Meet Becky John. Becky’s story is one of the reasons I created this entire project. I have known Becky since I was 15 years old. (She and my Mom were incredibly close friends growing up.) My life is better because I know Becky. As a teenager, she gave me more understanding, more love, and more hope in what this life has to offer. She could write novels to fill an entire library with her intelligence and depth. More than that, her life is a testament of resiliency. She is the SMALL percentage of the millions who overcome addictions to hardcore substances and come out on top. She proves that it is possible to break free from all that fiercely grips ahold of you, to obtain the life you want. She lives with faith and optimism during unexpected, enduring trials. She is a fighter. She is a voice of truth and reason. She is a loving Grandma and Mom. She is an inspiration…here is her story:
“I went into my room and sat on the bed, my heart was pounding in my chest and for the first time I felt real fear and I realized this could kill me. I pulled my knees up close to my chest, closed my eyes and quietly sang “I am a child of God and he has sent me here…” a song I learned in Sunday School. I repeated it over and over hoping I would make it through the night.
At age 14, I started experimenting with alcohol and drugs and I had no fear, I just wanted to stomp out my intense restlessness and insecurity. As I sat in this dark room at 17, I felt so much fear because at this moment my life changed. That night, I entered the world of main lining (softer way of saying shooting up using needles to inject my drug of choice). It was a dark descent into a horrible world that I barely escaped. I lost a piece of my soul on this journey.
Addiction stole the person I was and replaced it with a person I couldn’t imagine being.
I really wanted to stop the hold addiction had on me but it was like a huge monkey on my back that I couldn’t shake off. I tried over and over, but was always overtaken with my need to fill an emptiness, restlessness and to make me forget how ugly I felt inside. The world of drugs is friendless there is no loyalty, trust or compassion. People will do whatever is necessary to maintain their need for drugs. It consumed my every thought and action, I had no regard or ability to see how it was hurting others around me.
When my kids were very young and I was again trying to “straighten up”, I could see I was heading back into the dark hopeless cycle of addiction and each time I relapsed it was deeper and deeper into the madness. My Mother could see it was happening again and we talked about the consequences of dragging my kids down this self destructive path. How that would affect them, how terrible a world that is for children. I was so devastated with the reality that I could not care for my kids. I loved my kids so much but I knew it wasn’t enough. We agreed the best thing was for my kids to live with them for awhile. I told myself “it’s just until I can get on my feet” but I knew better. To let go of them confirmed I was hopeless. It was the hardest decision I have ever made. It was the right decision. I had no problem self destructing but I couldn’t imagine dragging my kids with me. I am forever grateful for the sacrifice and love my parents showered upon my children.
Eventually my parents bought a funeral plot in the Brigham city cemetery because they knew it was only a matter of time before they got the call their daughter was dead.
I ruined all relations with loved ones, I lost trust, respect, love, and I truly felt I had lost everything. There was a point when I saw my reflection in the window of a bus and I couldn’t believe how old I looked. My body and face was emaciated and any light that had ever been in my eyes had vanished. At that moment I was overcome with the need to change.
Determinedly, I fought for a new life.
It was really difficult to face all of the destruction, it was like a 9.0 earthquake that lasted years. I realized all of the time lost, the relationships ruined, financial issues it seemed like such a huge mountain to climb. I was overwhelmed with the enormity of it all, but I put my head down and marched forward tackling it piece by piece. I made amends but the consequences of my actions changed the course of everything and I couldn’t undo it so I knew the only thing to do was get to better; be better, and show everyone that the person they knew and loved so many years ago was still alive. It was very hard and so humiliating, sad, and frustrating but at the same time freeing.
I worked hard to be a good Mom, daughter, Sister and Friend but it wasn’t easy for the hurt I caused to heal. The relationships I had would never be the way they were, so I had to accept that fact and move forward. Even after I had changed my life I hated the fact that people who knew me still saw me as the addict. It was so refreshing to have people in my life who didn’t know my past, I was treated so differently. This might be one of the hardest things in getting well, I wish you to view me as I am not as I was. There is so much shame associated with it all I didn’t want to talk about any of it.
But isn’t it so sad a person would feel the need to discard half of their life experiences because of shame?
I eventually found a good job and as time passed I saw glimpses of success through my hard work. I loved to work hard and found it to be a good way to cope with my new world. At work I never talked about my past, it was a clean slate with no judgement, I was only judged on my current actions and it helped me heal. I went back to school and eventually worked as a quality engineer. I got to travel and was a success story, I felt so alive again.
I started spending my time doing the things I loved like hiking, rock hounding, 4 wheeling, sitting on rocks looking and appreciating everything beautiful. I regained a sense of faith and hope. It took me more than 10 years to achieve all of this but I did it! I felt so much humility at people’s ability to forgive me and look beyond what was. I was overwhelmed with the love and acceptance from my family. I was so happy with my life.
Now, I wish this could be a happily ever after story, but that really isn’t how life is.
During my activities it concerned me when I got so winded while hiking or exercising, I couldn’t catch my breath. I figured I was experiencing the repercussions from my earlier life. Things got worse and I knew it was something serious. I went to several doctors who told me it was exercised induced asthma or I needed to accept the fact I was getting older, but finally I found a doctor willing to run some tests. My diagnosis was serious, terminal in fact and not caused from my earlier years. I had a disease called Antitrypsin Deficiency; its a rare hereditary disease. It attacks my lungs and liver and eventually these organs will fail.
I was devastated. I felt cheated and angry, why was my life so riddled with trials? Why did I have such bad luck? Why would God give me a second chance at life and a glimmer of happiness and then take it away? This would prove to be the second hardest thing to overcome in my life. That old familiar feeling of hopelessness crept in and I fell into a deep depression. I just waited for my inevitable death. I felt so lost and abandoned.
I was at a doctors appointment and happened to catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror and again didn’t recognize my own reflection. I thought to myself I don’t want to be that person!
This is not who I am; I’ve conquered the impossible and I will not let this take me down without screaming and fighting. So I mustered up the strength to again move forward. I exercised as hard as I could and worked as hard as I knew I could. I wanted to be better; to do better. I did improve and I am stronger.
Today I work hard at living life to the fullest accepting my limitations but pushing them to the edge. Now I can look back at my life and realize how much I learned through my experiences. When I was younger I always said when I figured out life I would share my recipe of success with everyone so they could avoid some of my mistakes. But I realize now that the ingredients of a recipe are the trials in life and unavoidable. The preparation is how to face these trials; will you give up or keep fighting. What reflection will you see? The happiness and peace we can ultimately feel by making it through these difficulties with determination and strength even when it seems insurmountable is the final treat.
I learned life is hard and very short. I believe in looking forward, never back. I realize that inner peace comes from forgiving and accepting myself. I try not to get caught up in the fluff of life and I never ever give up. The things I enjoy today, that make my life really good is spending time in nature, gardening, walking, getting wet in the rain or making angels in the snow. Laughing with my daughter, driving across the country with my Son, playing with my Grandson, helping my Parents around the house, having dinner with my Sister, or emailing psychological theories to my Brother, and having lunch with a friend, hiking with my dog. It’s my relationships, my faith in a loving God, and my desire to live and breathe and enjoy and feel peace that is what brings substance and happiness to my life (…and get a dog).”