Whitney may be just 20-years-old, but she’s been though more than most of us. She’s wise beyond her years. And she knows her recovery is one day at a time.
Whitney started using drugs and alcohol when she was just 15-years-old, “I had a lot of anxiety growing up and didn’t know how to handle it, my depression was just as bad at the time,” Whitney recalls, “I was very confused why I always had this struggle in my head with myself. I started to drink heavily when I was 15 and smoke weed. I then quickly progressed into harder drugs leading me to heroin and getting into recovery when I was 18.”
Recovery: one simple word, but in reality it is anything but. It is harrowing, “Trying to quit drugs, especially heroin in particular was hard for me. I had learned to use drugs to cope with my anxiety and depression and other insecurities I had growing up.” Whitney explains, “Even before the drugs I learned such negative coping mechanisms for myself that I had no idea who I was. I completely lost myself.”
But, Whitney was able to get clean. Unfortunately, after six months of sobriety, Whitney relapsed, “I remember thinking why did this happen? What did I do wrong? I mentally relapsed way before I picked up again. I stopped taking care of myself, stopped going to meetings, isolating, negative self talk, I could go on.”
It was years of back and forth. Years of abusing drugs and then, “I was arrested on October 9th, 2016. I remember sitting in a jail cell for my first time, I was in withdrawal off heroin, depressed and miserable. I sat in the corner of the cell and slowly when the days passed I started to realize that there is more for me in this world than just doing heroin,” Whitney’s ah-ha moment, “I didn’t want too die anymore, I want to be alive.”
Whitney spent a month in jail on heroin related charges. A local drug court mandated her to find treatment, and Whitney began a program in West Seneca. The program helped her, and she graduated.
Whitney’s next step was a supportive living program. While there, she relapsed with heroin. This was her lowest point. Rock bottom. Still, she was surprised at the compassion from loved ones, who were there for her with arms open wide.
She forged on and went back into recovery. She then went to stay at Somerset House.
Somerset House, located in rural Appleton, NY in Niagara County, is a Community Residence for women with a substance use disorder who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The program is capable of serving 17 women in recovery from addiction while supporting their mental health and physical well-being.
“My days in Somerset consisted of waking up at 7:30 and getting ready to meet all of the girls at the kitchen table at 8 a.m for morning meditation. We would read out of the just for today book, reading enlightening affirmations for the day and all of us would discuss what we took from it.”
She’d go to meetings three or four times a week, both Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous.” “The Somerset house taught me a lot while living there temporarily. I needed to work on boundaries with other people, and having respect for myself. The staff there were very supportive of me, always there if I was in a bad place mentally. My counselor Linda at Somerset was a huge support for me. She actually took the time to get to know me, really. She saw all past this persona I made for myself, and made me comfortable letting me be vulnerable in front of her and that it’s okay too express how I truly feel. She had a amazing soul, and we bonded very well. Her compassion left an impact on me. As well as the rest of the staff made me feel comfortable always.”
Now, 330 days sober, Whitney wants to help others, “I want people to know that our struggles make us stronger and we become humble from these experiences. Me crying every day, puking and not being able to eat for days really taught me a lesson. I realized that there is ALWAYS consequences for my actions, and I truly think one of my purposes on this earth is to learn discipline and patience. I also remember getting a book from the library there and I read “The Ultimate Pardon” this book touched my soul, really. Long story short, its about a man who was in active use most of his life and how he overcame it. Beautiful read.”
So, although there’s a long road ahead for Whitney, she’s found the strength to go on, she’s found value in her life, value in the person she is.
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