The beginning

I was 30 years old before I became an addict. I made the choice in my early teens, based on what I knew about recreational drugs and the effect they had on people, not to experiment with things like cocaine (crack), heroin or the like. I knew they were addictive and scary and could destroy people's lives, so why take the risk? Certainly the education I received taught me enough to know that I should stay away. Unfortunately, as I would learn many years later, I was never taught why addictive drugs were so dangerous and what it really means to become addicted to a substance. What we learned in school was that drug addicts were "bad". We learned that they were scary, awful people, living scary, awful lives.

I came into this world uniquely sensitive. Every boyfriend I've ever had has complained, "You're too sensitive Raina", and maybe they're right, maybe I am. But being this way is a part of my make-up as a human being-it doesn't come from being sheltered or a lack of experience, it isn't a choice I've made, and for the better part of my life it definitely wasn't something I was proud of. Since childhood, I've had this overwhelming fear of being hurt--by people, experiences, my emotions....I've always felt completely vulnerable to the rest of the world.

When I was in my late 20's I gave birth to the most beautiful little baby girl; an angel. I am her mamma and I will always be her mamma and even though life passed through her so quickly-too quickly, I am incredibly grateful she came into my life. She taught me more about myself than anyone or any other experience to date. As you will come to learn, the sacrifice of her life is ultimately what ended up giving me mine. My journey through the grief of losing a child, and everything that experience brought with it, is what ended up freeing me from the anxiety and insecurity that had possessed me since childhood. To be clear, no one ever gave me the choice. If I had had the choice, I would have chosen her. I would have chosen to surrender myself, so that she could live a full and happy life. But I wasn't given a choice and I have long since made my peace with that..

Ever since I can remember, I've had this terrible feeling in my gut telling me that something was wrong. I just always assumed that it was me; I was the thing that was wrong. I was terrified that others might find out that there was something wrong with me-that I wasn't "enough" and so I never talked about the way I felt inside. I carried that secret with me everywhere I went, for a very long time....

I had my first anxiety attack on the day of my daughter's burial. It wasn't until then that I finally made the connection that the terrible feeling I'd been carrying around for so long, the one I believed proved my inferiority as a human being, was actually a thing-it had a name! I didn't have some insightful, secretive knowledge about myself, I had anxiety and so do a lot of other people! I wish I could say that it was liberating to make this discovery and I suppose in some ways it was, but nothing changed over night. In fact, life started a slow but steady decline from that point on, which would ultimately result in my addiction and the many changes that came with it.

Over the course of the 3-4 years that followed my baby's death, my soul darkened. I was angry at the universe and I began to feel entitled. I felt I had paid my dues and that I was owed a great big dose of happiness, delivered right to my front door. Anytime something bad or sad or challenging would happen I would feel like I'd been slapped in the face. I'd feel personally insulted, like it had been done to me. "How much can one person take???" I would ask. I was angry, and confused, and sad, and isolated. Nobody knows what it's like to be me, I would think. Looking back, I can see so clearly how vulnerable I was, how I already had the thinking and many of the behaviors of an addict-the only thing I was missing were the drugs themselves. Totally unsuspecting and utterly clueless-I had no idea of the hell that lay ahead. All I wanted was a little relief from the overwhelming weight I carried in my soul.







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