Tess is an incredible young woman who sat down with me recently and shared her journey through the hell of addiction and recovery. Her story is incredible. Please share it with others who may be struggling with drug addiction. It is part of spreading awareness.
Tess started the descent into her personal hell of addiction at the age of fourteen. Smoking weed with her cousins made her feel cool, a “bad ass.” The underlying reason for her addiction may have been genetics since her biological father was an alcoholic, but something lurked beneath the surface of a young woman who wanted to be a part of something. Instead of experiencing bullying at school, which frequently happened, she needed to be a part of a circle of friends. She wanted desperately to be a part of her family by carrying her stepdad’s last name. Tess’s need drove her to a community of people she could be a part of, but it put her on the road to heroin, a broad path to destruction.
Tess snorted heroin for the first time at age 16. She also found herself expelled from high school for not only possession of weed, but smoking it as well. Tess spent two weeks in jail for her offense. Since she was a minor, they placed her in solitary confinement. Imagine the fear of four walls closing in without anyone to be a part of. Her greatest fear when she went to jail was becoming “dope sick.”Her only recourse? Do something unthinkable, something she won’t even mention.
Tess distinctly remembers the first time she mainlined heroin. It is the main reason why addicts are always searching for their first high. Her new pack of friends, the people she felt a part of made her lie on the bed with her arms extended. When they injected the heroin into her veins, she felt a rush of warmth that completely enveloped her. She honestly believes she experienced heaven, something she refers to as “an exotic, gorgeous feeling.” She fell in love with heroin that day, and it was the beginning of a downward spiral into addiction and all that goes along with it to keep her one goal in mind, the bliss of her first love, her first encounter with heroin.
In some ways, especially after her experience in jail, Tess wanted to make a change. She moved to Illinois to live with her grandfather and his wife. She worked in a flower shop and was doing well. Eventually, she gravitated toward the wrong crowd again, the constant gravitational pull toward the center of Heroin’s universe. At this point, she had a profound revelation, and it changed her view of her addiction. She wasn’t just a heroin addict; she was a drug addict. The reason her new friends set her on a different path? She did a line with them, and it burned because it wasn’t cocaine, another drug she grew to love; it was methamphetamine (Meth). Her addiction to Meth, dramatically altered her appearance. Tess went down to a mere 85 pounds. She had brittle nails. Dehydration and malnutrition took over her body and sought to destroy it. She didn’t sleep and couldn’t get out of bed without smoking Meth. In other words, she was a messed up Meth head.
Tess learned about divine protection after her experience in Illinois. She eventually moved out of her grandparents home and moved in with a man twice her age. Klonopin became her secondary drug after doing a line of Meth. Big chunks of memory are lost from this time, but what she does remember is disheartening to her. Tess used her body to manipulate men into giving her money for drugs. Realizing she would do anything for her high, she once again made a choice to get out of the situation she found herself in. She called her mom and begged her to pick her up. She did. Tess slept for two weeks. She stopped using Meth but also had to withdraw from Klonopin. Once again, she went back to her drug of choice. Heroin helped her withdraw from the Klonopin. The vicious cycle never stopped. It whirled around in her body and brain. Tess was under siege, and the battle to take her down took a violent turn toward further destruction.
When she looks back on it now, she knows God was watching over her. Police arrested the man she lived with for conspiracy to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine. Investigators had pictures of her picking up Sudafed, a key ingredient in making Crystal Meth. If she had stayed in Illinois, she would be in prison right now. Her live-in boyfriend received a 12-year sentence. Fate saved her. It saved her not once, but twice. One night she shot up two bundles of heroin. She did it all at once because she couldn’t see herself every changing or getting better. The only thing she saw was garbage. Tess had a seizure and woke up on the floor 48 hours later to a feeling of isolation; no one knew what happened. No one was there to get her help. No one to be a part of if she died, alone. Tess did feel a sense of relief when she realized she didn’t die; in fact, she thought it was a sign: Divine protection.
After her near-death experience, Tess, yet again, went to detox. She met a guy who brought her into his home as a homeless junkie, something she referred to herself as at the time. She stayed sober for nine months, but she eventually relapsed, and the new guy in her life followed suit. Unfortunately, she taught him to shoot up, and his life spiraled out of control as well. Drug court caught up with him for using, and he went to jail for a few months.
Although someone introduced Tess to a twelve-step program several years ago; she thought it was a cult, a joke. She just didn’t understand or respect the organization. She feels differently now. Her obsession changed because of God, and she now believes in AA and considers it a design for living. Working the twelve-steps to recovery has been hard, especially since she had to do a moral inventory of her life. She now recognizes how manipulative she can be, and she isn’t a decent friend. Tess also sponsors people within AA, and she lives in a supportive living program where five other recovering addicts live as well. Simple things like doing laundry and hiking mean she is beginning to live a healthy life, a normal life.
Tess believes everything she has been through is for a purpose, a divine design. She doesn’t need to know God’s will; she just needs to know everything happens for a reason. She may not always see it, but eventually, she does. Tess is attending MCC and is interested in becoming a parole officer. It is part of her giving back after everything she has been through. Although she has learned some difficult things, there are positives as well. “You have to step over bodies to be successful in AA,” Tess said, “but there is also the power of choice. It really is power.” Stepping over bodies is because of the many people who die from overdoses, sometimes even good friends.
Although addiction is not a choice and more of a disease, the decision to get clean is not always easy. However, there is power in making a choice. You may not ever feel free, but please know where to turn when the road home gets rocky and full of twists and turns. Look upward, for your redemption is close at hand. As far as feeling a part of, Tess now knows God is the answer. He is your answer as well.