My mom told me once how excited she and my dad were after I made it through high school with flying colors. They sighed with relief and patted themselves on the back, knowing their two children were now well on their way. And then the bottom fell out of my world as I spiraled into drug addiction.

I managed to get through college, but not gracefully. “Partying” became my main pastime, with cocaine and alcohol the stars of the show. I still attended classes, did my work (mostly) and scraped by—adhering to my inner dialogue about how responsibly I behaved.

After dabbling with a few potential majors, I finally decided on advertising, and transferred to a state university to obtain my degree. This area of study would allow me to utilize my inherent creativity and would be fun—something I could enjoy doing Every Day for the Rest of My Life.

I soon dreamed of packing my bags, leaving California, and moving to New York City, where I would get a job on Madison Avenue—learning from all the advertising giants and making history with my award-winning concepts for national clients and name brands.

Instead, I just talked about doing it. I wasn’t going anywhere except another house or motel where we snorted countless ounces of cocaine for days on end. Some of us had dreams. Some of us had intentions. But all of us were drowning—the walls of those rooms closing in on us as we obsessively inhaled those drugs and exhaled failure with each burning jolt up our noses, drag off a joint, or swig of yet another cheap beer.

Drug addiction keeps you small. I knew I had potential, and that sitting in a room getting high wasn’t it. I would sometimes look around, desperately wondering what I was doing there, but then my friends would crack a joke, start a fresh game of cards, or engage me in an in-depth drug-addled conversation, and I’d tell myself: “… tomorrow. Tomorrow I will figure this out.”

In the end, I was homeless, unemployable, and in deep trouble—not so great for a girl with a college degree and real aspirations.

Luckily for me, tomorrow eventually came. I crawled out of my hole, sought recovery, and started anew. This was not the case for everyone from those all-nighter years. Some stayed mired in the life, leading to serious injury (from driving under the influence), crime, and health problems. One friend spent substantial time in prison; one attempted suicide; one died. A couple of my friends eventually sought recovery, but few succeeded. I was lucky I got out when I did.

 

— Katherine is a freelance writer and novelist—and recovering addict. Find her online here.

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