No, not the strange kind, but I do love that show.
Growing up, I never pictured that my life would turn out the way it has. Looking back, obsession and compulsion have always crept around my behaviors and the way I interacted with the world.
So it’s no surprise when I first started actively abusing drugs.
I had already been through the wringer with being addicted to reading, cutting, boys, Hanson, girls, clothes; you name it I’ve probably obsessed over it. When we talk about what it's like to suffer from drug & alcohol addiction in America today, it's definitely not what you think. For me, and many others, addiction is trying to fill the void all of us seem to have.
Let’s backtrack just a little. I grew up in Northern New Jersey in an upper-middle-class area, where I attended Catholic school from kindergarten to senior year of high school. As a kid, I was definitely wild and spoiled. It’s most likely what feeds that drive to be obsessed with something.
There are certain things that happened when I was younger, but I don’t remember much of it. I just know I was violated and something was taken from me that I can never get back. When people talk about the need to talk about sexual assault it’s real. Maybe you don’t know what it’s like to be completely helpless and to feel as though a part of you is gone that you’ll never get back. What great privilege. (thank you, Gia Gunn!)
I didn’t realize I was a lesbian until my senior year of high school when I fell in love with my straight best friend but don’t we all? High school and unrequited love are really what started my exploration of substances as a means of numbing myself. Cutting always got me sent to a psych ward or doctors, even though I never wanted to die, I just liked the pain and what it felt like to be in control of it.
I soon began to learn everything you needed to survive as an actively using drug addict. At this point in time, it’s 2005 and I just graduated high school. Cocaine soon became something I needed all day every day. I stole from my mother, brother, step-dad, grandmother, dad, your mom, the church, anyone really. Whatever I had to do to get the next fix I did. I’ve done things the sober me would never do. That’s what addiction does to us, we become a different person.
I can’t really tell you when or how it happened, but this began my journey into the world of treatment, recovery, and relapse. Fast forward a bit to August of 2009. There I was, a 21-year-old heroin addict (not IV, yet) that is stuck in jail for the second time in three days begging my father to bail me out.
It’s the year anniversary of my best friend/lover's death. She died at my house of an overdose and to this day I can’t tell you I don’t blame myself. It was then and there I finally admitted to using heroin to my family and so began my journey to treatment out of the state.
Without fail, I wound up at my first real attempt at rehab in South Florida. My dad flew me down and got me set up in rehab. My grandmother lived close to the facility I was at so it made sense for me to go there. Little did I know that South Florida is both the recovery capital of the US and the relapse capital.
I soon found myself in sober living, then a relationship then three years later with an addiction to OxyContin and a Lyme Disease diagnosis I thought it would be brilliant to go back home. This is the trap addiction locks you in. It’s your thoughts or lack thereof.
I dragged my ass back to New Jersey after failed attempts at recovery. I had time without using other drugs sure, but opioids really had me by the balls. Later on, I would figure out that my untreated Lyme Disease made me susceptible to severe pain, and wouldn’t ya know it, heroin helps with that.
I became so used to believing that heroin actually helped me. It took a few overdoses, losing people close to me, and being alone on Christmas for me to finally have that moment of clarity that I had peaks of previously.
I didn’t want to die, but I sure as shit couldn’t stop on my own. I called my best friend, she dropped me at the airport and I headed to Florida for the last time. It took a few more treatment centers, but I finally found my path to recovery. It took combining multiple approaches for me to get it.
I utilized medication-assisted therapy, MAT, in the form of Suboxone. A lot of people have opinions about me being on a medication to help me function. To that I say, I respect your opinion, but I don’t agree. It was medication, therapy, the 12 steps, and my support group that got me where I am today. It took a village.
I just watched the “president” of the United States make fun of someone for being an addict.
Speechless doesn’t really cover it. We have worked so hard over the past 10 years to erase the stigma and belief that addiction is a moral issue.
It. Is. Not.
Addiction is a medical & mental illness that affects all aspects of your life and the lives of those around you. To think, if we focused more on helping instead of jailing, we would probably see less violent crimes and a more successful economy. The disease of addiction is never going away. It’s how we respond to it. And so far, we’ve done a shit job.
Even as someone coming up on 8 years of sobriety and who works in the treatment industry, I can tell you first hand we aren’t even making a dent in things.
Most people think it’s simple. You have a problem, you go get help.
What happens when the type of help you get and the quality of treatment are dictated by the type of health insurance you get? What happens when you end up at a program that doesn’t care if you use as long as your insurance pays? What happens when your insurance says you have to leave after 30 days?
People relapse, and people die. That’s what happens. We know from data that treatment should last at least 60–90 days. Most insurance companies fight to pay for 20 days.
Sure, there are some people who get this first time around and are able to remain sober for the rest of their lives, but most, like me, have had to go to treatment a number of times to find the right combination of tools and therapies that helped me overcome my addiction.
Instead of solving the problem as best we can the first time around, insurance companies believe it’s fine to play with people's lives and health. We can do better.
As a country and as humans, we have over 23 million sick individuals who could easily recover if provided the right tools and access to the best treatment possible.
I’ve talked a lot about addiction itself and my journey, but let’s talk about recovery.
I am forever grateful to Alcoholic’s Anonymous and the 12 steps. They didn’t just save my life, but it changed me. The steps gave me an outlook on life that is simple, but hard to grasp when you have the disease of addiction telling you that you’re fine.
Once I got it, it all made sense. I have no control over anything but the way I act and react to any given situation.
Even with years of recovery, I am by no means perfect. I still have anger issues, communication issues, and I don’t always react the right way. The goal isn’t to be perfect. It’s to continually look at myself and find where can I have done things differently. What can I do better next time?
I am also grateful for the amazing therapists I’ve had over the years who truly have helped me come to terms with certain things and who have taught me things about myself I never realized.
They also gave me my family back. I learn in sobriety that my family is one of the most important things to me in my life. My brothers are my best friends. My mom has never given up on me. My dad has always supported me on my journey.
Today, I help run and manage a boutique digital marketing agency that specializes in addiction treatment programs. We ethically help market treatment centers in an effort to help more people in finding their path to recovery.
It’s funny, addiction leads me to find my career in digital marketing. From SEO to PPC to web design, I’ve taught myself and learned from others what it takes to really market a website online. Today, MGMT Digital is a trusted addiction marketing company that offers ethical marketing solutions to treatment centers.
I have a soon-to-be wife and can’t begin to put into words what she means to me. She’s my rock and my best friend. We love horror movies, Rupaul’s Drag Race, drag in general, and many other things that fill our lives with peace and happiness. It’s not always easy and we surely fight, but at the end of the day we are always there for each other and I love her more than words can really say.
It’s thanks to addiction and recovery that I know how to love today.
I am proud of myself for how far I have come. It’s 2020, the world is in chaos and still I have hope for us. I hope that whether you are left or right, you can see that we really have more in common than you think.