If I have learned anything about addiction it is that it does not discriminate. It doesn’t care if you are a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ person, if you are male or female, young or old, rich or poor.

My story begins much like your typical child growing up in a small town where everyone knows everyone. I was the baby of 4 children. I came from an amazing family. I had unconditional loving parents and siblings to look up to. Our family became well known in the local community and we were all very much involved in sports. Somewhere along the line though, I just never felt like I was enough. Like I could not measure up to expectations that in the long run, were never really there. I wasn’t as athletic or funny as my brother, I wasn’t as kind and compassionate as my one sister, and I surely wasn’t as intelligent as my other sister. Although I had many friends and could get along with any ‘clique’, all I really felt like was a chameleon. Constantly changing to fit into whatever group of people I was around. I started to find my relief in alcohol. I acted out. I hardly ever obeyed my parents’ rules. I came home late, if at all. I went from an all honors student my freshman and sophomore year, to a merit student my junior year, and eventually a general student my senior year. My only concern was making it through and leaving the small town I grew up in.

I found a crowd who I thought had no expectations of me. We could drink and party, wake up, and do it all over again. I thought I had found the solution to my internal problem with external situations. I would progress from drinking on weekends, to during the week, even occasionally taking a mixed drink to school with me in the mornings. I would start to smoke pot and ‘experiment’ with harder drugs. By the time I graduated high school, I was a full blown addict. I felt like I ‘needed’ something in order to feel normal.

I would spend the next 10+ years making poor decisions that would lead to devastating consequences. I would look for another solution to now escape from my previous ‘solution’ to my internal problem. I was in numerous domestic violent relationships. I would move to California, thinking if I just got away I could get better. I couldn’t tell you how many times I would try to stop on my own ‘will-power’, thinking of how much I was disliking my life and decisions I was making but just couldn’t do it on my own. I moved back from California due to my addiction being at one of its all-time high, severely underweight and running out of my own solutions. When I returned home, I fell back into that same crowd with ‘no expectations’. It was only a small amount of time before everything started to catch up with me. My house would get raided and I would go to jail for the first time. Embarrassed, ashamed, and feeling guilty, I contacted my family who had already known something was wrong but just didn’t know the extent of it. From 2010-2012, I don’t even know the amount of times I was arrested. I was charged with many different crimes and continuously violated my probation. The last time I was arrested I had serious charges pending and I had back up jail time from previous crimes. The only solution I could come up with was rehab. I went to rehab not in the hopes of stopping using drugs or learning a new way to live, I simply went in hopes that the judge would not send me back to jail. What would happen over the course of the following year was far from what I ever could have imagined.

I went to rehab and I shortly left AMA (against medical advice). In my mind I decided I was going to leave, use one more time, and go to jail and I was ok with that. When I went to court, the judge told me to finish rehab. I now had 40 days before I could reenter rehab and 30 days to wait for a bed. 2 months to do whatever my mind could think of before I went back to treatment. Within those 2 months, my life hit an all-time low. I fell asleep on my arm, while under the influence of drugs, for an extended period of time. This caused a condition called Saturday Night Palsy. Where alcoholics or drug addicts pass out on an extremity causing nerve damage. I would not be able to use my hand for nearly 3 months. Then there was an electrical fire in my apartment causing me to lose nearly everything I owned. The day before I left for treatment for the second time, the guy I was dating at the time and I had gotten into a huge physical fight. I had numerous injuries but was so intoxicated that I didn’t even realize it. When I got to treatment, they sent me straight to the hospital, where I would spend the first few days of rehab.

When I got back to the facility I told my counselor this… “I know half way through this I am going to tell you I want to go home, please don’t let me.” All I knew was that I didn’t want to go back to all of the bad decisions I was making but I didn’t know how to do anything else either. She kept this promise. Although I asked, she encouraged me to try a halfway house instead. I would end up in a halfway house in Frederick, MD, like a fish out of water. The small town country girl thrown into the ‘big city’, knowing absolutely no one, and not knowing how to live. I started going to 12-step meetings as that is what the treatment facility suggested. I would get kicked out of the halfway house because when I came ‘home’ for a court hearing, I did the same thing as I always did, I used. This was the jump start to my recovery I apparently needed. I finally understood I could not use drugs successfully without having negative consequences. December 28, 2012, is my clean date.

A year into my recovery, the same half way house I got kicked out of asked me to work for them. They thought my story might be able to help clients see that even though you may not make it successfully out of a treatment program, it doesn’t mean you have to give up. I would spend over the next 2 years working there. I found my ‘home’ in Narcotics Anonymous. It was like I was finally able to meet people that knew how I thought, how I felt, and the fact that I wanted to do something about it. The women in the program quickly took me under the wings. They showed me how to live without the use of drugs. They taught me that it was ok to have feelings, both good and bad, and how to deal with those feelings without the use of drugs. They taught me the true meaning of friendship, showing up NO MATTER WHAT. They wanted nothing but the best for me and pushed me to want the same thing, nothing but the best for me. They showed me that I was worthy, important, significant, deserving, and most important lovable. I can’t begin to tell you how confusing it is to have such a loving and caring family but still feel as though you do not deserve that and therefore have no idea how to reciprocate the same feelings. I have since been involved in many different areas of Narcotics Anonymous. I was the vice chair of special events, which meant I helped coordinate fun activities that we could do that didn’t involve using any drugs or alcohol. We put on bonfires, camping trips, dances, conventions, and many more things. I have sponsored women who are struggling from the same disease I struggle with. This is to help guide them through the 12 steps, just like my sponsor has helped me. I also got involved in H & I (hospitals and institutes). I would go into treatment centers and hospitals and speak to fellow recovering addicts and share my experience, strength, and hope that this 12-step program gave me. When I speak I always say 2 things…

1) I didn’t get clean because I wanted to. I got clean because I didn’t want to go to jail anymore. I heard about this website because I went to a local event in my hometown and they spoke about it. It was a candlelight vigil for those in recovery, those suffering with addiction, families suffering from addiction, and those we have lost to addiction. While I was there, our State’s Attorney was a speaker. This was the same State’s Attorney that had sent me to jail but most importantly the same person who sent me to rehab as well. I got the opportunity to thank her for that. If I had not gone to jail it would not have motivated me to go to rehab. Who is to say I would still be alive to tell my story and not dead from an overdose had I not gone.

2) I lived more in my first year of recovery than in my 10 years+ in active addiction. I did fun things AND remembered them. I grew great relationships that I still have today even though we live hours apart. I learned who I was and learned to LOVE who I was. I accepted the fact that I was an addict. For me, I CANNOT use any drug or alcohol. I know that if I did, it would lead me straight back to where I was before. I have learned compassion and empathy for those who still suffer today. I like to think I provide hope to those who are still in active addiction. Hope that there is a better solution to your internal problem. I am in college with a 4.0 GPA. I started at Frederick Community College and then transferred to Frostburg State University, in pursuit of my degree in Psychology, emphasizing in addictions counseling. It isn’t an easy task to not use drugs or alcohol when you are an addict or alcoholic but it is a task that leads to a BEAUTIFUL life.

The stigma on addiction is one of the biggest hurdles for not only the addict but the addicts’ family as well. ‘Someone must have done something wrong in order for someone to become an addict’, which is one of the biggest misconceptions ever. The disease of addiction does not discriminate. It can and will take anyone at any given moment on the worst rollercoaster ride of their life through the depths of hell. I was one of the lucky ones who made it through and chose to get off of the rollercoaster. Life is so fragile and so short. We should not shorten it ourselves by playing Russian roulette with drugs. Addicts believe, it won’t be me… I won’t be the one who dies. It can be you and just might be you if you do not seek recovery. Like I said, it isn’t easy but it is absolutely worth it.

Today, I live back in my hometown. I moved back to be closer to my family who stuck by my side and was always so incredibly supportive in my journey. To get to be the fun Aunt I was always known to be. I moved in with my boyfriend with whom I have been with for a year. I never thought anyone would want to be with ‘damaged goods’ or would be capable of loving a recovering addict. I was completely wrong. He treats me like the woman I believe myself to be. He treats me with respect and encourages my recovery. His family has also accepted me with open arms. The community I grew up in has also accepted me back with open arms. I always thought I would never be able to live down my reputation in this town as a ‘trouble maker’ or ‘drug addict’. Again, boy was I wrong. I have gotten so many compliments, words of encouragement, and even thanks for helping others see that there is a different way to live. So, yes, if you ask me… Addiction Happens. If you were to ask my brother who works for juvenile justice… yes, Addiction Happens. If you were to ask my sister who is an elementary school teacher… yes, Addiction Happens. If you were to ask my other sister who works for a guidance counselor… Yes, Addiction Happens. If you were to ask my parents who loved their daughter unconditionally, who wanted nothing but the best for her, who watched her struggle, who FEARED the phone ringing and knock at the door for years, and have since watched their daughter grow into the woman they knew she could always be (if only she accepted help)… yes, Addiction Happens. The most important thing to remember though is this…

Not only Yes, Addiction Happens, but also Yes, Recovery Happens!!!!

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