Struggling with the devastation that drug and alcoholism brings upon yourself and your family is surreal. I don’t know an addict out there that can say that this has ever been short lived. I lived in the grips of such deafening snares for nearly two-decades. Never could I have imagined a life succumbed to such savagery and emptiness. Filled only with drive for the next fix to get me through the anguish of the reality of a life that was my own. A life that no one would ever bargain for.
My eyes shot open, blinking in utter confusion as sharp, pain twisted my insides like a towel being wrung out ! I squinted as the sunlight blazed through the canopy of the tent I found myself laying in. I was soaking wet - both with sweat and early morning dew. Propping myself up onto one elbow took twice the exertion as my body ached from pains of withdrawal!
“How the **** could I be so ****** stupid to let myself fall asleep here!” I screamed within myself. More of a statement than a question. Looking around the tent - I realized I was all alone - my friend ran off! Go figure. As my stomach continued to rumble I forced myself upright as sweat poured down my back. The tent was acting as a greenhouse in the morning sun. Fumbling with the zipper - it seemed to echo through the woods causing the birds and wildlife to react in panic.
I couldn’t escape the tent fast enough - taking in huge breaths of cool air as if I had been drowning! I attempted to take several wobbly steps but my legs didn’t seem to want to cooperate. They ached so badly I stopped to pound on them with the sides of my fists. I paused for a brief moment to check my back pocket for toilet paper and to attempt to remember which direction my friend said to head to use it in the woods. After all we weren’t complete animals - were we?
After trudging back up hill I was so exhausted and sweating profusely in the hot sun that it was all I could muster to grab water out of the cooler and pull the tent flaps open on the windows and door and collapse back on my body soaked blanket.
I felt I layed there for hours - too sick to force the idea of the long haul back to the main road. That’s when I heard it - the thud of boots. Fear struck me! Flashes of a recent rape played in my mind as I lay there in silence - my heart pumping fiercely in my ears!
“Are you still alive in there?” a familiar voice rang. I gasped a breath of air and tears filled my eyes! “DON'T EVER DO THAT TO ME AGAIN!” I shouted, “You have to announce yourself yo!” He smirked, “Calm down - this will make you feel better.”
I am sure that many of you have heard of or even experienced, “Rock Bottom.” For me, I didn’t just hit bottom - I lived there for years. In fact, I stayed there for so long I grew accustomed to the lifestyle and the daily struggles that came with it. I was denoted to the lowest level of animalistic living. Always on the prowl - on the hunt - searching for my next score - a way or means to get more! The sun would set and rise many times before my eyes would find rest again. But my mind … my mind only seemed to rest when I took too much. I remained vigilant and on guard at all times out of fear! History had proven to me that this was vital to my survival by age 15.
If you are like me - our stories may differ - but our ends are always the same - jails, institutions and death!
I had been in and out of jail since I was a juvenile delinquent. Institutions as well - you name the place and I have probably been there. Typically ordered there by way of the law or a parent when I was still an unruly child. But, it was never because I believed that I could ever truly recover. In the beginning - I didn’t think I needed to. “Recover from what!?” I thought to myself, “I’m not an alcoholic!” But as time progressed - so did my drinking. And then pretty quickly I found newer, better ways and means to get the feeling I was chasing. Which was anything but feeling what was truly going on within myself and facing myself and my own reality and shame. It took decades to try and re-try every possible scenario that would prove that I was more powerful or had some sort of control over my use. Every single attempt eventually led to failure because the substance wins all out every single time. Always has and ALWAYS WILL! It is only in the mind of a true addict and alcoholic that one will find themselves attempting to manipulate their own thought processes into considering that there may be just one more way they may have not tried when so many years of attempt have led to the exact same, horrific results! This is what I have come to know as “insanity.”
July 24th, 2017, began like any other day. As I slowly regained consciousness I realized where I was. The all-too-familiar bathroom of a friend I had known since I was a teenager. My legs were swollen and I could barely walk as I had been sleeping standing up. “Bang- Bang-Bang!” I jumped! The intense knocking on the bathroom door must have been what had woke me. I stepped towards the door to open it and fell flat on my face into a pile of laundry. The smell was sour. “Open the F******* door!” my friend screamed! “C- C- Coming-” I managed as I scrambled to reach up for the door knob and twist the lock.
She swung the bathroom door open smacking me in the arm! “What the ****?” she shouted - rushing to the toilet. I struggled to pull myself to my feet as pain radiates through my swollen legs and feet. “Where are your clothes?”
I focused all my strength on pulling myself up right and into the bar stool that sits next to the counter. “WHERE ARE YOUR CLOTHES?!” She shouted! “Huh?” I responded looking down at my bare chest and then into the mirror before me.
I was stark naked! “I have no idea,” I paused, looking into her eyes, “can you please help me find them?”
Vibration and ringing tore through my sleep and I found myself once again alone - naked in the bathroom. Time had eluded me as I gazed down at the phone in my hand. The screen read : “ SUBOXONE APPT 2 HRS” Although I was still shredded from the night before - I convinced myself that I needed to get ready and do the rest of what I had in front of me since I would be getting more after my appointment. I am not sure how I made it there. I vaguely remember taking a bus.. I think. What I do remember is falling out of the chair in the waiting room several times. I can also remember that I was still able to somehow walk out of that clinic with a script that day and once again - I have no recollection of how I made it back to my stomping grounds. What I can tell you is that I know I scored at least a handful of xanax bars, which I am assuming another “friend” of mine and I did. And the last thing that I remember is sitting in her car behind my children’s father’s house - mainlining almost a half gram of the best the west side had to offer. The release was instant.
I am unsure how long I remained in that state before the police arrived. I don’t even recognize that poor soul in that photograph today. I am very blessed that I am here to write this now - 3 years later. Many of those friends did not make it. “God sat me down, July 25th, 2017,” I have told those who ask. I had absolutely no intention of getting sober that day. I had tried a thousand times to do it on my own to no avail! God truly saved me that day - from myself. I was locked up for months without bond, as I had already been released on bail prior. I was forced to sit down - and feel - for the first time in at least a decade! My higher power had a plan for me when all I could think about was getting out and using. The further I got away from my last use - the more the fog lifted - and the reality of the life I had been living and things I had done set in. I was riddled with shame!
The jail clothes they provided still hung from my skeleton of a body. My hips and collar bones protruding and eyes set deep within the dark sockets of my face. I was on week two of my detox and my stomach was still sour and muscles still ached. The sweats lasted the longest - these continued on and off for months. During that time I was sentenced to CBCF where I successfully completed. It was there that a psychic change began to take place. I knew that if I got out and went around the same people that were doing the same things I was going to get the same results. I was going to meet my end.
Deep within me I was clinging to a shard of hope that the same Higher Power that delivered me from that Toxic lifestyle would continue to keep me safe upon my release.
I hit my knees for the first time since I was a child and prayed the most heartfelt, pleading prayer I have ever prayed - I begged God’s forgiveness and pleaded with him to have mercy and to save me from myself!
Two months later I was moving into one of the best treatment centers in America - AMETHYST! I had heard so many amazing things about this place and had even attempted to come on numerous occasions, but always on someone else’s terms.
This time was different - this time I wanted this to save myself!
“Can you tell me why I should spend several more hours with you doing another assessment? After all, this wouldn’t be the first..” the woman said dropping a stack of about 7 assessment folders onto her desk!
“Because!” I nearly shouted as I began to tear up, “I was just released - I have 7 ½ months sober and I have absolutely no idea how to stay this way on my own and without help I am going to die out here!” The woman’s entire demeanor changed as she calmly sat herself into her chair and rolled herself to her desk. That day I got totally -brutally honest with her - with myself and about my program!
I shook my head at the memory of that day just two months ago - giving me all the more reason to find gratitude in this moment. I smiled as the case manager pressed my house keys into my hand. “Welcome home,” she said. I began to cry - I hadn’t had a home - nor anyone wanted or welcomed me in years! The flood gates opened that day and I will not lie and tell you it’s been easy, but IT IS WORTH IT!
I want to thank Amethyst from the bottom of my heart for loving me until I could love myself. For teaching me that I have a voice and I have the ability to use it. That it is okay to stand up for myself. Thank you for helping me recognize unhealthy character flaws and coping skills within myself so that I can replace them with healthier ones. Thank you for allowing me and my children and family the time and space to begin our healing process in our own apartment. Thank you for offering supportive steps and assistance in job seeking and financial planning services through the e3 program and the Alvis Reentry Program. It is because of these programs that I am now a working member of society. I have learned the necessary skills to pay my bills - on time, lower my debt, and am on my way to financial security. You have helped me recognize that I can set healthy boundaries with people, places and things. You have taught me how to communicate. And the best part - you taught me that feelings are only temporary. “Do not make a permanent decision on a temporary feeling.” You taught me how to listen.
To those still struggling with alcohol and drug addiction...I am listening. I am you.