Three short years ago, I was boozed up, strung out, and ready to die.
Today, my life is a very different story.
This may not seem like a big chunk of time to someone who is a moderate or non-drinker, who doesn’t understand what it’s like to be ensnared deep in the bowels of addiction.
But to those of us who know what it is to make an innocent choice to, at some point, do what everyone else is doing by taking a drink or getting high, only to find themselves catapulted forward to a place where all of a sudden, none of their willpower can keep them from that drink or drug, it is a large accomplishment. And it is for you that I share my story.
When drinking and drugs hijack your life the way they did mine, one day sober is an accomplishment.
I’m often in disbelief when I look at my life today and compare it to what life was like just three short years ago. First of all, I never would’ve thought that the level of happiness, connection, and peace I feel on most days was even possible for me. I went through life seeking an answer to my discontent and disconnection. From an early age, my head was a noisy and chaotic place. It incessantly berated me for not being perfect, telling me I was worthless and weak.
These inner narratives were with me from my earliest memory, constantly whispering and telling me how stupid I was and that I must not show any emotion because that was weak. As a child, I was constantly in fear of being rejected, and I was constantly overwhelmed with shame for who I was.
These things fueled my need for escape, which started early with books and progressed to alcohol and then to drugs rapidly. It didn’t happen overnight, but gradually, I found myself unable to say no, and then I found myself prioritizing the party over everything.
I found myself strung out on heroin by 19 years old. The 14 years that followed were a roller coaster of sobering up, relapsing, getting a job, doing well, changing locations, and kicking drugs—only to drink booze heavily, get cancer, deal with anger, and go back to drugs. I accomplished many things in that time too, but nothing seemed to help me feel okay, and that was all I really wanted.
No matter what I did back then, I felt empty, alone, and broken.
In my present life, these feelings are but dusty memories, an echo of a life long gone. Today, I can connect with myself as a scared little girl, and I’ve helped her heal so that we no longer have to create havoc and destruction everywhere we go in order to stay medicated from the pain of life.
Today, I no longer wake up sick in the mornings as my body goes into physical withdrawals from the substances I was forcing into my body almost against my own will just over three years ago. I don’t have to beg, borrow, and steal to keep myself loaded against the pain.
Today, I stand tall and strong—and I show up for other people. I’ve smashed down the walls built so long ago by my pride and my ego—the walls that I thought were going to keep me safe from the pain. What I didn’t know when I built those walls was that they were going to further isolate me from the one thing I actually wanted but didn’t realize I was seeking.
The ironic thing about those of us who suffer from addiction is that we spend years running away from the one thing we crave, unbeknownst to us—connection. For most of my life, connection was the one thing I felt incapable of.
I felt as though I was unable to connect with other people. Part of it was the walls I had built up, but it went even deeper than that. It was like I was broken in that area of human skill. Sure, I had friends and family who I cared for and cared for me, but internally, it was only to a certain point. My care only went so far before it hit a wall where the real me, the human me, was trapped behind screaming to be let out.
I didn’t know that I had to let myself out.
Today, I have connection on so many levels I never thought possible. I am deeply connected to my innermost self, so I no longer make choices that harm me. I am deeply and vulnerably connected to the people around me, so I no longer make selfish choices that hurt them.
I embrace all of the feelings that come with this human experience, even the painful ones that used to make me turn tail and run at just the thought of them. Most of all, I have a deep spiritual connection to a God that makes sense for me, and this is where all the rest of the connections are able to grow from.
I haven’t had to lie or go to jail in three years. I no longer have to steal to support a habit I don’t even want to do. I no longer wake up in a state of fear and remorse over what I may or may not have done the night before. I don’t put other people in jeopardy by driving under the influence. People trust me with keys to their houses and businesses—and more importantly, I trust myself because I believe in myself. I get to rectify the wrongs I’ve done and be accountable for my actions.
And most of all, no more hangovers!
I am capable of loving on the deepest level I have ever known—the unconditional level—whereas once I wasn’t capable of looking at you unless you had something I wanted or needed. The level of freedom in my life today is indescribable, and it is something that I remain in constant gratitude for.
Because when you’ve lived in the bleak darkness of a self-imposed prison for so long, it’s hard not to savor everything that is not tinged by the grayness of living under addiction—every drop of sunlight, every moment of joy, every feeling that passes through me, every interaction with others. It’s as though I’m living in color after years of harsh black and white, and it’s a gift.
Where I once woke up depressed, robotic, suicidal, angry, guilty, full of shame, and just wanting to die—I now wake up happy, grateful, hopeful, peaceful, and humble, even on the days where life gets challenging. My life is fun today in ways I never knew existed.
There is hope for any of us if there is hope for me.
If my story resonates with you or someone you know, please reach out. You don’t have to be alone.
Author: Lindsay Carricarte
Image: author’s own
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina