It was a chilly day this past Sunday, and I had just gotten off the train at the Fairfield, CT stop to visit my parents when I ran into an old friend who informed me that our mutual friend had overdosed and died back in November of 2015.
It was a chilly day this past Sunday, and I had just gotten off the train at the Fairfield, CT stop to visit my parents when I ran into an old friend who informed me that our mutual friend had overdosed and died back in November of 2015. In 2013, I moved to Staten Island, NY, and since I’ve lived there, I’ve seen countless Facebook posts of people as young as 20 overdosing on drugs and dying. Of course, I felt shocked and sad for those who lost their friends or family to drugs on Facebook, but when it happened to me and it was my friend that died, it was quite significant and disturbing.
I was wondering the other day how some people succeed at becoming sober and their lives get better and how others self-destruct and become chronic relapsers, or worse, die. A wave of emotions came over me when I heard about my friend’s death because just two months ago, I celebrated two years of sobriety, and I’m in a much better place than I used to be, and he and I were using buddies, and he didn’t make it, and I did.
I belong to a twelve-step program, and I owe my sobriety, and quite frankly, my sanity, to this organization. A lot of people who use or have used drugs will give you some kind of justification for why they used. Well if you went through what I went through, you’d use too. I can recall numerous times when I got angry at people for not understanding why I was using drugs, which was to numb the pain.
Drugs and alcohol took me to some pretty dark places, and I messed up six years of my life. Nothing and no one mattered to me when I was under the influence of pills, drugs, or alcohol. The world revolved around me and I was like the Tasmanian devil, taking everyone down with me. What saved me from my demise was reaching out for help and letting the people from the program love me until I loved myself.
I had a defining moment while I was living in a hotel and homeless in Connecticut. A woman from the program came to visit me at the hotel, and I remember it bringing me so much joy because I never had any visitors. She told me that if I kept mixing pills, I was going to overdose and die. And that’s when I started to get my act together. I never wanted to die; I didn’t know how to exist if I couldn’t take the pills that made the other stuff vanish. For a good few years, drugs seemed to be the solution to all my problems, but then, like a disloyal friend, they took everything from me.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more persons died from drug overdoses in the United States in 2014 than during any previous year on record. And from 2000-2014, nearly half a million persons in the U.S have died from drug overdoses. Opiods, primarily prescription pain relievers and heroin, are the main drugs associated with overdose deaths.
The twelve-step program is and has been the source of my strength, and even though I don’t have urges to use drugs anymore, I need help learning how to live and becoming the best version of myself. A few days ago, a woman in the program came up to me, and I was curious as to what she was going to say because she’d never approached me before. She told me that she wanted me to meet a girl who had one day sober and had just gotten out of rehab, and she told me that I was a real power of example, and she wanted me to connect with this girl. Then she introduced me to this person telling the newcomer that I am so powerful and the things I have shared in meetings have brought her to tears.
I never imagined I would be someone who could feel compassion and lend a helping hand towards others battling addiction. I was the girl sitting in my $1200 a month apartment high on Adderall and benzodiazepines getting transported to the psychiatric hospital because someone had called 911 because they were concerned about me. I was not someone who could help anyone because I was literally insane and completely delusional. That’s what poisoning my body did to me. If you are battling addiction and want to stop, I understand how hard it is. I would put together a few days of sobriety and relapse, and that would repeat itself. But there are many resources out there that can help you get sober. A friend of my father’s committed suicide, and when I was suicidal, my father always used to tell me that there could be a miracle right around the corner. As I write this article, I know I am a testament that anyone can achieve sobriety and a happy life. When you’re under the influence, your life becomes very small. Just like a person who feels low self-worth looks externally for a partner to fill their void, some people need drugs because they are convinced that that’s the only way they will ever feel happy. But that’s false, in my experience. Today, I have a great relationship with my family, they don’t have to worry that they’ll get a phone call that I’m dead, I have plans to resume college, and most importantly, I feel proud of who I am and happy to just be a part of the universe. I’m back to who I used to be before I used drugs. My days consist of smiling at people for no reason, sitting at my favorite coffee shops, and indulging in a rich cup of coffee, playing with my phone, reading, or journaling. And I have big ambitions today. I wasn’t doing anything with my life when I was using. I believe we all have a responsibility to make this world a better place, even if it’s just holding the door for someone. But I am so happy and grateful that I am alive because there are so many people that will never get to say I love you to their family again because the addiction killed them.
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