After struggling with addiction and toxic relationships, Liz accidentally ended up at The Rose at Lakeview Health, a gender responsive residential treatment program for women in Jacksonville, Florida. She has now been clean and sober since March 29, 2017, on the path to recovery and rebuilding her life. This is her story:
I was adopted at birth. I found out when my neighbor asked why I was a different color than my parents. Before that, I did not recognize that I was any different from them. After this, I began to have a confused perspective of life. My mom tried to shelter me from the world. I started to branch out when I was thirteen and play sports. My mother didn’t like this. I started noticing other people my age doing social things that I wasn’t allowed to do. As a mom, she held on so tight that it became hurtful.
I began to rebel when I was fourteen—lying about where I was going and what I was doing, and sneaking out of my house. I went to parties and drank. Soon I realized that I could forget about my family the more I drank. I began doing pills shortly after. With the drugs, came the boys. There were lots of relationships and partying. When I lost my virginity, it was consensual at first. I begged for him to stop because it was painful, but he refused. That experience gave me a warped perspective on relationships and made me think maybe my purpose was to be used by men.
When I was sixteen, my best friend overdosed and died from an asthma attack while in a coma. I carried a lot of guilt over his death because he was “in love” with me, we argued and then he attempted suicide. During this time, I was also in my first toxic relationship. It lasted four years, until my freshman year of college. The abuse that came from this relationship left me broken in pieces. I contracted an STD, attempted suicide and experimented with just about every drug.
I felt worthless and deserving of all the pain that I endured. I understand now that many of the issues I went through during my childhood and teenage years came from the feelings of abandonment and guilt from not being good enough.
I knew I could not function without drinking or using drugs, but I would not accept it. I didn’t want to give up something that kept me from dealing with my emotions. I blamed my problems and suicide attempts on not being financially stable or in a healthy relationship. I not only had a problem with alcohol and drugs, but an addiction to the chaos in my life.
I hit a big bottom that led to a bunch of little ones over a six-month period. In late September of 2016, I overdosed on sleeping pills. A few days later, I had to have emergency surgery for an ectopic pregnancy. In the aftermath of these two trips to the hospital, I became consumed with self-pity. I started drinking at work and during the day. I didn’t hold a job for months. Then I started school and that also became a reason to drink. Everything was falling apart. I was losing everything that was important to me.
My life didn’t matter at all to me. I had attempted suicide multiple times, but during this six-month period I didn’t attempt suicide again. All I wanted from life was to suffer and slowly drink myself to death. I thought I deserved nothing.
During March of 2017, I went on a three-week binge. I was drunk for 72 hours and doing lines of cocaine continuously, not sleeping. My boyfriend at the time left and the house was all mine. Something clicked within me and made me realize that this was not okay. I knew the consequences that would come from all the irrational decisions I was making. My last drunk consisted of me sitting down with two bottles of wine, a six-pack, a whole bunch of weed and a notebook filled with insurance information. I sat on the phone for hours, talking to treatment centers.
Lakeview was the first treatment center I ever tried and it saved my life. When I was calling my insurance company to find the places in Jacksonville, I originally called Stepping Stones. In my drunkenness, I somehow ended up with a plane ticket and car ride to The Rose at Lakeview Health. I was surprised because I thought I was going to a co-ed rehab, but instead I ended up at an all women’s facility.
I was scared at first, like anyone would be. Yet, I immediately felt like I was in good hands. I never thought a medical staff actually cared about me before. Throughout my detox, the staff helped me each day to get physically back on my feet. But after I started feeling stronger, I started to isolate. I felt uncomfortable around so many women. Slowly, others started coming up to me and helping me open up.
The Best Thing
I believe that all addicts have issues with their own gender. As addicts we learn to manipulate and lean on the opposite sex. Many of us get into toxic relationships that correlate with our drug use. Being in an all women’s facility helped me to break the barrier that I built between myself and other women. My relationship with my mother was difficult for numerous reasons, leaving me surrounded by men. Growing up with four brothers and constantly being in relationships, I hardly ever had women in my life. I never had a female that I could relate with about matters concerning men and relationships.
Going to The Rose at Lakeview Health helped me create relationships with women that I still keep to this day. There are events in my life that only women can help me with. During my trauma group, I was finally able to process my emotions around rape, domestic violence and other forms of abuse. I was able to overcome the feelings of jealousy towards women that stem from my emotional and mentally abusive relationships. I learned that many issues I was blaming on a female were the fault of toxic men in my life. I was surrounded by strong, independent women and realized that is what I wanted in life. I wouldn’t go back and change it for anything.
The group classes throughout the day gave me a routine I could bring back into the real world. Through the different classes about mental illness, addiction and trauma group, I was able to get to the root of my issues, to look at my relationships with men in a safe, healthy environment. It opened up wounds that had been the cause of my abuse, drinking and drugging, but it was the best thing that had ever happened in my life. I am now able to have a happy, successful life using the tools, resources and fellowship created through Lakeview Health.
The night before I left The Rose, I had a “coin out” meeting. For the first time I can remember, I cried happy tears. The women told me how I impacted their lives and inspired them to take the next step forward. I will never forget a truly great friend saying, “Liz, you came in a feeble deer and you are leaving here a fierce lioness.” There is nothing better than feeling as if I belong in the world and have true, caring people in my life. Throughout my experience in rehab, I transformed into the kind of person I thought I could never be. Lakeview showed me that I had the ability to love myself, which is a priceless gift.
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