My story isn't different from the men and women I've shared space with in groups, therapy, meetings, or even in the numerous psych wards of hospitals. My journey to a life of recovery began long before I entered treatment in the summer of 2013. Just like my substance use, I started young and ignorant to what would come as a result of my behaviors and actions. All I knew at the age of 13 was that the dark cloud that clung to my existence was heavy and I was scared of accepting that my life would always be this— dark, lonely, and painful. I began using drugs because I wanted to feel like I wasn't the waste of space like so many of my bullies told me, how my absence of emotional, supportive parents made me feel. I just wanted to feel like a normal middle-school girl. I was rejected by peers and rejected by my parents on the things that mattered most to my growing personality. I felt like I had nothing to lose, so why not? By the age of 18, I had experienced overdose, various sexual assaults, domestic violence, and drug induced withdrawals. My mental health was nothing short of chaotic and the prime years for adolescent growth were primed with secrecy, scoring my next high, and living my life trying to run away from those fears and feelings I had felt much of my childhood. I skated by in college, but as I hid from the darkness that followed, I quickly realized that everywhere I turned was consumed with the darkness. My eating disorder consumed my life once more, fueled by the need to keep myself high. I lived in a state of devastation and despair. The time had come to accept my fate. I would die like this— whether it was going to happen now or in 20 years, this was my fate. The negative self beliefs I held onto as my lifeline provided the foundation to keep me in pain and keep me motivated to stay high, no matter what the consequences may be. There was no hiding my physical symptoms anymore. I merely laughed them off and held onto the only two friendships left, despite the depression I lived in.
In spring 2013, while simultaneously attempting to piece together study guides for finals, I found myself tired. This was not the same tired I had felt before. I grew tired of waking up, I dreaded daylight or even days later when I came to after a long binge. I felt hallow and brittle, held together only by what was nothing but the luck of being a high-functioning, mentally ill drug addict. I deemed myself irreparable and sought the end of it. I deserved it. Everyone who had ever endured me in life surely deserved to be relieved of the pain, too. I was nothing more than a blister on their livelihoods, and I needed to be exasperated once and for all. I don't remember much of that night. I sent my professors emails apologizing for wasting their time, thanking them for their service as educators and wishing I wouldn't have wasted the opportunity to learn something new. I sent my boss a text to apologize for my poor work habits and that I was going to miss this week's schedule. I apologized for putting her in that position of having to find someone to cover my shifts. The last apology went to my high school lover's mom. I wanted her to know that out of everything bad in my life, the inconsistencies, the violence and pain, she was the only person who loved me despite it all. I wanted her to at least know she didn't do anything wrong and I was sorry for all the pain I caused but I was thankful for her love and support. For whatever reason, I even apologized for drinking all of her Lemoncello she brought back from Italy and was saving for a summer day. I knew it was time to go, and felt relief.
I sit here typing all this partially laughing at my antics but also deeply empathetic to the young lady I was not that long ago. I'm so sad for my younger self, I have very few positive memories of my youth after the age of 13. I missed out on a lot of 'growing up' moments. I traded my adolescence for a half-ounce and some narcotics, in exchange for my innocence and parents peace of mind.
I thought going to treatment in the summer of 2013, I would be cured. I'd go to some meetings, reluctantly join a 12-step group that I really thought was a cult, and wa-la. I'd achieve a level of sanity and peace with whatever effort I could bring forth. Summer 2013 began a string of relapses until April 28, 2014 when I found myself high in a bathtub during a tornado warning calling my sponsor asking for help. It has been more than five years since my last drink or illegal substance. My recovery from substance use has taught me more than I could have ever imagined. I thought I was good to go, I found my pathway to recovery and things were working themselves out. Except, recovery taught me that the learning process wasn't over until I hit the ground six feet under. Once I found stability with recovery in SA (notice, I didn't say I was cured either), my mental health began to demand my attention of care. It took two visits, and a 30+ day out-patient program for me to finally take the same care and attention to my long ignored mental health. It's been two years since my last hospital visit, and I continue to search for new ways to make this journey through recovery a viable one.
The most rewarding aspect to my recovery is I feel I am slowly unveiling the person I always wanted to guide my younger self through life with. I live each day with the full intention to experience rather than just existing. I have been able to discover my deeply rooted passion for giving a voice to others, and advocating for them until they can see their own value. I know now that despite the upsets that come with diagnosed with Substance Use Disorder, Major Depression Disorder, Anxiety, and ADD, I am not useless anymore and I am not defined by any of these things. None of these diagnoses happened to me because I'm a bad person or I deserved them, some are simply a by-product of the sickness I grew up with. But I can break the habitual cycle of sickness, and I can be the loving, kind, tolerant, and supportive person I so badly craved to be growing up. Today matters to me.
Now for the title of my story— Living the St. Jude Prayer. I no longer participate in a religious faith, and I'm comfortable in the spiritual lifestyle I've grown into. However, I grew up in a Catholic home, going to Catholic school during the week and on Sundays to the Catholic Church. In the evenings and weekends, I spent it at a Baptist church with my aunts and cousins. There was always a conflict of interest and diversity in the approaches made by the two churches, but I found comfort in the stories about the different patron saints. My mom always stated my life lived like a modern version of the St. Jude prayer. I overcame the impossibles, even when she didn't believe in me. I'm ending my story with an excerpt from the prayer: "Thou are the patron of the impossible. Pray for me and my intentions! O St. Jude, pray that God’s grace and mercy will cover my intentions. Pray for the impossible if it is God’s will".
I think we have to continue to vocalize ALL sides of the story in recovery. We have to continue to support and try to be as supportive as we are capable. There is a great divide in the communities of substance use and mental health, and it was extremely hard for me to recognize the value in caring for all sides of my health when I first started trying to get sober. The stigma associated with the different pathways to recovery needs to be dismantled within the communities before we can ask those on the outside to stop stigmatizing substance use. We cannot ask of others what we cannot do ourselves. I know we are capable of a unified front, but we have to first really examine our intentions for the future, and that future needs to include all pathways and all of the spectrum of mental health.