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'My family was terrified that I would die.' How I recovered from a drug addiction at 18.

Content warning: this post discusses addiction and suicide, and will be disturbing for many readers. If you are struggling with substance abuse, visit the Australian Drug Information Network website to find a support service near you.

I have the disease of more.

More drugs, more alcohol, more sex, more money – I crave anything that gets me out of the insanity that encompasses my mind every minute of every day.

This obsession led me to my first love when I was 18 years old. It gave me a feeling that I never thought was possible. It gave me the ability to feel peace while creating chaos. It made me feel whole when the world was shattering around me.

Heroin was the solution to my problems and the culprit of my ultimate downfall.

The best way I can describe how heroin made me feel is through the analogy of a car entering a dark tunnel that runs through a mountain while on a busy highway. The cars are racing by and you can hear the rubber tires creating friction on the ground as the wind howls by from other cars racing past you.

The sun is shining bright and the music on the radio is turned up high. When you enter this tunnel, it is lit by dim, orange fluorescent lights and you no longer hear the wind or other vehicles passing by. The radio cuts out and your ears begin to pop. Everything is calm. Everything is quiet. Everything is still.

The peace that heroin provided eventually wore out. It became an incessant chore that was encompassed by violent storms of chaos and deceit. I was so physically dependent on heroin that I struggled to get out of bed if I didn’t have it running through my veins. I wanted to get sober with every ounce of my being, but the withdrawals were so unbearable that I never made it more than a few hours before I picked up once again.

Addiction had turned me into a person whom I never thought I would become. My days consisted of waking up in the morning, getting high, obsessing over who I would lie to or steal from to get money for my next fix, and repeating that cycle until I fell asleep at night. My family was terrified that I would overdose and die as they desperately begged me to get help. I became a person who lied about everything and stole whenever I was able to. My friends had rightfully abandoned me, I couldn’t hold a job, and I was deeply unhappy.

The pain I was feeling became too strong to bare. Seeing no way out, I made a conscious attempt to overdose and kill myself. By some miracle, I woke up. I wasn’t angry that I had failed. I was simply defeated. I reached a turning point as I picked up the phone and called my mother to tell her that I was finally ready to get help.

I went to a faith-based treatment program where I learned about how substance abuse behaviour changes were more likely to occur in people who began to practice a faith-based lifestyle. This idea was something I strongly fought against because I had a deep resentment towards organised religion. Thankfully, I met a woman who encouraged me to develop faith in a personal God of my own understanding. She told me to develop my own conception of who my God was and search for times in my life where something more powerful than me had been in control.

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In time I came to realise that the only reason I was still alive was because of God. During the several occasions where I overdosed, I always woke up unharmed. Despite my lack of financial and moral responsibility, I was always given a safe place to sleep. Even though I had harmed the relationships with my family, they still loved me.

I was completely broke without insurance, but this treatment centre had given me a scholarship into their residential rehab program. All of these things are things that I don’t deserve. I came to believe that these were all gifts from God.

Not only have I maintained my sobriety through the grace of a loving, forgiving God, but I stick to women who have more time in sobriety than I do. I learn from their experiences in an attempt to be a better person each day than I was the day before. I rely on them for emotional support when I am struggling as they provide a compassionate, understanding shoulder to cry on. I have never had such beautiful, honest relationships like I do with other women in recovery.

Today I have a life that is fulfilling and exciting. I have had the opportunity to mend the relationships with my family so they no longer have to lay awake overwhelmed by the fear that I won’t live through the night. I am able to be an aunt to two beautiful nieces who never have to see me nodding out at Christmas dinner.

I work a job that I am passionate about and rent my own apartment by the beach. The biggest blessing I have received is that the only thing I crave more of is chances to help other women recover from the disease of addiction in the same way others helped me. Watching these women basically come back from the dead with a twinkle in their eyes is truly the bright spot of my life.

If you, or a young person you know, is struggling with symptoms of mental illness please contact your local headspace centre or chat to them online, here. If you are over the age of 25 and suffering from symptoms of mental illness please contact your local GP for a Mental Health Assessment Plan or call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

This article was originally published on SheSaid and has been republished with full permission.

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