A path to finding oneself – overcoming adversity through self awareness and living honestly.
She grew up in a shelter community and had her life turn upside down when she became addicted to drinking and drugs. She found her strength by attending Narcotics Anonymous. It was a constant battle but with persistence she finally broke free.
What was your adversity?
In the webster dictionary, adversity is defined as a misfortune, or difficult situation. I’ve had to face many adversities in my life. I grew up in a sheltered community within the inner city – attending private Jewish day school with the same sixteen kids in my grade for nine years. When I was fourteen, I begged my parents to let me attend public school. I was straight out of a scene from Mean Girls, eating lunch in the bathroom alone. I didn’t fit in. Everyone was already relegated to a clique – the smart kids, the skaters, the punks, the popular group. I needed an identity.
Like any good little sister, I read my older sister’s diary. In it, I found that she had been cutting herself and doing drugs. I instantly decided that I could be “depressed,” too. I had no idea what the word meant. I just started telling people that I was afflicted with this mental disorder. I started cutting. I can see now that this was to form a sort of cloak around how insecure I felt. I had no idea who I was, so I took on this role of a complicated, multidimensional girl. I thought it’d make me more interesting. Around this time, it dawned on me that my mother was an alcoholic. I grasped onto this notion that I was unique; that I had it tough and my life was special. Unbeknownst to me, I started to act out in ways typical of the depressed teenager. I faked my way into actually becoming miserable. It wasn’t for attention anymore.
I started using opiates at fifteen years old and became hooked. I loved the feeling of being completely uninhibited. I gradually worked my way up the opiate ladder. My life started to become unmanageable. I would drive, completely impaired, through streets in the inner city looking to cop more drugs. I’d “take one for the team” and sleep with dealers just to get the next high. I started lying all the time to cover my tracks. But I always hung around people who were worse then me so that I could feel good about myself. If I was sniffing dope, they were shooting it. They were the “real” junkies. I was just getting high. I remember one time driving to the middle of nowhere and picking up dope from a woman who was 8 months pregnant. I sat on her porch and sniffed a bag with her. I remember thinking- that will never be me, I have this under control.
I was very good at living a double life. My father is a surgeon and put a lot of pressure on me to do well in school. I presented well- getting into advanced classes and even receiving admission to Boston University. The only problem was: I took me with me. When I moved up north, I immediately found the people that used the way I did. I spent night after night doing all sorts of drugs and selling to maintain my habit. To this day, I get anxiety when I see the sunrise because of the hundreds of nights I was strung out and watched the sun come up. My grades took a toll. It was becoming more and more apparent that I had a problem. Eventually, I decided to stop using hard drugs and just drink like a normal college student. I told all my new partying friends that I “got over a drug problem.”
I had no idea that alcohol is a drug and I was just substituting. I’m an addict – I don’t drink socially. While everyone was taking cute pictures for facebook at a frat party, I was upstairs, blackout drunk, hiding booze in my huge purse, and throwing up in someone’s dresser. I will never fully remembered how many men took advantage of me. My life was full of chaos, shame and guilt. I was lying daily to my family. It took me years to figure out that I can’t use anything. I even used marijuana like an addict- overdrafting my bank account to get the next bag, lying to people, stealing their stash.. all because the anxiety of not having the next one would take over and I’d act out of desperation.
Somehow, I graduated college. All my friends moved away and I was left in a one bedroom apartment alone. I drank and smoked every single day. I had no friends. I’d run to the dumpster to throw away bottles and cans for fear that neighbors would see how much I drink and judge me. I’d rush to the liquor store, which was 2 minutes away, and have a bottle open in my lap before even arriving back to my apartment. When I had no money to get high or drunk, I’d take nyquil or benadryl just to sleep. I was mentally and physically addicted. I had no ability to sit with myself, unimpaired. I hated who I was.
My little sister started going to Alcoholics Anonymous in Baltimore. In Boston, I’d sit alone in my apartment and look at her pictures and skype with her and see the changes she’d made in her life. She was patient and serene in a way I didn’t know was possible. After a few months, I finally admitted to her that I drink every single day. I quickly changed the subject for fear she’d judge me or scold me. She never once confronted me on having a problem, nor did she promote AA. I decided, on my own volition, that I’d stop drinking for 7 days. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I was shaking, sweating and I couldn’t sleep. I craved alcohol so badly. At this point, I was still smoking marijuana everyday. I sincerely did not believe it was possible to go a day without putting some substance in my body. I figured I’d get high til the day I died.
When I started attending meetings, I instantly compared my way out. I wasn’t a junkie!. I had a college degree! There was no way I was as bad as these people. I “disqualified” myself right out the door. When I relapsed, after almost 2 months sober in AA, I immediately found myself craving harder drugs. I figured that I had relapsed anyway, so why not really go all out. On the third day of drinking, I drove to the ‘hood and copped the drugs I was desperate for. I knew that night would be my last. I used until 7am, watched the sun come up, and vowed I was done. The next night I went to a meeting, and I’ve been clean from everything ever since. My clean date is June 7, 2012.
I found Narcotics Anonymous kind of accidentally, but I immediately felt home. It doesn’t matter what I used, when I used, who I used with, or how much I used. All that matters is that I work a 12 step program of complete abstinence. I’ve found my home and my family in NA.
I sometimes tell myself that I stopped using when I was 22, so maybe I wasn’t that bad. Or that I wasn’t found under a bridge with a needle in my arm, so maybe I can use in safety. I sometimes think that I need to feel more pain in order to fully surrender to being clean forever. But what I need to remember is that I felt enough pain. There is nothing out there but more of the same.
What strategies did you use to improve the quality of your life?
I have service positions, like speaking at hospitals and institutions, that keep me committed to staying clean. I deal with feelings of guilt and shame by being accountable today. I don’t manipulate situations to play out the way that I want them to – I “turn it over” and release my need to control. I write gratitude lists every night to remind myself how much better my life is today. I am back in school, getting my master’s degree while clean. I sponsor people and I am a valued sponsee. There is another way of life out there, and it’s full of freedom. No longer must I feel desperate, terminally unique, and constantly disgusted with myself. I’ve discovered that using substances was just a symptom of my real disease. I am an addict.
My entire story can be traced back to the root of addiction: self centeredness. Everything I’ve done, I did because I thought I was only affecting myself. I don’t have to live in the shroud of self-hate anymore. I am actively working on recovering from all the ways in which my disease manifests today – not just drugs, but things like shopping, food, lying, etc. I truly live a clean life. Of course, I fall short on a daily basis. I am not perfect. But today, I am free.
If you could talk to your younger self during your adversity, what wisdom would you share?
I would say, be kind to yourself. You don’t know what you don’t know. Be more open-minded, and be true to yourself. If you don’t like the way you’re living, find a way to change it. You don’t need validation from anyone.
Inspiration is a place within The Power of Precedents where you can share your adversity story so that you can inspire others to overcome theirs. If you would like to share your adversity, please fill out the Inspiration Form and answer the 3 questions with a small bio by clicking here. I look forward to hearing your story.