I did not plan on being a felon. Nope. Matter of fact, as I look back exactly 15 years ago this month, my life was on a much different course. June is a time for celebrating graduations. Many parents are getting ready to send their children off into the future with joyful expectation that their child will achieve all that they are meant to be. Fifteen years ago, my parents were doing the same thing.
I was born into a very loving home with both my mother and my father present in my life. I had an older brother who was off serving our country and making a family of his own. I grew up in your typical suburban middle class family. I was disciplined, I was spoiled, but most importantly, I was loved.
As I went through my life I did all the things normal kids do. I was exposed to the arts and to sports. I excelled at the important things and had dreams of being a journalist or an event planner when I grew up. I was taught the importance of ‘Just Say NO.’ Yes, I am a D.A.R.E. graduate. In case you don’t know what this is—it is a Drug Abuse Resistance Education program. I didn’t smoke cigarettes when everyone else did, and I can still vividly remember turning down marijuana in the 8th grade. I went on to become president of our local chapter of S.A.D.D. (Students Against Drunk Driving). I really thought I was on the right path.
My senior year in high school was when my life changed. It wasn’t my friends, or a sudden tragedy; not a nasty break up or rejection from my first choice of college. It was a sports injury. I was prescribed Vicodin for my pain.
Fast forward a few years later to multiple knee surgeries and I was hooked. I can remember the day when I knew something was wrong. I had a great job and enjoyed life, but one day I did not want to get off of the couch. I just wanted my full bottle of pills, the numb feeling that they created, and to be left alone. I didn’t see this coming. I was scared. I went and talked to my mom and to be honest, we had no idea what we were dealing with then. She assured me that it was prescribed by my doctors and I needed to trust them. I wasn’t “addicted to drugs.” I had a habit of being a drama queen so I was told to relax.
Relax is what I did. I relaxed not only my moral compass, but I also relaxed my conscience. I began to put my very intelligent mind to work for all of the wrong things. My addiction took over my life. See the funny thing is one might ask, “How could you allow yourself to do what you did?” Let me explain this to the best of my ability. I’m not a doctor (although I pretended to be), I’m not a nurse or pharmacist (pretended to be those too). I’m just me—an addict. Good people become addicts and do bad things to get their drug.
I remember calling in my first prescription. I had already exhausted all of my “doctor shopping” locations. I was almost out of pills. Being out of pills is like being out of oxygen—you honestly believe you might die. I knew what I was doing was wrong. At that point in my life, all that mattered was getting my pills. I would risk anything and by saying that, I didn’t even know yet all that I was actually risking. I would soon find out.
I spent much of the next nine years of my life trying to rid myself of my demons—only I created many, many more. I went so far as to move to another state trying to run from the messes I had created. I only made things way worse. I lost many relationships with people I loved during this time. My crimes got more frequent and my daily usage of pills increased. The most insane part about it wasn’t what you’d expect: I was living a normal life. From the outside looking in, I looked to be doing well. I was married and coaching a soccer team.
Addiction doesn’t stop because we ask it nicely. Addiction stops when drastic measures are taken. My drastic measure began June 21, 2013. I have been incarcerated since that day. I’m so thankful. I have finally received the help that I so desperately needed. I was so sick. I look back at the woman who stood before the judge making all these excuses.
I pity her. Thirteen years after my sports injury, I was finally able to start healing. I realize that although addiction is not a choice, the decisions that I made in my addiction were my choice. The time that I am serving is painful to not only me, but my amazing family that is supporting me. This time is shaping me to be the person I once longed to be. I have joyful expectation toward my future now. Although my path took a different turn than what was once hoped for me, I’m stronger for it. I’m not a victim of addiction; I am a survivor of addiction.
I have a long road ahead of me. I am divorced now and I have a young son. The choices I make today are mine. I think about things now. I had to put the drama queen to rest and allow the adult in me to shine. One of the biggest things I have learned about is choices. Do I want to react or respond? I want to respond with integrity. I once heard a quote, “Character is who you are when no one is looking.” How true. I am proud of my character today. My moral compass is back in place.
I have been given this great opportunity and I want to use it. I want to publicly apologize to those whom I’ve hurt. I pray for your forgiveness every day. I also want to encourage the woman with the pain pill bottle in your purse—you know who you are—to trust your gut. If you feel something is wrong or my story hit you in your heart, reach out. Please don’t waste 15 years trying to figure it out.