My parents got divorced when I was very young and my mom remarried. I consider my stepfather my dad and he thinks of me as his daughter. I had a really good childhood. I was given every opportunity—all the love and affection you could imagine. But this disease can happen to anyone. My biological father was an addict and I believe for me, addiction is hereditary. As a kid, I always felt different. I was overweight, and I’d hide food and eat it. I’d lie to friends and steal money from my parents. I was awkward and scared of everything.
At 15, I got drunk for the first time and liked it. On my 16th birthday, I got really drunk. I was scared that my parents would be angry, but they ended up saying, “We’re not mad. We’re just disappointed.” After that, I basically became a dry drunk. I was really into punk rock and had a lot of teen angst. When I was 18, I was in community college and I tried cocaine for the first time. The combination of alcohol and coke really did it for me. I barely finished college. I lived above a head shop and started tattooing, which played into my partying lifestyle. Later on, I moved to Boston and stopped tattooing. My drinking and drugs came first.
By the time I left Boston, I was having trouble getting out of bed, my hair was falling out, and my skin was terrible. I moved back into my mom’s house in New Hampshire, but it took me a year and couple of arrests before I realized I needed help. One day, I was on my way to go drink and I got a DUI. I was at double the legal limit and I felt like I hadn’t even started drinking. That’s how high my tolerance was. I thought, “God, I’m 26! This isn’t how I want to lead my life.” I went to an intensive outpatient program, and that’s when I realized I really had a problem.
Unfortunately, the program wasn’t enough to keep me sober. My thinking was so warped that I told myself, “You’re a drunken cokehead. You can try heroin!” I used heroin for about a month and a half. During that time, I remember getting on my knees and begging God to help me because I was so weak. I started calling detoxes and Phoenix House Franklin was the first to call me back. I went through detox and then transitional living; I worked during the day and came back to Franklin at night. Then, one day I went out and used. Instead of lying about it, I told the staff that I had relapsed and needed help. The amazing thing is, they didn’t kick me out. They saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself.
In September 2009, they sent me to Phoenix House Keene Center and I haven’t used since. After two weeks, I came back to Franklin and stayed in transitional housing for four months. The program had 24-hour counseling available, a supportive group of peers, required meetings—everything I needed to get my life back on track. The staff wasn’t scared to tell me, “This is not OK.” They really pushed me. After I left Phoenix House, I decided I didn’t want to lose contact. I started volunteering and speaking about my recovery.
Every week, I do recovery-related art with the clients. In one of my exercises, I have them fold a piece of paper and then draw all the things they like on one side of the crease. It can be anything: music, sunsets, friends, family. On the other side, I have them draw their drug of choice. By the time they’re done, one side of the paper is filled with cool stuff and the other is just barren. I tell them, “This is your choice. If you want that, all this goes away.” Some clients have a hard time filling up the page with things they like. I say, “That’s because drugs have stripped you of everything.” It’s a really powerful visual.
I now have three and a half years clean. I’ll finish my B.F.A. in May and I was just accepted to a prestigious graduate arts program in New Mexico. I’m studying to become a professional lithographer; lithography is a printmaking process using limestone. I feel like my art mirrors my life. You can do anything using the stone, but you have to follow certain steps—just like I have to follow certain steps in life to bring my goals to fruition.
Today, I’m proud of my relationships with friends and family. One of the best parts of my recovery has been my renewed connection with my sister. For a long time, she wanted nothing to do with me. It’s been a process, but in the last six months, she’s started to come around. Just the other day, she texted me about a new purse she bought. It seems like a small thing, but I thought, “She could have told anyone and she told me.” We love each other, and she finally has a big sister again.
If it weren’t for Phoenix House, I would’ve ended up in jail. I keep in contact with the staff and I know that if I’m having a problem, I can go in and the counselors will take time out of their day for me. I could stop by today if I needed to. The thing I’d tell people who are struggling is, “Just give yourself a chance. You’re worth it.” I am not an exception. Anyone can do this if they try.
If you or a loved one needs help for substance abuse, call us today at 1 888 671 9392 or send us an email.