Addict. Feign. Scumbag. Lowlife. Loser. Junkie. Pill head. Druggie. Liar. Thief. Manipulator.
There are some of the foul, judgemental words used to describe addicts. It doesn’t matter whether we’re actively committing wrong-doings to continue our drug use or if we’re recovering. So, I’ve decided to write this post in the hopes that maybe I can enlighten the 4 or so people who may read it. I myself am a recovering addict. This means that I have not used any mood or mind altering substances in 2 years, 9 months, and 16 days. Including alcohol. Here is a little bit of my story…
I was raised by a drug addicted mother who cycled between clean and church going and cracked out and gone. At the time it really didn’t effect me. When she was gone I fed my brother and sister, got them on the bus, and went about my day. Once she was gone for 3-5 days I would call local jails and hospitals and days 7-10 I would call family or her most recent sponsor. She would come back, I would tell her it would be okay and she would get it next time, and the cycle repeated. I endured many bad things because of my mom’s disease and the men she chose to bring home.
I don’t say this to get your pity. I don’t want it. I say this to give you background. So by 13 my mom was using again and disappeared. This time she was gone about a week and I called her sponsor, a woman we’ll call Ginnie. Ginnie came to the house and took me with her while my little brother and sister went with a family from our seldomly visited church. Ginnie gained custody of me 2 months later. I lived with her for about a year and then cycled between my birth mother, step dad, and friends for awhile. By 14-15 I was back with my birth mother and she was using again. Her and her boyfriend got arrested and I was alone with their house and all their past due bills. Ginnie was now living in North Carolina. My life had already been so all over the place that I decided to make a go of it alone. At this time my using had already begun and been active for 2-3 years. Drugs helped me cope with life and my own physical discomfort brought on by Fibromyalgia, severe stomach ulcers, scoliosis exacerbating the fibro, and chronic migraines. Smoking pot, drinking, occasional acid, and ecstasy. I supported my using and my bills by working under the table at a local diner full time. I moved in my boyfriend and two friends and they helped with the bills. We got a different apartment that was cheaper. This all eventually ended with my ex and I breaking up, me getting $50,000 in truancy fines, and moving to Allentown where my birth mom had just gotten out of jail and a half way house to avoid the truancy charges.
Fast Forward 5 years…
I’m now 19, living with my birth mom who stayed clean after the last jail trip. I’ve been clean for about a year after all drugs randomly started giving me full blown anxiety attacks. I’m dating an insane, controlling, stalker of a man and I’m ready to run. I move to Kansas. I come back for the holidays and my car breaks down. I stay in Allentown. I start working and move into my own apartment. I started college, I pick up a second job, and then a third. Addicts never are good at moderation are they? At this point I have a little over 2 years clean and all the sudden I am bedridden with severe pain in my ribs. I go to one hospital, they do X-rays, see nothing, and send me home with a prescription for Percocet. I was terrified of them. So afraid they would either 1. Make me have an anxiety attack and/or 2. Make me high. I was extremely careful with them. I saw a second Doctor who still found nothing and sent me home with more Percocet. Then my mom recommended a chiropractor. It turned out that the muscles in my back had spasmed so badly that they had pulled my ribs out of the cartilage they’re connected to. To this day, I still don’t quite know what this means even though it’s continued to happen over the years. But that’s what happened. He thought I had gotten in a car accident and said “You have the worst back I’ve ever seen in someone your age.” Long story short, I end up in a pain management clinic receiving Percocet for chronic pain.
1 1/2 years later…
I lose insurance and can’t afford the doctors visits. At this point I am physically dependent on the opiates from taking them exactly as prescribed. I go through withdrawal for the first time and in my naïveté think it’s just what my pain feels like without the medication. So I start buying them on the street.
2 years later…
I am now completely strung out on pain killers, viciously suicidal, and desperate for help. I wanted more than anything to be clean but I didn’t know how to get clean. I only knew how to use. And I was terrified of my own pain. My disease would always whisper in my ear, “You can’t get clean. You were clean before and wanted to die because you were in so much pain. This is the only way. This is the best you’ll ever get. You’re fucked.”
And I almost believed it.
But I knew there had to be another way. So through the help of a 12 step program, some good doctors, and a lot of personal suffering and growth, I got and stayed clean. Unfortunately, that long winded explanation only just got me to my actual reason for posting this.
The stigma attached to addiction only tells one side of the fucking story.
There are not only addicts; there are active addicts & recovering addicts. I am obviously, the latter. I work a rigorous, personal program of recovery. I do not use drugs. I do not let doctors or hospitals give me marcotics. I don’t smoke weed (not even a little bit). I don’t have a cold beer on a hot day. I do not poison my mind and body with substances. Period.
I do commit myself daily to being accountable, honest, open minded, hardworking, responsible, and productive. I share love, hope, experience, and acceptance with other addicts. I am a supportive, faithful, and good partner to my boyfriend, who is also in recovery. I am a daughter who doesn’t keep my mothers up at night. I am employee who shows up, works hard, and can pass urine test. I am a productive member of society.
I am a fast talking, funny, free spirited, short, blonde, city girl with a country heart and a load of baggage. But, I am real. I own my assets and my defects. I say what I mean and mean what I say. I sing in the shower. I either cry or scream when I get mad. I have love, lost, built, destroyed, and repeated so many times.
I AM JUST LIKE YOU.
Yet I’m treated differently, as less than. Because among all these other things, I am also an addict. And that must mean that in some way I am either morally corrupt or not a good person. Here’s a piece of advice people, addiction is a disease, not a moral deficiency. ANY person in this world could become an addict put in the right circumstances (or should we say the wrong ones?). But some of us, like me, are born this way. I had addict behaviors long before I ever used drugs. I was always telling stories as a child. Reading books and playing pretend to take myself out of my shitty reality. I was constantly searching for something outside of myself to change the way I felt on the inside.
HOW MANY OF YOU RELATE TO THAT?
Some people hop from relationship to relationship. Some people work out until their sick to their stomach. Some people sleep with multiple partners in search of acceptance, love, or a distraction. Some people gamble. Some hit their significant others. Some have eating disorders. Some people work so much that they have time for nothing else. Some people reach for the bottle of wine first at the end of every long day. My point is, everybody has a poison. I just found drugs first. But when did it become that because I am an addict I am somehow different than you? Why am I less than? I feel the same as you do. I love the same way you do. I hurt the same way you do. I am a human being, just like you.
Addiction is a disease. You can read about that here: http://www.asam.org/for-the-public/definition-of-addiction
We need to change the way we think of and treat addicts. And just to be clear, I do mean active and recovering. I am not saying you should lend an active addict money or give them your account number but, try to realize they are sick and they’re suffering, without your judgement or snide comments and name-calling. As far as recovering addicts, why is it considered a strength and an amazing thing to overcome cancer, but not addiction? You may think “well they didn’t give themselves cancer.” But let’s remember, a lot of people do. Smokers, people who eat crappy, processed food, etc. A lot of people make themselves sick. So that’s not an excuse to treat addicts as less than.
RECOVERING ADDICTS ARE SURVIVORS
Addiction is the only disease that demands to take your life before it takes your life. It robs you of everything. Including your sense of self, your self respect, your moral compass, your will to live. I remember looking at a handful of pills and bawling my eyes out because with everything in my soul, I did not want to take them. But I was trapped and I had to. I didn’t know what else to do. I remember being so ashamed of the fact that regardless of being a recovering addict, I had allowed myself to end up in the same place as before, because of my physical condition. I remember hating opiates more than I had ever hated anything in my life. Yet my disease told me that this was all I could do.
An addict’s disease has a voice. And that voice sounds the same as their own. Your perception of everything becomes so distorted that when your disease tells you these things, you truly believe it. You may think, “well there’s rehab”. Except in my situation, I was supporting myself, my ex who’d just returned home from Afghanistan, and the apartment and all the bills were in my name. So if I went to rehab I would’ve lost everything I worked for. The thought of that is absolutely devastating when your addiction already has you so mentally and emotionally distraught. So because of my life situation and my disease I believed I was trapped. That is what addicts go through.
So when you meet a recovering addict, before you judge them, take a clear look at who they are today, and then consider everything they’ve overcome. They’re just like you. Everyone has their struggles. Ours is the disease of addiction. How would you feel if someone learned one of your deepest, darkest flaws and judged your character and behavior based off of that one thing?
ADDICTION IS A DISEASE.
STOP PERSECUTING THE SICK.
“If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.”
“It’s not the drugs that make the addict, it’s the need to escape reality.”
by Ashley Hebner
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