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.