Today's post, Overcoming Addiction – A Recovering Addict's Perspective, is a unique post.
It's a joint post written on two different blogs.
Let me explain.
My wife, Cathy and I, told our story on this blog about our eleven-year journey dealing with a son who is an addict. His drug of choice is heroin.
Since writing that article, the most read article on this site, I met Deanna, a fellow blogger over at Ms. Fiology. As it turns out, she is a recovering addict.
I encourage you to read it.
I reached out to her via Twitter to invite her to tell her story on Money with a Purpose. In the course of more Twitter chats (I've come to love Twitter) and a couple of video calls, we decided on a format to interview one another.
We sent each other questions to understand each other's perspective better – recovering addict and parents.
Below are Deanna's responses to my questions. You can see Cathy's and my responses to her questions in her post, Overcoming Addiction – Parent's Perspective.
We desire to offer hope, understanding, and insight to anyone dealing with addiction, either personally, a loved one, or anyone you may know.
We would love it if you'd share your thoughts and comments on both sites.
When did you first start drinking and using drugs? How did it begin?
We drank until I got sick and blacked out. I thought it was great. I didn’t make a habit of drinking until High School when I had a driver’s license, a car, and a paycheck.
The first two should make you cringe.
Yep, I was the fun party girl in H.S. who made poor choices in favor of having a good time. Unfortunately, that involved drinking and driving.
I had a good friend who stood by my locker in 11th grade and said, “Deanna, you’re drinking, and driving is going to kill someone or yourself, and I won’t be a part of it anymore.”
My disturbing reply was something like, “I guess we won’t be hanging out anymore.” God love her, she is still my friend to this day. She gave me a similar wake-up phone call when I was 36.
I had many close calls while driving, like getting on an exit ramp to a highway while rushing to get home before my curfew after a night of partying. Amazingly, by the grace of God, I never had an accident or a DUI.
When I was 17, I was dating a popular guy, and we were big time partiers.
Occasionally, he’d tell me life could be so much better if we would live for the Lord. I finally said let’s do it, and so we did. We turned our lives over to God and His direction and did a complete 180.
Mind you I grew up in a Christian household, but this was my first adult decision to live by faith.
Well, we went through our senior year of H.S. with plans to be married afterward. All was going well until he walked away from God and me.
It was too much for me to bear and I tried to take my own life. I’ll never forget what my Mom said to me in the hospital, “Deanna, the person you are trying to hurt will forget about you, but your family who loves you, never will. This would hurt us forever.” I thank God I didn't die.
I started experimenting with drugs, and things got out of hand. At the time, I was still living with my folks as they watched the horror of my experimentation unfold. They should’ve kicked me out.
I was becoming overt in my rebellious lifestyle and even shaved my head.
As I wrote that last paragraph, it dawned on me why tough love is so hard to do.
My parents knew my state was fragile as I went into the hospital due to a suicide attempt. While I was living recklessly and in complete rebellion, I imagine, they feared what would happen if they did kick me out.
One day I felt like I was losing my mind from all the heavy drug use and decided things needed to change.
I quit smoking, started working out again, and limited my drinking/drugging. I'd cleaned myself enough to convince my parents I was ready to go away to college.
I will spare you the next 10 or so years of my life but know that what I just described became the ebb and flow of my existence.
I'd drink/drug to extremes and then reel things back in enough to maintain a semblance of a normal life.
For better or worse, I was high functioning even up until my dark, lonely bottom at the age of 36.
When did you know you were addicted? How did that change you?
It took me to the brink of insanity, and for the first time, I considered going to a treatment center. Instead, I changed my friends and stopped that drug but continued to be a recreational partier. It always appeared that I could gain control of things.
Until I couldn’t.
The bottom? Not so fast
The realization that I was an addict and an alcoholic didn’t happen until I was 36 years old and at the end of my road. I had been reintroduced to meth a few years earlier, and the drug won. It took me down, and my admission of defeat is what saved my life.
My story is not linear.
There was always this bright, young woman full of purpose and desire trying to get out. At times she would excel and do things like getting a 4.0 in graduate school while studying to be a math teacher.
Agonizingly, this insecure little girl who didn’t think she deserved to be loved and doubted that she would amount to anything was also fighting for center stage. When she took the lead, the need for escaping via drinking and drugging accompanied her.
I graduated in May of 2007 with my Master’s in Arts in Teaching Curriculum and was certified to teach 7-12 mathematics.
However, the disease won out, and I walked away from a promising teaching career. I chose to get trained as a Wine Sommelier which seemed like a fitting career for a high functioning addict/alcoholic.
This was the start of the two-year beginning to my bottom.
What was it like physically/mentally when you didn’t get your drug?
At the end of my using, I was constantly under the influence. With my main drug of choice being an extreme upper, I could also consume a ton of alcohol.
I woke up in a horrible mental and physical state until I could ingest my drug. Without it, I was extremely lethargic, low functioning, and suicidal.
Once I got it, I was high-functioning, alert, and able to face the day. As you can imagine, I tried to make sure I had my drug with me at all times.
I went to great lengths to prove to my psychiatrist that I had ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) so that I could get a prescription for Adderall. Adderall is a combination drug containing four salts of the two enantiomers of amphetamine. You don’t need to be a chemist to see the similarities of these drugs.
I want to write about this so that people are aware of the addictive nature of these drugs.
Yeah, I fooled my doc into prescribing it to me so when I was out of the street drug, I had a backup. And yeah, some people genuinely have ADHD and are helped by these drugs. However, I am of the belief that these meds get overprescribed.
Check out these two articles for some disturbing statistics:
Not so fun fact: Hitler and German soldiers used meth during WWII.
How did you finally quit? What motivated you?
In the last two years leading up to my bottom, I was also in an abusive relationship. He was one of my drug dealers so you can see the intertwined web here. Breaking away from this relationship was hard.
One night, in what I see as my darkest hour, I had a vision and saw three distinct paths:
- Myself rocking back and forth in an insane asylum
- Complete blackness which to me equaled death
- A path with a tiny glimmer of light which to me equaled a God I once knew
When I had this vision, I got down on my knees and prayed for the first time in a long time. Nothing monumental happened, but I did throw away my drugs.
I went through my week like the walking dead, and when Friday rolled around, I decided to go partying with my boyfriend. We ended our night in a big fight, and I cried myself to sleep.
But this night was unlike any other, and I awoke at 3:00 A.M. with another vision. From this second vision, I found the courage to leave. It may sound crazy, but I left and quit everything in an instant.
As you’ve read, though, a lot led up to this moment. If I didn’t walk away right then and there, I knew with every fiber in me that I was facing insanity or death.
I made the harder choice to surrender, ask for help, and dive into a life of recovery.
That choice has been, by far, the best decision I’ve ever made, and I’ve been blessed many times over for it. The years that followed involved a lot of hard work, but every bit of it has been so worth it.
I know many addicts who’ve gone further down the dark road of addiction than I.
For some reason, I decided that was far enough for me.
What would you like people to know about addicts and addiction?
People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol are just people, usually with some wounded history, genetic makeup, or generational inheritance which predisposes them to become addicted when others are not.
It’s indeed a disease and if you’ve ever heard an addict say something like, “I want to be different, I’m going to quit, or I will be the person I’m called to be,” they mean it with their whole being.
Relapse is a widespread occurrence in addicts who are trying to recover. There are so many things that can trigger an addict into using. Something literally changes in the brain of an addict who gets triggered.
The good news is many of us can and do recover if we have the capability of being completely honest with ourselves and others.
What did your addiction do to you financially?
Yeah, well, I developed poor money habits as soon as I started working as a teenager. My parents taught me differently, but I did things my way.
At a young age, I had the mentality that if I wanted something, be it a fun experience or a new sweatshirt; I found a way to get it. My methods were legal. I worked for my money, but many addicts fall into illegal means of obtaining their money.
I became a waitress at the age of 16 and did it up until my 30’s. Why? Because I always had cash in my hand.
So, do you remember when I said I wanted to maintain the semblance of a regular person? Well, I did and took care of my bills and kept working.
However, I’d often pay bills with credit cards and take out the maximum student loans to live on. This way I could use my paycheck for drugs and alcohol.
I do have two degrees to show for those loans but I also had a ton of debt. Mind you my parents paid for my undergrad degree.
About four years into being sober, I became ready to clean up my financial wreckage and employed the Dave Ramsey debt snowball method.
On December 29, 2017, I made my final payment to my student loan debt and became debt free for the first time in 23 years!!! In June of 2018, I was able to go on the Dave Ramsey show and share my testimony.
I never take for granted how I got to where I’m at today. Astonishingly, I am now chronicling my journey to financial independence over at Ms. Fiology.
I hope my story inspires you to know it’s never too late. Life is good.
When I told our story, I was amazed at some of the comments I received.
The first was from a mother who'd lost her daughter a month before reading it. She talked about getting the “dreaded” call. where you're told that your son or daughter overdosed.
Every parent prepares to get that call. It's part of the package.
A couple of other comments brought home to me that many people have unfair and inaccurate stereotypes of addicts (along with many other things).
Two readers thanked me for informing and educating them on the disease aspect of addiction. Both admitted to thoughts that addicts were weak people who made a choice to start and could do the same in quitting.
As you've heard from Deanna and our story, that's not the case.
Though addicts choose to start, once the brain chemistry changes, the decision is turned upside down.
Thank you for reading. If you haven't already done so, please go to Ms. Fiology and read our responses to Deanna's question.
Please share these posts on social media, send to friends, families, co-workers or anyone else affected by addiction.
Now it's your turn. Does hearing Deanna's story change your view of addicts? Addiction? Has the disease impacted you or a loved one? Please let us know in the comments below.