Hi! I’m Hannah. You may be coming across me for the first time, you may know me for my poetry on Instagram, or you may already be a bit familiar with my story. I’m a writer and Los Angeles local. I am a passionate creative, I love helping other people, and I am truly grateful for the life I live, but it wasn’t always that way—far from it actually.
Every Hero Has an Origin Story
…but I am just a person, and the nitty gritty of my beginnings aren’t really all that important to the overarching story here. I was born in Orange County, California and my family was complicated—to say the least. I was raised in an ultra-religious household where pious precepts where preached, but weren’t exactly followed.
I was always a bit of a loner, but managed to find a bit of community in church and youth group. Still, I was an extremely anxious child and had trouble fitting in. I can’t remember a time where I did not feel uncomfortable in my skin.
By 12 I had what were the first signs of depression and I began falling into a decade plus long habit of self-harm. This was also the same time I developed disordered eating habits. Despite this though, I was a good kid. I valued faith over anything because it was all I knew how to value. I lived in an ever-present fear of a fire and brimstone God that didn’t leave room for a lot of the complicated emotions I was feeling. This worked for a while.
Troubled Teen Years
My strict private school environment and rigid church attendance held me close and sheltered at the time, but I was a ticking time bomb. My freshman year I made the switch to public school and my eyes were opened to a whole new world.
It didn’t take long for me to get into the world of drugs and alcohol once they were introduced to me. I quickly began consuming Adderall as often as I could to support my starvation habits. Before I was fifteen, I was drinking and smoking weed.
By my sophomore year I was drinking regularly and got alcohol poisoning for the first time. I had ditched my old life completely and didn’t care. While my behaviors were by no means good, my new friends and new environment gave me room to be artistic and liberal in ways that made me feel safe in my own skin for once. I wrote voraciously and freely for the first time in my life, unafraid of what I put on my paper. My poems and short stories impressed my teachers and friends alike. I daydreamed of a life in New York City, far away from California, taking writing courses from outstanding professors. It would never happen.
I remained a good student, kept out of any real trouble, and stayed in the good graces of my teachers at school—I thought I was fine, but my depression, mood swings, and self-harming got worse. It got to a point where I became too anxious to even go to school during the day and began schooling from home, but with that I began drinking and doing more drugs. I began failing all of my AP courses and I don’t think anyone in my family was surprised when I announced that I was pregnant at sixteen.
I kept the baby and remained sober throughout the pregnancy but was scared and depressed. At seventeen I gave birth to my son, Hayden, and his arrival brought me a new-found joy that I tried to cling to. My son’s father left me half-way through my pregnancy and I there I was: a lone mother before becoming an adult, but I was not deterred from being successful.
The Beginning of a Long and Painful Road
The motivation of my son propelled me to test out of high school and start junior college that same year. Things were rocky for the first year of my son’s life, but started looking up. I started seeing a psychiatrist and a counselor regularly, I rekindled and grew a relationship with a romantic interest of mine who later proposed to me, and I was doing well in all of my classes. Things were going well—until I got hooked on opiates.
My slippery slope from Percocet to heroin was a fast one and the entire experience should have solidified my addictive tendencies. In all, I only spent about six months on opiates, but it was a bad period of time. I lost thousands of dollars, became a horrible version of myself, and I almost lost my future. Luckily, I turned that all around at the last second.
I got clean and decided to move and finish my bachelor’s degree at UC Santa Barbara. It was a great choice.
When I say I got clean though, I mean off of opiates. See, I thought this was my problem. I bargained with myself that the “normal people” stuff—AKA weed and alcohol wouldn’t do a thing to me. Boy, was I in for an awakening. It wouldn’t happen right away though.
I graduated UC Santa Barbara at the top of my class and thought I was God’s gift to the university’s English department. Not exactly…
I was soon forgotten as everyone moved on and I fell into suburban obscurity.
Fast forward a few weeks after graduation: I move with my son down to the outskirts of Los Angeles with my then-fiancée. To say this was a change of scenery would be an understatement. I became bored fast as my days that were once filled with talks about literature and academics were now filled with Paw Patrol reruns.
It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere
My fiancée was a heavy drinker and would drink on an almost nightly basis to put himself to sleep. The habit disgusted me and I would beg him to stop, skip a night, or try a different remedy. I became frustrated and confused when he didn’t listen, but eventually I joined in. My patience went down and my wine consumption went up fast.
My mental health spiraled and the only thing that seemed to make it better was booze. I was by no-means an everyday drinker, but I started having blackout episodes that were shameful. I ruined 4th of July, I became too intoxicated to walk back to a hotel room on my birthday, I became unable to attend family events because I would get too drunk trying to drink away the social anxiety beforehand.
I sat across from my psychiatrist at the time who pointedly told me: “you know, I think you just finally had time for a mental breakdown.”
I was baffled. I had beat the statistics set out for me. As a teen mom I wasn’t supposed to graduate college—and here I was with a degree at 20 years old. On paper I was doing great, but I felt like a mess.
There was some hope on the horizon though. After dozens of job interviews I finally landed a job as a copywriter at a marketing agency. It was by no means what I thought I would be doing out of college, but I was thrilled. I finally felt like I had some purpose again during my days, but at home and in my head things got worse.
I tried switching out the booze for weed (which was short lived) and went back to my psychiatrist desperate. I showed up after a long workday to his office, drunk.
His solution? A hefty prescription for Xanax and Klonopin.
Did I stop drinking? Absolutely not. Instead I found a solution for my horrific hangovers and my hands, which had now started shaking in the mornings.
My relationship with my fiancée fell apart and I lived between a pretty standard day of work, motherhood, and drinking myself to sleep.
A Different Kind of Love Story
Around September of 2018 I began a romantic relationship with my then-boss. I loved my job, but fell deeply in love with him as I tried to keep my personal and professional life separate. He showed me a new and exciting side of life that I had never experienced before. We would dance, party, and explore L.A., Las Vegas, and other places together and I loved it.
The difference was when the party ended, he went back to work. I started day drinking. I’m not sure when “hair of the dog” turned into me drinking from the moment I was awake until I inevitably passed out at night, but for several months I was buzzed 24/7 and I was good at hiding it. I continued working, our relationship got more serious, and business went on as usual. But by early 2019 people were starting to take note and my boyfriend found traces of my alcoholism everywhere.
Into the Wild
On April 1, 2019, I drunkenly decided that I needed a reset and decided to do that by going to…Alaska.
This is the part where people always say: WHAT?! Yeah, I went to Alaska to try and cure myself and instead got in a heap of more trouble.
I had been to Alaska two years before; my brother and his wife had moved up there from Colorado. My brother, who was in recovery at the time, could be the best person to help me I thought. So, I decided now would be a good time to return, unannounced and surprise my brother and get my shit together. Within 15 minutes of the thought coming into my head I had a plane ticket; within five hours I was on my way to Anchorage. Everyone thought I was nuts.
In character, I drank the entire way there, neglecting to tell anyone, but an old acquaintance of my brother that I would be arriving. He offered to pick me up from the airport and take me to my brother’s house and I stupidly obliged.
That is a story in itself, but here is what is important: I ended up badly hurt, robbed (my ID and cash were gone), and, oh yeah…I had my first alcoholic seizure in a town with less than 10,000 people.
I remained in Alaska for six days as I figured out getting back to California with no ID and little money. My brother and his wife took care of me and tried to keep me calm as I relied on what detox meds I had and didn’t drink for the remainder of the time I was there.
It didn’t last—two hours back to being in L.A. I had a fifth of whiskey and two bottles of wine in my possession.
A Much-Needed Intervention
My boyfriend finally sat me down and told me I needed to get some help. I didn’t take it well. I tried to barter with him to go to outpatient, or anything that didn’t require any real commitment from me. There wasn’t much room for argument though. I had a serious physical dependency on alcohol and benzodiazepines. My detox had to be extremely medically supervised or could prove extremely dangerous.
He found me a spot at Huntington Memorial Hospital’s detox (which ended up being a huge blessing later on). The only problem? A bed wasn’t opening up for four days.
I agreed to go to the detox (not rehab) under the condition that I could drink freely until my admission. We had a deal. On April 17, 2019 I was admitted. What followed were 5 days of absolute hell…but it wouldn’t be the last time.
Here I met Dr. Nassiri, who supervised my detox and told me exactly what was happening in my body. In the midst of my chaos, he made a lot of sense. So, I decided to go to a 30-day residential program.
I never saw my first rehab as a chance to get sober for good. I distinctly told my mom on one of her visits that “that whole ‘no drinking for life thing’ is just not for me.” I instead saw it as a reset, a chance to get my life and drinking under control.
Everything That Could Go Wrong, Did.
On my third day at rehab I got a call. It was from my mother. I remember thinking how strange it was that I was being told to take a call, as I was still barred from phone privileges. In my heart I knew something was wrong. Right I was.
My sister-in-law (the one I had just been with two weeks ago in Alaska) had been killed in a freak car accident. I felt completely powerless as I wanted to help my brother and make things right(as though I had the power to fix anything in a situation like this). Still, he told me at the time I was right where I needed to be and that I needed to take care of myself so I could be there for him later. I never got the chance.
I left rehab two days early on a Friday and had a drink in my hand within an hour. I drank throughout the entire weekend until I was reunited with my boyfriend on Sunday. Monday morning, I received a call from my mother. My brother was dead.
Dealing with grief is difficult for anyone—dealing with grief in early recovery is a challenge I truly don’t wish on anyone. The death of my brother sent me over the edge. I began drinking to the point where I landed myself in the hospital. I was completely unhinged mentally and quickly landed myself back into treatment where I remained until early July.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
I still was not ready nor willing to get sober and was very quickly back to my old ways. Now my mental health issues started to worsen at an exponential rate.
In mid-July I was hospitalized for self-harm and was released shortly before my birthday. I managed to stay sober for about two weeks and then fell into some of the worst parts of my addiction.
I was miserable living and would do anything to numb how I was feeling. Any money I had went towards alcohol. When I ran out, I would collect any spare change I could find to buy what I could. I took out payday loans to fund my addiction. I was in-and-out of the ER about 15 times between July and August.
I blacked out, went to the hospital, promised to be better, and did it all over again. My blood alcohol was always at extremely dangerous numbers and it looked to everyone as if I had a death wish.
I had completely lost any ability to visit my son at this point. I was broke and broken. I had everything I could possibly need and want at my grasp if I asked for it, but instead I found myself downing five-dollar vodka in public park bathrooms until I was vomiting up blood.
After one black out incident where I fell asleep on my arm on my mother’s kitchen sink, I had almost completely lost use of my right hand. My pinky, ring, and middle fingers all curled in from nerve damage and I didn’t know if they would return to normal. My body was shutting down.
In late August I returned to Huntington Memorial begging for help and detox, only to leave with a prescription for Librium. I felt hopeless and alone.
A day later I attempted suicide at L.A. Union train station. Drunk, I took a handful of Librium pills and threw myself onto the train tracks. I didn’t end up dead, but instead in another 5150. Defeated, I agreed to a 45-day dual-diagnosis residential program my mother had found.
After some resistance, I actually committed to this program. I was on the mythical “pink cloud” so many speak of and preached sobriety to the new admits. I was compelled to tackle my decade long battle with my mental health and get things right. For the first time in a long time, I had hope.
I left with my boyfriend on October 4, 2019. My sobriety lasted a whole three days on the outside. This time though, God was ready to slap me in the face with a dose of reality.
On October 7 I started drinking while my boyfriend was at work, with all intentions of coming home and starting my clean streak again. Instead I blacked out and came to in a holding cell at the Pomona police station.
I was terrified and confused, but waited patiently for them to let me have my phone call so I could leave. I wasn’t driving, I thought, so I couldn’t have done anything that bad. I was sure they were just holding me for the meantime and that I would be released soon. Oh, was I wrong.
I was promptly informed that I had assaulted a police officer while resisting arrest and would be sent to the women’s county jail in Lynwood.
Let me tell you…there is nothing worse in the world than being told you are being charged with two felonies you can’t even remember because you were so blackout drunk.
So, I was transferred. Entitled as I was at the time, I fully expected to be bailed out right away, but my mother and my boyfriend were done with my behavior and couldn’t trust me. I spent 22 days in county jail.
Did it finally get me sober? Was it the wake-up call that I needed? You would think it should have been, but no, alcoholic that I am, I relapsed five days after being released.
Getting to the Root of the Problem
We decided sober living was the best option at the time and that worked for a while, as I finally accumulated 30+ days of sobriety outside of a treatment center. What wasn’t improving though, was my mental health. For years I had failed to address the root of my addiction, the PTSD diagnosis I had repeatedly been given and afraid to touch, the crippling depression that dragged me to suicidal ideation, and the social anxiety that had the potential to make me agoraphobic and completely reclusive.
During my stay at sober living I reached out to the first doctor I met in my recovery journey, Dr. Nassiri, and met him at his private practice. He has been instrumental in my recovery since. I brought him up to speed on where I was at since April and he looked at me very frankly and said:
“From the moment I met you, trauma bleeds into every aspect of your life.”
He recommended intensive therapy and other advanced treatments. I felt torn between his medical advice and my 12-step peers who were telling me that the root of my emotional discomfort was a lack of honesty, not working with my sponsor enough, and not being true to my step-work.
At the time I was attending one to two 12-step meetings a day, but felt more lost than ever. The only thing that really allowed me to let out how I was feeling was my writing. It was around this time that I took a year-plus of hand-written journal entries and letters and began compiling a manuscript. I had no idea what exactly I was doing with it at the time, but eventually it evolved into Tiger Stripes.
It felt like I was finally setting myself up to heal. I was desperate to get and stay sober, but I didn’t feel any better. I was obsessed with death and dying. All I can describe this period as is a sort of suicidal OCD. I didn’t exactly want to kill myself, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Without the numbing factor of alcohol, my brain was on overload, unveiling all of the trauma, depression, and anxiety I had been stifling for years. It was too much for me to handle on my own.
When the holidays rolled around and I was set to spend my first Christmas ever without my son and with my brother dead. I was a wreck. My obsession with drinking had returned. Being courteous though, I waited until the day after Christmas to relapse.
This turned into a two-day bender across Los Angeles that resulted in self-harm and almost another arrest. But once again I stopped, but only at the threat of an ultimatum. Life went on…sort of.
A January of Second Chances
I should break here as it’s an important turning point. Things get worse before they get better, but the start of 2020 is a very crucial point in my recovery. If anyone tells you their recovery was a straightforward affair, they’re lying. Most of the time, the road is filled with a lot of ups and downs. Relapses are common, mental health spirals are often inevitable, and life happens. You have to give yourself grace and honor every part of your journey because recovery is not a linear journey. Even the worst parts of my story have a purpose and make me who I am today. I wholly believe everything has happened how it was supposed to for me to get to where I am now.
So, at the start of 2020 we decided it would be better for me to move out to my boyfriend’s new apartment in West Los Angeles and at the time, I should have been thrilled. I had been wanting to live in L.A. with him for a long time. Instead, the elation was short lived.
By the mid-point of January 2020, I was drunk again and my insanity while intoxicated reached a peak. While I was drinking, I took a butcher’s knife to my ribcage and stabbed myself twice. I was rushed to UCLA hospital and given almost 40 stitches. My boyfriend was beside himself as they stitched me up next him and he cried at a loss of what to do.
I begged and begged my doctor to let me go home, and two days later I was released under the condition I went to an outpatient program. Straight from the hospital we drove to an outpatient in Santa Monica. I lasted about two weeks before I was once again drunk. This time I slit my wrist open.
I woke up the next day with 17 stitches in my arm, completely confused where I was. The doctor explained to me that my boyfriend had found me unconscious and called 911. I would be 5150ed for the 4th time in less than a year, but I couldn’t be medically cleared yet because I had drank so much that my body was suffering consequences.
When I was transferred, what followed was my longest psychiatric hold ever: 12 days…and this facility was no UCLA. It was where they could get me a bed.
For some reason this ordeal finally had an effect on me. I wrote voraciously as I thought back on the book I had been working on and on all of the things in my life that I could change. I cringed when I called my boyfriend and sobbed telling him I was sorry and him responding that those words meant absolutely nothing coming from my mouth.
I prayed a lot while I was in the hospital, something I had started doing religiously since going to jail. I asked God what He wanted from me and if I had to be alive to please give me the strength to do so.
At the end of the twelve days, I had a home to go back to but I felt weak and like a freak—I had self-harm scars from the years of abuse I had done to my body but the last two instances that had happened while I was drunk had left my side and wrist severely deformed. I cried every time I showered, and I don’t think I have ever hated myself as much as I did in February. All that had happened came to fruition and I felt like the worst person alive.
You Always Have a Choice
I met with Dr. Nassiri a few days after I was released from the hospital and as he sat with my boyfriend and I he looked at me very pointedly and asked:
“Do you want to live?”
It was a good question that I did not know the answer to.
So, I told him, “I think so,” because it felt like the most honest thing to say. We worked with that.
There was the smallest thing though in me, that told me I had purpose. In the past year alone, there were so many brushes with death, yet here I was—alive. A mess, absolutely, but alive, nonetheless. I thought back to the miracle stories I had heard of alcoholics, addicts, and those with mental illness who had turned their life around. Could I do the same? The overwhelming darkness in me told me “no”, but obviously I was really shit at the whole dying thing. So, I decided to try living.
My depression and mood shifts had been extremely treatment-resistant to medication, and I was loathe to add more prescriptions to the hefty amount I was already taking to try and manage my depression, sleep, and PTSD symptoms. That’s when Dr. Nassiri suggested ketamine. Yes, ketamine: the party drug, the drug you’ve probably heard of as a horse tranquilizer, a medical-grade anesthetic…that ketamine. Only, not exactly. See, ketamine has been being used to treat patients with severe depression and even those with PTSD and chronic pain for several years now. Administered in monitored IV doses or through an intranasal spray, some of the results have been astounding. Dr. Nassiri thought it was worth a try with my case.
I was hesitant, but at this point desperate to try anything and agreed. I had the answer to his question: I wanted to live, but not at the cost of battling with crippling depression everyday of my life. There had to be something more. So, I started my treatments and waited.
In the meantime, I fell into my writing, and somehow, I finished my book. Even though my spirits were low, I was so proud of myself. I had always dreamed of completing an entire manuscript and I had done it. I felt like a true author, whether I was published or not.
Time went on and by my third treatment I started feeling the benefits of the ketamine treatments. I actually felt hopeful. Something was working and things were looking up. I began making big shifts in my life too. I started exercising almost every day, I cut out toxic voices that dragged me down, and I began thinking very clearly about what I wanted for myself.
Then coronavirus hit.
Stubborn Comes with Consequences
I don’t need to go into detail about how the pandemic effected so many things…if you’re reading this, you know. For me, I was already dealing with pretty severe agoraphobia at the time, so staying at home wasn’t much of a bother for me. What did change was my access to treatment. I had set myself up medically but had still failed to get on a regular therapy regimen, scared to face my real issues. It was an issue that came up and I blew off almost every time I saw Dr. Nassiri.
When he stopped offering treatments due to COVID-19 restrictions, I was on my own. I stayed sober for about 2.5 months and relapsed in April. No one was taking chances with me this time. I wasn’t given time to hurt myself or go on a bender, I was immediately 5150ed. When I was released a few days later I was met with forgiveness and a second chance. I tried to take it.
For the first time in almost nine months I started really working again and bringing in income to the house. It felt good and I took pride in being appreciated for my professional skills again. Opportunities were opening up for me and it felt like things were looking up. Until I decided to drink one final time in May.
I don’t even really know what compelled this relapse. At this point I had begun preaching about my sobriety very publicly. I was committed to never touching alcohol again. Yet in my insanity I ended up with two bottles of whiskey and an ER visit. My boyfriend’s forgiving nature was wearing thin. He was livid after this relapse.
I am a kind person, a loving person—those who know me describe me as sweet, tender-hearted, creative, and imaginative. When I get the smallest amount of alcohol in me, I turn into a monster. I will lie. I will steal. I will manipulate. I will become violent. It was not always this way, but it is now, and it will never go back to “normal”.
My monstrous nature came out to its fullest at its relapse. I didn’t get arrested. I didn’t even get 5150ed. I just was a truly ugly person to someone I love very deeply, and that made me more ashamed than anything.
When my boyfriend picked me up from the ER, I was phoneless, and we couldn’t find each other. Barefoot and in the pajamas the paramedics had dragged me from my house in, I walked around UCLA looking like a complete degenerate. My disheveled appearance drew stares and I began to run until I found his car. I began sobbing as soon as I got in the passenger seat but didn’t say a thing.
He didn’t want an apology. He didn’t want to hear I was done drinking. I kept telling myself I was done drinking, but I didn’t even know how to believe myself. I was a wreck.
I was so ashamed of my relapse and kept it to myself(this blog post is the first time I have ever mentioned it publicly), as I had started preaching sobriety on social media and other forums, but this became such a crucial turning point for me. Relapses happen and are nothing to be ashamed of. It’s how you walk through the fire that defines you.
Don’t Quit Before the Miracle Happens
I sat on the floor of our living room, watching NETFLIX, trying to catch up on work, and battling the devil of the almost immediate withdrawal symptoms that hit me anytime I drink now.
What happened in the next few days is nothing short of astounding.
I was offered a new job that I had applied and interviewed for before my relapse. It paid well, was remote, and would allow me to flex my creative muscles. I reluctantly accepted, a bit excited, but mostly because I knew I still had to pay bills.
Four days after I left the hospital, I got an email. Shortly after I had finished Tiger Stripes, I began shopping it around to agents and publishers, but hadn’t heard too much back from anyone. In my inbox I had an offer for a publishing deal. Something I had dreamed of my entire life was at my fingertips at the tail end of a relapse. If that isn’t a miracle, or a second chance, I don’t know what is.
Everything in my head was screaming “DON’T FUCK THIS UP.” I had already mangled so much of my life. Here was a chance to get it back on track and follow my dreams of being a real writer. I happily accepted, but knew I needed to do something about the demon of my mental illness. If I didn’t, I knew I would be back at the bottle in no time. At this point I was playing roulette with my mental health and drinking: if I didn’t take this on full-force I was going to end up in jail, back in the mental hospital, or dead.
Making My Recovery My Priority
I swallowed my pride and called the outpatient I had left Against Clinical Advice(ACA) at the beginning of the year. I begged the coordinator to give me another chance and told her I was desperate to get better and that I would do whatever they asked of me—and I did.
I started intensive therapy five days a week. I was paired with an incredible trauma therapist and a DBT therapist to work on my core problems. This was done in conjunction with group therapy for 90 days.
I got back on a prescription for Antabuse, a drug that causes acute sensitivity to alcohol in any amount and still take it daily. Some call this “cheating”, but it helps me stay sober on days where I struggle, and at this point all I care about is doing what works and getting to my pillow without taking another drink. For now, it helps.
In the meantime, I got back into my treatment with Dr. Nassiri, who was very happy I finally was getting the trauma treatment I so desperately needed.
Throughout my time in outpatient I began to let go of so much bitterness, I began to start a journey of loving myself, I abandoned who I was and continue to look forward to who I want to be. I no longer rely on the thoughts and opinions of flawed human beings but on my faith in God and in the confidence I have in myself. When I began to change my thinking in ways like these, my behavior had massive shifts.
Suddenly, when life started throwing me curveballs (and it definitely still has since May) I don’t react with self-destruction or an outburst. I am patient with the situation and myself. What I have found is that things generally work out how they are supposed to.
Things aren’t happening on your timeline? There is still something for you to learn. Lose a job? A better opportunity can open up. Somebody hurt you? You have a chance to redefine your boundaries with that person so you can protect yourself in the future. You can almost always find purpose in your pain if you try.
I honor my emotions, the good ones and the very dark ones, but I do not let them define me. I have horrible, shitty days like everyone else and I am still deeply impacted by my mental illness, but instead of letting my illness control me, I just accept that it is a part of my life. There are other parts of my life, my being, and my spirit that shine much brighter and are much bigger. They can exist at the same time.
There is a better way
Today I have my longest stint of sobriety and freedom from self-harm in six years. I am held accountable by everyone in my circle, which is very small. I set myself up for success because to drink is to die for me. I’m not willing to do that to my life again. My life sober and with my recovery at the front is fulfilling and rewarding.
A group facilitator at one of my treatment centers had 25+ years of sobriety had once told me this: “if someone had a gun to my head and told me to do an ounce of meth or they would shoot me, I’d tell him to pull the trigger.”
The anecdote baffled me at the time, but a few months later I understood it. For an addict or alcoholic like him or I to relapse is the equivalent of being shot in the head…it’s just often a slower, more painful death. I’m not going out like that. No one has to.
I sacrificed almost everything and everyone in my life for alcohol. I had to be medically detoxed from alcohol the same year I was legally allowed to drink. I have hurt, lied to, and manipulated just about everyone I love. I have been deemed mentally ill by the state. I’ve been to jail. I spent every last penny I had at a liquor store. I’ve tried to kill myself more than once. My body will forever be marked by the scars I put there from self-harm. I’ve been told by more than one doctor I will likely struggle with mental illness for the rest of my life. I’ve been told by family members, by people I called friends, and those I loved that I belong in jail, a mental hospital, and am better off dead.
And you know what? I am a better person for all of it. I am so grateful for my life and that I get to cherish every single day that I wake up and not take what I have been given for granted. I treat the things that are given to me as blessings instead of entitlements. I get to be honest. I get to be kind. I get to give back to others who are struggling now. I was shown kindness and now I get to give that kindness away. God gave me my life back for a reason, and I make sure that doesn’t go to waste.
I’m close to five months sober. That is far from where I want to one day be and I have a long way to go in my recovery, but as someone who once couldn’t be awake without being drunk, this is a massive accomplishment for me. Most of all, I feel comfortable in my skin. I feel content most days. I deal with my struggles in an appropriate manner. I am now a person I am proud of.
These are just my viewpoints. This is just my journey. Recovery is personal and I don’t believe it is a one-size-fits-all thing. You have to find what works for you and go with it.
For me it was a lot of prayer, a lot of grace and love towards myself, and healing through the gifts I was given in writing and creating.
Here is what I believe to be true for every single person though: you matter, and you are capable of turning your life around. I am the biggest advocate for second, third, fourth…hell 20th chances. If you’re at rock bottom, that’s a good place to start.
If you need help getting connected to treatment centers or recovery resources or have questions about my story, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can read my story in my memoir, Tiger Stripes, on April 12, 2020 and more of my writing in my upcoming multimedia poetry project.