"Hi, I'm Anna* and I'm an addict." This simple statement has been my introduction for the past two years.
I have been through five treatment centers and many stays in jail. I have walked the streets for drugs and money. I have lost custody of my daughter. I have been to jail and treatments because I kept relapsing. I have felt hopeless and alone. I have used narcotic pain medicine as an emotional escape only to find myself addicted to heroin.
I’m clean now, but my recovery has been a slow process and a challenging journey. I’ve also found it greatly rewarding. I have found strength, patience, guidance, hope and resources through my experiences. I’ve continued to try and keep my heart open to learn.
When I was in active addiction, I wrote checks to myself from my mom’s checkbook for thousands of dollars. I was sick and needed help, so I was sent to a 31-day treatment program. But it’s hard to change in 31 days. To be honest, I wasn't ready. Three days after I got out, I overdosed. It landed me in drug court.
Over the next two years, I went to multiple court ordered treatment programs but relapsed every time after release. It was tiring and disappointing, but I really wanted to be clean. So I kept an open mind and heart, developing a philosophy that I would always stay positive and learn from every experience. My last relapse landed me in the Justice Center for two and a half months. After the initial fear of being locked up subsided, I followed my philosophy and asked to join the Recovery Pod.
This was a turning point in my journey. I found strength I didn’t know I had. I learned patience, accumulated resources and put them to use. I formed friendships I’ve continued to maintain. When I began to believe I could recover, I became hopeful. Hope makes way for possibilities. Hope can save an addict's life. I know because it saved mine.
When I got out of jail, I used its resources to find a doctor. I also knew I needed a therapist, so I visited Job and Family Services. I also needed a job, so I asked other people in the recovery community where to look—it worked. I needed to be around my recovery community peers. I wanted to help others. So I moved into a sober living house and decided to share my story with you.
Things don’t change overnight. I keep reminding myself that recovery is a process, and it takes time. I’ve learned to give myself a break, change my attitude, find some gratitude and learn humility. Change usually happens in small steps, but every journey starts with that first step.
Life is about progression, and we are all works in progress. If you’re in a dark place now, tell yourself: “I deserve happiness and love, I am a good person.” Because you do deserve happiness and love, and you are not your mistakes. I know I still have a long way to go, but my journey has taken a wonderful turn towards hope. I am Anna, and today I’m proud to say I am a grateful, recovering addict.
*This article was written by Anna, a recently incarcerated woman who bravely volunteered to tell her story. We have decided not to publish her full name in order to protect her from those that still stigmatize addiction.