‘You’re OK now. You’re safe.’ WRONG. They assumed I wanted drugs. ‘We need to start treatment ASAP.’: Woman recovers from addiction, battles Lupus, ‘I CHOOSE not to let life get me down’

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Disclaimer: There are mentions of domestic violence and suicidal thoughts in this story.

“I started my independence as a rebellious teen who began partying and abusing alcohol pretty early on. I ended up getting kicked out of my house at 18 and pregnant by 19.

I didn’t know at the time, because back then I just wanted to feel loved and accepted, but what I thought was love was with a very scary person who was a compulsive liar. This man was 11 years older than me and we ended up getting married. I felt pressured into this marriage as if I had no other option BUT to get married. So, I did.

Turns out he had some dark secrets he carried around, like how he continued to secretly cheat on me the whole relationship with multiple women. I didn’t find out until later how many there really were. I was always made to feel crazy if I ever questioned him. I was so reliant upon him that I could not even leave my own house. I would not leave without him. I could not do anything by myself. He got me to a point where I needed him for everything.

Courtesy of Hope Vago

I isolated myself from my family and friends. I had to drink to avoid panic attacks and to help me get through the fight I knew we would have each night. I was sexually and emotionally abused by him for a few years. He even told me many times, ‘You will never find anyone who will love you better than me.’ Like no one else would put up with me as he did.

The day finally came when I got the courage to confront him to ask if he was on drugs. That’s when I was physically hit and pinned up against the wall as he spit in my face and called me all kinds of awful names. That was the day I said enough was enough. I don’t know what it was that gave me the strength to move forward, but I call it God and my amazing friends and family. I know not everyone is that lucky. My dad and my best friend came and helped me back up the next day and my son and I moved in with my parents. I ended up putting myself through medical assisting school and waitressing at the same time at some local diner and passed my school with a very high GPA above 3.5 and was always on the honor roll.

Courtesy of Hope Vago

A few months later, my son’s father was in custody and arrested. With these charges, he was no longer allowed to see our son anymore or be around any minors. My son was around 3 or 4 at that time and he still has not seen or talked to his dad since.

Shortly after, I fell in love with a man I knew from high school who was such an amazing friend. He ended up dying of leukemia within a year after we had just started seeing each other. I took it really hard. Between my divorce and the death, my drinking started getting out of hand again and I started to spiral. It left me vulnerable and I became a victim of sexual abuse. Afterward, I did good for a while and  got involved in church until my health started to decline.

I ended up having a few surgeries back to back and had some health conditions that left me taking pain meds, which also left me addicted to them. I had not dealt with the pain of the loss I had experienced quite yet so the pills helped me numb the physical pain and the emotional pain.

Courtesy of Hope Vago

The pill intake got so bad I almost overdosed a few times. I got close to having my son taken away from me and was advised I needed to go to rehab. So I did. I went to a 3-month program and was inpatient for those 3 months and never felt better. I decided to relocate my life to where the rehab program was located since there was a lot of like-minded people there in the same community to help one another stay clean. I got a good job at an urgent care center and then an even better job at their best hospital.

But my health started to decline again and no one really believed my needs due to me being an addict. Even a lot of the friends I made thought I was just wanting a ‘fix’ and making things up to get more pain meds, but I had severe body pain all over and I could barely function. I was weak, exhausted, and frustrated how no one believed my pain. I ended up seeking a doctor who gave out pain meds because it was the only way I could think to help myself since no one would believe me. I couldn’t function in that much pain. I was pretty sure I had Lupus, but everyone just continued to think, ‘You’re crazy and you’re making it all up.’ You can imagine I didn’t last long before my relapse came quick, and people started noticing my fast decline.

I didn’t want to live anymore. I was so tired of it and wanted it to end. I even got as far as offering my body up for drugs. It never happened, but I was willing. I ended up getting some pills from someone I knew in the recovery program who had also relapsed, and I only had gotten part of it and was planning on getting the rest after work.

I had a plan. With the second half of the pills, I was going to use an IV and end it. I was tired of no one listening or treating me like a person, but just treating me like a junky. Somehow, by the grace of God, one of my coworkers offered to take me to the ER to help with detox meds and she somehow got me to open up and tell the staff how I wanted to die. Well, today I am glad I did, but at the time I regretted it shortly after I said something because I was treated horribly.

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I got to see the initial ER doctor that put me on the psych hold and then no other doctors would see me. They ALL refused to see me because they all claimed I was just manipulating them to get drugs. I was crying in pain for literally 3 days straight because not only was I coming off pain meds and heroin which is painful, but I was also in SO much physical pain. It was like pulling teeth just to get someone to give me some Tylenol. I remember screaming, ‘Please, someone help me!’

I hoped SOMEONE would listen or see me. But no one would. I finally got sent to the pysch ward and the intake nurse was sweet and she said, ‘We will take care of you. You’re okay now. You’re safe.’ Like they were going to treat me better. WRONG. Their doctor told me I was just an addict and there was nothing wrong with me. He said, ‘No one believes you’re sick and you’re just acting out to get meds. You just want a fix.’ I felt lower than I ever felt. I was in there for like 5 days with no help, so I begged them to let me go to treatment just so I could get out of there. And so they agreed and let me go.

I went to the best treatment center I had ever been to in West Hollywood, CA ,and they saved my life. The intake doctor had me tell my story. He said, ‘I can tell by the tears in your eyes no one has believed you, have they?’ I said no, they haven’t. He then replied, ‘Well, I believe you.’  I felt like a crazy person and no one would listen to me and here was a top doctor saying he believed me. So he said, ‘Tell you what, let’s start from scratch. We will test you for everything, including Lupus, and find out what’s going on and we will go from there.’

A couple of days later, I was back in his office worried I was going to get the same inconclusive results as all the other doctors, but he said, ‘Well, you were right. Not only do you have Lupus, but you are in a horrible flare right now, so that’s why you are in so much pain. We need to start treatment ASAP.’ I was in tears yet again. I wasn’t crazy, I was right, and now there is evidence that shows I am physically ill. One of their nurses took the time to call my mom and my best friend to explain why I was in pain and what to expect. I was sent to one of the rheumatologists where he confirmed the Lupus diagnosis and he started me on chemo shots once a week. The whole staff treated me so well and always told me how brave and strong I was. I finally felt listened to and heard, and they believed in me.

Courtesy of Hope Vago

I got a really good job I was able to hold for quite some time working as a Certified Medical Assistant for a pediatric clinic and got promoted to their lead triage medical assistant. I ended up getting sick while working there.

My health has now declined even more, so I had to quit the amazing job I loved. I have what’s called POTS and gastroparesis, making it difficult to keep food down. There is the potential for a big stomach surgery coming up. I go in once a week to get fluids and IV potassium. I have lost almost all my hair. I don’t have a car and am broke from not working, BUT I am the happiest I have ever been in my life.

I am 3 1/2 years clean now and I have the most amazing friends and family. I am rebuilding trust and my relationship with my son. And my son does so much for the community and volunteers with Youth Ending Slavery, which is all about anti-human trafficking. Even through all these trials I face, I see the beauty in life around me everyday. I try and do what I can in the community and for others. I, myself, am very passionate about anti-human trafficking and I do photography on the side. 10% of all my photography business and merchandise goes to help the victims of human trafficking and I specifically donate it to my son’s cause. I have also done a podcast on my domestic violence story.

There really needs to be more awareness regarding addiction and chronic disease. You can’t just treat addicts this way or assume every addict is bad. I needed help and I finally got it, but at what cost? I almost lost my life. I can’t even count the number of friends I have lost to this disease. It is so hard to watch your friends continue to die, but someone needs to be a voice as well. It’s time for a change.

I hope this story encourages you. If I can make it out and be okay, so can you. You can do anything you want to. I would not be here today if it were not for God and all the people He has placed in my life. We may not always be able to change our situation, but we can CHOOSE how we react or respond to our situations. People always ask me how can I be so happy, or have a smile on my face through everything I go through. My answers:

1. God.

2. I am not always happy, I am human, and I struggle just like everyone else, but…

3. I CHOOSE I to not let it get me down and define me. I CHOOSE to make the best of my situation by encouraging others and being the best possible version of myself for today. We don’t always get tomorrow, so let’s make the best of it. And if no one has told you yet today, I believe in you. You can do anything you want to do, and I have faith and believe in you. You are worth it and you are beautiful. You are valuable and worth so much more than gold. I always try to smile even if I am having a bad day because sometimes smiling helps me change my attitude and it can also help change someone else’s day. You got this!”

Courtesy of Hope Vago

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hope Vago. You can follow her on Instagram. Listen to her Podcast here and check out her merch store here. 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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