Emily’s Story


I grew up a very privileged family with great parents and a loving and supportive home. I was very outgoing and loving, showing no signs of depression. This changed around ages 7-8 after a babysitter repeatedly molested me, which warped the way I looked at the world, at men, at myself. I became confused, anxious, and easily upset. I frequently had bad dreams at night, and I was unable to feel like I belonged anywhere. A lot of that emotional struggle was hidden inside of me for a long time. I put on a face that said, “I’m OK. I’m a fun-loving kid.”
I lived in New York, and around time of September 11, a traumatic time for everyone in our town and school, everything seemed just so real and so grown up. That is when my innocence ended and real life began. I began to understand that the world is not always as pretty as it seems to look to a young child. I became sad and dreary, asking my parents existential crisis-like questions, such as, “Why am I here?” and, “What am I supposed to be doing?” These questions came from dark places in my mind. I had bad sportsmanship in sports, I got angry easily, and I cried all the time. I knew it was abnormal — I just didn’t know why. I started having trouble focusing in school and processing information. By 5th grade I was already diagnosed with ADHD by doctors, and I felt so alone because I felt so different. I took tests separately with someone to help me, and I felt like I didn’t belong, like I was stupid. This made me depressed, and my mom took me to her therapist when I was 10.


Around age 12 or 13, I also drinking. I felt like a part of the cool kids, or the ones who I thought were the cool kids, the ones who smoked cigarettes during lunch break and who skateboarded outside of Starbucks. I felt like at least I belonged somewhere, even though I still had hard time getting up for school and a hard time feeling like everything was OK. I just didn’t feel OK.


Then at age 14, I was sexually assaulted by a classmate. I didn’t tell anyone for 2 weeks. I finally told a friend who told her mom who told my mom who told the police, and then the incident became I was so unhappy and depressed. Everyone thought I was a rat. I couldn’t deal with the feelings that came with such a big loss, and that’s when the spiral became serious. I started using some drugs. I started with weed and was smoking every day through high school. I started cutting myself and had a lot of suicidal thoughts. I was in and out of therapy. I got hooked on prescription pills- oxycontin and Xanax- on a daily basis, I was doing cocaine as often as I could get money for it, and I was drinking as often as I possibly could- at least every weekend and sometimes a random weekday night.


I became pretty much a full-blown addict. Compiled together with depression, anxiety, and PTSD, I found myself very depressed and lonely. I wrote dark and scary journal entries and constantly felt like I wasn’t enough, like something at my core was really wrong with me. I thought I was crazy and that no one understood me. I tried to kill myself a couple times. I was very isolated and unhappy. I was very often triggered by situations social in which I couldn’t deal with the anxiety of being around other people. Over time I started to spend more and more time by myself getting drunk and high and cutting myself while listening to sad music, and overall just generally being miserable.


When I was 18 I started doing heroin. At first I was just snorting it. I loved it. It was cheaper than buying pills off the street, but I was stupid and naïve and didn’t know much about it. I didn’t want to get hooked because I knew so many people that had, but I was already too far gone at that point. Eventually I was shooting up heroin- something I never thought I’d do. My parents and I weren’t getting along. All my other relationships were also failing. I had a lot of friends with whom the only thing I had in common was using drugs. They weren’t real friends. Nothing was real to me anymore.


One night in March 2012, I got really drunk and really high, and I tried to kill myself. I overdosed intentionally. I was taken to hospital and spent a couple days in ICU and 2 weeks in a psych ward. This was the first time I got sent away to treatment. After the psych ward, I went to treatment in Texas for almost a year, and I was sober the whole time. However, I wasn’t really working a recovery program, and I was still very miserable and depressed. I continued cutting myself on and off, because I was extremely unhappy with who I was. After about ten months in Texas, I got transferred to a treatment center in California for 3 months. This was a trauma-focused center, which is what I felt I needed help with the most at the time. I think most of my drinking and using had been so that I could escape memories of my past trauma. At that treatment center I stayed sober and got really involved in twelve-step programs. Afterwards, I lived in a sober living house for a while.


When I moved out of sober living with my best friend, we moved into in apartment. After 6 months of living there and of not working a recovery program or attending twelve-step meetings, I picked up drugs again. At first it was just weed, but that only lasted for two weeks. I’m an addict and I always want more and weed just won’t suffice. This is when I found methamphetamine. I got hooked very quickly and went on a bad run in which I ended up in a hospital and then back in a psych ward. My parents sent me to a sober house, where I stayed about 2 months but, again, I was not working a recovery program. I was so unhappy, and my PTSD symptoms were getting worse. I couldn’t really deal with reality. So of course, I relapsed again.


My last run was when I was 21. I went on a 7-day bender, during which I didn’t eat or sleep. All I did was just smoke meth and shoot heroin, and without a doubt this was the most miserable 7 days of my entire existence. I just wished I wouldn’t wake up. During this time, I got myself in extremely dangerous situations, and I did things against my morals and my values. My parents texted me every few hours to check if I was ok, if I was alive, and I wouldn’t answer them, which terrified them, causing them to wonder if I was dead.


My system was overloaded and my body was screwed up. I got a bad infection in my mouth in which the whole left side of my face blew up. I couldn’t swallow, and I almost stopped breathing. Somehow, I got myself to hospital — walked there from motel room with no shoes in 93-degree weather. The doctors thought I was having a panic attack until they looked in my mouth. Later, the doctors said if I had come an hour later I probably would be dead. Addiction didn’t bring me to a pretty place where everything was great and a big party — it brought me to stuff like that.


Drugs took me to a place where I didn’t care about myself or about anything at all. Drugs brought me to a place where nothing mattered except getting to a place where I could feel lost and have no worries in the world, I wanted an escape from everything, but drugs quickly stopped working. I couldn’t get high anymore.


I then went to another treatment center. At this point, I was spiritually bankrupt. I was so depressed, so miserable, and hated my life and myself. I won’t lie — treatment was not easy. I was very sick, my teeth screwed up, my stomach stopped working, and I was in and out of the hospital for a while. My PTSD was also extremely bad. In fact, at first it was worse when I got sober. It was more intense and harder to deal with than when I could escape with drugs. But I had to face my emotions in order to eventually be able to handle them.


After three months of being in the treatment center, I got a position where I was an “extended guest,” which means I had more responsibility, welcomed new people into facility, and worked in the kitchen. Having this position was really beneficial because it showed me I can help other people and spread a message that recovery is possible if you just hang in there! After 6 hard months of working the twelve steps and undergoing intensive therapy, I got out of treatment and went to sober house for 2 months.


Now I’m living with my family back in New York City, which is where I’m from. I haven’t cut myself in a very long time. I have been sober for almost 10 months, and it feels different this time, because I am working a strong recovery program. I go to a twelve-step meeting every day, I have a sponsor, and I am in therapy now. I am dedicated to a life of honesty and action and being willing to do whatever it takes to get better. I have hopes for my future now. My plan is no longer to die before I’m 30, which is kind of a huge improvement. I am grateful for where I am today, because I know I don’t want to go back to that place I came from.

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