‘From the very beginning I knew something wasn’t right with me. I never got married and never had children. I kept using drugs to forget the pain I felt in my soul.’

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“I’m an addict and my name is Alisa. The road to loving myself has been a hard journey. I started drinking and using drugs at age 12 mostly to feel differently than how I felt, and to fit in. From the very beginning I knew something wasn’t right with me. I always had issues with the way I looked, I wasn’t ever skinny enough or pretty enough, I suffered from low self esteem and always feeling less than. I used drugs and alcohol to escape, I used people to make me feel better about myself. Doing cocaine made me lose weight and I was finally skinny like I always wanted to be. I barely made it through high school, graduating by the skin of my teeth. I never had any career goals or aspired to go to college or work or do anything meaningful with my life. I never got married and never had children. I kept on using drugs to forget the pain I felt in my soul. I ended up in my first treatment center at the age of 23 and I stayed clean and sober for 3 years. They were the best 3 years of my life. But there was a problem – I didn’t do anything to figure out what my real issues were, and I didn’t work any kind of program. I ended up right back where I started – using drugs and alcohol again, and ruining my life.

Courtesy of Alisa Freeman
Courtesy of Alisa Freeman

It was always someone else’s fault. My father was a drug addict and died of AIDS on my 20th birthday as a result of his heroin addiction, so I blamed him. I blamed my mother for not being a good enough mom. I was never willing to take responsibility for myself and my decisions. I thought the world owed me something. My life went on a downward spiral and for the next 22 years, I got worse and worse as each year went by. I wasn’t a member of society. I was lost in the deep, dark world of crack cocaine and the streets of South Florida. With every day that went by I couldn’t stand myself more and more. I hated myself and all the things I was doing to myself and my family, but I was in the grips of my addiction and I couldn’t ever see a way out. I ended up in jail many times and even prison. I was in and out of rehabs. On my last count, I’d been to 8 treatment centers. I lost all contact with my family and hurt the people who loved me without even a care as to what I was putting them through. I ended up homeless and had to be a prostitute to get what I needed to survive and for a place to live. I put myself in life and death situations not caring whether I survived. I never thought my life would come to such a conclusion.

I never saw a way out. I lost everything due to my addiction. My family wouldn’t come near me. I was unemployable, and I lost all will to live. Every single day I wanted to die. I was an empty shell of a person.

Courtesy of Alisa Freeman
Courtesy of Alisa Freeman

Then one day something clicked in me. I believe it was the grace of God, and I decided to change my life and go into a halfway house. That day I remember feeling as though I couldn’t go on one more day the way I was living. I was an empty shell of a human being. That day was a turning point in my life. I will never forget the date, January 19, 2015. I have been clean and sober ever since. Finally, at the age of 45, I started living instead of just existing. Right from day one I started to take responsibility for myself and to face my demons and to truly try and understand why I had done the things that I’d done, and to forgive myself for the past and not hurt myself anymore.

The journey to self love has been an enlightening and a truly spiritual experience for me. I’ve really grown up in the last 3 ½ years and stopped blaming everyone else. I’ve worked hard to be free of the past and use my experience, strength and hope to help others who may be going through difficult times to know they don’t have to live like that anymore. I lived in halfway for 26 months and started working right away, determined for the first time in my life to take care of myself financially and emotionally and not have to rely on anyone for my happiness. I even got my first raise ever in my life! It feels so good to be a functioning member of society to be able to look people in the eye for the first time in my life. It feels so good. I appreciate and value every single experience I have that molds me into being the strong, independent woman I am today, no longer a child running away from my life. I’m now embracing and loving myself for who and what I am. I can look at myself in the mirror and love what I see. I was hopeless, helpless and homeless 3 ½ years ago and now I’m living in my own apartment with two jobs and a life beyond my wildest dreams! If I can do it anyone can.

Courtesy of Alisa Freeman
Courtesy of Alisa Freeman

What I’ve learned about life is that it’s not about what happens or happened to me, it’s about how I handle the situations and trials and tribulations. It’s not about how people look at me, it’s about how I look at myself. It’s not about who loves me, it’s about loving myself. It’s not about what I’m saying, it’s about what I’m doing. I can honestly say I’ve changed my thinking and it’s changed my life. I stopped thinking the world and everyone in it owed me something and started to understand it’s what I contribute that really matters. I stopped focusing on others’ perfections and starting loving my imperfections. I stopped regretting the past and started to learn from it. I stopped thinking I was less than, and started believing I was worth something. I got out of my head and into my heart. I’m so blessed and grateful and my hope is that someone who is struggling will read this and see that it is possible. No matter how far down we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.”

Courtesy of Alisa Freeman

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alisa Freeman, 47, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Have you overcome your addictions and would like to share your journey? We’d like to hear from you. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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