Jelly Shoes and Speedballs: Lacey’s Story
Early Home Life: “If anything, I was spoiled”
I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah and had a pretty normal childhood. I have one younger brother and he is the golden child in the family. He is the complete opposite of me. My mother works for Salt Lake Legal Defenders, a group of public defenders here in Salt Lake City, and she helped start the local drug court. When I was little, she would take me with her to drug court so I could see what it was like and not go down that road, but it backfired on her. However, it was a good childhood and if anything, I was spoiled. My biological dad left when I was little, though I never felt the void of that until I got sober, because I had such a great step-dad. I had lots of friends but I never quite felt like I fit in. I felt I had to overcompensate a lot so that people liked me.
High School to Heroin
“I felt that “relief” and immediately stopped caring… about anything.”
When I got to high school I did the normal things that high school kids do and started drinking and smoking weed here and there a bit. I didn’t participate in any extracurricular activities. I went for the social setting, not to learn or do anything that would take up more of my time; so I didn’t do any sports or anything like that. I did have a lot of friends and I felt that I fit in mostly with the partiers. I managed to graduate high school, but just barely. I had a boyfriend at the time of graduation who started selling Oxycontin. I never felt the “relief” that some people talk about having after their first drink, or the first time they smoke weed, but I remember the first time I did Oxycontin. I felt that “relief” and immediately stopped caring about trying to fit in; stopped caring about anything. So my boyfriend and I kept taking Oxycontin for a little while, but after about six months into it we were taking more Oxycontin than he was selling. That’s when we found heroin. Now we are experiencing a heroin epidemic, but 13 years ago when we found it, heroin was not what it is today. Not “everybody was doing heroin.”
After doing heroin for a couple of months, my mother found out and intervened. At this point I was still young, barely 20, and hadn’t lost everything. I was still able to hold a job and keep my car, so my mom suggested I go to detox but not necessarily treatment, which I agreed to. I went to detox for four or five days. When I got out my boyfriend and I broke up and I didn’t touch heroin, opiates, or pain pills for four years.
Swapping Heroin Addiction for Alcohol and Adderall
“In reality, I just replaced the heroin addiction with an alcohol addiction”
Though I was off the heroin and opiates, I found out very quickly that I was an alcoholic. I had fun drinking, and I thought I was doing good because I wasn’t doing heroin anymore. In reality, I just replaced the heroin addiction with an alcohol addiction and in my mind at the time, a drinking habit seemed way less dangerous than a heroin habit. I was going to the bar every night and my friends started saying things like, “Please just have one or two drinks, you don’t have to get so drunk,” and I’d go with every intention of having one or two drinks, yet end up blacking out, peeing my pants, and/or losing my phone every single time. No matter whether or not I had the intention of drinking a lot, it always ended the same way.
During that time I started working with the UPS and a co-worker there introduced me to Adderall. Adderall could make it so that I had a lot of energy, didn’t need to eat all day, and I could drink way more alcohol without blacking out. Soon I found myself in an awful cycle, taking Adderall all day, stopping at the liquor store on the way home for a bottle of wine and then drinking until I passed out. Day after day I was stuck in the same cycle. Those days eventually turned into two years, of which I can hardly remember.
I ended up getting fired from that job, but got another good job working at a trucking company, doing accounts payable for them. While working there I met my boyfriend Nate, who was also an alcoholic, but at the time I didn’t think of it like that. I thought we were just having fun like any other young couple that liked to drink and go out. Looking back I can see it much differently and for what it really was. When we drank we would fight. A lot. He would say mean things to me and I would say mean things to him. I had very little self worth back then and was unable to see how toxic our relationship was.
Back to Heroin Addiction
“I thought it couldn’t get worse, but it did because that’s when I started using speedballs”
After about four months of dating Nate, I had surgery. My mother was concerned with me taking pain pills, but I thought, “It’s been four years, I’m fine now and it’ll be okay.” My mother didn’t let up though, she kept my pills, monitored them very closely, and gave them to me only at the times I needed them. Once I had that first pill in my mouth, my craving for opiates immediately returned. My mother allowed me to keep taking them for about two weeks and then she cut me off. But I knew they had prescribed me way more than I needed for the surgery and that there were plenty left. From there on, all I could think about was how to get the rest of those pills.
About a month after my surgery, my dad was having shoulder replacement surgery. My parents don’t drink or smoke and will barely take ibuprofen, so I knew that my dad probably wouldn’t use any of the pills prescribed him. Before his surgery, I tore my parents house apart looking for the pills, found the bottle of Percocet in a hidden spot, took the pills, and replaced them with vitamin C. Sadly, my dad’s shoulder replacement surgery turned out to be much more painful than he had imagined, so my poor father was taking vitamin C for the pain wondering why it wasn’t helping. My mother took the pills to the pharmacy and asked what they were. Once they knew that the pills were vitamin C, they were on to me.
I lived in Salt Lake City at the time and I’d take the Percocet up north to my boyfriend and give him some. We would take them together. When he was on Percocet he didn’t have the need to drink and we would get along. I thought that if I could just keep bringing him pills then we would not fight and be mean to each other. We did that for awhile but those pills ran out quickly and we started using Oxycontin again. We began by swallowing the pills but sooned moved on to snorting them. Things began to spiral and we soon lost our condo which we had just moved into. We moved into a crappy apartment. My car was repossessed. I lost my job again and he was on the verge of losing his; everything was slowly going downhill. I remember I was working at a temp agency a bit here and there and Nate called me one day to say, “Come home, I have a new way to use these pills,” so I went to him immediately. During all of my years using drugs, I told myself that I’d never use needles, but when he brought out the needle and told me it was way better, I didn’t even give it a second thought. Once we started doing that, everything went downhill very fast. Shortly after that, we started using heroin again because it’s cheaper.
It’s hard to remember everything that happened at this time, though I do remember that Nate lost his job and I went back in for detox, but relapsed with Nate three days later. I thought that if I just went to detox and got the drugs out of my system that I’d be okay, but I wasn’t willing to do anything more. So we had lost our jobs, our place to live, my car and I had pawned almost everything I owned, along with some things that weren’t mine to pawn. I also went to several payday lenders, took out a bunch of loans and ruined my credit. I thought it couldn’t get worse, but it did because that’s when I started using speedballs. Speedballs are a mixture of heroin and cocaine. They sent me into the absolute worst part of my addiction and it didn’t take long for me to overdose. I developed an abscess on my left arm that was so bad I had to go to the hospital. Not long after I was charged with a felony drug charge. Thankfully, the charge was later dropped to a misdemeanor because it was my first offense. It was just a really bad time in my life.
“My hair hadn’t been washed in so long that I sported unintentional dreadlocks”.
I lost my apartment and had nowhere else to go. I’d wander the streets of Salt Lake City and spend a lot of time at the public library. I called my mom up, told her I didn’t have anywhere to go, but she didn’t want me to stay at her house until I had spent 30 days in treatment, which I was still completely unwilling to do. I think if I had gone to treatment then, I wouldn’t have got sober because I just wasn’t done using; I wasn’t ready to move on.
Nate decided to move to Colorado to try to get sober and I didn’t have anywhere else to go, so I went with him. His sister owned an apartment complex so his plan was to stay there and just try to get away from everything. All I owned at that point were the clothes on my back, which consisted of a pair of shorts, a tanktop, and a pair of jelly shoes that were way too big for me. I called my mom, told her what I was doing, and asked if I could come get some of my old clothes that were still at here house. She told me that we could meet in the parking lot of my old school, because she didn’t even want me to come to the house. I had completely lost her trust by being sneaky, manipulative, and a thief. Nate dropped me off at the corner of the school and I walked over to my mother. At this point I only weighed 90 pounds, I was filthy, I had track marks all over, and my hair hadn’t been washed in so long that I sported unintentional dreadlocks. My mother, who hadn’t seen me in months and was now seeing me like this, started sobbing and pleaded with me not to go saying, “If you go, I’ll never see you again.” I later learned that my mother didn’t get out of bed for the next three days because she was mourning me. In the moment, I didn’t even care. I just wanted my stuff from her so that I could go and get high again.
Pueblo, my lowest point
We went to Pueblo, Colorado, but, of course, nothing changed. You can get drugs wherever you go. For six months I didn’t have any communication with anyone but Nate and the whole time we were doing speedballs, meth, Roxicodone, and other pills. I had entirely secluded myself and was completely miserable. I wrecked Nate’s car, which was so new that he didn’t even have insurance on it yet, so we had no transportation. We were running out of money quickly. We pawned our TV, but even then had no money for food, cigarettes, or anything. We’d walk to the gas station and steal candy bars for food. For cigarettes, we’d go outside the apartment complex, find cigarette butts on the ground and smoke those. I remember never wanting to get out of bed in the mornings because the reality of my life was so miserable. It was like the movie “Groundhog Day” too, living the worst day of my life over and over again. I remember one particular day when I was sitting on a couch with cigarette burns in it, no TV to look at, blankets on the windows, dirty dishes in the sink, no car to get around, no money, and it was in that instant I had a moment of clarity. I was looking at Nate, who was dying in front of me, and I said to myself, “How did this become my life? How did I let it get to this point?” That’s when I called my mom and said, “Okay, I’m ready to go to treatment. I’ll do whatever I have to do, just get me out of this hell hole.” Luckily I was blessed with the opportunity to go to treatment, so off I went.
Treatment and Recovery
I used the rest of the drugs we had and headed to the bus. It was extremely difficult to get on that bus because I didn’t want to leave Nate behind. I was very co-dependent and entangled with him. Finally, I did end up getting on the bus and spent the next 17 hours detoxing on the way home to Salt Lake City. My parents came and picked me up, though my dad didn’t want anything to do with me at first. I was dead to him at that point, because he couldn’t take what was going on and had to just shut it out. Even at that point I felt very entitled and thought I needed a haircut and to do all these things before I could go to treatment, so my mom got me a hotel room because she still didn’t want me staying at her house. She got my cousin to come to the hotel to cut my hair and help me get ready to enter treatment the next day. I did stick to what I said I’d do, which was a surprise to everyone. I didn’t use while I was at the hotel, got up the next morning and checked into a treatment center here in Salt Lake City.
“I started to see it as a community of people that were giving one another hope.”
I remember riding with my mom to the treatment center and saying, “It’s not 12-step is it, because if it is, then I’m not going.” She said, “It is, and you’re going!” Once in treatment, I realized I didn’t even know how to act like an adult and I was 26 years old. I was so childish and more interested in the boys there than my own recovery. It’s the only way I knew how to act. I remember the first 12 step meeting that the treatment center took us to, which was my first one ever. I had never even tried or attempted to go to a 12 step meeting in the past, because I guess I thought it was weird, and that I was somehow different and unique. It was a closed meeting and I was one of the patients that was hand-selected to go, while everyone else went to some other meeting. I felt very uncomfortable sitting there, thinking to myself, “What am I even doing here?” That’s when an old-timer got up, who seemed to me to be 100 years old, and he said, “The good news is, there’s a solution, and the bad news is, we’re it.” I thought at that moment, “Shit. I am never going to be able to stay sober if this is what I have to look forward to.”
I bring that up because I felt so strongly about it. It was as if my whole life was over at 26 because I had no hope of being able to stay sober. I thought I would never be able to have fun again and I didn’t know how to do life without drugs and alcohol. I had a really hard time with that for awhile, but I had to keep going to the meetings because it was part of my program. Somewhere along the line I started to relate. I stopped looking at the differences, stopped picking them apart, stopped thinking that I was way worse because I was a heroin addict and they were just alcoholics. Instead, I started to see it as a community of people that were giving one another hope. I was seeing happy people and people that were staying sober for multiple years. Even 60 days of sobriety seemed like a lifetime to me. For years I couldn’t stay sober for six hours, so 60 days was a miracle in my mind. In total, I spent 45 days in residential treatment and two months of intensive outpatient treatment.
I did everything that was suggested to me except for one thing, which was to not date for a year. I did 90 meetings in 90, got a sponsor, and worked the steps, but I just couldn’t stay away from boys. I remember chairing a meeting when I was six months sober and there were six guys in the meeting that I had hooked up with. At that moment I realized that I had to stop or I’d literally screw my way right out of recovery. If you do the same things you always did then you’ll get the same results you always do. I felt that I needed men as validation and to feel good about myself. I had a hard time loving myself, so I wanted someone else to do it. So at that point I decided that I wasn’t going to date until I finished my steps. Once I finished my steps I told myself I’d wait a year. A year went by and I still wasn’t ready to date, so during that time I started hanging out with women and building relationships with them, especially ones that I looked up to. I spent a lot of time just working on myself and my issues and growing my relationships with other women in recovery.
Ian and Fit to Recover
“I get to show up for all of life today, the good and the bad, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
When I had 18 months of sobriety, I met Ian. He told me that he wanted to build a gym for people in recovery called Fit to Recover, to which I thought, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” He started with a boot camp in a park every Saturday morning. There were only five to ten people attending, but I joined it, too. I don’t know if, in the beginning, I was in love with Ian or with the idea of what he was doing, but I wanted to be a part of it. I asked Ian if I could start a women’s group and he said, “Go for it!” Women are a such a huge part of my recovery. They taught me how to behave like a woman, how to pay my bills, how to stand up for myself, how to be ok in my own skin. I remember calling my sponsor shortly into my sobriety and asking her how to make a doctor’s appointment; I just didn’t know how to do anything. The women in recovery really carried me through some difficult times. So I wanted to create a place where women could come together. Newly sober women could meet those with many years of sobriety and vice versa. This was before Fit to Recover had a gym, so we held it at USARA. It’s was a hard group to start but I kept it up along with regular boot camps and run groups. At first, no one would come, but it did eventually start to grow. I also started working in a treatment center as a tech. I was working in recovery, doing the group, helping Ian with Fit to Recover, sponsoring other women, and life was good. I was on what people in recovery call the “pink cloud” for the first two years.
After two years of being sober, I felt that I was sabotaging my relationship with Ian. I had learned how to not use drugs and alcohol, but I was still having a hard time with people, co-workers, and relationships in general. I was feeling very insecure at the time and 12 step meetings weren’t giving me the relief they did before. One of my good friends at the time had just gone through the co-dependency steps. I decided I would work them with her. They were eye opening. They really gave me an awareness to my own behavior. Shortly after I started these step Ian found a space for the FTR. This was a very difficult time in our relationship. He was gone constantly working. It was the first year of “real” business for FTR. I was feeling resentful and jealous. But with the help of a therapist and working the coda steps we made it through that difficult year.
Fit to Recover was now a dream that had become reality. I felt like I was finally a part of something really special. A community. A community of people that really cared about others. Fit to Recover is a safe place and I was a big part of making it safe. It was a huge (and still is) part of my recovery. I get to be of service to others in the recovery community. It has really been a big blessing in my recovery.
My Hardest Year in Recovery
5 years into recovery and this year has been the most difficult. On the outside things look great. I have all of the things I could have only wished for when I first got sober. I have a nice home, a great job, two dogs that I adore, a loving and kind partner, an amazing group of friends etc. But inside I struggle daily. I have started having anxiety and panic attacks. Something that I have never experienced before.
It is completely new to me and it has been extremely difficult to deal with. I have reached out for extra support, started therapy again, I just picked up two new sponsees and started meditating daily.
One thing I have realized with this recovery deal is that it is constant work. And for me it has not just been one thing. It’s all things combined that keep me sober. It’s the 12 steps, FTR, therapy, meditation, exercise, coda, service and staying connected. It all comes down to willingness and action. I am willing to do whatever it takes to keep this life that I have created for myself and I will take the action required to do that.
I am so grateful for the life I get to live today. I get to wake up every morning a free woman. I am no longer in that bondage of drugs and alcohol that enslaved me for so many years.
I get to show up for all of life today, the good and the bad, I wouldn’t have it any other way.