True Story: I’m a Recovered Addict

This is part of our True Life interview series, in which we hear about different people’s interesting/amazing/un-nerving experiences. This is the story of Laura* an incredibly funny, smart, driven girl who fell into meth at the end of high school. Tell us about your relationship with drugs and alcohol growing up.

My parents were very open about alcohol and drugs and because there wasn’t a huge air of mystery about the whole deal, I was A Good Kid growing up. I wasn’t afraid to fly my freak flag even if it meant not fitting in with the other kids; I was too academically motivated to jeopardize my glorious future; plus, all my friends were too nerdy to even drink. Then junior year of high school, I fell, hard, for a sort of unsavory guy and ended up following him to lots of parties where binge-drinking and drug use were the order of the day. I actually barely participated: got drunk a few times, maybe smoked pot once, but the environment played arpeggios up and down my repressed inner bad-girl chords.Which drugs did you get into? And how did that happen?By the beginning of senior year of high school, I started a methamphetamine addiction that would last for about two years and didn’t take long to completely control my life. Senior year was the peak of high-stress testing for my academically rigorous diploma program. Between six hours a night of chem homework, applying to a staggering 32 high-caliber universities and spending every weekend sweating blood in debate, I wanted two things: to occasionally feel like a kid again, and to somehow fit thirty hours’ worth of work into a 24-hour day. Oh, and losing forty pounds wouldn’t hurt either. What do you know — methamphetamines seemed to perfectly fit the bill.

One day in calculus, one of my good friends — another repressed bad girl — slipped a tiny baggie of white powder into my textbook. We cut English class to snort it in the girls’ room. By the end of the day, I’d finished two weeks’ worth of assignments, drank a gallon of water, not eaten a morsel and lost six pounds. No exaggeration. Plus, it filled me with confidence and a sense of love for everyone around me. It was love at first snort. She hooked me up with her dealer and I was never without a magic little baggie of my own.

How did you finance your habit?
Babysitting. Is that a small-town cliche or what? But when you’re a high-school girl with no interest in fashion, all of your cash is disposable. I made a few hundred dollars a week on babysitting and snorted at least half of it — usually more. Lord knows I wasn’t spending the money on food. By the time I got to university and was snorting (and by then smoking) even more, I had the good luck to be funded with a very generous quarterly stipend. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I regret funding my habit with money that had been given to me as a gift because I was a promising young student. The only thing I can say about my defense is that at least I was never spun when I was babysitting children. Can’t say the same about being sober while taking my classes, though.

How did it affect your grades/relationships/etc?
That’s one thing about methampetamines: they could definitely be worse for your grades. Often when I got spun, I was insanely productive, practically sneezing out term papers and memorizing text books. That is, when I didn’t get spun and stay up all night obsessively trying on all of my (ever-smaller) clothes or tweezing all the hairs out of my legs. But by the time I neared the end of my addiction, I forgot to ever come down and get sane again. I’d write a eight-page paper in an hour, convinced it was brilliant, then look at it a few weeks later to realize it was absolute raving lunacy. But maybe because I’ve always been obsessively academic, my grades didn’t really suffer: the worst that happened is that I had to drop a class the quarter that my addiction hit its all-time high.

Did the people in your life know you were struggling with this?I tried to keep my addiction a secret from everyone I cared about because I knew they would try to make my stop and in my junkie’s lizard-brain, the most important thing was to keep that from happening. By the time I was in college, I was afraid to speak to my parents and refused to answer their phone calls, for fear that they’d realize something was up. By function of living together, though, my roommates — who were my best friends — realized I had a problem. I’d lock myself up in the room for hours to smoke, then come out as a manic parody of myself. I’d sit in the dining hall with them, picking at a slice of bread, and incessantly smack my mouth which was always cotton-dry despite the gallons of water I drank.

Other people have drug problems, I’d tell them. I just have a drug hobby. And although they sometimes asked me to seek help, they didn’t push it too hard. I think this is partially because they were afraid of completely alienating me, and partially because they — like me — were sheltered academics and had never had any exposure to drug addiction. They wanted to believe that I was right.

Was there a low point that made you decide that you wanted to quit?
I accidentally OD-ed, thank god. My rock-bottom had been flying upward to meet me for a while: after about a year of being almost permanently spun, I’d started suffering from tactile, auditory and visual hallucinations. I’d stay up all night writing pages of whacked-out prose, then become convinced there was a man standing outside my window staring at me, and be too paralyzed with fear to do anything but sit there, my pulse a 220-bpm machine gun.

For the three-week bender that led to my OD, every night when I lay in bed, a rat would chew its way through my brain. I’d smell that vermin sewage scent, feel its feet scrabbling on my cheeks, hear its little jaws closing around my ear drum, then ripping away the walls of my ear canal and getting into my skull. Sometimes I could “catch” the rat and throw it against the wall. Other times, its whole body would get wedged inside my brain, nibbling, nibbling, nibbling, and I would lay there crying until it went away. When it did, I would always stand in front of the mirror for ages, touching my ears and face and amazed not to see any blood.

The day of my OD, I’d been spun for three weeks and had to write a paper, but my mind was already at the brink of insanity and for the first time ever, I couldn’t make words come out. Desperate, I smoked bowl after bowl, trying to regain the feelings of confidence and brilliance that usually accompanied a high. After my last bowl, I had the sensation that my teeth were falling out, so I ran to the mirror. My tongue started talking to me and telling me it would knock out my teeth to punish me — weirdly, my first reaction was horror at the thought of being toothless — who would date me then?!

I realized I was OD-ing and tried to get dressed to go find help, but my hands were melting. If I tried to pick up my jeans, I thought my fingernails would ooze off; when I reached for the door to run outside naked, I thought my hand would liquefy to a puddle of goo and be unable to turn the knob. So I just lay there on the floor, naked, screaming for help until the guy across the hall came in and helped me call the RA.

How did you go about getting help?After I OD-ed, the hospital kept me overnight and made me eat something substantial for the first time in weeks. After they released me, I was still deluded enough to think I could seek help without telling my parents what had been going on. I asked the Residence Dean to help check me into a one-week recovery program in the psych ward of my university’s hospital. But after about an hour there, I realized it wasn’t going to be a hilarious, cinematic Girl, Interrupted experience. I wanted my mommy. So I called my parents, arranged to get a week off of classes, and went home to confess what I’d been doing to the people I’d let down the most. To their everlasting credit, my parents didn’t scream at me once. They force-fed me and watched me every moment of the day, true, but they didn’t tell me how disappointed and angry they were. They just helped me start my life without methamphetamines.

How has your recovery been going?
Recovery was, in many ways, easier that I imagined it would be, after I got through the wrenching experience of admitting to my friends and parents that I had a problem. I immediately cut off ties with my former dealer; cutting off contact with other user friends wasn’t a problem, as I didn’t have any in college. For the first several months, I would seize up with the urgent desire to get spun — I can’t even tell you how many nights I cleared everything out of the drawer where I used to keep my stash and snorted up every stray little dust mite and paint chip, hoping to find a spare crystal. But because I cut off my contacts, I had no way to get drugs, even in my weakest moments, and after being completely clean for a while, the cliche is true: it got easier every day.

One horrifying experience that helped: I stayed at my parents’ house that summer after freshman year, when I was busy getting clean. One night, after I’d been clean a few months, I got a call from my former dealer, who had stopped using because she’d gotten pregnant. She’d had her baby three nights before and called to ask if I could come over and babysit. She and her boyfriend had missed getting spun, and now that they had the baby, they wanted to go out and smoke meth again.

I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t watch the baby. In no small part because I knew there would be drugs in the house. So I told her no and helped her find somebody else to watch the baby — jesus, that poor baby — so it wasn’t left alone. And the whole time, there was that little voice in my head: this could have been you in five years. Don’t let that happen.

In a few months, I’ll have been five years clean. And most days, when I think about my history as a junkie, it just feels like a movie I’ve watched rather than a life I’ve lived. But every time I smell a dollar bill or watch someone snort a line in a movie, I know that all the obsessive junkie tendencies haven’t just gone away. Even thinking about smoking meth or snorting a line makes my muscles seize up and that old lizard-brain start kicking in again. I still drink moderately, I’ve smoked pot a dozen times or so, I’ve even snorted one or two social lines of coke after being clean on meth, and these things haven’t been triggers for me. But I know I can never do methamphetamines again, not even once, or the junkie beast will come roaring back to life. And I can’t let it happen again.

Any advice for others struggling with addictions?
Tell someone. Right now. You know all those people you’re shutting out of your life because you don’t want them to find out? The reason you don’t want them to find out is that they love you and they will make you stop. But it will be better that way. And if you’re anything like I was, you might be thinking, “I’ll tell them soon. I’m just in too deep now — give me a few months to sort out my life and start recovery one my own!” No. That’s the addiction talking. I don’t care if you’re superman: you cannot quit an addiction on your own. Your friends and family, the people who love you no matter how dumb you’ve been or how much what you’re doing is hurting them, they are what’s going to get you through this. And they’re not going to hate you for it. They only want you to get better.

If telling your friends and family is too big a step, then just tell anyone. Tell a doctor at Planned Parenthood, tell the cashier at the grocery store, heck, email Sarah Von and let her forward it on to me. The secrecy eats away at you just as fast as the drugs do. You don’t have to walk alone.

Have you struggled with addictions? Any questions for Laura?
*Not her real name, obviously.

30 Comments

Lawgirl

Very brave to share this and so glad that you are in recovery.

I have an addictive personality as well and am cautious about drinking and such,not wanting to get those things started (alcoholism runs in my family). I was just curious as to how you are able to try things like pot and coke and not have similar reactions to it as you did to meth. What is the difference, do you think? And what makes them "safe"?

Thank you again for sharing.

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Laura*

Pot is easy for me to do socially because I don't actually like it — I find it mildly unpleasant and more often than not it gives me nausea. It would be hard for me to get addicted to. I didn't touch anything like coke until I'd been clean for several years (and really have only done two or three lines of it), so I think distance helped. It just also doesn't have the same effects as meth — it doesn't feel as good. I guess it's that I'm not addicted to drugs in general. I'm addicted to meth in particular. Huh, seems I don't buy into the whole gateway theory.

Of course I would advise anyone who's in recovery not to touch drugs ever ever ever. Lord knows I didn't touch anything except alcohol for a few years into my recovery. But life is messy and sometimes we don't take our own good advice, I guess.

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Chrissy

Your advice is something that I wish the person I was involved with would have the courage to do!… I do not think he even knows that he is the cause of why I no longer communicate with him… We had an almost 5 yr. relationship… I have never known any alcoholics in my life so I did not see the red flags… I was very naive, I thought his quirky behavior was just that… He was great at putting the blame on me, being non confrontational…Being a big chicken when I wanted to discuss things… he thinks he has fooled me by changing his profile name on a dating site! lol little does he know it isn't rocket science to figure out his name was edited! lol…. I had called it quits w/him a few years ago but made the mistake of answering a call waiting… Made the mistake of believing his truths of 'working on himself'…Alcoholics don't realize the hurt they do to the ones they supposedly love… He would bash his sister for being the one who knew how to connive money from others when in fact he tried that w/me.. and this last time I said no, since it made no logical sense to me… Guess that was the problem- I was logical and he wasn't… Not a good combo huh? I do know I will never get involved w/an alcoholic/drug addict or anyone who is controlling. i'd rather be alone.

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Christine Macdonald

Thank you for this interview. You are helping so many people.

I am an ex-user and recovering addict from the 80's and 90's starting at 14 years old.

It's a remarkable road and so much better on the other side.

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raeleighjo/bigskygirlmt

thank you so much for sharing your story, laura. i grew up in MT where meth seems to be the drug of choice. that being said, i think one of the most important things to note is that you are very much the exception to the rule. i am SO GLAD you were able to get help and get clean before it spiraled much farther out of control. i know of several people who weren't that lucky. good luck in your continued recovery.

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The Curious Cat

Thanks so much for sharing this – it is important for people to read this…I am so glad too that you managed to kick it – and it is great that you had the support and love you needed. xxx

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penn

Thank you for sharing. I was a sheltered academic as a kid, and still am in many ways. It's good for all of us to hear your story. What should I look for in friends? What should I do to help if I'm in a situation like your roommates were? I knew some friends in college who did a lot of pot or coke, and I was never sure whether or not to be concerned.

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Sarah Von Bargen

I'm, personally, really interested in when coke made the switch from being a 'scary hard drug' to being seen as a 'casual party drug.' I am 100% afraid of coke and think of it only in terms drug runners and South America.

Do most 20-somethings think of coke as a 'not that big of a deal' sort of drug?

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Renai

I'm actually replying to Sarah's question about coke.

I hated the idea of it, and thought of it as a very hard drug, until I started regularly using ecstasy. That alone was a big jump for me- but I tried it for the first time with someone who I trusted and looked up to, and it was one of those stupid things where you tell yourself that if something feels THAT good how can it really be so bad for you?

I didn't try coke until after I stopped using E. It didn't seem like a big deal anymore. The first time was on a bad night at a party, where I was already drunk. I hated it, because I just wanted it to feel like E and it didn't. I tried it again about 8 months later, and it only felt good for 15 minutes. That was it, and I was done with it. I still think of it as a nasty, hard drug, but I'm no longer so quick to judge anyone who has or does use it.

It's weird how that all changes so easily!

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Michelle

Sarah – you're not alone, I didn't know coke was a social/casual thing at ALL & still think of it as a hard drug. I used to hang out with some hardcore party kids on a regular basis, but I've never done anything except for drink & try pot a few times (I hate it too, it makes me nauseous!). I'm from a very small town and really pretty sheltered overall, I think that has something to do with it.

Laura – Thank you for sharing & I'm glad you got out of the situation!! Good for you.

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Luinae

This scares me.

I read the first paragraph and I thought: It's me. I'm 14 years old, straight A's, dancer, volunteer, etc. The consummate goodie-two-shoes. It scares me that it happened to her.

But at the same time, it serves as a reminder of how much I have to lose. Thank you for sharing your story with us- it's very brave.

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Sarah Von Bargen

To be totally honest (and possibly really unhip) regardless of coke's current status as a 'casual party drug,' it still carries really, really heavy duty penalties here in the U.S. And I like my life too much to screw it up with jail time, you know?

And thus ends your daily Yes and Yes Public Service Announcement đŸ˜‰

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Helen

Virtually everyone I know has tried ecstasy or speed, it seems really common. I'm too much of a control freak to try it myself, and even being in a room where people are smoking pot makes me feel really sick. When I think about it, it's scary how cheap drugs are, and how accessible they can be. You know somethings a little wrong when you can get a line of coke for 50p in most clubs.
Though I really don't have a problem with pot (heck, I'm all for legalising it) I just think there are certain things that aren't even worth messing with.

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Danielle

What a fabulous story. Thank you for taking the time to share it with us! Personally, I've never tried anything harder than pot (which I hated, because I got so high I couldn't speak), so it was actually very interesting to read about your experiences. Congratulations on getting sober, and best of luck to you in the future! Question: what's your life like now in terms of academics? Do you feel like your future is any different because you were on meth?

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annahell

Thanks for sharing your story, Laura. I'm so glad you made it out alright!

I agree with your attitude about other drugs. I use alcohol (only), but I don't see anything wrong with keeping an open mind about other drugs. Meth might be an exception, but I don't believe any other drug is bad all by itself. I think it takes the right combination of person and drug to ruin a life.

What do you think of those "just once" anti-meth campaign? Do you think you become addicted to meth after the first time you use it? Would you say the portrayal of meth users on television and in movies is accurate?

I think whether or not cocaine is a casual drug depends on the context and group. It was considered to be a major, hard drug in my circle of friends but I could see how it would be different in another group.

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Adele

Thank you ladies for bringing us this amazing story. Addiction is a terrible, grotesque thing and I am of the strong belief that if never goes away, even when you have recovered from the abuse. I have a sibling who is a gambling addict, and they went through over 10 years of hell. They had to reach the bottom before they got help and I am very grateful they did. In rehab, our family got to meet and talk with many people who were addicted to various substances (drugs, alcohol – in fact, gambling was extremely rare as opposed to the substance abuse) and they all had emotional issues that led to the addiction.
Also, my sibling found themselves craving other things to replace the gambling – we had to stop taking chocolate in as a comfort gift because it was becoming the substitute.
I am so very proud of them for getting through it and having not gambled, or done anything remotely close/related (we don't play cards as a family activity because they associate it with the problem) for over 4 years now. They still have to attend GA but their life is SO much more fulfilling and better without it.
Sorry for the rant, just very close to my heart!
Sarah, cocaine is very trendy in Australia at the moment as well; it seems to be the drug of choice for young up and coming professionals and hipsters. It is so expensive that only they can afford it, but in ways they have so much more to lose than the regular person should they be caught. It really isn't worth the consequences. Perhaps they need to look at what is lacking or what the emotional issues is that is making them feel they need to take the drug. I don't know, I'm not an expert, I just find it all very sad. SO much potential!

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Laura*

I'm so happy I was able to share this story, and thank you for your comments! Answering a few questions that have been asked:

@penn: "What should I look for in friends? What should I do to help if I'm in a situation like your roommates were?"

I think what to look for in friends depends on how open they are with you. After a few months, I admitted my drug habit (thought didn't admit it was a problem) to friends. Even if I hadn't, the signs were pretty obvious: I lost a lot of weight very rapidly, never ate, would lock myself away for a long time then come back very manic and changed, seemed secretive, always asked when the FedEx truck was getting there…

I think my friends did the right thing by telling me that I could tell them anything — I knew I could go to them, and I did when I realized my problem had spiraled. The thing that they could have done in my particular situation to totally end my habit might have been to go to my parents, and I would have forgiven them (after being really angry), b/c it would have been done out of love. But that's just my situation. I know that listening is the most important thing.

@Sarah Von: I don't know about anyone else's thoughts about coke, but for me a drug doesn't become scary unless its fit with your personality is such that you want to keep doing it. Coke doesn't scare me because I think it's so-so at best. Speed terrifies me because it made me feel so good that I could never just do it once. I won't try ecstasy for the same reason.

@danielle: "what's your life like now in terms of academics? Do you feel like your future is any different because you were on meth?"

I was fortunate enough to receive the support to recover really well. I received my BA with honors and distinction from an elite university and am now taking some time to work on my writing career before applying to graduate schools. In many ways, my life doesn't seem to be very different than it would have been if I hadn't had an addiction, honestly. My friends are always shocked beyond belief if/when I admit that I once had one. Sometimes even I forget I had an addiction — it can feel like a movie that I saw once, instead of a life that I lived. But then sometimes out of nowhere, I'm flooded with reminders of the intensity, the desperation.

Anyway, as a few people pointed out on here, I was one of the lucky ones. I recovered more fully and easily than I had any right to. I don't know what I did to be so blessed, but I know that relying on my friends and family for support had a lot to do with it.

@annahell: "What do you think of those "just once" anti-meth campaign? Do you think you become addicted to meth after the first time you use it? Would you say the portrayal of meth users on television and in movies is accurate?":

I haven't seen the 'just once' campaigns, but it sounds pretty on the money for me. I didn't just become a meth user the first time I used it. I became an addict, right off the bat. The thing about meth is that it has a very strong honeymoon period. You feel smarter, more confident, you look more attractive — it's a very positive, very powerful feeling, and you get psychologically hooked to it enough that you feel like you have to use it a few more times. Once you've used it a few times, the chemicals have you hooked and using more and more and you lose yourself. With most drugs, I'd say that "one time" is a crock, but with meth, that's really all it takes.

For a movie that gives a horrifying accurate depiction of many of the meth users I knew, check out "Spun," with Jason Schwartzman. I can't even watch a scene of that now without my heart racing and my nose hair burning.

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Cami

Laura thank you for sharing your story. I am a recovering addict myself and I always love to hear the success stories. I started using cocaine when I was 19 and I totally identify with how you felt. You feel better, smarter, prettier, funnier, everything is a million times better when you do it on coke. After about a year of it started to not being fun anymore. Then I got into OxyContin and Heroin and struggled with that until recently. I feel that if you're at a stressed or depressed time in your life and you find drugs like coke, meth, heroin or oxycontin that make you feel better you're going to become addicted to the feeling good. Everyone wants to be happy and they want a quick fix to lifes problems and drugs are the perfect answer. Then they ruin your life!
Q- Do you feel like going through meth addiction has made you a stronger or a weaker person? Do you feel like you got a different kind of education that your classmates didn't?

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Eternal*Voyageur @ Venusian*Glow

"I only take alcohol" is a line that has appeared pretty often here. Actually alcohol should be classed as an "A" class drug. It´s highly addictive, and it often makes users aggressive (unlike pot). Yet alcohol is accepted by the society and therefore not seen as a drug. Thought ?

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stina

when i grew up there was a MASSIVE anti drugs campain (a lot of "try it once and you'll be hooked for life!" scare tacticts) and i was one of the few that really "fell for it", meaning i believed every single word said and had horrible nightmares from age 11-16. i was never afraid of monsters under the bed, i was afraid of heroin addicts with their heroin needles under my bed that would turn me into a junkie with an injection while i was asleep. might sound hilarious, or as if i was extremely naive or, but the campain was that aggressive. sometimes i think that anti drug campain actually ruined my life as much as a drug addiction would have. i hope the information about drugs and the danger with them is presented to kids differently, and more accurately these days.

i really loved this interview and i've been taken by it since it was posted, and it'll stay with my for longer i'm sure.

i'm so happy to hear a you're doing well laura and i hope you'll never find yourself in that situation again.

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Corinne

Wow, how inspiring. I'm fascinated with drugs and addiction, and I know that meth has a very high addiction rate, which is scary. Although I'm fascinated with drugs to the point of wanting to try them once, I've always said that I'll never try meth. I'm just glad that I have learned about it before I've had the chance to try it. It is very hard to go off of, so good for you. Thank you for sharing your story!!

And, Sarah, in response to your question about coke, I kind of think of it as the next step up from marijuana. By that I mean that of the people I know, the highest number of people have tried marijuana and the next highest is probably either cocaine or shrooms.

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Zia Madeira

Laura, thank you for your story. Congrats for kicking meth.

I am also surprised that coke is not as scary to everyone as it is me. It scares me that people do it and don't see it as a big deal!
I had a pretty messed up childhood (drug runner/doer/dealer parents) and always swore I would never ever do any drugs. Coke especially – it really makes some people evil and strong. Thank god meth wasn't around then! Unfortunately, out of spite I started experimenting at 11. I had the good luck and wisdom to know what NOT to try (I know stimulants will be the end of me) and was able to have the choice to quit as I got older.

To you youths: It's not worth it. Long term, nobody will give you props on what drugs you've tried, or what crazy shenanigans you were up to. If you are lucky it won't matter at all, but if you aren't so lucky and can't (or won't) quit your habit it can really affect the rest of your life. For realz.

For users with kids: Get your S*** together. Your kids deserve more, and even if you think they're still young enough not to know – you are wrong. I have turned out *alright* by my OWN accord. I will never forgive my mother and her boyfriends for what I went through, and I will likely struggle for the rest of my life with issues.

I am sorry for the rant. These kids are helpless and set up for many troubles.

That is all.

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Anonymous

Let's clarify: she's sober from meth, not completely sober. She's deluding herself if she thinks she hasn't slipped.

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Anonymous

Thank you! Being sober doesn't include drinking, smoking pot, or even a little coke! People work super fucking hard to get clean and never use again and to call yourself sober while saying you use pot, coke, and drink is an insult to everybody working their sobriety! I'm glad she quit meth, it's a demon that robs people of their souls, but she's not totally straight. If that works for her that's great but most addicts can't. P.S. a junkie is an IV drug user, i didn't see any mention of needle use, you weren't a junkie girl!

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Melissa Hope(s)

I commend you for your work in getting sober.

I come from a family of addicts, and my mother passed away due to a heroin overdose in May. Sobriety is a daily fight! Keep fighting.

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Anonymous

Thank you for sharing your story. My family is about to lovingly confront my brother who has been using Crystal meth for years, but being naive, we just found out. I love him so much. I knew he was an addict of some sort, I never imagined Crystal meth.

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