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.
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.
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.
Telling me it's OK to rape a junkie is like saying, it's OK to rape a girl who dresses like a slut. That's what I was told. Why do we do that though? Why do we think it's OK to not listen to someone merely because they do drugs? Why do we call a girl a slut simply because she chooses to wear a crop top or a mini-skirt? For one, none of that is OK. I mean, I dress to express myself. I always have. Except, society is indirectly taking away our freedom of expression by limiting what we’re allowed to wear by blaming sexual violence on the victim. Did you know that chicks who dress modestly and don't do drugs still get sexually assaulted? No means no period, but you don't have to say "no" for it to be rape. You have to say yes. You have to give your consent regardless if you're a junkie or a slut. I was a junkie and a slut so my feelings didn't matter, right? Wrong.
Day one. He wanted me to want him. He wanted me to need him. He knew exactly what I wanted and needed a.k.a. a shit ton of pills. So that's exactly what he did. He knew as long as he kept feeding me pills, I'd continue accepting his lies. Except as it turns out, I didn't want to get high anymore. I had too. I didn't want to do those things he made me do but I needed too. And if I was going to do those things I didn't want to do, I needed my pills —and more than a few. So what was it like being barricaded and sexually degraded? Why was I so GOD damn persuaded? Well, here's the rest of rock-bottom number three in hopes, you'll understand why I'm still a little crazy.
I'm sure you know that drive alone can't beat addiction. For a while, I asked myself how do I want to want to stay sober? I knew I needed to but did I want too? Not really. Eventually, though, I did learn to want it bad enough. Looking back, I see it all so clearly —at least today I do. What they say about hindsight really is true. Except, it wasn't always like this. For a while, I let opioids control my entire life. They controlled me until I realized I didn't actually need them. It was a false freedom I mistakenly took for empowerment. I mean, I had this picture in my head of the great things I'd do. So yeah, I had a lot of drive but I had a lot of pressure too. Along the way though, I learned that it all comes down to how badly you want it. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make her drink it. Except, I'm asking you too. I want you to chug. I want you to get more out of life than simply white knuckling you're way to the end. I want you to enjoy this ride we call life —even if drive alone can't beat addiction. So this is where I tell you three ways you can learn to want this thing called recovery bad enough that it'll actually stick.
I had just arrived but if I can be honest, my head was somewhere else. I missed Brad. Day one —time to get "Boca-tized," a catch-phrase my dad invented. He and my sister, Michaela were adamant about me looking the part, now that I was an official resident of South Florida. For some reason, they were always trying to make me into something I wasn't a.k.a. turn me into her. It's like if I wasn't her version of pretty, then I was ugly and a failure. I think they thought if I looked and acted like her, I'd be just as happy as she was. Unfortunately, that's not how it works. I remember thinking, why did I assume this would be better than it was? I was a little mad at those two and myself for choosing them over Brad. And so, after a few hours at the salon that my sister made me go too, they said I was ready. Except, I felt anything but that.
We were supposed to wean ourselves off those damn pills. We figured a week in advance was enough time to actually enjoy ourselves down there without being sick. Unfortunately, that never happened. The addict in us kept saying that we'd do it tomorrow. Tomorrow we’ll stop —just one more night. Well, tomorrow never came and the night never ended. We were leaving. Uh-oh. How would Becca and I pull off opioid withdrawal in another country, in front of her mother and father (little brother too) who so kindly decided to invite me (and pay for) an all-inclusive family vacation to Aruba? I don't know. The truth is, we wouldn't pull anything off at all. Here's what went down.
If I can be honest it hurts more than I thought it would. It’s not that I miss him. I mean, I completely forgot he even existed until yesterday. It's just that it feels way to close like it could have been me. Hell, it was me. I think it's the timing of it all that makes it sting so much more. The saddest part is, I don't even have a picture of him or us together. We were addicts after all, in and out of institutions trying to get clean. It looks like I won this round but I don't feel like a winner. Right now, the only things I feel are grief, anger, and sadness. All that's left are memories. I see images I also forgot about; scenes I shoved deep down. It hurts as they come back up. I see flashes. I feel his pain as I reminisce with my demons —demons that took his life, demonic creatures that are taking way too many. As the thoughts come flooding back, I try to channel the rage inside. What comes out, you ask? A eulogy, or at least my version of it; something I never thought I'd have to write but here I am and here it goes.
I remember when we said goodbye. He was so mad at me. I was a little mad at me too —for letting things get so screwed up. I definitely led him on all summer just like he said. I was an official college graduate; diploma in hand, ready for the next chapter to begin. One path brought me down south —South Florida to be exact. My family relocated there from New Jersey a few years prior and they just so happened to hate my drug-dealing boyfriend (except back then, they didn't even know he sold). I say this because the other led me west with him, Brad. Which story was I going to tell? I didn't know yet. All I knew then was that I had to make a decision. So, here it goes.
I was more stuck than ever but I couldn't let anyone else know how bad off I really was. So I'd put on a mask and pretend I was enjoying the bed I made. Except, I wasn't happy, sane or functional. I was addicted, defensive, and in full savage mode. Things were different. No matter how bad it got in college, I always had Brad. We kept each other in check, but this time, I was all alone, with no one to look out for me but me. And you definitely didn't want this junkie on your side. I mean, I was the girl who robbed you and helped you look for it. I was the girl who used to have it all together. Except now, I had nothing but pill residue everywhere. So how did I afford to keep everything up? Three words: pawn shop madness.
As if things couldn't get any worse —I was still a hostess at The Office, an $18 gourmet burger joint on Atlantic Ave. in Del Ray Beach, Florida. If you remember from a previous post, I relapsed and eventually found myself homeless after getting kicked out of the halfway house I called home. I also found another pill-popping boyfriend who tried his best to save me. Turns out though, I needed to save myself. When a friend turns foe, before I know it, I hit rock bottom for the second time. Except once you fall as far as I had, there's nowhere to go but up. Here's what went down.
I was feeling even better than before. Today wasn’t that bad. Well, emphasis on that. It seems as if the days go by slow but the weeks, fast AF. A few things had happened in the last 24 hours though. I didn't think I could handle the cards I was dealt at the time. Except, I was about to find out I certainly could. I'd also learn, firsthand, the definition of integrity —what you do when no one is looking. But let's back up a second.
It's been a month. I feel good. I feel better, not perfect but getting there. I'm on my way to sanity. Except, for some reason, I'm still feeling left out. What were my druggie buddies up too? I couldn't help but think back. It wasn't all bad though. As the days went by, I started opening up more. I gave myself over to the process. I followed all of the rules and did my best to be my best. Eventually, I started to heal. When that happened, I realized that healing doesn't mean the damage never existed. I mean, the damage had been done. But that's irrelevant. Healing actually means the damage I caused no longer had to control my life. And when I figured that out, well, shit just made sense. Here's what a day at the mission looked like for me.
My family had finally figured out what to do with me. They weren't about to throw more money at the problem; so they found a free long-term treatment facility in Savannah, Georgia and prayed I’d find my way back again. Destination —Mission Teens. I liked how they treated each person as family. Everything was self-sustaining. If there was a problem, we didn't call the maintenance guy down the street. We'd fix it. And so, as I moved up in the program, I got more responsibilities. It was there that I realized sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes in the middle of nowhere, is where you find yourself. And so, on May 16, 2012, my dad and I drive from Orlando, Florida to Savannah in hopes this place would save my life.
You know that moment between sleep and wakefulness —when you're just getting up and reality is a little warped and everything seems OK? Well, that moment ended. Everything comes flooding back when I realize, it wasn’t a dream. What the fuck was I going to do now? I was in love with yet another addict and I would later learn that my bad taste in drug dealing boyfriends only escalated the inevitable. But eventually, I learned that when you refuse to settle for less than the best —the best tends to track you down. I was actually being treated right. I wasn't lied to. I wasn't being deceived. Because of that, I wasn't lying or deceiving either. And after that, well, things just started working out.