Struggling with addiction
Some people may take a warm safe home for granted, I never have. I have struggled with addiction since taking my first drink at the age of 12. Both of my parents have the disease of addiction, and I saw throughout my childhood the horrors of active addiction. My dad’s alcoholism caused my parents to divorce, and my mom was a single mom of three who suffered from mental health issues and addiction. Life was inconsistent and chaotic; I never knew what any given day would bring. There was always an emptiness inside me that I thought I would never be able to fill. My parents supported drug and alcohol use, and I was constantly surrounded by it. Eventually, I started using heroin with my mother and turned to a life of crime and selling drugs to support myself.
Recovery and relapse
Fortunately for me I was not a very good criminal. I had my first serious arrest at nineteen, for manufacturing and distributing drugs. The judge was lenient and sent me to rehab; after three weeks I was sent back home – back to chaos, needles and spoons scattered everywhere. Needless to say, I used. I had promised myself I would never go back to jail again; the pain I went through detoxing on a cold cement floor in prison was unbearable and something I never wanted to do again. I didn’t sell drugs again but what I did do was far worse. I didn’t use for almost a whole day, and I was really feeling it. So that particular day I committed armed robbery and was arrested. I knew I was going to go away for a long time, and part of me was happy the pain would finally stop. I stayed in prison for eighteen months; when finally, the judge asked to see me, he basically told me he was aware of my family history but that didn’t excuse my actions. He suggested I find somewhere else to live, far away from my family. The stipulations were that it had to be a structured environment, and I had to stay there for the remainder of my sentence and complete the program. I was ecstatic to hear that I would be getting out of prison, and I was ready to try to have a “normal” life. I stayed in prison for two more months; my counselor from the prison helped as much as she could but most halfway houses and recovery houses wouldn’t take a violent offender. I was losing all hope, until one day I finally heard back from a recovery house in Harrisburg. They accepted me, and I was released into their care February 15th, 2011. At that point I had been battling my active addiction for well over 10 years. I was 21 years old.
A sense of purpose and security
Immediately upon entering the RASE House, I was given a sense of purpose and security. I was given my own bed with clean sheets, towels, and toiletries. A Coordinator met with me, heard my life story, hugged me, and told me there’s another way to live. I was told all the rules; no drug use, attend a 12-step meeting daily, sign-in and sign-out, go to recovery 101 classes, life skills classes, do your chores, and clean your room. I finally felt like someone cared what I did; I was commended when I did a nice job on my chore, and I felt like sisters with girls in the house. Suddenly I had been given one of the greatest gifts, renewed self-worth. In short, I had been given a reason to live, a reason for hope. I was proud of myself, all due to the new way of life I’ll be honest, no one had ever taught me how to wash my clothes; or dust correctly; or have time management; or that my feelings were valid and important, those were all things I learned at the recovery house. I completed the recovery house October 15th 2012. I now have over eight years in recovery, own my own home and car, and hold a job in the drug and alcohol field, where I get to give back every day.