The most difficult thing I did in addiction treatment was write my own obituary. You see, I was seventeen when I overdosed and almost died and ended up in adolescent inpatient addiction treatment for the second time.
My story began like many stories begin – childhood pain and trauma, an endless searching, and the discovery that my neurobiology, temperament, and humanity combines into the perfect cocktail of addictive tendency and bend towards self-destruction. So, I won’t spend much time here. At least, not today.
At seventeen, it is quite the experience to sit down and pretend that you died. I remember staring at the blank paper in front of me. What on earth was I going to say? How could they expect me to imagine what it would be like had the overdose been fatal?
But then, all of a sudden, the words tumbled down like children waiting at the top of a grassy hill. What my parents felt, my friends, the kind of person I was – I tried to touch on all of this. It was a sad obituary, one where my loved ones were heartbroken and I, a young person filled with hope and promise, gone too soon. Whew – even writing this now, the reality of that time sinks in again.
If I were using today during this opioid crisis and epidemic, I am almost certain I would not have made it out alive.
I continued to struggle for several years. Can I just say it is VERY difficult to be a young person and get sober. Really, it can be challenging at any age, but as a young person there are sometimes so few resources and so many societal messages screaming at you: using is fun, glamourous, what on earth will you do if you don’t drink, smoke, fill in the blank, at the party, bar, holiday, fill in the blank.
Because of the lack of resources, as I got healthier I explored how I could get involved with changing this story. My community did not have to have a gap when it came to women’s collegiate recovery housing; my college could have a collegiate recovery community; my community could have a thriving recovery high school; there could be groups of young women and men doing fun sober things on the weekends. You see, what I think really saved my life after almost dying at seventeen was getting involved in being a part of the solution. I jumped head first into creating programs and building relationships, always focusing on what would have helped me as a young person in recovery.
As now a thirty something in recovery, I look back on my twenties with fondness. It was a time of service and gratitude, albeit many tears were shed along the way.
To those who may be reading who know a young person in recovery or young person seeking recovery or young person in active addiction – please please please consider how you can be a part of creating a new story for them. How can you be there for that young person sitting at a table writing their sad story – how can you be there to give them a new page, one of promise and hope?
In adolescent treatment, there was a counselor who said something to me that stuck with me for years, even now. The truth he spoke to my young heart pierced something in it, something hardened by my experiences and disease.
“Your life has purpose and value.”
How can we speak this into the lives of a generation being lost to addiction? How can we also continue to walk in this truth?
Your life has purpose and value.