Before I started using drugs and alcohol, I remember feeling a sense of impending doom and a huge void in my life. These feelings were hard for a nine-year-old girl to comprehend. I remember sobbing to my mom once and saying “I just want to go home” as I was sitting in my bed. Of course, I was home, but it was the only way that I could describe the way I was feeling inside.
I grew up in a small town in Maine, where there wasn’t much to do, and everyone knew your business. I remember having my first sip of alcohol when I was 11, and then at thirteen years old, I started drinking more frequently. By the time I was in high school, I was experimenting with prescription pills and drinking. I realized that this was the perfect concoction to numb all my bad feelings.
My addiction snowballed quickly, my grades started to slip, and I started getting in trouble. I was showing up to school intoxicated or leaving school to get intoxicated. I cycled in and out of different schools. I started to believe that I would never be anything more than a drug addict. I didn’t think my life was worth anything, and I had no desire to live. I barely graduated high school and hadn’t even put in one college application.
My addiction got worse and worse. I started using opiates and was drinking more than ever. There are some blocks of time that I can’t remember at all. I had gotten in one bad car accident after drinking, and my childhood friends didn’t want to associate with me anymore, saying that they didn’t want to be friends with a “junkie”. The more I used and the more I drank, the more isolated I became. I always felt like my head was just above water, but I was not motivated to change. I was comfortable being numb, even though my life was falling apart around me. On November 14, 2015, I woke up in the hospital with no recollection of how I had gotten there. By some miracle, I was still alive. Later I learned that I had driven my car into a parked car, totaling both.
My parents encouraged me to go to treatment. My dad was, and still is, in long- term recovery and knew what the next steps had to be. They brought me into the ER where I was escorted to a “holding room”. As we were walking back, the nurse told my mom that most people preferred jail over this. In the holding room, about 15 loud, restless, and angry people were all lying around. The ER visit became a defining moment of my sobriety, as I never wanted to go back to the ER again. The hospital held me for several days until my parents were able to get me into rehab in the northwest corner of Connecticut.
At first, I was resistant to treatment. I was loud, restless, and angry, just like the people in the hospital. Eventually, I started listening to those who wanted to help me, and I slowly started to change. I even requested an extension of my inpatient treatment for an additional 3 weeks, to get me safely through the holiday season.
I made another decision: to move to a sober living residence in New Haven. I planted my roots in long-term recovery. I attended 12-step meetings, got a sponsor, and eventually became a sponsor. I built a strong network of sober friends who are my closest friends today. At eight years sober, I continue to stay connected to people in recovery through fellowship and being a 12-step sponsor.
I’m thankful for the many things that recovery has given me. I have material things like food, housing, clothing, and transportation. However, what I’m truly grateful for is the opportunity to show up for others. Today, I feel I’m good enough to be worthy of someone else’s love, and more importantly, worthy enough to love myself.
As I’m writing this, I’m in the middle of getting two master’s degrees, planning a wedding, and balancing everything else that life is. I never, ever thought I’d be here. At 14, I didn’t know if I’d make it to 16. It wasn’t until 23 that I finally surrendered. Life today is an absolute miracle that I don’t take for granted. When I wake up each day, I’m present for the good parts and the bad of my day. I don’t fast forward through the good parts because the hard times are what makes the good, so good. The void I used to feel for such a long time is finally gone. Now, no matter where I am, I always feel that I am home.