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

 

Making Movement Part of Mom Life

Being a parent is literally the most difficult job I’ve ever had.  There’s always four little eyes watching my every move and four little ears listening to my every word.  It’s a big responsibility and no one truly understands it until they’re actually in it.  It becomes much more apparent when your kids start asking questions or repeating things you say.  You’re no longer free to stare at yourself in the mirror and make comments about your body while your daughter is slipping her feet into your shoes so she can play dress up.  You can no longer hide the candy or the “mommy juice” (aka diet soda in my house) because your son has become very curious and will ask “what’s that?” a million times before you throw a Twizzler at him to try.

Well, I guess you can do those things.  You can do anything you want.  But I think every parent wants to set a good example for their kids.  And don’t get me wrong, we all make mistakes and say unflattering things about ourselves, partake in eat-out-of-the-carton ice cream sessions, and scream or yell at our kids out of frustration.  And that’s all OK because no one is perfect.  We’re all just doing the best we can.

I’m going to take a step back here for a second.  You ever say something and before you actually finish the sentence all you can think is I sound like mother/father?  It happens to me ALL THE TIME!  Some classic lines in my house growing up were because I said so and life’s not fair.   Those are just things I remember my parent saying, but what about things my parents did or behavioral habits they had??

When I thought about this, the first thing that popped into my head was making my bed every dang morning.  As a child I watched my mom make her bed every day.  I was taught to make my bed.  And now, as an adult, I will not leave my house without making my bed.  It’s just part of my life.  It’s part of my routine.  It’s part of my lifestyle.  I watched this habit, I was taught this habit and this habit became a habit of mine (remember, habits are not always a bad thing!).

Creating and teaching healthy habits to my kids is very important to me.  My goal is for my kids to see me engaging in as many positive, balanced and healthy activities as possible.  Positive self-talk is one.  Eating a well-balanced diet that includes everything in moderation and never feeling guilty about indulging is another.  And of course, my most favorite thing in the world to talk about—movement.

The word movement is all encompassing to me. It means parking a little further away from the store because you have two good legs and you should use them.  It also means not sitting on the couch every day from the minute you get home to the minute you’re ready to transition to your bed.  It’s about having a dance party with your kids instead of watching TV.  Or running around outside while cleaning up the yard instead of playing on a tablet (two birds, one stone here people!).  And it also means getting your heart rate up and strengthening and lengthening your muscles with various forms of exercising.

I want my kids to witness and partake in all of the above. I want movement to be a big part of their lives.  I want it to be a non-negotiable.  I want it to become part of who they are are and what they do.  I want it to be part of their lifestyle.

And while I won’t know if what I’m about to share is actually working until later on down the road (I’ll keep you posted by writing a blog post about it in 20 years), it couldn’t hurt to try some of these ideas.

Make time instead of making excuses.  I could probably write a 30-page dissertation on how I hate when people say they don’t have time.  No, you have time, you’re just not making time.  Instead you’re making excuses.  If something is that important to you, you find a way to get it done.  I try not to use the phrase “I don’t have time.”  Instead I say: “it’s just not the highest priority right now.”  Because if it was higher on the list, it would be getting done. Yes, it’s that simple. No, for real, it’s that simple.

If you want to be healthier, more fit, more balanced, more in control, have more energy… then MAKE IT A PRIORITY!  You might have to adjust your sleep schedule slightly or limit your social media scrolling time.  Unfortunately there are only so many hours in a day so you just need to allocate your time better because no one has time.  No one ever complains they have too much time.  We all just say there’s not enough time in the day… or do we just need be honest with ourselves about how we’re utilizing our 24 hours?

Workout while the kids are sleeping: I commend any mother that works out with her kids playing in the next room. I think that’s amazing. I prefer peace, quiet and not having to worry about how many times I’m going to have to pause to break up a fight or “oooh” and “ahhh” over artwork.

When I workout at home, I set my alarm as early as 4:40 AM so I can get my workout in before the morning mayhem begins. I know it sounds super early and maybe too early to some, but your body gets used to waking up early. It’s worth it to get your 30-minute workout done in 30 minutes rather than 45 or 50 because of all the stop and go.  Plus, I’m a working mom so I don’t have much choice– there’s no opportunity for a nap time workout.  And by the time I get home, well I’m lucky if I can keep my eyes open past 8 PM.

Get your kids involved in exercising: However, there are times that I snooze my alarm on a Saturday morning. And I do that knowing that at least one of the kids will be waking up during my workout. It’s usually Ethan and he comes downstairs and sits and watches me.  But really he doesn’t STFU for 30 minutes!!

So while I regret hitting snooze because my workout won’t be as good as I want it to be, I figure it’s a good opportunity to teach Ethan about my love of movement. He imitates me using his Styrofoam weights, uses my step to attempt some cool moves, and works on his plank hug grip while I work on my plank. It’s cute and I love it.

Playground + Walk: I absolutely love being outdoors with my kids anytime it’s over 50 degrees. Every time we go to the “big park” in my neighborhood, I make it a point to remind them in the car: first we take a walk and then we play on the slides.

That’s right, the minute we get to the park I pop the kids in the double stroller and we walk around the park twice before playing.  I like this tactic for two reasons: 1) It’s an opportunity for movement FOR ME! And 2) it teaches my kids patience. They don’t always get to run to the swings the minute they see them.  And now it’s just part of the routine of going to the park.  It’s not like it happens every other time we go.  That means I don’t have to play “let’s make a deal” on the days I want to go for a walk. (I save that for when we leave: Ethan, Alex, do you want ice cream?!) #notajoke

And last, but definitely not least, schedule your workouts into your week on Sunday evenings.  Not like I think I’m going to barre Monday and Wednesday and I’ll run, like two days.  No, like, write it down in your planner and check it off as you complete the workout.

You might not have to write down your workout schedule forever, but I’ll be honest, over a decade into my wellness journey and I still find it useful to write it out.  In a way I kinda build the rest of my week around my workouts.  What I eat, when I socialize, when I have a drink (or two).  It helps keep you honest and who doesn’t like checking something off a list!?!?

None of these tactics are that sophisticated.  I prefer to keep things simple.  My kids are going to develop some of my habits (good and bad).  My goal is to give them as many good ones to latch onto as possible!