Masters In Recovery: A Letter from Alumni

From, Natalie D.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”. – Victor Frankl

Heroin made everything better, and so much worse. Desperately wanting to live a “normal life” I pushed myself through a Bachelors in Fine Arts, while working two jobs and maintaining a 3.5 GPA. If I had this external validation that told me, and those around me, that my life couldn’t possibly be a train wreck, then I would be ok. In my sophomore and junior year of college I discovered the beautiful numbness and serenity that opiates provided. I leaned into opiates and romanticized my existence as a suffering artist as my life continued to avalanche into destruction and self sabotage.

Unbeknownst to my family, I experienced two no-knock raids, and a marijuana charge and emerged unscathed, subsequently refusing to accept any of those experiences as my bottom. After eventually being arrested on spring break of my senior year, my parents insisted I enter treatment. I went kicking and screaming – Literally – In the back of my mom’s Honda. In reading back through my journals of the time there was tremendous fear but also some amount of comfort and hope that I was being taken care of and was no longer alone. Fear ruled my existence for years and continued to do so for some time. Eventually I began to see glimmers of a future that had not existed before.

Without drugs, my fear manifested into a drive for perfectionism, and any of those around me while I was finishing my degree via Skype can probably attest to this. I desperately wanted to be ok. I resisted the notion that I experienced depression, anxiety, and PTSD choosing to believe at the time that my only problem had been the drugs. I stubbornly white knuckled my way through with blinders on.

I began to rethink my future and turned my focus towards helping others. I found jobs at a treatment center, a sober living, and an elementary after school program and often worked 50+ hour weeks because I was afraid not to. I was accepted to Boise State University where I pursued my Masters in Social Work. In the first few weeks of school I realized that so much self work had been left undone and my depression and anxiety were impacting my ability to learn and participate in school. I got honest with myself and found a therapist specializing in EMDR therapy. I recognized that the time had come to face the roots of my addiction so that I could be an effective professional social worker. It became clear that white knuckling my way through life was not going to work. I began to see a psychiatrist and got on medication for depression and anxiety. By the second semester of school my life begin to turn around drastically as I felt freer than I ever had, and felt confident in myself for the first time in my adult life.

My journey through school taught me that working on myself is an ongoing process, and I will never finish it. There is strength in recognizing when I need help and there is no glory in undue suffering. I struggle with feeling as if I am an imposter in my own life because of all I have achieved in a brief two years time. I have faced my depression, anxiety, and PTSD head on and I have chiseled out a niche in the world where I feel comfortable. My healing is choosing to address the issues which fueled my addiction and continued to rule my life in sobriety. Above all, this life is a journey and I will continue to grow, while never forgetting the importance of honesty and self-care.

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