The Florida House Saved My Life.
I remain forever grateful to The Florida House and all of the amazing people that, along with God, are helping to piece me back together.
My name is Jessica V. and I am an alumni of The Florida House. I grew up in the small, Northwest town of Glocester, Rhode Island about twenty minutes outside Providence. My drug use started with alcohol and ended with a debilitating and completely demoralizing addiction to heroin. It brought me to a kind of hell on earth I never imagined I would reach.
I was born into an Italian family and am an only child to two parents who showered me with love, attention, warmth and encouragement. My father is a chemist and a musician and my mother stayed home with me until I started school. Life was full of home-cooked meals, fun vacations, elaborate dinner parties, movie premieres and music I just couldn’t get enough of. I did everything with my parents and our household was nothing like those of my friends. Drinking was always acceptable in my family. It was part of every tradition, every event, every holiday and every dinner.
I grew up as a child in an adult world. I was exposed to music, movies, conversations and stories that other children were not. Stories of my parents thrilling college years and hippie-era, drug filled past made me yearn to grow up and have the same experiences as them. Their relationship was also always very tumultuous. My mother is stubborn, entitled and fiery and my dad is laid-back and calm. Their fights were brutal and either resulted in trying to get between them to break them up or running to my room and blasting music to drown out the screams. I was triangulated into their relationship from a very young age and I grew up with no knowledge of what healthy boundaries are or what a healthy relationship is.
I was raised to be a non-conformist, to question societal norms and was shown by my mother’s behaviors and attitudes that most rules do not apply to me. These values would greatly influence my addiction in the years to come. My mother always emphasized that I was special and unique and I definitely felt that way. From as far back as I can remember I felt different and I could never understand why. I felt as though there was a hole in me, a void that no amount of love, affection, candy, or adrenaline could fill. I was definitely born an addict.
I started drinking on the weekends and snorting pills at around 12 years old. I loved the way the liquid felt; hot and burning all the way down to my stomach. I loved the warm flush that radiated through my body and the subsequent relaxation that followed. I felt OK with myself wherever I was. All anxiety and fear melted away after that first drink. I was a binge drinker by the age of 14. I was proud of it, too. Bonfires and large house parties were an every weekend event in my town. My friends and I all had free reign to go and do as we pleased so I thought everyone drank and used like I did. My parents thought it was normal teenage behavior. By the time I graduated from high school my life revolved around alcohol, drugs and my pattern of entering into toxic relationships with other addicts was in full swing. I had no intentions of changing; in fact, I was just getting started.
I enrolled at Rhode Island College in Providence, RI and quickly became restless and discontent there. I was accepted into the National Student Exchange program and a few months later I decided to drive to California where I attended California State University, Monterey Bay. I stuffed my whole life into my car and felt freedom from my destructive past as we headed west. However, in a matter of days I was drinking to blackout daily and putting as many different substances as I could into my body. I was progressing rapidly and I wanted to be numb, every single minute. Hospital trips, panic attacks and physical altercations later led to my concerned friends begging me to get help. I laughed at them. I didn’t think I had a problem. My fierce ego and rampant denial told me that they just didn’t know how to party like me. I actually pitied them.
I moved home after a year and was quickly introduced to heroin. I fell in love immediately. I felt as though it was the missing puzzle piece to my life. It filled the void like no drink, no pill, no man ever could. I strongly believed I had found the answer to all of my pain, insecurities and unhappiness. Heroin was my solution and it remained that way for many years to follow. Eventually arrests and overdoses landed me in detoxes and treatment centers. The consequences were starting to build and I did not care. I spent the next few years in and out of treatment, living out of cheap motels and my car. I was destroying all of my relationships, my body, my spirit and my will to live. I woke up every morning with an overwhelming sense of dread and despair and cursed God for forcing me to get through another day. Maintaining my habit was my only care and I did absolutely everything and anything I needed to in order to survive. I was wasting away physically, emotionally and spirituality. I knew that I could no longer live with or without heroin.
I decided to try to get clean one more time and actually work the program instead of just make meetings. I never lost that spark of hope that maybe one day I could be happy, clean and feel whole. The Florida House saved my life. They helped me understand why I think the way I do, how my disease manifests in all areas of my life and helped me recognize my other addictive behaviors. I am now working a program with an amazing sponsor, living in a wonderfully supportive halfway house and employed. I am building a relationship with a God of my understanding and things are slowly but surely starting to click and make sense to me. No human power was ever able to get me clean or help me stay clean. It wasn’t until I could no longer take the pain that I became open-minded and willing to try this program. Before I was able to have faith that it could work for me, I held onto watching and witnessing what the program and God had done for the sober women in my support network. I remain forever grateful to The Florida House and all of the amazing people that, along with God, are helping to piece me back together. As challenging as it is, as long as I continue to turn my will over to God every day, work the steps and focus on gratitude instead of self-pity, I trust that God will continue to work miracles in my life and do for me what I could never do for myself.