Many people thought I was a hopeless case. To be honest, I was convinced I was. You know, they say it is our past that makes us who we are today and I embrace that philosophy. Instead of being resentful of some of the things that happened in my past, I am grateful for the experiences that made me into the person I have become.

I could sit here and tell you that I had a horrible childhood, but that would be a lie. My childhood was actually something I mourned in active addiction. I was a spoiled “daddy’s girl,” the apple of his eye, his baby. After much self-exploration, I have learned that this left me with a sense of entitlement. Instant gratification was the only sense of accomplishment that I was familiar with.

My dad was an over the road truck driver which meant he was gone for weeks at a time, so my mother and sisters were my role models. As far as I can remember, my mother always had some sort of chronic health condition. Looking back, I realize that I frequented doctors’ offices from a very young age. Whether it was my mother’s appointments or appointments for me, this was becoming a way of life. With this being said, I was raised with a “pill for everything” mentality. If I had a headache, there was a pill for it. If I had cramps, there was a pill for it. Sad? There was a pill for that too. Anxious? There were at least two pills for that. This set the stage for a life without cognitive skills, and a chemical solution for every single real life issue. I didn’t know how to cope with anything naturally.

As I got older, I was a product of too much freedom. My sisters were over a decade older than me. I’m not sure if that’s why I always wanted to hang out with older kids, but my best friends were in their late teens and 20’s when I was 13. I did a lot of dumb stuff while pretending I was older. I landed myself in situations that I couldn’t get out of while managing to maintain my innocence. I was put on narcotic medications in my teenage years, because I was a “difficult” kid.

One memory that stays with me is being brought to the doctor for a physical. The doctor walked in and let my mother know that I tested positive for benzodiazepine. She looked at me with this indescribable expression and said, “Erin, did you get into my Ativan?” I didn’t even know what that was. It wasn’t long until I had my own prescriptions for Zoloft and Klonopin. Nobody in my area even knew what a Klonopin was yet. I very quickly turned into a teenage drug dealer. I wasn’t addicted to the pills yet. Instead, I was addicted to the money.

My first job as an adult was a waitressing position in a nightclub. I had a 2-month-old baby, so in my head, it was perfect. I was able to work while she slept. I saw the amount of money that the bartenders counted from their tip jars every night and it blew my mind. I wanted that, and I eventually got it. I wouldn’t get home until 4am, but I had a baby to care for in the morning.

This is when I found cocaine. It was almost magical. I thought I was accomplishing so much. It wasn’t long before it absolutely consumed me. I was slinging drinks, cocaine, and pills all while socializing with law enforcement who were our paid security. I got away with everything in that town for many years. People used to tell me I was, “burning my candle at both ends,” and I was.

I wasn’t big on opiates, but then it happened.

I got into an accident on the highway while going at least 80 mph. A car appeared out of nowhere, and I hit them before my foot could hit the brakes. My vehicle then hit the highway divider and flew back across all three lanes where it landed in a swamp. I was knocked unconscious with a huge gash in my head from the driver window. I was left with injuries in my neck and back which had me in pain management for many years. I got to the point that many of us are familiar with. My prescriptions lasted about two weeks at a time when they should’ve been lasting twice as long. Then I was sick, but I always had one person I could count on; that person was my mother. All I had to do was tell her how much I was hurting. She didn’t want to see me in pain, and she certainly didn’t want me in debilitating withdrawal.

In the beginning, she didn’t realize the monster that I had become. Although she was giving me her pills, she wasn’t giving me enough. I needed at least triple that just to take away my symptoms. I would steal her pills and HELP HER LOOK FOR THEM. I was always able to say that I had “never used heroin,” so I couldn’t possibly need treatment, right?

I went from taking painkillers and experiencing an energy that would give me the ability to get a lot of stuff done, to taking so many that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I always hated being tired. So, what better than cocaine to bring me back up, right? Wrong. I found myself on a stimulant/benzo/opaite roller coaster. One morning (after I robbed a drug dealer) I got so violent with my mother that I caused property damage. At that point she realized that I was absolutely unstoppable and called the police. I was arrested, charged with two felonies, and spent about a month (Christmas and New Years of 2013/2014 included) in the county jail.

I had a period of sobriety after detoxing in jail, and was doing pretty well. However, I wasn’t working a program of any sort. In turn, I did no self-work. I soon brought my mother back into my life and she was staying with me and my family. I injured my back and talked my mother into giving me a painkiller. I convinced her (and myself) that I wasn’t the same person. I could take one and be okay. It was only weeks until I was taking handfuls of pills, and then I moved on to her 100mcg fentanyl patches.

My husband found me with multiple patches on, passed out and drooling. He ripped them off, but I had no idea. He hadn’t even known about my relapse, much less that I had been mixing opiates and benzos. I woke up the next day, only by the grace of God. I was given an ultimatum; medical detox or homelessness. I chose detox but I “wasn’t ready.” I got myself kicked out of detox. Full of guilt and shame, I turned to the streets, literally. I was that “missing person.”

During that time, I went on a journey that would change my life forever. This is not only when I used heroin for the first time in my 33 years of life, but it’s also where my epiphany happened. I looked around and realized that there were only two possibilities for outcomes if I stayed where I was at. I was going to die, surrounded by strangers and they would either hide my body or toss me out of a vehicle somewhere. Those were my options. I called the detox and begged for them to take me back. “I know it would be against protocol, but you will be SAVING MY LIFE. I’m going to die out here.” Once again, God opened a door for me. They were going to give me another chance to save myself.

I went back the next day and decided that I was going to do EVERYTHING that the professionals suggested of me. If that meant going to treatment for 28 days, 60 days, 120 days or six months, I was going to do it. I followed up with treatment, and when I walked out of those doors I made one of the hardest decisions of my life. I had to accept the fact that my relationship with my mother was nothing short of toxic. My addiction encouraged me to take advantage of and manipulate her, no matter how much I thought I had changed. My mother was going to LOVE ME TO DEATH, literally.

She didn’t do anything “wrong” and I don’t “hate” her, but this was the best way for me to ensure that she wouldn’t have to bury her daughter. My recovery work didn’t stop when I got home from treatment; that’s actually when it all started, and it’s no coincidence that I’ve been clean and sober since March 26th, 2015.

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