This Is the Happiest I’ve Ever Been
My name is Jessica, and I used to be addicted to drugs and alcohol. Today I’m almost 3 and a half years sober. Not only am I sober, but I am happy. If you would have asked me three years ago to imagine what I’d be like today, this is not the answer you’d get. I didn’t feel at that point in time, in the depths of my addiction, that I had any hope for a future whatsoever. I truly believed that I would always be unhappy and always want to get drunk or high and that, generally, happiness was unattainable.
I started to experience depression at around the age of 12. By the time I was 15, I was sneaking out of my parents’ house, drinking on the weekends, starting to cut class, and my grades continued to decline. At this point in time, I was also put on a narcotic prescription for a chronic pain condition. My parents didn’t know what to do with me. When I was 16, my behavioral issues caused me to require an alternative high school that was a closed campus and much more structured. I was able to stop drinking during this time, and I got my grades back up. However, I started abusing my pain pill prescription. I managed to graduate with good grades and got a scholarship into college.
I went off to college and did fairly well the first semester, even with occasional partying and drug use. The turning point for me came at winter break when my significant other of 4 years broke up with me. I crashed. I stopped going to classes as much and started smoking weed as much as I possibly could. I started running through my pain pill prescription within about a week, and I was drinking heavily at least three times a week. Needless to say, I failed out of school and lost my financial aid.
Ages 19-24 for me was a five-year-long blur. I got into a food service job and started hanging out with people who just liked to work and party all the time. One of my friends taught me how to crush up pills and snort them. I would buy Adderall from the same guy who was selling me weed, and I’d go hang out with my friends, and we’d take shots of vodka and crush and snort pain pills and Adderall at the same time while smoking a lot of weed. My mind was getting so out of whack. I was constantly depressed when I wasn’t high, and I would act irrationally. I don’t know how I managed to keep a job.
When I was 22, I lost a friend to suicide, and that’s when I started drinking daily. I think I drank every single day for almost 2 whole years—about a 750ml bottle of vodka a day. Sometimes more, sometimes a little less if I had other drugs that I was combining it with. I was developing stomach ulcers, throwing up blood frequently. My hands and arms would go numb. I’d lose all sense of what I was doing and what time of day it was. And that was when I felt good… when I was bad was when the withdrawals would kick in. I couldn’t go more than 5 or 6 hours without drinking before getting nauseous, the shakes, my heart would race, I’d get really sweaty and paranoid. I’d wake up in the morning before work already having withdrawal symptoms, and I remember having to choke down some vodka to even be able to function.
My whole body hurt, I didn’t care about myself or my hygiene, I hardly had any friends left, and I was pushing my family away. The times that I did try to quit, the withdrawals were so severe that I couldn’t handle it. I had a couple of experiences with full-blown delirium tremens, hearing voices, hallucinating, being so confused. I felt so miserable that I couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. I got bloodwork back that indicated elevated liver enzymes that were really high for someone my age. I couldn’t sleep, could only hold food down when I was drunk. It was also hard to get drunk with the tolerance that I had, and the ulcers in my stomach were telling my body “no.” I was completely and utterly lost and out of control. To be honest, I was exhausted with the cycle, but I didn’t know how to start climbing my way out.
I was starting to have conversations with my family and the few friends I had left about how concerned they were. My best friend expressed how badly she wanted me to get help. My sister would antagonize me about my drinking and call me out for being a total mess. My sister and I had been very close my whole life, and she was getting to the point where she was about to get married and start a family. She expressed to me that she didn’t even know if she wanted me at the wedding or if she’d ever be able to trust me around her future children.
“One day my mom came to me after a particularly embarrassing dinner... she told me that she found an awesome rehab down the street that is going to take care of me and that we’re going to go now. I was in no position to argue. That very same night they dropped me off at the front doors of Narconon Colorado.”
One day my mom came to me after a particularly embarrassing dinner that I had in public with my grandparents (where I was too drunk to even walk by myself), and she told me that she found an awesome rehab down the street that is going to take care of me and that we’re going to go now. I was in no position to argue. That very same night, they dropped me off at the front doors of Narconon Colorado.
I remember one of the counselors asking me what my goals are for the future. I didn’t have any. I was scared and freaked out about coming off of alcohol. I remember thinking to myself that I was never going to have fun again, that there is no way that living sober can be anything but boring. I had so many reasons in my head why I thought I wanted to drink again. The staff in the withdrawal unit were very patient with me. I was really sick and probably very unpleasant to be around, and they helped me through everything, even when I was hearing things that weren’t there.
That marked the beginning of my sober journey. From that point, I was excited about the rest of the program. It was the first time in a while I was looking forward to something. This was the first time in 5 years that I had been completely sober with absolutely nothing in my system except some vitamins.
I went into the next phase of the program, the sauna detox. I sat in the sauna and sweated out everything that I had accumulated in my body. This was also an interesting time for me because the cleaner my system was, the more emotions I could feel again. The emotions that I’ve been numbing and stunting came back. I was crying a lot in my room after the sauna. But it was okay because I realized I was finally starting to process feelings that I’ve been pushing away most of my life. I also started to laugh a lot more. There was a group of other female students that I started to hang out with after sauna, and they were so funny. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d laughed so hard. I also couldn’t remember the last time that I’d connected to another human being on the level that I was connecting with the staff and students at Narconon. I recall briefly considering if my whole life was leading up to these moments on purpose. I felt safe and like I fit in perfectly somewhere… for maybe the first time.
After the sauna, I got into the Objectives course. One of the drills we did in there, I still say to this day, has helped me to stay sober. I learned how to just “Be There” and be comfortable in my own skin. I learned how to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations. I also learned that uncomfortable means you have room to grow and progress to be made and that it is something you can move towards instead of away from. The rest of the Objectives course taught me ways to be extroverted and how to handle my anxiety. I spent quite some time in this area because several times I volunteered to go back and help someone else through. I felt like I really understood the material and that I was developing good enough communication skills to also have a positive impact on other people.
The Life Skills section was very challenging. I learned about what types of people had a positive impact on my life and which ones were dragging me down. I made the decision to part ways with several people that I used to consider friends and strengthened my relationship with my family. I also got to write a lot about the harm that I’ve caused to myself and other people over the course of my life. I learned how to really take responsibility for my actions and that I could now expect more of myself.
Narconon Colorado truly saved my life and was always a safe space for me to grow. I knew I wasn’t done growing yet, and I also found a passion in life that I hadn’t had in a very long time.
For the last three years of my life, I have been completely sober. I'm the happiest I have ever been. I’ve further developed the tools that I learned in my program at Narconon. I’m not afraid of anxiety or of feeling any emotion. I face challenges head-on instead of running from them. There have been countless times over the last three years that I’ve drawn on the skills I learned during my program to get me through a situation. I learned that life doesn’t slow down or get easier, you just have to hop on for the ride and handle your problems.
The important thing for me was being completely confident in handling the cravings and negative emotions. I still have bad days, but I have so many more good days. When I look back at how sick I once was, it’s almost hard to even see that I’m the same person. But I’m not. I’m different now. Most importantly, I have gained my family’s trust back. I do things with my parents at least once a week and have repaired my relationship with them. I also am proud to say that I made things right with my sister too, and was able to be present at all family holidays and functions since. My sister gave birth to my niece, and I was ecstatic to be included and made a part of her life.
I was able to work hard and study hard and turn my passion and personal experiences into a career as a Certified Addiction Technician. I continue to be inspired by clients every day and have seen so much progress, growth, and change in some of the clients that it takes my breath away. I will be continuing my education and training in the addiction field and will be remaining sober because going through all of this is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
Jessica, Narconon Colorado Graduate