Lectures at the fralin biomedical research institute
Lectures at the fralin biomedical research institute
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“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.”
“The reflection in the mirror belied the memory of an enthusiastic young girl who was going to take on the world. The tears that ran down my face could not wash away the unbearable guilt and shame I had felt deep within me for what seemed like forever. The glowing eyes and flawless skin had been replaced by bloodshot eyes, a red nose, ruddy complexion, and a bloated face that even the heaviest makeup could no longer hide.
This was the result of years and years of alcohol abuse. Today was a repetition of so many days before. I was drunk again. Blind, blotto drunk once more, after promising myself that very morning that I would never drink again. But as usual, that promise only lasted until about lunchtime when I would take my first drink.
“Only one and no more,” I promised myself. This “one” drink, or “the hair of the dog that bit me,” was just to take the edge off of the awful hangover I was nursing. Looking back on it now, it was quite comical in a sad sort of way, how I was able to convince myself that today was going to be different from all the rest.
Then I needed a second drink to stop my hands from shaking, followed by a third which supposedly would settle the nauseousness in my stomach. By the time I reached for the bottle once more, I was starting to feel mellow so instead of putting the bottle back in the cupboard, I poured myself another drink, and then another.
Then my booze-soaked brain took over and told me that since I had screwed up my promise not to drink today I may as well make a good job of it. “Drink as much as you like,” it told me, “Because tomorrow you will definitely stop drinking.” And so the daily downward spiral to alcohol-induced oblivion was well on its way.
I usually avoided mirrors, as I hated myself and the way I looked, but this night on my way back from the toilet, I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror in the passage and for some reason I stopped. I grabbed hold of a nearby door to steady my drunken sway and took a long hard look at my reflection through squinted, blurry eyes. I had often been “dronkvedriet” (an Afrikaans word that literally means drunk and remorseful and feeling sorry for oneself), but what I felt at that moment went far beyond that.
My mother had died two weeks ago, the man I loved left me because he could not handle my drinking, and my children had had enough of my disgraceful behaviour that they were ready to lock me up and throw away the key. A feeling of emotional pain so heavy and so great suddenly came upon me. It was like nothing I had felt before and the intensity was so overwhelming that I felt like I would explode. It churned up in my stomach, rose through my heart, constricted my throat and then like a river bursting its banks, streamed from my eyes in a torrent of tears.
I staggered to my room and dropped to my knees at the edge of my bed. As I sat there with my head and arms resting on my bed, the tears continued to flow until I could cry no more. I thought of my mother, who I loved so much, but seldom told her so. Instead, I treated her badly and even blamed her and my father for my drunken behaviour.
I thought about my beautiful children and the pain I caused them as a result of my drinking. Having grown up in an alcoholic home and having suffered much as a result, I should have known better. How could I have done this to them? Their faces flashed in front of me and their all-too-familiar look of love, mixed with desperation and disgust was just too much to bear.
I thought about my shattered life and how much time and money I had wasted on booze and how I had alienated myself from my family because of my addiction.
My tears eventually subsided and I felt totally spent. Even in my drunken befuddled mind, I knew that this was the end of the road, the point of no return—and I was so scared. No, I was terrified. There was no happy ending to the terrible mess my life was in. I could end up in jail for driving under the influence or end up in the gutter, homeless, or I could die as my alcohol-soaked body couldn’t take any more abuse.
I had to change and take control of my life. But alcohol had been part of my life for so long—how was I going to cope without it? My life was so out of control, was there even a chance of rebuilding it? As overwhelming panic arose within me, thoughts of suicide once again flashed through my mind.
Then I did something I had not done for many years. As I knelt at the side of my bed I began to pray. I asked God to please help me sober up as I could not stop drinking on my own. Actually I didn’t ask; I begged. Then I dragged myself into bed and passed out, totally unaware of what lay ahead of me.”
“I blended several substances. Mainly cocaine, alcohol, food, and tobacco. After periods of clean time from cocaine and alcohol I’d go back to drinking and smoking. I found it necessary to address my eating disorder to stay clean. I had to address my tobacco addiction to stay clean. I have had to address my personality disorders too. There is no hiding for me. I have had to also address my honest feelings about God since the 12 step programs worked for me but I did not believe in God. There is no pretending for me. I have to be honest with what I really think and to be honest I have had to think about what I actually believe. I don’t like religion period and I don’t really believe there is a God. So I had to admit that and be true to myself. I have had a lot of therapy and still see someone twice a week. I have depersonalization disorder pretty badly. But I am in recovery from all the addictions that were killing me one day at a time. I know I walk a razors edge as do all seriously addicted people. I have been clean from cocaine and alcohol 21 of the past 25 years. The times I added these addictions back with my other ones, I almost died many times. I am free of tobacco 6 years, and eating addictively, and no sugar, no flour, for 3 years continuously now. I have not used cocaine for at least 15 years and haven’t had a drink in nearly 10. Life is difficult. Good luck to you all.”
“My name is Ginny. I’m a 37 year old mother, wife, daughter,and friend. I’m also an entrepreneur/business owner and many other things, but most of all I’m a recovering ADDICT. The only reason I tell people this is because I think I can help by sharing my story of addiction, struggles and constant recovery and how it’s helped mold me into the person I am today. What do I get out of it, you ask? Feeling good about myself , which makes me want to help other people achieve the same thing and more.
For many, many years, I have struggled with addiction. Who knows why, but here’s what I think. For me I think it was a combination of things like extremely low self-esteem, diagnosed by age 4yrs with ADHD, so then being medicated with ritalin 3 times a day and meleril at night. My parents both worked, my Dad worked 2 jobs most of the time, though I wasn’t left alone.
I guess my problems didn’t get worse until I entered high school. I experienced my first illegal drug at the age of 16yrs old. To begin with, it was just pot. I smoked on and off, ( whenever I knew someone that had any) until I started working and could afford to buy it myself.
I got married in 1990 and had our first child in August of the same year. Eventually, it got to the point where I was smoking every day, then all day every day. Then I decided I wanted to try cocaine. So, my husband got us some. Eventually that turned into the same thing, but by now, I couldn’t breathe through my nose. So, what do you think I did next? You guessed it! I started smoking it.
Well, to move this story along a little, by late 1998 early 1999, by then we had a daughter, we were doing it all the time, oh that’s right, my husband and I were both doing it. This nonsense went on until my husband didn’t have a job any more. By this point, we were in the process of being evicted, none of our bills had been paid , the only reason we had food was because my parents bought it. We were stilling smoking crack.
Then, on July 31,2002, I woke-up and it just clicked. Don’t know exactly what it was,but it was time to come clean and stay that way. I’ll save what happens next for the next installment, but for now I just want everyone to know that it can be done and that includes bettering your self-esteem. I’m coming up on my 6th year of sobriety and I have to say,”It feels amazing” to accomplish something you didn’t think you could.
Now, I run 2 businesses from the comfort of my home, always available to my family. If you’re here reading this, won’t you check out these 2 wonderful companies and what they can offer you personally and professionally.
This is one of many installments, so please subscribe or keep checking back. I’ll continue to share my story and also be making some recommendations on businesses, products, programs and many more.”
“I’ve spent most of my life in a small town in Eastern KY. Where the prescription pain killers are primarily dominant and highly accessible. I started out smoking marijuana when i was 13 years of age, then moved on to opiates at the age of 15 after a car accident that fractured my spinal cord. By the time I was 17 i had started drinking alcohol and “nasally inhaling” crushed up pain medicine. I attempted to quit for the first time at the age of 21. That worked for awhile, but i was still having minor relapses until around the age of 23. And then my disease progressed rapidly, within 1 year i was intravenously injecting high powered opiates….. This is when my life really came crashing down to the rigid bottoms of the lowest point of the darkest crevasse of my own personal Hell. I stole from family, friends, stores, really anywhere that could help me get my next fix. I robbed people, hurt people, broke relationships that can never be amended, I had demolished my families trust as well as beaten them down emotionally. All i was concerned about was my own selfish obsessions, and my overpowering “need” for that drug! I’m really grateful that I never truly physically harmed anyone other than myself in my tornado of destruction. All the chaos that I caused will haunt me for a very long time to come, I have lost friends due to my own problems, and many to the after-life of addiction. Now at the age of 27, I have decided that i wish to devote my life to helping those that still suffer from this catastrophic illness. I have experienced all the pain I can bare at the hands of this disease. I am proud to say I have been clean for 7 months and am currently studying towards a masters in Psychology, and plan to become a certified Substance abuse/abuse counselor. I am amazed to even be able to say that I have goals again today, that is something that this disease can never take away from me again! It’s time for those of us who have been fortunate enough to walkaway from addiction to bond together and fight this problem at the same level everywhere. This isn’t just something that will go away on it’s own. We need complete unity of all communities, all of those whom are willing to be on the front lines of this issue are the true heroes in my book. This isn’t something that is effecting our country from abroad it is right here, destroying our loved ones, our freedom, our lives. I’m ready to do whatever I can to make a impact on this problem, and I feel it is time for everyone else to make that choice. Stand back and watch it plague our society or fight for something that will really make a difference. My decision is made…… How about yours?”
“I remember the first time that I had actually gotten drunk off of liquor and it almost felt like this “switch” went off inside of me. I couldn’t believe how AMAZING I felt. It felt like the missing puzzle piece had finally been placed in my life. After this first encounter in college, I began drinking about three times a week. “Drinking” meant taking as many shots as I could before blacking out. I absolutely loved feeling so free and limitless when I was drunk. Without social inhibitions, I felt like I could actually be the person that I should be. I simply felt like an improved version of myself.
At first, my “friends” encouraged me with my drinking and each black out seemed to be the next adventure. I started to both anticipate and dread the morning after drinking because I never knew what I would do while drunk. With so much encouragement, I hardly realized there was a problem with having black outs. I also didn’t recognize the cravings that I started having. I wanted to drink with almost every activity because drinking made everything so much more exciting.
After only a few months, a few of my closer friends and even complete strangers had started telling me that I was having problems with alcohol, but this seemed absolutely ridiculous to me. How on earth could an 18 year old girl have a problem with alcohol?? I thought that was only for middle aged men who drank all day long. In any case, this pattern of drinking continues for about three more years. The black outs and hangovers get worse, and I started putting myself into extremely dangerous situations. It got to the point that I actually passed out in the middle of a busy street. Luckily for me, complete strangers picked me up and took me home (although I don’t actually remember this). I realized that I could hardly ever resist alcohol when it was around and that no matter what I tried, I couldn’t stop drinking once I started. But even then, I still couldn’t believe that I was an alcoholic… there were simply too many reasons why I shouldn’t be.
I finally reached a turning point in my drinking when I realized that it was absolutely destroying my relationship with someone I loved. To be truthful, I didn’t actually realize this until they forced me to. I always had too many excuses for how my drinking wasn’t really a problem, but this person constantly told me how much my drinking bothered him. He wouldn’t be around me when I drank and he asked me to call any time when I felt like drinking. Even so, I continued to drink but with much more manipulative strategies (aka lying). It finally reached the point when I knew our relationship was about to end and that I was entirely responsible. I couldn’t stand this horrible guilt I felt every time I drank. I felt like I would completely lose myself if I continued to drink. I had become someone I couldn’t even recognize. I started making actual attempts to stay sober and I slowly started staying sober for longer periods of time until I finally stopped completely. The absolute keys to my success were changing my environment and my old social circle. I completely stopped going to bars and hanging out with friends who I used to drink with. I still have my struggles with temptations, but after 2.5 years of sobriety, I finally feel happy with myself.
I really wanted to share my story because I feel like alcoholism is completely misunderstood in college aged kids. I saw others going through similar situations as me, but alcoholism was never mentioned because that could only happen to older adults. I also think alcoholism presents itself in many different ways, but most people are only aware of the stereotypical 40 year old male who drinks all day, every day. I never once drank in the morning or every day, but that didn’t stop alcohol from almost ruining my life.”