“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

I’ve struggled writing a post like this for around five years now . . . four years, two months and 24 days exactly.

That was the day I went into detox for a week . . . to begin withdrawing from opiates.

Not just some Tylenol #3, but full-blown Dilaudid.

Medical heroin, in other words. A form of pain medication that is legal, and 10x the potency of morphine.

I had gotten to the point where I was taking enough to likely kill someone, and I continued it not out of “fun” or out of pleasure—but because it was the only way I was able to physically function because I was so dependent on it.

This is my story.

The summer of 2014, I had gone to Mexico and somehow gotten a thorn lodged in my toe, which I didn’t realize was in there until October of that year. I ended up getting osteomyelitis, accompanied with a PICC line for seven weeks so I could get high doses of antibiotics to fight the infection. During that time, I began having grand mal seizures.

I know, living the dream, right?

We will get back to all of that in a second; a little backstory first.

I was 24 at the time, and was charge nurse over the pre-op department at our local hospital. Surgery was always where I wanted to end up working, and I was very lucky to be there right when I got out of school.

Being charge nurse requires working some long hours. I was usually there at 5:30, sometimes earlier if we had a lot of cases that day. I would try to leave around 2-3ish, and if I was on call I would possibly have to go back later that evening and then start the next day all over again. And to all the other nurses reading this—don’t mention the lack of pee breaks, guaranteed lunch and not being able to drink some dang water every once in awhile!

Every morning, I would gather report sheets to call on inpatients needing surgery for the day, coordinate who goes where, what patients needed to be seen first . . . then there were doctors asking where their patient was and why aren’t they ready yet.

It was high-paced and challenging, yet rewarding in every way.

It was also very demanding to me, and I never wanted to admit that it was.

As a disclaimer-anyone who already knows me is aware that I’m very OCD and I hate asking for help.

Spoiler: I never asked for help.
That’s where it all begins, isn’t it?

Not being able to say we need help when we are struggling? When we need help the most but are too proud to admit it?

After my toe infection, I was prescribed some pain meds. I’ve had surgeries before, pain meds before; this time in my life was much different than before, though.

I wasn’t taking care of myself.

I had no idea what the term “self-care” was, or what it meant to take a “personal health day” when I needed it.

I started taking those pain pills to help with the pain in my foot, and then I realized that they not only took away my physical pain, but they took away my emotional pain as well. They numbed me in ways that I could not achieve on my own, and they made me forget about how stressed and tired I was.

It got worse.

I started using stronger and stronger doses until I couldn’t NOT use them.

I did a lot of things I’m not proud of just to keep functioning in my addiction. I lost trust with people I was close to, and in turn, gained a lot of guilt and shame.

I kept underestimating the amount of control the drugs had on me, thinking I could stop whenever I wanted. “I wasn’t an addict, I didn’t fit the criteria.”

On April 17th, 2015- I had my 3rd grand mal seizure, and this time it was at work.

After going home from the ER, a dear, DEAR friend came to my home.

She asked me, “Do you want help?”

I did, desperately. I just had no idea what was going to be involved to obtain the help I truly needed. As well as not wanting to admit that I needed help.

Later that day, she drove me down to an inpatient psychiatric facility and helped check me into detox.

After a week in detox, I was sent home.

“Free” of my afflictions, or so I thought. 

I thought I was “cured” and that this was just a short hiccup in my years of life.

Addiction, once again, put me in my place.

I relapsed a whole two days out of detox, on my brother’s 29th birthday. At that time, I was so consumed in my addiction that I forgot to tell my brother happy birthday.

For the first time in 29 years, I forgot to tell my OWN brother happy birthday. I will never forget getting the text from him reminding me of that as well . . . never.

People assume addiction is for the lower class, the people who couldn’t make it through high school, or the homeless who just can’t afford any shelter because their addiction to meth and heroin has taken all of their money.

Addiction has no stigma, no boundaries. It doesn’t look at your tax return and determine if you are eligible for a drug addiction this year, or if you paid enough in your charitable work that you could be exempt from it.

It doesn’t grant you a pass to get out of jail free when you rolled your dice wrong. It takes you for all you’re worth and puts big motels up on every piece of property it owns.

When I relapsed, my loved ones (out of pure concern) tried to make me go to a 30-day rehab that same day.

The thing that no one told them, or me for that matter, is that you can’t help someone unless THEY want to help themselves. It’s a hard concept to grasp, especially for the people who love a person going through addiction.

So I literally kicked, screamed, and said a lot of not nice things to them when they were purely trying to help me. I regret all of that to this day, but I don’t regret saying no to treatment when I wasn’t mentally ready.

On May 1st, I admitted myself into a 30-day rehab in Hunt, TX.

I came home from rehab with something a lot of people will never experience: peace.

Peace about life, peace about my purpose.

It’s taken me a long time to finally realize this though, and I apologize to you all.

I’m sorry for not recognizing it earlier and speaking out about it before now. To let others like me know that they’re not alone. To own up and publicly acknowledge my mistakes.

To this day I still sweat when I tell my story to someone. I haven’t been able to figure out if I’m sweating because I’m fearing what they will think of me, or if I’m still ashamed of what I think of myself at times.

I came home to a world of uncertainty, change and most importantly, love. I was so scared to tell anyone my story because I didn’t want to lose a friendship over it or people to think I’m just some addict and was not the same person as I was before.

Thankfully, I’m surrounded by people who love and care for me and only want the best for me.

After attempting to make amends with several people, I felt devastated that some people wouldn’t even respond back to me, or acted as if they never knew me.

It hurt . . . not enough to make me fall, but enough to make my shame rise higher.

On the other hand, I also received love and encouragement from others I had reached out to at such a vulnerable time during my recovery.

Each day I’m thankful for those people. I hope I’ve told them that enough.

Growing up, I always thought addiction was a choice someone made. I always looked down on those people who become addicted to a substance in order to feel happy or accepted, when now having personally gone through it, I can understand the struggle.

I’m envious of the people who went to rehab and never once relapsed afterward, because that wasn’t my case.

I’ve had setbacks. I’ve lost a lot of things.

I’ve also gained a lot more though.

Addiction has taught me quite a bit: 

  • Make amends. Reach out to the people you may have hurt, or at least try really hard to let them know you’re sorry. I try every day to live up to my word to be the best person I can be for the day.
  • Those rumors you may hear about yourself that aren’t true, they are devastating. No one can make you feel shame quite like yourself, so don’t take anything personally. They haven’t lived your life, so don’t let their assumptions keep you from living yours.
  • And lastly, as I mentioned before, always be your best version. Whether it’s still in the making, you haven’t even started, or you’re already there. Don’t settle for mediocrity for yourself; it’s not worth anyone’s time to be less than what you’re meant to be every day.

I’m far from prefect. I’m far from an ideal example of a recovering addict in my opinion . . . but I hope this story is able to help someone.

I will never be “cured” from this disease.

It will be something I live with every single day of my life, as well as fighting it every day of my life.

I’ve had numerous people ask me why I’ve chosen to be more holistic or natural in my approach to illness or general health.

THIS is why.

Addiction to a man-made synthetic substance has truly shown me that I can be just as healthy, (even healthier!) with supplements and natural derivatives.

I’m not discrediting modern medicine, because I feel there IS a true need for it in acute situations. I wouldn’t have gotten into the healthcare profession if there hadn’t been a belief in new medications and innovative technology that can help others in need.

I also am a firm believer that there are other routes to take before you need this acute care though, and that if you practice a healthy and balanced lifestyle you won’t have to encounter complications.

Take care of yourself.

Mentally.

Physically.

Emotionally.

There will always be a higher power for you, whether it be God or simply the air that surrounds you. You finally need to give up your control and allow someone else to help you through your deepest darkest moments.

I hope this helps someone . . . whether it be the person who needs help but doesn’t know it yet, or the person who needs help but refuses to ask.

I’ve been both of those people, and there is a light at the end of this long tunnel of addiction.

It’s not a straight road. There’s not always a light at the end when you look. You have to stay strong and surround yourself with loving and caring people.

Whatever you do, don’t push them away.

There is a life after addiction.

After the fails, after the shame, guilt, and feelings of inadequacy.

Four years ago I thought I had no one, was no one.

Today I’m a wife to a wonderful man, a mom to two precious boys, and a much better person to all my loved ones because of my addiction.

Life goes on, and so do you . . . you just have to strive for it every. Single. Day.

If you’re struggling with addiction or any mental illness, please call this number and reach out to a licensed professional who can help: 

SAMHSA National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

This post originally appeared on the author’s blog

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