“When I sat at the intake desk at rehab one year ago, my file said ‘severe.’ My name is Natalie and this is how a ‘severe’ case found recovery.
I was a quintessential party girl. I loved alcohol. Alcohol made me feel social, sexy, and confident. Alcohol also made me feel angry and violent. My memories of alcohol growing up were of anger and violence because I am a child of two alcoholics. Even after growing up in an alcoholic home, I grew up to be just like my father; mean, drunk and reckless. I had convinced myself that life was good. In my late teens and early twenties, I was hanging out with friends older than me. I was able to get into bars and soon began touring with bands. I toured all over the country, hung out with bands that were being played on the radio, and the sad thing is that I don’t even remember much of those times. I had convinced myself I was not an alcoholic because life was fun and I had not a single care in the world.
My first try at college didn’t even last two semesters. I had my very own apartment in Philadelphia and being isolated, without anyone having to judge my behavior, was a perfect combination for my alcoholism. However, I became very sick at 23 years old and had almost a 3 month long hospital stay. Here I was at 23, with a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis and I needed a wheelchair. During the 3 years I spent in a wheelchair, I grew into a deep depression. It was bad enough that I had lost it all, but now I had to move back home and have my mother take care of me. On top of that, I couldn’t drink anymore. The party had ended, and life would go on without me. In these years, my mother would have to bathe me, feed me and dress me. Soon enough, I’d repay her with years of heartache. Also in these years, I found opiates. How easy it was for me to get a prescription for anything, it was as if Multiple Sclerosis gave me a really good excuse. Being so anxious to get back to my life, I had been rehabbing myself, trying to walk, talk and function again. The moment I was able to walk again, and thinking I was able to go back to my life, I realized that my friends had really gone on without me.
There I was again, living alone in the city of Philadelphia, able to walk again. However, I believed if MS was going to take me out, I’d go out having the time of my life. As my alcohol and drug use intensified, my level of recklessness intensified as well. Now with the help of uppers, I was able to party all night and go to a new college during the day. There were a lot of times I would be up for days, living two lives. I needed another job to fund my lifestyle and found myself stripping until 3 a.m. even though I had classes to attend the next day. With stripping, I found that drinks and drugs came with one price: your soul. I knew deep down the dreams I had for myself growing up weren’t going exactly as planned, and no matter how hard I tried, I kept screwing up. One night at work, I was sexually assaulted. I know that was the moment when I decided this was going to become a long suicide. I was a loser, I keep messing everything up, I was complete trash, I was flaky, I can’t keep boyfriends, my friends weren’t really my friends, and I had sold my soul to drugs and alcohol. I hated myself, but absolutely loved drugs and alcohol.
Because of having a lot of PTSD from my sexual assault in Philly, I decided to move to the country in upstate New York to be closer to my sister. It didn’t take long for me, because living in the country on a large land in the woods by yourself, away from family, was the best isolation I could have asked for. I was not seeing any doctors about my Multiple Sclerosis. I only saw doctors for prescriptions. While I was bartending, I met a guy who had his own substance abuse issues. I had met my true love – someone as equally as damaged as I was. I found my co-pilot in my soon-to-be bottom. We were fired from our job together, we used together, and we drank together. I hated myself, so I loved him for treating me horribly because I deserved it.
After losing my job in May of 2017, I spent much of the time alone in my apartment. When I look back at my pictures from that time-frame, it was very obvious I was underweight, malnourished and not well. My skin was turning gray, my hair was dull and falling out, and I wasn’t eating. I hadn’t even slept in my own bed for 4 months because I was either up all night or had nodded off on the floor somewhere. I had been introduced to Narcan and spent time in the hospital with alcohol poisoning. On July 4th of last year, I spent it in a ditch on the side of the road after crashing my motorcycle. I sat there thinking how at that point, I had no one left to call. I had officially destroyed all of my relationships. A little over a week later, I would be taking every drug I had left in hopes I wouldn’t wake up. On July 17, 2017, I woke up and I was alive. I wanted to live, but not the life I was living at the time. I booked myself on a one-way ticket to Florida to go to rehab.
I was introduced to 12-step groups in rehab, and continued to go to AA when I came back to New York. I was so desperate for change that I followed the suggestions given to me by others who have found a way out. I got to the point where it was either recovery or to go back to a slow and painful death. I started meditating, kept away from places where I shouldn’t be, stopped hanging out with unhealthy people, and kept honest with myself and everyone around me. I had to learn healthier outlets and learn my emotions. We are on a legitimate pursuit of happiness in our sobriety. One day at a time, life got better and I became a better human being because of it.
I just finished a semester of college on the Dean’s List. I have a new car. I have people in my life who have shown me what real friendship is, and what real love is. Real love is unconditional and fills your soul; love is not volatile and harmful to your growth. I have found a boyfriend who supports my dreams and holds my hand through it all. My family has learned to trust me and I’m invited to family dinners again. I’m taking care of myself and my Multiple Sclerosis. I reach out to young women on a daily basis to help in whatever way I can. I refuse to let my self-destruction become how my story ends — it has robbed me enough. Most importantly, I have learned to love myself.
Life didn’t end up the way I wanted it to. I am 35 years old and have nothing to show for it, because I always thought I had a few more good years. This year has been the hardest, but most beautiful year of my life. I have finally freed myself of a cage I put myself in with the help of others in recovery. I burned it all down only to start over with a new foundation for a better life. I believe everything happens for a reason, and if I am able to help at least one person, it makes it all worth it.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Natalie Aliff, 35, of Buffalo, New York. Have you struggled with addiction and are now sober? We’d love to hear your story. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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