I had a normal childhood and upbringing.
I was raised by my parents in Newport Beach, California, until they divorced when I was 10 years old. At age 11, my mother remarried. I always felt unsure of where I belonged.
The first time I ever got high, I was smoking a joint (marijuana) with my friends. I was 12. However, my addiction really escalated while I was in college, when I was introduced to Oxycontin and Xanax. Eventually, I was so out of control that my parents sent me to Israel for a rapid detox procedure to cure my withdrawal symptoms.
I made two attempts to commit suicide.
Yet, I returned to college. I was able to maintain a whopping 11 days of sobriety before I relapsed. My mental health was deteriorating.
2012 was the first time I checked into rehab, but not the last. I was in and out of treatment five times over the next two years.
There was a truth I had yet to find, which was holding me back from recovery.
When I began treatment, the doctor told me I would not be able to drink alcohol. I wasn’t expecting that. I didn’t have an issue with alcohol; I wasn’t an “alcoholic.” So, why would I need to quit alcohol? Just get me off of these pills, and I’ll be fine, I thought.
So, naturally, I rebelled against the doctor’s orders.
I would go to treatment, detox from the opiates, maintain sobriety for the remainder of my stay, and in celebration of my sobriety, I would get wasted from alcohol upon checking out of treatment.
Within a week of consuming alcohol, I was back to sticking a needle in my arm. That’s when the cycle began—detox from heroin, treatment, check out, drink, and back to rehab again. I couldn’t understand why treatment wasn’t working for me. Why was this happening to me?
My need for heroin grew far worse. Finally, my parents cut me off. They couldn’t bear to watch me kill myself. I started living on the streets. I owed money to dangerous drug dealers who were beginning to follow me. I stole money. I did whatever it took to feed my addiction—nothing else mattered, not even my own life.
Finally, my fight-or-flight response kicked in. I knew I had run out of options, and I would either die or sell my own body to survive. Reaching that proverbial fork in the road was my rock bottom. I needed help.
I was estranged from my family and managed to get a friend to refer me to a treatment center. Knowing that this was my last chance, I threw myself into the program.
I’ve been in recovery ever since.
So, why did it work this time? My mindset had completely changed. Before, my addiction ran the show. I refused to admit I was an addict and accept that in order to stay away from my “drug of choice.” I had to quit everything. My need for heroin paved the way to alcohol consumption—any fix to ease the pain.
However, when it comes to the disease of addiction, nothing is ever enough, and the brain will keep fighting to feed the need. Alcohol only helped for a day or two, but as soon as the brain accessed the high, it needed more and more. Thus, resorting to heroin use shortly thereafter. I was finally ready to accept that sad truth.
By the time I had entered rehab, I was near death. I spent two days in the hospital.
Finally, I took direction from staff members and anyone that was willing to help me instead of fighting against them.
Seeing the amount of people suffering from the disease of addiction, and how important treatment centers are to the beginning stages of recovery, my mom and I decided that we wanted to be able to offer help to others the way I received help.
Witnessing a client break free from the grasps of addiction is beautiful. Being part of saving someone’s son, daughter, father, mother, husband, or wife is a gift that has helped me hold steady to my own recovery and has brought my mother and I closer than ever before.
The biggest piece of advice I can give someone looking for help is to get out of your own way. Let the people in your program guide you, and be willing to accept that guidance. Your mind will try to play tricks on you in order to access what it “needs.” Stick with a program what works for you and have a support system long-term which can shine some light on your mind’s own dangerous tricks.
True recovery is something that takes hard work each and every day. That work is never complete, but in time, it becomes gratifying and delivers a high that can never be obtained by drugs or alcohol. My mother and I started a treatment center, Path to Serenity.. Find something you believe in, and devote yourself to it each and every day.
Author: Lisa Cohen
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Travis May