‘You’re not shooting up, are you?’ My heart sank. I couldn’t even look my mom in the eyes.’: Young woman beats addiction and graduates with 4.0 GPA, ‘No matter how bad life is, you’re worth it’

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Experiencing Self Hate

“’Trials become triumphs.’ This is my life motto. On December 3, 2014, my life changed forever. I woke up in a tiny room with a cement floor. I had no idea why I was there. I was all alone. My body hurt and I didn’t know what happened. It didn’t compare to the pain inside though. I was miserable. I hated the girl I saw in the mirror. I was so empty inside. I got down on my hands and knees and I just yelled. I screamed. ‘God, if you are real, PLEASE! HELP ME! I can’t do this alone.’ I truly surrendered, and that is the day my life began. I got clean and finally, I was free.

Just a year before on December 12, 2013, I ‘came to’ in a hospital bed and had no recollection of the events that occurred or the evening before. My mother got the call that no parent wants to get. I had overdosed. I suffered short-term memory loss and knew I had a long road ahead of me. I couldn’t remember my own phone number or the conversation I had the day before. I played memory games all the time just to strengthen my mind. It was an uphill battle and it took time, but I did recover.

I was a pretty happy kid. I had awesome parents and a good home life. Why did this have to happen to me? Why did I make those choices? I said I would never do those things. I made the pledge and agreed to ‘just say no.’ I knew better. I promised my parents I wouldn’t. I wanted a good future for myself just like everyone else. I wanted to go to college, get a good job, get married, have a family, and live happily ever after. I was also a very determined person and I never gave up. I thought I could beat it. I thought I could out smart it. I told myself every single day I wanted to quit. I hated the person I saw in the mirror. I hated the person I had become. I saw my dreams slipping through my fingers. I desperately tried to quit. I was honest with my family. But I was dying a little more each day. Addiction… it doesn’t care who you are, how strong you are, what your dreams are, or where you came from. It will ruin your life. It almost ruined mine.

Stacey Peek

The Start Of Addiction

So, you may be wondering… how did it happen? How did my life spiral out of control? Well, it was a process. I began drinking and smoking pot at the age of 12. My parents did not approve of this behavior but I hid it well. At the age of 14, I tore my ACL, MCL, and meniscus which required knee surgery. I had a morphine tube put in my leg and was prescribed pain medication. After 4 years of high school sports and 2 years of college ball, I had a total of 5 knee surgeries. I had to retire. I wore a large titanium knee brace and at one point played ACL deficient and had a fracture in my ankle. It got to the point where my knee would swell so bad, it was hard to walk. I have heard people say things like, ‘People who use drugs are just weak. They have no self-control. They have a moral deficiency and they’re just bad people.’ Well, I was an extremely competitive player who endured a lot of pain. I wasn’t mentally or physically weak. I had self-control. I was a good person with a big heart and I did good deeds for my family, friends, and community. It is called addiction because it takes over your mind and body at some point. In the beginning, it may have been a choice to use substances. When recreationally using something, it becomes a habit that our minds and bodies depend on, and it becomes an addiction. It is a very complex condition and a disease in the brain that craves more and more. When we don’t feed our addiction, our bodies physically withdraw and we simply need more. Therefore, we get more, and the cycle continues.

Stacey Peek

Early Adult Life

When I got to college as a student and not a student athlete, I was terrified. My friends had always been chosen for me. I didn’t even know how to interact with people. I started a new job and on my first shift, I met some new people. They were my new friends and they liked to party. By the third year of my college career, I was flunking out. My drinking was taking over my life. I remember one of my friends saying, ‘Can we just have a girl’s night and no drinking?’ I didn’t even know how to react. I ended up bringing a water bottle that was full of vodka, hoping no one would smell it. They did. I lived with my sister at the time and she was working full-time and pursuing a Master’s Degree in counseling. She had her life together and then there was me. She tried to help me but I was just too far gone. I put her through a lot. Half of the time I didn’t come home. I wouldn’t remember what I did the night before and I woke up in many unfamiliar places.

One of the biggest regrets I had for many years was that I wasn’t there for my Granny when she got sick. She was the rock of our family. She was my hero. It absolutely killed me to know she was sick and there was nothing I could do. She laid in that hospital bed waiting for me to get there. I chose to drink that night. I showed up to the hospital drunker than a skunk. My family was so embarrassed. I got to talk to Granny by myself. She couldn’t respond but I told her I was so sorry. I promised her I would quit drinking and get my life together. I promised her I would be a good person and do good things. I know she could hear me. She ended up passing away less than an hour later. It felt as if she was waiting for me to show up. She had seen everyone and we all got to say our goodbyes.

Stacey Peek

Making Poor Life Choices

I began to make poor decisions and I had legal consequences piling up. That wasn’t enough to stop me. I was constantly being reminded that I was a ‘bad person’ by that voice in my head and the label that society puts on people with substance use disorder. I was making terrible decisions. I knew this. I believed this. What I really needed…was help.

I had contemplated suicide many times. It got to the point where I honestly wanted to die because I felt as if I was already living in hell. It was torture. I hated making my family worry. I hated putting everyone through the hell I was experiencing. I didn’t know what to do or where to start. I went out to my vehicle and sent a text to my family. This was it. It was my final goodbye. I had planned to start my vehicle and drive off a bridge. I know today that God has a plan and a purpose for me. By the grace of God, my vehicle battery was dead. I had been listening to music for hours in the car and it wouldn’t start. I came so close. I hurt so badly. I desperately needed help. I will never forget my sister trying to talk me off the ledge one evening. She said two things that spoke volumes to me. She said, ‘I don’t want to be an only child and I don’t want to have to tell my kids about the aunt they never got to meet.’ I couldn’t do that to my family. They tried so hard to save me. They were always there. I couldn’t hurt them any longer. I finally checked myself into an inpatient treatment facility.

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Stacey Peek



It was the first time I heard other people talk about addiction. I learned so much about the disease. I finally felt like I wasn’t alone. I began to forgive myself and I was ready to start a new life. I did all the things they told me to do. I began the recovery process and I was loving life. I met other people in recovery and after a while, they fell off the wagon. It wasn’t too long after that I joined them. Within 24 hours of my relapse on alcohol, I had tried meth which made me violently ill, and I was later given heroin. Every day for the next several months, I was using all 3 substances. It got really bad, really quick. I’m from a small town and I got involved with people in St. Louis, Missouri. I was so naïve. I had no idea what I was getting into and by the time I was in, it was too late. I saw things I had never seen before. I did things I said I’d never do. I was stripped of any pride or self-esteem I had left. I felt so terrible. So worthless. So disgusting. I felt like I was literally a waste of space on this Earth.

I remember the day I was leaving my mother’s house around Thanksgiving. I was down to about 110 pounds. I’m 5’10″ and have always had a broad athletic build. I was skin and bones. I was about to say goodbye to my mother and I just started bawling. I was so scared. She asked if I was alright and how I was doing and I was honest. I told her I didn’t know what to do. I told her the things I had been doing. I remember the look on her face when she asked, ‘You’re not shooting up, are you?’ My heart sank. I told her I had starting taking pills and eventually I was snorting them. I told her there came a time when that was no longer enough and these ‘friends’ of mine introduced me to new things. I couldn’t even look her in the eyes. I hugged her and with my head on her shoulder I said, ‘Yes, Mom. I am. I feel so lost and so broken. Please know that I love you and I promise I WILL get better.’

Facing Jail Time

One thing led to another and I had to make a choice. I was facing serious charges and time in prison because my legal consequences had piled up. My family decided they were no longer going to enable me. They didn’t bail me out. They shut the door and told me I was no longer welcome. They did the best thing a family could have done. They let me fall face first and they weren’t there to catch me. It didn’t mean they didn’t love me. I knew they did. They just had to love me from a distance and today, I am so grateful they made this decision. I had been through 7 rehabs and the only thing I hadn’t tried was a long-term program. I made the call. I checked myself into one of the strictest programs in the state of Missouri and there is where my journey began. I lived in a house with other women and we were required to get a job. I had lost everything. Before I came to the program, I was homeless. I had no vehicle, no job, no money, no assets, nothing to my name but a duffel bag full of clothes that I had been hauling around while I bounced from place to place over the years.

Stacey Peek

Piecing My Life Back Together

I used my own two feet for transportation. I finally got a trolley pass and used public transportation. My mom still tells the story that I was more excited to get a bicycle than I was a car on my 16th birthday. I worked hard. I worked multiple jobs. I went to recovery meetings and house meetings every night of the week. I volunteered in the community. I helped people every chance I got. I learned a lot in that program. It literally saved my life. We went through counseling and talked through all of our problems. We learned to love ourselves again. We learned how to forgive ourselves and others. I graduated that program and was ready to change the world! I wasn’t very open about my story before because I lived in shame. What I know now is there is always someone, somewhere who needs to hear the raw truth and a message of hope. It isn’t always easy. When we tell the gruesome details of our past, there will always be critics that may judge us. I can no longer sit back and watch the disease of addiction kill people while knowing there is a solution, yet choosing not to share it. Addiction is real and recovery is real.

Stacey Peek

Embracing My New Life

I currently have a job working as a case manager. I work with individuals who have a disability. I work alongside them to help increase their independence, overcome barriers, and get them connected with resources within the community. I feel it’s a way to give back because many people helped me with these very things. I began trying new things because I want to live life to the fullest.

Stacey Peek

I picked up a new hobby. I love to run! I started out walking because I was nervous with my knee. I ran my first 5K and within 2 months, I ran a half marathon. Within a year, I ran 13 5Ks, 3 half marathons, and one FULL marathon!

Stacey Peek

Running introduced me to a group of really awesome people. It helps me tremendously with my mental and physical health. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and she has recently become a runner as well. She’s determined to stay healthy and we enjoy our bonding time while running together. In 2016, I helped organize a run here in Joplin, Missouri, called ‘A Mile in Our Shoes.’ The event was created to raise awareness for addiction and the need for recovery support in our area. We raised more than $6,000 and donated the proceeds to ASCENT Recovery Residences, which just so happens to be the long-term recovery program I attended.

Stacey Peek

I went back to college and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a double major in Management and Human Resources Management. I’m the same girl that was flunking out and put on academic probation years ago. I not only graduated, but I made the Dean’s List this past semester. I got married in August of 2017 to the most beautiful and amazing woman I’ve ever met.

Shore Shooters Beach Photography

She is supportive of my past, my present and my future.

Stacey Peek

I got the privilege to help take care of my mother-in-law the last year of her life. She was diagnosed with Corticobasal Degenerative disease (very similar to Parkinson’s disease) and when she became total care, she lived with us. She was an amazing lady and God couldn’t have given me a better mother-in-law. I learned so much from her in the short time I got to know her. I loved her dearly and my view on life changed drastically. I learned what it felt like to love someone who was truly helpless. She wanted to walk, and talk, and live life. Unfortunately, she was confined to a bed and lost control of her arms and legs in the end. She is a large part of the reason I try to live each day as if it were the last.

Stacey Peek

I was also blessed with a stepson who has been an incredible addition to my life. He’s such a great kid with a bright future ahead of him. He leaves in just 6 weeks to attend KU for Pre-Med.

Stacey Peek

I plan to continue my education and reach for the stars. I started a company last year called ‘Live What You Love, LLC.’ We sell inspirational and motivational t-shirts and donate 10% of our profits to charity. I have a loving and supportive family that has stood by my side through it all. My sister did end up having a child, and I get to be a part of my niece’s life.

Stacey Peek

I have accomplished so much in the 3.5 years I have been clean but I feel like this is only the beginning. I plan to continue my education and begin writing a book in the near future. I will reach for the stars and continue to dream big. I have a passion for working with women who have struggled themselves. I hope to secure funding and start a women’s house that provides long-term recovery supports in the future as well. I cannot wait to see what the future holds and I am thankful beyond words for the people who have contributed to making this life change possible.

The one thing I hope I never forget is just how bad that life was. I never, ever, want to forget where I came from. I hope to lift others up and encourage them along the way of pursuing my own personal journey of success and happiness.

Stacey Peek

At the end of the day, I am someone’s wife, daughter, sister, aunt, stepmother, grandchild, cousin, niece, the list goes on.

But most importantly, I’m a human being. So are you. Just remember, no matter how bad it gets and no matter how bad it hurts… You are worth it. You are beautiful. You matter. Your mistakes are simply lessons learned. You are loved. You can do it. And I believe in you. 💙”

Stacey Peek

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Stacey Peek of Joplin, Missouri. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

Read more inspiring stories about overcoming addiction:

‘I sat there and cried, a shotgun in hand, my son in the next room. I was taken away in an ambulance while he slept.’: Woman overcomes suicide, years of addiction, says there’s ‘always possibility for change’

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