Recovery Spotlight: Cassandra C

Life is a gift, which I used to take for granted.

Growing up, as far back as I can remember I thought I had a normal family. My parents always made sure I had what I needed and was able to go do fun things with friends. What I didn’t know then is that sitting on my dad’s lap up at the neighbors’ sipping his beer at the age of six or seven, that I was doomed. My dad was an alcoholic but I didn’t know what that meant. My mom didn’t drink when I was really young. Everything would change the older I got.

Going through elementary school was easy. I always got good grades and had friends. It was when I got in middle school things changed. I still had friends and got on the honor roll, but I just couldn’t seem to fit in. I felt different and not good enough. I was always scared to get in trouble or be the “bad kid.” At this point at home my parents started arguing a lot and I noticed more drinking. I heard people say my parents were doing drugs, and it made me mad. I was in denial, and very confused.

One evening my mom took me on a ride with her to get something for our home. Instead, with me in the car, she had met a guy to get some crack cocaine. I was devastated. What people were saying was true. I got out of the car and began walking, not knowing where I was going. All I could do was wonder how my mom could do that to me. I was hurt and angry. Soon after, I witnessed a friend and her baby get murdered. I was in shock. I’d never experienced such trauma.

Not even a year later, around 9th grade, I was introduced to marijuana and alcohol. I had friends who liked drinking and smoking, and I was starting to feel like I fit in. I felt wanted. In 10th grade year I got suspended from school for being drunk at a football game. My parents were disappointed in me and said I was grounded—not allowed to attend homecoming, which is a big deal at that age. But this consequence didn’t stop me; the beginnings of my disease. My junior year in high school was calm and I was making good grades, but I just didn’t want to be in school. I had plans to go to college but never made it.

At home, my mom was drinking and had cheated on my dad. I was so full of anger at this point and the only thing that took that anger away was alcohol and drugs. I felt broken without them. One night I was at a friend’s house drinking when cocaine and crack were introduced to me. I refused to smoke the crack because of my mom. But I met something even more addictive that night: a guy right out of jail. I thought I was going to have a great life with him living at his grandma’s. It was good for exactly a month. One night after drinking, we both got into his car. We were headed back to his house and was driving erratically. I was terrified but he refused to let me drive. Out of nowhere he asked, “Are you ready to die?” I felt my heart stop. We were going 60 MPH, and I saw a tree in front of us. I closed my eyes and prayed to God that I wouldn’t die. The moment I awoke, the vehicle was destroyed. Every window was shattered and the engine was smoking. All I remember is the lights of the ambulance and being rushed to the hospital. This is where pain meds entered into my life. My parents begged me to come back home, but I didn’t. I was tied down to an abusive relationship and a growing alcohol and drug problem.

Four days into my 18th birthday I got a call early in the morning for my mother saying I needed the come home. She told me my dad had shot himself and was rushed to shock trauma in Baltimore. I knew my dad suffered from depression, and the family issues we all faced got to him hard. This is a family disease. By the grace of God, he didn’t die after he shot himself. After six months in the hospital, he came home, living on a feeding tube and pain meds. I spent a lot of time with him, but was of course still drinking and partying. Drugs and alcohol were the only thing that made me feel remotely close to being okay.

I moved back home to be closer to my dad. One night, my dad was clearly upset and we talked. I wanted to go out but told him to call me if he wanted to talk more. I never got a call and had a bad gut feeling almost the entire night so I went home sooner than usual. When I came home, I found my father dead. I called 911. He had taken a lot of his meds and empty pill bottles were on the floor next to his bed. My mother, who also had a drug problem, lay next to his dead body, asleep.

If I was broken before, now I didn’t want to live. My dad was my world and always there for me. I can’t even tell you to this day who was at his funeral; I was on too many drugs. I couldn’t speak. My mother may as well have been dead given how drugged up she was, too. A month later the man she cheated on my father with moved in. My actions quickly showed how I was feeling. The alcohol made all those feelings break loose but mostly anger. The cops were called regularly because I despised that man, and, to a degree, my mother. Life was hell, and the only thing I knew was drugs and alcohol.

I had met someone at a party at the time I clicked with. I should’ve known it would be a set-up for disaster with both of us using, drinking, and meeting at a party. He moved back with his parents and told them what I had just been through. They lovingly invited me to come stay with them. I stopped the hard drugs but I didn’t stop drinking. Although I felt loved I felt all the more like I didn’t belong. His mom and I grew close, while my mother and I were far from that. I got a job working in a preschool and stayed dry for 8 to 9 hours during the workday, but the minute I got home I began drinking. Things went downhill quick. My boyfriend and I began arguing which eventually led to physical violence. I left at times, but like with the alcohol and drugs, I always came back.

I never looked at myself as the alcoholic. I said he was worse than me. Leaving a party one night he got a DUI and a hit-and-run. We had been told about Alcoholics Anonymous so we started going to see what it was all about. This was 2010 and we walked in. We met good people but still compared out hearing people share. I said he had a problem that I didn’t because I hadn’t been in any trouble. I look back now and I was in denial and still have reservations to keep drinking. I lasted a month in the rooms of AA and then went back to my drinking. Nothing changed between us except for the worse. Both of us cheated on each other and beat on each other physically and emotionally. His dad had a drinking problem I grew to learn which pushed his mom out. His dad became sick and I found out I was pregnant. I stopped drinking but he didn’t. His dad had passed. I found him one morning going to do laundry and didn’t want him to see his dad like that because I know what that did to me finding my dad.

I had my son. The day I got out of the hospital I moved to Hagerstown with a friend. She was involved in pills and I quickly started doing them on top of alcohol. This led to me to forging prescriptions. I was fine not getting sick at first but the daily use change that. I needed pills and more pills to feel normal. I had a baby to take care of is how I justified my drug use to myself. Soon my friend went to jail on a violation of probation, and I had to move back home with my mom and the man whom I hated. Here I am again with this anger and hate that filled my mind body and spirit. I just couldn’t stop. My mom started doing pills with me but didn’t want me to drink. I felt dead inside and the only thing that kept me waking up in the morning was my son. I didn’t want to leave him, although now I know how much my disease abandoned him. Not long after being home I met a lady who invited me to forging once again. This went alongside the drinking, but now I had also started smoking crack: something I said I never do because of my mom.

I woke up every day sick, miserable, broken, busted, and empty. My mom kicked me out over her boyfriend but said she doesn’t want to find me dead. I was in such denial of having any problem. The things I was doing to get what I wanted in front of my son were a big problem, and the disease had me by my throat. I had to go into a homeless family shelter because no one wanted to take me in or let me freeload. I was with this guy I was initially just friends with but became more. He was shooting his pills. I stayed away from doing mine that way for a while but, of course, I ended up doing what I said I would never do and started shooting them too. I found myself shooting heroin: the one drug I said I’d never do. At this point I’m in a shelter, forging prescriptions, and shooting dope. This time I said it was going be my last forging. I was arrested and charged. I was scared not knowing what was going happen so I put myself in an outpatient treatment program and got on methadone. I was very fortunate to not be kicked out of the shelter for being arrested. They let me stay. I knew I couldn’t drink but it didn’t stop me from using drugs while living there. My disease was in total control but somehow I didn’t see that.

I get put on probation with four years backup. I got a job, a car, and moved out of the shelter to an apartment with this guy, thinking I was all set. I definitely wasn’t. I was shooting heroin every day, drinking at night, and would drive with no care of anyone in my car on the road. The boyfriend and I began to scrap metal or whatever we found late at night. I quit my job because my addiction told me that I would be fine. I was so far from fine.

On New Year’s Eve in 2014 I was arrested for theft. This disease took over my life. I was disconnected from everything including myself. The pain of my problem became worse than the pain of my solution. Those new charges I got violated for the probation that I was already on. Now I was scared because I could see jail in the near-future and my son could be taken from me. His dad was not in the picture and my family was no longer going to help me. I left that relationship thinking that was my problem, not realizing the problem was in me.

In January 2015 I was still drinking, trying to numb away the feelings and the damage I had caused. I now had gotten a warrant and started making arrangements for my son. My grandma watched him so I could turn myself in. I took my son to her house early in the morning and went to turn myself in. I got a bond but little did I know there stood my PO saying I had more charges to be given. I knew my life had to change. All I could think about was my baby boy without me, but realizing I was useless in the condition I was in. I stayed clean for about three months and again slipped up. I thought I could stay clean with no structure of how to live life in recovery. I knew I wanted to be clean and sober. I was praying for God to give me this chance and not send me away, which I probably deserved. I had court coming and I was determined to be clean.

August 3, 2015 is when my sobriety truly started. I went to court at the end of August and by God’s amazing grace they didn’t ask for jail but for this long-term treatment program called Drug Court. At that time I was scared of that long commitment because I never was able to do that kind of thing and my disease was telling me I would never make it. Looking back now, Drug Court was the best thing that happened in my life. I was ordered to go to 12 step meetings every day. The first three months I sat back with my mouth shut but every one of those months I picked up a chip. I had people walking up to me and giving me their numbers. The love I felt was amazing, and I thought I would never feel love again after I lost my dad. I finally felt like I fit in. I got a sponsor and jumped right into the steps. This woman helped so much. All the years I thought God was punishing me but those struggles were just steppingstones closer to finding Him. He knew when I’d be ready and that’s when he would show his face and that day in the courtroom was my God showing his face. My sponsor told me to get a service position so I did. I was nervous speaking in front of people and still am today but she told me to take the chairman position. I met the requirements of clean time so I took the position. As I started opening up more and more I felt relief and my life began to get a lot better.

Today, I’m clear-minded and know that God’s purpose for me is much more than drugs and alcohol. I’m beyond grateful for this new life that two years ago I never thought was possible. Drug Court gave me the structure I needed and most of all, a life. In these two years I’ve came so far. My family now says they’re proud of me and I’m a mother to my son. I can hold a job. I’m so blessed to have so many women in my life. And I know my dad would be proud of me today. When I have hardships I don’t need a drink or drug. I have a program and people to get me through. That means the world to me. To be able to say I’ve been sober for over two years is a miracle. I thank God every single day for where I am. I don’t have fear today. I have hope, and as long as I stay in the center of the 12-step program that I attend and keep going to meetings and continue giving back what I’ve been given, I’ll be okay. Life today is more than I ever thought was possible.