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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dear Mr. Painkiller. Goodbye to you. I thought I’d never get your poison off my skin. I thought your toxins would grip me in and take me down, but today I am taking you and saying my goodbyes. It all started with a blue circular pill. A pill smaller than a fucking pea. So how could one tiny chemical combustion actually combust me? I don't know, but it happened. I had to have all of you and somewhere along the way, you took all of me.
I remember love. I remember laughter. But I also recall resentment and tears. I will say that growing up, I never went without. In fact, I always had too much. And I think that's how my addiction ultimately began. My family was loving. My mom, selfless. My dad, the provider. And, my sister, my role model. We were small but close-knit. I'd like to say fierce. They always had my back. They were (and still are) a bit overprotective but you'll never hear me say they didn't care. So if you're wondering why I am the way I am today, read this.