As young children, we are frequently asked: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Instantly, our minds dart from a doctor or a lawyer, to a famous athlete, or even a rockstar. I remember feeling a jolt of excitement over the endless possibilities. Never once did I consider being a drug addict; no child ever does. Unfortunately, it was out of my control and addiction chose me. After years of torture and pain – I chose recovery.
My name is Lindsay and I am a heroin addict. I come from an amazing and extremely close family, with parents who have been married for thirty years and a sister two years younger than me. My childhood and young adolescent years were filled with love and support. I excelled as a student and an athlete, and went on to the University of Connecticut to study Psychology. Up until the age of twenty-one, drugs were not a part of my story. I had only consumed alcohol a handful of times in social situations. Addiction, at this point, was out of my realm. It didn’t happen to kids who came from a nice family like mine. My idea of a drug addict was a homeless guy living under a bridge, drinking out of a paper bag, and warming his hands on a garbage can fire. Boy, was I wrong.
I was hired as a bartender in a town near my college, and was quickly shown the ropes in terms of what it meant to be a bartender at this particular bar. The amount of drugs being sold – and the number of people using them – was incredible! Everyone was using during working hours to “stay up,” and using again when the bar closed to “come down.” A combination of peer pressure, sheer curiosity, and naiveté got the best of me, and I quickly became a regular user. The feeling I got from “coming down” was unlike any I’d experienced in my life. Soon the icy cold arms of addiction wrapped around me, tightening their grip each time I used.
The next few years consisted of various attempts at stopping my opiate use, but never any real recovery. I was in and out of IOPs, thirty, sixty, and ninety day treatment facilities, and even a long-term sober living program. I achieved short periods of abstinence, but never participated in any twelve-step fellowships. I’d attend a few meetings, maybe read some literature and stay clean for a short time, but I was an addict with no solution, hanging onto abstinence by the skin of my teeth, and wondering why I kept ending up with a needle in my arm.
My parents were beside themselves, my sister disowned me, and, as my addiction progressed, all I did was create more damage and turmoil. I was a miserable and hopeless walking corpse, filled with so much self hatred I couldn’t even look in the mirror; I was so ashamed of the woman looking back at me. It seemed like I was out of options, but the reality was I hadn’t truly tried the only proven way to not only stop using drugs, but to change my life: working the steps of a twelve-step fellowship.
It wasn’t until I became pregnant with and gave birth to my daughter that the depths of my addiction reached an all-time low. It was as if I blinked and I was right back where I left off – except worse. I was using more than I ever had before, stealing money from my loved ones to support my habit, and putting myself and my daughter in dangerous situations. I justified my continued use; taking care of a one year old while experiencing the debilitating misery of opiate withdrawals was nearly impossible. After threats and ultimatums from my family, I found myself at the lowest bottom I had ever reached – void of all dignity and self worth. More sick than ever before, I just wanted to die.
Initially, I agreed to go to treatment for my daughter, Quinn. I didn’t care about myself, but my love for my innocent baby girl gave me the willingness to finally get help. I decided that this time, no matter what, I was going to take every suggestion given to me and work my recovery to the fullest. Desperation – and a feeling of complete emptiness – were the driving forces behind me, and my daughter hung in front of me like a dangling carrot.
After completing detox and a thirty day treatment, my counselor told me to continue with some sort of outpatient treatment. I was referred to the Process Recovery Center. Even though I was living at home, I went to the Process’ IOP program five days a week, and slowly moved down until I graduated the program. The Process was the perfect place for my recovery to blossom and flourish. The groups taught me everything from life skills and accountability, to relapse prevention and twelve-step recovery. The staff encouraged us to get a sponsor, a home group, and a service position in the fellowship of our choice. It was so reassuring to return to the same faces on a daily basis. They cheered me on, supported my recovery, and answered any questions I had from their own experiences. That was the huge difference between the Process and other programs; almost every member of the staff was working on their own recovery and had personal experience in the depths of addiction.
I want others to read my story and see that addiction does not discriminate. It does not matter how you were brought up or where you’re from – anyone can be an addict, and most importantly, anyone can recover. I want other people to know that willpower, intelligence, and especially love do not cure addiction. The progression of this disease is real and, without recovery, death is the end result. Addiction is a terminal illness. Working a program of recovery has enabled me to have a full and happy life, with family and friends, and most importantly, my daughter. I know that my next use is only an arm’s length away, so I continue to work hard and help others in order to stay clean… just for today.