When I was ten years old, my mother gave birth to my youngest sister. Afterwards, she was dead for about eight minutes until the doctors brought her back to life. I was there for my sister’s birth and there afterwards, through all the pain and frantic decisions my parents made following that day. When I was eleven years old, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Up until that diagnosis I was blamed for my illness by my childhood doctor. He suggested time and time again that I had an eating disorder, that I was an anorexic, and this was to blame for my 57 lb. weight at the age of eleven. My junior high school years were plagued with steroids and self-loathing.
I fell in ‘love’ with a boy at age fourteen who barely knew who I was. I pretended to be okay, I laughed, I succeeded academically and in extracurricular activities, but I felt so ugly and so sick. At eighteen years old, I decided I was sick and tired of being good and trying to do the right thing. So, I went to my first high school rager, and raged I did. I drank, blacked out, and then drank some more. People told me how fun, how smart, and how pretty I was. I felt loved, euphoric, and joyful instead of nervous, anxious, and scared.
Sobriety does not solve all of the emotional trauma that existed before the drugs did, but I can face these things now and try to make them a story from my past as well.College came and I doubled down on my new favorite hobbies: Drinking, smoking pot and partying. If drinking wasn’t involved, then I wasn’t interested in whatever that dull activity was. I continued to be sick; with increased drinking came more Crohn’s symptoms and worsening flare-ups. I took a semester off and discovered painkillers. At that time, my gastroenterologist prescribed them to me because nothing else seemed to help. I was in constant pain, and none of the immunosuppressant drugs, which do wonders for others, ever did anything for me. In retrospect, this was probably because of my drinking and partying. But the pain meant getting painkillers and being sick had become part of my identity. Throughout my college years I continued to be sick and was plagued by the feeling of being unloved. I had many crushes and flings, but never was I earnestly asked out on a date. My high school love continued to haunt me; why didn’t anyone want me? I was fun and smart, sometimes I felt pretty, and I knew how to party unlike anyone those around me had seen before.
When I was twenty-two years old, I had one class remaining to complete my college degree. But I gave up. I chose a life of sickness and partying over a degree, which at the time meant nothing at all to me. Truth was, I was tired. Truth was, I wanted to die.
At twenty-three, I met a boy who told me he loved me and introduced me to heroin. I had found what I had always been looking for: Love and a life free of pain. At twenty-four, I went to treatment for a whole five days before I convinced them that I was too sick with my Crohn’s disease to stay at a facility that only fed us hot dogs. In reality, I did not want to get sober.
Over the next year I fell in love with another boy who had no idea that I was using large amounts of heroin every day. I lied to him, stole from him, and was cruel to someone who did not know how sick I was. The cool thing was that I had Crohn’s disease. I felt sick? Blame it on the Crohn’s! I hid or passed out in the bathroom for hours? Blame it on the Crohn’s! I stole money, weed or valuables to buy more heroin? Blame it on the roommate because I was just sick from Crohn’s!
This chapter of my life ended when my boyfriend’s roommate’s cat was found playing with a dirty needle that it had dug out of my purse. He ended things, and I broke down and went to treatment… well it was not nearly as neat and simple as that, but that’s what happened.
Through all of this, I burned bridges and hurt innumerable people. Most significantly though, I hurt my family. My mom and dad, and my two younger sisters and younger brother, who had never done anything but love and support me, were hurt by everything that I had done. But sadly, through this treatment and all this heartbreak, I still did not find sobriety.
After going to a 30-day inpatient treatment and three-month long outpatient treatment, I decided to drink again. I told myself, just drinking wouldn’t be a problem for me after once again finding myself in a position of feeling desperately unwanted. If I drank, I would have the courage to tell people how I felt, and I could feel like I was me again. That 18-year-old me again who felt fun, smart, pretty and loved. I never used heroin again, but the four years that I drank and partied and pretended to be okay were by far the loneliest of my life. I constantly felt as though I were in a room full of people but was somehow painfully, agonizingly alone. I felt like I kept trying to speak up, but that someone was always a little bit quicker, wittier, and they always spoke over me.
Over the course of those four lonely years, my Crohn’s also got to be the worse it had ever been. I was hospitalized multiple times. The last time I was hospitalized, they said I needed emergency surgery and that meant I would likely live with a colostomy bag for the rest of my life. I was 28 years old at the time and I had never heard a worse prospect. I was faced with a decision to get surgery or to try another medication. I tried the medication and decided that it was also time to get sober because I knew that nothing would ever work if I continued to self-sabotage and self-destruct. It took a few slips, but on January 13th of 2019 I had my last drink and I have been in remission for my Crohn’s disease for about the same amount of time. As for the loneliness and self-loathing, I am still working on these things and I probably will be for the rest of my life. Sobriety does not solve all of the emotional trauma that existed before the drugs did, but I can face these things now and try to make them a story from my past as well. Besides, it’s more important to love than to be loved.
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