In my late teens and early twenties, a series of events in my life led me to fall into a deep, deep sadness. I was paralyzed with grief – it hurt to breathe. I was in so much emotional turmoil and anguish.
I had once been a star student and a young leader in my community. I was an award-winning debater and proud academic scholar – headed to an elite university in Washington, D.C. A few things happened in my personal life and I lost it. I mean, I really lost it. I gave up completely on every dream I had ever had.
I did not yet have the tools to process my emotions, so I started looking outside of myself for solutions. Eventually, I found drugs and alcohol. Initially, drinking and doing drugs really worked. They stopped the pain; they stopped the sadness. That became my solution for nearly fifteen years. Over time, though, the drugs got harder and the consequences more severe. I ended up homeless and strung out on heroin for the last several years of my active addiction.
Anyone who has ever been physically addicted to an opiate knows – once it’s on, it’s on. My entire life became about chasing heroin. I chased heroin into horrible neighborhoods, into dangerous situations, into jail, into hospitals. I was well on my way to chasing heroin into death.
Then something miraculous happened.
I chased heroin into recovery.
Through the process of recovery, which for me involves twelve step meetings, sponsorship, service, and physical exercise, I haven’t just found myself again. I have found a much better version of myself. I found an evolution of myself that I don’t believe I would have ever become without my addiction. I am kinder, stronger, and smarter. Recovery gave me a spiritual life that involves principles of service that I know I would have never made a priority. That girl in high school, who had so much promise, doesn’t have anything on the woman I became – as a direct result of my addiction.
I became the heroine of my own story.
Story by Jeannine Coulter