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A U D R I N A // Addiction has such a stigma attached to it, especially as a young woman in today’s world. For some reason no one thinks a heroin addict would ever have a job, go to school or still get ready and put makeup on every day. People always tend to think of “junkies” or homelessness when they think addiction. But I’m here to tell you heroin and addiction in general doesn’t discriminate-and we as addicts tend to hide in shame. I am one year sober for today and am thankful to be alive and healthy. And with that, here goes:

I grew up very shy and awkward and never quite felt like I fit in anywhere. I always felt like an outsider at school, and even at home. I never felt comfortable in my own skin, or confident whatsoever, and always admired people who seemed to just love themselves and go after what they wanted. I started drinking at age 16, and blacked out the very first time I drank. After that, I viewed alcohol as a way to fit in with my peers in high school. This lead to extremely heavy drinking in college which would result in alcohol poisoning, very bad decisions, and ultimately my introduction to drugs. I started doing cocaine at 20, and spent a good two years doing it on a daily basis before class, after class, to wake up and of course, while I was out drinking. I remember one day feeling very anxious and wondering if i had a problem. I decided I wouldn’t do cocaine anymore, since people in my life seemed to be catching on. 

A few months went by, and I was still drinking with my usual crowd of party friends and a couple of them were doing lines of OxyContin. I asked what they were doing and tried it. It was better than any high I’d ever had and the next morning I woke up refreshed with no hangover. I was amazed and intrigued. And from there, I kept buying it. I started doing it at first to help me sleep, but then discovered it would give me a burst of energy and calmness if that makes sense, right before going into work. I felt like I could take anything on. Like I could deal with anything that came my way. Looking back, I realize I used this as a huge way to escape my world, and myself .

I started doing oxy daily, with the amount increasing at an alarming rate. I would spend all my money on it for about five years before anyone catching on or having to deal with any real consequences. 

I graduated college with honors, and hiding the fact that I could not function or go to work without oxy. I went on to begin working full time, trying to make a stab at being a “grown up,” all the while spending everything I had just to stay well. I would wake up sick and feeling like I had the worst case of the flu imaginable, and the only thing that could make it go away was if I used more. Years went by and it started to become more difficult to find ways to buy oxy, dealers were getting caught, crooked doctors getting arrested which made it hard to find and extremely expensive. I remember one of my dealers suggesting heroin as a cheaper and much less expensive alternative. I was in such denial at that point, I remember always telling myself I’d never do heroin. I’d never cross that line. My disease was getting stronger, though-and I would cross that line just to stay well. Looking back, I put myself in so many dangerous and dark places to stay well.

Heroin was much cheaper at first. And had the same high. I thought I’d solved my problem, or found an easy, temporary fix. I remember telling myself I was not a heroin addict. I would get through this somehow and stop on my own. I could get my life together. Meanwhile, my family, my employer, and what was left of my friends were all showing concern. I was spending money at an alarming rate, always broke, always calling in sick, and running out of money and resources quickly. I started pawning anything I had of value. I ended up losing my job, which resulted in losing my apartment and car. I had to tell my parents what was going on. They agreed to help me get better, and that I could live with them. I spent about two weeks painfully detoxing and feeling like my body was dying from the inside out. That’s the thing about heroin/opiates-they make your body need the drug to the point where if you stop, your brain literally thinks it cannot survive, so withdrawals are the body thinking it’s dying without the drugs. 

My journey didn’t stop there-I was still not mentally or physically ready to stop. I kept relapsing and using at any chance I got. I would spend maybe three months clean at a time and then go back to using oxy and then heroin, with each relapse getting worse and worse and worse. People think addicts are such selfish monsters, using and hurting their loved ones, but they don’t know all the self hatred and despair and guilt that goes into being an addict. My disease is stronger than self will, stronger than any love that a person can try to use to help me stop. My last relapse lasted about 7 months. This time around, I tried to not make it obvious, i would get up in the morning, get ready for work, out my makeup on and try to face the day. Inside, I was dying. I could not go without heroin for more than 30 minutes at a time. I’d be using heroin in the bathroom at work, only to leave at 5 to go score and come home to lock myself in the bathroom until I used enough to nod off.

I knew I needed to do something. I kept having this haunting feeling that something terrible was going to happen. I was in the verge of getting fired from my job, my family all knew what I was up to and looking back, I was probably knocking at deaths’ door one overdose away. I remember sitting at my parents dining room table and then asking me what we should do. I told them I know I couldn’t get clean unless I went away to get help at this point. Nothing else had worked, and I had nothing to lose but try treatment. 

April 22, 2017 was the last day I used. I packed my things together, and left to get help at a 30 day treatment center. I had this odd sense of finality that I had never had before. I was terrified and had no idea what to expect. Getting away and making a change was the new beginning I needed. I ended up moving and making a career change after completing my program. I started listening to other people who had long term sobriety. I worked on my relationship with my family. I worked on and am still working on my relationship with myself. Today I don’t wake up reaching for a substance. I get to be present, I get to enjoy holidays and the company of others. I get to learn new things every day. I get to be humble. I get to be thankful. Sobriety is a journey that is ever changing, and I am constantly having to be very self aware of my actions and emotions. I’m not ashamed to be an addict. I’m not ashamed to be in recovery. I hope no has to feel that way. We are not bad people. Anyone who thinks we are bad people or that we chose to be addicts need a serious education on the disease we deal with everyday. I would never wish the hurt and the despair and darkness an addict lives with on anyone. We don’t choose to be addicts. But we sure do get a choice to be in recovery.