Stacey is living her best life after years of putting a needle in her arm

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I grew up in a “normal” home. My parents were constantly telling my sister and I that we were beautiful, smart and capable of anything. I was given everything I needed and most everything I wanted. I was a very active child and teenager. I have always been known as a social butterfly. Perhaps it’s surprising, then, that addiction was going to eventually take over my life. The stigma attached to addiction presumes that “ there must be a reason an addict is the way he or she is,” like a traumatic event or a difficult upbringing. But that’s the thing about this disease: it does not discriminate, and my “ normal” life did not exempt me from its grasp.

I started off like most addicts do- using for fun, because it was SO much fun- until it wasn’t.... What started off as keg parties, Adderrall, and lortabs, eventually progressed into a needle in my arm.

Once I got on the needle, my life as I knew it was over. My entire life was about getting, using and finding ways and means to get more. My family didn’t understand what was happening, all they knew was that I was always sick and lying or trying to steal anything of value. I stole and sold anything of value, from anyone I knew. Again my addiction progressed and I found myself shooting heroin and meth and staying up for days on end. This progression also led to a change in my friends. The people I surrounded myself with were sketchy and broken like me, which would only make me increase my using to mask my feelings of loneliness and sadness. I had no one who actually cared about me in my life. I lived in “trap houses” and scummy motels that made Motel 6 look like the Four Seasons.

At this point I really wanted to stop!! I had every intention of stopping “tomorrow!” Using drugs was not fun anymore. It was mandatory, I no longer had a choice. It literally made every decision for me- if and when I showered, if and when I ate, if and when I slept, who my friends were, if I answered the phone.
I remember time moving so slowly and I could never get anything accomplished. On top of it I was doing Meth. I started to lose my mind and was always “tweaking” and even became a “dumpster diver” thinking I was finding “treasures.” I know that probably sounds crazy to a normal person, but it was my every day life for years.

I tried to “manage” my using. I tried to do less, or only do certain drugs or whatever new genius plan I had to be able to pull it together, but I always ended up in the same spot- with a needle in my arm.
My using took me to many bottoms but in December of 2014 I was airlifted to the hospital and had to have open heart surgery. I had endocarditis, which is vegetation of the heart caused by being a junkie. It’s literally a direct result of shooting up. I was only 29 years old.

I had to undergo a total of 3 massive and extensive surgeries, was read my last rights, and my friends and family started to plan my funeral. Nobody thought I was going to make it! I spent almost 4 months in the hospital, and once I made it through all of that I realized there was a reason I had been given the gift of another chance at life, and I decided it was time to do something different.

I had a lot of childhood friends reach out to me over those last few months. They told me that they too lost their way but were now in recovery and had beautiful lives. On social media they looked so happy. That was so attractive to me! They said if I ever wanted to go to a 12 step meeting to call them, and they would take me. So I moved back to Florida with my mom, and I reached out to those people who had invited me to the meetings with them.

I remember my first meeting, very clearly. I remember feeling like I had found everything I was missing. For the longest time I thought there was something wrong with me internally, like I was so far gone that I could never make my way back. But these people were talking about things I had experienced, and I was able to say and hear the most comforting words: “me too!” Not to mention they all looked genuinely happy. They all had smiles and hugged each other. They had nice cars and spoke of their children and their families. For the first time, in what seemed like forever, I felt like I belonged. I felt like this is where I needed to be.

So I dove into this 12 step program. I decided I knew what my life would look like if I went back to my old ways, but I had no clue what my life would look like if I took a chance on myself and did these simple things people suggested. 90 meetings in 90 days, call people, read, say a prayer about staying clean, and above all don’t use no matter what. So I did all the things, and my life got better- I got better! It still doesn’t make sense how or why these things work, but they just do. The obsession to use drugs was lifted from me, and I just kept tackling one obstacle after the other. For so long I hoped it was possible for me to get my life together, but the more I kept doing the next right thing, the more the good would just organically flow for me.

I believe God saved me through all of this to make my way into recovery. He gave me this shiny, positive spirit when He healed my heart. I know that I’m 100% a different person today.As I write this, I have almost 4 years with no mood or mind altering substances in my body. I have gone through my father dying, my 2nd open heart surgery, heartbreak, job loss, and all the feelings associated with those things, all the while never picking up a drink or a drug to deal with whatever situation I am in.

I believe in continuing to grow and change. This work has allowed me to address a lot of the inside issues I’ve faced my entire life. The insecurities, feelings of inadequacy and not being good enough combined with being selfish, entitled and self centered to my very core. I realized that I had a Stacey problem. Drugs and alcohol are just the things I used to deal with my problem. My way of thinking is what is screwed up. I was obsessive and compulsive in so many areas and my brain would always tell me the worst possible things. The drugs quieted the voices but didn’t make them go away. I am finally able to accept responsibility for all of my actions, and I realize that I was the cause and accepting that was the solution for everything, and it opened the door to healing. This job I’ve been tasked with is something I’ve taken very seriously, and I want to just continue peeling back the layer

The life that I have lived in these last almost 4 years is truly “my best life!” There is so much tangible evidence of an intangible power greater then myself at work and I am so grateful to be in a place where I can not only see it, but feel it around me! God has a way of showing himself to me to remind me to keep going. This is my life’s passion, this is what I live for! To give hope to the hopeless! To show people what a mess I once was, and if I can do it, ANYONE can. I know I am lucky to be alive and believe that with my second chance at life, I have a purpose. For that reason I choose to break my anonymity! My name is Stacey and I am a grateful recovering addict!

If you’re reading this and are an addict, know an addict, or love an addict just know there is a different way out there. Change is possible. Resources are limited but are slowly getting better. There are many different fellowships, 1800 numbers and websites all offering help. Find a meeting. Raise your hand, and ask for help, God will do the rest!