Michelle N.

michellenDOB: 5/24/69; San Francisco.

The only way to be appreciated or valued was to give something in return and how I did that was by sleeping with people to get drugs,

or better yet not to feel as guilty about using. You know, they seemed to like me better if I’d sleep with them and then use.

Click Here for Addict Out of the Dark and into the Light – 32_Michele.mp3

I was born in ’69, which was like the “Summer of Love,” and I was born to two people who weren’t married, a French woman and an English man. And the father — my biological father — did not know that I, to my understanding, he did not know that his girlfriend, whomsoever he might choose to call her, was pregnant with me.

And she did not tell him, and she went ahead and had me, and I was put up for adoption, like instantly after birth. And so I have abandonment and rejection issues as far as like day one, as far as right up to birth.

And I was adopted by the legal parents that I have now. I was adopted about two months after birth, three months maybe, August. I was adopted into an upper-middle-class family, into a dysfunctional family that I didn’t know that I had.

All my life . . . there was two other brothers — my father was married before and had two sons as a result of that marriage who were both learning disabled and hyper-kinetic. And my own personal diagnosis, if I was able to take their own inventory, would be to say that they are addicts — alcoholics, sick people, whatever.

My father always bought everything, I mean he was kind of like, he controlled everything and everyone by money, and I was given no emotional support growing up all my life, no emotional support, psychological support. And he began to drink very heavily from when I was small, I can remember.

And in the early 1970’s my mother told me a story of when she was watching “Days of Wine and Roses” and I knew. And I looked up to the TV screen and I said, “Is that what’s wrong with my daddy?” So I knew at a very small age that my father was an alcoholic.

My mother . . . growing up through my early childhood, was like a best friend, like my best friend, like I had no father. And so my mother played both roles and she was just there for me, I felt that she was there for me really. Went to private school and began to like isolate.

I was really scared back in second grade, third grade. I always thought I was always either better than everybody else or worse, like I had more talent, I could do more stuff, smarter, and I also felt — it was like I was the worse one, I was the last one picked for like the P.E. games in second and third grade.

I isolated from early grammar school up to today. Nineteen and a half years of isolation and sabotage, self-sabotage. I was very scared of drugs when I was younger. And they were always like a bad thing. And there was always something that my brothers were into that I was never recommended to take part of.

They were really scary, because I didn’t want my parents to think of me what they thought of my brothers, and what they said to me about my brothers, and how bad they were, and you don’t have sex and you don’t smoke and don’t take drugs and steal. Those messages were very clear. But, however, something happened, and they all got turned around.

My drug use began when I was fifteen and I started the very first drug that I used was MDA — methamphetamine and I loved it. I felt instantly, I felt like automatically, I accepted me, that I was okay. I was okay in my own skin. I wasn’t disappointed with the way that I looked.

It seemed like for the first time I felt something I seemed like I never felt all my life. And all of a sudden I used drugs and I feel this sort of like happiness and stimulation that was not there before.

I can remember for the very first time, the very first time that I ingested drugs into my body, that the messages in my head, that I was automatically already trying to defend my usage, thinking that, “Oh, if those people who talked about how bad drugs were, if they had actually tried them then they wouldn’t be saying don’t use them.” That’s where my rationalization and denial began from.

My addiction progressed over four years. When I turned eighteen and met a bunch of people and got introduced to free-basing and I was curious, I was happy with my other, like fun drugs, and that was like no big thing. And in the process of in between this, I had experimented with, I did mushrooms and acid, pot, speed, MDA. I liked anything that would wire me and keep me up.

I liked that extra energy. I didn’t like drinking that much, always seemed to have the opposite effect of what I wanted. And pot I didn’t really like smoking pot, because I didn’t like being down and depressed. I liked to be up, happy and alive.

I got introduced to free-basing. And from the very first hit I could not stop. I never remember a time that I really enjoyed free-basing. All I knew is that if I didn’t get a hit right after the last hit, that I was going to like hurt, and I didn’t want to hurt. I just thought I was going to go nuts. I went to any lengths to get that another hit.

I was fortunate to have this happen at a pretty good time in my life. I think it was a pretty good time. I just turned eighteen and I was supposed to be looking for jobs. I didn’t graduate from high school.

My drug use interfered with my high school education, which was very important to me. I was enrolled in a Catholic high school and I wanted to be an artist, or I wanted to be . . . sort of my ambition, when I was a senior in high school, was to take drugs and go to clubs and dance, and wear funny clothes and to be like a living art form.

To me, which is a living art form, I was just a very visual person all my life when I grew up. I was like going into stores, neatening things on the shelves, just anything, always a visual person. It got scary, the free-basing land, it just got really scary. It got to where I was hanging out with strippers and people that were buying cocaine by the quarter kilo and they slept with 357 magnums under their pillow, and it just got really scary.

I got scared and I thought that I was going to like die. I’d smoke so much cocaine. I’d be smoking cocaine for three days, and I would get up and throw up and keep throwing up and go back and smoke some more. Sometimes I’d sprinkle heroin in the cocaine, but I never liked it because it always made me feel nauseated. But for some reason I just kept doing it again. Free-basing — I never really liked it, but for some reason I kept doing it again and again. I would promise myself I’m not going to use, and I would do it again and again.

I got real tired of seeing the people that I was using with. I got real tired of how their attitude changed when they ran out of drugs. I got real tired of having to not be able to be the person I wanted to be, and sit there and be quiet until someone would feed me drugs.

I got real tired of needing to . . . this is part of my own disease. This is the way I felt: that the only way to be appreciated or valued was to give something in return and how I did that was by sleeping with people to get drugs, or better yet not to feel as guilty about using. You know, they seemed to like me better if I’d sleep with them and then use.

July 14th, 1987, I got sick and tired of being an addict, a practicing addict, and I decided that I wanted to get recovery. And if there was such a thing I really didn’t know. The only thing that I knew about was those ads that you used to see in the papers about “Call this if you want to clean up” or whatever.

I got on the phone. I knew someone that was in recovery, and I called her and said, “I need the name of a hospital. I want to go. I need some like help.” She gave me the number of a treatment center in San Roselle, California, which I went to that night. It was a really hard thing for me to do.

I was . . . I had just turned eighteen and I drove to my mother’s office downtown and I hadn’t slept in like four days, and make-up all over my face, and the same clothes on, and walked in and I started crying, and told her, “Mother, you know, I am a cocaine addict and I have a very expensive habit and I want to get some help.”

And she helped me. She said, “Yeah.” She threw me in the car, brought me home, and I threw a bunch of stuff in a suitcase, and she drove me to the hospital. When I was in the hospital I was introduced to recovery from addiction by three different institutions. That’s what’s helped me today. That’s made me who I am today.

The first institution I was registered to go for forty five days, and gosh, I felt that seems like a long time. Little did I know that it was not that long of a time. I went and I couldn’t feel, I couldn’t think, all I did was sleep and wake up and answer their questions. And I did what they told me to.

The counselors there kept telling me, “You’re not powerless yet. We’re sending you to long term. You haven’t gotten it yet. You’re not feeling.” I sat there and just naturally anesthetized, just kind of shook my head. I didn’t understand. I had these feelings of again, of being less than and not being able to fulfill, like do what I am supposed to do, not being able to play the game right. I didn’t feel adequate, like I could give them what they wanted. But I feel lucky because I could give myself what I wanted.

They sent me off to long term with my agreement, which was like two months. I began to clear up a little bit in the second treatment center. At the end of that I was in Montana, where I made an inventory of myself for three days in the wilderness, all by myself. I didn’t talk to another human being. It was an intense kind of experience where I got in touch with being powerless. And powerless, I just kind of prayed that the sun would shine every day.

After I graduated that treatment center they suggested that I go to a halfway house and I agreed. And I fell in love with recovery, when I was going to about eleven meetings a week for recovering addicts. And I really had the feeling of being that I was okay, that all of a sudden I am going to all these meetings, and I am seeing all these people, and it’s like I am okay today.

When I walked in I had two different colors in my hair, scrungy clothes and stuff. I was okay. No matter what I looked like I still got hugs, people loved me. People called on me in the meetings and asked me to share. They wanted to know what I was about. It was just a phenomenal feeling of okay, that I was just okay, and that I was loved no matter what.

I came back. I moved from Colorado. I had six months clean in January of ’88. I came back to California. I decided I wanted to go to art school. So I registered and I went. My priorities were then that I wanted to go back to the life style that I had, but just not have to incorporate the drugs. I went back to the same places to dance, and the friends that I used to hang out with, the music, and I just wanted it all the same just without the drugs. I stayed clean.

On my nine month anniversary I started hurting. I stopped seeing my other recovering friends for three months. I called this counselor. I had written this big suicide letter — not that I would actually ever do that.

I didn’t want to do it. I just wanted people to know how bad I felt inside, because I wanted people to take pity on me. I wanted people to say, “oh, it’s not my fault.” I didn’t want to take responsibility for my life or my recovery. I talked to this counselor and she told me that I had two choices: either you can go to the recovery meetings, and maybe like make it to your year birthday, or you can keep doing what you’re doing and I guarantee you that you will die.

I told her right then, “you know, I don’t know if I am willing to go to ninety meetings in ninety days and all this other shit. I’m not into that.” I had forgotten how good it was when I was in Colorado. I was still clean, and when I left her office I went straight to a meeting, and I have been to a meeting every day since. In the last three months I have gotten more gifts than since about my nine-month birthday.

I have gotten more gifts and felt more true happiness than I have in eighteen years, that feeling of being accepted, walk¬ing down the street and running into . . . I can walk down the streets of San Francisco and run into other addicts who aren’t using drugs. It’s an incredible feeling, walk into people at the sidewalk, it’s like “How are you doing?” It’s not like, “Hey, what’s up?” and walk around and leave. It’s, “Hey, how are you doing?” And I can honestly tell them, “I’m not feeling good right now. Can we chat?” And I dump on them, telling them, “What’s going on?”

Today I choose to do the work that I need to do to stay clean. The spirituality part, the fact that I have a higher power I used when I first got clean. I kind of called it “May the Force be with you,” like Star Wars, because I really didn’t have it defined. And now it’s just I don’t care, I don’t need a name, it’s just there.

I have a power that is greater than myself, and I have a power that brought me back from the dead. I have somebody up there and out there who really cares about my existence, because they brought me back from the dead, or almost the dead. I was spared death.

I have people that I call if I am hurting. If I want to use drugs, I have people to call in San Raphael, in San Francisco, Colorado, Idaho. Up and down California, Michigan. It’s a real neat space to be in, is to have people that I can call long distance, even call collect, if I want to. A real nice feeling to be welcomed on the phone, or have my feelings being validated by someone else who is willing to listen to them.

There have been a lot of simple things that are like side-kicks of recovery, like I was able to graduate high school with my high school diploma. I didn’t want a GED. I wanted to get my Catholic high school diploma, which I worked for three years. I was able to get that. I was able to go to the art school of my choice, which is here in California. I was able to make mistakes. I was never capable of having a relationship with another human being when I was using drugs. Now, today, it’s like an option. And I have a relationship, relationships, in my life today that’s phenomenal, I couldn’t never understand. I can feel love and feel accepted.

I have had to work through a lot of issues, like being molested. I had to work through a lot of character defects like fear. I’ve let fear handicap my life a lot. Recovery to me is like a process. It’s the opposite of practicing addiction. It’s a slow process.

For instance, part of my recovery has been fifty three days ago I started to know that I was addicted to, that I was powerless over cigarettes, that I had had enough of cigarettes. I was tired of waking up with a smoker’s hangover, and spending the money to smoke two packs of cigarettes a day.

And I have been able to apply what I have learned in recovery to having fifty three days off of nicotine, which has been really great. It’s like the rewards. It’s like if I stop smoking for one day it saves me three bucks. But stop smoking cigarettes for two months and all of a sudden there is an extra hundred dollars in my pocket.

That difference between three dollars and a hundred dollars, that’s what recovery is like. It’s a long steady slow thing. Whenever I go through some pain or discomfort I grow a little bit. I am proud of like who I am today. I am doing what I want to do. I am making decisions for myself.

I am lucky to have this family that I have never had before. It’s filled the void. It’s like recovery right now is the most important thing in my life. And all the other things that used to be the highlights, like going out to these clubs and going shopping and doing this and that. They are okay with me, but they are not first choice.. Because I am happy with what I have today. I am happy with my recovery today.

I worked as a house painter this summer in order to save the money to travel. That’s a big step, that’s an incredible thing, the fact that I was like able to earn the money to buy the gas that goes in the car that gets driven to go to Los Angeles to travel. This feeling of independence, the feeling that this big war is over and I feel today.

I am not the kind of addict that, likes feelings and I do have like negative feelings that I don’t like, but somehow they have always come through. They have been resolved. And through the pain, it’s like I found a pot of gold at the end of that razor blade. I am real insecure, and my self esteem, issues became real apparent.

About a month ago I was able to look into the mirror and I was okay with what I saw in the mirror. I feel okay enough about my physical self, enough to share it with another person, and I feel okay enough about my emotional status and spiritual status, enough to talk to a total stranger and say here is what’s going on with me, and be able to take a risk and be real honest.

I am learning. It’s taken me about a year to redefine honesty. I felt honesty was not telling a lie. And now I have really discovered the meaning of honesty. And it’s being true to myself. I am learning more and more every day. I learned something today. I had an issue with someone today. What I really wanted was to say “no,” but I was too scared to say “no” for fear of upsetting another person. And I was not being honest with myself. I was not practicing fearless honesty. It took me three months to learn to say that it was okay to say that I am scared.

I am frustrated. I’m sad. I’m feeling joy. I’m comfortable. Those four feelings — sadness and frustration, which sometimes provokes anger, and fear. They are like the root of everything. One of those four, every time I interact with another human being, one of those four feelings is being felt. And I need to, when I am doing my best, I can recognize which one of those four feelings it is, and when I have a conflict with another person it is easy for me to establish which feeling it is. It is easier for me to deal with the problem in a rational way.

Another hangup is, another one of my inacceptance issues is the fact that I am nineteen years old. People that I’ve hung out with all my life are in their thirties and forties. And I am real scared, and I hate being around people that are my age. I mean, I want to be bigger and better, I have all this image stuff, that like cowboy boots, that with silver tips on them, all this visual image stuff that I crave, that sometimes gets in the way of my recovery.

But maybe I will find a healthy way to balance out from where the art and drugs were the same thing. I’ll learn that there is a difference, there’s a big difference. I have a message to give and that’s I am clean, that no addict will die who seeks recovery, and I have a couple of twenty four hours of that recovery, and I want to pass it on, and I want to pass it on to people, special people like me.

Click Here for Addict Out of the Dark and into the Light


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