My Struggle with Addiction

Welcome back!  Just to recap, my last blog post was about what it was like being the sister of an addict.  I wanted to share it because it was a big part of my life for nearly a decade.  More importantly, though, is my sister’s story behind her struggle with addiction.  She has been through a lot. It’s hard to turn over a new leaf.  It’s hard to turn your life around.  But I can only imagine that all of that pales in comparison to airing it out for everyone to read.  It takes guts.  It takes courage.  It takes someone with a heart who wants to help others.  ❤  Heather, take it away!! 

Let me start off by saying that I never thought it would be me. I never thought I would become a slave to drugs. It’s hard to put into words the pain and suffering one goes through during addiction. I know for myself, even my lowest of lows was not enough for me to get my act together. Nothing anyone could ever say or do could make me want to change. Looking back, I see how my behaviors could have foreshadowed the rough years ahead. 

I have always had the characteristics of someone with an addictive personality. When I was younger, I would lie about the silliest things, I would always do things in excess, I always wanted instant gratification and I was a master manipulator. I always felt different- I didn’t feel like all of the other kids. Instead of focusing on what normal kids should focus on, I was always too busy worrying about what others thought, I tried way too hard to fit in and I was overly sensitive to what other people said about me. 

My long run with drugs started when I was 18 years old. I had dabbled in stuff when I was in middle and high school, and I definitely tried more than the average kid,  but it wasn’t a serious habit…yet. At the time, I was dating Boyfriend #1 who was addicted to Oxycontin. I did not understand what that was or what withdrawals were. Either he was great at hiding it, or I was just super oblivious and naive. Regardless, when I found out, I was shocked and disgusted. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that someone could give everything up for drugs. How could someone do that? How could someone lie and steal from their family? How could they spend every last dollar they had for a fix? I hate to admit it, but I used to look down on addicts at that time in my life. It was hard for me to empathize with something I just couldn’t relate to. 

I stayed with Boyfriend #1 hoping I could change him and show him that he didn’t need drugs. Well, it wasn’t long until I decided to give it a try. There’s this saying in AA  “if you hang out in a barber shop long enough, you’re going to get a cut”. Even though I didn’t do hard drugs, I still hung around with people that did. It was only a matter of time before I joined them.  I remember trying a half a pill, throwing up my dinner, and having a headache. It further solidified my idea that pills were gross. Time went on, me and Boyfriend #1 broke up, and I ended up meeting a new guy, same problem. 

I’d like to point out that even though I wasn’t physically addicted to any drugs at this time, I definitely was no angel. I would smoke weed everyday, dabble in coke and ecstasy, and I started getting into adderall. I suffered from an eating disorder that I was unaware I had, and I was an absolute terror to my family. No one wanted to be around me and I don’t blame them. I had no respect for anyone or anything. I did not care about how my actions would affect those around me. 

It was with Boyfriend #2 that I tried pills again for the second time. I remember a good friend of our’s was coming to the house and she brought them with her. He looked at me and asked if he could do one. I don’t know why that day was different but I responded “yes as long as I can split it with you”. And so we did. And I loved it. I don’t know why that day was different and I always wondered if it had gone like the first time, would I have still gone down such a dark, destructive path. 

You see, I didn’t understand the consequences of my actions. I didn’t know it was going to turn out the way it did. I hate when people say “well, you knew trying it that it was addictive.” And while yes that is true, I  had the “it won’t be me” attitude. My dad used to tell me “Heather, you’re consequences will get bigger as you get older.” And he was right. 

That relationship lasted a little over a year and shortly after I found Boyfriend #3. Boyfriend #3 was not an addict but he certainly didn’t help. I didn’t have a job and he sold weed so I relied on him completely to survive. He would hold it over my head, use drugs as a bribe, and enabled my behavior. It was with this boyfriend that I was held at gunpoint…twice. These kids around the neighborhood where we were living heard about what was in the house and decided they wanted it. The first time, we were all getting together for a friend’s birthday. At around 3 in the morning the birthday boy decided to go home so it was rather odd that he came right back in the door. Well, following behind him were two men in masks with guns. I was sleeping at the time and got woken up by a guy screaming and pointing a gun at me. He dragged me out of bed into the living room where I saw everyone else huddled on the ground with their hands over their heads. I remember being so scared. I had no idea if that night was going to be my last. They ended up running everyone’s pockets and leaving. A week or so went by and it happened again. Boyfriend #3 and I were sleeping when it happened. The same fear and panic came over me. They rummaged through the room, took what they wanted, and left. 

For most people those two scenarios would be enough to take a look at their lives, But not me. I went through another 5 years of hell. I felt trapped in a cycle that I couldn’t get out of. 

I remember going to detox for the first time to get help. I had tried an outpatient program before but I wasn’t willing to let go of my old friends and behaviors. This time I really wanted it to be different. Lauren took me to St. Charles emergency room so I could be admitted. I was covered by Medicaid and they only covered two days. If anyone knows anything about detoxing from opiates, two days is not enough. I ended up staying clean off of opiates for two weeks before relapsing. 

The second time I took a bit more drastic measures. Boyfriend #3 and I were on the brink of breaking up because he feared for my life. He reached out to my dad to come talk to me. They both sat there and told me I needed help. Any time before that if you would have tried telling me I needed any help I would have come up with a thousand reasons why you were wrong. This time I knew they were right and I admitted it. 

I had a good friend who went down to Florida to get sober. She seemed to be doing well and getting her act together. I figured if she could do it, I could do it and that was the decision that changed the direction of my life. 

Within a week of the sit-down talk with Boyfriend #3 and my dad, I was on the plane down to Florida. I remember sitting in the passenger seat of my dads car, already going through withdrawals. I flew down to Florida with one suitcase and $23 my dad gave me before boarding. While I was waiting for my bag at baggage claim I debated on whether to run. I don’t know where I thought I was running to but that was my natural instinct when I was afraid. 

I am so happy I didn’t run because it was the start to a new life. I went through the 30-day program and moved into a halfway house. I got a job (my favorite one to date) and started to rebuild my life. For once I could finally see myself having a future filled with happiness, love, my family and friends. 

I did really well down in Florida for a while until I experienced something traumatic. I was dating Jono. Things were going really well until he unexpectedly passed away. After that, I just couldn’t cope and reverted back to my old ways. I started using again to numb the pain. I felt like it was okay because I knew why I was using. Well because of that action, I lost my job that I loved and nearly all of my friends. That last run took everything out of me. I had known a better, more amazing way of life and I turned away from it. I felt guilty and ashamed and like a total loser. Shortly after Jono died, Jonathan and I got together. Just a few months into our relationship, I got pregnant. 

At the time, I was an absolute mess. I remember looking at the pregnancy test and seeing “positive”. I cried a lot. I was very scared. I knew what I had to do. I would be damned if I had a child and could not take care of it. The next day, I reached out for help. It is because of that help that I am able to be a mother to my child today. They believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, saw the potential that I couldn’t see, and kept pushing me to keep going. 

At 8 months pregnant we decided to move back up north to be closer to family and on September 15, 2018 Zoey Faith was born. This little girl has no idea what she has done for me. I call her my lifesaver because she literally saved my life. Everyday she teaches me something new and makes being her mother an absolute joy.

As much as I would love to tell you why I became addicted to drugs, I don’t think I can really pinpoint a certain reason. I feel like for myself, it was a combination of how my brain is wired, exterior circumstances, and the feelings I wanted to escape from. I believe some people are just born with an addictive personality and others go through certain experiences in their lives that can turn them in that direction. I can tell you that I have lost a lot along the way – friends, money, self-love, etc. but I have gained a lot too.  My hope is that I can take the lessons addiction has taught me and help other women. If you or a loved one you know is struggling with addiction, I am here to talk. Also, below, I have listed a few resources. 

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

National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-8255

www.drugabuse.gov

 

Food Philosophy 101

When someone says the word “diet” most of us automatically think of the secondary definition of diet—a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.  But today I’m talking about the primary definition, the kinds of food that a person habitually eats.  When I think of the statement “I’m going on a diet” the words that come to mind are restrictive, difficult, stressful, bland, boring, etc.

Don’t these statements sound much better?

“I’m working on improving my diet” OR  “I’m changing my diet to get more in line with my overall health goals.”

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I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I do not have a degree in nutrition.  I’ve done a good amount of research.  I’ve experimented with many different lifestyles (always for a short period of time because none of them are sustainable for me).  I’ve put in the work. Through all that I’ve come up with the three principles of my food philosophy:

  1. Eat as many of your calories as possible. Powders, vitamins, bars should be used as supplements (when necessary), not as your meal.  Eat real food!
  2. Nothing should be off limits—you can eat everything in moderation. Don’t be a no carb girl… nobody wants to go to an Italian restaurant with you.
  3. Eat in line with your goals.

Let’s dig into each one!

Eating Your Calories

I’ve gone through phases where I’ve had two shakes, two bars and a couple of small snacks per day and guess what?  I was starving (surprise, surprise, right?!).  During that phase I learned that eating as many of my calories as possible is not only physically more satisfying for me, but it’s mentally more satisfying too.  Sitting down and chewing on food takes waaaaaay longer than drinking a shake.  Your body has time to enjoy the eating process.  You chew, you enjoy the flavors, you swallow, you (should) take a second and breathe and then go back for another bite.  Eating becomes more of an event rather than “let me guzzle this shake so I can hustle to my next appointment/class/meeting” moment.

Plus I just think that it’s hard to get all the different vitamins and minerals you need from powders, shakes, bars, and pills.  That’s why they should be used as supplements, when appropriate, but not as a replacement for real food, ya hear?!

I currently use a pre-workout powder and one scoop of protein powder per day.  Snacks include carrots and hummus, string cheese and almonds, Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, and fruit. I eat real food for lunch and dinner. I don’t take any vitamin or other supplement pills.

Everything in Moderation

I’m a big believer that if you like something, you should be able to enjoy eating it—in moderation.  I enjoy candy and ice cream.  And I can and do enjoy both of those things. The goal is to try to enjoy both of them in moderation (which I’m pretty good at with ice cream) but in the “needs improvement” category for candy.  But I’m better than I used to be so some progress is better than no progress! 😝

I’ve tried to cut out candy completely and all it’s done is make me want it more.  I know that sounds familiar to everyone reading this because it’s a common theme in dieting.  Restrict the bad foods until you cave and eat ALL THE BAD FOODS.  And you start and stop the cycle like a billion times until you either recognize you should be able to have that food in moderation and find a way to do that OR you forget trying to make healthier habits and continue down the same path you’ve been on. Most of us end up doing the latter.

I believe in well-balanced meals that include proteins, fats and yes, CARBOHYDRATES!  I secretly cringe when someone tells me they cut all fruits out of their diet because of the high sugar/carb content. Or they only eat 30g of carbs per day because they’re on a strict keto diet.  I only offer my opinion if it’s asked but I know, from trying so many different diets, that none of them are truly sustainable for the rest of your life.

Eat carbs—mostly good carbs.  But also free feel to indulge in the not-so-nutritious carbs every once in a while.  Going on severe diets is not only physically draining but constantly thinking about it makes it mentally exhausting, as well.

Eating In Line With Your Goals

I am not going to tell you not to focus on the number on the scale or losing a certain amount of pounds because I’ve been there before.  I know what it’s like to want to see a number. I get it. And I had to go through that phase before I moved onto the phase I’m in now which is really trying to fill my diet with healthy and nutritious food.  But just keep in mind as you’re going through the process, the end goal should be to improve your overall health.  The immediate goal might be to lose “x” amount of pounds so whatever you do to reach that goal should be things that are sustainable changes for the end result of living a healthier and more energized life.  Make sense?

Instead of focusing on what you want to achieve (i.e. lose 10 lbs or have a six pack), ask yourself this question:

What am I willing to change/improve in my diet and what results will it yield?

The idea here is to consider what you’re actually willing to do.  It goes back to the idea of wanting to want something but not actually wanting it enough to do anything about it.  So think about what you’re actually willing to change, improve, add to your diet, or eliminate from your diet.  Once you know what you’re willing to do and what results in will likely yield you can negotiate with yourself to find a good starting point.

And remember no change, or improvement, or addition, or elimination has to be 100% of the time.  Instead of 5 caramel macchiatos per week, go for 3.  And leave the rest of your diet and exercise regimen exactly the same.  You will be consuming less calories and you will lose weight.  It will be slow but it will be happen if you have patience.

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Once you know what your goals are and you truly believe you’re onboard with doing the things you need to do to get there, DO THEM.  And while you’re at it, do these things too:

  1. Be patient and kind with yourself. Lifestyle and dietary changes can be difficult.  Don’t beat yourself up for the ups and downs you will experience.  They are part of the journey. You’re not going to be your most healthy and fit self every season in your life.
  2. Focus on one thing at a time. When you make one small change it will make you feel good.  And that good feeling will ignite you to make another small change.  And so and so forth.
  3. Take your time. It’s not a race and it’s certainly not a competition.  It doesn’t matter if it takes you 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years to get to where you want to be. Go at your own pace.

I would absolutely love to hear feedback on this topic because it is so so soooo important to me.  What’s your food philosophy?   😉