Fighting for My Life One Day at a Time

By Caitlin 03/07/16

(Sponsored) I know that everyone is fighting their own battle and that some people will never understand mine. But I am grateful to be alive and to have another day where I can fight for my life, even if I make mistakes.


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I always wanted my life to be exciting and always tried to be “different,” but I never thought the story of my life would turn out like this.

Growing up I was your average “all-American” little white girl who came from a great family, Catholic background, nice neighborhood, and had unlimited opportunities to succeed in many areas. I was always an A student. I rode and owned horses and played soccer, and the trophies on the shelves kept stacking up. I always needed to be the “best” and was driven to be “perfect.” I hated soccer, but was “too good to quit” and my talent was my ticket to any Division 1 college in the country.

Eventually, I was being forced to play soccer (as I wanted to quit for many years and ride horses, which was my true passion). Once my horses were sold and soccer became a job—I felt I had lost control of my life. I became severely anorexic and started looking for ways out. Since I had already been drinking, smoking pot, and doctor shopping for Xanax, Adderall, Soma, and other anti-depression medications, I also started to purposely injure myself and get surgeries that I did not need. At the age of 18, after high school, I finally quit soccer and did not realize that I had found another passion—drugs. Throughout high school I was social, fun, but still maintained great grades and my All-State soccer title. But I was addicted to cocaine by age 17, snorted Adderall alone in the bathroom for lunch, popped Xanax bars throughout every soccer game, and drank Sprite Remix and Codeine every day in school my sophomore year.

While everyone at parties were drinking, I was in the closet, alone, snorting or eating pills. I loved my double life at this point. After high school, I moved to Florida and attended the University of Tampa. I didn’t realize what I was in for. I went from living a life with routine to having nothing to do but go to class. So I turned to more and more drugs: acid, ecstasy, lots of marijuana, shrooms, pills, crack, cocaine—you name it, I was doing it. But it was all for fun, right? I thought so, but my life was about to take a serious turn.

After my first year at Tampa, I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and a lot of other mental disorders caused from drug use and trauma. I went home and checked into the psych ward for dual-diagnosis treatment. My boyfriend of three years and best friend for many more years broke up with me (for being crazy). At the time, I could not see that he did the right thing. Instead, my downward spiral continued.

My revenge was to blackout on opiates (and every other pill I could get my hands on). I thought he would want to save me, but how stupid could I be? After getting addicted to Roxys, Oxys, Opana, and more in a very short time at the age of 19, and then again at 20, I decided to go back to Tampa to prove to them that they should have never tried to kick me out. I was really trying to run from who I was becoming and didn’t want my family to see who that was. At this point, I was stealing from them and others, getting into hit-and-runs, lying about everything, and was out of control. I also couldn’t afford pills all the time, so of course I started snorting heroin (the future love of my life).

In order to get heroin, because I was a rebel and risk-taker, I would drive to Camden, N.J.—because not knowing if you’re going to get shot, kidnapped, or arrested was a rush in itself. I eventually transferred back to Tampa in the fall of 2011. I had my own apartment in a nice area and was taking a full load of credits, but I immediately found a connect for Roxys and Dilaudid, and also a crooked Suboxone doctor who gave me all the narcotics I ever wanted. After about two weeks of snorting my pills while they shot them and agreeing to disagree on how we got high, they opened my eyes to the fact that I was wasting money. I could not afford to snort pills anymore—I mean, I wasn’t even getting high, I was just able to not feel sick. So, I asked them to hit me.

I had found what I thought I was always looking for, and two days later I was buying needles, hitting my vein myself, doing horrible things for money, and no longer going to class. The cops eventually called my dad and told him to “come get your daughter before we call you to tell you that she’s dead.” My dad and sister flew down, I ran, went missing for the first time and eventually was found, and driven up to my first real rehab in Pennsylvania. I withdrew the whole way up the East Coast and did not know what I was about to get myself into. “Happy Thanksgiving Dad, sorry I turned into a complete junkie-whore who associates with and might get killed by one of the worst gangs.”

I spent that Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, and my 21st birthday all in rehabs, psych wards, or hospitals. Court-ordered psych ward stays were a familiar thing. In the spring of 2012, I started to mentally and physically heal from the past few months and was off all medications. My psychosis broke, but my addiction didn’t. I was so addicted to the needle that I started shooting heroin again and had my first overdose, which just so happened to be at the end of my driveway and in the middle of the street. A neighbor drove by and saved my life. I wouldn’t allow my parents to see me because I was so embarrassed.

I spent the next few years in and out of treatment, wishing I wanted to get sober, but knowing that I didn’t. I wanted to die a heroin addict and I genuinely thought that I would very soon. Eventually, heroin wasn’t enough. I needed more and I met people who shot crack with their dope—speedballs. I had been shooting Suboxone prior to this (I thought that since it wasn’t heroin I was considered “clean”) but the withdrawal coming off Subs was too much, so I used heroin and crack to help. I immediately fell in love. Since crack is not water soluble, I was shooting vinegar and lemon juice into my veins. Healthy, right?

I missed another Christmas that year. I got beat up again. I had abscesses all over my body. I missed another trip. I lost another job. I thought I deserved all of these things. So I kept getting high. The vinegar and lemon juice killed my veins, so I couldn’t hit anymore and I was wasting money—I couldn’t get high and I couldn’t die the way I would want to go out. So after leaving another treatment facility AWOL, becoming a missing person again, having a half dozen run-ins with cops, completing another IOP program while I shot drugs in their bathrooms, overdoses galore, and letting down everyone around me—telling them that I loved heroin more than them and that I might not be home later because I’m going to die with a needle in my arm—I decided I needed help.

I reached out to a program in California. I thought I was only doing detox, maybe 30 days, but I stayed for about eight months. I had a relapse while I was in treatment (on alcohol) but went eight months needle-free and had my first real attempt with AA and working a program. But then on my first day out, I did meth. I got my own apartment and basically lived in the closet tweaking out, shooting copious amounts of meth, heroin, and crack for months. I thought it was only a few days, but you know how that goes. I didn’t want to be found out, so I sought help to get back into an outpatient program so I could get drug tested. I was in-and-out for a while. I would have hope and then no hope at all. Drugs took a toll on my life and way of thinking. I had made a lot of success but still thought my destiny was to be a drug addict. I couldn’t see a way out.

An outpouring of support has kept me coming back and helped me to not give up on who I can be and my potential. In California, I experienced two overdoses that led to the hospital, and dozens of other ones where someone else saved my life. I have been robbed, homeless, lost jobs, friends, and experienced the deaths of many people close to me. This opened my eyes and made me realize that I could die. And for the first time, I didn’t want to. I wanted to be happy again. I wanted to find something to live for. I wanted to be a good friend, daughter, sister, role model. I finally wanted to do positive things with my life. I had hope again. I have been to a number of treatment centers in California, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and other states, and my insurance had finally run out. I was homeless in sobriety because I wanted to be sober regardless of my situation.

I used until I had almost no resources left, but I always had some type of support to stay sober, and that is crucial for someone fighting addiction. I missed my grandmother’s funeral and almost missed my sister’s wedding. For the first time, I cared about those things. I am still fighting and have been labeled a “chronic relapser.” I am moving home to start a job with horses again, which is my true passion in life. I am not losing hope that one day I can be happy again and that I can do things with my life. I am excited to find positive highs in my life.

I know that everyone is fighting their own battle and that some people will never understand mine—I barely understand some of it myself. But I am grateful to be alive and to have another day where I can fight for my life, even if I make mistakes. I am grateful for all of the support I have had these past few years, because without it, I would have given up. I never, ever thought I would be an IV drug user. I never, ever thought I would live to see the age of 24. And I never, ever thought I would have another chance to live this life—for that, I am grateful.

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