‘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.’

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“I’m sitting in a large room with floor to ceiling windows, looking out at the beautiful trees all around me, and all I can think about is getting high. The girl next to me and the woman across from me look worn out, and I think to myself how different I am from them. I’m 20 years old, I have a good family, I have lots of time ahead of me, and I don’t smoke meth or have a major drinking problem. I’ve never woken up in the gutter, and I just don’t look like these people. I just smoke heroin from time to time, but I’m not like all of these women in here. I ended an abusive relationship with a guy I dated since high school. My life is different than the women seated around me.

I’m dating someone almost as abusive as my high school boyfriend; My best friend at the time overdosed next to me in my bed, I work as a stripper, I have no money, I’ve pawned and sold everything I ever had, there are two felonies hanging over my head, I suffer from debilitating anxiety and panic attacks, insomnia, my family is distancing themselves from me and I don’t know why. I have hidden my drug use from them, I think. I’m not really a ‘drug addict,’ am I?

Courtesy of Jessica Julum

After a half-assed completion of treatment, I go right back to the same guy within days… DAYS. And the next thing I know, I’m sitting in the back seat of his car watching his young son while my boyfriend and his dealer shoot heroin in the front seat. I told myself, ‘he’s the drug addict, not me.’ I mean, who does that in front of a child? I don’t. So I’m not an addict.

It took some time, and while I was on the seventh floor of the King County Jail, after having jumped out of a three-story window to get away from the bail bondsman… I realized, ‘holy sh*t, I am a drug addict!’

Courtesy of Jessica Julum

I finally said it to myself, ‘Girl, you’re a f**king drug addict.’ And I couldn’t believe this is where I was…this was happening. I was looking at five years of prison – I wouldn’t be able to go home for five years! I begged my loving and supportive parents to please take me home, I begged and pleaded with my dad and promised I’d be good and not do drugs any more if he would just open the cell door and hug me, tell me that he loved me and take me home and not let me go to prison. But there were eleven charges and quite a few were felonies. Bail was set at a million dollars.

I was in physical pain from the withdrawal of heroin, the fear of being in prison and the unknown and being completely powerless to help myself. This was eye-opening for my parents. I don’t think they knew how bad things had truly become…and neither did I. I thought I had everything under control – but I didn’t. I was sitting in a hospital bed in the county jail and I was only 23 years old. The scary part is…I didn’t know my world was about to get so much worse.

Courtesy of Jessica Julum

Out of jail with more fear than I had ever had before, I hit the ground running… faster. I found myself sitting in a hotel room at the age of 27, my hair was done up and make-up looked amazing. I had on a tight black bodycon dress while listening to my client run through what he wants to do. My gut was screaming at me to get up and leave, but if I left, there will be no money, and my ‘boss’ will be quite upset.

Courtesy of Jessica Julum
Courtesy of Jessica Julum

Next, I’m posing for photos with my wrists bound and nipple clamps so painfully tight, but I’m only crying on the inside – not from that physical pain, but at how I can be doing this to myself. But money meant I got to get high afterward, and that was the big band-aid on my wounds.

I overdosed for the first time in December 2016. My body was giving out on me so I was back in the hospital. Everyone was there for me, gave me love and support, but at that moment I couldn’t feel any of it – my heart was as black and gooey as heroin. I left the hospital with not so great people and did a goofball (a shot of heroin and meth) while sitting in my high school ex-boyfriend’s RV. There was a constant parade of homeless junkies and tweakers coming in and out, so much illegal stuff going on, I wondered what he was doing, but I was too scared to say anything – scared of them – I just withdrew. I knew deep down I would be able to wake up and handle the situation. But soon I couldn’t breathe, there was a pain in my chest and no matter what I was doing, I couldn’t catch my breath and I am scared.

I wake up in a hospital, hooked up to IV’s and confused. Pneumonia almost killed me. The doctors and nurses explained the damp weather in Seattle along with my drug use had caused me to get so sick they almost couldn’t save me. They said they couldn’t find a place to put the IV; all my veins were so damaged that they had to call an anesthesiologist to put an IV in my neck. They had to put a PICC line in my left am. I didn’t want to die; I wanted to live. My sister was getting married in a few weeks – I wanted to be there. I wanted to see my nephew, I wanted to have children of my own, have lunch with my bestie, hug my dad and just finally find out what it meant to be happy. All those things were foreign to me, but I wanted them.

I asked for methadone before the doctor could say anymore.

Courtesy of Jessica Julum

After the hospital, I stayed with the old ex for a few weeks, up until the cops were coming for him. I wanted to save myself. He said, ‘You aren’t meant to be clean.’ I couldn’t believe how invalidating it made me feel and I realized I’d been afraid of him since I met him a decade ago. At that moment, I realized I was going to save myself – he had helped make me the person I had become and that had to stop. It was raining, I started walking away – he kept calling after me and I kept walking and walking and telling myself and promising myself I would never let anyone or anything take my power away from me again.

May 4th, 2017. I enrolled in a methadone program. I won’t lie, not every day is easy, and I don’t wake up feeling good every day. My addict still pops her head out to say ‘hi’ every now and again, and I’m like, ‘No. Not today girl.’ And I shut her back in her cage. She will never be completely gone, but now I have the strength to silence her in those moments. Methadone has given me the chance to work on the icky-crummy-deep stuff of my past self, and I have been given a chance at a ‘normal’ life. And I work on that icky-crummy-deep stuff, and it is work, but because of that, I have learned to love myself and more importantly, forgive myself.

Courtesy of Jessica Julum

I am starting methadone taper this month, I live with my family, and it’s taken time, but we have a healthier relationship now. I have a job in the family business. A craft brewery – I am studying to become a brewer. My new boyfriend and I both share the same past, and we will be celebrating our first year together at the end of May.

Courtesy of Jessica Julum

My best friend since 6th grade is like my sister, and we do the things I always wanted to do, but couldn’t when I was using. The 4th of May was my two year clean date, and my friends and family showered me with love and support. I’ve never been happier.

Courtesy of Jessica Julum
Courtesy of Jessica Julum

I have so much to be grateful for. And on the days I’m not feeling so hot, I’m able to look at the things around me and remember, I am not so different from the girl next to me, or the woman across from me in the big room with the big windows and the beautiful trees.”

Courtesy of Jessica Julum
Courtesy of Jessica Julum

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 inspiring stories of people overcoming their addictions:

‘Our daughter has been placed in protective custody,’ my husband said. ‘We will deal with that later,’ I remember replying. Because first, I needed to get high.’

‘I was ABANDONED on my grandma’s front porch with a note that said, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ My own mother said those five words about me when I was only 8 months old.’

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