“I heard a Stevie Nicks song this afternoon, specifically Landslide. Just as quickly as I recognized the lyrics, an invasive memory of sticking a needle into my dehydrated veins pulsated into my head. I remember feeling the venom shoot through me, I remember falling back into a bed, I remember singing this song along with the radio as I fell deeper into the incoherent state that I regularly existed in.
Those moments made the sheer misery of my life more tolerable. Stevie Nicks, Alanis Morrisette, and Tupac filled the void in my thoughts and made it possible to forget that I was killing myself, despite the desire to live. Opiates feel like the ultimate relief, but they also bring the sufferer to their knees every single time. By the end of it, my knees could no longer carry the burden of the life I had been living. Through a series of unfortunate events, I found myself using for the last time and that was December 25, 2013. I guess you could say that although those events felt unfortunate while experiencing them, looking back, it was that exact journey that set me up for long term sobriety.
It’s probably pertinent to tell you that during those turbulent years of heroin addiction, I had four children. My first daughter, Meadow, was born in 2011 and was shortly followed by the birth of my triplet daughters, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. It seems inane, but so many people have asked throughout the years if my triplets were planned or expected. Truthfully, none of my daughters were planned and I certainly never felt ‘ready.’ Motherhood didn’t rush over me like a tsunami of unconditional love and sacrifice. I was in a vulnerable place in my life and receiving no healing for the trauma and darkness I had been encapsulated in. Suicidal thoughts and desperation to do better collided in my mind. I never knew such a feeling could exist.
There’s terrible loneliness in addiction and sometimes even in motherhood. Recovering and parenting while treating all the broken pieces of you has the potential to be the most beautiful experience a person can live through. I just celebrated six years sober from all mood mind-altering substances, and I am the mother to an 8-year-old and three 6-year-olds. Those parts of me have created a magnificent desire to always look for the light in life and the people I encounter on my journey.
The first couple of years of recovery looked like a Pacman running from the tiny ghost, avoiding all the dead ends and time bombs. Unraveling the chaos I had created wasn’t easy, it never is. They tell you that when you first walk into the room. ‘They’ meaning the people happily living life sober after already going through the complex times of early recovery. Once the desire to use drugs stopped being a daily burden on my shoulders, I was able to focus more freely on creating a life for myself that I deserved. At the time, I didn’t feel deserving, but I knew that I wasn’t put here to die or suffer from addiction. I held on to the belief that what I went through wasn’t in vain. There had to be something greater out there for me and my daughters. My husband became sober three months prior and seeing him transform was influential in my recovery. With both of us working towards a better life we soon found ourselves living in a way we had never dreamed possible.
From the outside looking in, you can see that life today no longer reflects what it used to look like for me. Less then six years ago, I was leaving a women’s prison in Michigan to live in a homeless shelter in Metro Detroit, because not a single person wanted me paroled to their home. I’m typing this in my home, wearing a cozy robe with one of my cats curled up in the ditch of my knee. Outside, my car is parked with my husband’s business logo displayed across the driver’s side. At 18 months sober, I retained full custody of my four children. They were almost 2 and 4. I had no idea how to take care of myself before recovery, let alone four little girls. I used to speak so lowly of myself and question how someone like me could be blessed with the experience of raising triplets plus one.
Tomorrow morning, my girls will crawl into my bed and tell me how much they love me. I will feel the warmth of their bodies curl up next to me as my husband brews me a cup of coffee. They feel secure with me and I can care for them in a way that takes strength, patience, and sacrifice–three attributes I did not have under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
I have things, material possessions, I either don’t need or appreciate at times. I find that as the years have gone on, I have been able to forget what life looked like, that just a short time ago, I could fit all my belonging into a garbage bag, that I ate when other people went out of their way to feed me, that I lost all access body weight and the landscape of my internal condition was ravaged. I find myself overwhelmed under the pressure of parenting but there was a time when I wasn’t even allowed to speak to my kids on the phone unsupervised. I knew that removing drugs and alcohol from my life would inevitably lead to a better existence, but I never knew the power of living life without the comfort of escape and relief.
Taking external conditions from the equation, we are left with how I feel internally after removing what I believed was my solution to the feelings of shame, loneliness, fear, resentment, and trauma. When I started using drugs to cope with life, it gave me exactly what I was looking for. If I felt anxious, I would take a pill to relax. When I felt that I didn’t belong, I would draw a line of cocaine and immediately fit in. As the need for the next high got more severe, so did the consequences. When my first experience with sexual assault occurred, I knew that heroin would remove the dirty feeling on my skin. I learned that alcohol not only relaxed social settings, but it numbed the hatred of my own existence. Despair doesn’t lift from you overnight. Anyone coming into recovery needs to realize that it took years to get to the rock bottom you found yourself in.
Emotional sobriety doesn’t happen the moment you stop using. That comes with healing, self-care, therapy, and honest recovery. Surrounding myself with strong sober women was the best thing I could have done for my mental health. They loved me until I learned to love myself. Having a constant connection to AA and outside therapy kept the momentum for change and spiritual progress. Perfection is not my end goal, but if I get through each day sober, despite obstacles, then I know I’ve done my best.
Emotional sobriety today looks peaceful. I live in a space of gratitude and serenity. My soul feels cleansed and the people that have victimized me no longer hold power. Life still happens, the good and the bad days still go on, but sobriety has helped me see them through. My existence no longer pains me. I’m happy.
Listening to the sounds of my past can leave me uncomfortable but those memories cannot be forgotten.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Bree Rowe. You can follow their journey on Instagram or their blog. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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