I’m an addict. There. I said it. I’m saying it to the world. Not only am I an addict, but I have bipolar disorder as well.
Why am I telling you this?
I’m telling you this to give you hope. I was once a trainwreck. I hit rock bottom. I was homeless. I was selling myself on the street to get by. I had no real friends, no one to turn to for advice, comfort, support. All I had were my drugs.
Oh, I denied being an addict for a long time. I couldn’t possibly be one I rationalized. My meds were prescribed by a doctor. I didn’t get them from a dealer off the streets. I got them from a pharmacy. Legally.
But the drugs were ruining my life. I managed to claw myself up from rock bottom, even with the drugs as my support. I went back to college, I got a job, I won back custody of my daughter. I got married. I had more kids. But I was only a shell of my former self.
I denied that there was a problem so well that I even believed it myself. I totally rationalized the needing of more meds than prescribed. I rationalized the burning desire for 8 PM to hit every night so I could take my Ambien. I rationalized everything away.
I explained away my odd behavior to everyone. The falling asleep at inappropriate times. The slurred speech. The glazed over eyes. It was all a side effect of perfectly legal substances. Legal substances that I was abusing.
I struggled. My bipolar disorder didn’t help me at all to get over my addiction. In fact, the two disorders competed with each other for my attention. I was having an anxiety attack? Pop a few Xanax. My back was hurting? Pop a couple roxicodone. I couldn’t win for losing.
With each drug of choice, there was a tipping point for me to quit it. My pain specialist prescribed me suboxone finally for my pain, and on the package it came in, it read ‘to be taken for opioid addiction’. What the hell? How dare they accuse me of being an addict! I quit the suboxone and roxicodone then and there. I’d show them. I could manage just fine with Motrin from there on out. And I did. I’ve taken oxicodone a handful of times since then, and only for extreme situations (read: kidney stones).
But the addiction was still there, and I was still in denial over having it. So I continued to take the Xanax. I mean, it was prescribed, right? There was finally a day when I was super late to pick my son up from the bus stop, because I’d popped a few too many of them, that I realized things were out of hand. I still couldn’t quit though. It took a hospital stay because of an overdose on them that I was finally able to stop them.
But the addiction was still there. And I still had my beloved Ambien. Oh Ambien, what a nightmare you are. I would have never quit the Ambien, until my husband left me over it. He had begged for years for me to quit taking it, but I couldn’t. It wasn’t until he finally left that I woke up from the foggy haze I’d been in to quit.
I quit the Ambien right then and there again, cold turkey, never again. It took a few months for my husband and I to work through the varied issues at hand that we’d both contributed to the dysfunction in our marriage, but we did it.
I can now say that I’ve been clean from everything for 18 months. I don’t even have a desire to take anything addictive. I refuse to have it in the house. I take naltrexone for my weight, but also for the added benefit that it is an opioid blocker, which discourages me from even trying to get meds I don’t really need.
So what’s happened in the last 18 months? I’ve gotten my life back. I’m in tune with what my children need. I’m able to enjoy my children more fully. We’re close as a family unit. My husband and I are closer than ever. We’ve been married 8 years, and this past year has been our best year ever, even with the dysfunction we had to work through. I got into treatment for my bipolar disorder, and yes, the addiction as well. I thrived there. I graduated from it with a good handle on myself, and had everything in check.
Life is amazing now. I would have never realized just how wonderful life can be without struggling in the depths of hell beforehand. I just want people to know there is hope. You can rise above the addiction and be more than just an addict. You can be a writer. A mother. An aunt. An advocate. A person with worth and value. I know this is all true because that’s me now. I’m all of those things and more.
I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s harder than hell to rise above the shame and guilt over being an addict. It took me a lot of intensive therapy and the support of a loving family to do it. And you’ll need support. I definitely did. It takes a village to help an addict recover. But it can be done. I know this is true because I did it. And I know others can too.
Written by Tricia Chilcott