Disclaimer: This story contains details of drug abuse and mentions of abuse which may be triggering to some.
“Tonight I express gratitude to the universe – friends and I are at my family’s’ brewery sitting on the patio around a firepit, we are full from a meal my homegirl made. My friends are in deep conversation and I have taken a moment away to listen to the rain on the tin roof above and see their faces lit by the glow of the fire. Sitting here I think, ‘Is this really happening?’ I hold back tears and am overcome with happiness that this really is my life now. I do things like dress up like a unicorn with my bestie to ring in the new year, go on my first camping trip with my boyfriend of 2.5 years, have double dates, do recipe exchanges, and reach out for help when needed. I haven’t always known what trust, love and understanding are, not to mention what a healthy relationship looked like. I didn’t know what any of those things meant.
Drug addicts, at some point, lose every bit of their souls. For those of you that haven’t experienced drug addiction I want you to take a moment to imagine hating yourself so much that you harm yourself, harm others; you won’t take your own life because you’re not good enough. If you don’t wake up or die doing addict stuff it’s no bother. So you keep sticking that needle into your skin to get some relief from the evil that plagues you. No one wakes up one day to say, ‘You know what? I am going to be a heroin addict, I am going to hurt my loved ones, hurt myself, commit some felonies, be homeless and maybe die.’ That doesn’t happen, it’s a slow progression. I mean, one day you are a high school junior swooning over the most dangerous senior at a neighboring school and then 15 years later you’re being arrested on the side of the road.
June 23, 2016, at the age of 28 ,I am living in a car, addicted to heroin, benzodiazepines, muscle relaxers, and getting on the meth train. I am standing on the side of the road fighting with law enforcement telling them to go ahead and get a warrant for my blood because, ‘I have time, how much time they got?’ I was feisty with a pretty reckless mouth and the local police departments unfortunately knew how to deal with me. They were not about to let me go anywhere since I just ran off the road turning a corner, hit a fence, and almost ran the car into speeding traffic below.
I was arrested after the warrant came through for my blood to be tested at the hospital. My drug fueled brain doesn’t remember much of being in there but I do remember being uncomfortable when the nursing staff couldn’t find a vein to get blood. Weeks later, I was officially charged with driving under the influence of heroin, meth and benzos. This would be my second DUI and yet another tack to the long list of felonies and misdemeanors I already had. The sad thing is I wasn’t really scared like I had been in the past. I thought I could run away, disappear, or maybe the court would change their minds and not charge me.
In the past I had run from the courts, bonds men, and WA State department of corrections officers. I always got caught so I don’t know why I thought it would work now, that’s the sick addicted mind for you. I went to court where they wanted me to go to drug treatment. I laughed because I had already done that three previous times and it didn’t stick. I had been threatened with prison, been abused, assaulted, countless jail time, homelessness, and was absent from my family – it didn’t matter the consequence. I would always go right back to whatever abusive guy I was seeing, go back to being an escort, drug dealer, the self hatred, and into the same exact trench.
Between June 2016 and April 2017, I spiraled worse than I ever had. My body was quickly giving out on me as I was taken to the hospital three times in five months. November 2016, I overdosed for the first time on a drug cocktail that a 350 pound linebacker shouldn’t have survived. December 2016, I had MRSA inside my knee and had to have surgery and IV antibiotics. April 2017, my lifestyle gave me pneumonia so nasty I was almost unsaveable. This is when the doctors scared me pretty good telling me ‘my heart was clear of infection’. They explained many IV drug users die from a bacterial infection of the heart called endocarditis. I asked for methadone and was immediately enrolled into the program. When I laughed that day in court I would have never imagined months later I would be BEGGING for drug treatment.
I had two choices after the hospital: go home to family or go back to that dangerous guy from high school. Of course I chose to go back to my ex and I quickly realized that I couldn’t just take methadone and be better. We later parted ways in the rain as he screamed at me over and over ‘YOU WILL NEVER BE CLEAN.’ In that moment, I made a promise to myself I would never let anyone or anything hold power over me again. So I went home, where I knew I was loved, had support and could heal.
Even after I went home to my family I struggled. I had one foot in addiction and one foot in sobriety and I was unsure how to bring both feet into a life of recovery. It seemed daunting. The methadone program saved my life and is such an underused tool to help people recover. However that’s what it is…. a tool. It’s NOT a cure for addiction like many people think. It takes time to get to a stable dose and feel like a human. I knew I needed to heal the whole of me to make this recovery thing stick. I got an assessment with a therapist and I really liked her. After some time she told me ‘it’s not about dealing with yourself it’s about managing and recognizing your feelings’. Weekly meetings with her, cognitive behavior therapy and dialectical behavior therapy classes helped me gain a perspective as to what a sober life can be. My eating habits were healthy, got into yoga and meditation, my dose was stable and I was staying clean. My Dad had me down at the brewery training and getting comfortable in social settings. I was doing really well and was proud of myself. Life seemed to stabilize yet there was something like an itch I couldn’t scratch, something was causing me anxiety and unhappiness. I started staying out late, not sleeping, and when my Dad raised concerns I dismissed it.
In March 2018 I had to serve my time for that second DUI. Here in the state of Washington, methadone is seen as an effective drug treatment and many jails will allow dosing. I was to report to a specific jail that way my treatment could resume. I was there for a few days before I was transferred to a cheaper city jail which does not allow the clinics to come in and I was forced to withdraw from 110mg. My stable world crumbled during this process and I completely fell to pieces. I did my time and it took about a week to get back into the program and I stayed clean. The inability to pull that other foot from addiction plus the loss of my stable world led me to leave home within weeks.
After six months I asked my Dad ‘if I could come home’ and I slowly got myself right. I went back to my therapy, my classes, and made a promise to myself to find my true self and I started to. And then 2020 hit and it truly tested me and my promises to myself. March 15th, 2020 Covid-19 almost closes my family’s business forever, I lost my childhood best friend to differences in August 2020, and my stepmom was diagnosed with clear cell ovarian cancer in September 2020. And yet, on November 23th, 2020, I successfully completed treatment. Full detox was hell but I made it. Recovery is a lifestyle, it’s not just about abstaining from drugs you need to heal the whole of you and learn how to manage life as it comes.
The amount of trauma I have endured during my 15 years of drug addiction hasn’t gone away. I am currently doing exposure therapy to work through my anxieties and the darkness of addiction. It doesn’t matter how much time you have because even after almost four years I am still scared sometimes. Recovery is a really long journey but every step I have taken has led me to moments like sitting around a fire pit with people who truly care for me, my family and my journey. Every time I feel love and trust I remember that this is only the beginning. We do recover, it is hard, it is possible! And it is WORTH IT!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jessica Julum of Bellevue, Washington. You can follow her sober journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read more from Jessica:
‘I was sitting in a hotel room. I had on a tight black dress, listening to my client say what ‘he wants to do.’ My gut was screaming to leave, but if I left, there is no money, and my ‘boss’ will be upset.’: Woman beats heroin addiction
Read more inspiring stories about addiction and recovery:
‘Why bother? Nothing’s left.’ I was a washed-up, homeless junkie injecting meth into my arm.’: Veteran launches organization to end veteran suicide after battling addiction, ‘your life is worth living’
‘My beautiful, newborn girl looked me dead in the eye and smiled. Minutes later, I was in the parking lot getting high.’: Man overcomes life-long addiction, ‘My recovery is nothing short of miraculous’
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