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People do not look at me and think ‘recovering drug addict’. I had a wonderful childhood with an amazing family. I played sports in high school and had a GPA above 4.0. I got into my first choice for college and moved away with kisses and well-wishes from all my friends and family.
People do not look at me and think ‘recovering cocaine addict’.
Drugs flourished in college. After being introduced to only marijuana in high school, I was out of my element, but I still continued to refuse anything placed in front of me. I was a good girl from a good family. I didn’t do drugs.
College passed in a flurry and I found myself bartending while simultaneously attempting to plan out the rest of my life. I was partying and drinking way too much. One night, I found myself in a bathroom stall with a girlfriend, watching as she sniffed the fine powder from the end of a key.
I still don’t know what changed at that particular moment. I still don’t know what made me ask to try it.
Fast forward six hours and an eight ball later and I was higher than I’d ever been and all I wanted was more. We were hanging up sheets on the windows to keep the morning sun from shining through. My grinding teeth eventually made my head pound as my body started to give out, commanding me to sleep, even though my mind forbade it. The next eight hours were some of the worst I’ve ever been through. You don’t think you’ll have withdrawals after your first time. My friends didn’t tell me about that part. I didn’t leave my bed for two days as my body shook and my stomach somersaulted.
You would think that would be the end of my relationship with cocaine.
A few days later, out on the town, this hypnotic narcotic was placed in front of me once again. Instead of recalling the dreadful hours that were sure to follow the night’s end, I inhaled it eagerly and begged for more. The night would soon turn to day and end with my body in turmoil, as it always would.
I was amazed that I had never noticed cocaine’s prevalence around me. It was everywhere. My close friends had no idea about my new love affair. I kept it out of sight and put on a smile to let them know everything was okay. They smiled back to let me know everything was fine.
Cocaine soon became a part of my routine.
Work. Party. Cocaine. Sleep for two days. Repeat.
I had it down to a science and no one was the wiser because who looks at me and thinks ‘cocaine addict’? No one.
It was so easy. That is the terrifying part. For eighteen months, I snorted an exorbitant amount of cocaine. For any bar I walked into, I could look around and find someone who had it and it would be in my hands and up my nose within minutes.
Instead of buying clothes and jewelry, or god forbid, actually saving it, I bought cocaine. The way I acted when I was high became the norm. Friends began to only notice a difference when I wasn’t high. But as long as I showed up for work and kept paying my bills, no one ever thought it could actually be drugs. No one believed that I would ever become a victim of drug abuse.
We all think we will notice the signs when a friend or family member is in trouble. I’m here to tell you that isn’t true. Drug abusers can become masters of disguise, our one job to fool the ones we care about. We aren’t always staring you in the face, begging for help. We don’t always show our abuse through track marks and sores. When you add alcohol, you sometimes can’t even tell the difference between a coke addict and a drunken girl sitting next to you at the bar. We won’t make it easy for you to find us but we need your help, all the same.
This story doesn’t end with an intervention or a friend coming to my aid. This story doesn’t end with me in rehab and a chip that I carry around to show my sobriety. My ending is unique but I don’t recommend it. The person who came to my aid was myself. At some point, the good girl that I was raised to be came screaming from the depths of my heart and told me I was better than a coke addict, that I had to be better. At some point, the shame crept in and I finally felt guilty for what I had been doing to myself.
I decided to put the coke down, but unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy.
For every drink I had, the craving came with it. That doesn’t go away. Ever. When I go out with friends, I still see those who have the powder I once thought I couldn’t live without. I still feel shame for my habit. Those close to me are not aware that my habit even existed and they most likely never will. My strength is the only thing keeping me clean of cocaine.
I’m not here to recommend getting sober alone. I can bet the success rate is incredibly low. That being said, if you feel shame from your drug abuse, then you are one step closer to being clean. If you are too embarrassed to admit what you are hiding to someone you love, then you are one step closer to being clean.
Find the strength within you. Even at your lowest point, you will be amazed at the amount of strength you still have. Know that you have people around you who care about you. If you don’t have a family to help you, go out in the world and find someone. Go to a hospital, a shelter, a clinic. There are people everywhere that are willing to help you. You don’t have to do it alone. If I could go back, I would have done it differently. I would have told my family and let them help me.
For those of you smart enough to stay away from cocaine and other drugs, keep an eye on those closest to you. Always. You may be surprised at who is also a master of disguise and they may be in need of your help.
Even now, five years later, people don’t look at me and think ‘recovering drug addict’.
But I am and I always will be.