Featured

Loving An Addict.

Before I began my own journey with addiction I loved an addict.  If you read my post, My Best Friend Died, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  If you haven’t read it, go read it and then come back.

First of all, if you are loving an addict know this: you are not alone.

I loved an addict and I get a lot of questions in regards to how I did it. Here’s how: I removed the label and I loved the person.  I loved her by reminding her that she was strong.  I loved her for her heart, a piece of her that drugs couldn’t take away.  I loved her because she was worth fighting for.  I loved her because she was kind, caring, and hilarious.  I loved her because she was my best friend.  I loved her because she was my favorite person.  I loved her because she was Cali.  When I looked at her I never saw just an addict, I always saw her for the person she was within.  After everything I chose to continue to support her.  I chose to let her move into my house, to call her my sister, to have her become part of my family.  I CHOSE TO.  And then addiction really set in and I still chose to love her.  I chose to answer every 3am strung out phone call.  I chose to put myself in danger to rescue her from scary situation after situation and to call the police time after time.  I chose to sit with her during come downs and hold her down while she was lashing out.  I chose to get screamed at, cursed at, and told that I was hated over and over again.  I chose to put myself last and put her first.  I chose to try to save her.  And then I realized that me trying to save her was in fact doing the opposite.  Not only was I not saving her, I was destroying myself.  I was choosing to let my soul become so heavy.  I was choosing to help her, then go home and cry because my help wasn’t actually helping.  So then I had to make the hardest choice of my life – do I continue to hold the rope close or do I create some distance?  I’m sure if you’ve loved an addict you’ve asked yourself that same question.  You don’t want it to seem like you’re giving up on the person you love, because you aren’t, but you also can’t continue to go through what you’re going through forever.  So, I began learning how to love Cali from afar. I let her know I would always be there but that I couldn’t keep saving her, she had to learn how to save herself.

If you’re loving an addict in active addiction I’m sure you’ve been through everything I have.  You understand the pain.  You get it.  Here are some things I’ve learned/found helpful while loving an addict:

  • Remember that addiction is not a choice, it’s a disease.
  • Know that the addict you are loving is not themselves, the things they say/do are their addiction taking over. Be forgiving, but also stand your ground.
  • Don’t give in to manipulation.  Addicts are master manipulators who will do anything to feed their addiction.
  • Accept that you can’t change them.  You can do everything you can, but you can’t do everything.  They have to want to change themselves, they have to want to recover.
  • Be supportive, but do not take the blame for problems created by addiction.
  • Learn what healthy boundaries look like.  Don’t provide financial support, don’t make up excuses for them, don’t bail them out.  As hard as it may be, they have to learn to fight for themselves.
  • Be optimistic.  There is hope for the person you love, even if it’s hard to see.

If you’re loving an addict in recovery, here are some things that I have found extremely helpful as an addict in recovery:

  • Actively listen.  Your loved one just wants to be heard. Listen intently to their needs, concerns, and thoughts.
  • Encourage a healthy lifestyle.  Exercising, healthy eating, and keeping busy will be so beneficial in their recovery.
  • Suggest a support group.  Whether it’s AA, NA, or a therapy group it is so important for your loved one to be surrounded by people who have been through what they’ve been through, and are now in the same stage as them.
  • Find a therapist.  Don’t force them into therapy, that most likely won’t help.  But definitely encourage it.
  • Set expectations.  Don’t be afraid to hold them accountable to rules/expectations you have set, especially if they are living with you.
  • Relapse.  It does happen.  The way you react to your loved one’s relapse can be a huge piece in how they rebound from it.  Recovery is about progress, not perfection.
  • Be patient.  Recovery is a lifelong journey and is so extremely hard on all people involved.

And if you’re loving an addict, don’t forget to take care of yourself.

  • Find a support group for YOU.  There are so many support groups for families/friends of addicts.  People there will understand you and everything you’re going through.  You’ll be amazed by the community you can create for yourself.
  • Go to therapy.  Loving an addict is one of the most exhausting, difficult things you can ever do.  Get some help for yourself, go talk about it.
  • Treat yourself.  Buy that coffee, go get your nails done, have a spa day.  You are fighting, too, and you deserve it.
  • Rest.  Your days are probably consumed by so many different emotions.  Resting is so important.

Here’s my point: I understand how hard loving an addict is.  I know that it is one of the loneliest things you can do.  I get that it’s exhausting, defeating, and unfair.  I get it, I really, truly do.  There is a very fine line you have to walk when loving an addict: are you just loving or are you loving and enabling? Here is the best advice I was ever told when it comes to loving an addict: “If the addict is happy with you, you’re probably enabling them.  If an addict is mad at you, you’re probably trying to save their life.”  Hard words to accept, right? I thought so, too.  But they are the truest words I have ever heard, and something I learned very quickly when loving Cali.  So if the person you are loving is furious with you, accept it and know that means you are doing something right. Figure out how to help them and love them, but don’t forget about yourself.  Don’t forget that you are worth fighting for, too.  And if you need to reach out, I’m here.  If you need to talk about it, message me.  You are strong.  You are worth loving.  You are worth peace.  Thank you for being brave enough to not give up.

Screen Shot 2018-11-27 at 7.43.32 PM.png
Cali Noel – 12/19/1996 – 9/6/2017

Fight For Yourself.  Always. 

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

You Aren’t Weak For Going To Therapy.

Therapy.  I have always been against it. Always.

My mom did the right thing from the start by sticking me in therapy.  From a young age she noticed my anxiety, recognized that I needed help, and did everything in her power to get it for me. However, there was one problem: I didn’t want help.  She tried for years and years to get me to go, and I put my foot down time after time.  It was to a point where she would go in and talk to my therapist while I sat in the hallway hysterically crying because I didn’t want to be there.  Talk about needing help, right?

After my first suicide attempt I tried therapy again, and still hated every minute of it.  It caused me more anxiety than not, and I think I made it through two appointments before giving up.  For me I always thought that if you needed to go to therapy it meant that something was wrong with you, that you were weak because you needed help.  I could not have been more wrong, and I wish I would have realized that sooner.

It was April of 2018 and my best friend, Omi, and grandpa had all recently passed away. I was struggling with an addiction that nobody knew anything about, and my soul was really, really heavy.  I started researching therapists on my own, realizing that maybe I did need help.  I stumbled across a therapist, Elizabeth, who I thought would maybe be a good fit for me (truthfully I chose her because I thought she was pretty and looked like someone I would be friends with.)  I researched her a little bit, and then shut down the idea completely remembering my insane reasoning for never wanting to go to therapy before.  It wasn’t until after my second suicide attempt and first real blackout moment (I’ll talk more about those later) that my mom said enough was enough.  I was in the ER at St. Joseph Hospital and my social worker gave me a list of therapists to contact when I got out, Elizabeth being one of them.  My mom called her and I had my first appointment the following week.  I went into it so nervous, and quite honestly ashamed that my life had gotten to that point.  I came out a different person.

Elizabeth has changed my life in a way I never thought possible.  When I say she’s my favorite person (non family member, of course), I’m not kidding.  I wish that she knew how much she means to me, because she holds a spot in my heart that nobody else can ever hold.  I brought her into my life at my absolute lowest point, and I like to think that she saved me.  But I think if I were to tell her that she would just smile, shake her head, and respond with, “Nope.  You saved yourself, I just helped.”  I see her twice a week now, and those two days are my favorite days of the week simply because it’s ME time. For two hours a week it’s all about me.  Sounds a little selfish, right? WRONG. It’s never selfish to take care of yourself.  It’s not selfish to put yourself, and your wellbeing, first sometimes. And it’s definitely not something to be ashamed of.

There are two major things I’ve learned since I started therapy. First is that it’s okay to not always be okay.  It’s okay to breakdown.  It’s okay to struggle.  It’s okay to cry.  It’s okay to feel down sometimes.  Just don’t stay there.  “If it matters, let it matter.  If your hearts breaking, let it ache. Catch those pieces as they shatter, know your hurt is not in vain. Don’t hide yourself from the horror.  Hurt today, heal tomorrow.” – Lyrics from my favorite song by Johnnyswim.  Elizabeth constantly loves to remind me that negative emotions are there to move you.  They aren’t stagnant. They are doing something, something big.  It’s up to you, however, to find what that something is.  And if you need help doing that, that is perfectly okay.  The second thing that I’ve learned is that it’s okay to feel good.  Sometimes I struggle with that – feeling good.  A silly thing to think, right? Life has thrown me so many curveballs.  From divorce, an unnoticed eating disorder, grief on grief on grief, heartbreak, addiction, anxiety, and depression.  Sometimes, when I feel okay I don’t want to feel okay.  Sometimes, I don’t feel like I deserve to feel happy. And that’s when she steps in. That’s when she reminds me that I am brave, beautiful, loved, and strong.  That my feelings are valid, and that I’m not crazy for feeling the things that I feel.

Finding the right therapist can be hard. It can be daunting and defeating when you feel like you just don’t click.  But let me tell you, when you finally find the right one it’s the best thing in the world.  It’s magical.  It’s empowering.  It’s life changing.  Don’t give up, your person is out there.  So today I am here to remind you that you are not weak for going to therapy.  You are brave.  You are trying. You are healing.  You are breathing. You are alive.  And today, those things are enough for me.  Let them be enough for you, too.  If you think you need help, get out there and get it.  Don’t be ashamed. If you just need someone to talk to, do it. You don’t have to suffer in silence.  And if you’re struggling with finding the right therapist, don’t give up.  Your Elizabeth is out there.

Side note: Elizabeth, if you’re reading this, THANK YOU for everything you’ve done for me.  Thank you for constantly reminding me that I am enough.  For reminding me to be gentle with myself.  For letting me be me.  And of course for all the music recommendations (Smashing Pumpkins all day every day).  You have made me a better person, thank you.

Fight For Yourself.  Always. 

My Name Is Hannah, And I’m An Addict.

Warning: this is going to be a long one.

Here’s the post most of you have probably been waiting for: my personal addiction story. This post is going to be emotional.  It’s going to be raw. It’s going to put me in the most vulnerable position I’ve ever been put in.  Parts of it are going to be really hard for some of you to read, and parts of it are going to be really hard for me to write.  For some, you will think that I’m over sharing. And maybe I am.  But for me, I know this post will help someone out there who is struggling, so I’m okay with it. Before I start I need you to know this: I am okay.

Let’s start from the beginning.  It was September of 2017 and I had just returned from studying abroad in Paris, France.  As many of you already know from my post “My Best Friend Died,” my best friend, Cali, died as a result of addiction while I was studying abroad.  I came home to a disaster zone.  I numbly sat through her funeral, and as the days passed I became angry and consumed by grief.  It was that same month that I had my first encounter with drugs.  It was then that my life changed forever.

I am very open about my journey with addiction on social media, however, one thing I have not shared is what I was addicted to.  One line of cocaine.  That’s all it took and I was immersed into the world of addiction.  It quickly turned into an everyday thing. It consumed me.  It was all I thought about 24/7. Before I knew it cocaine wasn’t enough.  I then turned to the one drug that I swore I would never do, the drug that robbed me of my best friend: heroin. Next thing I knew I was sticking a needle in my arm searching for a couple of minutes of relief from all the pain I was feeling.  Before I could stop myself I had quit my job, watched all my friends slowly disappear, and had pushed my family away.  I had spent my entire life savings, and was struggling to financially support myself.  For eight months I hid my addiction from everybody.  Not a single person knew, and I had every intention of keeping it that way.

Why heroin? Why the drug that stole my best friend’s life? Why risk it?  I wanted to experience it one time.  One time.  I wanted to feel what she felt and see why she loved this drug so much.  But when you take even just a single shot of heroin all of a sudden you have this new need.  All of a sudden you’re lacking this something, but you don’t know what it is or how to fix it.  You’re out to dinner with friends, you’re having a good time.  Still lacking.  It’s Christmas morning and you’re the happiest you’ve been in a long time.  Still lacking.  You fall asleep in the arms of the person of your dreams.  Still lacking. There’s a part of you missing.  I wanted to experience shooting heroin one time, and now I’ll be walking around for the rest of my life with a loose-end that can never, ever be tied up.  All because of one time that turned into another time, and another time, and another time.

It wasn’t until May that I finally decided to get clean.  I had been clean for two weeks and then I broke down and decided to use again.  I was home alone, with the exception of my step dad who was working from his office.  I went upstairs and shot up, then headed back downstairs to continue folding laundry as if my life was normal.  I felt the initial rush, and then all of a sudden my body started shutting down.  I was freezing, I was shaking so badly that I couldn’t call for help, my jaw locked shut so I couldn’t talk, and my head felt like it was going to explode.  I pretty much accepted that was how I was going to die, laid down in front of the fireplace, and waited for someone to find me. Bill came into the house and through tears and a locked jaw all I could mutter was, “I’m addicted to heroin.”  Words that changed my life, and my families lives, forever.  He helped me into the car and drove me straight to the hospital, pulling over so I could throw up in a church parking lot (pretty ironic, right?). We arrived after what seemed like the longest drive of probably both of our lives, and they immediately took me back. The judgement and shame that I felt was almost unbearable.  My entire life I have been the “good Christian girl” who was shy, sweet, respectful, and never got in trouble.  And suddenly I was being seen for a me that I didn’t recognize.  I was being seen as an addict, as inadequate, and as less than.

My four-hour stay in the emergency room is honestly one giant blur.  I remember my mom, who had no idea that I was using, coming into my hospital room in tears.  I remember her hovering over my bed.  I remember getting angry and kicking my parents out of my room, as if any of it was their fault.  I remember telling my ER nurse, “This isn’t me. I’m a good person,” and I remember the look on her face as she was thinking, “Yeah, right.”  I remember calling my therapist in tears hoping that she would answer the phone, hoping that she could somehow solve all my problems in that instant, hoping that she would show up at the hospital and just sit with me.  I remember thinking about how I would have to tell the rest of my family, and how embarrassed I was.  I remember being so mad at myself.  I was mad that I had used, I was mad that everyone was finding out, I was mad that my life had gotten to that point.   But, anger aside, I was relieved.  Relieved because I didn’t have to fight by myself anymore. Relieved because I was finally going to be able to get the help that I needed, the help that I deserved.

After a couple of hours in the ER they admitted me with cotton fever, an infection you get from the piece of cotton you use to filter when using IV drugs.  They kept me in the hospital for a day and a half to give me antibiotics and monitor me as I detoxed. Longest day and a half of my life.  My room had a camera in it incase I went into seizures from withdrawals, they removed all the sharp objects, and I had a nurse checking on me every 15 minutes.  I had never felt more ashamed of myself. But it was also at that time that I realized just how much support I had.  I had so many friends showing up to remind me how much they loved me.  Two nurses who had treated my step grandma a couple of weeks before even showed up in my room to tell me I had their support.  I remember feeling so valued by these people because they were choosing to view me as a person first, and an addict second.  I spent my time there walking countless laps around my floor because I refused to just sit in my room, it was making my anxiety skyrocket.  As I waited for my social worker to find a rehab  center for me to go to I remember being scared shitless.  I remember being so filled with anxiety that I was physically sick.  And then we got the call.  The call that changed me forever, “Fairfax will take you.”  Rehab. Finally.

My parents picked me up, with a suitcase of my belongings, and drove me to Kirkland where I would spend time at Fairfax Behavioral Health Hospital.  We were sitting in the waiting room waiting to be called back and I felt numb.  I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t anxious.  I wasn’t angry.  I was just numb.  Suddenly it was my turn.  The first thing that was said to me there was, “You do not look like an addict. Let’s get you help before you do.”  I said goodbye to my parents and a nurse took me back to the detox unit.  It was then that all the feelings I had been numbing myself to rushed back to me.  Tears, tears, and more tears. I was greeted by the sweetest nurse, Cassie, who changed my life for the better.  From that moment on she was my person. I was sitting in the hallway, still in my hospital gown, still crying, when a younger guy approached me and said, “It actually isn’t so bad here.”  He instantly took me under his wing, becoming not just an acquaintance but a friend.  Evan, if you’re reading this, thank you for everything you did for me.  I appreciate you more than you’ll ever know.  My days were filled with group meetings, therapy, one-on-ones, Dr. evaluations, and med checks.  When I wasn’t busy doing any of those things I was sitting in a chair in the hallway across from the nurses station, rocking back and forth.  I was a version of me that I had never met before.  I was so anxious the whole time that I refused to eat, losing a total of 14 pounds. My friend, E, came to visit me during visiting hours one day and I remember being so thankful for her.  Being her friend has been one of the biggest blessings in my life.  She made me feel like I wasn’t crazy, like I wasn’t alone, and like I was still valuable.  The day before my 21st birthday was the day I finally got cleared to leave.  Before my favorite nurse, Cassie, left she sat me down and told me that she saw so much potential in me, that she believed in me, and that she knew I would be okay.  She then said something to me that I loved so much I actually got it tattooed on my arm.  She hugged me tightly and said, “Fight for yourself. Always.”  Those words shook me to my core. Since that day I’ve been fighting for myself in every way possible.  Cassie, if this blog somehow reaches you, you saved me.  Thank you.

My parents picked me up and I remember feeling so proud of myself when I saw them. When they dropped me off I was ashamed more than anything, so much so that I couldn’t even look them in the eyes.  Rehab humbled me.  It made me stronger.  It made me a better person.  It made me more empathetic, more understanding, and more aware. It gave me a glimpse at what my future would look like if I kept using. May 28th, 2018 was the day I decided to change my life forever, to start fighting for myself.  And here I am today, still fighting hard.  I wouldn’t be able to do it if it weren’t for the love and support so many of you have shown me.  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for believing in me.

Stay tuned for two more posts on loving an addict and how you can help.

Fight For Yourself.  Always.  

My Best Friend Died, And I’m Stuck Here.

I met Cali Noel Hall in 2014 while attending school at Life Christian Academy.  We instantly clicked and before I knew it we were spending every day together.  Whether it was running at Point Defiance, going to Frisko Freeze, cuddling in bed, sitting in the car, or just simply being in each other’s presence we were always happy, laughing, content, and full of life.

Our senior year Cali moved in with my family for a while, and I’m not kidding when I say every night was a party.  We blew up a queen size air mattress on my bedroom floor, leaving absolutely no room to walk or even open the closet door.  But we didn’t care.  We were just happy because now we were officially more than best friends, we were family.  My family took Cali in without hesitation.  My aunts spoiled her, my grandparents adored her, and my parents made her do chores as if she had been there all along. We were truly soul mates.

I loved every single thing about Cali, but there was one giant piece that she chose to hide from me: addiction.  When Cali and I became friends I had no clue about her past.  I had no clue that addiction was such a big part of her life.  It wasn’t until she was living with my family that I realized that she had a serious problem.  In that moment I had two choices: step away from the friendship or love her harder.  If you know me at all you know that my heart is big, really big.  So suddenly I was thrown into the world of loving an addict, which is no easy task but I’ll talk more about that in a future post.

There’s one question you always have to ask yourself when loving an addict: am I loving them or am I enabling them?  Phone call after phone call, long drive after long drive, rescue after rescue.  Was I loving or enabling?  It was right before graduation that I heard a quote that said, “If an addict is happy with you, you’re probably enabling them.  If an addict is mad at you, you’re probably trying to save their life.”  After graduation I had to sit my best friend in the world down and say the hardest thing I’ve ever had to say, “Cali, I love you but I can’t keep saving you.  You have to learn how to save yourself.” After that conversation I didn’t see Cali for six months.  She moved to Hawaii to start a new life and I moved to Bellingham to go to college.  We still talked constantly, but it was clear our friendship wasn’t the same.  How could it be after a conversation like that?

Fast forward to September of 2017.  I was studying abroad in Paris, France and Cali was still in Hawaii.  I was sitting on the train to Monet’s Garden, surrounded by a whole bunch of strangers, when I got a text that changed my world forever.  It was from a random girl on Facebook and all it said was, “Cali has passed away.  I know you were close with her and wanted to let you know.”  That was it.  No other information.  No reason why.  Nothing.  I texted her mom and asked if it was true and she immediately responded with, “Yes.”  In that moment my world fell apart.  Being as I was surrounded by strangers and a few classmates I hardly knew, I didn’t say anything.  It wasn’t until we were leaving Monet’s Garden nearly six hours later when I finally lost it.   I spent the next two weeks in Paris just trying to make it through each day with a fake smile on my face.

By the time I made it back to Washington the sadness had subsided and anger had taken its place.  I sat through her funeral without shedding a single tear.  I watched my family mourn the loss of our pseudo sister and I felt nothing.  I physically couldn’t mourn and it angered me that that’s how I was.  They say a single thread of hope is a very powerful thing.  For three years I had been holding on to this hope that one day Cali would be okay.  That one day she would get clean.  That one day she would realize that she had this community around her that loved her more than she knew.  That one day I would get my best friend in the world back.  And then that thread of hope snapped.  It broke.  It was gone, vanished.  Occasionally I forget that she’s gone.  I find myself hoping that she’s doing okay, that maybe she’s clean, and that maybe one day she’ll move back and we’ll continue our friendship as sisters.  And then I’m hit with the gut wrenching reality that none of those things will ever happen.  Because addiction stole my best friend.  And now all I have left are memories.  And for a year now that thought has been making me angry.  Angry because I will never make another memory with her.  Angry because she won’t stand by my side at my wedding.  Angry because my future kids will never call her “Auntie Cali.”  Angry because she couldn’t find the strength that we all knew she had to get clean.  Angry because I couldn’t save her.  But even though I am angry I am still grateful.  Grateful because I got to call her my best friend.  I got to call her my soul mate.  I got to call her my sister.  And that’s something that can never be taken away from me, no matter how far apart we are.  And for that I am forever grateful.

Cali taught me what it’s like to feel loved.  She taught me how to genuinely care about people.  She taught me how to laugh, how to dance, how to cry.  She taught me that life is about so much more than addiction, and I want to recover because she didn’t get the chance to.  She showed me just how precious life is.  So now I choose to live everyday in honor of her.  Living life without your best friend is really damn hard.  It’s something I would never wish on anyone.  Something funny happens and she’s the first person I want to laugh with.  Something sad happens and, again, she is the only person I want to talk to.   Sometimes I still find myself typing “soul mate” into my contacts to see if she wants to hangout.  And those things all come along with this physical pain in my chest as I remember that she’s not here, and I am.  But that’s the point – I AM.  I am alive.  I am breathing.  I am recovering.  I am hurting.  But I am okay.

Grief is a bizarre thing.  Sometimes it is all-consuming.   Sometimes it makes it harder to breathe.  Sometimes it makes me feel like I’m drowning.  It’s been a year and I still cry myself to sleep most nights.  I still want to share every memory that pops up on my Facebook.  I still want to talk about her constantly.  But unless everybody else around you is in the same grief journey, they get to be sad for a minute and then move on.  I’m stuck here mourning my best friend while the rest of the world carries on like nothing happened.  People don’t like talking about Cali, I know that.  Whether it’s because they find her death uncomfortable, they are confused by the way she died, or they just simply don’t want to talk about it I see it and I feel it.  Mentioning her name won’t make me sad, it will actually do quite the opposite.  So let’s talk about her.  Let’s remember her.  Let’s raise awareness about addiction and mental health.  Let’s fight for her.

 

Fight For Yourself.  Always. 

This Is Me, This Is My Story.

I’ve lived a good life.  A really, really good life.  To say I’ve been blessed would be an understatement.  I went to a private school, live in a big house, have traveled tons, studied abroad, have lots of friends, and have a huge family.  But to tell you my life has been all great would be a lie.  I’ve also struggled with crippling anxiety, depression that tried to end my life, an eating disorder, drug addiction, far too much grief, divorce, and so much heartbreak.  But hey, I’m here and I’m living despite it all, right?

Elementary Age:

Let me start from the beginning.  Date: May 29th, 1997.  The day my life began.  Place: Omaha, Nebraska.  The place I would call home for a mere two weeks of my life. My mom, dad, and I then made the journey back to Lakewood, Washington where I’d spend my childhood growing up in a neighborhood full of friends my age, with a big backyard, at a school I loved, and with both sets of grandparents right down the road.  My days as an only child were filled with daily visits with my grandparents, hanging out with my best friend Morgan, and getting loved on by the two greatest parents in the world. June 29th, 2000 was hands down the best day of my life.  That day I gained not only two baby sisters, but best friends.  We had the perfect little family, until suddenly we didn’t.  Somewhere between the ages of 3 and 7 I felt my first real sting of heartbreak.  My parents got divorced, my dad started dating someone new, and it was suddenly just us girls.  I was 8 years old when I remember noticing that I wasn’t like most of the kids around me.  I was quiet, didn’t really like hanging out with anybody my age, and found the seemingly simple tasks to be dauntingly difficult.  Everybody labeled me as “shy,” not knowing that there was really something much deeper going on.  That’s when I heard the word “anxiety” for the first time. I was also 8 years old when my dad and new stepmom, Cheryl, blessed me with a baby brother. Two years later they brought another baby into the world. In 4th grade I was switched from a public school where I was comfortable to a private school where I had never felt more out of place.  For a “normal” kid, that switch may have been a walk in the park, for me, it was earth shattering.  I spent the next two years of elementary school just trying to feel like I fit in.  My mom eventually met the man of her dreams and married him, giving me the big sister I had always wanted.  We moved to Gig Harbor, and life was so good but so different.

Middle School:

Quiet, shy, and full of anxiety: not easy labels for any middle schooler.  I still spent the majority of my time trying to fit in.  I started going to youth group on Wednesday’s, forced myself to hangout with people, and even tried out for the cheer squad at my school.  But each day was an internal battle no one knew anything about.  I spent a lot of time at church, trying to find myself through Jesus.  Going back and forth between my mom’s house and my dad’s house left me wondering why my family had to be a part of the divorce world.  I was in middle school, and had so many questions about life already.

High School:

What a blur.  Same school, same friends, same anxiety, same old same old.  High school was the same, but also full of firsts.  My first kiss, my first real relationship, my first sip of alcohol, my first job, my first horrible thought about my body, and my first major sign of depression.  I was still a cheerleader until my anxiety made it too difficult. I attended youth group until my junior year and became quite involved in the church, actually wanting to be there.  My teachers were my closest friends, and they really poured everything they had into me.  My grades were decent, my home life was good, and life seemed to be going pretty well.  Junior year was when shit hit the fan for me.  It’s when I really started hating the way I looked.  It’s when I started eating less, but not enough for anyone to actually notice.  It’s when I was diagnosed with depression.  Everyday was a battle for me.  Then came senior year.  A new girl, Cali, came to my school.  We instantly became best friends.  We spent every single day together, and then she even moved in with my family.  Every night was a party, quite literally.  It was with her that I took my first bong rip, went to my first real party, and experienced first hand what loving an addict was like. She moved out to go to rehab, blamed me, and made my life a living hell.  But she was still my best friend.  A bad breakup with the first guy I ever loved, a best friend who was hurting so badly, trouble at home, anxiety beyond belief, depression, and an unnoticed eating disorder.  I felt trapped in my own body.  It was then, a month before graduation, that I attempted suicide for the first time.  Two deep cuts on my left arm because I thought there was no other way out of the pain I was feeling.  A little time off from life and I was okay.  Don’t get me wrong, high school wasn’t all bad. It was also filled with lots of laughs, vacations, cruises, new family members, and so much more. Sometimes I lose sight of the good stuff, although I try my best not to. Cali and I walked together at graduation and just like that high school was over.  Thank God.

College:

Western Washington University.  The greatest nine months of my life.  I finally felt like I fit in.  My roommate, Emma, was the best roommate I ever could have asked for.  We instantly clicked, and everything seemed to be going perfectly.  Our pseudo roommate and best friend, Katie, made everything hilarious, wild, and an adventure.  I loved my life for the first time in a really long time.  I then got kidney stones (yuck), and after a lot of thought had to move home from college.  Why me? When I was finally happy, why? I spent a couple months doing nothing but pitying myself. I didn’t know what my purpose was anymore.  After being called a “college dropout” one too many times I attended an information session for an Interior Design program at Clover Park Technical College.  I registered that day and started classes a week later.  For the first time in my life I was top of my class and thriving.  The program was hard, don’t get me wrong, but everything seemed to come so naturally to me.  I moved in with my grandma and grandpa so I could be closer to school, and also because they are the two most important people in the world to me and I didn’t want to miss out on a single minute. I landed an internship in Las Vegas, and was having the time of my life.  I was even given the opportunity to study abroad in Paris a year into my program.  My first thought was, “hell no.” Then I brought up the idea to my Omi, and without question that next September I was on my way to Paris.  Little did I know that I would have to say my final goodbye to her the day before I flew out, her passing away a week into my trip.  This trip was the greatest experience of my entire life.  I fell in love with the city, people, and food of Paris.  It was also the hardest trip of my entire life.  On my third day there I got a message and all it read was, “Hey, Cali died and I thought you would want to know.”  My best friend in the entire world, gone from addiction, just like that.  And that is where my journey with grief began.  I came back from Paris, sat through both my best friend and my Omi’s funerals, and felt so lost.  Upon returning was when I had my first personal encounter with drugs. A one time thing quickly turned into an addiction.  My life was spiraling out of control.  I wanted to give up so badly on school as I could not quite seem to get my head out of the dark cloud it was in.  But I powered through with the help of my friends and teachers, and finished Design school this past March.  Life is full of surprises, roll with them.

Post College:

Life since finishing school has been nothing short of crazy.  My life quickly became consumed by drugs.  Using became a daily thing, the only thing that seemed to numb all my pain.  I quit my job, lost all my friends, stopped going to church, and was struggling to get through each day.  February rolled around and I lost the most important man in the world to me, my grandpa.  I spiraled after that.  I was numb to the world, losing my best friend, Omi, and Grandpa all within a few months of each other.  Everything got so bad that I attempted suicide a second time, landing me at St. Joseph Hospital.  Life was hard.  So unbelievably hard.  Then it got okay for a little bit.  Then it got bad again.  I had zero intention of telling anyone about my addiction, until it was almost to late.  It was May and I found myself laying on my living room floor unable to move, freezing, and shaking uncontrollably.  I pretty much just accepted that that was how I was going to die, laid down in front of the fireplace, and waited for somebody to find me.  My stepdad, who works from home, finally came into the house.  Through tears and a locked jaw all I could mutter was, “I’m addicted to (insert drug name discussed in a later post here).” Words that would change my life, and my families lives, forever.  He took me to the hospital where they quickly admitted me and diagnosed me with cotton fever. I stayed two days and was then given two options: go home or go to rehab.  Neither sounded good, but home sounded worse at the time.  I was admitted to Fairfax Behavioral Health’s detox unit and didn’t get out until the day before my 21st birthday. My world was crumbling. I was forced (kind of) into going to therapy and seeing a psychiatrist, who put me on all sorts of medications. My therapist is my new favorite person (hi, E, thanks for making my life so much better), and I see her twice a week willingly. I must admit sometimes it makes me sad that she is my therapist because I really just want her to be my friend. I have now been clean 153 days, and I have never been more proud of myself.  I started dating an amazing guy, and although we didn’t work out he is still one of my closest friends.  I’ve made tons of new friends (special shoutout to you, H, thanks for reading. You’ve made my life better than I’ve ever imagined. Thanks for being I’m you, and for letting me be me). I even got a job as a waitress/bartender that I LOVE. Life is good.  And then it’s hard.  And then it’s good again.  Hold on, pain ends.

This is my crazy life, welcome to it.