The most interesting thing to me about the power of healing is that it offers brand-new purpose & perspective on old, painful experiences.
God sheds new light on the positives that are often hidden inside of the hardest parts of our story. These places teach us that we can draw from them, what we once thought was only good to weigh us down, can be used to propel us forward and bring others with us.
When we’re ready, we will be able to see it. We can heal and learn and grow from the same pain that held us hostage for so long. True story. We are exactly who, and what, we choose to believe that we are. From that point, is where our choices, our goals, our vision for our future, and how far we think that we are capable of going stem from.
My personal addiction story begins with my traumatic childhood experiences, where addiction’s foundation had been prepared in fertile soil, long before I would turn to drugs & alcohol to cope with my own messy, unmanageable, adult life.
So here we go:
I was born to two teenage parents.
My mom celebrated her 16th birthday, and I was born 2 weeks later.
My dad was 17.
Was a well-intentioned young man; funny, smart, and by all accounts has always been a hard working person. Since we haven’t had a close connection for over twenty years, I can only speculate on certain details.
Here’s what I do know.
At one point in his life, he had a drinking problem. Despite the fact that I never witnessed him being violent, I have caught a few glimpses of him sleeping outside. I did see multiple pickup trucks being dropped off at our house via tow truck, I watched him get arrested a few times, and I can remember the way he used to smell like alcohol.
Speaking only from my own observations and current knowledge on alcohol, it is clear to me that along his journey, something went wrong between him and his relationship with alcohol.
Note: To be completely fair to him, I have never heard him refer to himself as an alcoholic, so I will not use that term. I do know that AA was one component that led to his life change and to him turning his life around after divorcing my mother.
Having three children before she was 25 probably contributed to the struggles that she had already developed in regard to coping with life’s ups and downs.
She had been diagnosed with Manic Depression as an adolescent. (Bi-Polar Disorder) in the 80’s.
From what my grandmother explained to me there was a noticeable & severe shift in her personality by age 13, and it seemed like she was never able to find a balance between her body and her medication. Having a child so early in her life added extra psychological stress and complicated things even more, and by 1987, she had fallen in love with crack-cocaine.
I won’t make a list of all the things that she found impossible to deal with. Her unmanaged or mismanaged mental-illness and her struggles with addiction have been an ongoing fight for her since she was twenty years old.
So it is no surprise that emotional regulation has always seemed to be really difficult for her. After my youngest brother passed away is a time that I can pinpoint where she completely retreated inside of herself and vowed to never resurface.
And, she hasn’t.
My brother has been gone now for almost 26 years.
As I sit here, she is still struggling. Every day is tough for her. She lives 20 minutes away from my house. Her addiction is still reigning over her, and her current situation is heartbreaking. Over the years because of her prolonged drug use, she has also developed several other conditions and diagnosis’.
My Early life:
Imagine a tiny living room with an abundant amount of smoke as thick as fog, and a party-like atmosphere with music that was always unbearably loud, waves of strange people coming in and going out who were smelly, and flashing lights, or some kind of police interaction on a regular basis.
That paints an accurate picture of the majority of my memories. Those things were my normal, everyday, home-life. When I look at this picture I know that I was always happy, and most care-free when I was outside. That is my house behind me:
One of my last few bottoms:
It was the middle of the afternoon and I had planned on accompanying my grandmother to the post office. The last thing that I remember before we left the house that day was struggling to stay awake.
I could always feel when I had taken too many pills or if I drank too much, or mixed too many different things together. I knew and expected that I would fall asleep or throw up, but this time something was a little bit different. Neither happened.
I assumed eating would be a good idea. Surely, it would do the trick if I could just hold it together. But after picking my head up and out of a quick & unexpected face plant into my bowl of chicken noodle soup, I forced myself up and made it into the kitchen. I barely made it to the counter in time to drop my bowl down into the sink. I leaned over the counter for balance and tried to breathe as deep as I could with my face touching the cold counter-top. Nothing was working. I couldn’t stay awake.
As I laid my head there with my eyes closed I could hear my grandma hollering my name from the driveway. Over and over and over.
So I took one last deep breath, peeled my cheek away from the counter, and staggered out to her car.
I really don’t remember the entire 3 block drive downtown, but I do remember walking through the entrance & seeing a line of people.
I can remember feeling a lightening flash sort of feeling, the room getting dark & feeling extremely tiny, and I was reaching out for a wall lean against.
I hit the ground.
The next time I opened my eyes I immediately recognized the sight, smell and sounds. The hospital.
I felt annoyed that I was there. I was annoyed that I was wasting time. I was annoyed that the nurses were so nosy; prying information out of me. I hated talking to people.
This particular afternoon was like many others before it and it wasn’t the last time I injured my body or that I got myself into trouble.
I really wish I could tell you that was it, that after that a light bulb went off and I decided to choose Recovery that day.
That after I ripped out my IV and left a.m.a (out of fear of child services catching wind of my latest melodrama), that I had a some crazy but much needed spiritual awakening or encounter with God.
But I didn’t.
It would take several more months before I would realize that I had a real problem.
Where it all started:
Having a primary caregiver who struggles with addiction and mental health issues meant that my life was unpredictable by default.
I taught myself various ways to hide from things. I knew how to make myself feel safe in unsafe situations. I became an a chronic seeker of escape. I was an expert at covering up my own emotions as a means of survival.
I began controlling everything that I could. Doing this felt soothing to me. I figured out how to do everyday things for myself and self-reliance was how I lived my life. I knew who I could count on and who I couldn’t.
My constant compulsion to be in control and to live my life anxiously awaiting a crisis meant that the coping skills that I developed weren’t always necessary. But I didn’t know how to turn them off. Eventually it just became my way of life and definitely changed how I operated day-to-day.
I was street smart and intelligent, but I as I got older I couldn’t control my emotions so easily.
Hiding or escaping wasn’t as easy.
I found that I could not cope with my own emotions, or handle any kind of conflict. I had significant trust issues, and didn’t really know how to allow myself to connect with others in order to build real, lasting, authentic relationships with other people.
My substance abuse began in high school and yes, I thought that it started as innocent fun.
Being drunk for the first time felt really good (really really good) and I just thought that everyone was doing what I was doing.
I knew I was breaking promises that I had made to myself, to never be like her (my mother).
But when I allowed myself to lower my guard, I saw that I laughed, I bonded with other people, and I could finally just be myself. The weight was gone.
And I liked that feeling. A lot.
I was always the loudest in any group setting. I was a really funny drunk.
But at some point I would always turn into a weepy, unstable, drunk person. I would mostly try to fight at least one person, and if I didn’t get myself removed from whatever bar I was in, then it wasn’t last-call yet.
I was relentless.
Drunk, I was always searching, planning, and making mental notes of time and alcohol availability. Even when other people were winding down I was still anticipating more.
It didn’t take long for me to try marijuana, cocaine, crystal meth, mushrooms, ecstasy, and cigarettes.
I was a poly-substance abuser. I was addicted to not feeling anything. For a long time, that was my primary problem. I valued and sought to not feel.
I became a teen mom at 19.
Having to provide for someone else my inability to handle stress became more evident.
I became obsessed with giving this small person a better life and a better opportunities than what I felt like I had.
But I didn’t know how.
I was burning from both ends and I was running out of ideas. It is like I knew what I wanted to give to him and I knew what was ‘right’ but I didn’t know how to make those things happen.
I began to use different drugs earlier in the day and for different reasons. I still avoided feeling, but I began using to not feel shame.
I dropped out of high school, got my GED, enrolled in college, dropped out of college, and ended up working tirelessly at dead-end jobs, doing my best to take care of my son.
The shame continued to mount and my problem got bigger and stronger.
I felt like a failure and overall, I was in a battle within myself.
I didn’t know who I was. I could feel that I was an incomplete person.
I knew I was afraid of the truth: I couldn’t do it all.
So I made sure that I couldn’t feel and somehow, that made things work.
Until it didn’t.
Things had already been getting progressively worse and more serious.
My life took a turn for what would be my worst two years after I had a surgery.
A surgery that turned into a huge nightmare.
I contracted a staph-infection (MRSA) and was down for about a year.
By down I mean sick.
By down I mean:
“Here Brittany, we know you cannot sleep comfortably; take two of these before bed to relax your muscles. By down I mean we know you are in constant pain during the day too, so take one or two of these every few hours. We are just doing everything that we can. Take one of those every four hours for your anxiety.”
After a 25lb+ weight loss,
2 terrible outpatient procedures,
3 additional surgeries, and one more additional year of living in pain-
I had become addicted to pain killers and two other medications that I had been spoon fed throughout the duration of time that I was under the direct care of my surgeon and his minions.
I was taking around 12-15 pills per day, and when those prescriptions weren’t available to me anymore I found them on the street.
Me, after one of my surgeries.
Eventually I did came face to face with an ultimatum only after physically hurting & endangering someone who I truly loved, many others (including myself), wrecking cars, ruining relationships, stealing from individual’s and companies that I cared about, living in and out of jail, hiding from bondsman and ex-boyfriends, and ultimately, submitting to exhaustion from the daily chase.
I reluctantly chose to accept the help that, by the Grace of God, landed in my lap.
I am not sure if I agree that everyone has a ‘bottom’ that is so often assumed to exist for ALL people who struggle with an addiction, and is a requirement for ‘real’ change-
but I had definitively have more than one bottom and I hit hard every single time.
It wasn’t any one experience for me that led me to accept offered help, it was the circumstance in which I found myself at the right time.
My recovery began as my simple choice to get sober.
I was afraid and did not really believe that I had what it would take to actually change my life, but I wanted it. I wanted it more than anything in the world.
It was that peace that I sought.
Feeling true contentment within my life in a real way.
Not having to chase anymore.
No more having to pre-plan every single day, anticipating every single moment.
It took one full year to scratch the surface.
My long-term goal was peace and contentment and this first year was a really good start toward that goal.
I began to uncover why I was the way that I was.
I had to walk through my childhood to recognize the patterns ingrained within myself, my brain and my heart, and to discover why that all mattered.
I had to forgive myself for things that happened back then that were out of my control and I had to learn to accept that my parents are just people.
Very young people who were doing the best that they could at the time, who were going through their own situations.
I had to forgive and move on.
I had to accept all of the things that I had done, and had chosen not to do.
I had to survey my surroundings and make some decisions about the people I allowed in my life.
At the end of that first year, it became clear to me that it was all really about learning to take responsibility for my own actions as an individual.
Nothing that happened to my life was anyone else’s fault.
The things that happened to me weren’t who I was, unless I chose to see it that way.
I had choices, and I could choose to self-identify with NEW things.
New things that I had to work for in order to uncover them.
It was the hardest year of my life.
I cried a lot.
My emotions were all out of whack and I couldn’t sleep.
I felt lost.
My thoughts worked against me and time felt like it had stopped, like it was knew that I was watching the clock.
I tried to quit and to tell myself that I couldn’t do it, but ultimately, never did let myself quit.
I learned to combat those voices that told me that I wasn’t good enough to live a different life, that I didn’t deserve a healthy life.
I listened to the truth and the people who I had met who told me that I could change, that I was loved, and that everyone was cheering for me.
I couldn’t believe that virtual strangers cared about me or my future, but they invested in me and never let me give up.
My second year was less about using drugs to cope and more about unpacking even more emotional baggage.
For the first three years of my son’s life, I wasn’t there.
I was there physically, but I couldn’t remember any of it.
I had to learn ways to move forward and build new memories. I learned that the more I allowed myself to focus on building new things, the less I would beat myself up over all that I had missed.
Each year I learned more and more about myself.
This has really been a journey of self-discovery and learning to live life as a healthy person.
I have a strong relationship with God, and He is my source of strength and His book my number one resource. Relationships are a close second, the most important one being my marriage.
I have also come to realize that sobriety is a choice.
I am not a drug-addict.
I am a woman who is choosing to live a sober lifestyle because I want to.
Next year I celebrate my 10 year anniversary of SOBRIETY and NEW LIFE.
I am publishing my first book to commemorate this occasion.
My 10th Birthday.
If you are reading this and you are struggling, please don’t give up on yourself.
We are resilient creatures and I can say that at one point, I truly believed that I was meant to be nothing more than a high school drop out, a struggling, single mom, who felt comfortable being in abusive relationships, who ended up having a love affair with drugs, who didn’t deserve anything good-
and that I could NEVER get my life on track.
But I did.
It might take some time, and it will be a lot of work, but you can too.