“I am not about to give you the dictionary interpretation of addiction, but rather my own, to put it into a better perspective. Addiction is like placing your hand on a hot stove, feeling that pain, but you cannot remove it. You see the physical damage it is doing to your hand and you know in your mind, ‘Oh sh*t, I’ll never be the same. Why am I doing this?’ But, you still cannot take your hand off that hot stove. My addictive behaviors have showed and progressed my whole life. My childhood was far from easy, or what one would call normal.
I had childhood cancer at age 11. I had noticed a small module in the middle of my throat. I was so young at the time that I had told my mom I thought I was growing an Adam’s apple. My mom and I have always had a very close and strong bond, so whenever I finally told her about the lump I was feeling, she immediately sought the best help she could find. I ended up having to have what turned out to be a thyroglossal duct cyst removed. Not long after my surgery, my mom received a call from my surgeon that the cyst was in fact cancerous and would eventually spread to and attack my thyroid. They took the aggressive approach and removed the whole thyroid. I remember all of it. All of the doctors visits, the tests, being kept home from school and isolated. Instead of doing chemo treatments, I was lucky enough to be able to only need radioactive iodine treatments, as well as more numerous tests to completely rid the cancer. This took about two years. Now, I have to take a pill every day to replace my thyroid or it could kill me, since your thyroid is a necessary organ.
When my family found out I was diagnosed with cancer, it completely broke them. I couldn’t imagine having to know your child is going through that. They were always so worried about me. I’ve had to overcome a lot of guilt from that. I felt like it was my fault somehow that happened to me. It made my mom become more protective of me. I can’t say I blame her. It did cause me to act out more in rebellious behavior.
Then at the age of 12, my addict father committed suicide in my grandma’s backyard. I’ve tried suicide myself many times since then. I was even hospitalized at age 14 to keep myself safe from trying to take my own life. Growing up, my dad was always in and out of me and my siblings’ lives. He had been an addict basically his entire life. With my dad, you name the drug and he had at least tried it before. I remember being little, probably 8 or 9 years old, and hearing calls from my step-mom to my mom about how she couldn’t get my dad to wake up because he just shot up some heroin. I remember feeling so scared and confused. Why couldn’t I help him? I just thought he was ‘sick.’ I wasn’t exactly wrong.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve understood and recognized my dad’s addictive behaviors. He would always come and go during late hours of the night, have extreme mood changes, and could never sit still. He wasn’t there for me emotionally which affected me severely growing up. I always felt like there was a void that needed to be filled. Two days before he committed suicide, he had taken all different kinds of pills and called my mom to tell her so. She went to go pick him up and take him to the hospital, but told me if he called, to not tell him so he wouldn’t run away. He called not long after she left and kept asking where she was over and over. I didn’t know what to do or say, and the phrase ‘shut up’ spewed from my mouth. I never had spoken to my dad that way. He hung up on me. Those were the last words I ever said to him. Living with that guilt, what I should and shouldn’t have said, growing up without a father, knowing he thought he wasn’t enough, absolutely progressed me to act out at a younger age and try drugs and alcohol to numb those feelings that I didn’t even fully understand.
I think a big part of why I went through addiction is because it’s helped me understand what my dad was going through and forgive him. I was so angry and upset for so long at the fact he chose drugs and willingly chose to take his own life and leave me. I now understand though. I’ve felt that pain. I also understand now, he would want me to grieve in healthy ways. I made the decision to make him proud, not follow in his footsteps. Unfortunately, my addictive behaviors progressed harder into drugs and alcohol in my early 20s. Glasses of wine all of a sudden turned into several bottles a day. I remember it getting increasingly worse while dating a man who I thought I would marry. Come on ladies, let’s never let a man get us to that point. Was this why I used? No, it was not. Did it help escape the stressors of daily life? Absolutely. I could numb my emotions. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
I realized my drinking was a problem, but didn’t necessarily want to quit. I was becoming more aggressive, physically and verbally, doing crazy behaviors that were completely out of my character, was always driving drunk and I can recall almost striking a child. That was it for me. So in June of 2017, I admitted myself into a three day detox program. Three days, y’all. Like that would do anything. I thought I could handle it. Handle having one or two glasses of wine. I was extremely wrong. My intentions going into this detox program was solely to detox the alcohol out of my system. I didn’t think I had an actual addiction. I just thought I was going through a hard time. I was terrified to be there, which attributed to me checking myself out early as well. I wasn’t ready to face my demons yet. I wasn’t ready to be fully vulnerable. I let my attitude win that time. I didn’t like that the doctor told me he knew I would relapse if I left. Someone who took years of schooling for this disease and how to handle it didn’t know more than me, right? My hard-headed self left right then to try and prove him wrong. Lo and behold, it didn’t take long for those couple of glasses to turn into over a box of wine a day, which is over three liters. I never didn’t have a drink in hand. If I had to leave the house I put it in a to-go cup.
I never drove sober. I never was sober for that matter. I took an immense amount of pills every night to where many times my family couldn’t wake me up. My body was deteriorating. I was covered in bruises. I was puking constantly, but of course still kept drinking like it was my best friend. I’ve seen my family and friends struggle with addiction. I knew I had a problem. What made me finally get help, was seeing the pain… the knife stabbing pain in my mother’s eyes when I told her ‘no’ for the last time about receiving help. She knew she was about to watch her child die. I couldn’t do it to her, my family, and a thought came to my head that I didn’t really want to DIE. I wanted to CHANGE. Change it all. My morals, my lifestyle, my horrible habits. So I agreed to do a week-long detox December 29th, 2017. It was hands down the best decision I have ever made. It saved me. This time, I was ready to change my life. I was ready to have control and be happy again. I accepted and admitted I had a problem. I gave myself fully to God. I knew it was now or never, and God never gave up on me, so I’d be damned if I gave up on myself.
I met so many people in that program this time that really helped teach me addiction from many different aspects, and have a better understanding of why I used in the first place. I know I wouldn’t be able to tell people my story today if I wouldn’t have pushed my pride aside and got my head out of my ass. I got to see my sister graduate high school, I have a house, an amazing job, and only non-toxic people in my life. Sobriety is selfish. Be selfish! Say no to what you know won’t make YOU and your soul happy. Never let anyone make you feel less of a person for being vulnerable. Everyone needs help or a kick in the ass sometimes. I’ve learned more about addiction than I ever have. Let me tell you, recovering addicts are the strongest people I know. I am now 7 months clean, and if my stubborn self can do it, I know ANYONE can. You are worthy. We do recover, one day at a time.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nicole Miller, 24, of Nashville, Tennessee. Do you have a compelling story overcoming your addiction? We’d love to hear about your journey. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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