Personal Stories of Addiction & Recovery: Megan
By all outward indications, I should have grown up to have a happy, successful and productive life. I come from a good home: two parents, two older brothers, church, friends, good grades, sports, activities, vacations, love. We were by no means rich, but we had enough.
The truth is, I failed at life for a long time. Me — the bright girl with the winning personality and so much potential, so much going for her. What the hell is the matter with Megan, they’d say, when is she going to pull it together?
I’ll spare you the 25-year play-by-play and get to the day of my surrender. I was 41 years old, divorced, and about to be homeless. My older two kids lived with my ex-husband, and in my disease I had given a third child up for adoption. Every day I shot meth and heroin (although not nearly enough of it — never enough), and every day my boyfriend and I plotted and scammed (others and each other), stole and pawned, cheated and thieved.
Every day I wanted to stop. Every damn day.
It wasn’t always this way
There had been a seven-year period of sobriety in my late 20s/early 30s, during which I married, bought a house, developed a writing and editing career, had a son and then a daughter. I got sober in the rooms of a 12-step fellowship, and I was active in that fellowship, had lots of service commitments, took women through their steps, and had a host of friends. Life was good.
With the benefit of hindsight I can tell you how I threw that all away. First, at about five years sober, I stopped praying. I had never developed a strong relationship with a Higher Power; I had leftover resentments at God (my dad dying when I was 15, the hypocrisies of organized religion, being an addict/alcoholic in the first place), and while I had felt the Power sporadically, I was agnostic by nature and not interested in getting all “God crazy.”
About a year after I stopped praying, I started letting my commitments slide. I rationalized that, look, I was a wife and a mom with a full-time job; I needed to back off a little bit. I became too busy to sponsor other women — let someone who didn’t have a family at home do that. I still went to meetings occassionally, but only to socialize.
So, this was me at about seven years sober: I hadn’t prayed in two years and I had no commitments and no sponsees. Then I wound up in pain management for some legitimate chronic pain.
At first it was Vicodin
Then it was Percocet. Then it was Oxycontin.
You probably know where this is going. I angrily defended my right to take pain meds to my husband and my sober friends. I was in pain, and besides, the doctor prescribed it.
But of course I couldn’t manage it, and I spent the next couple years strung out on pain meds, stealing, lying, doctor shopping, and nodding out just about everywhere, including at work and behind the wheel. When I finally realized that hey, I’m no longer sober, I thought, well, screw it — I’m going to do what I really wanted to do, which was meth. So I did.
It’s funny (not funny at all), but looking back, I can see that because I got sober, I received all these wonderful blessings… husband, children, home, career. And then because I had the blessings, I thought I no longer had time to do the things that kept me sober. Then I lost the sobriety.
And then I lost the blessings.
I was back in full-blown addiction. I lost my marriage, my job and my home. My ex-husband served me with an order of protection against my kids. I met another guy, got pregnant, and had another daughter. I gave her up for adoption. I left that guy, found another. He showed me how to shoot up. I started using heroin to “even out” the meth. I started getting arrested.
Me, the bright girl with the college degree and so much potential, the good mom, the good friend, the one whose future was so bright and shiny… was now a junkie. I was chaos everywhere I went, too, and people were sick of it. I no longer had any friends; all my friends were sober and still doing sober things. They tried to help me, but addiction had me 100 percent.
I spent the next seven years like this. It wasn’t fun, and it wasn’t a party — I was using to treat a disease, and it was its own full-time job. There were periods of brief sobriety in which I would check into a halfway house, get a sponsor, start seeing my kids again, gain a little weight, start working some steps…. And then I’d pull everything down around me and start the whole cycle all over again.
There were many promises, and I meant them when I said them. I’m going to get sober, you’ll see. I am going to stop living like this. I’m going to get my kids back. I’m going to stop stealing. I’m going to do good. I’m going to get a job, and an apartment, this is it, this is really it. This is the last time. You’re going to be proud. You’ll see!
The best definition of powerlessness I ever heard is this: “I get high when I don’t even want to.” That is my truth.
The guilt and the shame of it all consumed me, especially when it came to my kids. For whatever reason, I couldn’t do the work required of me to get better. I couldn’t take an honest look at all the ways I failed you and me and my kids and my family and life — it was too much. I couldn’t follow through, despite a desperate desire to do so.
Until I could.
March 14, 2012
Back to the day of my surrender. Like I said, I was 41.
I had just checked into another halfway house. I had been living with my boyfriend at his dad’s house, but he just kicked me out (best decision ever, though I was furious at the time), and it was either check in someplace or be on the streets.
As I stood in the kitchen of that halfway house and looked around at the destruction that was my life, I had a profound first step experience: I realized that this was never going to turn out any differently for me. I was never, on my own power, going to pull my life out of the gutter. Ever.
I made a decision in that moment to do whatever it took to recover. I was finally, finally 100 percent willing. I surrendered.
I lost the battle to win the war
It’s six years and two months from that day in the kitchen, and I haven’t had a drink or a drug since. What a crazy, beautiful, messy adventure it’s been!
To say I was “unstable” in the early months of my recovery is an understatement. I didn’t know how to act without substances in my body. I did not have a good grasp of reality. I was weird. I was awkward and anxious all the time. The ladies at my halfway house told me later that they all thought I was still high for the first few weeks. That’s how bizarre I was. This passes, by the way. I promise.
After I surrendered that day in the kitchen, I got busy. I got a sponsor and worked the 12 steps. I was honest and thorough, even when it didn’t feel good — especially when it didn’t feel good.
I’m not going to go into my experience working the steps, because that’s just it — it’s my experience. Have your own experience with the steps. And don’t try to understand them. Do them. I’m an overthinker by nature, so I get it, but my suggestion here is stop trying to figure everything out. If you’ve made a mess of your life, you’re in no position to rely on your own thinking to get you out. Your brain is what got you there in the first place. Take the suggestions of those who have recovered.
I will tell you what working the steps did for me: It cleared me from the wreckage of myself. It connected me to a Power that was already within me (and that is in you, too) — Power that I desperately needed to stop using drugs and fix my life.
If I had that Power, I would have done so a long time ago. But I couldn’t, on my own power, stop using or fix my life.
I don’t know how that happened. I just know that it happened. Work the steps.
If you’re new in recovery
This is my advice: Hang on. It’s going to be OK. Get a sponsor and work the steps.
Be patient with yourself. You didn’t destroy your life in one day, and you’re not going to fix it that quickly, either. It takes time. But I promise you, stuff gets fixed. I’m not sure how or what that will look like for you, but it happens.
Don’t let the “God” part scare you away. There’s a lot of wiggle room here. You don’t need to belong to any particular religion or thought process to do this work (personally, I’m a pantheist). You just need an open mind and willingness.
Along the way
So many remarkable things happened (and are still happening!) on my recovery journey. I don’t have enough time or space to list the gifts of recovery, but I’ll give you the main ones:
I developed a deep connection to my fellow man. I love humanity. The beauty of the world is a constant source of awe to me.
I have strong, beautiful, amazing friendships in my life. They’re all drug addicts. They’re my family.
Having a sponsor, being a sponsor and otherwise being of service has saved my butt on numerous occasions.
My connection to the Power — I call it the Universe, cap “U” — is the most important thing in my life. I can feel it (not always, but most days) and every day I work to grow that connection.
I got a job back in my field, writing and editing. I didn’t think that would happen again, because I had a record — but what do I know? When the Universe says yes, It says yes. I worked in that job for 4.5 years, got promoted, and was a respected, contributing member of that company. Then I left for a bigger role for more money with another company. I love it. Security has never once escorted me out of my place of work :)
I got my driver’s license back (I drove without one for a long time). I own a car with legal tags and insurance (what a concept!).
I’ve restored my credit. That took a while and is still a work in progress.
I have a lovely three-bedroom apartment. I pay the rent myself. That took some time, too, but it happened.
I don’t steal anymore. The last time I stole something was when I had about two weeks clean. How could I ask for the blessings of recovery and still pull dope fiend moves like shoplifting? So I made a decision to stop. And there has always been enough.
I’ve made a few dozen amends to stores, people, etc. I have apologized for my actions and inquired about how I could set things right. Then, I did what they requested.
Most of the important relationships in my life have been restored; a few have not. I’m OK with that today.
My ex-husband and I are wonderful friends; we even took a family vacation to Hawaii earlier this year. We each have a key to the other’s house. He has forgiven me. We parent our kids well together.
Most of all, I’m a good mom today. My kids know they can count on me. If I say I’m going to do something, they know I’ll do it. That didn’t happen overnight. Have patience.
I no longer wish I was anyone else. I’m finally, really OK being me. I totally dig who I am.
I forgive myself.
And finally and most amazingly, I have no desire to use. I am free.