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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I bet you know more people than you might think who have at least thought about committing suicide. I bet you wouldn't expect that I contemplated it myself. I actually tried to end my own life. So when I heard the awful news about Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, it hit home because I've been there and from the looks of it, I'm not alone.
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.
They say it's not what you have, it's who you have. For the record, I agree. Except when you have nothing and you feel like nothing; it's not that simple. Who did I have? Me? Back then? I had my mom. So, I didn't actually have nothing. I guess it was more so feeling like nothing since we just packed the last 16 years of my life up in a bunch of boxes and called it a day. No. The day is not over. But it was. I mean, my mom and I weren't moving by choice. We were moving because we had too. I knew she wasn't going to let us be anything but OK, it's just I didn't feel OK. I was scared, pissed off and dark. So my mom says to look at it like a fresh start, which is exactly what I did or at least, what I was trying to do.
You know that saying, not all who wander are lost? Well, sometimes those wandering really are lost. In this case, me. I was. Not in the actual sense though, more like metaphorically speaking. Except, I literally lived in the woods. The Woods II to be exact, which happened to be the name of my new neighborhood. My mom and I just got some awful news —the only house I ever lived in was now in foreclosure. We were getting kicked out. And so, we found a two-bedroom apartment on the other side of town. It was still a decent place but it wasn’t home. I did my best. Even though most nights, I cried myself to sleep. I'm pretty sure, my mom did too. It's just, we didn't want to let go of country club drive and we definitely weren't ready to move on (literally and figuratively). Except, sometimes, you just don’t have a choice.
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.
If I can be honest, at first it wasn't that bad. But that was the point. It was supposed to suck me in. It was supposed to appear as if the glitz and the glam were always going to be there. I mean, we started off at South Beach. But when it all ended, I was clearly in hell. I mean, for a while, I didn't leave at all. Bruce was the only person I saw. In short, I was on my way to a treatment center that never existed. Don't get it twisted, I didn't want to be enlisted. But back then, I had no other choice. Those damn drugs stole my voice. So if you're wondering what rock bottom number three looked like to me, here's how it all came to be.
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.
It's morning. You should be waking up refreshed, ready to start your day. But not me. Instead, I usually have to go downstairs, open the linen closet doors and grab a towel to dry myself off. Did I just work out? No. I woke up like this —literally. What I'm talking about here isn't pretty. It's the opposite, in fact. What I'm getting at is something called PTSD. Most mornings, I wake up drenched in my own sweat. Why? Because I have nightmares that are so severe, they cause physical bodily symptoms. So I close my eyes or in this case, hit play, and it all comes flooding back like I'm still there. Somewhere else inside, I know I'm safe. But when that shit manifests into those damn symptoms, I can't help but relive everything all over again.
I've been putting this one off. It's hard to go back there —even if it's just through writing. But by talking about it (because I haven't since it happened), I think it will help me move past it a little more. And deep down, I know it's about that time I get it out. If you remember from a previous post, I had just gotten myself out of a sticky situation a.k.a. rock-bottom number two. I was laying low, hiding out at a friend's house. Turns out, this "friend" wasn't a friend at all. But not yet. Back then, he technically just saved my life. It was a confusing time, I know. Because the lines were more than blurred. I’m doing my best though. Ready or not, here I go.
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.