Some people choose the path of least resistance. Some people choose. I was given a life that many would consider a curse, to me, an opportunity. I once read that success is not what you achieve in life, but what you need to overcome to achieve those goals. My achievements in life come from a trait that was luckily bestowed upon me, perseverance.
By all measures, I should be dead – dead and buried, just a faint, painful memory in the lives of those who knew and loved me. Twenty-five was my number. That was my season – the age I would make it to before I was obliterated by the lifestyle I chose, needed, hated, and could not break out of. I often quoted the great Billy Joel: “Only the good die young.”
Sparing the boring details, I grew up in a family that was loving, but struggled. My parents split when I was going into the dreaded middle school years. I was always an outsider, the tom boy; an athletic anomaly that excelled with any ball or stick that I touched. I often threw myself into the sports I loved. Often, to forget about the troubles had. My confidence was cultivated on the field. This still wasn’t enough to prevent me from going down a dark lonely path.
Early on my life were riddled with various forms of loss and trauma. I quickly sought ways to escape my pain. In the 9th grade I began to cut myself; the physical release of my emotional turmoil became addictive. Shortly thereafter I began working. I would travel for entire weekends with an all-male crew who were much older than me. I worked long, grueling hours at festivals and community events.
I soon realized that the men who smoked cigarettes got to take breaks. So, I began smoking. This quickly led to motel mishaps where grown men found it amusing to get the 13-year-old child drunk and stoned. They got a thrill, and I found my map to navigating the world.
The saving grace of my formative years was my passion for and talent in athletics. As a freshman I played on my high school’s football team. Being the first girl in Connecticut to play football was not necessarily my intention – I simply wanted to play, and no one could tell me I couldn’t. Soccer was my true passion, however, and in my sophomore year I became the starting goalkeeper on a varsity team ranked second in the nation.
Soccer gave me solace in a world that was otherwise coming undone at the seams, until I became the target of bullying from my teammates. The thing that was my sanctuary suddenly became associated with anger and despair. A team that was undefeated and moving on to win the state championship, that was the center of attention for all high school sports, became my tormentor. I soon went back to what I knew worked to rid me of the feelings that plagued me: alcohol and drugs.
Sometimes I wish that my soccer coach, school counselors and principal didn’t sweep my problems under the rug simply to ensure that I remained an eligible member of the team, because all it did was serve to enable my addiction. I graduated high school and was accepted into college, although I really have no idea how.
College is when life really took a downward turn for me. Unsupervised by family, I was finally able to use drugs and alcohol the way I wanted. My addiction progressed until I was using against my will – until it became all about the getting and finding the ways and means to get more – ANYTHING to escape the way I was feeling.
The beginning of my junior year of college, on a crisp New England autumn day, I found myself empty. Completely lost. Utterly broken. I lay on the air mattress I was sharing in the unfurnished attic of a crack house, wondering how in the hell I had gotten there.
It was two months after my 21st birthday. Four years until my time was up. I cried. It was time to surrender. It was time to give up. I decided to ask for help.
Today, I am over 12 years sober and living a life beyond my wildest dreams. Today I embrace life, the journey and the unknown. I strive for adventure. The outdoors is my drug.