Trigger Warning: This story contains descriptions of drug addiction that may be triggering to some.
“I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on March 5, 1978, and I have a twin sister. Around second grade, we found out our parents were actually our grandparents. We had discovered we were adopted by my maternal grandparents. Prior to that, we were told we had six older siblings. Well, all that came crashing down when we found out one of our ‘sisters’ was, in fact, our mom, and that made all our other ‘siblings’ our aunts and uncles.
I can remember just feeling very confused and very curious. As a young child, I did not understand what I was feeling, but now as a 42-year-old woman, I now realize I had no idea who I truly was. I felt like my whole life was a lie. My twin sister and I, of course, then became curious about our dad. We had never heard of him up until that point because we thought our grandparents were our parents. Well, it was not easy for us to get to know him. Our grandparents did not approve of it, and they would tell us negative things about him.
Once we found out we were adopted, I remember always trying to explain it to kids at school, and I just felt different. I remember being teased our own mom and dad didn’t want us. I just wanted to fit in. I say God made me a twin for a reason because thank God I had my twin sister through all this. Nobody else could really understand.
It made it very difficult for me because the stories my grandparents told me versus the version my mom told me did not align. There were several instances when I would be in a room with both my mom and my grandma who was my mom, and I would have a question and say ‘mom,’ and they would both answer. It would make me feel so uncomfortable I just wanted to crawl under a rock. My stomach would twist in knots. This happened too many times to count over my life. I loved all of them so much, and I did not want any of them to hurt because of me. I carried the guilt of this most of my life.
At 20 years old, I became pregnant with my now 22-year-old daughter. Her dad was very controlling and verbally abusive. A month before our wedding was planned, he walked out on me and had a baby with another girl 9 months later. That was brutal. I just felt so empty and felt like I was not enough. How I got through that, God only knows!
In 2002, when I was 24 years old, I met my now-husband, and shortly after that, I had my now 17-year-old son. My marriage is two imperfect people who refused to give up on each other but most importantly, who refused to give up on themselves. My husband has been my biggest support system. This support was put to the test when I become a full-blown opiate addict.
In 2010, I started experiencing debilitating abdominal pain. I was hospitalized a couple of times and eventually diagnosed with endometriosis, a very painful condition that many females live with. The doctors prescribed me hydrocodone to control my pain. Eventually, the pain got so intense I needed several surgeries, and I was on a combination of hydrocodone, oxycodone, and tramadol for a straight 2 years. When the pain pills ran out within a couple of days, I started to feel very depressed and flu-like symptoms begun. My twin sister was the one who told me it was, in fact, withdrawal symptoms I was experiencing.
Each day, I felt worse. During that same time period, my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer, and he had oxycodone. I just thought to myself, ‘I will just go get a few pills to hold me over for the next few days, and then I will be fine.’ Well, that one trip turned into 4 years of going to his house to steal pills from him. It got to the point the pills were all I thought about. I would look at that little pill, and couldn’t believe it had total control over my entire life. It was exhausting! I was constantly counting pills to get a plan on how I was going to get more to get through the days. It affected my kids’ and my husband’s well-being. On days I was running low on pills, I would be so irritable and on edge. I hated myself. I wanted help so bad, but I was so ashamed of myself. How did I let this happen? Oh my god, I am a drug addict.
The shame and fear of being judged were so high I almost lost my life in 2014. I overdosed on fentanyl. I just remember taking a dose and then waking up with paramedics around me on the floor at my grandparents’ house. On the ambulance ride to the hospital, the paramedic grabbed my wrist and scanned my forearms for needle tracks, and then just tossed my arm back on my lap like I was a piece of trash. Fortunately, I had access to pain pills. I never touched a needle. I broke down crying and said, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’ Her response was, ‘Well, you just need to stop.’
I felt so defeated and so weak I couldn’t just stop no matter how much I wanted to. I couldn’t function without the opiates. I needed them just to get out of bed. My kids would have been left without their mom because of the stigma attached to this. I finally surrendered to God and cried out for help. I promised Him if He would give me the courage and strength to ask for help, I would never do this again. I googled ‘opiate addiction help’ and called the first place that popped up. I started treatment the next day.
It was so hard walking into that clinic for the first time, but I also felt so relieved. My mission is to change the stigma of addiction and mental health. My biggest fear was people finding out my secret, but through this recovery process, I have learned to love myself and have realized this disease I battled doesn’t define me as a person. I am sharing my story to give others hope and to be a testimony that recovery is possible. One-step, one day, one pivot at a time.
I also hope to get the message out there that relapsing is part of the recovery process. You use that relapse as an opportunity to understand why you relapsed, give yourself the grace and self-love you deserve so you can grow and become stronger. Also, sharing my story publicly took away the power of this little secret I have carried for the last several years. Sharing it takes away all the power it had over me, and I now feel free and proud of my journey. As scary as it was to share my story on social media, it was harder to stay quiet. By staying quiet, I am part of the problem that creates the stigma. I know my pain was not for nothing. There were times when I wanted to give up, but I kept on pushing myself. I know the only way out was through!
My recovery has taught me life tools. I have learned to shift my mindset. All my life, I have suffered from anxiety, and I was told I just overthink things, and I care too much about what people think. That is why I loved the pain pills so much. They took away my anxiety and gave me a peace I had never felt before. Learning how to shift my mindset has been the biggest reason for my success in recovery. I have learned tools that have taught me to shift my mindset when anxiety takes over. I also allow myself to feel what I am feeling, and I don’t ignore it or try and numb it out. I give myself the self-love and grace I deserve. I was chasing self-acceptance for most of my life, and my recovery forced me to dig deep. I have learned to accept myself for all parts of me, and I love myself. My biggest hope in sharing my story is to let others know they are not alone, and they don’t have to be ashamed of struggling with addiction or any mental health issues.
It is important for me to share I relapsed too many times to count the first 2 years in recovery. At first, I would beat myself up when this happened and then this resulted in another relapse to numb the pain again. Eventually, I started using my relapses as an opportunity to learn and get stronger. I would focus on what triggered the relapse and what I could focus on to avoid a future relapse when triggered again. We are human and we will always face obstacles. My recovery taught me how to love myself and give myself grace when life threw curve balls at me. It takes time and it takes practice, but it eventually becomes second nature. Now the first thought that comes to my head when I feel my anxiety rise is, ‘Okay, what is going on right now. Why do I think I am feeling this way? Breathe. You have always gotten through tough times, and this feeling soon will pass.’ It is like magic once you learn to shift your mindset.
My first grandchild is due any day now. I could not imagine not being here for my daughter at this time, and missing out on this chapter of my life. I couldn’t imagine not being here for my son. I know how scary it is and that you feel so alone when you are on the dark path of active addiction. You can’t do this alone. There is something bigger than you and I out there. Lean into it and ask for help. Reach out to the people you know love you unconditionally. I know it’s hard. I feared they would be so mad at me and ashamed of me, but it was the opposite. Try it, take a chance on yourself. You are worth it and you are not alone.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Dominique Velasquez. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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