“My life has been quite a learning journey. I’m the youngest of four children and grew up with my single mother. She was a nurse and worked long nights to survive. We were all brought up in a Christian home and went to private school.
I always craved attention and was quite the handful as a child. My mother put me in counseling at age 7, never explaining why. For many years of counseling, I still didn’t understand and felt like my mother just wanted to push her daughter’s issues onto someone else.
I didn’t get along with a lot of the other children at my school and was quite the loner. Lonely at home and lonely at school, I started smoking and drinking when I was just 11 years old. By 13, I smoked marijuana and was always running away from school. In high school, I directed myself towards others who were of the same risky behaviors and started to experiment in other drugs. I used my body for attention.
But all of these years took a toll on me. I started to feel empty inside and often let people use me. At the age of 16, I started to self-harm. I struggled with myself internally and wanted to understand, but I always pushed it aside when I was with my peers. Drinking and getting high numbed the pain.
I moved out on my own at 17 years old and my place became a party house. Every day I’d drink and go to school drunk. I eventually got expelled from school by 18. I was living on social assistance and using my time to party, causing myself to get deeper into the beginnings of my true addiction. I started using cocaine and ecstasy and, soon enough, speed. Then, I had a friend who introduced me to a better way to get high: injecting.
I started out injecting at age 18. I dabbled in speed for only 3 months while living in a drug fueled environment with friends until, at 19, I found out I was pregnant. I moved in with other, more responsible friends and quit using. But two weeks later, I miscarried and I went right back into my spiral. Blame and guilt overcame me.
One day, I was introduced to opiates. The first time I used them was like a warm blanket. I forget about everything and felt numb. I was not anxious or sad, I was just numb. I continued to use and it took over my life. I always had to find a way to escape what I felt I needed to run from and at times became homeless to afford my addiction.
I would steal pills from my mother or manipulate her into feeding my addiction so I was not sick. When I met someone in the year 2002, we started dating. He was not an addict, but knew that I was. Somehow, this didn’t deter him from our relationship. Instead, he wanted to be supportive of my want for help.
I went on the methadone program and, to him, I was cleaning up. I continued to use behind his back. At the end of 2003, I got pregnant with my now 14-year-old son. I continued on the methadone program and did not use during my pregnancy. And in 2004, I welcomed my beautiful healthy boy. Everything was good for a while. I got off methadone 6 months after my son was born. But a few months later, I struggled with some anxiety and relapsed. I went back to hiding it and was caught by my son’s father.
By the time my son was a year old, we split up because he couldn’t deal with my addiction anymore. I went back on the methadone program but continued to use. I started drug counseling at the clinic and tried to come to terms with why I was using, why was I hiding, why I couldn’t break free.
After some reflection, I realized that it was because I felt alone, I felt worthless. I felt like a burden to people. All I had was my son and he wasn’t enough of a reason for me to stop. Soon after, I met an old friend from high school in 2007 and had a short relationship that ended with another pregnancy. I was still using and on methadone at this time. He left when I got pregnant and has been absent since. I stopped using again through my pregnancy and had a beautiful little girl in 2008, still on the program. My daughter had a few complications at birth and remained in the NICU for 28 days.
I got off the methadone program again at the end of 2008. With the next year came another relationship, another end to that relationship because of my addiction, and a relapse. I felt extreme feelings of abandonment. I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’m not able to be loved.’ But still, I powered through.
I went back on the methadone program for the last time and did pure clean time on it for 4 months. I thought about my children every step of the way. On one of the days, I looked at myself in the mirror and asked myself, ‘What are you doing? You are worth so much more than what you’ve given yourself.’ I deserved more than I gave myself credit for. I had to convince myself that I am not my past, I am not worthless, and I can do better.
I have not touched a drug in 10 years now. I have been to counseling on and off throughout my journey as a way to refocus my thoughts if they fall. I never believed I deserved happiness and love from others. But since I became fully sober, I have been blessed with so much positivity. Sure, there’s struggles here and there, but communication and self-care take over my thoughts (and some great music).
I am now married, have two awesome stepchildren in addition to my two, and have a great job as a harm reduction outreach worker. I credit being a parent as a huge help in self-care and understanding. I wanted my kids to have understanding and love so I first had to find it in myself.
There is a life for everyone and there is love in people who others may see as disposable. My journey has led me to be able to listen, appreciate, and advocate for those who feel so worthless in this world. Even a simple smile can change someone’s path towards happiness and no matter the choices made, we are all still human. We are all worth everything we work towards in life. We all deserve to see how much we matter. My journey has had a lot of ups and downs but I wouldn’t change one thing. Never be ashamed of the past. It makes you who you are today.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nicky Hanson. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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