I once spent an entire day crouched down on my bedroom floor holding a flashlight and picking through my carpet. An entire day. I can't even tell you how many little rocks, crumbs, pieces of dirt, and granules of salt I ate hoping to find the specks of crystal meth I was convinced I had dropped the night before.
It wasn't the first time I had picked through my carpet desperate to find something that would change how I felt.
Not even two weeks later, I was lying on that same floor waiting for the ambulance to arrive. I had lost feeling in my legs and arms and was unable to sit, stand, or walk. My "boyfriend" (I use the term loosely here) had left me lying there all alone because he was on parole and didn't want to be caught in a drug scene. I was rushed to the hospital, and don't remember much other than waking up the next day and asking where I was. A nurse very hastily explained to me that I had overdosed on meth and was receiving treatment. The nurses and doctors were mean—I overheard one of them refer to me as "another dumb druggie."
Two days later I overdosed again. The following week I started injecting meth instead of snorting, smoking, and swallowing it like I had been.
I couldn't stop.
If you had told me in high school that carpet-picking, needles, overdoses, and psychotic breaks from reality would have been part of my life story, I would have laughed in your face. I was a good girl; I was smart and made good grades. I was an all-star athlete who came from a great family. I had no reason to use drugs.
I would never use drugs.
I don't think anyone plans on becoming a drug addict. I know I certainly didn't. I didn't dream of losing jobs, apartments, friends, or family members to my addiction. I didn't plan on spending an entire holiday season (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's) in jail. Or to lose my driver's license for seven years and have to pedal a bicycle in the snow to and from work.
I didn't aspire to be someone who stood in front of a mirror and carved the words "f*ck you" into my neckline because the drugs wore off enough for me to realize what a mess my life had become. I couldn't stand the way I felt before I used but I loathed the person I became afterward.
I didn't dream of having affairs with married men that broke up families. I didn't picture myself sitting on a street curb listening to gunshots fired inside of a car that my boyfriend jumped into minutes before.
I didn't plan for this to be my life. But the disease of addiction does not discriminate. Addiction didn't care that I was smart or that I came from a loving family. Addiction didn't care what kind of life I had planned.
When I tried meth for the first time, I knew the nature of my disease. I knew that the minute I put the drugs in my body my brain would respond with an uncontrollable obsession. I knew that the meth would hijack my frontal lobe and instead of having access to survival skills such as the need for food or the fight/flight response, getting more drugs would become my one and only concern. I knew all about addiction; I had already been to treatment for alcoholism and "soft" drugs. I knew that picking up hard drugs would catapult me into a new dimension of hell but I didn't care. I needed something to change the way I felt.
My addictions all started the same way: with that desperate need to change how I felt.
I stopped using because I had no choice. I was going to die. And because I learned—through therapy, support groups, a twelve-step program and a lot of really hard work—that there are healthy ways to cope with uncomfortable feelings. I used drugs so I could escape a reality that was too painful. But recovery has given me a reality that I no longer want to escape. I've learned to love myself and to take care of my body. I have re-gained the trust of family members and have meaningful relationships with friends. I met my husband in a twelve-step meeting and we have three beautiful boys whose lives would not exist had we not gotten clean.
I didn't plan for this to be my life—but I am so grateful it is.
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