By Guest Blogger Michelle Walter
Four years ago, if someone would have told me that I would become addicted to narcotics, I would have laughed at them.
My story is a story of joy, despair, hope and healing…
I had been an RN for 14 years, mostly in the ICU. Exposed to narcotics on a daily basis, never once did I have an issue. I had a wonderful life. A loving husband, kids and family. A strong church family. My life was full of joy. I loved my job, my career, my family, my entire life. Then, my world got turned upside down.
My mom and I were not only mother and daughter, but also best friends. We either talked or saw each other daily. We had so many of the same interests and she was an all around wonderful woman. She also became an awesome grandma after I had my two boys.
My mom was 52 years old when we discovered the unthinkable. She started feeling very tired and it was soon discovered that she had a brain tumor. A glioblastoma. With the type of tumor she had, they gave her 6-9 months to live. We were all devastated. I was devastated. My mom, who had had no health problems, was going to die soon. After that day, life as I knew it would never be the same.
At the same time, I had been struggling with back pain and was prescribed Vicodin. I ended up needing surgery. I was not sleeping well because of Mom being so sick, so I started using the medication not only for my back, but to help me sleep and turn my mind off long enough to get some rest. And then, to numb my emotional pain. But the narcotics were gripping a firm hold on me. I was in total denial. I thought I had control of it, but how wrong I was. The narcotics had control of me and I began a downward spiral.
I remember the first time I took the morphine. I remember feeling totally at peace and my mind shut off for the first time in a long time. My life around me was in total chaos, but I felt peaceful. It only took that one time and I was hooked.
Mom died in 2009. It was a devastating feeling, a crushing blow, I can not even put into words. After her death, my husband confronted me about my drug use. At first I denied it, but eventually I told him I was in trouble, and we started looking for help. I had tried to stop on my own many times before, so I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I went to an inpatient treatment facility for a week. That got me over the physical withdrawal. What I wasn’t prepared for was the emotional withdrawal.
Well, I ended up ralapsing and lost my job. My mom, my best friend, was gone. I lost my job and had lost my faith in God. I felt hopeless and worthless. It was the lowest of lows for me.
Then, one day, by the grace of God and a series of events, I got a phone call from another nurse who had struggled with narcotic addiction. It was not until that day that I started to think maybe I could finally get the guidance and help I needed. That one day changed my life. That nurse is now my sponsor and I credit her and God for saving my life. She understands what I have gone through, and I can tell her anything without being judged. For me, that is priceless. For any woman, having support is priceless.
Today, I am in strong recovery. I now have joy back in my life. I can laugh again. I miss my mom every day, but I can talk about her and smile because we had so many happy memories together. I am so grateful my family stuck by me. I love my husband and kids with all my heart. Through my journey of addiction and recovery, I have gained more wisdom than I ever thought imaginable.
I also feel I am a better person for what I have gone through. I am a more compassionate, caring person than I ever was before. And through my struggles, I realized that when we endure hardships, and then overcome then, we should then help others. I have developed a website to provide help and hope for those suffering from addiction as well as those in recovery. It is my prayer that it will touch lives. It is full of the information I wish I would have had when I was looking for help.
When life throws you a curveball, there are 2 different ways you can cope. The unhealthy way and the healthy way. When my mom was dying, I coped the unhealthy way, by using substances to numb the pain.
Here are 5 coping skills I learned through my experience through addiction to recovery. They are applicable to coping through any difficult time:
1. Turn to friends and family members – When you feel you are spiraling downward, you need to turn to the people who care about you. Even if you pride yourself in being “strong,” don’t avoid your loved ones. You don’t have to suffer alone. Ever.
2. Find a support group – There are many different support groups out there. There is a support group for just about anything life throws at you. It helps when you can share your feelings with others who have experienced similar circumstances. To find one for you, contact your local hospital, counseling center, or head to the internet – Google is your friend.
3. Draw on your faith – Use your spiritual activities, such as praying, meditating or going to a house of worship. Many people question their faith when going through hard times. It happened to me. I turned to substances instead and it only made things worse. I am happy to say my faith is restored and I am happier than ever.
4. Do journaling – Expressing your feelings in a creative way, such as journaling, or even blogging, helps you deal with your problems. Putting those words on paper confirms that this problem is real- regardless of the issue you’re struggle with– anxiety, depression, marital problems, problems with your children. Keeping a journal can be very comforting.
5. Face your feelings – You can try to suppress your loneliness, anxiety, grief, whatever is causing you distress, but you can’t avoid it forever. You have to acknowledge your pain to begin to heal. If you avoid your feelings, you are only prolonging the healing process. Unresolved problems can lead to depression, health problems and substance abuse.
It is my hope, my prayer, that anyone who suffers alone, be it with addiction, or any other life struggle, will get the guidance and encouragement that he/she needs to get on the right path. Once you get on that right path, anything is possible. God Bless
You can follow Michelle Walter on her website, www.NurseNRecovery.com, a destination providing help and hope for those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction.
If you have any tips that have helped you through challenging times, please share them here. Or please feel free to leave Michelle a note below.