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A Baby After Addiction.

It was the day before New Years Eve when I decided to get clean.  I was desperate for a fresh start and I figured a completely new year was the perfect time.  I was convinced that 2019 would be a year where I wouldn’t wait five hours for a dealer to show up, where I wouldn’t touch a needle, where I wouldn’t surrender my life to a drug that was trying to kill me.  I was convinced that 2019 would be a year where I would make amends with my family and friends, where I would work my ass off to stay clean, where I would fight for myself.  Never in a million years did I think that 2019 would be the year that I would bring life into this world.

“You’re pregnant,” two words I never thought I’d hear just two months after getting clean.  Two words that scared the living shit out of me, yet for some strange reason brought me so much peace at the same time.  For me, finding out that I was pregnant was like seeing a rainbow after a storm.  A sign of hope that I would be okay, that we would be okay.  I have always wanted to be a mom, but this is never how I pictured it happening.  I always thought I would be older, have a career, be married, and living with the love of my life.  Instead I’m barely 22, living with my parents, working at a golf course, and 182 days clean from cocaine and heroin.

So let’s talk about having a baby after addiction. My automatic response was, “I’m not meant to be a mom.”  The looks I’ve received from some people after telling them I’m pregnant have had me feeling so down.  The people who keep telling me I’m not ready and the ones who keep asking, “Are you sure you can handle this?” have had me crying myself to sleep more nights than not.  The shame I feel every time I go to see my midwife and she says, “We need to do a urine sample just to be sure you’re still clean” makes me feel like maybe I’m not cut out to be a mother, maybe it’s too soon after getting clean.  I have always been an extremely sensitive person, and all these negative things have been effecting me in ways I never thought possible and have made me question not only who I am as a mom, but who I am as a person as well.

However, the way people’s eyes light up when I say the words, “I’m pregnant” make my heart overflow with joy.  The people who congratulate me without judgement are the reason why I have a smile on my face even when it’s hard.  The way I feel so proud when my drug test comes back negative every single time reminds me that it’s not too soon after getting clean, it’s the perfect time and another reason to fight for myself.  I have worked so hard my entire life, specifically in the past year, to get to where I’m at today. Today I am calm and confident, I have a good head on my shoulders, I know what I deserve and I won’t settle for less, and I love the person I have become.  My therapist even jokingly said the other day, “Do you even need to come see me anymore? I’ve never seen you so happy.”  (Jokes on her because I’ll be 80 years old and still seeing her becaue it’s my favorite form of self love).  But her comment made me realize that I have finally become the person I have always been meant to be.

There’s a lot of negativity that comes along with having a baby after addiction, but the amount of negative will never surpass the amount of positive.  To all my supporters and all the people who encourage me everyday, thank you for constantly reminding me that I will be the best mother that I allow myself to be.  And to all the moms (and dads) out there, navigating parenthood after addiction, you are a BADASS.  Motherhood is hard, I haven’t even held my baby in my arms yet and I already know that.  But I also know it is so worth it.  I have been given the greatest title in the world, and I promise to never let anything, or anyone, get in the way of me being the best mom that I can be.

Fight For Yourself.  Always.  

Big on Boundaries.

The course my life has taken has made me realize the importance of healthy boundaries and lately those boundaries have been so heavy on my heart. I am a people pleaser by nature and I often have a hard time holding to my boundaries because I don’t want to hurt anyone. But I have learned that I have to put my happiness, and especially my recovery, first so that everything I love doesn’t have to come last.

Boundaries aren’t set in place to change someone else, they’re created to help allow you to be the healthiest version of yourself. You’re changing yourself every time you set a boundary and that’s why they’re often so hard to keep. It’s also why they are so important.

Odds are my boundaries, and how I keep them in place, are a lot different than yours. I have fought too damn hard for my recovery to allow anyone or anything in my life that may alter that. For me that means holding firm in where I spend my time, what activities I engage in, and who I surround myself with. As a soon-to-be mom I have a whole new set of boundaries that need to be put into place. Like who I allow around my child and making sure that others respect the decisions I make for him (ie feeding, sleeping, touching, etc). And I know I can not be in recovery or be a good mom if I don’t have my happiness, and for me that means putting myself and my self care first. That looks like taking time in my day to just be, going to therapy regularly, and removing anything/anyone who takes away from my joy no matter what. Boundaries are hard. Really, really hard. But they’re too important not to discuss.

Here are some things I have learned about boundaries along the way that I feel are worth sharing:

1.) Never feel bad for setting boundaries that may upset other people. It’s not selfish to put yourself first (in a healthy way), it’s necessary.

2.) You are not responsible for other people’s happiness, you are only responsible for yours. However, this is not a license to be disrespectful. Be considerate, always.

3.) The only people who get upset when you set boundaries are those who benefited from you not having any. Don’t let them get to you.

4.) “No.” is a full sentence. End of story.

5.) “But they’re family” is not a valid excuse. Family can sometimes be harmful, and it’s okay to set boundaries with those in your inner circle.

6.) It’s pointless to set boundaries if you can’t stick to them. It’s easy to feel bad for doing what’s best for you, especially when others don’t understand it. Don’t give in, you know you best.

7.) Evolving involves eliminating. This isn’t a bad thing. You’re constantly growing and sometimes you outgrow things and people. Let it happen.

8.) You can be empathetic and still set boundaries. You can be compassionate and still set boundaries. You can care about someone deeply and still set boundaries. Boundaries aren’t negative.

9.) Pay attention to the people who honor your boundaries as much as you pay attention to the people who ignore them.

10.) Sometimes the person you need to set boundaries with is yourself. Be gentle.

Be brave enough to find the life you want and courageous enough to chase it. Don’t let anything or anyone stop you, and know how to set boundaries that will make you the happiest, healthiest version of yourself possible. You get one life, please take full advantage of it.

Fight for yourself. Always.

A Year Can Change Everything.

One year ago today I woke up in an uncomfortable detox unit bed in a drug rehab facility.

One year ago today I had just finished going through heroin withdrawals.

One year ago today I sat on the hallway floor rocking back and forth, begging to go home.

One year ago today my parents picked me up and I sat silently in the backseat, feeling more embarrassed and ashamed than I ever had in my entire life.

One year ago today I couldn’t bring myself to look my little sisters in the eyes.

One year ago today I laid in my bed wondering how my life had gotten to this point.

One year ago today I thought my entire life was over.

Today I woke up in my own bed and the first thing I saw was the ultrasound of the precious life inside me (oh yeah, I’m having a baby!).  I got ready in my sweatpants with draw-strings (if you’ve ever been an addict/been to rehab, it’s kind of a big deal to have clothing with draw-strings).  I drove two hours to visit with my sweet friend, the friend who visited me in rehab and has held me accountable (whether I liked it or not), the friend who pours into me the most and who today said yes to being my baby’s God-mother.  I left with a full heart and went to Fairfax Hospital, the same rehab center I was discharged from one year ago today.  I sat in the same chair I sat in while waiting to be admitted.  I was thrown into the biggest hug from my favorite nurse turned friend turned Auntie Cassie to my sweet baby, the nurse who changed my life.  I talked with her for a while, and was quickly reminded of just how loved I am.  She’s the one who told me to “fight for myself” and a constant reason behind why I am happy to be alive today.  I went home and was loved on by my family who chose to love and forgive me even though I gave them every reason not to.

Today I was reminded of all the reasons I have fought so hard for myself this past year.  It hasn’t been easy.  It’s been painful and heartbreaking.  But man, has it been worth it.

 

Fight For Yourself.  Always.

 

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Who Is An Addict?

“People have a lot to say about lives they’ve never lived.”

When I was being taken back into the detox unit I stayed in the first thing that was said to me was, “You don’t look like an addict, let’s get you help before you do.”  Even at an NA meeting I had someone come up to me and because I don’t “look like an addict,” they assumed that I must have been a family member or a friend of an addict; that because I don’t look a certain way I couldn’t possibly be suffering.  I get comments like these all the time.  All.  The.  Time.  While I understand people are trying to be nice in saying what they’re saying, this comment actually infuriates me because it is placing addicts in a box of what society thinks they should look like. And it makes it harder to recognize those who are suffering who don’t “look” like they’re suffering.  It, honestly, has made my recovery harder because I don’t often feel seen or heard.

I recently posted a question on Instagram that asked, “When you hear the word addict, what/who do you think of?”  I got a lot of responses: “Dysfunctional.  Junkie.  Needles. Sadness.  Nose bleeds.  Ignorant.  Piece of shit.  Crack whore.  Track marks.  Crutch.  Liar. Alone.  Selfish.  Weak.  Homeless.  Strung out.  Obsessive.  Sick.  Death.”  All negative.  And then one came across my screen that got me thinking.  It read, “I think of two types of people, those who have lost their life (physically or mentally) to the disease and those who have fought to find gratefulness and hope to live.” This comment.  This is why I fight so hard for the addicts out there, both in recovery and in active addiction.  There is hope.  There is recovery, if it is wanted.  We live in a society that STEREOTYPES addicts like it’s nobody’s business.  Most people, who more than likely have never personally been affected by addiction (thank God), have a very clear mental picture of what an addict should look/be like.  And I’m guessing that picture entails almost every word that I just listed above.  To be completely honest, before addiction touched my life, I got that same picture.

But that picture is not always the case.  An addict is not always the homeless person sitting on the street corner.  An addict is not always the girl with the messed up teeth.  It is not always the guy with all the tattoos to cover up the track marks.  It is not always the person you can never count on.  It is not always the person asking for money.  It simply is not.  An addict can be all those people.  But an addict is also the person with a steady job.  An addict is the person who helped you when you when your hands were full.  An addict is the person who smiles at you in the grocery store.  The person sitting in church on Sunday mornings. The person always smiling.  The easy-going, loving, caring, empathetic person.  The person who helps others.  The person going to school to get their degree.  The person living in a nice home, the person with a loving family.  An addict is your peer, maybe your friend even.  Me.  I am an addict.

I am in NO way, shape, or form trying to glamorize addiction by saying that you can live a “normal” life while using.  No, if you’re using life is sad, depressing, excruciating, cruel, lonely, and full of pain, anger, and a hell of a lot of self loathing.  What I am trying to say is that addiction and mental illness aren’t always easy to see.  Sometimes people who need help look nothing like people who need help.  Sometimes it’s the happiest person you know who is barely breathing.  Sometimes it’s the person who seems like their life is perfect who is shooting up in the bathroom.  Sometimes it’s the person who has been there for everyone else who needs someone to be there for them.  Sometimes addiction and mental illnesses are hidden so well that you would never think twice about the fact that maybe, just maybe, that person is suffering.

My whole life has been a silent fight to be okay, and it’s taken me years to be as open and vulnerable as I am now.  Only through fighting in silence for so long did I realize that my pain has actually been propelling me into my purpose.  And now I feel very passionately that my purpose on this earth is to use my experiences as a catalyst to raise awareness. That I am supposed to use my past to help others.  One step at a time, one person at a time, and one day at a time.  Addiction and mental illness are all around you.  So open your eyes, but more importantly open your heart.  Don’t judge.  Don’t place blame.  Don’t hate.  Stop stereotyping.  Look.  Listen.  Help.  Love.

Fight For Yourself.  Always.  

To The Nurse Who Saved My Life.

Forewarning: this post is going to be really, really sappy.  I’m emotional just writing it because my heart is so damn full.

A while ago I was given the opportunity to go back to Fairfax Behavioral Health Hospital to meet with my favorite nurse, Cassie.  You’ve heard me talk about her before, and you’re probably going to continue to hear me talk about her for the rest of my life. I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that I feel like I owe her the world.  I’ve been preparing for this meeting for over a month now.  Anxiety on anxiety, wanting everything to go perfectly while not even sure that she would remember who I am.

Yesterday the day finally came.  I arrived and purposefully sat in the exact same seat I had sat in seven months ago while waiting to be admitted into the detox unit.  At that time I was full of anxiety, confused by what my life had come to, and angry at both the world and myself.  Yesterday I sat in that same seat but this time full of hope, courage, purpose, and thankfulness.  But as I waited my anxiety started to get the best of me.  I was playing a scenario over and over in my head that went like this: She would come get me, I would shake her hand and reintroduce myself, and then we’d have some sort of awkward 20 minute conversation followed by the two of us parting ways and never seeing each other again. I could not have been more wrong.

As I sat there getting more and more nervous, she snuck up beside me, wrapped her arms around me, and said, “I promised myself I wasn’t going to cry but I literally can’t help it.”  So there we both stood, with tears in our eyes and gratitude in our hearts.  It was like we were old friends seeing each other after years apart.  We sat in a room and talked about life in recovery as well as life in general for well over an hour.  I gave her a letter I had written for her that started out by saying, “I couldn’t go the rest of my life living in a world where you didn’t even know I existed when you changed my world so drastically.”  Little did I know how drastically I had changed her world, too.  She told me about how my blog post had been the talk of the hospital and how a coworker had told her about it but couldn’t remember the name of the writer.  She knew it was me before she even read it.  She told me how you either click with patients or you don’t, and explained how when she first saw me I was so lost and broken, yet she knew that I was going to be that patient for her.  The one who validates the reason why you go into that field.  The one who makes the hard days more bearable.  The one who changes everything.  For you, her remembering me may seem small and insignificant.  For me, it was everything.

When I was a patient at Fairfax I was more lost, broken, defeated, and ashamed then I had ever been in my entire life.  I was a version of myself that I had never met before, a version I didn’t even know existed.  Cassie took me under her wing immediately.  She sat with me in the hallway for hours as I rocked back and forth with my head between my knees.  She kept me behind during meal times to make sure I would eat.  She encouraged me to go to my first NA meeting there, but left with me when I started to panic.  She advocated so hard for me to get out when I did so that I wouldn’t be spending my 21st birthday in rehab.  I had forgotten how to love myself, so she reminded me how.  I couldn’t fight for myself, so she fought like hell for me.  She’s the reason I have “Fight For Yourself” tattooed on my arm and why I say “Fight For Yourself. Always” at the end of every blog post.  I left Fairfax the day before my 21st birthday expecting to be just another patient and to never cross her mind again. But she didn’t forget about me.  She let me help her become a better nurse, and in return she helped me become a better person.

Yesterday she told me, “You’re somebody who I’m going to have in my life forever.” Cassie, I’m honored to be in your life.  And I’m even more honored to have you in mine.  To the nurse who saved my life, and now my new friend, thank you.

 

I also want to give a huge shout out to Katy at Fairfax who organized all of this and has been nothing short of amazing! I’m telling you, these people at this hospital aren’t just there because it’s their job.  They’re there because they genuinely care about every single person that walks in the door.  They’re changing lives, and I’m so blessed that mine was one of them.

Fight For Yourself. Always. 

Cassie and I (Photo posted with permission)

 

 

Eating Disorders And The Holidays.

With the holidays quickly approaching the subject of eating disorders has been weighing heavily on my heart.  The table is generally a place for happiness and laughter, but for some it is a battleground – a place of stress and anxiety.  If you know someone who is struggling with an eating disorder, be cautious with them this holiday season.  And if you yourself are struggling with an eating disorder, reach out.

Keep in mind that eating disorders have close to nothing to do with food itself.  It’s more than starving yourself, throwing up, and/or over eating.  It’s a serious mental illness that fixates on fear, power, and control.  Eating disorders are dark and twisted and crippling. They go hand in hand with anxiety and depression, and can make each day feel like hell.  Eating disorders are often misunderstood and can leave the person suffering feeling lonely and worthless, I know this first hand.

With that being said, please please please remember that eating disorders are not always visible.  You don’t have to be extremely skinny or overweight to have an eating disorder. You do not have to look like you have an eating disorder to have one.  This is probably one of the most common misconceptions about eating disorders.  And this is so dangerous because there are many eating disorder sufferers in need of help, but not seeking treatment because they don’t think they look like someone with an eating disorder.  They don’t think they’re sick enough.  As someone who struggled with an eating disorder but remained at a “normal” body weight, I know how scary it can be to reach out because you feel like you won’t be taken seriously.  But if you think your ideas and behaviors around eating are disordered, please reach out to someone.  Eating disorders thrive in the dark.  They love secrecy, it makes them stronger.

So this holiday season, please be so gentle with those around you. Don’t comment on your family members’ weight loss/gain.  Don’t mention how much or how little food they have on their plate.  I personally know how hard the holidays are when you feel like you are trapped inside your own mind.  Your loved one more than likely feels guilty for not being able to enjoy the holidays like everyone else, sending them spiraling into a depressive state.  Their anxiety is skyrocketing.   Their eating disorder becomes all-consuming.  Their world feels out of control because of what is supposed to be the happiest time of the year.  Support them, love them, and let them know you’re there for them.

And to my friends struggling remember this: You are worth more than this. You deserve freedom from your disorder. You deserve a fighting chance. You’re allowed to feel the things you are feeling.  You are loved.  You are allowed to get help, not matter what.  You don’t have to suffer in silence.

Dear Younger Me.

“Dear younger me, where do I start?  If I could tell you everything I have learned so far, then you could be one step ahead of all the painful memories still running through my head.  I wonder how much different things would be, dear younger me.” – Dear Younger Me, Mercy Me.

Dear younger me,

If only you knew then what I know now.  If only you knew the trials you would face. If only you knew the hurt you would endure.  If only you knew the joy you would feel.  If only you knew the laughs you would have.  If only you knew how strong you would be. But honestly, would it make a difference if you did know?  I’m a firm believer that every experience, both good and bad, shape you into exactly who you are meant to be.  And who you are right now, at age 21, is on the right path to who that woman is.  You’re not there yet, but it’s all about progress not perfection.

Let’s start with this: Sweetheart, I wouldn’t change you for the world. The woman you grow up to be is incredibly brave, empathetic, strong, and full of heart. She is also a bit broken, a bit defeated, and is having a really hard time. But don’t worry, as always she’ll keep fighting.

I know you feel like you don’t fit in, like you’re undervalued, like you’re replaceable, and like you’re never heard.  You’re probably going to feel that way for a long time.  I know that being shy and full of anxiety gets in the way of so much life, I’d be lying to you if I said that goes away fully.  I know you feel like this dark cloud will never disappear, but hold on, your sunshine is coming.  But good news, things do get better.  You will learn how to feel heard.  You won’t be shy for forever.  You’ll learn to cope with your anxiety.  And that dark cloud will eventually subside.

You’re a listener and an observer, and know that’s okay.  You’re loyal to a fault, but don’t forget to be loyal to yourself first.  You’re a deep thinker and an even deeper feeler, don’t let those things overwhelm you.  Your heart is big and you’re going to want to heal everybody, know that you can’t and that it’s okay.  You’re a giver, just remember you can’t pour from an empty cup.  You’re a fighter, just know that you should never have to fight on your own.  You’re a lover, but don’t ever be afraid to love yourself first.  Self love isn’t selfish, it’s necessary.  You’re kind, but don’t forget to be gentle with yourself (this is something you talk a lot about in therapy, learn to love it.)

You’re going to have a lot of pain in your life, try your best to find the good in it. Your parents are going to get divorced, but it will actually be the best thing to ever happen to you.  You will gain a new step dad and step mom who you love, as well as new siblings and two whole new families.  You will struggle with an eating disorder, it’s going to go unnoticed for a long time, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Eventually you will overcome that challenge to the best of your ability.  You will attempt suicide not once, but twice. And you will live.  Keep living, it’s worth it.  You will have two permanent, prominent scars on your arm that at first you will hate. But eventually you will grow to love them because they are part of your story, and they will help others. You will hate high school, but you will graduate and go to college.  Your best friend will die at 20 years old, and I don’t really have anything good to say about that other than that you will grow from it. You will lose two of your grandparents in the course of six months, cherish your time with them always.  You will become addicted to drugs, and you will come out victorious but not without one hell of a fight.  Don’t give up. The friends you have in your twenties will be twenty+ years older than you, which is fine. They were placed in your life at the right time, with the right wealth of knowledge, and are making a huge impact on you. You will fall in love with a man and you will think he’s the one.  He’s not, and that’s okay. You have to learn how to love yourself before you can fully love someone else.  You will willingly go to therapy, don’t ever stop.  She’s changing your life, work with her not against her. You will have a blog, and you will change lives through it.  Never be afraid to share your heart.

Despite all the pain your young heart will feel, you will also feel immense amounts of joy. You have siblings who are your best friends, they’re growing up fast, don’t let that precious time slip by.  Your mom and step dad will take you on numerous cruises and vacations, you are blessed and don’t you ever forget it. You will attend Western Washington University and it will be the best nine months of your life. You will finally feel like you fit in, hold tight to that feeling.  You will finish top of your class from Interior Design School, but don’t forget to finish those two math classes and actually get your degree.  You are smart enough.  You will study abroad in Paris. Yep, that’s right.  YOU, with all the anxiety, will go so far outside of your comfort zone and absolutely love it.  You will be 21 with 12 tattoos, all with such deep meaning.  You will go to therapy twice a week, and you will grow in every way you never thought you could.  I mention this one twice because it is just so important.  You will learn to love yourself, even when it’s hard.  You will learn to fight for yourself, don’t ever ever ever stop.

And younger me, it’s not your fault.

All my love,

Hannah