Meet Recovery Rockstar, Stephany
Hello, I am a recovering addict and you can call me Stephany. I have struggled with an addiction that started at the age of 10 and progressively got worse over the years. I'm not going to tell you all of the war stories, but I will share with you my journey into recovery. I pray that my experience will bring strength and hope to someone, somewhere. God bless you all, and remember....one day at a time.
Between drive-bys and robbery, auto theft and forgery, Joe and I had become the modern day Bonnie and Clyde. After losing my children, having a gun to my head, my life threatened on a few occasions and all of my possessions stolen from me time and time again, there wasn't a whole lot that scared me anymore. However, there was one thing that scared Joe...that was to pack up and leave everything that he knew behind. After days with no sleep, wreaking havoc and burning bridges, I had finally convinced Joe to hit the road with me and leave it all behind.
I had a friend named Robbyn that lived in Louisiana and worked at a night club in New Orleans making a ridiculous amount of money and living the lifestyle that I just knew would “help me get my children back." Pockets full, fancy clothes, nice cars, hair done...Definitely more of my style. I had a feeling that if Joe knew all of the details about where I would be working before hand, he wouldn't want to go...So without giving any more detail other than just assuring him with a fabricated story that all would be well, we loaded our belongings into the stolen truck, tucked away the gun in the lock box, stashed the stolen ounce of meth and left for Louisiana...
We were on the road to redemption. The only thing that I was really sure about, was that it was exactly what I needed to do. Everything else would fall in place after we got there. After a few hours of driving we made it to Oklahoma. My opiate high was wearing off and I needed something to help calm the withdraws. I decided that we were going to stop by and visit one of my best friends from college, in hopes of getting some pills. Mike had no idea that either of us were heavy IV meth users, he did however smoke a lot of weed, have a lot of connections, and loved guns.
What was supposed to be a couple hour visit turned into a two day layover. After calming my withdraws, catching up on much needed rest and getting food in our stomachs, we said our goodbyes and hit the road again. It wasn't long before Joe had checked the lock box only to find the magazine and holster, but no gun. After a few minutes of arguing about turning around to get it he settled down and accepted no as the answer. We both agreed that the gun was right where it needed to be.
We left Oklahoma, passed through Texas, and after 6 long hours, arrived in Louisiana with only 5 hours to go. Robbyn and I had talked very little on our way to Louisiana, but once we arrived in the state I had called to tell her that we arrived. She was confused that I had said we and inquired more information as to who else was with me. I hung up the phone and decided to text her instead so that Joe wouldn't be able to hear the alarming conversation. At first she was ok with it, and about an hour or so later she texts me telling me her boyfriend wouldn't allow him in the house. I had to tell Joe. But how? His biggest fear was coming true. We stopped at a gas station to get our fix and that was when I decided it was time. I told him not to worry, all would be ok, we made it this far and it could only get better from here. We would get our money up and hit the road again..This time, Florida. And he knew I was right, we had made it this far, there was no point in turning back now.
Even though we had no real legitimate plans, in my heart I just KNEW that all would be well. After a few more hours on the road, we had finally arrived at Robbyns house. She too had no idea that Joe and I were heavy IV meth users, and I found it best that she didn't know. We all sat on the couch, smoked a little bit and that was when I inquired more information about the job I would be working. I could see the rage burning inside of Joe as Robbyn began to explain the job title and went into further detail about the job requirements. If I wanted to make the kind of money she was making, I wouldn't just be dancing. I wasn't angry, but I too was just as shocked as Joe was, considering we both had left out many details when her and I had talked on the phone.
Robbyn decided there was no better way to explain than to just show me for herself. So we all loaded in the truck and hit the road towards New Orleans. Even though I knew that I wasn't going to do all of the extra stuff for money, Joe had no idea as to what my thoughts were and was only getting more and more angry the more we went without talking about it. After arriving at the club, we were bombarded with girls, drinks, powder and a whole lot of chaos. Joe sat at the bar while Robbyn dragged me by the arm showing me all of the ins and outs of the place, who I would get along with and who I should stay away from. Finally Joe and I were alone together and got to talk a little bit about how he did NOT approve and that was NOT what I was going to be doing. Period. Drunk, high, angry and mad, I left. I left him in the club and decided I didn't need him anyways.
I walked for awhile and finally found the truck. My intentions weren't really to leave him there, more or less just to scare him a little bit, so I went back to the club to pick him up. Only to find him even more outraged. I didn't understand why he wouldn't just relax and enjoy himself like I was doing, because I knew that even though nothing was going as planned, everything was going to be ok no matter what.
We left Robbyn and hit the interstate again, with the idea that we were going to go to Florida. Joe and I were arguing over the phone that had the GPS on it, directing me to where we were going. Leaned up against the passenger side door, Joe didn't have the phone in his hand..When I looked over at him, his eyes were black, his face was pale and there was this wicked grin spread across his lips..instead he held a butterfly knife. “How many times do you want to get stabbed Stephany?” Silence....”I said how many times do you want me to stab you?” I giggled in unbelief, but knew very well his background and that he wasn't playing with me. There were two knifes in the vent beside me, instead of grabbing one of them, I looked for a break in the grass, hit the breaks and did a U-turn right there on the interstate.
Today, I can still close my eyes and see the flashing red and blue lights in the review mirror. I can still feel the cold crisp Louisiana wind on my hot face, I can still feel the sting of the metal handcuffs being tightened around my wrists. I can sit here with my eyes still closed and feel every emotion that I felt that night, pulsate throughout my entire body. The one feeling that hasn't left me to this day is relief. On January 19th, 2015, on that cold Sunday morning in Louisiana, standing on the side of the road, I was not just arrested. I was rescued. I cannot count on my hands and feet how many times I have been arrested prior to this winter morning in Louisiana. But for some reason, this time was different.
After arriving at the jail, I called Robbyn and told her what had happened, she gave me no hope of getting bailed out. I knew nobody else in Louisiana, and knew better than to ask any of my family for help. That bridge had been burned long ago. So there I sat, 97lbs, a thousand miles from home, no way of getting out, no one to call and not one familiar face around me. I can sit here and tell you I wasn't afraid, but I would only be lying to myself. Of course I was scared. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into this time. Not only was I scared of the unknown, but to make matters worse I was terrified that the police were going to find the meth I had stashed before they put the handcuffs on me.
When I finally rolled to the back where the rest of the women were housed, I made my bed, hid the meth, crawled into my rack and stared at the ceiling. All I could think was “How am I going to get out of this one?” Finally, I just closed my eyes and didn't wake until I woke up to my stomach growling. On the streets, I would go days without eating, sometimes because I had no appetite and other times because I had no choice. A couple of days passed and I was laying in my rack and my stomach was growling so bad. So I pulled out the bag of dope and asked my bunkie if she could sell it for some commissary. That was the first time that I had EVER chose anything over drugs.
I remember June 3, 2014 like it was yesterday. My 2.5 year old twin daughters and I sat trapped outside of our hotel room after having our vehicle stolen and left there with nothing but our bags in the heat of the dry Kansas summer sun. We had sat there for 3 hours just waiting, for what I'm not sure. I couldn't report the vehicle stolen because I didn't know the vin or tag number, I couldn't call and tell my family because they would want an explanation, and there was no way of explaining this without telling them the truth.
I had brought my daughters with me to the hotel room to collect money from a mafia member, only to be stood up and left stranded. Shortly after having our dog kicked violently, and ran off by the hotel owner, 6 cop cars pulled in, and a total of 8 officers surrounded my girls and I. My daughter Eternity grabbed my leg and looked up at me with worried eyes and said “Mommy, please don't leave me, ok?” My heart sank. She knew and I knew that something was about to happen. Apparently the hotel owner was angry enough about me having our dog with us in a room that doesn't allow pets without a deposit, to call and make a report that there was drug distribution and prostitution going on out of the room we had been staying in. The description he had given the officers about the children involved, clearly did not match the actual description of my identical twins girls, but after running my name, they had found a warrant for my arrest.
After searching my belongings, they had found 2 meth pipes heavily loaded, multiple baggies and a scale. My girls sat in the back of the cop car with one of the officers, screaming and crying hysterically as they cuffed me and walked me to the back of another car. All I could do was look at them with tears rolling down my face, and choke out the words, “I am so sorry baby girls. Momma is so sorry.” My pain has no limits. I have lost everything over and over and over again, and still went back out and used. Still went back to the same old lifestyle doing the same old thing. It wasn't until I sat in jail in Covington Louisiana, that I had finally come to realize that there was more to life than what I had been living. It wasn't until I sat in that jail, a thousand miles from home and realized that I was powerless over my addiction, and that my life had become unmanageable.
I had made a few phone calls home, but at first I wasn't ready to listen. The longer I sat there, the more I was able to see that it wasn't just me that I was hurting. My mother had lost her daughter, my grandparents had lost their granddaughter, my children had lost their mother, and I had lost my identity. I knew that the girl that was running the streets working for the mafia wasn't who I really was. I stuck out like a sore thumb in those trap houses. So many of them thought that I was the police because 1) I never slept with any of them for dope 2) I wasn't as paranoid as the rest of them and lived as reckless as possible and 3) because I would have a group of wacked out tweakers praying before we would eat a can of corn.
I didn't belong there, and they knew it before I did. I guess you could say that my grandparents raised me up in the church. When I was 8 I sat with my grandpa on the couch and repeated the words he spoke as I “gave my life to Christ.” I had no idea what I was really doing, I was way too young and had no real clue what he was talking about. I just knew it brought tears to his eyes and made him happy. My mother was pagan. So after I reached the age of 14 or so, her practices became mine, and my grandparents beliefs then became ignorant. The beliefs that my mother and I practiced allow you to play the role of a god. Being in control of the things around you, tapping into the minds of those near by, and predicting the future after calling on the spirits beyond the grave. I had adopted everyone else's beliefs while really having none of my own.
One night in February of 2015, still in jail, I sat in my rack not just reading the bible...but in all actuality, having the bible read me. That night, I came to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity, and that I didn't have to do it all alone. I covered my face with my blankets and cried out to God. With hot tears streaming down my face I made the decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I asked Him to take control of my life and save me from myself. To take the reigns and give my mother her daughter, my grandparents their granddaughter, my children their mother, and to me, my true identity.
After 4 months of not knowing anything about my charges, finally one day my number was called to go to court. There at arraignment I plead out to the charges of possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of meth and possession of paraphernalia, accepting 5 years suspended and 5 years felony probation. But it wasn't over yet. I had signed extradition papers to be transferred back to Kansas to face further charges. I wasn't looking forward to going back home. Something kept telling me that Louisiana was where I was supposed to be. So after transitioning back to Kansas, finally being released from custody, I was released back into the lifestyle I was so excited to turn away from.
After having a 3 week relapse, I came to realize that I was no longer the person I once was, that something had changed inside of me. That was the moment I realized that the night I cried out to God, that He really had took the reigns, and would not let me go. I couldn't be around those same people who wanted nothing more than to get high. Finally my court date came and I asked the judge to grant me permission to return to Louisiana to attend a 6 month rehab. I told him I couldn't be in Kansas anymore if I wanted to get clean, and that Louisiana was right where I needed to be.
The rehab I attended was a beautiful program. There I learned more about God and learned more about who I really was. All of the insecurities I had once believed became lies, and I started to see the beauty within myself. For the first time in my entire life, I started to love the woman in the mirror. For the first time ever, I had become comfortable in my own skin. I left there only to relapse once again and it became clear that I could not do this on my own.
Feeling defeated and not knowing what else to do, I humbled myself and returned. This time around I became infatuated with fitness, running the stairs daily and lifting what weights that the rehab had to offer, determined to shed the unwanted weight that I had gained in jail. I began to feel alive. The balance of eating clean, exercising regularly and staying connected spiritually, gave me a peace that drugs could never give. I had left the program yet again without completing it, and the judge had presented me with 2 options, either enter in another inpatient program, or specialty drug court. While the rehab had a lot to offer me spiritually, it did not give me what I needed in the practical application of recovery. So with that, I chose drug court.
I had gotten what I needed from inpatient, but still had no idea how to function in the real world without using drugs. I knew drug court would hold me accountable yet would still offer me a little more freedom and allow me to work a job. Drug court requirements are to attend outpatient group until completion and to attend 3 12 step meetings a week. While drug court consists of 4 phases and is a total of 18 months long, the outpatient treatment program consists of 3 phases and is a total of 12 months long. I am currently in phase 3 in both drug court and outpatient treatment and attend anywhere from 3-5 12 step meetings a week. Treatment has allowed me to uncover wounds that I didn't even know were there, and has peeled back layers that were once holding me captive.
This has been a beautiful journey, with phenomenal highs and painful lows, but the cool thing is that the highs come from the growth that takes place in those painful lows. I have learned that in order for me to stay clean, I must stay connected with recovery just as much as I am connected with God. Does staying clean mean that life is all rainbows and unicorns? Absolutely not. Does my being a Christian mean that I don't go through trials and tribulations? I'd be lying if I told you yes.
The difference today is that I am no longer living out of bags and hopping from trap house to trap house. I am no longer car jacking or stealing food just to get by. I am no longer obliterating everything in my path just to get my next high. Today I am no longer missing who I was in the past, instead, I am allowing myself the freedom to be who I am today, to prepare me for who I am striving to be in the future. Today I am over 9 months clean and am working on steps with a sponsor. I pay rent and buy my own groceries. I am in school for personal training and going on one year at the same job. I have applied for school at the Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans in hopes of one day becoming a women's addiction counselor.
It's my goal to give back what was freely given to me. While I was in that rehab program, it was pressed upon my heart to one day have a ministry that offered hope for the hopeless. Today, it has manifested into having a rehab ministry for men women and children, offering a 12 step program as well as mental, physical and spiritual guidance. There will be a gym attached to the ministry, offering education on how to better take care of your body, as well as guidance in nutrition.
For the first time in my entire life, I actually have long term goals. Is my life perfect? Far from it..But I am happy with my life today and it is better than it has EVER been. If you have struggled with an addiction, here is my piece to you…If you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, stop looking ahead and start looking inside of yourself, you are NOT alone and you ARE loved. Don’t think about tomorrow, it hasn’t come yet. Focus on the here and now and live moment by moment. Sometimes I have to take it second by second. Don’t hesitate to reach out, whether you reach out to someone in recovery or reach out to the God of your understanding. This journey has not been easy, but it has been so worth it. My story is far from over, but my journey has just begun.