I was probably 15 or so when I started smoking pot and drinking wine coolers with my friends. I was already struggling at home and had a difficult relationship with my parents. Looking back, I know they did the best they could—we lived in a nice home and I went to a good school. I was raised with strong family values, but I frequently rebelled. It wasn’t them; it was me.
My use became more frequent and more intense, although I was usually able to look good on the outside. I remember feeling completely lost at times, but I never attributed it to my substance use. I managed to graduate from college with a BA in Social Work, and I immediately began working in the field. However, my substance use kept increasing. Within a couple of years I was driving while intoxicated, buying drugs instead of paying bills, and frequently calling in sick to work. I distanced myself from family and friends and I ignored phone calls in order to evade questions. I had become physically and emotionally dependent on drugs, and by then my entire life was structured around my use.
I was tired—tired of thinking about getting high, craving getting high, spending money on getting high, making excuses for getting high, recovering from getting high, lying about getting high, and compromising my dignity in order to get high. Finally, I called my mother and told her that I had a drug problem and needed help. Both of my parents were devastated; they had their own healing to do. I called Phoenix House Keene Center, told them about my problem, and was scheduled for an interview. I entered treatment on April 29, 2003, with no idea of where my life would end up. I had been using drugs for so long that I had forgotten who I really was. But as soon as I walked through the Phoenix House door, I had an overwhelming sense of relief; I had made it. Today, when I remember that moment of clarity, that feeling of gratitude still washes over me and brings tears to my eyes.
I completed the month-long residential treatment program and then two months of transitional living, both at the Keene Center. I re-learned forgotton skills, and I received incredible support and guidance from the staff at Phoenix House. I began to get to know myself again. What did I like to do for fun? What was I good at? What kind of friend was I? I began to answer these questions and became comfortable with the person I am. I reconnected with my parents, and today I have an amazing relationship with them. I remember my father coming to visit me while I was in treatment and telling me how much I had changed for the better. “When you talk to me now,” he said, happily, “you look me in the eye.”
I started making new friends—other people in recovery who were doing what I was doing. I went to a lot of NA meetings. I got a sponsor. I took suggestions from people who had walked the same path before me. I was no longer afraid of doing things that were uncomfortable or difficult, as long as they were good for me. I learned how to have faith in something bigger than myself.
Now that I’m in long-term recovery, I’m doing my best to pass on what I was taught. I waited a year before getting back into the human services field. In 2007, I applied for and was offered a position at Phoenix House Keene Center, where I still work today. I speak to a Keene State College class every semester about my journey. I was recently trained as a Recovery Coach by the State of New Hampshire’s Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services, so that I can help guide others on the path to recovery. I consider myself a responsible member of society; I pay my bills on time and, after years of financial repair, was able to buy my own home last February. I take care of my physical and mental health. I haven’t had the desire to get high in a long, long time—which is truly a miracle. I am proud of myself and who I am today. I am proud to be an addict in recovery.