“’I’ll never do drugs,’ I told myself as I sat through my best friend’s funeral. I was studying abroad in Paris when I received a text saying she had passed away, something I knew was a real possibility but didn’t want to acknowledge to be true. She had been at war with addiction for years and the drugs had finally won. I remember so vividly sitting through her funeral service, repeatedly asking myself, ‘Why? Why did she start using in the first place? Why did she choose drugs over the people who loved her the most? Why couldn’t we save her? Why couldn’t she save herself? Why?’
‘Just this one time,’ I told myself as I inhaled my first line of cocaine, only a month after my best friend’s funeral. I just wanted to try it once to see if I could find an answer to my endless questions about her death. One time. That’s all it took and I was submerged into the world of addiction. I loved everything about it; the burn in the back of my throat, the tingly feeling it spread through my body, and the way it made me confident and social. It truly made me function like a ‘normal’ human being.
You see, I had gone my entire life being known as this quiet, shy girl filled to the brim with anxiety. But suddenly, I was able to be the girl I had always wanted to be. The problem was that I was slowly killing myself to be her.
I grew up in the most loving Christian family. We attended church every Sunday. I graduated from a Christian school where I was extremely involved in the youth ministry. I had great friends, a good job, and was top of my class earning my degree in Interior Design. I had a seemingly perfect life from the outside, but I was beyond broken inside.
I was living two separate lives: the one everyone could see and the one only I knew about. I would wake up and do a line, get ready and do a line, go to class and do a line in the bathroom, come home and do a line, etc. Do you see the pattern? I couldn’t function without it anymore. You never realize how far you’ve gone until you’re alone in your bedroom with the blinds closed because you’re paranoid, running on four hours of sleep in two days, and trying to curb your anxiety by sniffing your second 8-ball of the day. But I didn’t think I had a problem at the time, but then again, who does?
‘Just this one time’ I told myself as I stuck a needle in my arm. I had been using cocaine for months and it had lost its magic. I needed something more, something stronger. Heroin. After that first initial rush and the sensation that coursed through my veins, I had just handed my life over to the devil and I didn’t even realize it. Before I knew it, I had quit my job, drained my bank account, and was doing anything to get just one more fix. Waiting six hours in sketchy parking lots in the middle of the night for my dealer to show up had become my new normal. I only wore long sleeves to cover my track marks, in hopes people wouldn’t notice. I felt sick if I went too many hours without getting high. I was an addict in full-blown addiction.
‘This is how I die,’ I thought as I lay on the floor overdosing. I had gone through the withdrawals, put in the hard work, and made it two weeks without using. But then, as it happens far too often with addicts, I thought, ‘Oh, I could do it just one more time.’ And that one time almost ended everything for me. I went upstairs, felt the all-too-familiar prick of the needle, watched the blood pull back into the syringe, and felt the warm release of the heroin shooting through my veins. But this time it was different.
This time, my body instantly got cold, my jaw locked shut, I began violently shaking, and I couldn’t move. I lay there for what felt like forever, fading in and out, until my stepdad came in and found me. Through a locked jaw, I muttered, ‘I’m addicted to heroin.’ Words that changed my and my family’s lives forever.
Next thing I knew, I was lying in a hospital bed with my mom sitting next to me silently, the tension so thick you could have sliced it with a knife. I have never felt more like a failure and a disappointment than I did at that moment. I was taken to a room where I would be monitored 24/7 for seizures from the withdrawals while I waited for a bed at a rehab center. Two days later, we got the call that they had a bed at a rehab near Seattle.
We arrived and I sat silently in the waiting room, scared and confused as to how my seemingly perfect life had gotten to this point. I was greeted by the sweetest lady and the first thing she said to me was, ‘Oh, sweetheart. You don’t look like an addict, let’s get you help before you do.’ We walked down the longest hallway and I was shown to my room. I had two roommates, one who was violently withdrawing, screaming in pain, and constantly getting sick. The other had been there for quite some time and was very quick to show me the ropes. I was beyond lost.
If I wasn’t meeting with a doctor, in group therapy sessions, or at mandatory activities, I was sitting in the hallway rocking back and forth in a chair across from the nurse’s station. On my first full day there, a guy about my age sat next to me in silence for a while, then offered a, ‘It’s really not so bad here,’ and went on with his day. From that moment on, he was my buddy and it made it a little bit easier. But what really changed me was the nurse who was on duty the majority of the time I was there. On my last day, the day before my 21st birthday, she gave me a hug and whispered the kindest words in my ear, making me feel like I was worth something. She ended the hug by squeezing me a little tighter and said, ‘Fight for yourself.’ Those words saved my life. I even got them tattooed on my arm when I got out as a reminder my life is worth fighting for.
Recovery is the hardest thing I have ever done. It means working diligently in therapy twice a week. It means turning right towards my job instead of turning left towards my dealer. It means cutting people out, deleting contacts, and avoiding certain areas of town. It means going to NA meetings and surrounding myself with others in recovery. There is something indescribable about the bond in a room full of recovering addicts. It’s a bond you can never fully understand unless you’ve experienced it yourself. We’re all recovering, separately but together, from a disease that tried to kill us. It’s powerful and beautiful.
Recovery is the hardest thing I have ever done, but it’s also the best thing I’ve ever done. Because I’m in recovery, I have a college degree and a job. I have a therapist who helps me be the best version of myself, even when it’s hard. I have friends and family who can love me without worrying now. And most importantly I have a beautiful two-month-old baby boy who has brought indescribable peace into my life.
I celebrated one year clean on New Year’s Eve of 2019 and I have never been more proud of myself. This past year has shown me that life after addiction is possible. It is hard and tiring but it is beautiful and beyond worth it. I am so thankful for this new life I have fought so hard for.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hannah Green of Gig Harbor, Washington. You can follow her journey on Instagram. 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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