A few months ago I met with a genetic counselor for the second time. For those who don't know, I'm BRCA2 positive, which means based on family history and this gene mutation I have, I will likely get breast and/or ovarian cancer by the age of 60. Damn. That's a lot to take in. That's a lot to process. Because when I originally found out, I was 22. I remember saying I'll worry about this when I'm 30. It's weird because back then, 30 seemed so far away. Like I'd never actually get there. Well, now I am and it's real. I think that's the hardest part to deal with. Because sooner rather than later, I have to do to something about it. It's like, do I undergo preventative surgery and remove my breasts and ovaries —the things that make me feel like a woman. Or, do I risk it and wait? I've always said I'd have the surgeries. It's just time crept up and now it's here. I have some big decisions to make and I don't feel ready. Are we ever though? Here is what I want you to know.
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.
Dear Food. For years I restricted you and then binged on you —part of me struggling to give myself enough of you and the other, demanding I get rid of you. I know so much more now than I did when my eating disorder (ED) first started. But it still creeps up. Who am I kidding though? Myself probably. Because I spend the majority of my day either feeling fat or obsessing about how much I weigh; trying to keep my P.T.S.D. induced flashbacks at bay. Whether I'm body checking, on the scale or trying not to open the flood gates, sometimes I eat even when I'm not hungry. I say flood gates because once I start, I find that it's hard to stop. So if I don't start, I don't have to worry about not stopping. A lot of people say, one bite won't hurt. But for me it does. Because I can't just eat one. Because I need the whole thing. I like foods that take a while to eat. Because I love eating. At the same time, I hate how this shit makes me feel. And yes, I know we need food to survive. But when I'm eating and eating and eating, I don't want to stop. And when I don't stop, afterward, I'm full. Really full. Too full. I have to lay down. That's usually when the food shame begins. Because my brain starts talking shit about how gross I am. Why did you eat that, Macey? The thing is, I know about trauma, dissociation, and how bingeing can’t be “fixed” with restriction. I know all this crap is interconnected. But I do it anyway. The worst part is —when I restrict and then finally eat, I tend to go overboard. Binge. Because I basically starved myself all day. So when I eventually allow myself to eat, I'm so excited that I can't stop. I need everything. So I eat everything. And then I feel bad. Shame. So I tell myself I won't eat a lot tomorrow, which usually turns to nothing. Restricting and then binging. It's the same thing all over again. And this is how it goes.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.