sometimes happiness is staying in with a gluten-free pizza pie and Netflix. Like Netflix and chill but literally. Because most people search for happiness outside of themselves. I know I did and admittedly, sometimes I still do. But that's a mistake. And I'm trying to stop. Because happiness is something that you are. It comes from the way you think —not what you have or even who you have. It's all about our insides. Except, it's harder than you might think to break these patterns. Maybe you want to be happy but you keep waking up doing the same things that continuously make you miserable? The thing is, if we have time to feel like shit, complain and sift endlessly through notifications and newsfeeds, then we have time to meditate, journal, and do something about it. But normally, we just do what we're used to doing and the cycle goes on. Not today. Not anymore. So here's the final segment of my series on life lessons and seven things I think you should know.
I don’t remember saying no because I don’t remember anything. After he was done, I remember finally passing out. I always felt safe when I slept but not tonight. I have a blurry memory of him getting back on top of me. As if he didn’t do enough. But the damage was done. There was nothing I could do about it now. And that pissed me the fuck off. The thing is, shit could have changed at any given moment. Because today, I'm OK. I'm OK even though all that bad shit happened. I can't erase any of it. I never could. No matter how high I got. No matter how far I tried to run. It's never going away. Like I could still be sitting in all that misery. All that hurt. And I did. I sat in it. I sat it in for a while. But then I decided to get up. Because things are never so bad that they cannot be undone. So from the girl who dug herself out of multiple rock bottoms, here are five more life lessons I think you need to know.
It was Fall 2012 and I was officially free —at least, my version of it anyway. I had just landed at the Philadelphia airport after spending eight months in Savannah, Georgia. If you remember from a few posts back, I was a resident at this Christian rehab. We called it the Mission a.k.a. Mission Teens. It was hard. Like really hard, which was probably a good thing. But it didn't always feel good. Most of the time, it felt like I was going to be there forever. Nope. I was irrevocably free. Nearly an entire year went by and now, just like any other girl, I was waiting for my mom to come get me. Truth is, I was anything but that. I hadn't been normal in close to a decade. So yeah, it was rather strange getting off the plane. I recall walking to baggage claim. I remember thinking this was it. I left that place under the impression, I'd stay on the straight and narrow. I thought I wanted too. And maybe I did but this is where you're about to learn sometimes, that's not enough. Because you are who you hang out with and I was on my way to hell. Between reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, my sobriety was about to be tested. Would I pass or would I fail? And would I even care? Here's how it all went down.
I thought it was time to remember what it was like to feel alive. But it's not what you think. It's not even what I thought, at the time. Because this chick, couldn’t feel a single thing and I was anything but alive. Plus, my version isn't something you choose to remember. Sometimes though, you don't have a choice. Because no matter how you spin it, I was at it again. And even though, I had just spent the last 40 days institutionalized, I never stopped wanting to do drugs. I went directly from detox to rehab, which is what they want you to do —so you don't have time to figure out that one part, a rather large portion of your brain didn't actually want to be there. That's the thing about addiction, just as cardiovascular disease damages the heart and diabetes impairs the pancreas, addiction hijacks the brain. So what exactly happens when you let opioids control your entire life? Well, this is what you need to know.
I've always felt too much. I've always cared too much —that's just the way I was wired. But no one really knew that. To most, it probably looked like I didn't feel or care at all. I thought that was a good thing at the time. It wasn't. I just didn't understand why I was the way I was. Well, until now. Today, I know the reason I self-medicated for as long as I did. I had a bunch of mental health issues I could never make sense of. I struggled but I thought everyone felt this way? I never understood how those around me could make white knuckling look so good. I never felt normal and I probably never will but at least I'm doing something about it. So what is it that I'm doing presently that's different than yesterday? Well, I take antidepressants. There are times when I feel like they are working but then, there are moments when I don't know why I'm taking them at all. I say this because there are a bunch of side effects no one really wants to talk about. Here are seven.
Sometimes I feel as if I’m a failure at a disease I never asked for —something I could have never prevented. Most days, yeah. I look like everybody else. But I’m not. I want to feel normal. I don’t want to be different. But I am. Every single morning, I get out of bed just like you, but my routine is probably different than yours. I mean, how would your life change if you were diagnosed with a life-threatening illness that you were told was incurable? For me, I’m tired. I’m tired of having to prick my finger every time I want to leave the house or do anything for that matter. I’m tired of worrying that maybe one day, I will not wake up. Because yeah, there’s a chance, I won’t make it past a certain age because of some diabetic complication. Oh and, I’m tired just thinking about how tired I am. But no one really notices. No one actually wants to talks about it. But I do —even though, most can’t understand. No one understands because you don’t until you do. You don’t because you don’t have too —until it’s you. Well, now it’s me. I was never good at math but now I have to be. And even though, it's apart of my new normal, I don't think I'll ever get used to it. So this is what I want you to know.
Dear self, I've been holding onto a lot and I've got to get it out. I'm mad —mostly at myself. I'm mad because I lost over six years of my life. I'm mad that I didn't say no or ask for help sooner. And yeah, I'm mad that I'm mad. It's like the figurative bases were loaded in the game of life. I had one walk to win the game and one out to lose it all. The metaphorical pitcher releases the ball from his glove as gravity accelerates it straight into my bat. It’s like everything was set in place for me to succeed. I was supposed to succeed. Like all I had to do was hit the damn ball. But I couldn’t even do that. So I'd snort a line instead. Not anymore. Starting today, I'm going to try a little harder. I'm going to put in some effort to mend what's broken like all the people I fucked over. I'm going to start on the inside though. Because in order to heal, we must first forgive. And sometimes, the person we need to forgive most is ourselves. Here goes nothing.