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. And that's when I realized I wanted to die. Because that was the night (back then that is), I tried to end my own life. I think it was more so a cry for help than anything else but I did, in fact, slit my left fucking wrist. I remember grabbing this cold sharp blade I kept for protection. And as I'm sitting on my bed, isolated like always, I start diagonally digging the razor into my lower arm. Because red dye starts to drip from the open wound onto my floral bedsheets. Tears tangled in between. It was a bloody mess. A few minutes after that, I think I threw everything off the bed and decide to lay down. I wasn't going to sleep. Because that's the last thing I could do. But I recall just laying there absolutely numb. Because my eyes were crying. And my soul was crushed but I felt nothing. Maybe that's why I wanted to feel some fucking pain. Because the only thing I felt was misery. About an hour later, I eventually pass out. And when I wake up the following morning, I realize it didn't fucking work. What else is new? What now, Macey? Seriously —what now? Unfortunately, at that moment, I didn't know. I was out of my mind and simply out of options. This is what you need to know.
This is weird. I never thought I'd be saying this. I never thought I'd have to write this. But here I am. Because being a twenty-something has been a part of me and my identity for so long. I swear it feels like I'm saying goodbye to an old friend I’ll never see again. I can't help but be a little sad. Way too nostalgic. And definitely grateful for all of my experiences. Because I'm a totally different person at 29 than I was at 20. I guess you could say, "That's growing up." Because I'm more me than I've ever been. I like to think of myself as vulnerable, open and real. I think I've accepted most of my imperfections. Because today, I wear that shit with pride. I used to try to hide it —making it seem like I was this happy girl all the fucking time. And let me tell you, it was exhausting. So yeah, because of that and everything I went through, I'm free. But it's still weird. Because it seems like yesterday and a lifetime ago all at the same time. In a way, it's like another me (even though it's not). I bet for most that's probably true. For me, I've spent the last 10 years trying to figure out —not only what I like and what I don't like, but also, who I really am as a person and what life means to me. It was hard. It still is. I had some pretty dark and shitty days —most I’d like to forget. It's just, I can't deny that I learned a lot. Because all that is somehow apart of the puzzle that has created who I am today. And the girl I am isn't who I thought I'd be. But I think that's a good thing. Still, I find it extraordinarily challenging to welcome my 30's —partly because I look like I'm 22. And yeah, that's awesome (don't get me wrong), but it comes at a price of never quite believing I am the age I am. Because I'm usually treated like I'm so much younger. That said, it’s hard to accept that I'm leaving a particular decade —when the majority of people I encounter, think of me as just entering the age I was 10 years ago. Damn. That hurts to say out loud. So as I think back to how things used to be, I can't help but reminisce about twenty-something me. This is what you need to know.
I'm sure at this point in your life, you've been sick at least once. When that happens, normally you have two choices. You either go to the doctor for some type of antibiotic or you sleep it off until you feel better. But what if you never got better? What if that cold or flu never went away? What if those temporary aches and pains and feelings of fatigue were permanent? What if it got worse? Like when the winter blues turn into a full-blown state of depression and you can't find a way to see light at the end of the proverbial tunnel? What then? Seriously. Imagine the anxiety of knowing what you have was constant. Imagine what it would be like if that doctor of yours said there was no cure, and that it would, in fact, be a part of your life forever? Now, envision trying to explain all of this to your friends, family, and co-workers. How do you describe this shit in a way they'd understand? Because you look perfectly fine —on the outside that is. How would you cope with having a chronic, invisible illness? Would you be deemed lazy or even crazy? Would you be treated differently? Would you be excluded from activities or on the contrary be so tired that you continuously say no to those friendly invitations? At that point, would it start hindering your relationships, both personal and professional? The short answer, yes. Absofuckinglutely. Because when you break a bone, your physical disability is apparent to the world. Friends, family, and coworkers can see the cast on your arm and know without a doubt that you're sick. “Get some rest,” they’d say in a concerned voice. “You don’t look well.” But that’s the odd thing about not feeling well —you don’t always look the part. So yeah, I'm not the girl I used to be and here are four reasons why.
I’ve been sitting here. Trying. Trying to figure out how to start this thing. But I’m at a loss. Because every time I try to write something, I get stuck. And then I have to stop. It's like even though I’ve moved past all of this —because I really am over it, I have to admit that sometimes it still kind of hurts. It's a strange hurt. Because even moments that were really fucking funny, it's like somewhere else inside, I don't feel like laughing. Because when I do start to write, everything —funny and not so funny, comes flooding back. As I shut the laptop. I can’t. That's when I ask myself, "What am I trying to say?" Truth is, I don't know. So I stay stuck in this strange flush of nostalgic imagery and as a slight tear streams down my face, I picture the girl I used to be. I remember how it started and I remember how it ended. I wish I could say that I don't know how things got so messed up. But I do. Because I just spent the last three years in and out of treatment. I had been home for less than a month and already, I was getting high again. I was hoping to find a way to stop before I got caught. So yeah, there were a lot of things this girl was wishing for. Mostly, that Aiden wouldn't be the bad influence everyone said he'd be. But I was wrong about that. I was wrong about a lot of things. Because two addicts in early recovery trying to make a relationship work can be a beautiful thing. It's like, he knows what I'm going through, how I'm feeling, and why. But it can also be so fucking detrimental for everyone's recovery. Because if one of you wants to get high, chances are, the other one will too. That's literally what happened to me. Because I wanted to get high a little more than I wanted to stay clean. And Aiden. I also wanted him who definitely wanted to get high. And that right there is how shit got so twisted. Because someone needs to be the good guy. The strong one. The one who says, "No. We're not doing that. And if you are, then I'm not doing you. Bye." But misery still loves company. And neither of us were strong enough in our recovery to be strong like that for each other. So yeah, we ended up bringing ourselves down together. And this is how it happened.
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.
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.
Do you ever feel flat? Dull. Lifeless. Uninspired. It's like, you're not necessarily sad. Because nothing actually happened to justify this type of darkness. It's just, you're not happy either. For me, when this happens —because it does, in fact, creep up, it literally feels like something in my brain is missing. Neurotransmitters probably. It's like sometimes, I want to cry. But I can't. And I don't actually want too. But it feels like I should. That's depression for you. Because it's not always sadness. I mean, yeah, it is. But it's so much more than that. Because it's not going to fit inside society's box. Because you can be laughing one second and wanting to stay in bed all day the next. It's like you want to do the things you love. The things that used to bring you joy, but you can't make yourself get there. So yeah, depression is misunderstood. Depression is also a serious mental illness that can interfere with a person's life. It can cause long-lasting intractable feelings of hopelessness. A loss of interest in shit you used to like is usually how it starts. But what does it actually feel like? Let's find out.
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.
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 been a sensitive person. And I've always been told that it's a bad thing —as if being sensitive makes me weak. Turns out, that's just not true. I get it though. Because a highly sensitive person (HSP), experiences the world differently than others. And I think it's because only 15 to 20 percent of the population are HSPs; so we're often misunderstood. I just wish I knew about this earlier. Because for the longest time, I was told there was something wrong with me. Friends of mine couldn't understand why I acted the way I acted. Heck. I didn't even know why. Until now. Because I recently found out that I have a personality trait called HSP (I'm a highly sensitive person). It's not a disease or a disorder. And it's not something learned; it's something I was born with —like in my DNA. And when I understood that, things finally made sense. Like when I first read a description about what it means to be an HSP, it was like looking at myself in the mirror. I never realized there was a specific term to describe my way of perceiving the world. It brought incredible relief to know I wasn’t the only one. So if you can relate to any of this, here are 13 signs you're a highly sensitive person (just like me).
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.
Oh, if I could go back in time. Oh, the things I'd tell my younger self. Only recently have I really come into my own. I used to be this wet blanket. A people-pleaser with no voice. I'd apologize for everything. I'd say sorry for saying sorry. I'd agree —even if I didn't for fear of rejection. Not anymore though. I don't know when it all clicked. But when it did, it did. And now, I want to share some things I've learned over the last decade. About myself. About life. About everything. Because nothing is what it seems. Nothing really goes according to plan. I had this picture in my head of who I thought I was. Who I thought I'd be. Of what life would turn out like. Why do we put such high expectations on ourselves? And why can't we be content with what we have instead of spending the precious moments we do being sad about something we made up in our heads that we thought we needed? Most of the time, the universe has a way of straightening things out far better than we ever could. So, from 20-something to nearly 30, this is what I've learned.
I've been complaining of pain for a while. Honestly, though, it's hard to put into words exactly how I feel and I think that's the problem. Because I don't know where to begin. Because for the past few months, I didn't know what was wrong with me. I knew something wasn't right. I mean, it's not normal to feel sick all the time. But after visiting multiple doctors —all telling me I was fine, why wouldn't I believe them? They're the ones with a medical degree, right? It's just this thing is really hard to figure out. Did you know 10 years is the average length of time it takes to get a diagnosis? That 68 percent of women are initially misdiagnosed with another condition? Oh, and that 50 percent of women with endometriosis also experience infertility? I didn't. What I do know is that it's exhausting. It's hidden. Not seen. Not talked about. Embarrassing. But it's not —at least it shouldn't be. Except, it is according to society. Not anymore though and definitely not here.
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.
Nate kisses me goodbye as I rush inside. I was running late but I knew I could pull it off. I had become pretty good at this whole double life thing. What would make tonight any different? Well, I can think of a few things —starting with the fact that I was a resident at my first halfway house in Del Ray Beach, Florida. Except, I wasn't halfway to anything. Maybe halfway to hell? Because I was all the way gone. High off heroin, I take the key to this place out of my purse, however, it's not the first thing I find. Instead, I pull out the 30-day sobriety chip I picked up a few days prior —so much for that. I figured this would happen. I mean, I just graduated from rehab. But I was only telling them what I thought they wanted to hear. I simply wanted to get out of that place. I knew I'd eventually get high again. I just didn't know when or how. Well, until I met Nate. Here's what you need to know.
Don’t pretend you know me. Sometimes I don’t even know myself. I certainly didn't back then and neither did he. It hurts that I let him take advantage of me. I'd say no but he'd expect a show. Why? Because I was chemically chained to a friend turned foe. Like when everything hurt —from my body to my skin, I caved and said, “Fine. Let’s begin.” I knew the password (you fucking coward). With one simple word, I could get blurred. But at what cost? I was pissed off, sick and lost. Can you relate? If so, let me advocate. You're not your abuse. You're more like the Greek GOD Zeus. You're the cleverness that survived. So don't forget that you're still alive. And even though I can't erase the fact that maybe we were raped, above all, you're the courage that escaped. Because in the end I fucking won. Here's how it was done.