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Courtney’s Past Experiences with Substance Abuse , Age: 28

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

The pain began at an extremely young age for me. I remember wanting to disappear and eventually began my obsession with my own death around the age of 9. After my first attempt, I began drinking and smoking weed when I was 12 years old eventually progressing to absolutely living and dying in active addiction using heroin and cocaine. Many of my years were filled with dark, death filled hopeless and helpless feelings. Mental anguish and despair which was amplified by the nightmare of active addiction. I don’t believe I need to describe what active addiction destroys in detail because aside from literally giving away everything and anything I have ever owned time and time again, each time I chose to use, I gave away myself. I sold my soul over and over again.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

I was first hospitalized in middle school. I had no interest or hope in any help that was forced or presented to me, I prayed for relief of pain and to me, the only real relief would be my own death. I spent years with therapists, counselors, clinicians, psychiatrists, medications, diagnosis after diagnosis and eventually the cycle of substance abuse treatment centers. At one, or even all of the treatment centers I was in, I was finally, for the first time able to connect with another human being’s heart. People believed in me and I found myself wanting to talk and feel better. I ignored the fact that it was their “job” to work with me, because I could feel that they cared. Out of about 10 treatment centers/programs, I can name 5 women who will forever be in my heart.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

I at one point realized that I need to take care of myself, (which includes a laundry list of things), in order to get well and stay well. Finally getting the will or ambition to take responsibility for my well being has allowed me to embrace so many opportunities that I never thought were possible for my life. I also believe I choose not to use drugs today, one second at a time, not only because of how bad it gets, but because of how good it can be.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

My life is beyond what I could have ever imagined even just a year ago. I work full time, I participate in my community and a 12-step recovery program. I spend time with my family. I have continued to pay my rent and my bills on my own with my own money. I have roommates of my choice who are also some of my very best friends. I still work with a clinician and a doctor on a regular basis, and sometimes I leave feeling major pain and shame, and other days I leave there laughing. It’s a part of the work that needs to be done.

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Every day is a battle but what I am still learning myself is that everything eventually passes. Maybe in moments, days, weeks or even months, but feelings pass. As I said before, I work with a clinician and have friends who I am completely honest with. Having people in my life and taking the courage to allow them to help me and support me is definitely what has saved my life time and time again. As scary as it is, using my voice and just stating out loud whatever I am feeling helps other people help me. Life is possible!


I began drinking and smoking weed when I was 12 years old.

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