Lisa is a person in long term recovery. What that means for her is she hasn’t used a drink or drug since December 26, 2012.
I HAVE EXPERIENCED BEING STEREOTYPE WITHIN THE RECOVERY COMMUNITY
I have experienced being stereotyped within the recovery community during my first attempt in rehab. I went away to treatment in Arizona and I was the only person there struggling with opioid use. The other women in the house had a different drug of choice and used differently then I did. it was a constant joke while I was there that "I wasn't a real addict" Also within the recovery community I have experienced stigma towards the fact that I never used syringes which for a long time made me feel like I didn't belong and that my way of using wasn't as extreme as everyone else, which in fact caused just as much pain spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.
I GRATEFULLY CELEBRATED 6 YEARS IN RECOVERY THIS PAST DECEMBER
Substances did not come in for me until I was 20. Prior to that I was a good student, a hard worker, had a group of great friends, I was very present and dedicated to my family. My mother had been battling Lupus and Cancer and I took care of her and helped her recover. So there were a lot of responsibilities for me in my household. I put on a good show that I could handle everything and I was happy. However on the inside I felt alone, I had zero self worth and hated everything about myself. My first time using an opioid, which was my drug choice, it all changed. I instantly had a sense of false confidence and self worth. I felt like I finally had the answer to what I had been missing. But it came with a price. I no longer was a good worker, I lost all of my friends, I was absent in my family and I hurt so many loved ones along the way.
I reached a place of total darkness and desperation, I had no value for my life and no purpose to live on. I had lost my business I had worked so hard for, was evicted from my apartment and I had became a ghost amongst my family. The few family members that still spoke to me fought so hard to get me into treatment for fear that the next call would be news of my overdose and death. And keeping all of that fresh in my heart helps remind me that I never want to go back to that way of life.
That went on for 7 years until what I can only describe as divine intervention pulled me out from that darkness. With the love and support of a recovery house, a recovery community, and a 12 step fellowship I gratefully celebrated 6 years in recovery this past December. I thought I was going to die from this disease and never thought recovery was possible for me.
I WAS THE YOUNGEST FRANCHISEE IN THE COMPANY
I have been with Jersey Mike's Subs since I was 16. working my way up at 18 becoming the manager and then at 23 partnering with my boss and opening my own store. I was the youngest franchisee in the company. I owned and operated that store for 4 years, meanwhile my opiate use progressed as my work ethic declined. The last year of ownership my opiate use had progressed to an unimaginable state. From using while working, manipulating my employees, stealing money from the business, and eventually one of my employees dying from an overdose, I was removed from the store and asked not to come back. Substance use made me lose my business, however my recovery gave it back. I am currently running one of the busiest stores in the country and am in the process of opening my own franchise again.
WE DO RECOVER.
In 2016, my story was told in front of 1200 owners and managers in the Jersey Mike's community at our National Conference. I was asked to share my experience to give hope and inspiration to those who had loved ones struggling with addiction or were themselves struggling. That there is another side to this, and its recovery. We do recover. I was then awarded the first ever "Comeback of the Year Award" which I was incredibly honored to accept. From doing this I was overwhelmed with the amount of love and support I received within the company and the amount of people that came up to me afterwards sharing their experience on how addiction has affected them or their families. I chose to recover outloud to break the stigma and show that recovery is possible.
YOU ARE WORTH THIS LIFE OF FREEDOM AND LOVE
Being a part of a recovery community and an active member of that community has been a huge support to my recovery. In this process I have met my husband who is also in recovery. We have built this amazing life together in getting married, buying a house, and just recently welcoming our first child, Anthony into our lives. My life has taken on a whole new meaning and purpose and I am beyond grateful.
I would say to someone struggling with addiction not to give up on themselves and that there is a way out. There are so many options for treatment and avenues they have that there is no reason to suffer in silence any longer. There are so many of us that have fought through this battle, they aren't alone. We can and do recover. We will love you until you learn to love yourself, you are worth this life of freedom and love.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GO BACK AND GIVE YOURSELF IN EARLY RECOVERY?
I would tell myself to stay the course, and not be so hard on myself. Put down the bat, and pick up a feather. This is a one day at a time process for me and sometimes I can be my biggest critic. Recovery is not a competition, and you are exactly where you should be.
I AM SO GRATEFUL FOR MY FAMILY'S FORGIVENESS
From my own personal story, to losing so many loved ones this epidemic has affected me greatly. To see so many people surrender and have the willingness to recover, and then this disease convince them that they can have just one more, and then find out that they overdosed and died is heartbreaking. Or to find out they are a hostage to this all over again and cant make their way back into recovery, makes me continue my recovery and be vigilant in it every day. This epidemic has affected my family by me being a part of it. I thought the only person I was hurting was myself. I had no idea the amount of harm I was causing my family and the impact my use had on them. In coming into recovery they were relieved I had finally surrendered and chosen life, however it took a lot of hard work and time to build back the bridges I had burned with many of them. I am so grateful for my family's forgiveness and support in my journey of recovering.
I AM SOMEONE WORTH LOVING
I have been blessed with an overwhelming amount of love and support from all my family and friends. Two people that stand out the most are my sponsor and my mother. There have been times in my recovery were I have wanted to give up, or things have gotten so dark that I haven't felt worth the life recovery has given me. My sponsor has literally saved my life and has loved me until I learned to love myself. She has taught me how to be a woman of integrity, grace and honesty. She has taught me I am perfectly imperfect and I am someone worth loving. She has been my guide through the 12 steps and my leader on this path in recovery. I believe our paths crossed for a reason and I am incredibly grateful for the relationship we have. My second biggest influence is my mother. She has been my biggest cheerleader and has always supported my recovery. Now as a new mother myself, my heart breaks in thinking back to what I put my mother through while I was using, both of my parents actually. I know there were many nights of wondering if that was going to be my last night, and no parent should have to experience that kind of pain. My mother is my best friend and a person I hold very close to my heart. She has always encouraged me to be my best self and is proud of the woman I am today in recovery.
IT'S IMPORTANT TO TALK ABOUT RECOVERY
I think it's important to talk about recovery. We are in a time where people are coming together to share their stories and I think it's so powerful to hear the success stories during a time where so many people are dying from overdoses.
I am really just honored to be able to share my experience on this platform and hope that I can help just one person who may or may not be struggling. If you are reading this and feel like you aren't worth it and are feeling hopeless, please trust me when I say I believe you are. So please, for this moment, just believe that I believe.
THIS EPIDEMIC AFFECTS EVERY HOUSEHOLD
I think the solution to the opioid epidemic is society embracing that addiction is a disease and having more resources and funding for treatment and recovery opportunities. I think people need to be more open minded about how insidious this disease is and that a person struggling with addiction is not just a junkie. They are someone's daughter or sister or loved one. There is a human suffering with an illness that genuinely needs help. This epidemic affects every household, either in it or around it. This isn't about people who are bad needing to "get good" its it's about people who are sick and need help to get better.