Growing up, I didn’t have the best childhood. My father was an abusive alcoholic, and my mother was often under the influence of valium to deal with the violence and dysfunction that was occurring. When I was 12, my mother left my father and took me with her. I went from a home of strict discipline to one of no structure at all. My mother began to drink and go out often, leaving me to care for my three sisters. It was also around this time that I began to drink and smoke marijuana. I stopped applying myself in school and stopped attending my sophomore year. By 16, I was doing cocaine and methamphetamines, and I was kicked out of the home. A friend and I met a man who told us he had the perfect job for us. He got us fake ID’s and began taking us to bars to dance and engage in prostitution. It was in this vicious haze that I began using heroin.
By 19 I got out of this exploitation, met a man at 20, and had my first child with him at 21. When I was pregnant, he physically abused me severely. My child’s father was very similar to my father in that they were abusive alcoholics; I found myself caught in an incredibly ugly cycle of abuse. I began going to school for cosmetology, and I eventually became a licensed cosmetologist. I considered more and more leaving my child’s father, but he’d find ways to manipulate me into staying; I eventually had two more kids with him. At a certain point, the fear of staying with him outweighed the fear of leaving, so I took the kids and left. I couldn’t find a job that would support the four of us, so I did one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do; give him custody of the kids. I eventually got a nice enough job, moved into an apartment, and obtained partial custody. While we had joint physical custody, he had full legal custody and used it to his advantage. I was never allowed to pick them up, even if it was my weekend to see them. Fear was always present in regards to him. I began working as a waitress at a bar and became focused on making money. I put myself back in school and became a massage therapist. Things were getting better until around 2000, when I was involved in a car accident.
I was a passenger in my sister’s car when she lost control of the vehicle. They told me that I had broken my back, was paralyzed, and I would not be able to walk again. I would eventually regain feeling in the affected areas; but with that feeling came immense pain. From the accident to 2008, I was being prescribed numerous prescription pain killers to deal with the pain. Eventually, I was misusing these pills and became addicted to opioids. Under the influence of these drugs, I’d sometimes collapse while doing the dishes and was becoming oblivious to my surroundings. In a way I liked it, because these medications numbed me to the trauma I had experienced and bottled up. My kids didn’t like being around me when I was on these medications. It got so bad that my mother and daughter found me seizing in the fetal position. My body was shutting down but they got me to the hospital in time, and I survived.
I was angry about this because part of me didn’t want to be alive anymore. I tried to overdose again but was unsuccessful.
A few weeks later I was arrested by the DEA for selling drugs and was sent to a state prison. I went through detox and became sick but eventually overcame it. I found ways to continue using while inside prison but decided to stop after an epiphany. I remember wanting to use one day and something just clicked; I didn’t want this to be my life anymore. I noticed several girls leaving prison then coming right back in like clockwork. I realized that I didn’t want to be one of these women. I wasn’t scared of returning to prison though, I was scared of returning to the mental prison I had built for myself. I wanted to escape this mental prison and become someone that my kids could be proud of.
When I got out of prison, my parole mandated that I attend AA meetings. I found the work required in the 12 steps to be very healing. Over time I realized that I was responding better to Christian based treatment programs and became more and more involved in them. I haven’t used any drugs since 2009, and I have become very active in the treatment communities that were integral to my sobriety. Right now I’m on the board of directors for the Christian Life Prison and Recovery Ministry. I also opened a home for girls called True Light. I always wanted to create a safe haven for women after the experiences I went through. I opened one when I realized so many women were experiencing abuse and addiction but were being turned away from recovery houses. Women who become addicted become vulnerable to exploitation, and it’s hard to escape. Most of the women in my home are trying to recover not just from addiction, but past trauma as well. As someone who overcame that trauma, I want to be there for them.
Just because I’ve been sober for so many years doesn’t mean that addiction is no longer an issue; it’s something I have to deal with for the rest of my life. During my recovery, I met a man who was also trying to maintain sobriety. We became close and eventually got married. I ended up having to separate from him after he relapsed several times though. I didn’t want to be pulled into his use. He committed suicide the week of our third anniversary and I was blamed by several others for not being with him through his struggle. While I sometimes feel guilt over it, I always keep in mind that I have to stay sober and afloat. I have to keep joy and peace in myself to be able to give it to others; like my children and the girls I’m taking care of.
I’ve learned several things while in recovery. I’ve learned that recovery is something that takes a lot of work, it’s not something that can happen overnight. It’s wrong to believe that someone is cured after going through rehab. The real challenge starts when someone comes out of rehab back into a life of kids, bills, and other responsibilities on top of trying to maintain sobriety. Getting sober is the easy part, it’s staying sober that’s the hard part. To that end, it’s incredibly important to take time to care for yourself mentally and physically. That being said, addiction is not the only thing you have to wrangle with when getting back on your feet.
You have to find work with felonies on your record, you need to mend relationships, and you have to deal with the trauma that was experienced while in addiction. Recovery is something you have to truly want and are willing to fight for, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
This is why I am sharing my story. So others know that it may be hard, but if they can envision it, recovery is achievable and worth it.