During my active addiction, my life became so magnificently unconventional and inappropriate I don’t think it ever really accomplished itself as a behavior, never mind a life. It was more like a warm and fuzzy toxic cluck. Life in active addiction forced me into a death sentence of a future-less future in a black hole accompanied by a life full of heartache and hopelessness. I watched opportunities pass me by while, slumped over a sink with a needle hanging out of my own arm, I focused on the people who had betrayed, damaged and walked out on me, crying, “Please don’t leave me.”
My whole persona and identity had become shaped to that of a victim, a victim of my past and of my thoughts. The one who focused on the problem, the hurt, the degradation and the humiliation. The girl who tells you her life story over and over again. One of those people in 10 years time who turns into a shoulda, coulda, woulda type girl — if only things had been different.
When I made the choice to change and find out if life had more to offer than what I had been getting, I had to have hope that there was something bigger out in the world for me. Hope that something bigger was in front of me than what was behind me. For so long, my past had been living a daily routine in my head, and it was very much alive and voicing its resentments while scolding my heart and burning my soul.
I had no energy to chase my destiny while being tainted with self-pity, crying on the floor, looking backward and upside down at it all. I had to learn to let the first half of my life go, regardless of how painful it would be and how empty I would feel at the loss. Active addiction had allowed me to live in my past, and it meant that I had no energy to be in the here and now, which is where I needed to be to go after a future for myself. And I had come to decide that I quite liked the idea of having a future.
In active addiction, I had given myself full permission to go out and destroy every good cell in my body and rob myself of love, empathy and compassion.
Learning To Forgive Myself
By practicing the 12 steps of Narcotics Anonymous in my daily life, I was able to find a purpose to my life, and I was able to practice forgiveness. Before I went into recovery, I thought the world and his family owed me an apology for the harms done to me, for the hurt and degradation, for the endless abuse and self-loathing. However, I soon learned that the first person I had to practice forgiveness on was myself. I had to forgive myself for rejecting and starving myself of love. Until I could learn to forgive myself, I was incapable of forgiving or loving anyone else.
For me, forgiveness was a slow process. It was not something that could be forced, and it was not easy. I hated my own reflection when I looked in the mirror. Reminders of my past were etched all over my body. I carried self-harm marks on my arms and had trauma heavily sketched all over my face when I even attempted to break into a smile. Forgiveness meant patience and time, and time, I learned, we can never run out of, especially in recovery.
Showing Up When You Least Expect It
Life, for me, has shown up at the most unexpected times. While cleaning out my cupboard, I found an old box of photographs. One photograph in particular stuck out. It was of a little girl who was sat on a beach with her big blue eyes full of hopes, dreams and aspirations. The little girl was me. I knew straight away I had neglected and abused that little girl through my active addiction. I erupted into tears as I realized I had allowed my active addiction to destroy all the hopes and dreams of the little girl staring back at me. I had to forgive myself. I had to find a way to set this little girl free and restore all of the love, hope and dreams that I could see so clearly in her and that I had lost in myself.
As my recovery from active addiction progressed and I continued to work the 12 steps, I then began to imagine all the people who had hurt and violated me over the years. I chose to picture each person as a child on their first family holiday, with their eyes full of hopes and dreams, and I wondered what could have happened in their life that was so terrible it sent them out to try and destroy the heart and soul of another individual.
Some answers I found, and some I never will, but I began to think about them individually and how they had their own hopes and their dreams taken away from them. Instead of anger and resentment, I found compassion.
This was another moment of life showing up when I least expected it. This was when I realized that by holding onto the anger and resentments of the past and by letting my negative internal dialogue guide me, I was unable to fulfill my own potential as a human being. It was like sticking a pen full of heroin into my arm and expecting someone else to die. I then realized I had only been killing myself. My resentments, anger and internal dialogue wanted me dead.
Looking in the Mirror
Recovery has taught me that a life sentence can be just the same as a death sentence — and not even a death in the physical sense, just the emotional sense. That’s a place called hell on Earth. A place where I looked in the mirror and saw Satan looking back at me. I had become my own worst enemy when I chose to put needles in my arm.
Today when I look in the mirror, my reflection is of a girl who went to hell and back, and the magic of it is she never knew how she got herself there. A girl who came back with enough excess baggage and trauma to last her until she’s 108 years old, and if my luck is anything to go by, I’ll still be here at that age. Today I like the girl looking back at me in the mirror. I have gratitude in my heart. I am very thankful for my past. I am grateful to be in recovery. Today I like who I am. I am exactly where I need to be. Like I said, for me, life has had a funny way of showing up.