Growing up Addicted: I Couldn't Fix What I Couldn't Understand
If my story sounds a little scattered and disjointed, it's because my recall of the last 40 years of my life is a jumble of memories and blackouts that I'm still trying to piece together. I did my best to get the dates as right as I could. I guess my story, much like myself, will forever be a work in progress. Thank you.
1965 to the Early 70’s:
I have battled depression since I was a child…as young as 5 or 6 years old. By age 9, I had withdrawn into myself and forgot how to smile. I had absolutely no self-confidence. I couldn’t seem to make even one friend. I was bullied and tormented in school…I grew up feeling like the most unwanted, unlovable, worthless child in the world.
It was no surprise then, that at the age of 12, I discovered alcohol. I look back now and believe that on some level, the alcohol saved my life, because without it, the pain and loneliness I felt in my little world was so overwhelming, I probably would’ve committed suicide.
At the age of 19-after my 13-year-old brother was hit and killed by a drunk driver in front of 4 of his friends, I found cocaine and painkillers. About 6 years later, I entered treatment for the first time. In fact, it was in my first halfway house that I met the man who introduced me to heroin. I became an alcoholic and an addict-and I didn’t care.
Depression and Substance Abuse: A marriage Made in Hell
Late 90’s to early 2000’s:
So, I finally agreed to go to detox. If I wanted any kind of a normal life, I needed to get clean and sober. Again. My family was pressuring me to do something, but I was still afraid of losing my son and I COULDN’T bear that! “He wouldn’t do that!” they said. “We wouldn’t let him do that”
So, I went. And I stayed for 12 days and left feeling, for the first time in my life, that there was hope, after all. I couldn’t wait to go home and see my son. When I walked into my house, I saw a document on my kitchen table. It was a court document stating that my family had gone to court to support my baby’s father in taking custody of my son away from me. "Tough Love" at it's finest.
I felt a sudden, stabbing pain. It was unlike anything I have ever felt in my life-like someone sticking knives into an open wound in my soul. It was the deepest, most hideous sorrow I’d ever known; a heartache; an emotional deadness so raw and deep that it made me want to throw up or claw my own heart out. I wanted to scream; to let out a glass-shattering, gut-wrenching, guttural roar of pain, but I didn’t know how. How do you express that level of pure, unadulterated agony? How do you express so much heartbreak and grief that your heart and soul is turning black as it slowly dies? What does that much anguish and despair sound like? What if I couldn’t stop the scream once I started?
A part of me died that day and, when my attempts to get my son back failed, I finally stopped treading water and let myself drown in a life of drugs, alcohol, despair and homelessness.
Over the years, I lost everything. My son, money, homes, jobs, any self-respect I had left, and most of all, hope. The debilitating guilt and shame was overwhelming. I had a police record for the first time in my life. I was homeless-sleeping in shelters or outside if it felt safe enough. My family turned their backs on me. I wanted to die.
1989 to Early 90s
By this time, I have lost about 15 years of my life to drugs and alcohol. 15 years of wandering through my childhood in a drug-induced haze of humiliation. 15 years of losing jobs, apartments and relationships. Then, at 22, I found out I was having a baby-and I quit everything. When I held my son for the first time and looked at this tiny, perfect human being, my heart swelled with a love so strong that I thought it would burst. I didn’t know I can feel anything so powerful and so wonderful! I had finally done something right and good. I had found my true calling! I managed to stay clean for almost 4 ½ years. My son was the only thing that made me want to get better; to live.
Then, when my baby was 5 or 6 years old, I relapsed. I don’t know why, or even when, I took the first drink. But it quickly took control of my life. And ruined it. I tried my best to hide it, but it was hopeless. I was back in the throes of addiction again. When I tried to stop, I became so physically ill that I couldn't get out of bed. The only thing that took away the severe withdrawals was more alcohol. And if I did get up, the feelings of shame, guilt and humiliation were so overwhelming that all I could do was numb them with-you guessed it-more alcohol.
By the time my sweet boy was 10 years old, it became obvious to everyone, including myself, that I was in no shape to be taking care of a child. I couldn’t even take care of myself. My family was pressuring me to go into treatment. I had thought about it, too, but I had my 10-year-old son to think about. I was terrified that if I left for a week of treatment, my ex would take my son away from me. My family assured me, repeatedly, that they would never let that happen.
2007ish: Wanting to STOP, But How?
It has now been 20 years since I lost my son. I’d been in and out of multiple rehabs, but I failed time and time again. I had reached a point in time where everyone, including myself, had lost hope that I would ever join the living again. As addiction does, I became a slave to a drug. I went to jail more than once and stopped trying to find ways to get better. Instead, I just struggled to get through another day. How would I eat, where could I go to get out of the cold, where would I lay down my head that night? Day after day. Strangers and shoppers walking by avoided making eye contact with me, for fear that I might try to beg some change or a cigarette. Store employees, doctors…everyone treated me like I was just another junkie, polluting their world and living off the system.
Then, in 2007, I suddenly woke up one morning and I just couldn't do it anymore. I wanted to get sober or die. I felt a little flicker of hope inside me that maybe my life was worth saving,after all. Idon’t know where that hope came from, but I realized that if I didn’t get clean, this was going to be my legacy to my family and my son. I didn’t want to die where I was, sleeping on some dirty man’s floor in a rooming house infested with cockroaches and smelling of old smoke and dirty people. I would become just another nameless, faceless, worthless nobody found dead on some transient’s floor and the world would breathe a sigh of relief and say “good riddance. That’s one less leech on the community”
God, please! I didn’t want to die like this! I don’t know where the will and the strength came from, but I decided I would go into treatment one last time. I would try as hard as I could to stick with it this time, but if I relapsed again, I would take my own life. I reached a decision to try one more time.
2009 to 2012:
In 2009, I went to detox for what would be my last time. I asked them to set me up on a methadone clinic because it was the only thing I had never tried...and I was desperate. They sent me to a shelter and I went to that clinic every day for one and a half years. That's how I ended up in Worcester. Eventually, I got connected with some community resources for the homeless and they helped me get my first apartment in years.
In my 2nd year in recovery, I took a one-year course for my CADAC (Certified Alcohol And Drug Abuse Counselor) certification, so I could become a substance abuse counselor and I interned at a Detox that would eventually hire me once my classes ended. It’s been 8 years now, and I’m still there.
Today, I have a job I am fiercely dedicated to. I have a home and a cat. There is joy and gratitude in my heart. Looking back on my broken years, I now know God had his hand on my back. By His grace, I’m not six-feet under. It was divine intervention that steered me to my last cry for help. Not a day passes that I don’t remember the ugly past and find gratitude that God helped save me. And, while the pain of what I lost in my life to addiction is always there, I still want to believe that some day God might see fit to allow me the happy ending I never believed I deserved.