I Didn’t Think I’d Live To See 30. At 35, I Have 8 Years In Recovery.
When I was drinking and using in my twenties, I said I’d die at 27, like Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain. Unlike them, I had no musical or artistic legacy to leave behind. Just a nasty series of addictions that put me adrift in a sea of my own wreckage.
If drinking wouldn’t work for me, I thought, certainly anxiety pills would. If anxiety pills wouldn’t, I thought, then maybe pain pills would. Just give me something, I thought. But each thing I consumed, instead of making me feel okay, made me a monster. One I never remembered becoming. I’d be bruised and hungover, coming down and miserable, and wondering how I got here. Again.
I didn’t want to be an alcoholic, or an addict. No one does, despite romanticizing a rock and roll lifestyle. Addiction isn’t glamorous. It isn’t rock and roll. Any heroin or pain pill addict can tell you nothing is more mundane than being chained to a maintenance habit, going into withdrawal without a regular fix. No one talks about the runs from coke cut with baby laxative, or the come down as you sit alone in a room peering out your front window as the sun rises, hearing your heartbeat in your chest.
Today I’ve left all that behind, those disappearing nights and memories. Recovery for me is a freedom I never imagined. I never believed, when I was using, I could be okay without drugs or alcohol. I never went far from a purse with a pill in a secret pocket or to a party without a personal bottle in tow. Today, I exist freely without the weight of drugs and alcohol in my body and my mind.
I spent much of my early twenties in and out of detox facilities, rehabs, and mental health programs. I wasn’t considering becoming a functional member of society. I was just trying to not kill myself when I was left alone for too many hours.
Today, I have 8 years in recovery. I have a job, a marker of functionality in our society. I finished my college degree in recovery. Followed my dream of writing more. This big stuff happened slowly, it isn’t where my recovery began. When I first got sober I had to learn to live again. I didn’t know how to talk to people without drugs or alcohol. How to look them in the eye. I couldn’t remember how to put on makeup, or what I liked to wear. I had to discover who I was, when I wasn’t constantly itching for a fix. I made friends, also in early recovery like me. Some of them, 8 years later, are still my best friends today.
Today, my recovery also looks a lot less anonymous, and a lot more like speaking up and out. I’ve worked the 12 steps and owe my life to Alcoholics Anonymous, but I’m concerned that anonymity is holding us back. I took buprenorphine to detox off of opiates, when I couldn’t do it cold turkey, after trying and trying and failing, and I’m ever thankful to that medication for helping me get through that withdrawal.
If you described me today to the girl who thought she wouldn’t live past 27, who spent her 21st birthday in rehab, who grew up identifying as a partier above all else, she wouldn’t believe she could grow up to be the woman she is now. If you think there’s nothing for you on the other side of addiction, I’ve been there. And I’m here to tell you, there is a life for me here. And there can be one for you too.