A dirt road led you to a driveway with a beautiful white house on top of a hill. It was surrounded by pine trees and woods that seemed to be endless. That’s where I grew up. One sister, and two parents who adored us. We spent all of our time outside as kids, pretending the trees could speak, and every animal we found was in need of a home. We would catch snakes, butterflies, frogs, salamanders, turtles, anything we could get our little hands on. We even had two raccoons at one point. I named mine Rascal. My sister and I both attended St. Mary’s Catholic school, where each class had less than 20 students. You had the same teacher year round, wore a uniform, and grew a year older with the same faces year by year. We only had maybe 3 new students from 1st grade to 5th grade. When you spend your time with the same 15 kids every year your aspect isn’t nearly the same as everyone else’s. Whoever is around, is a friend. No questions asked. Everyone accepted everyone, and there were no stereotypes. Boys played with girls, girls played with girlish boys, boys played boyish girls. We all played together and it was effortless.
Around 3rd grade we moved into our new house, that was again surrounded by woods, but this time a beautiful private lake was right in our front yard. Our horses we right down the road, we had four wheelers, jet skis, boats, and enough land to keep a nature loving child busy for hours. As I look back now, it was the ideal place to grow up. As 5th grade came to an end my sister decided she wanted to go to public school, and of course I wanted to tag along. I remember taking the tour for my new school and I remember the school seaming unbearable. It was so big compared to the private school I was used too, and all the kids, so many kids. So many new faces, and everyone looked so their own. And the reason I say that is, there were no more dress codes, there were no restrictions, everyone was their own self and I was overwhelmed. The first day of 6th grade I realized I was in trouble. I realized quickly that not everyone was friends with everyone. I was striving to fit in, and I turned into a sponge. Soaking up personalities, styles, and anything else that would get me where I thought I needed to be, or who I needed to be. I wore clothes I thought everyone would like, I spoke how everyone spoke, and acted how everyone else acted. And it worked. I had my “friend” group and I was instantly at ease. I continued to be a sponge till about 8th grade. My friends were all confident and seemed to have no worries besides what their outfit was going to be for the next day. I on the other hand, still was insecure and questioning my every move. It wasn’t until the end of 8th grade that I suddenly stopped caring. I came into my own skin, dressed how I wanted to dress, did my make up how I pleased, and stopped speaking words I never thought were true.
High school started a whole new adventure. I was always active in sports, and kept myself busy. My friend group expanded as the year went by. You’re thrown into 7 different classrooms with 7 different groups of people. I wasn’t one to limit myself to a certain “type” of person. I made friends in each class and the variety of personalities was always interesting to me. My self confidence grew as I started to come into my own. I was surrounded by many different groups of people and it wasn’t rare for kids in high school to smoke weed and drink their parents alcohol when left home alone. It didn’t phase me, I didn’t mind. The taste of alcohol never really satisfied me, but of course slowly other drugs came into the picture. Anything anyone could get their hungry fingers on. When you grow up in a small town, kids tend to run out of things to do, and that made doing nothing okay. I was never around any of these things growing up, but for some odd reason nothing phased me. I was curious and there was no voice in my mind telling me otherwise.
There was one thing my body craved after one time. Opiates. Specifically, OxyContin. Pill form, all sorts of colors. It felt like every muscle in your body has finally relaxed for the first time in your life. Everything slowed down, and all you were focused on was the feeling of solitude and the sound of your breathing. I had a circle of friends who all had the same taste as I did. We would do it before school, during school, and after. All day. The downfall was, it was an expensive habit. For a 14 year old in high school, who worked only a few days a week, it was nearly impossible to afford what I thought I needed on my own. There is always that one person one step ahead of you. Meaning, there is always a person who has all the medication, has different selections, and has all the connections. That person usually seems cool, collected, and under control, when in reality they are in complete disarray. Those were the people who were ahead of the game. Those were the people who I had surrounded myself with.
I remember this particular day perfectly. It was summer, there were three of us. My one friend, was one of those friends who always had what we wanted. I remember him taking a little paper rectangle out of his pocket, with a brown pancake mix colored powder inside of this delicate hand made envelope. “What’s that?” I said with wide eyes and curiosity. He hesitated and said very quietly, “Heroin.”
That word itself instantly made me feel odd. It was like it almost slowly branded my brain with that word. Heroin. It was a word that had so much strength behind it. I hesitated for a minute and then slowly my curiosity took over. He told me it was just like OxyContin, but better and cheaper. My ears perked up like a puppy. I wanted it. The instant it was in my nose and ran down the back of my throat I remember it tasting just like iron. Almost like I had a dirty penny in my mouth. I hated it. But then it started to slowly take over my body. The same sensation I loved but stronger. I was in love. Somehow I was getting high consistently but maintained to graduated high school. Although this has nothing to do with my addiction, prior to graduating I found out the man who I thought was my father for 17 years was not my biological father. It was hard and I was confused but I never dealt with it simply because I never had to. I had all I needed. My parents weren’t getting along very well anymore either and my sister was at college and I had no idea where I wanted my life to go.
And quite honestly, I didn’t care.
My mother surprised me one morning on my way to school. She told me I was going to speak with a counselor and when I walked in, there sat my family and one of my best friends parents all awaiting to give me an intervention. I was livid. But I realized, I didn’t really have a choice. My mother made me quit cosmetology school half way through and I went to rehab. I was there from October till January. I was feeling myself again and simply wanted to come home, so I did.
This seemed to be a routine for the next couple years of my life. Getting sober, moving back home, slowly gaining my families trust, and then throwing it all away. I even attended the same cosmetology school a second time and got kicked out two days before I graduated. Yet again, for getting high and not being able to function. I would nod out while sitting in my chair, make endless trips to the bathroom to get high, leave school to make trips to the city, and it all finally caught up to me. The only thing that I had going for me, I gave up. Again. Back to square one, no one trusting me, no one having any sort of apathy for me, and my life was at a stand still. Once again, I didn’t really care either. My probation officer was catching on to my downhill spiral and called me in to converse about the situations I’ve been putting myself in. I still think to this day that my mom called her, and told her something needed to be done.
Who wouldn’t of?
It was October of 2011. I walked into the probation office, sat down with my probation officer, and of course she wanted to drug test me. Me being hard headed, I figured I would fail the drug test and then give her a sob story about how this time was truly different, and how I wanted to change. She didn’t want to hear a word. I failed the drug test, and instantly was walked over to Livingston County Jail. Nothing was really sinking in at this point. As the heroin slowly left my blood stream while sitting in the holding cell, I began to sweat. I realized right then that I wasn’t going to be able to get high. I knew I wasn’t going to feel any better. I was sweating, on a cold concrete slab, with ants marching around my face. I was puking till I could barley breathe. Every bone in my body felt like it was breaking, I couldn’t handle it. I could smell the heroin leaving my pores. I simply wanted to die. After a couple weeks of being in jail, I finally was slowly starting to be able to walk. I could barely walk to the bathroom without being out of breathe.
Finally my court date came. I came out of the courtroom holding sells, in a orange jumpsuit and handcuffs and immediately made eye contact with my mom. I felt awful. For the first time. The judge I had was beyond tough. He was so sick of seeing teenagers and young adults walk into his courtroom with a love for something that was slowly killing us all. Quite a few of my friends that had passed away from overdosing had him as a judge and he didn’t want to hear one word out of my mouth, because he knew it wasn’t going to anything but bullshit. He sentenced me to 6 months, with the possibility of going to rehab. I wanted to get out of that jail so badly, I was begging to go to rehab. Anything is better than that place. There was almost 30 of us in one room, one shower, two toilets, no privacy, and food I wouldn’t even feed my dogs.
I finally found a rehab, all the way in Sault Ste Marie. Which is at the top of Michigan, 5 hours from home, and right next to Canada. I arrived in November, and was surrounded by such a variety of women. Leaving was not a choice, I was court appointed to finish the program. I slowly started to want my life back. My best friend was one step ahead of me, and we were in this together. We both were sober for the first time in years and we were actually okay with it. I completed the program in January, right before my 21st birthday. Coming home was the best feeling in the world. My family saw the girl they hardly remembered again. I quickly got back on my feet and started a new job at a factory and reenrolled in cosmetology school. I graduated in less than two weeks, and passed my state boards and finally got my license.
My probation officer was thrilled and I finally completed my 5 year probation period. The only downfall was, I had a felony on my record. Once I got my life in order, I decide to file to get my felony expunged. My probation officer wrote me a letter of recommendation and I told him how I graduated school, I was currently working, and I was in the process of finding a job in a salon, and the felony on my record would hold me back from ever trying to manage a shop. He agreed, and thankfully expunged my felony. At the time, I didn’t really think much of it, but a felony on anyone’s record, puts your life in limbo.
Shortly after that, I started working in a salon. I quickly built a clientele and was promoted to manager shortly after that. I was still living at home, but I didn’t mind at all. I finally saved up enough money to move into an apartment on my own, and I loved it. I was able to buy all my own furniture, my first flat screen TV, decorations, and all the other necessities you need to live on your own, and it felt amazing. I wasn’t used to having my own money and not spending it on drugs. It was almost like my mind just flipped a switch, and I was only focused on living. I was on my own and what helped me the most was that my best friend was still sober and living on her own as well, we both had jobs, and we both weren’t stopping there. No one thought we could remain friends after all that we went through, and we proved them wrong. So of course, to rub it in everyone’s faces the following year we ended up renting a house together with a mutual friend. That was probably one of the best years I’ve had. We all got along so well, all of our friends would come hang out at our house, and everything just seemed easy. We were both genuinely happy with where we were and where we came from. Unfortunately, we both went separate ways at the end of our lease. I surprisingly enough moved to a neighboring city in Detroit, and she moved to Grand Rapids. But all that matters is we are both still sober and our arms are flawless.