We are all recovering from something, right? Whether it’s an illness, an abusive relationship, or a bad batch of enchiladas we’re all in the healing process. We have two choices when life throws us a curveball; hold onto it and let it decay us from the inside out OR allow it to give us some insight into the complex creatures that we are, AND grow.
I want to share something extremely personal to me: It’s something that’s taken a decade of therapy, support, and building my self-esteem to be able to address on a more public level.
I am in recovery from addiction and I have been since April 8, 2011.
What does this mean exactly?
It means that I have a substance abuse problem and I’ve chosen to abstain from drugs and alcohol and heal and grow from the trauma this has caused me. I’ve been completely abstinent from all mood and mind-altering substances for over 10 years.
Somewhere along the line, and I’m not sure where I lost control and couldn’t stop using drugs and alcohol.
Everything else took a back seat. From there the spiral dragged me down a dark hole that I thought I’d never dig out of. I’ve thought about stepping out and sharing this for years and I want to explain the reasons why I haven’t in the past and the reason I decided to share it now.
Let me back up for a second and clear the air about a few things.
First, my parents are amazing and have never shown anything but unconditional love and support in my life. My addiction is not their fault.
Second, I did not choose to follow this path. It was not fun and I wouldn’t recommend it. Did I make choices that lead me down this path? Absolutely. However, I had no idea that my brain was going to latch on to things the way it did.
There’s no way to know until you’re in the depths and by then it’s too late.
It all started innocently enough with a few beers and some laughs and progressed very slowly from there. It took me into college where I thought partying was the game and I never noticed that I took things to another level. I was never the person that could go out and have a drink or two and I never will be. I was the person getting carried out of the bar by my brother-in-law and believe me, that’s not one of my prouder moments.
My disease, and yes I believe it is a disease, picked up steam as I faced new challenges in life and didn’t have the coping mechanisms available to deal with them. Things moved from alcohol to one drug to another as I tried desperately to find relief from the hell that was in my head.
I always took pride in my outward appearance and wanted people to think well of me. I was a smart girl and was at the top of my class growing up. I grew up in a wonderful, loving home with a loving family. I was an athlete and considered myself to be liked by most people in my school. I was a college graduate and I’ve had a professional career my entire adult life.
These things all lead me to believe that I could not possibly be an addict.
An addict was someone living on the street with no job and no self-respect, right? A bottom-feeding low life who was a leech on society, right? Not so. Yes, some addicts reach those horrific lows and there are addicts like me who have what some would call a “higher bottom.”
I looked like I had it all together on the outside but behind closed doors I hated myself and I hated my life.
I was ashamed of what I had become and the walls were closing in on me. It was too much to handle and I didn’t know how to find my way out. I most definitely couldn’t let anyone know about my struggle. That would RUIN my reputation and everything that I worked so hard to build and use as my mask for the world to see.
The shame, guilt, and stigma surrounding addiction are no secret. I remember the moment I realized my substance abuse had gone too far. It was an incredibly painful period of my life and yet I look at it as a fork in my road of life. When faced with this reality I chose the more difficult road of recovery and I continue to make that choice every day. It has lead me on an incredible journey of self-discovery.
I can remember the day very clearly when I decided I’d had enough.
I woke up from a drug and alcohol-induced bender on a Sunday morning and drove straight to my parents’ house. They knew something was off with me but they would have never expected what I told them that day. They thought maybe I was depressed (I was) but the addiction was not something that would have occurred to them and yet there it was.
Their little girl was an addict and needed help.
It was a long hard road to get to that place of surrender and it’s a place many addicts, sadly, never get to. People die every day from the disease of addiction and the fear, shame, and stigma that society places on them force people to hide and not get the help that they need. That breaks my heart and gives me the courage to write this.
The shame and fear of judgment definitely kept me hiding for years.
Even after I went to treatment and got clean and sober I continued to carry that shame around with me for years; a decade. I have always been very open with my close friends and family who are extremely supportive, however, I didn’t dare mention to people at work or my neighbors or any associates about my past.
They would think I was a degenerate. They wouldn’t hire me. They wouldn’t trust me. They wouldn’t let their kids play with my daughter.
All of those fears are still very real for me today but I’m not letting them hold me back. I have kept my silence until now. I feel that the perception of addiction will never change if people aren’t willing to take a risk and so I’m taking that risk.
I’m not asking that people pat me on the back and tell me congratulations on my recovery.
I don’t need that, nor do I take sole credit for my continued recovery. It is most definitely a group effort and also an extremely spiritual and personal experience. The reason I have decided to speak about this now has been a work in progress.
The last 10 years have been an incredible journey and recently I’ve started to feel very deeply that I need to let people know my truth and know that anyone and I mean ANYONE, can fall into addiction. It doesn’t matter what you look like, where you come from, or what title is written on your business card.
In addition, I want people to see that addicts do recover from addiction, and not just recover and scrape by with some miserable existence, but recover and thrive.
I have an amazing life, an incredible husband and daughter, a beautiful home, and a professional career.
I’ve learned to love myself along the way and I have an intense love and passion for life. I have the deepest and most honest, satisfying relationships I could have ever hoped for and I now see my addiction as one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received.
I know that some people will read this and judge me and I can accept that. I’m not writing this for you, I’m writing this for me and for the person that is in the depths of addiction that can’t find the light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t control other people’s thoughts and feelings and actions but I can control my actions.
Today I’m willing to share my story in hopes that maybe one person will keep an open mind to addiction or that one addict will not die because they realize they are not alone and there is hope. I also have come to love the freedom that comes from letting down all the walls we build up and just being me. It makes me feel like Eminem in 8-mile. Now you know all the dirt on me so there’s nothing left for me to fear.
We all think that addiction will not happen to us or our families.
But you may find that someday, you or somebody close to you will be affected by the disease of addiction. If someone would have told me twenty years ago that I would be an addict in recovery by the age of twenty-seven I would have laughed and rolled my eyes but here I am.
Go out there today and be kind, be brave and be willing to show who you really are. We’re all fighting our own battles and there’s someone out there that needs to hear your story and there’s someone out there that needs to hear mine.
***DISCLAIMER: This website, jugglingthejenkins.com, is not affiliated with any specific recovery program. Different avenues work for different people.***