I once heard somebody say that “the chains of addiction are too weak to feel until they are too strong to break.” To me, this describes my progression into addiction and my struggle to escape in a nutshell. For most of my addiction, I thought I was drinking and using like the other people my age. However, at the end of the night, my college peers would make their way back to their dorm rooms and wake up for class the next morning. I, on the other hand, was scrounging up every last drop of alcohol until I either made my way home or passed out wherever I had ended up. Then, I missed class, and went back to drinking and using. For years I sat in the illusion that I could drink and use drugs like other people. My denial was strong - I had no idea that I really couldn’t stop, even if I wanted to.
Growing up I never really learned how to express and cope with my emotions. I was filled with the fear that I would be judged if I expressed myself. I didn’t want to seem overdramatic or weak. Instead, I became a master at bottling up my emotions and stuffing them deep down inside of me. Inevitably, these emotions would become too much, and I began to suffer from depressive episodes.
By the age of 14, I found exactly what would allow me to stay numb. It would become the solution to my insecurity, my bottled up emotions, and my ability to cope with life. In the beginning, drugs and alcohol were my solutions. They allowed me to stay numb in a state of oblivion, where I could actually function and feel comfortable in my own skin.
Long before I was able to acknowledge I had a problem I was already too deep. Both my body and my mind were dependent on substances to function. When prescription pills and bottles of alcohol stopped being enough to soothe my anxious mind, I progressed into using heroin. By this time I had already spent time in jail, been kicked out of school, crashed multiple cars, and had burned the bridges of most of the relationships I had.
I wanted to stop. With every ounce of my being, I really wanted to stop. I would wake up in the mornings and promise myself that I wouldn’t get high that day. However, the obsession in my mind was stronger than every ounce of willpower I had, and I would find myself hours later with a needle in my arm, wondering why I couldn’t just stop.
I had no knowledge about the disease of addiction and I certainly didn’t know that it was possible to be happy and live a life without substances. I didn’t know that there was hope in recovery. I reached a place that was so dark and hopeless where I decided to try and take my own life. Before my attempt, I promised myself that if I woke up, I would get help.
Fortunately, I did wake up. I called my mom because she was the one person who would still take my calls. Three days later I found myself 2,000 miles away from home at a dual diagnosis treatment center.
When I think of treatment, I think of true despair. I remember being surrounded by people of all ages who had been in and out of multiple treatment centers, yet they always relapsed. Being my first time in treatment, hearing this made me feel utterly hopeless. I wanted to get sober, but the people around me made it seem impossible. I didn’t want to spend my twenties in and out of treatment centers, so instead of sulking in self-pity, I began taking action. More importantly, I began learning from the mistakes of others rather than making those mistakes on my own. One of the reasons I am alive and sober today is a direct result of the fact that I listen to the experiences of others and try to learn from them.
The best thing I did in sobriety was to surround myself with people who had more time sober than I did. I took their suggestions, built relationships with them, and looked to them for advice. I let go of the relationships that were detrimental to my health and focused on making healthy ones. I began to make an effort to heal the relationships with my family and with the loved ones that I had harmed. In the process of changing my behaviors and taking responsibility for my past, I began to heal from addiction.
Today my sobriety is based on spreading a message of hope. When I see a girl who has just a few days sober, I approach her and develop a friendship with her. I do my best to leave a little hope everywhere I go because, in my experience, there was too much negativity going around when I first got sober - both in my own head and in the people around me. I share my experience with others because talking about my struggles and my accomplishes not only spreads hope, but it shows others that it's okay to speak up. It's okay to not be okay - as long as you are asking for the help that you need.
I get to wake up each day without thinking of drugs and alcohol. I wake up with a peaceful mind, I go to a job that I love, and remain an active member of the local recovery community. I have people who love me and I have love in my heart to give to them. Most of all, I have a purpose today. My purpose is to help the next hopeless person gain the ounce of hope needed to recover from this disease.
Cassidy Webb is an avid writer who advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope. In her free time, she enjoys hiking with her dog, Bella.