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Nikki Lee

Updated: May 16, 2022


Before I was old enough to comprehend the meaning of addiction, substance abuse and mental illness had already made a large presence in my life.

When two barely over eighteen young adults that suffer with addiction, engage in unprotected and impulsive sexual behaviors, I am what happens. My mother didn’t know how to be a mother, nor did she really want to be. My father was going to prison so, my paternal grandparents took me home at 5 days old. They were never given legal custody, no parental rights terminated, free to walk in and take me away at anytime. What some consider the most precious gift given in life, still was not enough for my parents to get clean.

When elementary school rolled around, the struggle really began. No one would’ve guessed that being a happy go-lucky little girl was just a cover for a deeply pained child with severe mental health difficulties. Then once the physical challenges stepped into play a role, I knew I was going to have a lifelong battle of aches and pains beyond measure. I had stomach aches almost daily from the constant worry of my grandparents leaving me, being picked on, teased, and called names. I was a nerd. I wore glasses, poufy dresses and was the biggest target for bullies. I lived in this fear that I was going to leave for school and that when I got home afterwards, it would just be a huge, empty house. I feared my grandparents would pack up everything and just disappear without me and I would be left alone. School was challenging enough for kids, my illnesses just made it worse. In fact, even my school faculty thought I was a liar, and babied. They neglected to care about the effects these struggles had on my health. By fourth grade, at nine years old, I was first introduced to pain medications and muscle relaxers.

By the time I started high school, I had been diagnosed with scoliosis, fibromyalgia, arthritis, had 2 knee surgeries and my tonsils removed. That’s three more times I was put on pain medications and muscle relaxers! My knees still gave me problems afterwards. I had been placed on anti depressants to combat the fibromyalgia pain, and tried several different brands to find one that worked the way it needed to. Nothing helped except for my own stubbornness in believing that I wouldn’t allow my chronic illnesses to define me. I wouldn’t allow it to cripple my abilities to live life normally.

As a teenager, I partied occasionally and rarely turned to used drugs, but the need to find something capable of suppressing my anxiety, frustration with school, depression, my physical pain mixed with my chronic illnesses, never stopped. I kept thinking, “Is this all I’m ever going to know how to be? The struggle, the pain, the sleepless nights, stress worry, and nightmares? There has to be more for me than this and if there isn’t, what can I do to stop it from devouring me?”.

I was far from being on track to graduate from high school. I was credit deficient and sent to an alternative high school where I excelled quickly to catch up. I had my 5th knee surgery the month prior to graduation. I was given more pain medications, and more muscle relaxers. Most of which I gave to my step mom because otherwise she would of just taken them anyways since I couldn’t get around well.

Graduation was my rock bottom. For the following 3 days, I rotated thru the effects of a concoction of methamphetamine, ecstasy, and heroin. Two drugs of which I would have never tried otherwise, and my boyfriend knew it, but gave it to me anyways. It was in that time that I made the decision to get clean. I didn’t know how, I didn’t know where to go, or how to go about doing it. I just knew I had to before I ended up falling further into this addiction that had consumed my life up to this point.

June 22nd, 2005 was the hardest day as I knew the only way I could get help and get sober was if I went to the one person I was closest to. I knew she would be understanding, mad, angry, sad and still be able to help me out of it. My grandma was a saint. I approached her nervous and anxious, scared and most of all fearful of disappointing her and my grandpa. Ashamed that I turned out exactly like my parents. The two people I always said I didn’t want to be. She did exactly as expected and she supported me through it. I remember I was relieved when she decided not to tell my grandpa the full extent of everything as he worked on the road as a truck driver and didn’t need the worry. She did however call my dad into her house and informed him. He yelled and screamed at me like I was nothing but trash. In my wake of coming down from using, frustration and natural born temper, I blew up. My first real outburst of anger and it was aimed directly at him. I was so angry and hateful towards him for being so hypocrite and judging my use while I knew first hand that he, himself was still smoking marijuana and doing methamphetamine with his boss on the rigs. How dare this man who had spent time in prison, who chose drugs over raising his own kid, who chose to be with a woman and rarely ever even visit me, dare to attack me with judgments! Most of my mental health disorder was caused because of this man. My hatred and resentment towards him had come out in full force and that was only the beginning..

I had my fourth knee surgery the Fall of 2005 and changed anti-depressants that same year, I struggled with quitting my substance use cold turkey but I did it. Thanks to good friends who were clean, and their support, my amazing grandparents, and my husband re-entering my life, I was able to save myself from the dark side of life that I had learned to know all too well.

I was in recovery for 5 years, married and had my first beautiful daughter who was another surgery with pain medications, a cesarean. I hadn’t thought about my life before recovery. I didn’t miss it. I had struggled with my depression and watched it consume me as my husband drank nightly as his way of self-medicating. At the time, I had 2 of my cousins living with me off and on, my uncle too, a handful of friends, I was stressed out to the max, and I knew things had to change. But before I could change them, I was drinking again and ultimately got pregnant with my second baby girl. So full of life she was, absolutely proven to be a fighter as we went through surgery together while she was still in the womb, my gallbladder. I lost amniotic fluid thereafter and risked losing my baby. She was born by emergency cesarean perfectly healthy and happy. I couldn’t have been more grateful in my life or feel as complete with my little family.

It wasn’t until 2 years later that my next relapsed happened. It went on quietly hiding in the bathroom, or outside my home. I never let it be noticed or caught by outsiders as I didn’t use that much but when it was socially exploited, I was using, I knew my husband was questioning my sobriety. I set him up to find out. He blew a gasket on me, flipped out, threatened to take my kids from me, told his entire family in a drunken confrontation at a family event severing every bit of relationship we had. Those relationships will never be the same. Shortly thereafter I ended up in jail for a crime I was a third- party victim of, lost my house, my truck, my car, a storage unit of all the stuff I owned and everything else due to filing bankruptcy.

It wasn’t until a year later I had borrowed something from a friend and was returning it that I was picked up and detained by local police that had been running surveillance on his house and were going to raid this house. While being detained, the police had judged my friendship and proceeding on trying to get me to say that I had purchased drugs from this person which was not in fact true in any aspect. My husband who was in a horrific car wreck two weeks prior where he broke his entire left side of his body. When they cut him off of his pain medications that week, I had gotten some Methadone pills for withdrawing from a friend because he was withdrawing severely. The pills were in my purse, unmarked, and not prescribed to me. I received a possession and paraphernalia charge as the result of not lying about my friendship with this person the police raided.

At sentencing, I was referred over to four corners behavioral health. I started an intensive outpatient treatment program and its been the best thing for me. Not just for my family, but for myself. I’m learning things about myself that I never believed I was capable of. I am trying to put myself out there to help other addicts whether their looking to begin their own road to recovery, or supporting them when they have struggles. Its important that I show the community that there is more than just another addict going no where living in my home. My recovery is what showed me my purpose in life and has sparked a fire within me to put my story out there. I have begun to try new things that I normally wouldn’t have ever tried to do. Recently, I had an opportunity to display some of my art at Price City Hall. I even sold a few painting. People reached out to me congratulating me and encouraging me. It was a remarkable feeling of accomplishment.

The support from friends and family has been tremendous. I have used my time to put into my art, coaching youth soccer for the last 5 years, and dedicating my time to an intensive outpatient treatment program. This program made a tremendous impact and helped me see what my purpose is in life. I am now wanting to become a substance abuse counselor myself, and am looking into enrolling in online college course to help me get there. I finally have a goal in my life that I’m working towards and its one that makes me feel good about myself because I am confident, I can succeed. I can’t let anyone’s poor judgments of who I used to be, hold me back from that goal. I’m now thirty-three years old, I have two beautiful, healthy daughters, a marriage some only dream of having. For the first time ever, I am ok with myself. I am happy where my life is heading. I am moving forward everyday knowing I am doing the very best that I can and as long as I feel that I am doing my best, I am not failing. I am doing more than I ever expected I could. I am finally finding out who I am and that I love that person staring back at me. I am enough for me and that’s what I have always needed, to feel like I’m enough, that I am deserving. My past doesn’t make you who you are when you’re working on a better future.

There is a life outside of addiction. You just have to want it. You have to chase your sobriety as much as you chased your addiction. Only then, the light at the end of your tunnel, can shine brighter and true happiness can be attained again.

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