Overcoming All Odds, How I learned to cope with mental illness and addiction in healthy ways, and stay sober. (Part 1: My Story)

*In this post I will tell you my story so you can get a better understanding of what I had to overcome to get where I am today. If you are reading this and you have mental illness or addiction issues I hope that you can relate or that this story will help you realize you are not alone, and there is a solution. 
Anonymous, 26 year old female
My life has been a series of unfortunate events. When I was younger I was diagnosed with a learning disability called ADD that affected my schoolwork greatly.  I was heavily medicated with Ritalin when I was 7 to  13 years old. The medication made me emotional  at night when I was coming down and zombie like during the day when the meds kicked in. I played volleyball as an outlet for stress and became a very good player. I loved playing volleyball and it became my whole life. I made the high school team as a starter and played the first 2 years of high school. Sophomore year I couldn’t make the grades to be able to play on the team so I was kicked off. I suddenly did not have an identity. I was not good at school and I couldn’t play sports, so I decided to start smoking weed and partying with the cool kids. I was experimenting heavily with ecstasy and ketamine, psychedelics and alcohol. I was going to raves and staying out all night. My parents were unable to control me, or understand what I was going through. I was angry and confused and 16 years old. That year one of my best friends died after consuming too much alcohol at a party. It was the first time I had experienced a death of a friend, and we were so young that it really rocked our group of friends to the core. After that I got arrested at 17 for possession of ecstasy pills on school campus. I got put on probation, and cleaned up my act. After high school I got accepted and attended FIDM, and really excelled in my studies. During my last semester of the first year of college my dad filed for divorce from my mom, after 25 years of marriage. I was devastated, and it was something I didn’t see coming. Shortly after that in the same year my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was so emotional and I didn’t know how to handle my mom being sick, it was too painful to see her without her hair and so frail. I was around sometimes but not as much as I should have been, my sister picked up the responsibility since my dad kept pushing for the divorce disputed the fact she was sick, and me not being able to emotionally handle the situation. My mom made it through and is cancer free still to this day. My dad got remarried and my mom has a boyfriend. That was a tough period of my life and I made it though somehow. I was 19 years old and had no direction, so I was partying and hanging out with my friends everyday. Taking Xanax, smoking weed, working at a weed clinic and making a lot of money doing that. I met a guy named Chris, when I was 20. He had a secret drug problem I didn’t find out about until we were deep into our relationship. We would take Xanax, Norcos and other pills but nothing too serious. After a while of that we would get high and start fighting, and things were spiraling out of control.

I didn’t think I had a real problem for a long time until I started using Heroin and Methamphetamines. I was addicted  to them for 6 long years, and my addiction started when I was about 21 years old. Thinking back I remember a pivotal moment in my life where I could have overcame my sadness and disappointment in a healthy way by picking up a new hobby, or throwing myself into exercise, but I chose the dark way to deal with pain… And once again, that was experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

I had just gone through a terrible breakup with Chris, who I was living with. He had been cheating on me so he left me for her and moved in with her immediately leaving me in the apartment we had shared for 2 years, alone and broken hearted. The friends that we shared together were mostly his friends before I came along so naturally they distanced themselves from me, making me feel even more alone. I threw a party at the apartment for the last day I was on the lease so a bunch of my old friends came and it ended up being a lot of fun. That was the day I met Austin, who would soon become the love of my life. Austin and I ended up dating for about 3 years and in that time I decided to try OxyContin.

Austin and I would get some pills and take them and feel so happy and content with everything, nothing would bother us and we were happy. We would use the pills and then days would go by before we would do them again, but one day I remember we had done the pills for about a week straight, that day I hadn’t done any and started feeling intense back pain and stomach cramping. I told Austin and he said that it was probably withdrawals and we needed to get more pills to feel better. In that moment I felt my heart sink into the bottom of my stomach as I wondered what I had done to myself. We ended up starting a 6 year addiction to opiates and meth that neither of us knew would end the way that it did. We moved on to heroin within a month of us trying OxyContin, because the pills were getting harder to find and heroin was much cheaper and more potent. We were smoking the heroin off of foil, and Austin and I were coming up with money just to get by everyday. Soon enough we were having to steal things from stores to trade to our dealers, and when that became too risky we decided to get a couple hundred dollars together and pick up a good amount of heroin we could sell. We became heroin dealers and that’s when the arguing and the abuse started. Austin had started using needles about 2 years into our relationship and I stuck with smoking off of foil because I thought I didn’t have a problem and as soon as I started shooting up, that’s when I would have to admit that I was a heroin addict. When he would shoot up he would verbally abuse me, to the point where he would fight with me about anything and everything that I would do, poking at me for hours until I would just give in and let him say whatever he wanted to me. He would call me names and accuse me of cheating on him when it was impossible because I was with him 24/7 and very loyal to him. This went on for a while, we were selling drugs so we always had enough to use and we’d make our money back and pick up again, it wasn’t a lavish lifestyle by any means, but we got by and for junkie standards we were doing well.

One day Austin had violated probation for the 4th time and they wanted to put him away for 8 months, he had been going in and out of jail and on probation on and off for 9 years and they were finally over his shit. He told me he couldn’t handle going back to jail again and he was going to move to New York and live with his sister, get a job and get sober. He planned to save money so I could follow him out there in a couple months and we could leave our problems and our addictions behind us. I reluctantly agreed, but deep down I knew I didn’t want to be alone selling heroin. I had never been on my own in the drug game before, and I was truly scared. The day he left I drove him to the airport and hugged and kissed him goodbye. That was the last time I would ever see him again because  2 months after he moved to New York he went out on Cinco de Mayo and he mixed alcohol with heroin after being sober for over a month and overdosed in an abandoned building that was on the walk home from the bar. I had never felt heartbreak that deeply before. I absolutely lost my mind when he died, I became completely numb inside and completely dedicated to the junkie lifestyle. He was the love of my life and I was completely devastated when I found out that he had overdosed. I decided that I was not lying to myself anymore telling myself I could stop anytime I wanted to. I gave in to the fact that I was a heroin addict and a dealer and decided that if I was going to be bad I was going to be the best at being bad. So I started to climb the junkie social ladder, which would actually look like a ladder going straight down to the depths of hell.

Over the next 6 months I lost my apartment, dropped out of school, started shooting up and using meth, crashed my car, and started living in motels. I had no real friends and that was fine with me, I didn’t need anyone around me trying to steal from me or pretending to be my friend to get free drugs from me. I was all about my drugs and my money. While I was on the streets I was hanging around gang members, bums, prostitutes, and low life’s of all kinds. I started selling more and more, and was in a different motel every night. The lifestyle was tiring, and stressful. I was always paranoid and distrustful of people and situations, I had to be because I was a girl in this game alone so I had to pay men to protect me. One night I got a call from someone I had sold to for a while, and he asked for a huge amount of heroin, I was reluctant because I was tired but took the order. I drove to meet him at this circle K, parked out front and started to call him to tell him I was here and ask him where he was. He didn’t answer, but 5 undercover police officers pulled up behind me and arrested me on the spot. I had later found out that he had set me up to get his record wiped. I went to jail and bailed out, and continued my ways for another year. Except now I wasn’t selling anymore, because the police were probably watching me to some extent and I was waiting for court to come and sentence me, I was looking at 5 years in county and that scared the shit out of me. I was living on the streets like a bum. None of my family wanted me around, I had no friends and the streets had become my only option. Stealing food from the grocery store to eat everyday,  Committing fraud and various other crimes to make some money and every dollar I made I spent it on heroin and meth. I would stay up for a week sometimes, and hallucinate from lack of sleep, I was talking to myself, and wouldn’t shower for weeks at a time. I was a straight up homeless bum you see on the side of the road pushing a shopping cart. My whole life fit in my backpack, and I was completely losing my mind every day I was on the streets.

(*not me pictured)

I stayed homeless for a year. The things I saw and the things I did for money were insane and would disturb most normies. I’ve been in scary situations, seen dead people, been stabbed, been punched in the face and robbed by a grown man, I’ve been left on the side of the road, shot up in abandoned houses, robbed people, and slept behind dumpsters. I was a completely lost cause, I hadn’t seen my family in months and I didn’t care if I lived or died.

The day I gave up and decided to get off the streets and clean up my life, was the best day of my life. I woke up on the side of a 711 sitting in a puddle of water and soaking wet because it had rained through the night and I was so tired I didn’t wake up. I was shivering uncontrollably and realized that someone had stolen my shoes off my feet while I slept too. I got up and only had socks on and dripping wet, no dope, no money, so tired and cold and realized that I didn’t have the energy to keep doing this. I didn’t want to die on the streets alone. I didn’t want to end up like this, I was better than this. I decided to call a sober advocate who’s phone number was given to me by someone at a Starbucks who saw me and wanted to help. I used a Payphone to call, and he picked me up and drove me to a detox a couple cities away.

I detoxed for 10 days and it was the easiest withdrawal I had ever gone through because I was so exhausted and indoors in a bed for the first time in months that I was just in heaven, no matter how sick I felt or how much my body hurt, the streets were worse, and I could only be grateful. They moved me into the rehab portion of their program and it was an all women’s program. I was diagnosed by their psychologist with Bi-polar depression, and things started making sense. I started to realize that I was sick and was self medicating. No wonder I had made such impulsive and insane decisions like selling heroin, or living in motels, even living like a homeless bum for a year… I did those things, and I don’t know many people who would have lasted as long as I did. I started to forgive myself and feel better everyday. I started throwing myself into the program and became the self I knew before the drugs. I was laughing and silly, I was taking medication for my bipolar, and they were working. I had never been so happy and so secure with myself in my life, and getting diagnosed and working those problems out were the first steps to true happiness I had ever taken. I met some of the best friends I have ever had, and still have to this day in that program. I stayed there for 90 days, and once the 90 days was up I didn’t want to leave. I ended up at a sober living and stayed there for 9 months. I was healthy for the first time in 6 years. I was able to feel emotions, good and bad and deal with them properly. I got into the program of AA and started to get to know some friendly people who would listen to me and be there for me through the tough times. The meetings helped me find a sense of belonging, and I liked feeling accepted and a part of a support group. I now have true friends who love me for who I am and are there for me through tough shit.

I learned so much about myself and my addiction when I was in rehab and I would like to share those important lessons I learned on how to overcome addiction and mental illness one day at a time. Giving back is one way I stay sober, to help the addict who still suffers keeps me grateful. Hopefully my story has inspired you, maybe you even relate to some of it, and if that’s the case then I encourage you to read my next post.

*In my next post I will go in depth, and explain the things I changed and the steps I took to become the person I am today. 


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