Life After Losing My Son Nick

When you lose a child everything changes. You become very forgetful and walk around in a constant fog. There is no name for a parent who lost a child. Not widowed. Not orphaned. The magnitude of the pain is too large. As parents are not supposed to outlive their children.

Every aspect of our life has a memory. Every hockey rink, ride in the car, rooms in your house, and songs being played on the radio. You find yourself secretly wishing all the holidays would go away. You sing happy birthday with cake and candles. But the birthday boy is not there to blow out the candles. You continue to hang his stocking every Christmas only to find the handmade snowflake his little sister put in there the first Christmas he was not there. Only to pull it out every year yourself. Half your heart is gone and can never be whole again.

You search for answers you just can’t get. You save his clothing. You walk into a room and smell your child and know that scent can’t possibly be there. But you smile anyway and talk out loud. You talk. You talk to the dead. You go to church and find yourself staring at the space where his casket was. Fighting back tears, knowing that was the last place you were together. You focus on your religion because you have to believe that there is a better place. A place where angels play hockey and there is no more struggling and pain.

People talk about what’s new with their children. You get to repeat the same old stories because that’s all you have. You want to talk about your child. You need to talk about your child. You want people to mention your child’s name more than ever.

It means so much to hear anything, anything at all about Nick. It tells us, you remember…

You listen to people complain about their kids driving them crazy or how hard it is when they go away. You want to scream out loud. What you wouldn’t give for your child to just be away. You go to the grocery store, walk by his favorite snack, tears begin to well up. Meanwhile everybody else has no idea that somebody so important is missing. So, you buy the damn snack anyway.

Losing a child to addiction means you didn’t get to say goodbye. You look for where you went wrong. You look back over the years looking for clues, questioning every decision and everything you said and didn’t say. You ask all the what ifs. You blame yourself. You find other mothers just like yourself.

We read life after death and near death experiences. Trying to find any information available to make sense out of what has happened. You try to educate others to try to save the life of others. You may smile and stand straight but you will feel drained and crooked for the rest of your life.

This is for my beloved angel Nick. May you rest in paradise my beautiful angel.

Mommy loves you!

Sue Kruczek, forever Nick Kruczek’s mom
Guilford, Connecticut

I’m 8 Months Pregnant & Will Give Birth As A Woman In Recovery

My name is Tiffani and I’m a grateful woman in sustained recovery from addiction.

Growing up people always ask that one big question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Many kids answer “an astronaut”, a “movie star” or other endless possibilities. My will to do and become something more was the greatest strength I believe I ever had. Never knowing that the same will that pushed me to want to strive for much more would also be what would lead me to my demise.

From the beginning, I always felt uncomfortable, less then, different than others. I moved around more times than one could count and remembered living in this constant state of anxiety and deepening doom. My parents and I never saw eye-to-eye. They divorced when I was young and one was an addict himself, the other was a nursing student who barely had time to eat or drink coffee. So, I took initiative and began distracting myself and suppressing my feelings to prove my worth to my teachers, my peers, my parents, but most of all to myself.

As the years went on I started experimenting with other ways to fill the abyss that laid deep within my core. When sports and school activities didn’t work anymore, I began more drastic forms of experimentation. From middle through high school, I began hanging out with older people. Endless nights of staying up late, drinking to other forms of recreational drugs became a daily incentive for me.

Things took a turn for the worst when I was 19. I got into a car accident and shattered my entire collar bone. I had surgery and they placed two metal plates with rods into my chest. I remember feeling like my life was over, that life had been a waste of time to end up this useless being who couldn’t even lift her left arm. I took my pain medicine as prescribed only to find myself wanting more, when the pills weren’t enough I found the love of my life and my soul. Finally, I didn’t have to hide this pain that I tried to cover for so long. It became my lover, my best friend, my numbing medication to the world around me – or so I thought. Heroin became not my lover, but my master ending me in countless trips to the hospital, multiple jail trips, not to mention thirteen different attempts at rehab, countless overdoses, and the loss of every bridge I had ever made and family member I had ever loved. My life became a tornado of destruction and despair. I wanted to stop so bad. I remember crying and begging to the heavens to take this away. I didn’t want to live anymore. The very substance I used to hide my pain became the very thing that created it.

The last time I used I went out for twenty-four hours and overdosed because I needed it one more time. After being dark inside for so many years, and 6 years of battling addiction, a light turned on and I realized I needed help. After being in a program for nearly five months along with other self-help groups, my obsession finally ceased to exist. I was given the second chance at life I needed. In exchange for a needle and a spoon, I was given the keys to a life worth living. No longer did I feel the need to hide my emotions, but instead embrace them for what they were and learn how to live with them as life played out. Recovery not only gave me my family back and the ability to rebuild and create new relationships, but for me to finally love who I am and look at myself in the mirror with pride and not some ninety-two-pound junky with no life behind their eyes. I have a new sense of purpose and feeling of serenity no drug or drink could ever possibly give me.

After nearly a year of sobriety my life is beyond anything of my wildest dreams. I’m eight months pregnant and get to put an end to a cycle, having my son never see his mom loaded.  I’m going to school to become a drug and alcohol counselor to help other addicts achieve sustainable recovery. If you asked me if I would be where I am now a year ago, I would have laughed in your face. I was the one counselors say that would never ever make it, that people expected dead within the next six months. And here I am before you today clean and sober. And a life that has depth and weight and not frothy emotional appeal. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything in the world. Living in recovery has made me find the pathway to a life I want to be present for today. I am now free of the bondage of self and free of my own captivity. Life’s possibilities remain endless as they once were when I was a child. Not only do I get to share my experience with my fellow recovering addicts, but I get to show my son the endless possibilities this life can offer. The greatest gift I could have ever been given is this new relationship with myself today. I am a grateful and hopeful woman in sustained recovery.

I Love Someone In Recovery, My Big Brother

My brother Garrett and I grew up in a “nice” family. We were taught about having good morals and values, about the “golden rule” and that family was the most important thing. We looked like the perfect family from the outside, but on the inside we were very dysfunctional. My parents sheltered me, or tried to, from what was going on with my brother – that his heroin and opioid addiction wasn’t affecting our family. I was 16 when our father passed away, and my mother needed me to help her deal with my brother, as if I was supposed to have already known that he was having problems with opioids and heroin but at such a young age I didn’t know how to do that. Plenty of people offered suggestions – such as joining al-anon, but I ignored them and essentially ignored that there was a problem at all.

Freshman year of college, I was only two towns away from home but rarely spoke to my brother except for a few quick phone calls. “Hi, are you alive? You are? Ok, good,” was the extent of our conversations., I had distanced myself from my brother’s health crisis and felt very much alone. After one semester, I left school and moved around the state of Florida for a while but eventually ended up back in South Florida. I moved into an apartment and at some point, still not knowing how bad things had gotten for my brother amid his opioid and heroin addiction, I invited him to come stay with me and that’s when I finally saw how bad things really had become. He was so thin and emaciated, his face was sunken in, he would steal my cash to support his heroin and opioid addiction, stay out for several days and come back when he was hungry or needed to steal some more cash. Our mother kept telling me to cut him off, that I was enabling him but I didn’t listen. I had lost my dad and needed my big brother, but at that time he wasn’t in a place to be that for me and it was selfish of me to expect that of him rather than helping him with his health issues. Eventually my brother left for another try at rehab and I realized that I needed to get my own life back on track. I left town again but this time to do better for myself and get an education.

I never cut off communication with my brother and after several attempts at treatment, he eventually started to get his life on track. When he told me about meeting his now best friend and business partner at treatment and how he had started his own business, I was skeptical but I wanted to be supportive. When I was 23, he asked me if I would help jumpstart his business by driving them up the DC and they would take me to the presidential inauguration and the inaugural ball. I couldn’t even believe how focused and driven he had become. It was surreal to me that I had a big brother that I could look up to again. For the next few years, he became my best friend. He had moved out to California but we would call each other almost every day and have real conversations. Seems like a normal brother-sister relationship, but for us, that wasn’t the normal we were used to. That fact that my brother could fly back to Florida to watch me walk the stage and graduate college, that he even gave a speech at my graduation party that moved everyone to tears, was hard to comprehend. Without a plan after graduation, he suggested that I move out to California as well and invited me to stay with him while I come up with a plan for grad school or anything that I would like to do next. He is such a pleasure to be around, so calm and just an inspiration to so many other young men in recovery.

This week, he celebrated 2 years in recovery from heroin. Recovery is possible and it’s given me my brother back. Garrett’s found his purpose through helping others achieve sobriety and it is such an inspiring experience for me. I can’t wait to see what happens next, he’s going to change the world.

My Judge Sentenced Me To Recovery, Not Jail

My Name is Herb. And I’m a person in long-term recovery from addiction.

The first time I used, it was alcohol and I was right around fifteen years old. I had no idea what was in store for me when I took my first drink. Addiction is a progressive disease, and mine was no different; within a few short years I experienced the bitter ends. I was addicted – not so much to one specific drug at first, but to altering my mood. I didn’t like the way I felt, I avoided discomfort, I used to cope. I used to increase pleasure or decrease pain.

I always felt like an outsider, and drugs and alcohol helped me feel like I finally fit into this world – until they stopped working. Eventually, it was all about decreasing pain, and running from the chaos the drugs were causing in my life. By the time I was twenty-one, I was homeless and on the run from the law – living in the woods. From there, it only got worse. Multiple arrests, overdoses, and deeper and deeper bottoms. I reached a point in my life where suicide became the only option.

Once I got to prison, I laid in a jail cell contemplating how I was going to take my own life. I was going to go out of this life as a statistic. I was willing to let addiction win. Suicide by overdose. But then I was shown grace and mercy.

My judge thought that recovery would be more appropriate, a long-term therapeutic solution to my problem. He sentenced me to a year in a local sober living home, the Respite House in Valparaiso. The judge was right! We cannot incarcerate our way out of this battle with addiction; adequate treatment and long-term after care are the answer.

You see, I’ve been to many different jails throughout the country and the only thing they’ve ever done is introduce me to more connections. They surrounded me with people with no desire to be there or get well. Jails and prisons are just a holding tank for addicts, and they’re flooded with drugs. They’re a crime school. No wonder our recidivism rate is so high in this country. But I digress.

That year in the sober living home was exactly what I needed. It was a great place for me to transition through during early recovery. It introduced me to recovery-minded people with an honest desire to live in recovery. I jumped in with both feet.

Since my sentencing to the house, I’ve graduated successfully; gotten my son back in my life; established healthy, supportive relationships in the community; made amends with my entire family; moved into my own home; published a book; and found a career. I share my story every opportunity I have – on behalf of numerous agencies in our area with hopes of combating the heroin epidemic in my region. I am not ashamed of who I am.

I’m an intervention coordinator and have the distinct honor of helping addicts and their families find recovery. I have a new puppy, amazing friends, integrity, peace of mind, and a brand-new place in this world. All things I wouldn’t have if I were still using or sitting in prison.

The world needs more places to give addicts opportunities to turn things around. I wouldn’t be here – in recovery – if I hadn’t gotten that second chance. I’m truly blessed and humbled beyond belief – we do recover!

I’m An HIV Positive Woman In Long-Term Recovery From Addiction. And Damn Proud Of It.

My name is Erin and I’m a woman in long-term recovery from addiction. My recovery date is February 21, 2010. The day that I started this journey, I had no intention of getting sober. I entered treatment to get everyone off my back and just take a break. I had a string of bad luck and just needed to figure out how to put things back together, not get sober. I now know that God was doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself and my “first step” experience or “surrender” had started a long time before I actually felt it.

You see, God showed up at my house on January 28, 2010. God showed up disguised as the SWAT team. Standing outside my house in handcuffs, two detectives came up and said “we don’t want to embarrass you, but is this you?” They were holding several 8×10 glossy autograph photos of me…Miss Arizona 1996, Erin Ashley Gingrich. There I was in my crown and evening gown. “What happened to you,” they asked. My only fitting response – ”drugs”. What was once a driven, poised young woman with meaning and purpose, was now a shell of a human that sold herself to stay well, and as far away from that once beautiful girl as possible. Left with no way out of the mess I had become, I went to treatment.

In my third week of treatment, I got the news that would shift my plans forever. I had some blood work done and found out that I was HIV positive as a direct result of my addiction and for the first time in thirteen years, I no longer wanted to die. I wanted to live and I would do whatever necessary to see that happen.

Shortly thereafter, I was charged with aggravated identity theft carried a presumptive of 7-12 years in prison. I started showing up for court knowing that my future was at the mercy of the judge. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and 9 months later, I got a plea. I was absolved of the identity theft charges. I served 30 days in county jail with 2 years probation. I self-surrendered to jail December of 2010 and spent my first Christmas and New Year’s sober in jail. It was my first sober holiday in 13 years.

Just after my one year recovery birthday, I found out I was co-infected with Hepatitis C. Just another bit of proof that if I ever went back to the life I was living, I was on a path to death. As a result, I have become an advocate for HIV and Hepatitis. I’ve had the opportunity to share my story in various media outlets and work through the shame and stigma that is associated with those health conditions.

So much life has happened. The last 5 years of my recovery journey have been the biggest lesson for me. I’ve learned that anything I put in front of my recovery can and will be taken away. I’ve learned that that power, which I call both God and Love, will use whatever means necessary to draw me back to a reliance upon it.

I fell fast in love in November 2012 and was engaged and pregnant in February 2013.  We went through our first miscarriage in April. That was the closest I had been to relapse but somehow we pulled through and started planning our wedding. We planned the wedding for October that year because I knew my father would stop fighting to live after my parent’s 50th anniversary which was in December of that year.

My father entered hospice on October 10th. My husband and I exchanged vows at his bedside October 11. I got the opportunity to make a full and proper amends to him, my husband celebrated 1 year of sobriety on October 15 at the Hospice center, and my father passed away on October 16 and I got to be with my family, in his room, when he took his last breath. My husband and I were married on October 20. I was faced with the decision to leave my job when I returned to work the following week.

God continued to hang out on the back burner for the next 8 months. During that time, I looked for everything else to fill that void. I was pregnant again the following January, had another miscarriage a couple months later and during this time, my husband started to relapse. There was lots of harm caused. I found myself back at that place of powerlessness and hopelessness that I experienced when I first got sober. I had to regain that connection. I found myself finally asking for help. 

I did the work. I was finally okay with myself, even if I didn’t ever get to become a mom, my husband and I finally got God back into the middle of our relationship and found a stronger love than ever before. And next thing I knew…I was pregnant. We welcomed Rowyn into our family January 8, 2016.  She is nothing short of a miracle.

I’m a 41 year-old HIV positive, Hep-C positive, recovering addict mother who has recreated her life. Because I’ve been sober the last 7 years, I can say I’m all of those things with pride. That is pretty freaking cool if you ask me. I had no idea that my life would look like this but I’ll be damned if I would want it any other way. I absolutely love my life today. All the pain, all the fear, all of it…absolutely beautiful…and part of God’s awesome plan for my life.

Ryan Riggs is working to end the prison-for-profit movement and open recovery

End The Prison-For-Profit Movement & Offer Recovery Solutions Now

My name is Ryan Riggs and I am a person in long-term recovery from addiction. What that means to me, is that I have not found it necessary to use any mood or mind-altering substances since April 20, 2015. This journey has been the most amazing experience that I have ever had, and it only continues to get better. My story, in large part, involves the criminal justice system.  As result of my addiction and lack of resources, I fell into a vicious cycle of drug use, incarceration, and dereliction. Nine overdoses and fifteen or more jail sentences later, I found a way out. Jail and prison are not the solution to addiction. My life today is beyond my wildest dreams, but let me tell you a little bit about the journey.

I was raised in a lower-middle class family in Richmond, VA. I began using drugs around the age of 14 and it quickly progressed. I went from marijuana and alcohol, to pills and crack, then to heroin – in 2.5 five seconds. My drug use began to have consequences early, and those consequences never stopped me. Incarcerated at 14 years old for drug possession, I quickly dispelled my fear of “doing time.” I quickly learned how to adapt to the institutional environment, thus relieving incarceration as a deterrent for me.

The following years were marked by numerous juvenile detention home visits which turned into jail stays as the years progressed. Jail is not a place that someone should learn life lessons in becoming a man. The rules that are adhered to, and the principles one lives by, in jail are more tools of survival than tools for living a productive life. I learned that weakness was not tolerated. Any form of weakness that was perceived would be exploited. I began to develop a sub-personality that was more of a mask than anything else. The problem came when I began to identify with that mask and started to believe that’s who I truly was. The morals and values of prison life are not applicable to life on the outside. I was not only locked up physically, but locked up mentally as well.

Jail programs for addiction were virtually non-existent throughout the majority of my incarceration. When programs did become available, I took advantage of the opportunity. In 2008, I was introduced to recovery in a program inside the Richmond City Jail. It was here that my journey in recovery began. I would like to say that I stayed clean after that and that I lived happily ever after, but that’s not the case. I gained a ton of information but still had no idea how to apply it. I was released. And when the door shut behind me, I was on my own. I proceeded to do what I always did, and ended up with the results that I always got.

The turning point for me was when I was released for the last time and got involved with a Recovery Residence by the name of Libbie Avenue Recovery. From there I began to live in a community that had experience living life on the outside of institutions, free from drugs. I began to do some volunteer work for the McShin Foundation, a recovery community organization (RCO) in the area. I wanted to help people who were incarcerated find a path to freedom, just as I had. I was offered a job working with inmates, at the Richmond City Jail, where I was once housed. In this arena, I learned how to use my experience as a teaching tool to help those who suffer from the same problems I did, addiction and criminal thinking. I then became the program coordinator for a new program in the Chesterfield County jail called HARP (Heroin Addiction Recovery Program), a multi-faceted approach at tackling substance use disorder, with a heavy focus on peer-to-peer recovery.

Chesterfield Jail's HARP Program

Chesterfield Jail’s Heroin Addiction Recovery Program (HARP)

My life would be drastically different if I had never found the recovery community.  It has been the foundation of my new life. This community taught me how to live life as a productive member of society, free from the bondage of addiction. No jail time or consequence ever kept me from using drugs. The term “it takes a village” is the best way I can describe this.  It took the recovery community and a lot of hard work to raise me into the man I am today.

I’m coming up on 2 years clean.  I’m married to the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.  My children look up to me and think I’m the strongest man in the world. I recently regained full custody of my daughters. I work or volunteer in three different jails in the Richmond metro area, doing something that I love to do – helping others. I’m a loyal friend, faithful servant, caring son, and a faithful and loving husband and father.  I’m going to college in pursuit of a degree in social sciences. These accomplishments are not mine. They are OURS. And they belong to the recovery community! Had it not been for the love, support, and guidance of those who travel this journey with me, I would undoubtedly be dead or in jail.

Addiction touches almost every family at some level. The people serving time in jail and prison because of their addiction are someone’s mother, father, son, or daughter.  They all deserve the same opportunity I had. We need to stop building more prisons, and build more bridges to recovery. Stop the prison-for-profit movement that has crippled our country and start providing real solutions to this problem. These private businesses are getting rich while our communities are suffering. Prison profits soar, while social capital declines. There is much more that needs to be done and it all starts with talking about it. The more we talk about it and the more people we get involved, the more minds we’ll have to create better solutions. As long as stigma is attached to addiction, there will continue to be an “us” and “them” mentality. The American people are strong, innovative, and courageous. Combine that with an unparalleled spirit of unity and patriotism – that creates the greatest of hopes, hope that this country will one day refuse to sacrifice life for livelihood, that it will refuse to accept the success of few on the backs of many, and hope that one day there will be no “us” and “them”, but only US.

There Is Always Hope. I’m Living Proof.

It was my second day back in a rehab home that I was in just 4 months earlier. I couldn’t take my eyes off the clock as my mind raced at 100 miles per hour. Each minute felt like an hour and I wondered how I got myself into this situation again. With pretty much all hope lost I wondered if I even had enough strength to take another shot at recovery. Rehabs were becoming a very common occurrence in my life and I was completely sick of the same cycle, over-and-over again. In the previous fifteen months of my life, ten of them were spent in 3 different rehabs. This wasn’t the way my life was supposed to go. This wasn’t part of the plan.

I’ve come to learn today that many things don’t go according to plan and everything happens for a reason. I believe that to my inner core. I was usually able to put together a few months of recovery upon leaving the rehab – but at some point, each time, I would give-in.

At this point in my life, the jig had been up for a while and the fun and games were long over. If I’m being rigorously honest, the fun stopped when I was around 19. I was 23. Oxycodone was my drug of choice which inevitably lead me to heroin. I firmly believe that a drug is a drug though – and they are all different branches off the same tree which is the disease of addiction. Alcohol took me to marijuana, which lead me to Xanax, and eventually ended up progressing to opioids.

That’s just the way my journey took me. Everyone has a different journey but the pain we all go through and the feelings we have are virtually all the same. The end game is also the same which is inevitably death. Unless we find recovery. The drugs that I thought were helping me at one point had now completely robbed me of almost everything. There was no debating that anymore. Even with knowing all of that, I kept going back to the same poison that was literally killing me. I couldn’t stop. I wasn’t a bad person, but there was no debating that I was a mentally sick person. I came to find out I was very spiritually broken as well. I was mentally, physically, and spiritually broken. I needed help.

My run up to my past (and God willing last) rehab was a short one but it brought me to my emotional bottom, which ironically was necessary to get me to the point I’m at today while typing this.  All the guilt and shame of doing well for a time – and then throwing it all away again brought on a lot of pain. That same pain is the driving force in my recovery program I work today. I decided I was going to give my all to recovery this time I around. I put a lot of effort into my past attempts at recovery but I would be lying if I said I gave it my all. I was going to do more than talk the talk this time. I realized that if I gave anything less than my all I would suffer the same fate that three of my friends suffered this past year. Death.

I spent about eight months at the recovery home with the last four being a transition phase. I slowly got accustomed to being back in the real world which was so essential for me. I started to work a full-time job and began to go home on the weekends. My days in recovery started adding up and my peace of mind drastically increased. My mind is where my problem and obsession exist. Throughout my life, I’ve always just wanted peace from within. I thought drugs were a solution to try and escape that. A temporary solution to a much bigger problem – and it was a very temporary solution. There’s no peace of mind in living to get my next high and having all my thoughts obsessively revolve around it. There’s no peace of mind in building up lie after lie in-order-to get my next fix.

My new life in recovery began on November 21, 2015 and is still going strong one day at a time. The best gifts I have received from recovery are not the material kind: I have a much better relationship with my family; I am a lot better at being comfortable in my own skin; and I have a much better peace of mind. The friends and authentic human connections I have made along this journey are unbelievable. There is something so special about being on the same path as someone and having the same goal, while also knowing (and sharing) their struggle. I look at this as a gift and feel extremely blessed.

Not everyone gets the opportunity to live in recovery and many people continue to lose their lives to this disease. From someone who could not maintain time in recovery and failed over-and-over again, to now someone with 15 months in recovery, there is always hope.

Recovery Gave Me Purpose & Saved My Life

In 2007, my world came to a screeching halt. I was 16 years deep into a decorated law enforcement career when alcohol dealt me a significant blow. Not only was I a SWAT team member at the time – but also a SWAT Instructor – as well as a basic recruit instructor. Over the course of those last 16 years, I experienced much success but now my career was on the line as result of a DUI crash. At that time, I didn’t know what recovery was. Or that it was even possible for a guy like me.

Up to this point in my life I had already burned through 2 marriages and was working on a third. My kids were coming around less and less, and if I wasn’t on-duty I was more-or-less drunk, all the time.  After a leave absence to get my legal issues ironed out, and a trip to my second spin-dry treatment center, the department brought me back and imposed only one stipulation: I had to find a recovery program and stay sober for 5 years.

I didn’t know how to stay sober. Nor did I want to. But I tried. The issue I discovered, however, was that when I stopped drinking I became unbearable to live with. Meaning, I couldn’t stand how I felt. I was extremely irritable and had an almost impossible time carrying out tasks as simple as going grocery shopping. At times, even my skin hurt. I tried going to some meetings, suggested by my boss, but they weren’t for me. I wasn’t that bad. At the time, I even remember telling myself “if the people at those meetings felt as horrible on the inside as I did, they would want to drink too.” And so, I got loaded again. By March of 2009, I was unemployed. My life spiraled out of control, and I soon found myself heavily involved in the use of pills and methamphetamine. This led to more treatment centers, hospitals, the county jail, and eventually homelessness. I compromised everything I ever believed in. I sunk to a low that was unbearable to face, so I stayed drunk or high for the next 4 years. I couldn’t stop for the life of me.

December 10, 2014 – a moment of clarity hit me. I was on the backside of an 8-day run, completely out of my mind and no one left in my life. I basically came-to, realizing for the first-time ever, the magnitude of my situation. My insides were screaming. I could no longer get high enough (or drunk enough) to stop the emptiness.  Once again, I pondered suicide. Thankfully, during a brief unexplained moment of peace, I convinced myself that maybe I could get sober and stay sober.

On that day (12/10/14), I made a decision that I’d no longer be a slave to addiction.  As painful as it was in the beginning, I threw myself into the world of recovery. I did what was suggested by those who were living lives that I had never dreamed possible. I met men brimming with love for their fellows, who were down in the trenches, caring for our brothers and sisters that remained trapped in addiction. It had been a long, long time since I had concerned myself with needs of others. The thought initially frightened me, but I was willing to do whatever it took to stay sober.

My life today is nothing like the old. I am free from the obsession to drink or use, and have been some time. I no longer suffer from anxiety, depression, or fear. I have successfully entered back into the work force, and am a valued employee. I have reconnected with family and have friends that care about me and I about them. I am engaged to an amazing woman who journeys upon a common spiritual path. But the craziest thing I have today? I have purpose. 

My purpose today is to reach out and help – in any way I can – those still suffering. I do that by hanging out on skid-row, visiting detox centers, helping men get jobs or housing, and showing others how I got sober.  When I do these few things, I experience peace, joy and a renewed self-esteem. I never thought in a million years that living a purposeful life in recovery would be possible. Now I know, there is no other way to live.

Recovery Gave Me My Son, Family Back

Becoming a mother was one of the greatest joys I had ever experienced. Kyle was a vibrant, exuberant child with a larger-than-life personality from the day he was born. Our family was truly blessed. He was always the center of attention and became friends instantly with anyone he met. He had this thirst for life, until he was about 12 years old. That’s when things started to change and fracture our family unit until Kyle entered recovery in 2013.

Kyle was always precocious and outgoing, it was his defining character trait. So when he started to isolate in middle school, I became extremely concerned. He began asking why he was “different” and why he didn’t fit in. As a parent, all I wanted to do was provide the best possible life for my child, so I looked into different therapists and psychologists to help him through this period. I thought, “he’ll grow out of it – he’s so personable and has such a bright future.”

Kyle and his parents

Little did I know that would be the beginning of a decade-long battle against addiction. Kyle began showing signs of depression and anxiety. He asked to see doctors, who put him on prescriptions. Kyle began abusing those medications, and soon graduated from pills to heroin. His father and I would have never guessed our child was shooting up heroin at just 15 years old.

The next eight years would be filled with ups and downs. Kyle’s father and I were in complete denial of his addiction – we thought he would rebound every time he said “I’m done.” We sent him to multiple psychologists, therapists, treatment centers, and facilities. We were able to find centers in-network but we traded quality of care for cost. Finding a treatment center that treated all three aspects of addiction seemed nearly impossible. We saw him deteriorate in front of our eyes, attempt getting sober, then fall off again and again. Kyle would hide from the world feeling overwhelming shame and guilt, but continue using. He was a slave to the drugs.

In 2013, something finally happened. After a string of failed career moves, arrests, overdoses, and increasing medical problems, Kyle finally told us he couldn’t keep doing this. We sought out a treatment center that worked on mind, body, and spirit. As parents, all Kyle’s father and I wanted for him was to be happy and productive. We listened to addiction professionals who had overcome the same debilitating disease of addiction.

Our family experienced, what I like to call, “a collective enlightenment” as a result of Kyle’s recovery. Through intensive work, Kyle finally became open and honest enough to share with our family that he was gay. He had sat in fear for so many years, thinking we would turn our backs on him. He began coming out of his shell again and engaging in life for the first time in years. I saw the vibrant, social Kyle again. Our entire family started addressing issues we had glazed over for years. We became a true family unit.

Recovery has completely changed our lives. As a family, we’ve begun to have direct and open communication with one another. Kyle and his brother are best friends again. Kyle’s father and I have never had a better marriage. Kyle’s able to show up for us and participate in his own life again. But what’s most miraculous is how those dark days are now the foundation of the strong family bond we’ve built.

Almost four years later, our lives are completely different. It was through practicing honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness, that Kyle found himself. He’s since identified that “different” feeling he experienced was due to his addiction and fear of coming out of the closet. Today, he’s a proud gay man and is a respected member of his community. He’s engaged to a wonderful man and living the life he’s always wanted. There is no greater gift than watching your child live life to the fullest, and that’s exactly what’s happened since Kyle got sober.

Kyle's family today, at almost 4 years living in recovery.

Kyle’s family today, at almost 4 years living in recovery.

There’s no “right” way to prepare for a loved one’s addiction. This disease blindsides you, it hits you when you least expect it. Our family was able to overcome this disease by listening to our child, providing support any way we could, being cautious not to enable his addiction, and helping to find a recovery solution when Kyle became ready. My hope is that every parent who struggles with their child’s addiction is able to find the freedom we have, and to let them know that it gets better.

My name is Kylie. And I’m a woman in sustained recovery.

The mind is a powerful thing and recovery is possible.

I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve been told that I can do anything that I put my mind to. It’s crazy to think that the one thing that could help me obtain anything is also the same thing that has kept me from living my life to its fullest.

In my case, my mind eventually became dangerous. For 10 plus years, it told me that I couldn’t function without meth or alcohol. What’s scary is it didn’t start that way. At first, meth was the solution to what I thought was my biggest problem in life. How awesome it was to find this substance that could help me lose weight faster than any workout or diet plan and allow me to eat anything I wanted. It also gave me this extra boost of confidence; I could talk to anyone and was more outgoing than ever before. I had what felt like endless energy.

Over time, the only thing that stayed constant with my meth use was that I stayed thin, everything else in my life fell apart. However, at the time I didn’t see it as a problem because at least I was skinny. As the years went on, my meth use increased and that’s when it truly started to take over my world. My tolerance went up – and I was beginning to need meth just to get out of bed. Instead of doing things to better my life, my days consisted of finding ways to get high. I drifted away from everyone I knew that didn’t use. I was kicked out of my home and started wandering the streets all night and sleeping on people’s couches, staying in random hotel rooms smoking my life away. There were times I thought about quitting, but the fear of putting on weight was enough to put that thought to an end quick. I was hopeless and I just couldn’t stop. I wanted recovery but I was too ashamed to ask for help.

My anxiety levels were unbearable, and I started to constantly have that feeling of wanting to crawl out of my own skin. Instead of stopping, I found that when I consumed alcohol it brought me back to what I felt was normal. I just needed another mind-altering substance to get me there. I came up with a system that helped me get through the days – using meth when I woke up, all throughout the day. And when I got too high, I would just take a few shots of alcohol and be good to go. This became my life and this is how my mind became my own personal prison. I wanted a way out!

I wanted to be free from my addiction but my mind told me there was no way in hell that could ever happen. I was stuck. And the years kept flying by. Any solution I came up with was shot down because my mind told me I couldn’t function without meth or alcohol, that I wasn’t worthy of recovery. My mind told me that I would gain weight if I stopped using meth.

Luckily for me, I reached a rock bottom and saw the destruction addiction was causing in my life. I finally asked for the one thing I had never asked for – help. I wanted more for my life; I didn’t want to be controlled any longer. That mindset and the willingness to stop was just the push I needed to turn my life around. And I’ll be forever grateful that help was accessible when I needed it the most. It saved my life.

Once I detoxed and rid my body of the poison I had been contaminating it with for years, my mind had a chance to breath and process life without any mind-altering substances. I am here to tell you I have not needed a mind-altering substance for 327 days, just shy of 1 year. I’m finally free, living a life as a woman in sustained recovery from addiction. As corny as it sounds, I truly believe that I have the world at my fingertips. I feel amazing, a genuine kind of amazing. It’s pure, and not in any way the same as I felt when I was drunk or high. I not only feel better – but I also look better than I ever have because today I make the effort to live my life in a healthy way. It’s more rewarding and I’m proud of myself. So, as I was saying the mind is a powerful thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told in my life that I can do anything that I put my mind to. It just requires action, perseverance, and facing your fears! Recovery is a beautiful journey and I remind myself of that every day.