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Fighting Fires With Cocaine And Alcohol
In this episode of Stories of Addiction, I will be talking with Heather about her addiction and her recovery from addiction. Hi, Heather. Welcome to Responsible Recovery Podcast. It’s nice to have you here. Let’s get started, Heather. How did your addiction start?
If you were to ask me how my addiction started before, it would be the last two years but when I look back on my life, it started when I was young. It didn’t manifest as drugs or alcohol when I was super young, but it manifested as different things. I grew up a privileged little kid. It was a great family. My parents have been married for 41 years. I was always that curious, rebellious little kid that would get all my work done and talk in school and interrupt people. As a little kid, it was very obvious. My mom would say, “You’re just a 36-year-old version of your three-year-old self.” She always says that. I always was looking for a way to break the rules or get attention in a different way. I was always outside of myself my whole life when I look back on it. It was always getting validation and anything to get attention, but it didn’t come from within. I went through my childhood. I was a very successful little kid in school. I always got straight A’s. I always tried hard. In middle school though, I was an awkward kid. I got bullied a lot because I wanted to get straight A’s but that wasn’t cool. It was nerdy and I didn’t want to be nerdy. It was this big struggle for me and it caused me a lot of depression. I would wear sweatpants to school and the popular kids would be using drugs and having boyfriends and having sex and stuff like that and I never even kissed a boy. It was like this foreign thing and I wanted it. I always wanted to be that cool kid in middle school that I never was. It caused a lot of issues like low self-esteem and a lot of depression. I struggled a lot in middle school but no drugs, no alcohol, no boys. Then I got into high school and that’s when more of an addiction started or you could say identify more of an addiction.
That was with relationships, it was always relationships. I’ve been in relationships my whole adult life starting in high school. I had a four-year relationship in high school. I came into my own in high school, so I lost a little bit of weight and I was in the popular crowd. With that, it’s interesting because it went from being bullied to bullying people. They say, “Hurt people, hurt people.” When I look back, I regret all of that stuff in high school because it’s painful now looking back knowing that I was that little kid before. I drink every single weekend in high school and smoked weed a lot. It was always to be accepted and to be the cool kids’ crowd. That was very validating for me. I always had a fear of being inadequate or being rejected or failing or anything like that. That was validation for me if I was the cool kid or got straight A’s. I got straight A’s in high school. I was in sports, I played water polo and swam. When it came to the outside looking in, I was this perfect student, perfect kid, perfect athlete. I had a perfect family from the outside, but from the inside, it wasn’t like that. I had super low self-esteem. I hated myself and I couldn’t identify why. I remember thinking, “I had a great childhood. Where is this coming from, acting out and doing these crazy things?” I would drive around in my car with my friends. We’d shoulder tap and get alcohol. We’d even stuff people in the trunk and drive somewhere. I got caught three different times by the cops. I would have gotten arrested, but they called my parents because I was under eighteen.
One of those times was in a disco. We go to disco every Friday night and we dress up all crazy with me and my friends. We’d always get alcohol and we drove down to disco. We got Peppermint Schnapps, of all things. We drove down there and I was driving. My dad loves telling this story. It was hilarious to him and to me now, but it wasn’t then. It was horrible. We drove down there. We chugged Peppermint Schnapps in the car before we went in and I was thinking like, “Carol, just be fine to drive home after.” We chugged Peppermint Schnapps, we get in there and within half an hour, my friend and I are falling all over the place. The cops grabbed us. I grew up with my dad being a paramedic and he worked all the way up through American Medical Response, the ambulance company. He knew a lot of the cops. This particular cop knew my dad well and so he called him and said, “I have Heather here. If you don’t come and pick her up, I’m taking her to jail.”
He comes and my mom was always the one that was the disciplinarian, my dad was more of the, “I’m going to be quiet and let you know that I’m disappointed in you.” They come to pick me up and I’m laughing and falling all over the place and being all stupid. My dad’s like, “Where’s your car?” I’m like, “I don’t know.” He has walked on the beach flats looking for my car and it wasn’t the, “Beep, beep” kind of car. He’s in the middle of the night walking around the flats trying to look for my car and he finally finds it but he’s livid at this point. This is a story he loves telling and I’m like, “That’s the least of your concerns but whatever.” Just stuff like that. I got suspended in high school for drinking. We skateboarded to the dance from my friend’s house and I don’t skateboard, so I fell all over the place. We got suspended once we got there because we were all dressed the same and one of my friends got caught. I was suspended from school, but the only part that bothered me with that is I ended up being the salutatorian. It was one under the valedictorian, so I got one B in all of high school. When it came to other things when I was in high school, I knew how to manipulate the system. I don’t know that I fully read a textbook the whole time I was there. I knew what I needed to read in order to get straight A’s on the tests. My favorite class is my calculus class. I would do the actual work, but I could manipulate the system.
The addiction behaviors, the characteristics of people with addiction were definitely there. If you would have asked me if I was addicted to alcohol or any drugs at any point in my life? I would have said no. All through high school, I had a boyfriend for four years. I graduated straight A’s, I think it was a 4.125 or something like that. There was no question I was going to go to college. I went to Cal Poly but in that, I didn’t know what that entailed. I wasn’t ready to leave my family and my boyfriend went to the Army and my friends all went to San Diego State. I didn’t know what to anticipate. I didn’t fully comprehend what that meant and when I got there, I ended up getting depressed and all I would do is study and then I developed an eating disorder. It’s so weird looking back because all of these things go right along with characteristics of addiction, just trying to control things in your life that are outside of yourself in order to feel in control of some sort. For all intents of purposes, it would have been anorexic. I ate 1,000 calories a day and I would work out twice a day and it was obsessive. I didn’t drink a drop. I got out of high school and I felt like I’m done with drinking and drugs and whatever else.
I’ve done ecstasy a couple times. One time I got this horrible speed effect. I was doing this thing in my job all night and I was like, “Just stop it.” This is in high school entirely, “I will never do these drugs.” I went to Cal Poly, I was only there for a year because I decided I didn’t want to do the major that I had gone there to do, Kinesiology. I wanted to go to medical school and be a doctor. I ended up coming back here to Santa Cruz and I went to Cabrillo to get my general education out of the way. I thought I’ll become a paramedic while I’m getting that general education out of the way. I went to paramedic school and became a paramedic. I was twenty when I tried cocaine for the first time and it was like, “I have finally found it. This is amazing.” I didn’t have a dealer. I wasn’t connected in any way with that. It was more of a party thing. We’ll do it here and do it there. I remember we went to Cancún one time and there’s this random dude. We got cocaine from him and we’re doing cocaine.
Looking back, it’s like, “How do we know that that was cocaine? What are we doing?” That reminds me that in high school, we stole a lot. We would take things from stores just for the adrenaline rush. I characterize that with addiction and also getting away with stuff, being rebellious. One time we’re in Tijuana and we stole some stupid trinkets, some fish plate or something that we don’t even need. It was just for the rush and we got caught. Thankfully, one of my friends spoke Spanish otherwise we would have been in Tijuana jail. There is a God and God has looked out for me my whole life in these crazy ways. That was the first time that I did cocaine more than just party here and there. We drive around and do it all night long with a couple of friends of mine. Fast forward, I had a couple of relationships where I drink a time, I drink a bottle of wine a night. I was with a guy for four years when I was twenty to 24 and we drink. He was an alcoholic and so I became one at that time. I wouldn’t have said that then. I drank a bottle of wine a night and we would get in these crazy arguments. Just nuts, the stuff that you do when you’re drinking is absolutely absurd. Mistrusting things and moving out and moving in and chasing people down the streets and just nutty things. Cheating never helps either. It’s not me cheating, him cheating. That didn’t help.Firefighters have a boys club. When a woman tries to keep up, addiction can happen. Heather burns through cocaine while fighting fires in California. Click To Tweet
After that boyfriend, I met my ex-fiancé and we were together for four years. He had a dad that was an alcoholic and drug addict. I sense that he was having an issue with me drinking and so I stopped. That’s another thing where I was like, “I’m not an alcoholic because I could stop, no big deal.” That relationship lasted for four years. We bought a house together and we were engaged to be married. Three months before our wedding, he met a nineteen-year-old on his bachelor party and left. He came back from his bachelor party and was acting weird. Mind you, the dress was bought, the people were invited, we were getting presents sent to my house, everything was planned and paid for. When he came back, I asked him what was wrong and he said, “I haven’t been happy in two years. I don’t want to get married and I don’t want to be with you anymore.” I was like, “What?” It was two weeks later that I found out about the girl. That was hard. I had become a firefighter shortly before I met him. I was 23 when I got hired. It was four years as a paramedic and then I got hired at 23 and was a firefighter. I turned 24 in the academy. He left and said he’s not paying for the house if he’s not living there. Our $4,200 mortgage was now all on me and my family because my parents had co-signed with him because I had owned a house before that I had a short sale. It was eight months of utter horror for me. It was returning wedding things and it was so painful but in that, I didn’t drink. I didn’t do drugs. I was adamant about not doing anything, not even taking antidepressants because I was like, “I want to feel this and I don’t want to mask it with anything.”
It’s crazy now thinking about that because that’s so logical. It’s like, “Yes, why would you not do that? Why would you want to take anything that’s going to make it worse?” That’s the logical part. It was a shock to me then later in life that I used that as a coping mechanism when before I didn’t. That was eight months and it was bad. I lost a ton of weight. I was 120 pounds, which was twenty pounds less than I am now. Everyone at work was worried about me but I was still working and I’m still doing all stuff. Then it was all about guys. I ended up being with a married guy that I work with and again searching for validation outside myself. It was horrible because I’m lonely and now I’m getting attention from somebody. That then feeds this whole low self-esteem because I feel terrible because I’m not in line with my morals and values. That causes me to have a lower self-esteem and then we started drinking together.
I ended up having a bad series of calls that we went on, like a bad suicide call in 2015. It was this guy, he had slit his throat back and forth in front of the cops. He was up in a three-story window and he slit his throat back and forth and then he stabbed himself in the chest with the butcher knife over and over again and then fell headfirst out this window onto the ground. I had to pronounce this guy. For whatever reason, you take sixteen years of doing this and I’ve seen these horrible things and then this call for some reason strikes this nerve. I started having these horrible nightmares. I started hating my job and not wanting to go to work and having bad anxiety at work. I would get panicked when I would be driving a fire engine to a call that was some suicide call. I would go home and I started drinking in the morning. It was bizarre because I never drink by myself and I never drink in the morning. It was straight vodka. It went from socially drinking to drinking all the time. Fast forward a little before that, I had become suicidal and depressed. This was before the drinking started. I hadn’t even started drinking or doing drugs, but I became depressed after this call and I was suicidal.
After going to the hospital three times because they know I’m a firefighter they’re like, “These are your options, we can either put you on a hold or we can treat your symptoms and let you go.” What am I going to say? I’m going to say, “Let me go. Treat my symptoms.” I know I need help, but I don’t want to be put on a 51/50 hold. That’s what we do at work. We put people on 51/50 hold and the stigma in my mind was they’re crazy because that’s what everyone at work says. We want to laugh about and somehow distance ourselves from it like, “We’re not crazy. Those people are crazy.” It’s weird because every time I’ve ever had some weird judgment in my head about somebody, it’s like, “Here you go, you’re going to have that now.” I ended up being put on a hold. The third time, I went to the hospital because it persisted. That was one of the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had in my life. I was in the hospital for nine days. They had put me on Prozac before I went in there and that worsened the suicidal ideations. I had a plan like I was just going to drive head-on into a semi. I was driving when my friend called. Goda has intervened so many times in my life. When I look back, I truly am blessed for the series of events that have happened in my life to bring me to this point. My friend called me. I drove to the hospital and met a bunch of my friends there.
My parents were on the phone with me and that was one of the most humbling experiences of my life because for once now I’m on the other side. I’m normally on the side where we put people on 51/50 hold and now, I’m in the hospital on a 51/50 hold. I learned that they were not crazy there, they’re just people that are going through hard times in life. I met some good friends there and I learned a lot. Then I get out, but my coping skill was, “I’m going to drink and drink.” I drink in the mornings and all day. It did end up being all day long and it got progressively worse. I remember one Halloween, I was with my mom and we were passing out candy because we do that every year. I was falling all over the place and she was like, “Heather, you can’t even function, whatsoever.” I didn’t think much of it because they see me like this before, tons of times, but that was in high school. I had this obsession with trying cocaine again. I knew that cocaine was something that I liked before. Now I understand why I wanted to try that again because I’m like, “It does go along with the alcohol.” A guy at work got me the cocaine because that’s the only person I knew that I can get it from.
I got some from him and started doing it. I didn’t realize before that if I drink and do cocaine, then the cocaine takes away the feeling of being super drunk. Then people don’t know you’re drunk or so you think. I got to the point where I was drinking a gallon of vodka every two days and doing an eight ball of cocaine two times a week. It was so much that I ended up getting the dealer’s number. I was able to skirt the guy at work and go to the dealer. That was the demise of me right there because then I would just call him all the time. He started coming over and saying, “This isn’t all for you, is it?” I’m like, “No, I do it with all of my friends.” I did it at my house. All I would do is drink and do cocaine all day at my house, by myself and literally, no one knew. My parents didn’t know, my friends didn’t know. I thought if no one knows, it won’t hurt them. I’m not affecting anybody but myself. I truly didn’t think that I did. I wasn’t stealing from people. I thought I’m not lying to you if I’m not answering your phone call. I do it all day at work. I was obsessively watching PTSD videos and I ended up writing a proposal for my department to change our behavioral health system.
That was one of the bonuses of doing drugs and drinking while sitting by yourself and thinking about what your problems are. I ended up getting into another bout of relationship with a married guy at work. It was the self-destructive behavior. I remember thinking, “I’m already screwed. I already feel like crap. I already don’t want my job. They might as well fire me. I’m worthless and so I might as well screw my life up more.” It doesn’t make much sense. There is a part giving me validation to be with this married person. It made me feel like such crap in the same sense. I felt horrible about myself but it’s amazing how much texting and talking to someone and hanging out with them will distract you from dealing with your own problems. I had a friend, Paul, who I worked with. He got fired for doing cocaine at work and I remember being so sad and thinking like, “I don’t understand how you could do drugs at work.” I never thought that that would be me ever in a million years. I thought I was so far away from that but what I’ve realized over the years is any one of us are so close to being in any one’s shoes. You look at a homeless person and in a second, I could be homeless if I lost my job and then it’d be a chain reaction.
I’ve realized so much more over the years that it would be a blink of an eye before I would be in anyone else’s situation especially the way my disease progressed over the last two years. It was literally two years, the cocaine and alcohol. I ended up starting to do cocaine at work. I wouldn’t drink at work because I knew that that was bad and that would impair me from driving, but I drove great on cocaine. I wouldn’t do it when I was driving at work, but I remember before doing that, I had been doing so much when I wasn’t working. I came into work and I remember driving to a call and all of a sudden, my nose starts bleeding and I’m driving. I get to the call and my captain who is sitting next to me sees my nose bleeding. I’m like, “My nose is bleeding.” I stopped, I parked and we’re at the call. He goes, “You take care of your nosebleed and then come in there.” The call was very benign and we ended up getting canceled from it but I remember them getting back in the engine and they go, “What, too much cocaine?” I’m like, “Whatever.”It’s not all the time that people are crazy. Sometimes, they’re just people that are going through hard times in life. Click To Tweet
It was a joke, they didn’t think that I would ever do cocaine. I know that and the sad thing is I rode on the fact that everyone thought I would never do that stuff. Everyone thought I would never do cocaine. Not that I was perfect in any way. Relationships, they knew that I would pick horrible people. I feel like I have to beat my head against the wall multiple times in order to learn something every single time. I’ve definitely had to do that with relationships and also drugs. I rode on that, that no one would think I did anything. Another thing that ended up happening when I was using was as it progressively got worse, I was using so much that I would use to a point in the night or in the early morning. If I stopped at that point, I would be able to fall asleep knowing that I’ll wake up in the morning to be able to go to work. If it passes a certain time, I would keep doing it all night because I thought I’m never going to wake up.
One time, I fell asleep. This happened twice. The first time I had been talking to this married guy the night before and I was talking to him about 13 Reasons Why, the show on Netflix. I was texting and I was saying, “Watch this show and you’ll understand what I’ve been talking about.” I wasn’t suicidal, but that show is about suicide in the end. I was talking about all the stuff that she dealt with before that led up to that. When he woke up in the morning and saw that text message, he got freaked out and started calling me while I was sleeping. He called ten times and I didn’t pick up. Other people were calling, I didn’t pick up. They got scared and they sent the cops over to my house. The cops get there and I’m like, “What is going on?” They brought a social worker because they were worried that I committed suicide just because the show is about suicide and I was texting. I have a plate of cocaine on the side of my bed and a bottle of vodka right next to it because that’s the way I operated. I’d sit in bed with that on the side of my bed. I answered the door and I’m like, “I got to go to the bathroom.” I run and throw all the cocaine under my bed and I’m like, “What the heck?” I go out there and the social worker’s like, “We want to address these text messages that you sent.” I’m like, “Are you kidding me. Do I have to explain?” Now I have to explain to the cops that I was with a married guy at work and this whole thing happened because of that. This is embarrassing.
Long story short, I was with them for an hour and then they left and I didn’t get caught. I’ve never been arrested. I’ve never had any concrete like, “This is going to make you learn.” I’ve had to prevent that in a sense like, “This is going that way.” The second time again, I’d never missed work or anything. I never just didn’t show up. One morning I didn’t wake up for work and apparently, the cops had knocked on my door, but I didn’t hear them. All of a sudden, they’re yelling through the window, “Heather, Heather,” and I’m like, “What?” I didn’t know that it was a cop that’s yelling through my window. I go to the door and there’s a cop standing on the side of the window as if I have some weapon or something. There’s one at the door and there’s one over by my bedroom and I’m like, “What is going on?” They’re like, “Your chief sent us here because we’re doing a welfare check. You need to call your chief because you didn’t show up at work.” I was like, “What, I’m supposed to work today? I totally forgot that I was supposed to work.” Again, cocaine and vodka in my room and the cops are there and I didn’t show up for work. It broke my heart because I went into work and my captain gives me a big hug and he’s like, “I thought you were dead somewhere. I thought you drove your car off a ditch driving into work. We had people going to look for you, up seventeen.”
I started to realize the impact that my using was having on other people in the sense that they were worried. I was causing other people to be worried about me. I was piling up bags of garbage outside my house. It’s odd because I’m so OCD and clean that it’s the opposite of me. These bags of garbage are piling up on the outside of my house. It was this big pile of white bags and my house is on a corner, it’s on display. Anyone that drives by is like, “What’s going on there in my house?” My car wouldn’t move and my blinds are always shut. Ironically, here’s another God intervention. I’m writing this proposal for work and my co-worker sends me this e-mail about firefighter rehab place for PTSD and substance abuse. At this point, I’m like, “No, I do not have a drug problem or an alcohol problem. I just have a PTSD problem and once that’s fixed, all this other stuff will go away for sure.” He sends me this email and it’s also before the report or the proposal I’m doing and I end up going. I literally text him back and I’m like, “I’m going to call them and I’m going to go,” and he’s like, “What?” because no one knows. I had told people that I was having this PTSD problem or PTSD symptoms. I was having nightmares and it brought back a lot of other calls I had. Every single other call that stuck with me, like hangings in particular. I had this eighteen-year-old girl hanging that was right when I got hired and then my friend Nate had committed suicide when I was just doing the fire service. I’d been there two years so that was 2008. He hung himself. I particularly had a hard time in hangings and I had another call during this time right before I went off work with this eighteen-year-old girl.
We show up and she had an electrical cord around her neck and she was on the other side of the balcony on her deck ready to jump. The cops were trying to distract her and then pull her over the balcony before she jumped off and it was a three-story balcony. I remember I was able to sit there and talk to her because I had been on a 51/50 hold which now I was going to have to put her on one. This whole experience I had helped me with my job because now I could know what hospital to send her to. I didn’t want to send her to Valley Medical Center. I wanted to send her to El Camino Mountain View because that’s a better hospital and it will get her the help she needs. When it comes to that in particular, I was so happy that I was on the call but then I started having nightmares about it. I couldn’t stop thinking about what if she had jumped, then what would we do? I was obsessing about it. It was reminding me of that call I had when I was brand new and it was this eighteen-year-old girl who had hung herself. There was those couple of calls and it spiraled me, so I ended up going like, “I need to go to this rehab.” I call them and they were able to get me in two or three days from that point. I booked a flight and dumb me who’s thinking I’m going to live it up until I get there, bringing cocaine on the plane. I brought it on the plane with me. I didn’t even hide it. I was drinking vodka out of water bottles because that’s what I do. I’d drive around with a water bottle full of water and a water bottle full of vodka and a lot of cocaine. I do cocaine in the center console of my car while I’m driving and falling and stupid. I can’t believe what a hazard I was for multiple reasons. I end up getting to Denver. It was the connection flight and I miss my connector because I was drinking too much. I had to spend the night at a hotel which for me was like, “Yes, one more night of living it up.”
I drink and did cocaine all that night. I stayed up until God knows when. I got on a flight the next day and ended up getting into the rehab and they were joking a ton about, “You showed up in this way and that way and messed up,” but I don’t even remember the first week I was there. I was in detox. I was so shaky and so messed up. I was there for 48 days and the PTSD counselor was absolutely amazing. I still wasn’t completely convinced that I was an alcoholic or a drug addict. I thought it probably wasn’t a completely normal use of it but the fire service is its own beast in the sense that when people are working, they can’t wait to get off to go drink. It’s like, “We’re not alcoholics because we don’t drink on the two days that we’re working so that that doesn’t qualify us to be an alcoholic.” I’m like, “What are you talking about? You guys drink all day long every day when you’re off. How is that not? You know you can’t at work.” I get out of rehab and I end up relapsing right away. It almost was like, “Screw you to the rehab,” because some shady stuff happened when I was there with the administration. It was more of a, “Screw you,” but it was screwing myself. It wasn’t doing any harm to anybody else but me. In 2017, I was an IOP, outpatient program for four months and then I got sent out on a fire.
After that, I started relapsing here and there. I’d have a couple of months and then I’d relapse and then I’d have a couple of months and then I’d relapse. Then it was a month and then it was two weeks. When they talk about progressive, I truly feel that’s an understatement. I thought in the beginning when they’re talking about that, I’m like, “That’s a bunch of crap. Progressive? Please. If I don’t use or drink and I start again, I’ll be fine.” Then I got this idea that if I relapse, I’m going to go balls to the wall crazy and that’s been my whole life. I feel like everything is balls to the wall nutty.” I know another crazy stupid thing I did when I was using is when they talk about, “I tried religion or I tried this or tried that.” I do believe in God. I am a Christian and I know a lot of my behaviors aren’t in line with that and it makes me feel terrible. I would go to church to try to be doing good and I would be doing lines of cocaine in the bathroom. It doesn’t even make any sense because it’s an oxymoron or a contradiction. It’s me again feel terrible about myself. When I got out and I relapsed a few times, I ended up signing back up for IOP. I had a couple of bad relapses and they were around relationships. I remember I got into a three-month relationship with this guy that kept telling me I’m not an addict like, “You’re not an addict.” It was like, “How long have you known me? Why? Because I have a good job and a house and I function but that doesn’t mean I’m an addict?”
In his defense, that’s what I thought. I would’ve never been like, “That person’s an addict or an alcoholic because they were functioning.” I never thought my parents were addicts or alcoholics, same thing. They’re not addicts, they’re more alcoholics but regardless. I never knew that they were technically qualified as that because they would drink a number of drinks at night, not a ton where they’re blacking out but enough to make their behaviors different and I grew up like that. I’ve realized now after a lot of counseling and the rehabs that a lot of the things that I’ve done or the ways I’ve behaved or characteristics of myself have come from seeing that exhibited when I was little and reacting to that. It’s not to blame anybody because that’s not that’s not it but it’s more, “Now I can see the patterns of why this probably led me to this or that.” I was talking about relationships. I thought I can try to have relationships even though they tell me I shouldn’t have a relationship for a while in recovery. I’ll try it out and see how it is because I’ll just go from one addiction to another. I’ll now be addicted to this dude instead of alcohol or cocaine, that will be a good thing. Every relationship I had that was short, I ended up relapsing after it. I realized fast that’s not a good option for me to do the relationship thing. This last relapse that I had before I went into the camp this last time was bad.Any one of us can be so close to being in any one’s shoes. Click To Tweet
My friend, one, in particular, I relapse with a lot. She has a lot of things in her life. Her marriage is not good and she has a lot of kids that I adore. Her life is so up and down and she relapses a lot and I choose to hang out with her. Then I know that I’m going to put myself around a person that could possibly relapse and then I would possibly relapse so it’s this conscious decision to hang out with someone. I don’t know if it’s this rebellious side of me that’s like, “I can do it. Even if she relapses, I won’t.” This last time, we planned it. We were supposed to go to this sober AA camping trip. She said, “What if we go to Tahoe instead and party?” I’m like, “That sounds amazing. Let’s get half an ounce of cocaine, perfect and we’ll wait. We’ll keep it until we go to Tahoe.” We didn’t keep it. We got it and we got to try it and then we start doing it. It is an absolutely crazy idea and we thought no one will know. We’ll go to Tahoe and we’ll do this and we’ll not tell anybody. We won’t tell our sponsors, we won’t tell IOP, we won’t tell her husband. We will just go and no one will know. Why do we even think that? Every single time I’ve relapsed in the past, everybody knows because you stopped calling people and then they get worried about you. One time my friend came over. I had a relapse and she came over.
Me and this other friend I speak of, we were trying not to be around anyone, so we had all the blinds shut. We had the door locked but we had the side door open for my dog to go out. This particular friend comes over, that’s my sponsor’s other sponsee. She goes around and she knocks on the door and we’re hiding in the bedroom because we don’t want to answer the door. Tweakers like being ridiculous. She comes around the side of the house, goes in the side door and without me even knowing it, she’s at my bedroom door. She’s like, “Heather?” I’m cutting up a line on the bed and I looked up and I start crying because I’m caught and frankly, I don’t want to be doing this anyways right now. This is not fun. She ends up staying there all night. They try to throw all the vodka, I’m hiding it around the house. I hide some in the pillowcase in the spare bedroom. I put a cup in the closet. I put some more in the safe and they threw out whatever they could find. I put the cocaine in the safe, so I was running into my room doing cocaine in the closet, opening the safe, closing the safe, running back out. It was crazy.
That was one of the times and then the last time was we ended up going camping and my sponsor’s others sponsee, my sponsee sister I guess you call it, she was with me. It was just her and I. I was doing the cocaine by myself and my other friend who I got out with, she was doing it by herself. I go out camping with my sponsee sister and I’m using cocaine and I don’t think she knows. All of a sudden, we get there and she’s like, “You’re using drugs.” I’m like, “Yes, I’m using drugs.” She’s like, “I knew it because you keep taking your purse every time you go to the bathroom.” I’m like, “Whatever, I’m using drugs. What do you want me to say? Get over it.” I’m so annoyed at this point because part of me is embarrassed but it’s coming out as just annoyance. I don’t want to put someone else in a situation like that, let something in them or anything but then she’s very controlling and manipulative. It was almost like, “I can’t deal with you right now, so I’m just going to use.” She gets upset with me and because I’m drinking, for once I tell her how I feel instead of going along with her plan. She doesn’t like that, she gets pissed and she’s like, “You’re just saying this because you’re drunk.” I’m like, “I’m doing cocaine too so I’m not that drunk.” My friend Jamie ends up coming up to hang out with me camping because I begged her to come up there and she saw her and me.
My sponsee sister takes the vodka away from me, out of my car and gives it to my other friend. I’m like, “Hello, she’s an alcoholic too. What are you doing?” She drinks it, so I find it in her car under her seat and I’m like, “Why do you have my vodka? What is going on here?” Then I lost $500 of the cocaine but I don’t lose that. I keep it super close to me when I have it. I do it and then I’m like, “This is gold here.” It’s ridiculous but that’s the way I normally operate when I have it. I’m thinking there’s no way I could have lost it. My sponsee sister gets upset with us because we’re doing cocaine and drinking and she wants to leave. She takes my car and she takes most of the camping stuff and she leaves us and we have my friend’s two-year-old with us and my lovely dog Bentley who is like my baby. We’re driving around because now we’re out of vodka and we need more. We’re in the sticks and they don’t have hard alcohol anywhere. They only have beer. We’re like, “What the heck. We need our alcohol,” and they’re like, “It’s an hour.” We’re like, “That’s fine, we’ll go.” We drive to get it and we’re with my dog and her two-year-old.
If we would have crashed or something have happened, I hope I would have died because the trauma that would have ensued from losing her two-year-old or my dog or her would have killed me. Just the decisions are freaking horrible. We think that my sponsee sister had taken the cocaine and I said, “Why did you take it?” She lost her mind at me saying such hurtful stuff via text message. I was bawling my eyes out because it was so hard to hear like, “You druggie bitch and you this and that.” I wasn’t even saying anything to her. I was like, “Can you please drop my car off at my house?” It was hard. She might have been using it, to be honest with you, but I don’t know and I can’t prove it the way she reacted. I ended up going home with my friend and we continued to use. My friend’s drug dealer came over and he brings more cocaine, but he brought mushrooms. I haven’t done mushrooms in forever so I’m sitting there going, “I’ll try some.” I try some and I’m not feeling it, so I take more. I’m not feeling it, I take more. I’m not feeling, I take more. I’m having issues for three days. It was bad. It got me in this bad depression. I ended up taking a bunch of Tramadol also because I ended up thinking I don’t want to feel like this.
We were drinking wine because my friend had lost her keys and then lost my keys, so we couldn’t get in any of our cars. We couldn’t go anywhere to get vodka. Thankfully we didn’t drive but I took mushrooms. I took Tramadol and I was then looking for heroin and I’ve never done heroin before. I’m like, “What are you doing? Do you want to do every door you possibly get your hands on?” I was texting her drug dealer like, “Do you have heroin?” Thankfully, he didn’t. My next thought was I need to go to rehab and I’m thankful that I ended up making my decision because she was saying, “No, don’t go. You don’t need to go to rehab. You just get sober with me here. No big deal. We’ll be fine.” I was like, “There’s no way. I feel so bad.” I went from normal to completely incapacitated in five days. That’s why I say progressive is an understatement. I couldn’t function and I love my life sober and everything that I’ve had and everything that I’ve worked for, I love it. I truly love it. How do you get to the place where you don’t want to even live anymore because of the drugs that you’ve done for five days? It’s just beyond me. I never want to touch them again ever. It’s horrible.
That’s awesome, Heather. Let me ask you a question. What’s your opinion of this Twelve-Step Program?
I love it. Everyone should do it, to be honest with you, addict or not. It’s a too good program to be better in life. It doesn’t matter if you’re an addict, alcoholic or anything because it causes you to look inside and see what’s going on and why we do certain things. There are tons of other people out there that have other issues that wouldn’t be identified as drugs or alcohol in particular.It would be a blink of an eye before you would be in anyone else’s situation. Click To Tweet
What do you think works in recovery?
A lot of things. There are a lot of things that I did last time. There are things that I know that I didn’t do and I’m doing this time. I would go to meetings and I got a sponsor and I started working the steps, but every time I’d relapse, I’d have to go back. I worked steps one through three probably four times. I would go to meetings, but I’d be so fearful that I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t want to be seen. I didn’t have the confidence to go up to new people and ask for their numbers. One of the hindrances I had was I had friends that had eight to ten years. When I got out of my rehab the last time, that’s who I went to meetings with. I used it as a crutch to not go meet other people and get newcomers numbers. This time around, I’m blessed that I did relapse even though it’s a bad thing to have happened, but I ended up going to the camp. That then allowed me to meet people that are new in recovery and getting out and doing what I need to be doing. Going to meetings and talking and getting a sponsor and doing the steps and everything that we need to be doing and living in an SLE. I never thought I’d make this decision to live here. Other people are shocked that I made this decision, but I truly want it this time. I had to make some changes that I didn’t choose to do last time.
What does your future look like, Heather?
Super bright. I have so many more goals and aspirations that I want to do. I want to go back to school and become a counselor and do PTSD counseling for my department. That’s one of the areas in the fire service that’s lacking and needs a lot of attention to. I want to do that. I also want to get into something with recovery in a different way and just helping people, not for money or anything but like you do. I love this. I want to have a family. I want to have children and one of the main driving forces for me with this is, to be honest with you, it’s not even not drinking or doing drugs. It’s finding out what I like and who I am and getting right with myself so I can choose healthy people in my life, like a healthy guy. You attract what you feel about yourself. If you feel shitty about yourself, you’re going to attract someone that’s shitty to you.
Heather, thank you so much. Thank you for joining us on the Stories of Addiction Podcast. To all our audience, we wish you to stay sober and be happy. Thank you.
Heather is a 36-year-old female from Santa Cruz, California. Heather comes from a good family and she is an attractive, intelligent woman. Heather addiction is alcohol and cocaine. Heather has two months clean and sober.
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