Recovery Spotlight: Megan R

I sit here, pen in hand, paper in lap, wondering at what point in my life did my addiction begin, and which details should I divulge in order to share my experience, strength, and hope with you? The truth is, there is no real beginning, nor will there ever be a definitive end to my addiction – only a journey through it. 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve never really enjoyed life. My mom told me that as a baby, I was a happy kid, but I remember being full of fear, devoid of security, and always needing a security blanket – either my pacifier, bottle, or a baby blanket kept me calm. I couldn’t cope with life, even when I didn’t have much to cope with. I couldn’t just “be.” I could be angry, I could be sad, I could be different, weird, lonely…. But I was unable to be in the moment, to be secure, or happy. Everything had to be a production in my life in order for me to feel satisfied – I needed the most love, all the attention, every last crumb of food, the strongest coffee, constant entertainment, and the loudest music. My feelings and thoughts were extreme, or they were nothingness…The insanity of skewed proportionality and desolation were probably the first signs of my disease. I had no spirituality, and didn’t want a God, but I sure did need one. I did not need drugs or alcohol to ruin my life – I was born with this disease. I’d later learn that this experience was not unlike any other alcoholic’s experience, this phenomenon of living as a drunk, even before alcohol, was a resting state for my soul, and it was called a “spiritual malady.” 

Before addiction and alcoholism, this malady manifested in different ways throughout my life – anything to take me out of my own mind was good enough for me. As a toddler, it was food and my bottle, as I became school-aged, it was good grades and my dad’s love that filled me up. Being the female middle child of two brothers, I perceived male opinion and attention to be incredibly important, so when my father was at work or on a bender, I sought that love from my brothers. Following my older brother around put me in some compromising situations as time went on, one of them being that I was molested by a boy much older than me. This was another predicament that trained my mind to believe I was “wrong.” nothing about my life or my spirit was “okay.” In 5th grade, after the sexual abuse, after my parents divorced, I remember sitting at my desk desperately wishing to be normal and to be okay. Ages 7-12 were traumatizing for me and shaped many patterns of belief that I am still unlearning. I was bullied relentlessly throughout school, and around 5th grade, after my dad left our family, the bullying got worse. Maybe it was because I was so visibly broken and confused over my homelife that I became an easier target. Maybe it was because I had had another growth spurt (putting me at nearly 5’8 as a 10-year-old), but this was when my feelings of isolation and not belonging became too much to bear. Everything about me felt wrong, my height, my family, my clothes, the hair on my arms, my lack of friends, my weird imagination that nobody seemed to understand, my baby fat that no one else had, I WAS DIFFERENT. I was wrong, and my daily life of loneliness confirmed that. 

I wanted so badly to feel okay, and my alcoholic mind, triggered by trauma, led me to people who thought the same way as me, and that thinking led me to drugs and alcohol.  I attracted chaos, because my whole existence was chaos. I don’t remember the first time I drank alcohol or the first time I got high…it didn’t seem significant at the time. I know that I began drinking regularly around age 15, and my drug use followed shortly after. At the time, I felt like drugs and alcohol made everything better. They made everything smoother, more manageable, more fun, more joyful.  It was another thing that I needed all of, just like the music, the attention, and the sweets.

After two years of serious drug and alcohol use, I was second guessing my choices. I had already done a lot of damage to my family, my friendships, I had dropped out of school, and had no skills. I walked into an AA meeting at 16 years old, pretended I cared about what these old people were saying, and promptly left as soon as the meeting ended. I knew, even then, that something was wrong with the way I drank and drugged… but I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t hurt enough to change my behavior.

My family moved a couple years later, and a change of scenery helped me in some ways. I was further away from all the People, Places and Things that I desperately clung on to. I enrolled in community college, had a part time job, and was doing okay. I was still smoking weed every day, but I maintained good grades and my college professors were impressed with my work, and that was all the affirmation I needed. My mom and little brother were lost in addiction to painkillers and alcohol, so I believed my weed smoking was normal, and comparatively, acceptable. 

Then I met a guy. I thought he was attractive, smart, funny, and everyone seemed to gravitate towards him. He was a lot older than me, and a lot more driven than me. He represented freedom – He could get me away from the hell that was my family, he could get me away from financial insecurity. He taught me about credit, respect, and employment. Things were good for a while, I learned a lot from him about life and family, and what I wanted out of life. Then he taught me about pills, cocaine, and heroin. He taught me about shooting coke and to make sure I never take suboxone until I’m in full withdrawal. He taught me which veins were thick enough to inject into, and to not appear desperate in front of the dope man. He taught me that you can hate someone and feel like you need them in the same moment. Then he taught me that you can have all the material possessions in the world, all the drugs you crave, and still want to die. 

I’m not writing about my ex fiancé and our use to put blame on him, I write about our shared experience to elaborate on the peak of my drug use, and how my emotions and use took over my entire existence.  By the time I was 22, I had overdosed 4 times, over drafted and ruined 3 bank accounts, been evicted twice, stolen thousands of dollars, and contracted 3 infections from IV drug use. Those are the tangible consequences of my addiction, but there was an immense amount of emotional pain and ruin within my family that my actions caused, too. I had hurt my fiancé’s children by being inconsistent, by involving myself in their lives and not following through. I worried my family. I isolated myself from anyone who cared about me. My poor grandmother prayed for me daily, and I used her and my mom for money, only calling them when I was engrossed in my own insanity, then disappearing off into the night to get high. None of this mattered to me…. It couldn’t matter, my mind and heart wouldn’t let it matter because I hadn’t an inkling of how to cope with it, anyway.

I got clean for the first time in January of 2018 and relapsed 18 months later. I wasn’t addressing the spiritual malady, the mental anguish, or my physical ailments. Even after all that unmanageability, I did not realize the depth of my disease! I was powerless over my drug use, even if the consequence was death. I knew I was going to die; my body was so broken down that every time I used, I overdosed. And I kept doing it… I didn’t necessarily invite death, but I didn’t care if I died, either. 

God did for me what I could not do for myself in November of 2019. A friend of mine was involved in the AA community in Frederick, and after reluctantly telling him about my relapse, he connected me with the Up & Out Foundation. After talking to Korey, I was terrified and excited – this represented LIFE. Up & Out Sober Living was a second chance for me. This house has been more helpful, loving, and inspiring in my life than I could’ve imagined. It truly is a whole family of kind, driven, inspiring, and willing women. I was so far from perfect when I came to this house, I was fearful that none of them would like me, that I wouldn’t fit in, and that I didn’t compare to them, and once I let the women in the program show me love, love me they did. These people taught me friendship, trust, vulnerability, acceptance, and let me borrow their God until I found my own. Recovery is not easy, and I am blessed and grateful that I get to come home to a safe place where I can learn who I am, work my program, and learn how to do life. People tell you to stick with the winners in recovery, and we have a lot of winners within Up & Out. Up & Out has been the solid foundation that I need to get myself up and out of unhealthy patterns and ways of thinking. 

November 14, 2019 could have been the date on my tombstone, but it has served as a birthday instead. A birth into a new way of life. This new way of life has been full of emotions, hardships, fear, joy, friendships, love, fellowship, education, growth and hope. Just like when a baby is born into this big world, simultaneously scary and hopeful, my journey into sobriety is a process and an adventure – a birth of new perspective and growth in it’s on rite. 

I write this three months and three weeks into recovery. I’m in the process of working the steps with a sponsor, I go to meetings regularly, and help a newcomer when I can. I see a therapist and am learning how to deal with my past traumas, one day at a time. I am trying new hobbies and exploring the world sober for the first time. I get to find things that make me laugh every day and explore frustration with new tools. The love that I have felt in this program is unlike anything I’ve experienced before; it’s beautiful. The compassion, empathy, patience, strength, and spirituality of people in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous has given me a hopeful perspective on my future and taught me how to live. Today, I have a God that is bigger than any problem I could face, I’m building my life around Him.

If you’re like me, an alcoholic and addict, and are unsure about recovery and sobriety, I challenge you to spend today getting up and out of yourself and your negative patterns, try it, just for today. 

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