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"It's never going to happen to me."
I guess I was always one of those people who thought that.
I never thought I would become a drug addict. But I did.
I never thought I would be homeless. But I was.
I never thought I would wake up one morning hearing voices that weren't real. But that happened too.
Here is my story.
2016 was the hardest year of my life. In a matter of months, I went from being a senior in college and a barista at a local coffee shop to being a homeless meth addict.
Yeah... I definitely didn't think that was going to happen to me.
I guess I should have listened better when the D.A.R.E program came to my school, but to be honest, the first time he asked me if I wanted a shot of dope...I couldn't have told you, or remembered, a single thing that D.A.R.E program taught me. I mean, "just say no?" Who says no nowadays? I definitely wasn't going to. So I said yes.
You know, "dope" sounds so frilly and fun. Sometimes I wonder if he would have said "do you want a shot of methamphetamine?" if, maybe then, I would have said no.
But that's not how it went. I tried it, and then I did it again and again and again. Until my life was something I couldn't even recognize anymore.
Everything escalated so fast.
Within a matter of months, I was a full blown meth addict, I became homeless, and just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, they did. Because they started talking.
And when I say "they," I don't mean real people, I mean the voices. They. Them. And when they started talking, the delusions started happening.
You know, they talk about "meth mouth" and "faces of meth" in school, in an effort to scare you away from it. But they don't talk about meth-induced psychosis, voices, delusions, hallucinations. Hearing, seeing, and feeling things that aren't there. They don't tell you that if you use meth, you might wake up one morning to a full blown conversation that you can't escape.
The voices. They talked to me, they talked about me. Some days they loved me, and some days they hated me. One thing was for certain: they were always there.
Meth affected me differently than it did anybody else that I knew. People didn't see, hear, or feel things like I did. "You just need to eat something, and get some sleep. You're going to be fine, Jaq." I can't tell you how many times I heard that. People telling me stories of the one time they hallucinated something and how a cheeseburger and a good nights rest is the cure-all. And maybe it was for them. But it wasn't for me.
By the time July rolled around, I couldn't even talk to people that were actually there because I wouldn't stop listening to the things that weren't there. I started completely isolating myself, and the delusions got worse. Mid-July and I'm on a three day hold at a psychiatric hospital. Guys in white lab coats asking me: "does schizophrenia run in your family?" "how long have you been an IV drug user?" "what are they saying to you now?" My mental status, and diagnosis, was up in the air because of the similarities that schizophrenia and meth-induced psychosis have in common. The symptoms are practically the same, and both can be permanent. The only difference was that if I had schizophrenia, then it wasn't my fault. But if it was meth-induced psychosis, then it was all my fault. And because of that, I almost hoped it was schizophrenia.
I left the hospital with a prescription, and was still unsure about what was happening to me, and if it was ever going to go away.
And I hated myself because I still couldn't stop using.
Finally, my mom intervened. She moved across the country just to help me. I will never forget what she said "I love you Jaq, but I can't love you to death." And before I knew it, the police were there, coming to arrest me. It was almost a relief.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, all spent in jail. But at least I was sober. That was something to be thankful for.
Every night I would go to sleep, thinking that maybe tomorrow would be the day that I would wake up in peace and quiet, no voices, no delusions. But everyday I would wake up, and they were still there. Familiar voices. Unfamiliar voices. Talking. Laughing. Screaming.
After jail, I went to a long term treatment facility to help me stay clean. And by the grace of God, I am still clean today.
But just because I stayed sober, does not mean that everything went away right away. By the time I graduated treatment, I was almost 11 months clean, and I was still hearing voices. They weren't as loud but they were still there.
A few months later, and they were calmed to a whisper.
And now, I hear something once in a while. Sometimes it's so quiet that I can't even make out what it said. But can still slightly hear it. Sometimes I think they are there just to remind me of the life that I never want to go back to.
So even though they are not completely gone, my story still has a happy ending because today, I am clean. Today, I choose to share my story. To educate. To inspire. And to give hope to the person who so desperately needs it. My thoughts and prayers go out to those with a mental illness, and to those in addiction. Please know that you are not alone, and that there is hope. There will always be hope. You are loved.
***the picture attached is my transformation over the past two years. The picture on the left was taken in 2016, when I was deep in addiction. It is one of the only pictures I have of myself during that time of my life. The picture on the right was taken in 2018, when I was officially 18 months sober.***
"The pain you've been feeling can't compare to the joy that is coming." Romans 8:18