My first experience using alcohol and drugs was at a party when I was 15 years old. I remember thinking “This is amazing. I feel so free. I feel so powerful.” I didn’t know it then, but that was the beginning of my addiction. For the next 7 years, my addiction continued to grow. I began using alcohol and drugs on a daily basis to avoid my shadow self. When I was using, I felt in control. I felt confident and unstoppable. I thought that using was the only way to get rid of the shadow living inside me, but in reality, my shadow was only growing larger as my life started to crumble around me.
After struggling unsuccessfully to keep up, I dropped out of high school near the end of my junior year. I watched from the sidelines as my friends graduated high school and prepared for college. I watched as my friends and family grew overwhelmed trying to deal with my addiction and finally decided to turn and walk away. I was left completely alone and I blamed the people around me for my misfortunes. I couldn’t see beyond the alcohol and drugs that were controlling my every thought and action.
When I was 22, I finally hit rock bottom. I was arrested for drug possession and spend 3 weeks in jail. During that time, I didn’t use drugs and I didn’t drink. Slowly my mind began to clear and I began thinking logically. I realized that using wasn’t making my shadow self disappear; it was casting a shadow over my entire life.
I knew that I needed help and I wasn’t going to be able to stay sober on my own. The day I got out of jail, I went to my first AA meeting. I was terrified of being judged and that my story would be worse than anyone else’s, but my fear dissolved almost immediately once I realized that no one was there to judge me. I soon learned that although each story was different, the feelings were the same; each one of us in AA suffered consequences that resulted in entering the program.
As of October 2nd, I will have 13 years sober. It has not been easy, but it has been more than worthwhile. Unlike when I was using, I now have a huge network of friends, my AA community and a close connection with my family. I’ve learned to sit with the pain of discomfort. I’ve learned to process my negative emotions in a healthy way instead of turning to alcohol and drugs to dull my feelings. And what about my shadow self? It isn’t gone, but I’ve learned to acknowledge and accept it. It’s part of who I am and I’m learning to love myself a little more every day.