By Chanda Lynn – Recovery Advocate for Transformations
It’s 1 a.m. I am sitting in a hospital bed, smacking myself in the face and roughly scraping underneath my eyes to give my face the appearance of distress and pain. It works- the doctor comes in and my eyes are as pink as the Ecolab soap hanging on the wall. My face, hollow and a bit sunken in, but the doctor never knows the true reason for it. He gasps at my appearance, “You must be in so much pain, you poor thing!” Oh, I am doctor, but the pain you see is just the tip of an iceberg so deeply rooted in me that its’ ice consumes me from head to toe and branches deeply into my soul.
A click of his pen and the turning of a page in his notepad is like the sweetest music to my ears. “I’ll write you a prescription of Vicodin, is that okay?” Oh, yes, doctor. You just saved my life.
It’s 11 a.m. I just recently had my wisdom teeth pulled. The dentist gave me a prescription of Vicodin against his own wishes- but my tears and manipulation gratified the worst parts of me and he gave in. I am riding back to the dentist office three days later to tell him of the horrible news. My tooth is infected- it must be dry socket. It’s 11 a.m., I pull and old bobby pin from the grungy cup holder in my car. There’s no privacy here. I pull into a Wendy’s parking lot and decide to go into the bathroom.
“This is what it takes to be okay”, I say to myself.
I run into the bathroom, straighten out the bobby pin, wash it as thoroughly as I can and open my mouth. If I can just make it look like dry socket, I will have the will to live. I dig into the holes where my wisdom tooth was and they begin to bleed. All of the healing that had happened in 3 days was ruined, and my mouth bled and bled.
Moments later I am at the dentist and he pulls out his pen; it’s that sound again. “You must be in so much pain!” he exclaims. “”Here’s a prescription for 20 10-milligram Percocet.” I can breathe again. “Okay, thank you so much.”
This is what it takes to be okay.
It’s about 8 p.m. I am in withdrawal. Desperate. I can’t bear the thought of living the rest of the night this way- with myself. My son and his father are at home. It’s a winter’s night. Why can’t I be normal and watch a movie and cuddle with them? I can’t. I get into my car. I will crash my car- it’s the only way to be okay. I drive towards my grandma’s house, wishing the roads were more slippery. What do I say when I do it? “Grandma has the pills, she won’t be able to say no”, I think to myself. “Alright, just do it Chanda!” “Stop being such a baby, it’s the only way!” The voice in my head screams at me- who knew the voice of addiction sounded so much like my own.
I am on grandma’s road. It’s dark out, but still not slippery. I drive past her house because the ditch on the right side of the road plummets into a small river. I turn around. On the left side of the road, just past the small river is a perfect ditch. “I know! I will say a deer ran in front of me!” I breathe in deeply. I am scared. But this is the only way. I drive faster, I close my eyes and jerk my hands to the right and let go. The car bounces and rolls its’ way into the ditch. I exhale. It’s finished.
I’m at the hospital. They prepare the needle filled with dilaudid. “You poor thing!” they say. Yes, I am poor, in spirit. They inject me and I can breathe again.
That is what it took for me to be okay.
It’s National Recovery Month. What does that mean to the rest of the world? Maybe not much, but to me, it means everything. In the depths of my addiction I was enslaved, enslaved to a master whose only goal was to take my life. I was desperate. But the word desperate can only go so far to describe what I was really feeling. I was an empty shell inhabited by a demon much darker than any I had before. Addiction, a word that can never quite describe hell the way it is experienced.
I am in recovery 2 1/2 years. It was December 27, 2014 when I decided I wanted to live. I didn’t think I would make it. If anyone would fail- it would’ve been me. But I didn’t. You see, when I tasted my first breath, I remembered what it was like to live. To truly live. All of the things you take for granted- like doing the dishes, folding laundry, cuddling your children, watching a sunset- I could not do without being high. I say being high loosely, because it really just meant being okay.
Recovery has given me the ability to do my dishes, fold my laundry, cuddle my children and watch a sunset, like I’ve always wanted to. It’s the simple things in life that addiction takes away from us. The way it ensnares us into becoming slaves is by taking away the little things gradually so you won’t notice until one day you wake up and everything is gone.
Recovery has given me everything back. I still bear the scars from years ago, but I walk tall today knowing that I stared into the face of death and because I have a God that loves me so much, I live. Recovery is like that ice cold glass of water after being in the desert for days. Recovery is like a warm and greasy cheeseburger after wandering in the wilderness for weeks. Recovery is looking into the mirror and loving the person staring back at you. Recovery is looking into your child’s eyes and knowing that they see you. Recovery is being able to walk into your mom’s house and she doesn’t have to follow you around, wondering what you’ll steal. Recovery is the respect from all of the people who had none for you. Recovery is the jangling of the keys that unbind your shackles. Recovery is the taste of truth on your lips because you no longer need to lie to survive. Recovery is the hope of the future. Recovery is the gift of purpose. Recovery is freedom.
It’s National Recovery Month. For many recovering addicts like me, it’s more than just a month of recognition of our sobriety. It’s a lifestyle. It’s the acknowledgment of a life once lost and another born. It’s a reminder that we made it.
So remember, the month of September signifies more than just cooler weather and light jackets- it signifies the millions of people that saw the depths of hell and survived.