Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez
She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
I need to help myself. I don’t know if you will read this, but inside I’m screaming for someone to hear me.
I’m really ashamed to say that I am an addict—I don’t think I have ever said that before.
It all started a few years ago. I had extreme nerve pain that kept reoccurring, and we couldn’t figure out why. I was finally given oxycodone because the pain was so bad. It was a relief to not be in pain, but it also gave me emotional relief. I was in an unhappy marriage with a toddler at home, and my mom was dying of cancer. I am ashamed to say that at the end of my mom’s life, I stole pain meds from her.
I have been struggling to stay well enough physically and emotionally to take care of my kid. My husband left me in the middle of all this. He has literally disappeared from my life. I am a single mom. I have some support from my dad and stepmom, but I feel so alone. And I am admitting here I am also an addict.
I wish I could wake up in the morning and be free of this addiction.
What am I going to do?
I guess just writing this helps. I wanted to write in just so someone might hear me, might help me.
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I understand the shame you’re feeling all too well. I spent 15 years struggling with heroin addiction, trapped in a cycle of repeated relapse, primarily driven by shame. It can be easy to forget your humanity when you’re struggling with addiction. I want to remind you of who you are underneath the drugs. You are not your addiction.
Addiction is not a moral failing. You are a human being struggling with a very human condition.
That you’re struggling with this does not make you a bad person. You are in need of help. You writing to me, sharing this with me, is a significant first step. That’s why you felt some relief just in writing that email.
Is there a person you trust in your life who you could go to with this information, someone who may be able to be of support to you? Maybe your dad and stepmom, or a friend? I ask this because I know that when I got through the fear of letting anyone see what was really going on, it allowed me to lessen that massive load of shame I’d been carrying, allowed me to be seen a little bit, and made me feel like maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t all alone in this.
I know what the loneliness of hiding in addiction feels like. Even if you don’t feel like there is anyone in your world you can turn to, you did reach out to me. I am here; there will be others here for you, too.
You are not alone; you don’t have to go through this alone.
Reaching out for help is going to get you on your way to getting help and lessen the burden of loneliness and shame. And you do need help. This is a health issue. The first thing to address is the physical addiction. There are several ways to approach this. I do think the best option is some sort of inpatient program where you can detox and have a safe place to process during the acute phase of withdrawal.
I know as a parent, especially a single parent, that can sound daunting to leave for days or weeks. You did mention your dad and stepmom are involved. If they could step in, it would well be worth it. As a mom, you want to give yourself the best chance at recovery. As you said, staying physically and emotionally well enough to parent has been a struggle.
Making recovery a priority is essential to your ability to parent.
That said, if, for some reason, an inpatient program is an impossibility, there are other options such as medication-assisted treatment (MAT), 12-step program meetings such as AA or NA — which are free and widely available (even online), and SMART recovery.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but the options mentioned above have helped many people. Whatever you decide, aftercare is essential. Perhaps even more important than what to do in the immediate is planning for the long-term.
Recovery includes more than just removing the drugs; it’s about rebuilding your life, a new one.
I want to talk to you about grief, which is why that aftercare is so essential. You’ve experienced a lot of loss in recent years. You lost your mother. You lost a spouse. You have transitioned to single parenting. And, you’ve lost yourself along the way.
But you’re still here. I believe in you.
I know there will be moments for you when this feels impossible, when this feels like it won’t get better, when it may feel worse without the drugs. Everything won’t be magically fixed overnight, but I can promise you this…
It will get better. It will get easier. You can find yourself again.
I never imagined that I’d be free from drugs, free from the loneliness and shame, free from the self-loathing, but I am. I believe you will be, too.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need some guidance on finding help in your area.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendships, depression, parenting, sex, consent, what I’m watching, what I’m reading, Golden Topaz, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. Did you know I wrote a book about my 15-year struggle with heroin addiction? It’s called STRUNG OUT: One Last Hit and Other Lies that Nearly Killed Me, and it’s on sale now! Lastly, I’m so excited to share with you my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my newsletter, which contains a behind-the-scenes look at STRUNG OUT and the publishing process, exclusive extras and book giveaways only for newsletter subscribers, recommendations to get you through the week, extra Ask Erin content, and more… XOXO