At the start of my senior year of high school, my family and I moved from a cookie cutter, suburban neighborhood where I had grown up to a small town in the middle of nowhere. I felt out of place and had a difficult time adjusting to the new environment. Drugs and alcohol had always worked for me in the past to make me feel happy and comfortable, so my addiction really began to take off when I moved.
I had received a scholarship that would pay for all of my education for four years at a university. I viewed the scholarship as my ticket out of this run down, country town that I so strongly despised.
A week before leaving for college, I went to a party with other kids from my school. I don’t remember much from the party at all. I had already taken enough Xanax for my memory to be spotty. The last thing I remember was playing some kind of drinking game with a group of people and feeling unusually dizzy.
I woke up cold. I was completely naked, sprawled out on a ripped-up couch in an unfamiliar house. I lay there for several minutes, confused, and still a little messed up from the night before. I looked around the room that was trashed with week old fast food garbage and poorly painted bright blue walls. I was alone. I began to scramble for my clothes and I could barely keep my balance as I hurriedly looked for my belongings.
I was use to waking up hungover and confused, but this time was different. Usually, I at least knew where I was and how I had gotten there. Something wasn’t right. I had never seen this place before. There was a sharp pain in my head and a knot had formed on my forehead above my eye, but I brushed it off as I thought I had probably just drank a little too much and hit my head.
Once I had found most of my things, I walked outside to see if my car was there. There were three guys sitting on the porch, smoking cigarettes. One of them was the guy I went to the party with, but the other two were complete strangers to me. They didn’t say a word to me. They abruptly stopped talking and watched me leave. I immediately called my drug dealer, and went to get high.
A couple hours later, a video was sent to a classmate of mine. The video was of me laying on that ripped up couch, completely limp and motionless, as the three guys took turns raping me.
I didn’t know how to feel, but the only thing I knew was that I wasn’t going to tell my parents. I was going to leave that town for college and never come back. I wanted to forget everything about that morning. I wanted to disappear.
So, I left for college, an emotional disaster, and became a full-blown heroin addict. I don’t blame my past trauma for my addiction, I was a drug addict before the event, but heroin definitely gave me a way to cope with what I had been through.
I was kicked out of school for my addiction. I spent a night in a jail cell at age 20 because of drugs. I was homeless by age 21. Overdosing was the goal, and death was my destination.
By the grace of God, I found a way out. I reached an emotional bottom when the drugs were no longer working and I couldn’t seem to kill myself. I ended up going to a dual-diagnosis treatment center for substance abuse and depression. It was at this treatment center where I received trauma informed care. I felt comfortable in the treatment center, so I began to talk about what I had been through. I found that other women in the group had similar experiences with sexual assault and rape. These women became the center of my recovery, as they were and still are a loving support system for me.
I was encouraged to take my time with the healing process because I wouldn’t feel better immediately. In the past, I sought out fast relief through drugs and alcohol. I had to be patient and let my mind and body heal over the course of time. I learned how to recognize my emotions and not be overwhelmed by them through mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and yoga. Over time, I was able to better control and cope with my emotions.
Today, not only have I learned other ways to cope with my past, but I have been able to maintain long term sobriety. I try to share my experience with others as much as possible, to show people that they are not alone and that recovery is possible. I am able to be there for other women to love and support them while they are healing from their past. Since I am a survivor of sexual assault and drug addiction, I get to spread a message of hope today.
Cassidy is a 24-year-old avid writer from South Florida. She works for a digital marketing company that advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope.
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