My Name Is Fiona, and I’m an Addict
It took me far too long to say those words. It took me even longer to mean them. My road to recovery from substance abuse began the first time I made myself vomit. See, before I could imagine getting better, I had to get worse.
Growing up, I always felt like the weirdo, the odd woman out (turns out most addicts felt this way!). I was overweight and had low self-esteem. I suffered from anxiety and depression. In turn, I felt like a piece of crap every day.
I Started Young
At 11 years old, I made myself throw up and instantly felt better. That’s kind of sick, right?
I didn’t lose tons of weight. I didn’t become suddenly popular. The boy I had a crush on didn’t ask me out. What did happen was that I gained control. On some tiny level, I finally had control over my body, over my mind.
Fast-forward a couple of years, I found out pills worked better than vomiting. Fast-forward a couple of years from that, I found out heroin worked better than pills. Oh, and guess what? Cocaine and heroin worked best.
By 17 years old (before I was even legally an adult!), I was one hot mess. I was addicted to multiple drugs, living on the street, and alienated from my family. I was more addiction than person. Luckily, my mom just wouldn’t give up on me. She got me a plane ticket and a bed in one of south Florida’s most prominent treatment centers.
That wasn’t happily ever after though. Though treatment was an amazing experience, I relapsed afterward. Life was hell for another year. Eventually, I went to another treatment center and got better. Turns out, all I had to do was change everything. Though this sounds hard, it was so much easier than the alternative.
If my story sounds like a bad after-school special, that’s because it is. I was a statistic. I was the story you told your kids to scare them. Today, well today, I’m much different. I’m writing this, exposing myself, in the hopes that other women might not have to go through all I did.
What I Needed Wasn’t What I Wanted
I’ve been around the block when it comes to rehab. I’ve been admitted twice to in-patient, residential programs, and been to more intensive outpatients (IOPs) than I can count. I knew the system. More accurately, I knew how to beat the system.
It wasn’t until multiple therapists, doctors, and addiction professionals had called me on my issues, that I began to heal. To put it another way, what I needed wasn’t what I wanted.
What I needed was a gender-specific rehab, therapists who examined all aspects of my life, supportive peers, and aftercare. In my IOP experiences, I received none of the above. IOP works great for a lot of people, I can’t stress that enough. But for this broken woman (for this broken GIRL really), IOP didn’t even allow me to cut down my use.
My first time in residential treatment, I had two of the four. I was in a gender-specific treatment center and had great peers. What I didn’t receive was comprehensive clinical care or any aftercare.
My second time in residential treatment, I had four out of four. I was surrounded by incredibly warm and supportive women, the entire treatment team kicked my metaphorical ass, then built me carefully back up, and the rehab looked after me upon discharge. Guess what? As a result of all that, I began to change. I was given hope, and I wasn’t trading that hope for all the drugs in the world.
Recovery Is For People Who…
Addiction treatment is a vital and necessary part of recovery, but ultimately, it’s only the start of a lifelong process. Treatment offers a ton of crucial services (like those I mentioned above), a place to be physically separated from drugs, guidance, and hope. What treatment doesn’t offer is the desire to get better. That has to come from within.
Remember, I drank and used after my first visit to residential treatment. This was largely due to not being provided the safe environment rehab should be, but also because I wasn’t ready to change.
To put it a much simpler way, a woman needs the desire to heal more than anything else. What women in sobriety need is a fire within their chests, a voice that won’t stop repeating, “you can do better, you can get better, you ARE better!”
Fiona Stockard is a writer and media specialist for Lighthouse Recovery Institute. She’s been sober since 2008 and finds no greater joy than helping other women find recovery.