Note from Stef: I was thinking about Jennifer in my car today on the way back from Target. I was thinking about how normal I am despite have a wee bit of a problem with substance abuse. And then I was thinking about people like Jennifer who, when I first met her, I was suprised to find out she had been an addict. I remember every time I met someone who seemed normal but admitted to being in recovery, I felt bad for them like, “wow, that sucks for you. I, however, really like my wine and my pills when I can get them and would be really sad if I had to be like you. So, lucky for me, I am not an addict. Like YOU.” I honestly didn’t think I had a problem like anyone else’s. Maybe I was in denial. But now that Jennifer and I are in the same club, oh boy do I get it now. And I’m so thankful to people like her who are willing to talk about this stuff and provide a face and name to something that none of want to cop to.
“I guess you could title today’s “Don’t Get Drunk Friday”: “Don’t Get High Friday.” Where do you start “Your Story” when it comes to addiction? You see, I never identified myself as an alcoholic. For that matter, it took me years to even identify myself as a drug addict. I knew all about drug addicts. (I do have cable, you know.) They were filthy, homeless, pathetic people who were easily identified because they were down right scary! The facts were so obvious. I couldn’t be an addict because I was a middle class PTA mom with a nice home, great kids and a hard working husband. But the truth is I was an addict and denial was a terrifyingly, beautiful thing for me.
I remember that first, wonderful Vicodin that I took for my migraines. The euphoria and energy it gave me was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was Super Mom. I had energy unlike ever before…until I didn’t. I was happy all the time…until I wasn’t. I loved everyone around me…until I couldn’t. Drugs turned on me quickly. Before I knew what was happening, I had become hardcore in my drug usage. I knew every trick in the book to get my hands on pills.
Before my feet hit the floor, I would pop a Vicodin. All day long I would continually swallow pill after pill after pill. It did not stop with Vicodin. I took any narcotic I could get my hands on. I got uppers, downers, sleeping pills and anxiety medication. Near the end of my using, I was taking anywhere from 40-60 pills a day. They stopped making me happy and energetic. They just barely helped me get through the day. They made me jumpy, cranky, and sleepy and downright mean. Yet, I continued to convince myself that my “drugs” came legally from a doctor who knew I was taking them. How bad could that be?
It could be really bad. I lied to everyone I knew. I stole money if I had to fill a prescription. I wasn’t there for my kids in a real way. I was mean and I was unlovable. I hated myself. I probably hated you, too. Rock bottom hit the day I almost killed my kids while I was driving high. The screeching brakes. The crying kids. My own voice shouting out, “Nooooooo!!” It all happened in a matter of seconds but in my mind it was in slow motion. Each sound reverberating around and around in my head.
I needed help.
I checked myself into detox voluntarily. The first person I met was a tall guy who looked at me with eyes of pure anger. He glared at me. Honestly, I nearly peed myself right there. Outwardly I decided I had to treat this situation more like prison where you have to win the first fight in order to not become someone’s bitch. With sharpness in my voice that was in complete opposite of my inner terror, I looked at him and snarled, “Look away or it’s on, asshole.” (Yes, I did get into trouble for the threat by the tech.) However, he and I become instant sober buddies and got each other through the horrific days of withdrawal.
The best way to describe my withdrawal is to imagine having ants crawling all over your body. Sometimes they stung and hurt like hell, sometimes you just had to claw at your own skin until it bled simply to try to make the feeling go away. It was the feeling of never being able to sit still yet an exhaustion that made you want to sleep for days. It was being paranoid that everyone was out to get you and clinging to anyone who could offer you help.
It was hell.
I had to learn how to forgive myself. Forgive myself. I never thought I could or would but with the help of other addicts, I have. (At least I am still working on it when my inner demons attack me. And they still do.)
As I detoxed, I learned that a drug addict can be anyone. Look around you. The mom sitting beside you at the soccer game. The PTA president that seems so put together. The dad who goes to work every day and earns a living. The person standing next to you in the grocery store. We don’t wear a sign. We don’t have a neon red letter “A” for addict on our forehead. But trust me when I say, we are everywhere.
On March 6, 2010 I celebrated 10 years drug free. To a newly sober alcoholic or addict that seems like forever. It seems as if I could never relate to you. I have to be blunt. That is bullshit. I can relate. When life kicks me down, I still know that craving. When things become so painful I simply don’t know what to do, I know that craving. Yet, I don’t give in to it. I can’t. I am an addict and this one thing I know for sure: My next drug could be the one that kills me. And I refuse to let drugs beat me.
My name is Jennifer and today I am a clean, sober and grateful recovering drug addict.”