October 22, 2015. It’s the day I was arrested and my entire life as I knew it changed. I was screaming inside as the police officer slapped the handcuffs on me and threw me in the back of his patrol car. Federal Fugitive From Another State was the original charge they booked me for... Felony Forgery came two days later as I was called from my cell to meet with a detective in full opiate withdrawal. This was my rock bottom.
You see, I’m not the person who you would think would choose a life of drugging and desperation. I came from a great family. I had the best childhood I could have possibly asked for. My parents are the most unconditionally loving, kind-hearted, and supportive people I’ve ever met. Growing up, I wanted to be a doctor. OBGYN to be exact. Something about bringing life into this world intrigued me. I spent my childhood studying adult college textbooks and watching educational birthing videos. Not your average childhood activity, but I had goals, dreams, and aspirations... who would have known I would grow up to be the strung out Heroin and Crack Addict that had to do unspeakable things to support her habit? It’s not how I had envisioned my future, but by 17 I was a full blown addict and within the next 5 years from my first time getting high, I was a 22-year-old homeless drug addict that was sold into prostitution because I surrounded myself with all the wrong people. I was "living" on the side of an abandoned building. I had cardboard to cover the dirt and ripped up garbage bags to protect me from the snow, sleet, and rain. I owned one pair of jeans and a tank top. I didn’t have shoes because I was robbed of them. Drug addiction and non-stop hustling to pay for my addiction made me drop over 150 pounds. I literally only ate when people fed me. If you gave me money, it was spent on drugs... even if I hadn’t eaten in 3+ days. I was forced by an abusive figure to sell my body to man after man, all day and night long, while "he" only kept me well (not dope sick) and pocketed the rest of the money I had earned.
That is the most desperate I have ever felt in my life. I had no way out. No light at the end of the tunnel. I honestly had come to terms that I was either going to die from a drug overdose, being murdered by one of the bad men I had to be around, or being killed by the man in charge of selling my body. I accepted this fate because the addiction had me so entangled that I saw no way out. I never thought I could stop, never mind stay sober for a length of time, so I lived a life of existence and a constant effort to not get sick because I couldn’t get well or high. I met the most pure evil I have ever encountered in my life. At the time of my arrest, I was so adapted to the lifestyle and those kinds of people that I had no hope in humanity. What I had been subjected to led me to believe that this world and the people who are in it are evil and are capable of things I never thought existed, never mind thought would happen to me. Let’s just say day one of my recovery sitting in the county jail was pretty hopeless in every way possible. I wasn’t sure if I could stay sober when I got out. I mean, I wanted to... but I had been so involved in those ways that I didn’t know how to continue in life as a "normal person." I remember thinking: what is normal, anyway? All the rap songs, the youth, and the media glorify drug use. Why did these drugs leave me in utter desperation and hopelessness? Why was I different? The longer I sat in jail and spoke to other women who were addicts, I soon realized that I was not the exception but rather the rule to a person addicted to illicit substances. I knew that I couldn’t go on this way any longer...
Around month two of my stay in jail, I met a 72-year-old woman who we will call "Jill." Jill took a liking to me and we spent a lot of time talking since there isn’t much else to do in that kind of place. Jill had been in and out of that very same jail at least once per year since she was 17. She had been incarcerated over 100 times in that time period. The first thing that struck me was we had something in common... She too was addicted to drugs. She told me how she never found a different way to live and her life had been filled with trauma, loss, grief, pain, and lots of horrible emotions and experiences. She took me under her wing like a granddaughter of sorts and it was her mission to drill in my head what my life would look like in 50 years if I didn’t get my stuff together and get sober, provided I hadn’t been a victim of the disease resulting in death which was highly probable. I remember the day she was being released she told me that she knew I was going to be successful at this thing called sobriety and that she had faith in me. I asked her if she was going to stay sober and she responded with "if I haven’t gotten a hang on this thing yet, I likely never will..... but you have a chance. I’ll live my sobriety through your success." Hearing her say that once she walked out those doors the first thing she was going to do was get loaded absolutely devastated me. I wanted nothing more than to see her succeed, but I didn’t even know if I was gonna be able to do this. I still think about Jill often. Today I can proudly say that Jill was a major deciding factor in my decision to get and stay sober from then on. I hate to say it but something about seeing a grandmother figure sitting in jail for the 100+ time because she does the exact same things you do makes you want to straighten up because the prospect of being 70-years-old in jail or prison is the opposite of appealing.
While in jail, I contacted and rebuilt a beautiful relationship with my mother. I had put her through so much. She was literally happy I was incarcerated because it meant I wasn’t on the streets, I wasn’t going to overdose, and she wasn’t going to get a call that they found my body in a ditch or abandoned trap house. I communicated my desire to get and stay sober after my release and my Mother was my biggest supporter from the very beginning. She had multiple books about recovery, sobriety, and changing my life sent to the jail for me to read, absorb, and gain knowledge from. It was also a great distraction and form of encouragement when it came to "jail politics." When I say Jail Politics, I mean all the drama, fighting, and the smuggling, selling, and use of drugs within the facility. The books that focused my mind on all things recovery was my saving grace. Somehow I was able to remain 100 percent sober during my time incarcerated, which was a miracle within itself considering all of the drugs that came through that place. I knew that if I couldn’t stay sober in jail, there is absolutely no way I’d be able to stay sober of the outside. After 5 months, I was released. My mother drove from Florida up to South Carolina where I was and brought me home. This was the real test if I could stay sober. I was free to do whatever I wanted. There was no one looking over me anymore. I was in the "Real World."
By the grace of God, I didn’t use my first week out. That week turned into a month. Then multiple months turned into a year and then a year turned into multiple years. It’s now 2-1/2-years since the date of my arrest and my choice to get sober. Life hasn’t been all roses and flowers. Times got hard, life happened on life’s terms, and I had to learn to cope without the use of drugs. In fact, I had to learn to do everything all over again. I didn’t know how to do or enjoy anything sober so re-training myself was definitely a challenge. Because of my drug use, as soon as I got sober, all of my teeth fell out. I ended up having to get loans for around $25,000 to have major surgery to remove all my teeth, clean all the infection out, and have plastic surgery to rebuild my face because the infection from the drugs literally ate my entire facial structure away. Then I found out I was Hepatitis C Positive. That was a blow. Once again, by the grace of God, I was given a miracle and underwent treatment, which cost around $120,000 to be 100 percent cured of the disease. I’m by no means rich so when I say miracle, I mean miracle. My treatment was paid for in full by a non-profit but I had to follow extreme guidelines over a period of 14 months while undergoing pre-treatment, treatment, and post-treatment. This included drug testing every 3 days, countless doctors' appointments, and serious lifestyle changes. If I really think about it, I’ve overcome so many obstacles since I got sober that I never imagined I would accomplish.
So, now that you know a bit about my story and my path to recovery, I’ve made a list of the most important things sobriety taught me since I got clean 2-1/2-years ago...
- The first and most important thing sobriety taught me was faith in a higher power. I’m now never in this alone and I’ve got someone who always cares... no matter what.
- FAMILY! Sobriety made me realize just how important family is and how much they actually love and care. I didn’t really think they did until I got sober. I now fully comprehend the definition of unconditional love.
- Structure and Work Ethics: Before I got sober I maybe worked two jobs for no more than a month each. I made my money on the streets, which is entirely unhealthy to a sober member of society. I got a job over a year and a half ago and I’m still there. That’s just mind-blowing to me that I’m actually an asset to a company and they value having me. Who would have known that I was capable of being independent? I now have a routine. A commitment that is required of me 6 days a week, every week. No matter what... I show up for work. This may sound trivial to someone who doesn’t suffer from addiction, but to a person like me, this is a miracle.
- You ARE NOT the only person going through this! When I first got sober, I was under the impression that what I went through, the horrible things that happened to me, and all the horrific experiences I endured were unique to myself. I thought I was the only person who felt such desperation, hopelessness, and heartbreak. Turns out that I’m definitely not alone. When I got sober, I started going to 12 Step Meetings and I soon realized that we all have some screws loose and what I went through, so did many other addicts, and they got sober and live prosperous lives, so why can’t I? I now know I can as well!
- Do you know who your real friends are? I thought I did but once I got sober, people starting dropping like flies. As it turns out, some people don’t like to see other people doing well for themselves. The phrase "misery loves company" is tested and true. I had to drop a lot of my "old friends" and find "new friends" with a similar mindset of success, kindness, and support. The best part is I now truly understand the definition of a friend. I thought I knew what a friend was before, but I was so wrong. Thankfully today I have true friends who truly want what’s best for me and I couldn’t be more blessed. I guess my dad was always right when he used to say "if you hang around garbage, your gonna start to stink."
- CONSISTENCY! Getting and staying sober taught me consistency and the ability to stick with something and follow through at all times regardless of the costs. As an addict, I have to accept that if I pick up, even once, I will fall into the same pit of misery. I have to be consistent to stay on this path of recovery. I also learned to be consistent in other ways such as going to work every day, going to my classes every week, feeding the dogs every night, cooking a meal when I’m hungry, doing my laundry every Sunday, and so on. These things seem trivial to someone who isn’t addicted, but trust me when I say that there is NOTHING consistent about a person who is actively using!
- Finally, the last thing I learned from being sober is that I am one strong, courageous, brave, and accomplished woman because anyone who can quit using the most addictive substance on Earth, move on with life, deal with all the memories of trauma, abuse, rape, and other horrible things I endured on a daily basis and fix my tiara, lift my chin up, and move on with my life, is. I’m not a vain person, but if my life was a movie and you witnessed the things I went through and then you saw me today, living my life and stuff, with a huge smile on my face and kindness sliding off my tongue, I think you would agree that what I did was pretty badass! In fact, anyone who overcomes addiction of any kind or any type of abusive experience is a badass in my book!
In four months I will be celebrating my 3-year sober-versary. My life isn’t perfect, but each day is a blessing because what I "worry" about these days is nothing compared to my worries three years ago. My life is beautiful. I am beyond blessed. With each day that comes and I remain sober, I will become stronger and more grateful for each opportunity my sobriety brings me.
If you or someone you love is suffering from the disease of addiction, you are NOT alone. I was the worst of the worst in terms of addiction and if I can do it, I promise you can too. Please don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of people willing to listen and offer a helping hand. You would be surprised what admitting you need help can do. Take the first step to recovery today, and three years from now you too can experience and relate to this beautiful thing I call sober life. 😘