Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of substance abuse that might be triggering to some.
“How does a normal girl like me end up homeless, miserable, and shooting heroin just to keep her body from going into withdrawals? I had such big dreams as a little girl. I had an average childhood. Nothing terribly traumatic happened to me. I thought drug addicts were people who had no families or horrible life circumstances. You know, orphans or trauma survivors. It wasn’t until years later I learned none of the things previously mentioned mattered. Sure, those things can make a situation worse or cause an addict to use sooner, but none of those are prerequisites to becoming a drug addict or alcoholic.
I grew up in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. My mom and dad split up when I was 4 years old because my dad couldn’t stop drinking and using. I lived with my mom, but I visited my dad on the weekends. My mom says I asked her when I was about 7 years old if I would be like my dad one day. I loved my dad dearly, but I knew I never wanted to be like him. He didn’t do what he promised he would do. His friends didn’t really want him around. He couldn’t keep a job or a home. I didn’t like any of those things, and I vowed to NEVER be like that. Childhood with my mom was magical. I was an only child and spoiled rotten. My mom was codependent and lived her life to please me. We went to Disney World and snow skiing. My granny lived on the lake, so we went there often, and water skied and went tubing. Her house was incredible! It had a deck along the whole back of the house with sliding doors into every room. It was on hundreds of acres, so my cousins and I would run amuck. I also went to deer camp and rode horses and four-wheelers. I cherish my childhood memories.
Time with my dad was very different. He did the best he could and we did have a lot of fun together. I know he loved me more than anything in the world, but he couldn’t stay sober. I knew early on what weed smelled like and how to keep a secret because there were a lot of things grown-ups weren’t allowed to know. I would give him my allowance when I was 7 because I knew he needed it more than I did. Looking back, I’m sad he lived like that for so long. Especially now, when I know there’s a way out. The first time I remember feeling different from my peers was in elementary school. The school put me in the ‘smart kid’ classes. They would pull you out of your regular class for 1 hour a week. The kids in the smart kid class were way smarter than me. They would do science experiments and things I didn’t understand at all. Every year, I would tell the school I didn’t want to go to that class, and they would take me out and put me back in my regular class.
In high school, my best friend moved back from a small town in Oklahoma. We had lived across the street from each other when we were in preschool. Our freshman year, she talked me into trying out for the cheerleading team. We made varsity for sophomore year! It was a big deal to 14-year-old girls. I loved cheerleading, but I was not like the other girls. I was young for my grade, so even the other sophomores were older than me. I was pale, red-headed with freckles and glasses, and lanky. The other girls were tan and beautiful. I had several friend groups. I was like a chameleon and could pretend to be exactly who they wanted me to be. I was the goodie-good in the friend group who was already smoking and drinking. I was the one who always said no… until I didn’t. I remember the first time I didn’t. We knew this guy who had a shed in his backyard. It was set up like a little hangout spot.
We would leave out the front door, walk around through the alley, and climb in a hole in the back of the shed. That was where I had my first drink. All I remember is I drank until I puked and I loved every minute of it. All of a sudden, I didn’t care about being cool or pretty or smart. I was comfortable in my own skin. I started drinking more often and then smoking weed. One day, before a basketball game, I smoked with another girl on the cheer team. The game was out of town, so I guess word spread and when we got to the game the principal was there to search our bags. He didn’t find anything, but it made the squad ‘look bad’ so I was kicked off the cheerleading team soon after. Actually, they didn’t even kick me off. Instead, they waited until try-outs the next year and didn’t let me make the team. It was devastating and embarrassing that all these young girls made it and I didn’t. I started spending all my time with my smoking and drinking friends.
At first, we were just kids being kids, but it soon turned into more for me. I tried Xanax for the first time when I was 16 and I loved it. I started taking them as often as possible. My grades slipped and my attendance was terrible, but I graduated when I was 17. I really think the principal and administration just wanted me gone. They didn’t want to deal with me anymore. I moved to Stillwater with my cousin to go to Oklahoma State University. I did zero studying and a lot of partying. I also started getting arrested. It was a whirlwind from graduation in May of 2007 to October 2007, when my parents finally told me I had to go to rehab or they would not bail me out of jail next time. I had been arrested at least four times in this small span. I went to this little rehab in the woods and I lasted 7 days. On day 7, I took off running through the woods and hitchhiked back to Stillwater. I was so scared the cops were going to make me go back I stayed sober for a year or two. I enrolled at a community college in Oklahoma City and started toward a 2-year degree.
In November of 2007, my dad died. I think it fueled my motivation to stay on track. I loved my dad so much. I was always a daddy’s girl and defended him fiercely, even though I knew he was not living right. Sometime during my associate degree, I told myself I could drink alcohol like a normal person. After all, pills were my problem, right? I drank a few times and nothing crazy happened. Then I got my wisdom teeth taken out. I had taken opiates before and never cared much for them, but this time was different. I fell in love with the feeling. I started taking Lortabs every weekend, which turned into every day. I kept my house in order and finished my degree. I was a ‘functioning’ drug addict… until I wasn’t. Tabs turned into perks which turned in Oxycontin and Opana. Of course, my body started to need them and I would withdrawal when I didn’t have them. One day, I couldn’t find any pills. I searched for hours and was getting sicker by the minute. A friend I had known for years and really trusted told me he could get heroin. I hung up on him. What do I look like? A junkie? But within a couple of hours, I called back and told him I was going to do it just this once. Famous last words…
Within a couple of years, I had taken seven more trips to rehab, totaled three cars, spent months in the hospital for shooting bad dope, overdosed more times than I can count, lost my home and everything I owned, and my family wouldn’t even answer the phone when I called anymore. I had racked up new felonies. I had a probation officer who was trying to find me. I was in an abusive relationship. I hated my life. I prayed I wouldn’t wake up more times than I could count. I would wake up around 6:00 a.m. every morning, sick. If I didn’t find a way to get high within an hour or two, I would start throwing up stomach bile. Even when I did find the dope, I would sit in the bathroom for hours trying to hit, only stopping long enough to puke. My veins were ruined. I remember sitting in front of the mirror, holding my breath, crying, and trying to shove that dirty, blunt needle in my neck or my forehead or anywhere I would see a vein slightly bulge.
My life was like an episode of ‘Intervention.’ I didn’t shower on a regular basis. I didn’t even brush my teeth daily. I didn’t have time for any of that. I had to get high every 6 to 12 hours or I would go into withdrawals. I was also taking Xanax again. I had seizures for years every time I didn’t have them. For the last few years, when life would get really bad, I would call my mom and tell her I wanted to go to rehab. She would help me find a place and send me there. I would stay just long enough to feel better and I would take off again. The first seven times I went to rehab, I left early. I thought I was smarter than everyone else. I wanted to be sober. I truly believed I could stay sober even if I left early. You could have hooked me up to a lie detector test and I would have passed. The problem was I didn’t know how to stay sober. I didn’t have any sober friends. I would go back to the same place with the same people, expecting something different to happen.
In May of 2015, life was at an all-time low. I had been staying with the dope man because I couldn’t go back to my boyfriend or it would turn into a fistfight. My probation officer was calling everyone I knew, threatening to send me to prison. I couldn’t go to my probation appointment because I couldn’t pass a drug test. My mom wouldn’t answer, even though I told her through text I wanted to go to rehab. Usually, that was enough to get her to answer, but she had been getting help for her codependency and she had enough of me. I was lost and broken. I called around until I found a rehab I could smoke cigarettes at. I said every day for several weeks I was going to go, until one day I had nowhere else to go. It was the perfect storm. I know now God created this storm to lead me to that rehab. On the way there, I made myself one promise. I was going to complete rehab.
At least that way, I could prove it still wouldn’t work. I could prove to everyone I was a lost cause. I really believed that to be true. I know rehab and 12-step meetings worked for others, but I had tried both and they didn’t work for me. This was my eighth trip to rehab, and I finally graduated. I chose to go to sober living instead of back to the relationship I had been in. Sober living was such a game-changer for me. I learned how to be accountable for my actions. I had a chore every week. I had to have a job and go to 12-step meetings. I learned so much about how to be an adult. I’m not going to go too far into 12-step meetings, because those are anonymous programs, but just know I wouldn’t be sober today if I hadn’t worked those 12 steps with a woman who worked them before me. I still go to meetings, work steps, sponsor others, and give back. That is the bread and butter of my sobriety.
In 2016, I went back to college. I was a year-and-a-half sober and scared to death. My friends and family encouraged me to do it. I graduated in 2018 with my bachelor’s degree and in those 2 years, I only got one B. In 2017, I got married to a man I met in sobriety. We’re still married today and have custody of his two kids, a 16-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl. Those kids have changed my life. I didn’t even know I wanted kids. They bring me so much joy and have taught me a lot about who I am. After graduation, I applied to a master’s program so I could be a drug and alcohol counselor. I was denied admission, and I started to doubt myself. Again, my family pushed me forward. By this time, my mom and I had mended our relationship. She’s my best friend again and my biggest supporter, along with my husband. While I was waiting to apply for the master’s program again, I got a wild idea. I asked my mom and my husband, and they both told me to go for it! I’m so grateful the people in my life always encourage me to follow my dreams, even the wild ones.
In 2019, I applied to law school. I had to disclose all my felonies and getting kicked out of OSU when I was 17. I had to disclose I am a heroin addict in recovery. I got a call in early March, and the dean told me they couldn’t accept me because I was still on probation for my felonies. I called my husband crying. I was devastated. That meant I would have to wait until August of 2022 to start law school. I called my lawyer, who’s known me since I started getting in trouble at 17. He told me to bring all my paperwork to him—proof of rehab, sober living, drug tests (part of my sentence was to take three random tests a month for 2 years), classes, meetings, my bachelor’s degree, and anything else I had to show my success. He took all my paperwork to the judge who dismissed my charges a year-and-a-half early! I called the dean back and told her what happened. She said she would have to meet with the admissions board and call me back. My lawyer gave me a job answering phones at his office in the meantime. A few days later, the dean called me back, accepted me to law school, and offered me a scholarship!
I am now halfway finished. I will graduate in May of 2022. I’m still working at the law office, too. I’ve learned so much in the last couple of years. My gratitude keeps growing and growing. Every year on my sober birthday, people tell me the best is yet to come. Every year, I think to myself there’s no way. But every year, it keeps getting better. It’s still hard for me to fathom this is my life. The same girl who didn’t brush her teeth and couldn’t stop getting high, no matter how many times she almost died or got arrested, is now in law school, happily married with the most incredible kids who have never seen her high. My relationships are overflowing. I can call anyone I know and they will drop what they’re doing to help me. I will drop what I’m doing to help others.
I get to spend my free time decorating and doing DIY projects around my house. I have two dogs who are my other kids, and they are well taken care of. I don’t have to worry if I’m going to be able to afford toilet paper. It’s hard to put into words. I am so grateful! But it isn’t enough to tell you how I really feel inside. If you or someone you know is struggling with drugs and alcohol, please know you’re not a lost cause. There is a way out and there are millions of people who are willing to help you. Find the nearest 12-step meeting and just show up. That’s all you have to do, and there will be people willing to guide you to a better way of life. I’m not going to tell you it’s easy, because it’s not. It takes a lot of work. But if a low bottom, knucklehead junkie like me can do it, then so can you!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sara Clark of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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