Hi, my name is Trina and I am a recovering addict/alcoholic. My story is not unlike many others that suffer from this disease. However, I can now say that I am very grateful to be one who is afflicted as the life I have in recovery is amazing.
I grew up in Northeast Indiana, in a very modest home, in a neighborhood where the majority of my family lived. I was never aware of anyone in my family who were alcoholic or addicts. Most everyone drank, but I never heard the word alcoholic.
My parents were divorced when I was 8 and I chose to live with my father and grandparents while my sisters moved away with my mother. I got to see my sisters occasionally, but I felt somewhat like an only child. I always felt loved and nurtured by my family, but never felt like I was good enough. I became a people pleaser at a very young age.
My father remarried and we moved away from my grandparents. The move and marriage were devastating to me. I was forced to change schools and found myself being lost in a sea of new people. I began acting out by becoming friends with some older students that were involved with drugs and alcohol. I so wanted to fit in, somewhere. I tried everything and found that when I drank or did drugs, I felt as if I fit in, that I was part of. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a very long, dark path.
My father divorced just as I was finishing 10th grade and I was forced to change schools again. This time I really didn’t mind since I really never made many friends at the school I was in. Upon arriving at my new school, I immediately fit with the “in” crowd. This school was much bigger and my use of substances took on a life of itself. Although I graduated with halfway decent grades, my days and nights were full of drinking and drug use. I lived alone with my father and he never became aware of the extent of my use. I became a master of manipulation so that my father would never think bad of me or see that I was doing anything wrong.
After graduation, the drinking and drug use slowed dramatically. Over the next few years, I was working full time, had married my high school sweetheart, and became a mother of 3 great children. When I started having children, my drug use stopped completely and I drank only socially. I realize now that in high school, I definitely abused substances, but never crossed that imaginary line and became an addict or alcoholic.
If you were to look at my life when my children were young, you would have thought I had the “perfect” life. Of course that is because I wanted you to think it was perfect. Perfect marriage, perfect kids, perfect job, perfect home, perfect, perfect, perfect! I was never satisfied with anything as it was. I always wanted bigger, better, and more of everything. Now that I look back, I was living addictively even without substances.
When my grandmother passed away, it rocked my world. She was our family matriarch and the woman who taught me everything about life. I felt as if I was swimming upstream, against the tide, with no final destination. Even though I had a very loving family, I felt alone.
Soon after her death, my marriage ended. Now I was raising three small children on my own, and trying still to show everyone that my life was perfect. I excelled at everything. I became very successful professionally, was attending college, and meanwhile was a full time soccer mom.
It seemed as if I had control of this thing called “life”. That was until suddenly I found myself married to an alcoholic and trying to raise three teenagers. My second marriage was doomed from the start and thankfully didn’t last long. But the damage was done. I had no idea that I had married an alcoholic, or the effect it would have on my children.
After our divorce, I struggled to keep my family together. The children were getting older and I thought they didn’t need me as much anymore. I became very lonely and found that I was feeling right at home at a local bar.
I made alot of new friends and found myself going to the bar several nights a week and drinking until I was drunk. Drinking lowered by inhibitions and when asked if I was interested in doing some cocaine I didn’t blink an eye.
Suddenly I found myself back in the drug world. Virtually all of the new “friends” participated in drug use. It wasn’t long until I was introduced to crack. I did my first hit and felt that, “I had arrived!” I justified my continued use of crack, rather than cocaine, since it was considered cheaper and the high was faster and higher. I didn’t realize that I had become addicted the very first time I tried it.
I no longer went to meet with friends at the bar, I started spending every evening with a very small group of people who all enjoyed crack as much as I did. Two of my three children were still in high school and my oldest was living at my home with her boyfriend. It didn’t matter, my life was crack.
I gave up being a mom and no longer participated in family functions. My focus was no longer on my obligations it was getting and using crack cocaine.
My family kept telling me that I was acting different but I didn’t see it. I felt as if I had finally found my voice; that I could stand up for myself. By this time, I was using not only daily, but all day every day. I had crossed that line and I was addicted. It was no longer a choice, I had to have it all the time. I was either thinking of, planning to, or actively using every waking hour of every day.
My daughter found drug paraphernalia in my room and informed the rest of my family. I was so angry and hurt that I began to care less and less about my responsibilities. The cat was out of the bag, no longer was my drug use a secret.
I was using drugs while I was at work and finding reasons to not work at all. I worked for my Dad and eventually he had to fire me. Now I had even more time to get high. Within a short time, all my children left. I was alone with my disease, but my disease wanted it that way.
As with any good addict, I eventually ran out of money so my days became filled with finding creative ways to support my habit. I had a beautiful home that had no mortgage, that I mortgaged to the hilt, and eventually the bank took from me since I wouldn’t pay the payments. I had beautiful things that I had earned or been given as gifts that I pawned or traded for drugs. Every dime I made or was given I used to feed my addiction.
It was no longer just about drugs, it was a way of life. My life! After losing my home, my loving father helped me get another place to live and paid the rent and the utilities so that his beautiful daughter didn’t have to live on the streets. But this was short lived, my life was spiraling downwards and it was obvious to everyone that I needed help. But I didn’t want it. I wanted to be left alone so that I could continue of this path of self destruction. I no longer cared about anything. I loved my family but loved crack more. I couldn’t understand why no one wanted anything to do with me.
My father did everything he could to help me. He eventually determined that he was enabling me and decided to no longer pay my bills. I acted as if it didn’t bother me. My ego and my disease convinced me that I didn’t need anyone’s help. I was so wrong. With no money, I pawned my car so that I could afford to live for a month but that didn’t work. I ended up using all of the money to buy crack and was faced with homelessness.
I called my dad and told him I needed help. Within 24 hours, I arrived at Hanley. I was desperate, broke and homeless. I knew that if I stayed the required 28 days that I could go back home and no one would know that I was using again. That is just what I did. I had no desire to stop; I just wanted people to think that I had.
My dealer met me at the airport upon returning from Hanley and I was off and running. The next 3 years were the worst of my life. If life is what I was experiencing, it felt more like hell. I did my best to convince everyone that I was clean and sober, meanwhile using more and more each day. It was harder and harder to afford the amount of crack that was necessary to support my habit.
There was very little I wouldn’t do in order to keep using. Selling drugs and stealing from people and places became a way of life. Nothing was sacred, I felt immortal and above the law. I began isolating because I didn’t want to share or have anyone know just how much I was using. I would stay awake for days at a time, only sleeping when my body gave out. Day 4 was always my favorite day as the paranoia would be gone and I had enough cocaine in my body that I didn’t have to smoke every 5 minutes to stay high. I thought of myself as a functional addict since I could leave the house and wasn’t seeing or doing crazy things like some of the other people I knew. I thought I was normal.
At some point, using drugs became no longer fun, it wasn’t working any more. I kept saying, “I am so done with this” but would just continue using. I had everyone in my family convinced I wasn’t using anymore and now I needed help and didn’t know how to ask for it. How could I disappoint them all again?
I thought if I could just get a job that I could control my use. I got a job and lost it within a month. I would be up all night using and have to work in the morning at a factory that was over 100 degrees inside. I was dying a little more each day. When I was fired, my dad asked me to come back to work for him selling insurance. I thought this was the answer to my prayers. Surely I could stay clean and become the person I used to be. Each day I would wake up with good intentions of getting through the day without using but I couldn’t. I couldn’t even stay clean for 8 hours yet on the outside I was showing the whole world that I had it all together.
While working full time, I was still having to find a way to support my habit each day. Cheating and stealing were necessary since my entire paycheck was spent the day I got it. Not on food or bills but on drugs. I couldn’t even afford to put gas in my car to drive to work for the next week. Many times I found myself putting a handful of change in my tank and borrowing cigarettes from friends. I would even give my drug dealer my entire paycheck and borrow money from them to have gas to drive home.
I had a gun to my head, no utilities in the middle of the winter, slept in my car, had no food or water in my house, caught my house on fire, and worst of all, hurt everyone I love. All of this, and I still couldn’t stop using.
Finally, I had had enough of the insanity. I had stolen money from the office and didn’t cover my tracks and for the first time, I didn’t care that I was caught. I needed help. Totally broken and with nowhere to turn, I once again asked my dad for help. I contacted Hanley and asked if I could come back and they described that they had a new unit called “the boomer unit” that I would fit right in to. I said my goodbyes and my recovery began the next day.
November 3, 2012 I arrived at Hanley. The first thing I realized was that my first visit in 2009 wasn’t totally wasted. Even though I didn’t stay sober, they planted seeds that helped me when getting sober this time. They showed me I “could” stay sober, I just had to want it and be willing to work for it. Before coming to Hanley, I had not been sober for 24 hours in over 10 years. I was scared that I couldn’t go an entire day without using, they showed me I could.
I will never forget the feeling of wanting to die in the airport on my way to West Palm Beach. I had missed my connecting flight and thought I would never arrive. I knew that once I got to Hanley, I would be safe. I have never been so happy to arrive somewhere in my life.
I attended every group, lecture and outside meeting that was offered. I struggled with the concept of a higher power; I didn’t see myself as powerless. How was I to turn my will and life over to something that I couldn’t see, touch, or hear? It wasn’t until my counselor had me write 85 pages on Step 1 that described the powerlessness and unmanageability in my life that I realized I had to find a higher power or I would not stay sober. Therapy helped me identify that for years I had thought of my dad as my higher power and that it would be necessary to let go of the thought of having to be daddy’s perfect little girl. A concept that frightened me to death.
It was totally a gift from my Higher Power which whom I choose to call God, that I gained the acceptance that I was not only and addict but an alcoholic and that I was powerless over people, places and things. I realized that I was just as addicted to the life style and I was the substances. The desire to use and drink was lifted almost immediately, but I craved the high paced, drama-filled life I had. I knew I needed more help than I could get in just 30 days of treatment. I knew that if I left after 30 days that I would use again. I needed to protect me from me. I became willing to take suggestions and stayed in treatment for two and half months. It was suggested that I continue with day treatment while living at a transitional living facility for women and was told to find a sponsor and a home group. My family all live in Indiana and I thought I was too old for a half way house, getting sober at 52. I realized I didn’t know how to live sober and did just as I was told.
I got a sponsor and got a home group. I completed 2 months of day treatment and remained at the transitional living facility for nearly 3 months. With God’s guidance, I remained in Florida to continue to grow in my recovery.
During my active addiction, my mother passed away from cancer; my kids graduated from high school and college; my daughters were both married; I had 5 grandchildren; my dad had cancer and open heart surgery; my son moved out of state; I lost my career; my house; my car; myself. I spent more money on drugs than most people have in a lifetime. I wasn’t there for anyone at anytime. I became a liar, cheat, thief, and was a master manipulator. I became someone I didn’t know, someone I never thought I could be.
Today I truly have a life beyond my wildest dreams. I am now a woman of honor and dignity that lives her life in love and gratitude. My relationship with my children and other family members is better than it has ever been. I embrace every moment I have with each and every one of them. I start my mornings with prayer and meditation, asking God to keep me sober that day and asking in what way may I serve Him and help others. I stay as close to the middle of the program, work with other addicts and alcoholics, am involved with the alumni program that Hanley offers and so much more. God continues to direct my life as I pray for guidance and turn my will over to him every day.
I am so very grateful to God, my family, Hanley Center and Butterfly House for giving me my life back.