“‘I could stop if I wanted to.’ Famous last words; words I had repeated so many times that I had actually convinced myself they were true. Deceived by the heavy levels of denial that accompany addiction, I had no idea that I had already crossed the threshold, the point of no return. The worst part is that I didn’t know that I didn’t know… until I did.
19 years old, with a lifetime ahead of me. The last few years of my life were spent wasting away every single dream that I had ever dreamt, forgetting every goal I had once set for myself. The little girl, who didn’t want to grow up to be like her drug addict father, had grown up to carry some of his least favorable traits.
In hindsight, I can picture it all happening, almost replaying in slow motion. For as much as I don’t remember, I remember so much. I remember the pathetic paragraphs I’d send over text message, begging people to front me until I got paid, knowing that my paycheck would be long gone before it reached the hands of those I owed. I remember dreading falling asleep, because I knew once I woke up the following morning I’d already be hours into withdrawal and would need to figure out a game plan immediately. I remember stealing from my mother’s purse while she was downstairs doing laundry, yelling down to her the entire time so I would be able to tell how far away she was by her voice. And I remember the turning point, the day when it all changed.
I had spent the last (almost) year of my life dating a guy who sold drugs – convenient, yes; toxic, also yes. Every day we spent together faded into the next. Waking up in his parent’s basement, arguing over who got what, inevitably full of rage because he got more. My mom would describe my presence in her home during this time of my life as a tornado. She’d tell me that she dreaded seeing my car pull up in the driveway because she knew the chaos that I’d bring when I walked through the door. I try to think back to what ‘good times’ this boyfriend and I shared together, though the reality is that addiction was the glue that held our relationship together. We were at the mall, Christmas shopping, when I felt a cold chill come over my body. It wasn’t something I was familiar with. I knew people who ‘had’ to use drugs to feel normal – I was not one of them. I wasn’t that bad off. I was just doing drugs because I liked getting high, relying heavily on the justification, ‘if you lived the life I’ve lived, you’d get high, too.’ I told my boyfriend I didn’t feel well, and we talked about how I hadn’t gotten high yet that day. He looked at me and told me I was going through withdrawal. This moment changed everything. The next year of my life would have nothing to do with living, and everything to do with surviving.
On a bitter December day of the following year, I walked into treatment for the first time. By now, I thought I knew the depths of rock bottom. I couldn’t imagine a life worse than the one I had been living. But I had a plan, a brilliant one. All I needed to do was get over the physical withdrawal, and then I could leave and continue living my life like a normal 19-year-old. I could get back to the regularly scheduled program. I wasn’t one of ‘them.’ I was just young and dumb, and physically addicted to opiates because my body had gotten used to having them. This was normal. This could happen to anyone, right?
Wrong. I hear the voices of the people in the treatment center rattling off cliché phrases like, ‘alcohol is a drug,’ ‘once an addict, always an addict,’ ‘you never have to use again.’ Did I miss something? Is there something about what’s going on here that now limits me from using any substances? They’re not talking about me, they can’t be. They must just be making generalizations and I’m sorry, but, I’m going to go ahead and opt out here.
And so, I did. And in return, I was welcomed, with open arms, into a living hell unlike anything I had ever experienced. Upon my arrival to this undesirable destination, I was introduced to new methods of using which delivered a quicker, more intense high. I was bound by new levels of obsession and compulsion that seemingly took the word ‘option’ out of my vocabulary. I felt like a robot, and my addiction was controlling the remote. It told me when to wake up and what to do to get more, while stripping me of any morals and values I had held onto thus far. It robbed me of every relationship, inconsiderate of how much these people meant to me. It stole my soul, and left behind a skeleton.
Wanting to stop with every fiber of my being, I couldn’t. There was no cure for what I was up against. There was no magic recipe, no controlled dosage, no love from another human being, no begging and pleading, that was powerful enough to make me stop. On the floor of the bathroom in my mother’s home, I’d sit Indian style, crying hysterically, freezing cold while sweating profusely, trying to get well so I could maintain some sort of normalcy in my life. I’d wake up in the middle of the night in full-blown withdrawal and pull the blanket over my head, trying to trap the warm air from my breath in hopes that it would alleviate the cold chills that kept me from going back to sleep.
That living hell had quickly transformed into rock bottom, one so deep that I wasn’t sure where to begin to crawl my way out of it. So I did what I knew how to, and I went back to that same facility, a little over a year later. There’s nothing quite like walking into a treatment center and hearing the words, ‘Hey, I remember you.’ ‘Thanks, I’d rather not be remembered here,’ I respond as I look down at the ground, incapable of making eye contact, completely covered in shame. When I walked in those doors again on January 26, 2011, at 21 years old, my journey began. The clichés were the same the second time around, but I wasn’t. I had been spiritually beaten to a pulp. There wasn’t a single ounce of energy left in my body to continue living life in active addiction, and so I surrendered.
My life from that day forward has been nothing short of a miracle. I have been blessed with so many opportunities; opportunities that even the average person who has never experienced addiction doesn’t get. I’ve stood in circles with thousands of recovering addicts at a world convention reciting the Serenity Prayer, with chills (the good kind), forcing every hair on my body to stand up. I’ve repaired old relationships and formed new ones, with a level of genuineness that is incomparable. I’ve celebrated anniversaries for new milestones of recovery, 8 times over. I’ve gained material things that I once thought I’d never have, and though their value is truly minimal in the grand scheme of things, they’re mine and I worked for them. I’ve gone back to school and graduated with a college degree, twice. I pour my heart into my career that I show up for on a daily basis. I am so fortunate in that I get to do all of the things I was always meant to do, even after spending quite some time in Hell on Earth.
While all of those external gifts have been amazing, they don’t compare to the internal ones, the ones that no one can actually really ‘see.’ But I can feel them. I am so far from the 21 year old that walked through those double doors that day, and it’s not just because I’m 30 now and my hairstylist found a gray hair. I am so far from the girl who spent most of her days wishing her life away and questioning why God kept her alive. My heart has transformed from full of anger and resentment, to full of gratitude. I no longer have to run from myself, because over time, I’ve seen just how capable I am of handling any emotion or experience that comes my way. I don’t have to avoid mirrors just to escape the reality of my reflection. Where I once challenged the idea of God because I didn’t understand why my life ended up the way it did, I now see His purpose written so clearly all over the timeline of my life. The soul that was ripped from my body has been replaced with one that is so full of life. A girl who’s every move was selfish and self-seeking has now found new, more pure motives. A girl who spent every day wanting to die, now just wants to live.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jeana Osborne, 30, of Maryland. You can follow her 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.
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