Lectures at the fralin biomedical research institute
Lectures at the fralin biomedical research institute
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“HOW DID I GET HERE?
I took my first sip of alcohol at age 13. I pilfered five or six one-ounce airline bottles of hard liquor from a cabinet in my parent’s half-bath and shared them with my neighborhood pals. I can’t say I remember much about that first taste of sin, other than I didn’t like the experience much. I do remember liking the taste of Cutty Sark scotch best. Even then, I had expensive tastes.
My next experience came when a girl I liked invited me over to her place while her mother was away. I plundered the liquor cabinet for another six bottles or so, sure that out of the 200+ on the shelves these wouldn’t be missed. We were maybe 15, foolish and inexperienced, and the alcohol loosened our pubescent inhibitions. But before anything serious could happen, her mother came home quite unexpectedly, and I dove off Tori’s bed and hid underneath it as her mom came in to check on her. She never smelled the alcohol and I spent the next three hours hiding out until she went to bed and I could make my escape.
In high school, alcohol wasn’t an issue. I never drank at parties and had no interest in raiding the booze cupboard again. I was seeing the damning effects of alcoholism on my dad. He’d come home from his demanding, stressful job, pour a water glass full of vodka, drink it all and pass out on the sofa with the TV on. He spent a few nights in the drunk tank due to DUIs. I watched someone I idolized destroy his life, career and family with booze, and swore that would never be me. Of course, my hidden addiction had other plans.
One friend brought a bag of weed to one graduation party, and I remember everyone thinking how cool and exotic that was. What a change from 1971 to today’s world for high-schoolers, where pills, heroin, meth and super-pot are readily available. It was a more innocent time, in so many ways.
I went off to IU in the fall of 1971, where booze, drugs and sex were common. I remember Playboy magazine voting IU the nation’s Number One party school four years running. The subsequent year, the Hurryin’ Hoosiers didn’t even make the Top 10 because, as the magazine editors explained, they refused to rank the professionals with the amateurs. And I started to fit right in with that culture.
I first experienced drugs in early winter 1972 on the night when my birthday was selected as the Number One pick in the 1973 draft. Shocked, scared and only thinking of blotting out the terrible reality of maybe facing service in Viet Nam, I stole a hit of orange barrel acid from my roommate/dealer, Ollie, and spent that night on a bad trip that included having to talk to my parents about my predicament. Needless to say, I remember nothing from that conversation.
Gradually, I progressed to more regular drug use. Pot and I became close personal friends. I made the acquaintance of a few other hallucinogens; other forms of LSD and a variety of native psychedelics including peyote, mushrooms and mescaline. Coke was a rare treat, and once we even smoked opium, but it left me lethargic and bored. Music was my high during this period, and I played often on stage at campus clubs and jam sessions.
Booze was available at mixers and dorm parties, but I could take it or leave it. I do remember my first experience drinking as an alcoholic, when a buddy and I split a full fifth of Cuervo tequila. I spent that night hugging the porcelain throne in the men’s bathroom at Rollins House, Wright Quad, and awoke with my first serious hangover. I never imagined I was on the road to becoming my father.
Out of college, I began working for the Indianapolis News, at that time the state’s second-largest newspaper which published daily afternoon editions. As a reporter and editor, I had to be in the newsroom by 6 every morning, and alcohol wasn’t conducive to early morning alarms. I roomed with two friends from the paper and used pot regularly.
My next step on the low road to alcoholism took place on a ski trip to Boyne Mountain in upper Michigan. At a huge mixer with hundreds of other skiers, I paid a flat fee for an all-you-can-drink wristband. For some reason, I started drinking terrible white wine from 32-ounce plastic glasses, guzzling down one after another. If I hadn’t consumed alcohol like an alcoholic before, I certainly did that night. I started drinking and couldn’t stop.
I wound up sitting on a toilet in the men’s room, passed out, and missed the last bus from the ski resort to the lodge where we were staying. It was below zero, I had no gloves or hat, and it was 3-4 miles to my room. I started walking, barely sober, knowing only where I needed to end up. Fortunately, another late departure from the party drove past and picked me up. I woke the next day with another miserable hangover and the promise not to repeat that stupidity.
Another ski trip led to my next alcoholic binge. I was with a group of journalists on a sponsored trip to Austria, partying in the mountain town of St. Anton, which can be described as a drinking resort with a skiing problem. Organizers held a “Mexican cantina” theme party and rounded up what must have been every bottle of tequila in town. Dancing with a beautiful Austrian doctor under pounding disco lights and music, I drank like there was no tomorrow. Of course, tomorrow came and I awoke so hungover and dehydrated from the booze and altitude, I experienced the worst headache of my life and missed my rendezvous with the seductive blond physician I’d promised to ski with that day.
Still, alcohol played no major role in my 30s. A few beers if I went to a concert or a club, maybe a glass of wine with dinner. In fact, alcohol didn’t taste good to me then. That started changing as I entered my 40s. I discovered that I enjoyed good red wine, and especially appreciated its ability to enhance a nice meal. I found myself coming home from work, opening a bottle of red while I made dinner, plus a glass with the meal. But always, the cork went back in the bottle and I had a half-bottle for the next evening. I thought I was in control.
And that’s how it went. I was raising my kids, enjoying my life and wine was an adjunct to that, not a major part of it. I remembered my hatred of my father’s alcoholism, and saw that feeling amplified as I watched him die of cancer induced by a combination of booze and smoking. Defiant to the end, I remember going to brunch with him after he’d had radiation therapy on his oral cancer. Even as he said he wasn’t drinking any more, he ordered a large glass of vodka and spooned small doses into his ice water so he could ease it past his radiation-burned throat. All I could feel was sad that he was subjected to something he couldn’t control.
But by my 50s, wine was becoming more influential. Many nights, I finished the entire bottle during dinner and after. I still appreciated life, played music and wrote articles at night. But something was changing. If something came up that interfered with my drinking, I started having anxiety attacks. I missed a major magazine assignment because I had to stay sober to do the interview, research and writing and the stress caused me to drink as a relief. Alcoholism had arrived. I was no longer in control.
My job responsibilities added to it. For 5-6 years, I was traveling internationally extensively. Stuck in business class on a 12-15 hour flight, booze became a way to kill the boredom of interminable flights. Alone in strange hotel rooms where there’s nothing in English on the TV, I started emptying minibars. I became an expert at ferreting out the nearest grocery or convenience store in foreign cities where I could buy bottles of red wine and spirit them back to my room. Agonizingly late nights, feeding depression and anxiety, led to sleep deprivation and aggravated my jet lag.
At home, I suddenly NEEDED that first bottle of wine when I got home. I left the office with the back of my throat dry and dusty at the anticipation of that first sip. I made sure I was always stocked up, and often opened the bottle before even taking my jacket off when I walked in the house. My life began to revolve not around family, friends, music and enjoying home, but around always having a bottle ready to open. I started buying box wine because it was cheaper and I didn’t have to open four individual bottles. Of course, that meant drinking four bottles instead of two. Weekends became a drunken blur with the first sip starting as early as 9 a.m. some days, passing up opportunities to be with friends and my son Sean because I needed to stay home and drink.
Saturdays meant always assessing how much wine I had and making sure I could get through Sunday with what I had. On weekend nights at first, then during the week, I was drinking until midnight, passing out, and then trying to go to bed at 3 or 4 to catch a few hours sleep before work. I started calling in sick with migraines to cover my most severe hangovers. At lunch at work, I often would close the door to my office and curl up for a 45-minute nap, hoping no one would knock and open the door to find me flat out on the floor.
I knew serious trouble was at hand. I talked to my doctor, sought the services of a therapist, and tried to quit. I went through 12 sessions of the IOP at Valle Vista, but dropped out when I decided I had learned all I could from them. Arrogant and cocksure, I never went to AA meetings, never found a sponsor. And predictably, I relapsed after six months of sobriety in October 2013.
Fourteen months passed. I drank more, missed more work, skipped nearly every event and activity I has previously enjoyed. I detoxed several times on my own, managing a few periods of sobriety lasting up to 30 days. But I always relapsed.
So the week after Christmas, after laying awake and sweating in bed for hours several nights in a row, I decided I was sick and tired of being sick and tied. I called Fairbanks and came in for an intake assessment, and entered in-patient detox on New Year’s Eve 2014. That experience changed my life, opening my eyes to the impossible task of quitting an addiction on my own. My distaste for AA vanished as I met people in the program and heard stories of how they had benefitted from the support and fellowship AA provides. I emerged determined to do everything I can to build a spiritual life and live without alcohol.
But that’s just the backstory, the sordid little details. I blame no one for my disease. Blame is for God and small children. How I got here is a matter of how I’ve lived my life. I’ve isolated myself from my family, especially my wife. I’ve lived too selfishly, focusing on what I want to do and not sharing myself with those closest to me. My job grew too big and too complex, and I couldn’t face seeing the program I had spent a decade building being dismantled and discarded, turned over to younger employees whom I had hired, trained and mentored. When that world fell in on me, I drank to comfort myself, shelter myself from my own failures and inadequacies, and avoid facing up to the future.
I can stop drinking. I know, I’ve done it many times. But to live a sober life, to really live instead of merely existing, I will need to change fundamental aspects of my persona. I need to open up to the whole world, give back, contribute to the greater good. Only then will I be in a position where staying sober won’t be a goal, an end to a process. It will be the outcome of the growth I’ve made as a father, husband, friend, employee and person. Change is never easy. But if I stay on the path I’m on, I’ll end up where I’m going. And that’s a destination I want to avoid.”
I drank to drown my feelings and be numb, so I didn't have to deal with or feel anything. Which worked for a time, but one was never enough for me. I could never just have one drink. It always turned into more. My drug of choice was more. The insanity of the disease kept me drinking despite the consequences. I did everything I could to keep drinking so I didn't have to feel anything. During a 6-month relapse alcohol stopped working for me and I hit bottom. I was finally able to surrender and know that I was powerless over alcohol and my life has become unmanageable. Today in recovery, I am free. I no longer have to drink in order to numb out my feelings. I am aware of them and can deal with them in the right way today. That is one of the many miracles that recovery has brought to me. Don't give up
A story like many others…” sick and tired of being sick and tired”. When I got sober, I really didn’t believe it would work this time either. I had attempted to get sober countless times before, only to relapse. The main difference this time was I had no options mentally. All of the excuses on why I was not an alcoholic/addict were gone and I only had me. A man who had helped me many times asked, “what’s the difference this time?” …I had no answer. When I first got sober, I had warrants for my arrest, anger problems and very little hope. I took the time to listen and follow the advice of others. I had to get out of my own way. I took it one day at a time and faced the realities of my addiction, including going to jail to clear up my legal issues completely sober. 17 plus years later I have graduated from school with a bachelor’s degree, got married and repaired much of the damage from the past. I have overcome legal challenges, mental health challenges and refrained from self-sabotage. The 12 steps have saved my life and I continue to participate. I look forward to each day and have never forgotten my past…” but for the grace of God” there I go again. All I wanted was to be sober and able to walk freely without the feeling of impending doom. I still have days that are not so cheerful, but that is not due to my addiction. It’s life’s everyday problems that come with facing oneself and not succumbing to fear. Never did I anticipate the life I have now, and it has been a journey of discovery, joy, and challenges.
After using inhalants for several years, I decided it was time to get clean. I had been using for seven years. I was young, but I knew using was not working. I started trying to quit cold turkey on my own. Over the course of almost a decade, I struggled with getting past six months clean. I continued to try, figuring out ways to navigate daily life and triggers without using. My drug was found everywhere and I could not escape it, not even at school, but I never gave up. I finally went to out patient treatment after reaching 9 months clean and relapsing again. They tried to help, but had not worked with someone like me. I relapsed during treatment, about 6 weeks in and almost gave up, but I did not. After completing treatment, I relapsed one more time, two weeks short of 18 months clean. After that, I changed just about everything in my life. I had gotten my goal, a year, and I knew I could do it again. I had troubleshooted almost everything, built the tools to be successful in recovery. It has been almost 10 years since my last relapse as I write this. What is a major part is taking it a day or even a moment at a time, self care, using my tools, and managing my triggers. Never give up. It took me almost 10 years of trying, but I learned from every relapse and it made me stronger and better as a result.
One of the hardest parts about my recovery is that it's never over. The 'want' to get high sometimes disappears but really it's always in view. When I want to get high, it's mostly helpful to remember how drugs have affected my body; there are a lot of sad stories I could tell to explain why I needed to quit but I think it's important to also be real that recovery is still a fight. For me, recovery still includes aspects of a cycle, a fight. Still, I'm encouraged that my recovery fight can similarly be a cycle of wins with some losses every now and then.
So my recovery story isn't exactly over yet. I still struggle with cravings& occasional relapses from time to time. But the best part about my journey is when I made the conscious choice to no longer feel bad about, nor chastise myself for whenever I screw up & have to start over. I found that the more I beat myself up for mistakes, the more I become a self-fulfilling prophecy of me screwing up and feeling like a horrible person every day.
Now whenever I screw up I try to get back on track as soon as I can. I try to be kind to myself in my minds voice. I had a drug councilor tell me a long time ago that no matter how bad you stumble in your recovery, never stop quitting again. It sounded very backwards to me at first, never quit quitting? Don't that mean I'll always be using? I said,. He said no, because someday you'll not go back to using so you won't have to quit anymore. And then it made perfect sense. Thankyou for listening to my sorta story. GodBless.
“My name is Tracie and I am a Alcoholic. “I’m an Alcoholic” these words were probably the hardest words for me ever to say in my whole life. Admitting that I was an alcoholic meant defeat; that I couldn’t manage anything at all. For me this meant that I had failed at life; at everything. It also meant that I wasn’t strong, that I was weak. That I had basically rolled over and died (as my father would say). I would have never believed I was an alcoholic before I went to treatment. Never in a day did I think, alcohol was my problem; that if I stopped putting alcohol in my body that the madness and chaos that swarmed my brain every waking hour would quiet. I didn’t even believe I was addicted. Alcohol was legal, therefore it was not a drug.
I don’t remember the exact day I became addicted to alcohol, but I do remember deciding to myself that I was going to be one of “those people who drank heavily.” I remember the feeling; it was a kind of sick feeling. But I was making a life decision, that this was how I was going to be forever. I wasn’t proud of the decision, but I remember thinking “this is me, I finally arrived at reality it’s time to accept it.” I also remember the day I began drinking during the week and then during the day, I was angry and fearful about something at work, I chose to cope with the situation by going home at lunch and drinking two beers. I felt better and that “situation” wasn’t an a situation anymore. Anger and fear were placed with “I don’t give a crap what anyone thinks.” Drinking during the day began, along with drinking to pass out every night. This became my new normal. I remember feeling like everyday “why am I still waking up.” I remember feeling that I didn’t deserve to live and everything/everyone would be better off if I was dead. I became physically and mentally addicted to King Alcohol. The sickest part of me believed I was fine and that no one would notice. My reality skewed and I drank to quiet everything and everyone.
I remember the day I stopped caring about food, cleanliness, work, my 7 year old daughter, about life. I didn’t care and couldn’t function, other than to get and drink as much alcohol as possible. I didn’t care if I passed out, I would just wake up to drink more alcohol.
If I didn’t have alcohol I was suffering from withdrawal. Withdrawal was awful, painful so I made sure I didn’t withdraw.
I remember the day this day so clear. I couldn’t take it anymore. I laid in bed crying and shaking, my stomach wouldn’t hold alcohol down. I threw up to drink more Vodka. I remember sitting there on the bathroom floor, I had just thrown up, I thought “this is crazy” but my head hurt and my stomach was cramping. I drank more Vodka, this time in tiny long sips. It was warm, and tasted slick… but hard. I felt my body, like it was begging for it… Almost like a sunburn begs to be cooled, but you know it’s going to hurt when you put that coolness on your skin. I managed to drink the rest of the jug and laid down in my bed. My mother called, and talked to me. The only part of the conversation I remember is her saying, “if you want me to come and help you I will; you have to ask me for my help.” She made me say “please come help me.” I remember feeling that I didn’t care anymore about anything, that I was going to die. She said she would be there the next day. I cried and passed out.
September 25th 2009 my mother took me to detox at the hospital. I has no idea what this meant, but I was sure I was going to die so I thought, “what the hell”. I spent 5 days in the detox unit of the hospital. I was very sick, mentally and physically.
My mother said inpatient treatment was the only way. The doctor and psychiatrist told me I was a liar and a drunk, that I going to die, if I didn’t get treatment. I refused to go at first. My mother said these magic words, “it will be like a vacation, a little time for you to get away and rest.” All I heard was, “vacation”. I said yes. The next thing I remember, I was at the treatment facility and my mother was leaving. Reality began to kick in. What have I done?
I was told I needed to say I was an alcoholic. I couldn’t. All I did was cry, and detox more from the alcohol. I found out I had a disease, this was not my fault. I found out that I was hurting more than myself. I heard the phrases like ”can never drink again; one day at a time”, “phenomenon of craving” and “mental obsession,” “if left untreated,” “jails institutions or death.” I learned that I was not alone – that everything I thought – someone else had thought. I wasn’t crazy.
When I left treatment I still couldn’t say out loud that I was an alcoholic, but I believed that I was. I believed that if I drank again I would most likely die.
This is how Alcoholics Anonymous came into my life. I never stopped going to meetings or trying to work the program of AA. I got a sponsor and a homegroup, and a job in that homegroup. Life became better. I began to grow into a different person that actually lived life.
I did relapse in December of 2014. Two days of drinking lead me to fully believe my disease is not curable. If left untreated I will drink again. I am truly an alcoholic. I have a disease that wants to kill me and is willing to go to any lengths to do so. I must go to any lengths to prevent this from happening. I am forever more, grateful for the people who helped me have faith again in a higher power and something greater than myself.”
I feel that naltrexone is an under used resource. I believe that if more addicts realized that they could take away the effects of the opiates without the abuse potential of Suboxone, it would allow more addicts to get over the hump to recovery.”
“My name is Karen. I have 6 and a half years clean and sober. I am a nurse. I work in the fast-pace environment of the emergency room. I feel as though I live with a dark secret due to my history of addiction. The majority of my life I have lived a normal and routine life. My troubles occurred when I was under more stress than normal. The first time I used drugs inappropriately was my first year in college. I was in way over my head. I was distracted by a bad break-up. Marijuana made life bearable and I smoked, drank and experimented with other drugs almost every day. I think what sets me apart from some substance abusers is that I kept it together, was able to graduate from college, kept my job and used. I worked and paid my way through school. I have always been a functional user. After I graduated from college, I met my first husband. He did not smoke or drink. I followed his lead and stopped smoking and drank in moderation. We had two children. This was a period of relative normalcy. I went back to school and got my nursing degree. I would not say it was a perfect marriage, but who has one? After 17 years of marriage, my husband cheated on me. This eventually led to the end of my first marriage. This precipitated a downward spiral into sexual promiscuity, excessive alcohol consumption, resumption of cigarette smoking and abuse of an Ativan prescription. During this period, I met my second husband. We met while he was on the rebound from his first divorce. He was a drinker. He has a lot of his own issues so he was willing to overlook mine. During this time, my use had escalated into diverting benzodiazepines from work and using intravenously. I knew I had a problem and had visited some NA and AA meetings. Nothing was sticking though. I married my second husband during this period. I also was dabbling with opiates but not heavily. Things came to a head in 2004 when my husband caught me with a needle in my arm. I marched myself to inpatient rehab at that point. I stayed 28 days. I did a long stint of intensive outpatient and was clean for 2 years. Again, I was able to do this while keeping my job and getting treatment under the radar. I did very well for that time until my daughter was getting ready to get married. There was incredible stress leading up to the wedding and I actually drank and used at the wedding. That started a 3 year battle of primarily opiate use. Again, I was able to keep it under the radar. My husband never caught on. But quite frankly I got sick and tired of being sick and tired, as they say. I finally confessed to my daughter that I was using. Once it was out, I felt compelled to get treatment. I reached out to an outpatient treatment center. This time I also made an appointment with a psychiatrist specializing in addiction. I weaned myself off of the opiates. By the time I saw the doctor I had not used in more than a week. He started me on naltrexone. This medication has changed my life. I no longer fear temptation at my job. It has gotten me over the hump and allowed me to change my coping methods without backsliding. I did not want to use Suboxone because of the narcotic that is included. For the first 2 years, I did go to NA fellowship meetings. But I have not felt the need for them since then. I continue to see the psychiatrist. The biggest test of my recovery is occurring now. My husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last October. My life has been full of challenges since then. But with the help of my support system, healthy living habits and naltrexone, active addiction relapse is far from my mind. I am aware that I must be vigilant though. As an addict in recovery, I know how easy it is to slip back into a state of mind that could lead me to relapse.
I feel that naltrexone is an under used resource. I believe that if more addicts realized that they could take away the effects of the opiates without the abuse potential of Suboxone, it would allow more addicts to get over the hump to recovery.”
"Alcohol was a long term problem for me. I started drinking and smoking pot when I was about 14. By 15 or 16 drinking and smoking pot was a regular weekend activity. Binge drinking proliferated in my late teens and early twenties. I drank beer, mixed drinks, and shots. I began blacking out fairly regularly by my late teens and would do terribly embarrassing things: kicked out of bars, fights (sometimes with my best friends or strangers), and basically made a fool of myself many times in front of friends and family.
I was in and out of college for about 7 years-finally graduating at the age of 25. I had extreme anxiety and panic attacks during these college years which was the primary reason it took me so long to graduate. At times I would be too hungover and nervous to sit in class rooms.
I moved from RI to Florida in my twenties. Decided to quit booze at age 26 in Tampa. Stayed sober about 2 years primarily because I met a bunch of new friends in AA. I never cared much for the 12 step talk. Always thought it was a bunch of religious mumbo jumbo. But I did enjoy the camraderie and new friendships I acquired in the group. It was a fairly social time. Fast forward and I fell off the wagon after meeting an attractive female who I married. I started getting drunk again and she divorced me 2 years later after witnessing too many blackouts. For the next 18 years I continued to binge drink. I usually would get drunk 4 times a week with usually one blackout (or brown out) per week. I tried quitting intermittently by going to AA-but never recaptured the magic I found when I was 26.
At age 49 I finally quit for good after experiencing a heart attack-via tachycardia event. I didn’t go back to AA. I saw a therapist and psychiatrist to get treated for the underlying cause of my alcoholism-general anxiety disorder. I got online a lot with SMART and learned to think rationally. I also started to meditate and exercised frequently. But most of all it just seems I outgrew the desire to drink. I always liked the bars but I was growing tired of “going out”. Today I feel great and have full custody of my 15 year old son."
“Five years ago I was a homeless, hopeless junkie that was fighting a 14 year meth addiction as well as alcoholism, pills, cocaine, and whatever I could use to get high. I was a single mother dragging my son from hotel to hotel, from living at the dealer’s house to living on the streets. Often I would go to casino’s and try to get us out of the cold to sleep in the stairwells while stealing the leftover food left on the room service trays so that we could eat. I was out of control; absolutely lost.
From the time I was old enough to remember I was living in a home that was full of physical and mental abuse. I know that many people have the same story that I do. I know that not everyone comes from a great home. I know this first hand and that is one reason that I believe that I am so passionate about reaching out to others that have let the hurt, depression, hate and the feeling of being so lost and alone take over their lives. Eventually it seems as though you are on a self destructive path and you can’t seem to find a way out. The feeling is one that is impossible to put into words.
I married my high school sweetheart. He joined the Marine Corp. and we moved out to California. It was there that within a month I was introduced to methamphetamine. I was instantly hooked. I had always been a drinker as far back as the sneaking pint jars of liquor to school when I was in the 7th grade. It did not take long for the drugs and the alcohol to ruin my marriage.
Within a few months of my divorce I met my son’s father. We were together long enough to get pregnant and split up. Both of us were active drug abusers. I checked myself into rehab so many times I would not even honestly count them. They actually would have done me some good if I would have stayed. For the love of my child I could not sober up, trips in and out of jail still did not sober me up. My 34 year old boyfriend, the absolute love of my life, dying from a drug induced heart attack did not sober me up; God sobered me up.
Three times in my life I attempted suicide, the first time was the summer of my 7th grade year. The last time was in February 1997. I was dead when they found me. My body had already completely shut down. I was in a coma for 12 days. God knew even then that He had better plans for me. Still I didn’t trust Him, still I lived a recklace life destroying all of the greatness God intended for me.
I went to jail again in September of 2006. In November I gave my life to Christ, sitting right there in a jail cell. I got out in December 2006. I swore I wasn’t going to touch the drugs ever again, and I maintained for about 3 days. This time it was different. This time I felt the true conviction of my Lord and Savior. I got high for about 2 weeks until God spoke to my heart so loud telling me this was not his plan for me. January 2007 I decided to go to rehab one more time. I was homeless, again, my son was living with his Dad since I had gone to jail. I called so many places trying to get into rehab. I was broke, homeless, and hopeless. I called Green Oak Ranch, a Faith based rehab in Southern California. They told me there was a 6 month waiting list. I told her in 6 months without help I would be dead. She told me to call every day to keep my name on the list. If I missed one day I would be removed. I borrowed people’s cell phones walking down the street, I used a store’s phone that would allowed me to make a call. I was desperate and knew now was the turning point. 4 days later when I called they told me to come in. That second I knew that God had not left me, He had opened that door for me and that if I was faithful to trust in him, then He is faithful to never leave me.
My clean date is January 17, 2007. For that I am so grateful. My live is so blessed more than I ever could imagine. I moved to Arkansas with my son in September 2007 to be close to family. Since then we have joined a church, held down a state job for nearly 4 years, started college and I am currently a junior with a 3.8 GPA. My son is proud of his mom and I love being a mother. I have recently bought a home and am solely supporting my family. I am proud, yet very humble.
I have been blessed to go to Peru the past 3 years on short term mission trips. I yearn to tell people my story but most of all the story of how Christ saved me. My son and I went on a 2 week mission trip to Africa, where again, I shared my story. God opened my heart even more there. October 25, 2010 I found out that I was hepatitis C positive. I cried, was mad, confused and felt so sorry for myself. I cried out to God “why now God, I have been clean for nearly 4 years, I’ve been living my life for You , I have been good, to just now found out I have Hepatitis C, why now?!?!” And even in that moment I felt God comforting me. If I had found out when I was still in my addiction, my thoughts would have been. ..well I’m going die anyway. God has showed me that through all things we can bring him glory. When I went to Africa, I spoke at a youth conference. God told me not to be ashamed but to share with them, my whole life. The AIDS disease is so prevalent there that it was important to talk to them about abstinence and the fact that yes, once you are a Christian, God forgives and wipes your sins away. However; there are all too often consequences to the actions and choices you make before giving your life to God. I believe I touched many of them through allowing God to use me to communicate to them.
I absolutely love my life now. I love the beauty that God created out of the destructive life that I was living. When I speak to the youth and young adults I tell them that the verse that helped changed my life forever was Psalms 18:4-6. Those were the first verses that God revealed to me that I understood. No matter where I was or how filthy and worthless I allowed my life to become. God found me worthy. I now live my life for him and want everyone to know that my life is new, the changes came from God and the strength that He gave me, and without Him…….I am nothing!”
“I guess I should start with, I’m Amy and I’m an addict.
I’m not sure how to put my story into words without it being a very long tale. It starts with me as a preteen hanging out with the wrong crowd and going through some hard experiences. I started using Marijuana when I was eleven as a way to fit in and relax and soon realized that it helped me to forget about pain and rejection that I had been through as a child. I had started smoking cigarettes when I was eight and the “next step” to weed seemed logical. When I started high school, I made some new friends but I still had my old ones as well. My new friends were “good” kids and didn’t smoke or drink or use drugs. I quit smoking cigarettes but I still smoked pot when I was with my other friends. When I was fifteen, I was introduced to heroin for the first time and I was hooked. I’ve never really been afraid of needles, but I didn’t like them, so I smoked the heroin and I loved it. It was something that I had to keep hidden from my school friends and I had no idea that they could see that I was changing. I didn’t feel like I was changing, so I didn’t see it either. I lost good friends, good relationships and at the time I believed that it was okay because they were just interfering with my using anyway. At nineteen, I got married to a man who was also a user. He was also an alcoholic. During our ten year marriage, we had three children and more fights then I could count. I stopped using heroin very early in the relationship and eventually he stopped too because he, “couldn’t enjoy his high” around me. I continued smoking weed and cigarettes (which I had started again when I was eighteen) and very occasionally I would have a drink. Ten and a half years after I got married, I left my abusive husband and moved in with an old boyfriend. My children were living with my parents and had been for a long time. My new (old) boyfriend didn’t smoke, so I quit and didn’t use drugs, so I cut way back on my pot smoking. I went from smoking half to three quarters of an ounce in two days down to a quarter of an ounce in a week and a half. For almost two years, things continued like this. I didn’t see it, of course, but my use started to increase until I was smoking almost as much as I had been when I moved in. My boyfriend had reached his breaking point and told me that he couldn’t continue to live like that anymore. I was too unreliable, unpredictable and my use was way too expensive for him to keep supporting. He was going to leave and I became distraught. In desperation to keep him from leaving, I asked if he would still leave if I quit. He said that we could stay together if I did and that night, I smoked everything I had left.
That was July 6, 2010. On July 7, 2010, I woke up and started a new life. I hadn’t been “straight” or “clean” for more than twenty years and now, I’ve been clean and sober for almost two. My life is much better. I’m still with my boyfriend, and I’m starting to get my kids back living with me. I have a Higher Power who loves me and wants what is best for me. I owe a lot of my success to the program of Narcotics Anonymous and the help I’ve found in my new friends in the program. I also couldn’t have done it without the loving support of my boyfriend. I have truly been blessed.”