Disclaimer: This story includes details of sexual abuse and may be triggering to some.
“This disease does not discriminate. I had a wonderful childhood growing up. My mother had a sip of non-alcoholic White Zinfandel, and she says she thinks she feels it. I say, ‘Mommy, there is no alcohol in it!’
Looking back now, I can see how my behavior showed signs that I had more than just an addiction I would have to tackle at some point in my life. I always had to be the center of attention. I fed off of people, always seeking their approval. I had no idea that confidence had to come from within.
At first, my confidence came from what people said about my looks. I had to tackle my eating disorder first. I used to throw up in bags and hide them in my closet so no one would hear me throwing up in the bathroom. I would love to go out and eat with groups of people because I loved the attention I got about how much food I would eat, and how I could still look so good. They didn’t know I would work out for hours before I would go out to eat. Then I would wait until I got home to throw it all up so no one would know.
I was always an athlete. Tennis became my sport. I was ranked number one in North Eastern Ohio in tennis from ages 12 and under till 18 and under. I went on to play tennis for Ohio state. However, I was so self-absorbed and into drugs that to this day, I couldn’t tell you the name of my tennis coach at Ohio State, or how long I was really on the team.
I was 17 years old and was working at a coffee house when I was invited to go to a party across the street. I had heard of heroin, cocaine, alcohol, and marijuana, but I never heard of crack. There were all these white rocks on the table, and I asked, ‘What is that?’ They asked me if I wanted to try it. I said sure! They put a $30 hit on a stem and showed me how to smoke the pipe. I was addicted to it the second it went into my body.
A couple of months into my addiction, I was at a house with the person who introduced me to smoking crack. I had no idea what I was doing. He used to pull my pants down and blow smoke into my vagina. I didn’t understand what he was doing at the time to me. I just knew that if I let him do that, he would give me crack. This was just the beginning for me.
I remember being put in a car and was told to make this man happy so we could get more crack. This was my first car ride alone with a stranger. When I sat in the car, I remember being so scared looking back at the house that I just walked out wondering what was going on. I also did not understand, when he pulled his pants down, what I was supposed to do. Unfortunately, I learned to quickly the way the streets worked for an innocent, ignorant 17-year-old like myself. My lips would get swollen from going down on so many men, that I couldn’t even put a crack pipe on my mouth. It didn’t take me long to live on the streets. I disappeared from the beautiful life I took for granted at home.
I had been on a three-day bender at ‘Big Mama’s house.’ This is where the drug dealers counted their money at the end of the night, and where men and women had sex with dealers to smoke crack if you didn’t have money. They called that ‘being a strawberry’ back in the day. I remember watching a mother sell her 4-year-old to the dealer to give him ‘oral sex’ for a hit of crack. On the third day, Big Mama thought I stole from her. She went to her closet and took out her gun, and was going to kill me. Four dealers grabbed me up and ran me to their car. They told me they would take care of me. They took care of me all right.
I will never forget walking up the narrow and steep staircase. In the back room to the left was a closet with one hanger moving back and forth. The window screen in front of me was half ripped, and the plastic on the mattress to the right of me had a tear in it. One by one, all four dealers turned me over and sexually assaulted me. When they were done, they threw a five-dollar hit of crack on that mattress. Do you know, I couldn’t smoke that fast enough. It was the middle of winter and I had to walk down the street with no shoes to find help, as blood was running down my legs. This was only the very beginning of my addiction.
California took me down hard! I had three lives here. I got married to my first husband out there. I also lived a single life after we divorced. And then I had my drug life. The drug life took me down hard. I had three and a half years of sobriety at the time. I do not call it healthy sobriety. Any addiction a person could have, I had. I did anything and used anyone just so I didn’t feel uncomfortable.
I had a boyfriend at the time who had just relapsed. I thought I could have one hit of crack, take a Seroquel, and wake up in the morning and act like nothing happened. Because of that ONE HIT of crack, a year later I was smoking crack with cockroaches, sticking needles on my arm in abandoned apartment buildings. That one hit led me to things like being pushed out of a moving vehicle on the freeway by another crack addict like me, or like when there was a hit out on me from the dealers, because they thought I was a rat. They kidnapped me and left me for dead in the middle of the hood to be taken care of. How I survived that can only be a God thing.
I met my second husband in my 15th rehab. It’s as if I would walk into rehab now, pick the sickest guy and say, ‘Hey baby, you are hot and sexy, want to have two kids and get married?’ Because that’s what happened. We were married for eight years but legally separated after the first six months of marriage. The mental abuse I endured, I do not wish on anyone.
I’ll give you an example. One day I found out my ex was doing drugs again. When I approached him, I told him we will get through this together. I mean, we did meet in rehab. The next day, he put his hand on my shoulders and said, ‘Eri, are you okay? I’m very worried about you because that never happened. I think I need to check you into the hospital for your multiple personality disorder. I don’t want you around Erik.’ He is our oldest. Our youngest, Hayden, was not born yet. I almost would have rather been beaten, because those scars heal. I was used to getting beaten on the streets. I had put together 4 and a half years of sobriety until I didn’t. That relapse lasted almost three years with a one-year break in between.
There were two turning points for me that shifted my brain to want to get sober more than I wanted to get high. One was when my ex-husband was going to move the kids to a different state. The other was when I called the man who is now my husband from a crack house. We had met in yoga. I was so desperately trying to get sober. I was never in denial that I needed help. However, once the drug or drink was in me, I truly could not stop. No matter how badly I wanted to, my brain wouldn’t let me.
Anyway, I called Jordan from a crack house and said, ‘You don’t know me very well, and if you never speak to me again that’s okay. But if you don’t come and get me, I’m going to die here.’ He came and got me and we have been together ever since. With or without him, I wanted what he had. I would watch him prepare the coffee at night, or make his bed in the morning. He would do his laundry, and clean the dishes. I so wanted to do those simple but huge tasks. It took almost a year after that phone call for me to really get it together. But the seed had been planted.
I was ready to start fighting for my life and my kids’ lives. I met with my attorney and made a decision to get honest with myself and everyone around me. The second I got honest, everyone was willing to help me. I was ready to face my consequences no matter how bad they were. I had drug-related cases in four different counties. The judge, my therapist, my family, and what now is my support group day by day, paved a road map which set me up to succeed. My first visitation with the kids was at a Panera with a supervisor every other week for one hour. Then eventually it became two hours. Then it was at my house every Saturday for two hours, supervised, until my custody hearing.
When I stopped sucking all the oxygen out of every room I was in, I was able to get the kids away from their father who unfortunately is still in his disease. My own urine on me, I had a habit of faking all my drug tests till I was ready to get honest and fight for my life. I had monthly hair, nail, and toenail testing as well. The day my husband Jordan and I went to court for the custody hearing was as if we were going to the hospital about to deliver twins. We came home from the court like coming home from the hospital with my kids. I had not been a mom in so long, and I was ready to be a parent to my two angels no matter what it took. We had to and still go therapy as a family. Every day I am learning that the calmer I am, the calmer my children are. As an individual, every day I am challenged to be a better me because of my children. I have many old behaviors that did not just go away because I got sober.
I have been in 19 rehabs. I did whatever it took to get high. I sold my body, my soul, and everything and anything that meant something to me for a hit of crack. I didn’t want to live, but I didn’t want to die, I didn’t want to get high any more, but could not stop. July 11, 2017, I took a leap of faith. I begged God for help and meant it, with every part of me, and trusted that if I was honest with myself and everyone around me, I could actually get help!
Today I have full custody back of my children, I am remarried, and have a relationship with my sister and parents. I also am living out my childhood dream. Almost two years ago, I made this vision board. I thought, ‘How great would it be to start playing tennis again?’ I kid you not, the next day after I made my vision board, I ran into my coach, who I had not seen in 15 years, at a Starbucks that he never goes to. How amazing would it be to start playing tennis again, work to get a center court at a grand slam, and let the world know that you can be in recovery, 40 years old, and have a do-over in life! About 6 months ago, I made it on the ITF pro tennis tour!
This disease is very real. We were not meant to do this journey of recovery alone. Feeling for the first time, sleeping, sleeping in a bed, drinking water, laughing, crying, having a real orgasm as a sober woman. Being touched, touching someone. The list of self-discoveries is like a baby being reborn at an older age. The most important thing I am learning is to be honest with myself. As ugly and hard as it is to look at me.
I had to take a moment in my sobriety where I was willing to really get honest with myself if I wanted to be happy and find laughter that would come from my gut. I asked, ‘What it is I need to do to find that spark inside me?’ which internally gave me that drive I sooo missed, to feel alive! I had been dead inside for so long, even after I was newly sober. I needed a reason because I was so broken and so so very tired.
One day, I made a decision to make a date with me. It was time to really take a look at this rotting apple, and find out what I truly needed to make my soul happy. I had no idea how to feel anything anymore. I didn’t ask myself if my dream was realistic, I asked myself if my motives were pure, with honest intentions. I asked myself if my dream would hurt me or anyone I loved.
We live in a land of opportunity, and the only person holding me back from my dreams is me. If it’s bad, make it AMAZING! How wonderful would it be if the decision you make today actually worked? I had to be willing to be more uncomfortable than I have ever been in order to make a change! Being sober isn’t enough. Being honest with myself and everyone around me was the hardest and best decision I have ever made! I wasn’t able to give anything to anyone until I found how to love me! Today, I love me, and now I feel confident that I can love enough to give back.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Erika Sandor-Zur. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read more about addiction and recovery:
‘I was prostituting. We had sex, he paid me, but I didn’t leave right away. I was infatuated.’: Woman credits abusive relationship for sobriety after meth addiction, ‘I got sober for a man, stayed sober for my baby, now I stay sober for me’
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