Today I am sharing a beautiful and brave testimony written by my friend, Marissa.
This post is as long as it is extremely personal. My hopes in divulging this excerpt of my life is to potentially help even just one person to be confident in the fact that you are not alone, and recovery is an absolutely real and tangible achievement. I had held this all back thus far due to fear of disclosing while having the notion that sharing would be narcissistic. Thankfully my wise little sister encouraged me otherwise.
This is bigger than me, and this is real life for too many people. I believe this narration can potentially be a resounding influence to at least someone. My ultimate goal here is authentic accounts of my experiences and feelings, with the possibility of resonance in even just one individual with potential to spark change. I want to inspire and influence healing by virtue of this testimony.
This is my story.
Six years ago today, I left behind a life of using drugs daily.
Six years ago today, I drove away with a bag packed, and a room saved for me.
In secrecy, I had called an old friend that I heard had gotten clean to find out how the Hell I go about this. I then called my insurance to set up payment for the facility and I slipped into HR at my place of work to request a medical leave of absence to retain employment upon my release.
I was a junkie, but a responsible one? That's what I told myself.
Up until that moment, for the last 3 years, I was using Meth frequently, I was abusing Suboxone every single day, and Xanax almost as often. My drugs of choice varied quite drastically over the years but that's the cocktail it ended with for the most part.
Before taking off on the most pivotal journey of my entire life, I let the people I was in active addiction with know that I was done with this lifestyle.
They laughed at me when I told them. One individual said,
"Ha, yeah Marissa. I'll believe that when I see it."
I was gone the next day.
I had made up my mind that I was DONE, and once I decide something there is no turning back for me. The suffix, "cide" means to kill, and the act of truly choosing something, to decide, is to kill all other options. I finally felt like my life had a second wind and the possibility for anything at all more than what I had settled for. I would be entirely full of shit if I told you the process was easy.
I checked myself into detox at 5'6" weighing in at 106 pounds. I was malnourished and weak but I had the first glimmer of hope deep inside my soul after being completely dead inside for too long. I had spent years leading up to this point being physically, emotionally, and mentally abused. I had been convinced by the very same people that should've given me everything, that I deserved nothing more than what my life had been diminished to, and that this was about as good as it would ever get. I assumed I would just ride out this lifestyle to an early death.
The first night in the detox portion of my stay in inpatient treatment, I cried the entire night. The proverbial floodgates had burst and I was consumed in feelings of incredible overwhelm, mild regret, and severe sickness.The second day of detox, still incredibly ill feeling, I finally left my room. I had heard another woman crying in her room on and off all day, so I gathered the courage to approach her. I told her we're all in this together and there is no reason for her to be, or feel alone. I took her hand and asked if I could take her to introduce her to some new friends I met in the common room. She cried, I cried, and many of the nurses cried. This moment was the catalyst to feeling like a genuine person again, making connections on a real and raw level, and maybe even finding my authentic identity again. This was a before and after moment. If you don't know what I mean by that, there are precious few moments in our lives that dictate a solid before this moment and an after this moment. This was one of those times.
The next day the staff told me I was stable enough to move on to my treatment program, so I packed up and moved again, into a new wing of the facility where I would reside for the next month. The curriculum was individually based and pretty rigorous. Every morning we received our own, tailored daily schedule with meetings, groups, lecture, counseling, check ups, and homework. It was intimidating, daunting, and exhausting. I knew that in order for this to work I had to truly commit.
I had to not only want this, but actively CHOOSE it.
I took a deep breath and vowed to immerse myself entirely in the process and my recovery. This was go time! Over the next month living in this new place I acquired quite a few epiphanies, self discoveries, new friends, progress, weight gain, and some deep mental and emotional healing from past traumas. I discussed things I never had before. My instinct was to hold back and keep those sacred details undisclosed, and close to my vest. Instead, I told myself to be the brave one, to just go for it, and maybe provide these other women the courage to do the same. I had to make the decision then and there that I didn't care if they thought less of me for any reason. I also told myself that if I held back for any trivial reason whatsoever then this entire process and everything I mustered up to get myself to where I was in that moment would all just be a waste of time if I didn't take it seriously.
So I shared, similar to what I'm doing now, but in a more intimate and real-time format. I shared real tears, breakdowns, my perceived flaws, horrible mistakes I had made in my life, genuine regrets, intense tough lessons I learned the hard way, heartache, and my many downfalls and weaknesses. Something else happened in the time that I was there. Something happened that felt like a radical phenomenon; I laughed. I laughed like I hadn't in lifetimes. Just as I was getting my bearings and entering my stride though, the last two weeks of treatment approached too quickly and a new fear and challenge arose from the pit of my stomach. I did not want to leave, and it physically hurt my body thinking about going back to my life in the "real world".
Unfortunately I kept my fears and concerns from my counselor who was an expert at seeing through my bullshit. I didn't know how to fix the problems and roadblocks I would be returning to, so I minimized them to myself and to my counselor, and was in heavy denial. After the initiative I took and all the hard work I had put in thus far, I still had immense self reflection and hard work to invest in myself and my in my life going forward. This would turn into another couple years outside of that program before I entirely removed myself from the people and patterns I had tried so hard to leave behind initially, but at that point I had gained an amazing daughter to live for and fight for our lives on behalf. Bettering oneself is not a perfect process and there are bound to be struggles and delayed lessons along the way, but it is always worth working towards.
I have always struggled just to get by in life.
I have struggled, but I have NEVER quit trying to fix that. I had always had a tremendous amount of difficulty just existing and getting through life without acting in a reactive way, self sabotaging, or processing and coping in an unhealthy manner. What makes all the difference in the world is that I have refused to quit putting in the work to change that. I adamantly protested backing down to what my brain was trying to tell me on a biological level. I will not accept that. I can have more in life, better circumstances, and a healthy existence. I have never and will never cease striving for better than what my neurotransmitters are delivering, or lack there of. Ideally for me, the treatment facility I resided in was what it took for me to be done with chemical dependency. I get to say that because I am in charge of what I do, think, and choose. The entire experience was invaluable and one of a kind. It has given me such an appreciation for life, and the gift of a real chance at life that I had given myself. To this day I am more attune to my actions and thought patterns and consciously considering what I want and accept for myself, from myself. I am committed to a lifetime of growth and constant improvement whenever I see necessary.
Fast forward to today and I am the healthiest and happiest I have ever been! I have an intelligent, incredible, healthy 5 year old daughter, I am getting married to an amazing man in about 6 months, we own a beautiful home, I am almost debt free, and I am HAPPY. I am drug-free. I am proud of who I am including my falters, and my growth and rebirth story. I have clawed and fought for my life to get here, and not one God Damn thing or person will ever stand in the way of my goals ever again. I am here purging my heart out to share with anyone out there struggling in active addiction, or just struggling. You don't have to be able to picture the finish line clearly or even know what to do, period. You just need the willpower to be healthier and happier, and then choose it, as there are so many resources available.
There is hope.
Failure is not falling down or making mistakes, Failure is when you quit trying!
Austin Medical Center Chemical Dependency 507-434-1890
Mower County Health and Human Services for Rule 25 507-437-9701
Low cost chemical dependency programs 855-408-3907
Hazelden Addiction treatment center in Center City, MN 1-888-274-1101