I would not be who I am If I were not who I was

Lauren - Oak Creek, Colorado
Entered on March 5, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
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This I Believe

I believe that what did not kill me, has made me stronger. I am a survivor. I am a smart, strong woman with knowledge and experience that will benefit other women in their times of need. I am fortunate to have chosen life over death and I am now here to pass on a little hope.

I am a survivor of a self-inflicted disease that I can compare only to hell-on-earth. The survival rate of this particular disease is only fifteen percent. For six years, every day of my life was controlled by this enfeebling disease. A person might never believe by looking at me today that the disease that almost ended my life was heroin addiction. Eighty-five percent of heroin addicts either die from an overdose or end up in prison and I am proud to say I am one of the surviving fifteen percent.

As a curious, careless teenager I really didn’t see the harm in trying heroin. I had, after all, tried every other imaginable drug and I never became dependent on any of them. I just liked to have fun and I was pretty responsible, paying my own bills and taking care of myself. My boyfriend at the time introduced me to the drug and I thought it was awfully sweet of him to inject it in my arm for me, since I had no experience with needles.

Heroin addiction is a funny thing. It took over my life before I had a chance to decide whether or not I liked it. It replaced all of the “feel-good” endorphins that my body produced and I was dependent upon it instantly. Before I knew it, I had been addicted for over five years. I had been kicked out of three different methadone treatment programs for failing to quit using heroin while I was taking methadone. I was selling cocaine and heroin to support my habit and receiving daily beatings at the hand of my boyfriend who had become so deranged that he believed that the big picture was still okay.

I wanted to die. I fantasized about overdosing and slipping away into oblivion. Surely I would make it to heaven since I was already living in hell. I was too weak to take my own life, but I clearly remember on numerous occasions calling out to the darkness before falling asleep that if anyone could hear me could they please shoot me while I was sleeping and put me out of my misery. I was certain that my life was destined to end tragically and soon. My mother told me that she had already written my epitaph.

I had been through treatment, and failed. I wanted to be clean but the statistics that everyone threw at me made it seem hopeless. A person at rock bottom does not feel capable of accomplishing miracles when they are told that their chances are fifteen percent. The only hope that I held on to through all of my failures was a conversation I had had with an old man a few years back. He is the only person that I had ever met that had ever successfully kicked a heroin addiction. I believe that what did not kill him, made him stronger. I believe that the conversation I had that night gave me hope a few years later to make a decision that would save my life.

I did not decide to be an addict, nor did I decide to be a victim of domestic violence. I did not realize that on the morning that I was awakened from unconsciousness by the police that my life was about to change. My boyfriend had beaten me so badly that the police told me, as they were taking pictures of my bloody back, that they were pressing charges and that I would have no choice in the matter. My boyfriend was taken to jail to serve an eight-month sentence for domestic violence. The police that arrested him knew that I had traffic warrants and they arrested me a few days later. I had to serve nine days in county jail and it was the best and the worst nine days of my life.

In nine long days, I was able to go through my withdrawals, which was no easy feat, let me assure you. I thought a lot about the old man that I met a few years back. I could not even remember his name, but I knew that I wanted to be just like him. I knew that I wanted to survive and be stronger because this addiction did not kill me. I knew that this was my chance to break away and run fast and furiously from the life that I was living.

I did run. I ran far, far away. I never looked back. I embraced the opportunity to regain years of my life that I lost. I now have four children, a healthy relationship, a beautiful home and I am going to school to pursue a career in nursing. I am not proud to tell people about the bad decisions that I made in the past, as a matter of fact I usually go out of my way to hide the real story. However, I do believe that if these words were heard by the right person that they may one day be as important as the words that I heard from an old man, a complete stranger, that gave me the hope I needed to survive.

There is no changing the past. There are no second chances to go back and make different choices. I had to make a choice between life and death, and I chose to live. To live and to learn from the experiences that have brought me to today. To share those experiences with others with the

hope that maybe just one person will learn from my mistakes or gain hope from my successes. I am a smart, strong woman. I know this because that which did not kill me has made me stronger. I am a survivor. This I believe.