I could write an entire memoir on my struggle with addiction… So I’m going way back now. Way back and way personal. But these are my truths and I refuse to not speak them. I grew up with a dad who was a recovering heroin and crack addict. And when I was 11, my mom couldn’t take it anymore and she left him… but unfortunately she left me too. This caused my dad to relapse once again and since he was now my sole caretaker, I was forced to grow up in an instant. He was shooting heroin and smoking crack all day everyday and didn’t make much of an effort to hide it from me. After that, I became a wild child and did everything I could do to rebel against the world. I drank a LOT, did every drug I could get my hands on, and all the while still going to school, still taking care of myself as an adult would, and still watching my dad slide into the abyss of heroin addiction. I saw my mom here and there throughout those years until I was 16 and moved in with her temporarily. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I tried heroin for the first time and I was instantly in love… wondering where this drug had been all my life. So began my love affair with the demon called heroin and that love affair quickly turned to hate as I lost everything little by little. By age 21, my dad was dying from liver disease (a complication of hepatitis C that he contracted in the 70’s) and I was at my worst phase of addiction… shooting heroin and smoking crack all day everyday. It was not a pretty life. And sadly, my dad slipped away and my mom and I had to make the decision to turn the breathing machines off because he was gone. After that day I tried to get sober and I did that by getting on Methadone Maintenance treatment. It was like a miracle drug and took all my withdrawals away… however, I wasn’t ready to stop yet and I was grieving the loss of my father so I kept using. It took me many stays in detox and rehab and periods of treatment on methadone before I finally, in 2012, got back on Methadone and was ready to get sober. And I’ve been sober ever since!
Now, I’m a HUGE advocate of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for opiate addiction which, for those of you who don’t know, is the gold standard for treatment of opioid use disorder. Addiction is a DISEASE and as such, heroin is unlike other drugs in that it literally changes the brain and receptors and causes chronic relapsing (click here for an article explaining this in more depth) With MAT, such as Methadone or Suboxone, it helps repair those things. In fact, it binds to the same receptors that heroin does without causing euphoria and it takes every bit of withdrawals and cravings away. This gives the person time to get their shit together, so to speak. And whether someone is on it for the rest of their life or for only a couple of years, it’s ok. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right? Now I know there are a lot of people who feel strongly against MAT because they consider it “substituting one drug for another”, or they say the person on MAT isn’t actually sober, and so many other negative hurtful things. I’m here to tell you that all of those things are FALSE!
In fact, in 2015 I was part of a campaign that the mayor of Boston put together called “StateWithoutStigMA”. It’s goal was to obliterate the stigma associated with mental illness and addiction. It was amazing because I got to tell my recovery story to the WORLD and how stigma has affected me throughout my life. The picture you see at the top of this post was actually taken specifically for the campaign and was used on banners and billboards throughout the state. It was one of my proudest moments and what I consider, one of my biggest accomplishments. That’s one of the reasons I created this website because the more people who see me coming forward and telling my story without shame, the more people will do the same. I’m not ashamed of my past anymore and I refuse to be quiet about how stigma equals death!
I will be writing a lot more about this topic throughout this blog and I would love to know YOUR thoughts on the subject. And please know I am 100% non-judgemental and even if you disagree with me, you still have a voice here!
Goodnight, my lovelies! And remember, you are LOVED, you are LIGHT, and you are BEAUTIFUL!