This content is for mature audiences and may contain triggers involving, but not limited to, addiction and sexual assault.
I don’t think anyone sets their sights on drowning in addiction when they grow up; homeless and hopeless, wandering the streets like an animal without a home. But that’s exactly what happened to me. That’s exactly what I became.
My addiction was an abduction disguised as freedom. Freedom from the shame that had consumed me ever since I can remember. When I was a little girl, I used to follow my mother around in hopes that she might hug me. I wanted her love so badly, I would lay on the floor in front of her locked bedroom door and try to watch her through the crack. My mother has severe mental illnesses. It’s not her fault. But of all the truths I have had to face in my life, this one is the most important… it’s not my fault either.
She told me I was too emotional, too in the way, I talked too much, and she wanted to feel too little.
I was desperate for love.
When I was around 5 yrs old, a man came into my life and began showing me the kind of attention I had been craving at home. He played with my hair and sang me songs. He told me I was good and special and loved. But over time, those times together turned into something so confusing and frightening… I would sometimes pee my pants if I knew I was going to see him.
That man molested me until I was almost 10 yrs old.
And I never told anyone. I would leave my body to him and fly away like a little bird into my imagination. All for the sake of survival. All to feel approval and affection.
Those secrets. That shame. All of the moments without my mother… grew into a beast inside of me that I could barely contain on my own.
When I was 12 yrs old, I found a bottle of vodka. And I firmly believe I was an alcoholic from that very first drink. Because before that little cup was even half way gone, I can remember I was already plotting, planning, and scheming in my mind… ways I could get more and drink every single day for the rest of my life. Because it was the first peace I had ever known before.
As the years went on my alcoholism grew. The pain I was running from grew with it. Alcohol met Vicodin. Vicodin introduced me to OxyContin. Oxy met heroin. And heroin wanted meth. And there goes the story of a girl who’s spiraling so out of control that she can’t even begin to stop her own destruction.
I spent 13 yrs a heroin and meth addict. Living in cars and dirty motel rooms. Homeless and hungry. Eating from garbage cans and peeing on the street. In and out of jail more times than I can count until I was finally sent to prison.
In prison I had a moment that changed me forever. In my cell, sitting on my metal bunk; surrounded by cement walls and looking out this little window at a small patch of grass. A sensation came over me and it finally hit me that this was going to be the sum total of my life, until my addiction took my life away if I didn’t do something to face the pain I had been willing to die in order to avoid.
It has been a long road for me. In the 8 years I’ve been in recovery, I have had to travel back through my entire life and look at every single moment pain. I’ve faced the things I was sure I couldn’t bare to even look at.
Every single thing I’ve ever been through, every mistake and wrong turn I’ve ever made… all of it… has built me to be the woman I am today. And today I know that I am worthy of a life. I am worthy of more than overdosing in some riverbed as a transient who’s identification is pending.
I have picked up the little girl from my childhood and carried her home with me. I twirl her around in the sunshine. None of that was her fault or hers to carry. And together we can face anything.
The woman I am today is silent about nothing. I share my story, every single moment of it, in hopes to encourage anyone who may be suffering under the darkness of silence and shame.
Growing up without a mom has brought forth in me an incredibly loving mother to my own 2 beautiful children. My addiction has taught me compassion for people and their suffering. Being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse gives me a story that has helped many people rise up and own their own. I love my life and the woman I see in the mirror. We are all capable of healing our lives.
No one deserves to live or die like that.
Jen Elizabeth is a recognized recovery writer and speaker living in Southern California. She shares her story, the wreckage and the reckoning, as a way to leave the light on for anyone who is suffering under the darkness of shame and silence.