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The Moment I Took a Pill for Emotional Pain, I Knew I Was in Trouble

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The Moment I Took a Pill for Emotional Pain, I Knew I Was in Trouble

During the first years of misuse and abuse, I??d enjoy a couple of months here and there where painkillers weren??t controlling my life. Alcohol eagerly filled the void left in their absence. Over time, however, my run-ins with opiates??whether obtained through doctors or stolen from others??became more problematic. I grew mentally, emotionally, and physically dependent on them. Each time I depleted my supply, I became increasingly sick. Attempts to wean myself or have family members help taper me off the pills were downright impossible. Regardless of how much these pills were destroying my relationships and how wretched I felt during withdrawals, when the urge or opportunity presented itself, I??d be right back at it.

At 36, I entered rehab for the first time and stayed clean for almost eight months. Uprooting from Maine to California was an emotional trigger, however, and I had few tools at the time to deal with life on life??s terms. All it took was a return to the hospital to launch me back to active addition.

With an increasing opiate tolerance, I quickly graduated from snorting pills to injecting fentanyl, morphine, or OxyContin several times a day when we arrived in California.? A lonely prisoner to my addiction and neutropenia, I feared leaving the house, talking to people, or doing much beyond using drugs to cope with my misery. Hope faded quickly as did the life in my eyes. My world shrank in tandem with my pupils. I was a burden without purpose.

For months, I dropped to my knees each night and pleaded to God that the next day be different. But my first thoughts each morning echoed like a needle popping at the end of an LP: I can??t handle the pain of withdrawal. I??ll do it just one more time. Tomorrow will be different. The disease of addiction progressed with or without my permission. Its ruthless grip tightened regardless of how desperately I cried for freedom. The substance I once took to free my mind had unbridled a beast that enslaved every inch of me. Chewing me up. Spitting me out. Its one goal was to rid the world of my presence.

For several months, my IV drug abuse was a well-guarded, shame-filled secret. After coming close to death a few times, I decided to get honest and re-embrace recovery. At 37, I returned to rehab to begin anew.

When I completed 28 days of treatment, I had every intention of leaving the hell of active addiction forever. Attending 12-step meetings and working with a sponsor were going to keep me sober. Or so I thought. The morning of the day I was to celebrate two years of sobriety, my heart was filled with joy and hope. I was clean and I was pregnant for the first time. When we learned that afternoon that the embryo growing in my belly had no heartbeat, I was crushed. ??Why? Why me??? I silently screamed as I pictured God re-assessing my potential value as a mother. Instead of using the tools I??d learned in the program, I ran from them. From God. Straight into the familiar darkness of a bottle of pills.

For six years I couldn??t achieve continuous sobriety. I??d have a few months and then take a handful of Sudafed when exhausted. I??d get to a year and then misuse a prescription to help me sleep. Avoidance of physical discomfort ?? fatigue, insomnia, restless leg discomfort, and routine physical pain ??plagued me. I wanted any control over my body that I could possibly garner. I hated it for its defectiveness. For stealing dreams I??d had. For every minute it had chained me to a hospital or sickbed. I rationalized and I justified at every turn. ??I??m different. They don??t understand what I??ve been through. That part doesn??t apply to me.?? My uniqueness and self pity were going to kill me.

Meeting slogans may be corny, but they likely saved my life. ??Keep coming back.?? ??Meeting makers make it.?? ??Don??t quit five minutes before the miracle.?? Even if it meant being there loaded, I never stopped going to meetings. They were my safety line to sanity and hope.

It??s said that the disease of addiction is cunning, baffling, and powerful. Why it finally released me from its clutches is a good question. I suspect the answer is the program and God. In early July 2010, I phoned my sponsor to let her know I had relapsed yet again. This time I??d swallowed too much cough syrup intended to quell my bronchitis. Not surprisingly, she was fed up. She thought I might be ??constitutionally incapable of being honest.?? Although her words scared the hell out of me, they broke through years of denial. My heart heard what my ego had refused to see: I??d been lying to myself.

Terrified I??d be one of those unfortunates who don??t make it, I got honest. With tears streaming down my face, I confessed in a jam-packed meeting that all along I??d wanted to use just a little bit more than I??d wanted to recover. This was my white flag in action. The key that unlocked and flung open the door to my willingness. I was honestly and finally ready to go to any length to stay clean and sober??even if it meant being physically uncomfortable (my biggest fear).

I began doing everything my sponsor suggested. I called her daily and met with her weekly. Upon awakening each day, I listed why I wanted recovery. Then I prayed for another day without a drink or a drug. I ended each day with a gratitude list. Then I thanked my Higher Power for my life exactly as it is. Day by day, week by week, my relationship with and reliance upon God grew. Moving from my head to my heart. One day at a time. One day after the next.

Within weeks of the gratitude/prayer routine, the ??miracle?? I??d heard about finally happened to me: the obsession to use drugs vanished. I stopped wishing there was some way I could drink or drug with impunity. And to this day??likely because I live in gratitude and acceptance??it has not returned.
For more information and samples of my addiction/recovery artwork, check out

This Story of Hope was created in celebration of recovery and to let families know that there are pathways to hope and healing. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is the only nonprofit organization dedicated to helping families who are struggling with their son or daughter's substance use. Please consider sharing this page so that families know where to turn to for help, and that there is always hope.

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