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My name is Mikaela and I am a recovering drug addict.

I grew up in a small town in Southwest Saskatchewan. I had an amazing childhood with loving parents who only wanted the best for us kids. I have two older brothers. My parents are still together to this day. Growing up there was no addiction around me. I didn’t know the signs of addiction and I didn’t witness it on a regular basis. My parents took us kids on many family vacations and would run around after work to make sure we got to the many activities we were involved in.

When I was nine, my parents moved us to Swift Current, SK, just one hour east of the small town I grew up in. I was an average student who was very active in sports. Moving to a city gave me the ability to really excel in sports. In middle school and the beginning of high school I played as many sports as I could. In high school I led an extremely active lifestyle with school, sports, working part-time and my social life.

Looking back today, I realize I had many addict behaviours that I perceived as normal. I would obsess about things and create outcomes in my head. I always set myself up for disappointment as I had high expectations of others and myself. I pushed myself to the point of exhaustion. Whenever I was alone I told myself I was useless, no one liked me, I had no friends, and I would ask myself why I was continuing on with life. The negative self-talk nearly drove me crazy.

In my teenage years I had many achievements in track and soccer. I thought for sure my future was set out for me in sports. Through all of my success on the field and on the track, I hated myself. I didn’t like the person I was and no matter what I accomplished, it wasn’t good enough. I had a big ego yet my self-worth was extremely low. I believed I was okay if people were accepting of me and I would change depending on who I was with. I was a people pleaser, however I was also mean to my friends and loved ones. I was a bully, which was a direct result of the hate I had for myself. I thought that if I put my attention on others, I wouldn’t have to think about the person I was. High school was hard. High school felt like a game where everyone was in constant competition and I, being a competitive person, made things worse.

I first drank alcohol at the age of 13. The first time I drank, I blacked out. I loved it. I loved the effect that it gave me. I didn’t have to feel anything. My use first started off with drinking occasionally with my friends but it soon turned into every weekend drinking. I thought I was just having fun. I thought I was doing what everyone my age was doing. I believed my drinking was innocent. I was unaware I was trying to escape my reality. When I was in grade 12 everything changed for me. My groups of friends changed, I started using drugs, I was skipping school and I dropped out of all sports. While living it, I didn’t realize the mistakes I was making. I barely graduated.

From the moment I took that first “hard” drug my addiction spiraled out of control. I didn’t believe anything bad would happen to me. I decided not to go to college or university and I stayed in my home town. I got into many legal issues and couldn’t hold down a job. I was court ordered to a treatment centre. I went to treatment for 28 days and used the day I got out. I hated the person I had become and I did not want to feel. I did not want to stop using. My parents would kick me out of the house and I would be homeless. I gave them broken promises and lied constantly. I became a stranger to my parents. From the outside looking in, my life looked like a complete disaster. I didn’t care at the time. There were so many things that I was ashamed of that I would continue to use so I didn’t have to feel the shame.

I eventually moved up to Saskatoon, SK to live with my brother who was in active addiction. We did not get along and had many fights. I tried everything to escape my addiction; geographical change, college, moving to a different area of the city, different drugs, different kinds of alcohol, hanging out with different friends. I thought if I could just quit drugs, everything would be okay, I never wanted to quit drinking. Nothing worked. I carried on like that for another couple years, digging myself a deeper hole, making more mistakes and hating myself a bit more day by day. I always used the excuse that I was young and having fun. Deep down I knew there was more to me than what I was doing but it was too painful to look at who I had become. I didn’t want to have to deal with life on life’s terms. I had no idea how to be an adult.

When I was 21, I was living in a 2 bedroom apartment with 4 people. I had started doing drugs I said I would never do. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror, as I despised the person looking back at me. I had received another DUI. I couldn’t hold down a job. I finally surrendered. I asked for help and I was finally serious about getting better.

Then I went to the residential addiction treatment at Cedars at Cobble Hill on Vancouver Island. I decided to put my all into treatment because what I was doing before wasn’t working. In treatment I learned that I wasn’t a bad person with a moral failing but I was just sick with the disease of addiction. I allowed myself to heal by taking the suggestion of my counsellor and peers. When I left treatment, I went to a recovery house in Victoria. I stayed there for three-and-a-half months. Living in a recovery house was one of the best things I could have done for myself as I still had support with rules and structure to follow. I had to be accountable.

My recovery has not been easy as it is extremely hard work. I had to change everything in my life. I have experienced many struggles. When I was nine months clean I experienced one of the worst nights of my life. I found my very best friend dead from a drug overdose. I remember at some points during that night I thought to myself “getting high would make this go away, I wouldn’t have to feel this pain.” But I persevered through it with the love and support around me from the staff at Cedars, from my friends and family and with the connections I have made in recovery. I know that if I hadn’t done the work on myself that I had done at that point, I wouldn’t have stayed clean. Recovery gave me the tools and self-worth to be able to stay clean through such a traumatic experience.

In January, 2016, the day after my 25th birthday, my boyfriend of two years died from a drug overdose after having relapsed. Once again, with the love and support around me, I was able to stay clean and properly grieve my loss. I now stay clean for myself, my best friend and my boyfriend. I will never understand why their lives had to be taken away by this horrible disease but I will not allow addiction to take mine too.

Although I have experienced grief and trauma in my recovery, I have also received so many positive changes. Today I love myself, I have freedom from my past, I have a great relationship with my parents, I work at Cedars, I can pay my own bills, I have amazing friends and I have the ability to deal with things as they come up. I know that I am not perfect and that I will make mistakes. I have so much more work to do on myself but I am proud of the person I have become. The compulsion to use has been lifted. My first thought in the morning is not how I am going to get loaded for the day but what I can do to be a better person. I have been clean and sober since July 1, 2012. If I can do it, so can you.

So if you’re struggling with addiction please reach out, recovery IS possible