As far back as I can remember I showed signs of addictive behavior. I was constantly lying and manipulating others, and I was completely self-centered. When I was seven, my food issues started, which eventually transitioned into a debilitating eating disorder. When my grandma died, I realized that an outside substance — food — could make me feel better on the inside. When I was 12, I started purging and cutting myself, and when I entered high school, I found drugs and alcohol. At age 17, I fell into a deep depression. And soon thereafter at 18, I did my first stint in a treatment center, where I was treated for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
No one knew about my mental health challenges until it got really bad when I was around 17. I didn’t talk about it. If I didn’t say it, that meant it couldn’t really be true, and I didn’t want anyone to know. I was embarrassed and ashamed. And I liked walking between this sick line of loving my vices and hating them. I didn’t talk about my feelings because I didn’t know how to express them.
I told my mom when I was 17 that I felt depressed; she told me to snap out of it. It was a downward spiral after that. When I was 18, I had a psychotic break and ended up in the hospital. At first I was embarrassed, but then I saw all the attention I was getting and I loved it. I was so sick. And that was a constant theme throughout my entire life; any attention, whether it was good or bad, was better than no attention at all to me.
During all of this inner turmoil, I felt extremely alone. I always wanted to surround myself with people so that I didn’t have to be by myself. Now I know that’s because I didn’t love myself. I looked for external validation in “things”: boys, being skinny, money, drugs, alcohol, etc. I thought that if I had enough of whatever “thing,” I’d finally be happy. Whenever I would get anxious about something, normally something out of my control, I would restrict food and/or binge and purge in order to feel like I had control over something, anything. It made me feel better in that moment. I didn’t see myself as worth anything, so I didn’t care if I was being destructive to myself or to anyone else around me. I was always looking for that instant gratification. That quick fix. I didn’t like the feelings I felt when I wasn’t covering them up with my “things.” Whenever bad emotions popped up, I numbed myself so I wouldn’t have to feel. When that instant fix went away, which was pretty quickly, I would become overwhelmed with guilt and shame for what I did, and I would start to panic. I thought the world was caving in and that I had no way out, so I would use. And by “use” I mean whatever I could find — food, drugs, alcohol — and then the vicious cycle would continue. I also cut myself because I had so much internal pain. The best way to describe it is that my heart hurt. I hated myself and thought that I was a failure, that I couldn’t do anything right. I didn’t know how to deal with all that emotional pain, so I made the pain into something physical and something I could see.
On December 23 2012, I tried to kill myself. I took as many pills as I could find. The months leading up to that day, I was romancing the idea of hurting myself. I thought, “Maybe I can drive my car into a wall and go into a coma and get a break from life and everyone will pay attention to me and feel sorry for me and it’ll be good waking up six months later and having everyone realize how much they love me.” And then it became, “Maybe I should drive my car into a wall full speed so I don’t have to be a burden anymore to my family because all I do is let everyone down.” I sat on that for a little bit. I told myself I couldn’t kill myself because that would mean I couldn’t get high anymore, and I loved getting high. But what I didn’t realize was that the thing that I thought I was keeping myself alive for was the thing that was killing me anyway.
Then everything got to be too much, and I lost it. I took 20 pills and thought everyone was better off without me. My daughter deserved better. My husband, mom, and dad deserved better. And then I woke up. And I thought, “I couldn’t even do that right!” I was at my parents’ house when that happened, and I don’t know what it was, but something made me open my mouth and say, “I need help.”
So on December 24, 2012, (my clean date), I went into a treatment facility and spent nine days in the crisis unit and went into a 28-day program. I found a 12-step program in which I felt for the first time in my life like I fit in. And I was accepted for being me. I’ve been clean ever since, and it’s been the biggest blessing in my life. I got honest with self and others, and I got better. I worked steps, and I got better. I started to become active in the recovery community, and I got better. I learned to accept myself and where I’m at. And wherever that is, it’s ok.
If I was talking to someone else going through something similar, I would tell them that there is hope. Never lose H.O.P.E.: Hold On Pain Ends. Even though you may feel like giving up, it does get better. But for me, I have to put the footwork into it. I can’t just sit back and expect things to change, because nothing changes if nothing changes. Asking for help is the most courageous thing you could ever do for yourself. Asking for help does not make you weak! You are worth it. There are so many people out there in the world, and there are others that deal with the same struggles as you.
When I was younger, I thought that no one could ever understand how I was feeling, that if I told anyone what I was thinking or what I was doing to myself, I would get in trouble. But I was so wrong. You know how they say, “You only have one life to live?” Well, I and many others are proof that that is not true. I and many others have lived two lives: one in active addiction and one in recovery. My past challenges affect me on a day-to-day basis. I have a disease that cannot be cured. It’s a choice I make everyday to not resort back to old behaviors. My desire to stay clean outweighs my desire to get high. I choose recovery today. I choose life.
I will end with one of my favorite quotes. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.