My name is Hayley and I’ve been sober since June 25, 2015. I’m originally from Portland, Ind. I had a good childhood. I have two really great parents who’ve never had substance abuse issues. If we ever struggled, I wasn’t aware of it. Growing up we were always happy.
My problem with substance abuse started around age 14, after I hurt my back. The doctor who treated me prescribed narcotics. I took them as prescribed in the beginning. But eventually it stopped helping with my pain. Every time I went back I asked for a higher dose and he would give it to me. I also happened to work at the same hospital as this doctor as a Certified Nursing Assistant. I guess you could say he trusted me and didn’t see any issues with addiction.
When I took those pain pills I had so much energy, and I was losing weight. As a child I always wanted to fit in. I had issues with weight and always wanted to be skinnier. A friend told me if I took more of these pills I’d feel even better, so I did. Soon it became an every-weekend thing. Before long, though, I couldn’t stop after Sunday. It quickly became a daily habit. It was like a rolling ball that I couldn’t stop.
My doctor later got in trouble for writing too many opioid prescriptions and told me he had to prescribe a lower dosage. I started having withdrawal symptoms. I thought it was the flu at the time. I visited a friend whom I had told about the situation. He had a substance I later found out was heroin. I told myself I’d never use that, but I was so desperate at the time that I snorted it without even asking what it was.
From there it was off to the races. I fell in love with that feeling. You could’ve said whatever to me and it wouldn’t have hurt my feelings, even though I was always that person who wanted to fit in so badly that I would cry if you looked at me wrong.
Somehow I still kept it together, though I’m not sure how. I finished high school. I was working multiple jobs, mainly to support my habit. Everyone thought that was why I was losing so much weight, including my parents. If you had asked them a couple years ago if their daughter was using drugs, they never would’ve believed such a thing.
The bottom started falling out during my sophomore year of college. I dropped out, and eventually couldn’t keep a job either because I couldn’t get out of bed unless I used. All I cared about was figuring out how I could get high again. I remember going out for my 21st birthday with family and friends. Everyone thought I was drunk, but I was really under the influence.
That’s when my mom figured out something was going on. I had a horrible attitude. I could barely get out of bed. I wouldn’t show up to appointments I made with others, including my parents. I even tried working for them, but couldn’t show up for that either.
Just a few weeks after my 21st birthday, I stole pain medication from my grandmother. My mom confronted me and asked if I had a drug problem. I said no, but refused to take a drug test. After that I went into hiding. But once I ran out of drugs, I went back to my mom, who helped get me into treatment in another state in 2014. I was there for a couple months, but moved into Fairbanks’ Supportive Living Program so I could be closer to my parents. I also did the Intensive Outpatient program. But after relapsing I moved into a house with some people I met in my first treatment stint. It didn’t work there either. I realize now that I was the issue. At the time I thought it was everyone else.
A few months later I was living with my parents again. I got another job, but it wasn’t long after being back in my hometown that I was using again. I thought after being off of it that I could just use on the weekends. I know how to use only when I want to. I won’t let all this happen again. Instead my life got worse – this time a lot faster. I lost everything. Quickly. I fought with my parents and tried to drive a wedge between them. Once again I dropped off the face of the earth and wouldn’t talk to anyone.
One night I was watching the TV show “Intervention.” It made me remember the short amount of time I was in recovery. I could see how happy the people on that show were, and how good my life could be if I stuck with my recovery. I decided I had to go back to treatment. A therapist I was seeing at the time referred me to La Verna Lodge for Women. By then I had to use every morning just to function or else I’d be sick. I wanted to die. I didn’t want to hurt my family anymore. I could see how much pain I was causing them.
My mom took me to Fairbanks a few days later for an assessment. I was admitted to La Verna Lodge for Women. I had to detox at Fairbanks first. I stayed at the lodge for six weeks.
I was very angry my first couple of weeks at La Verna Lodge. I was not a nice person, but my counselor continued to be so nice to me. I had given up on myself, but they never gave up on me. I didn’t think anything could save me at that point. I was my own worst enemy.
My stay at La Verna Lodge ended up being the best thing I could’ve done for myself. That place saved my life. I finally started working on myself. The smaller size of the facility also really forced me to hold myself accountable. And the pain finally got to be too much. I didn’t want to hurt myself anymore. I was tired of waking up every morning wishing I was dead.
I lost so many people to this disease. All I could think about was that I didn’t want to put my parents through something like that. I had already put them through enough. So I kept pushing and pushing. They never gave up on me either. During my time at La Verna, my dad wasn’t on speaking terms with me. He had to pull away for a while because he couldn’t watch me slowly kill myself. I couldn’t blame him. It’s hard to watch someone you love care more about drugs than anything else. But my mom and grandma visited every weekend. Our family therapy sessions helped address many issues and hurt feelings between us. My mom didn’t really understand addiction at the time. With the help of La Verna Lodge and Nar-Anon, our relationship is wonderful today. And after proving that I was ready to work on myself and embrace sobriety, my dad started talking to me again. I’m lucky to have my parents.
Now I work at Community North Hospital as a patient support technician. I’m studying to be a registered nurse at Ivy Tech. I’m enjoying having a better life. I’m so grateful not to be living in that madness anymore.
I’m lucky to have a place like Fairbanks in my life. I volunteer at La Verna Lodge by leading the alumni group once a week. I’m lucky to have the life I lead today. My problems now are blessings.
I still attend 12-Step meetings and have a sponsor. I have home meetings and help anyone who reaches out to me. I stay sober by giving out what was handed to me. I chase my recovery now like I used to chase drugs. In the past I would’ve rowed a boat in a hurricane to get high. Now I’d do the same to stay sober.
Recovery hasn’t been easy for me. It’s actually the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. It’s a different way of life. Any step back may end up being a slide into relapse. You always have to stay on it.
When I was about three months sober, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was very angry. I got back on my pity pot, thinking this isn’t fair. Luckily I have great friends in recovery, whom I’ve clung to in times like this. I remember discussing it at a 12-Step meeting and how angry I was. Someone there told me your mom got sick because you can be a daughter now. I know you don’t see it as a blessing, but at least you can be a daughter today. If it had happened in the midst of your madness, your mom would’ve been sicker worrying about you.
Now I’m a daughter, a family member, a friend. I actually show up when I say I’m going to be there. Today I’m OK being Hayley. That’s one thing recovery gave me back. I had no confidence. I was always looking for someone to tell me I did a good job. I don’t need that anymore. I’m proud of myself. I’ve worked hard to be where I’m at today.
So many people talk about how fun it is to use drugs. But what’s fun about not remembering your high school prom because you blacked out? Or not enjoying holidays with your family because you’d rather be out using? I have more fun today being sober than I ever did before. When I socialize now, I’m mentally there as well as physically.
For those in the early stages of recovery, I say wait for the miracle to happen and don’t give up. I know I wanted to give up early on. I didn’t think I was worth it and I didn’t think anything would work for me. My life has been so much better because of recovery. I love myself today.