A suburban mother’s journey through trauma, addiction, and recovery
“And all the while I feel like I’m standing in the middle of a crowded room, screaming at the top of my lungs, and no one even looks up.” I remember watching Titanic as a kid, empathizing with Rose and her emotional turmoil. Growing up, I always felt like I was drowning and desperately waiting for someone to come rescue me. It wasn’t until my mid 20s that I would realize that I was the one refusing to get into the lifeboat…
I was 5 years old when I had my first encounter with trauma. Too young to comprehend the magnitude of the situation, my first-grade class participated in a “Good Touch/Bad Touch” workshop and I found relief in finding a safe place to lay down the burden I had been carrying. I went straight to the school counselor and told her, in vivid description, the intimate details of my unwarranted experiences. I remember the grueling interview process that resulted in a conference with my parents. Finally, someone could validate my pain, or so I thought. This resulted in complete denial and avoidance from my parents. Looking back, perhaps it was too painful. I like to think they did the best they could with what they had. I would spend the next 20 years of my life wearing victimization like a warm blanket, hopelessly seeking relief and validation.
January 10, 2013, I was reunited with trauma. My mom had a massive heart attack. Without taking a second to process the information, I called up a local drug dealer to meet me at the hospital with my analgesic of choice. After all, how could I possibly be sober and emotionally available for my father, brother, and son? My worst nightmare became a reality, Mom passed away two days later and life as I knew it had been completely dismantled. I felt as though I had been stripped of every ounce of oxygen in my body, and the only relief: Opiates. I didn’t spend an hour without some form of mood/mind altering substance in my body. I dove headfirst into running my parents’ restaurant. Without skipping a beat, I was working full time, raising my son alone, and compensating for all of the responsibilities my mom once held. As the pain of her absence grew, so did my unrelenting addiction. Plagued by the stigmas of addiction, I thrived off of my own denial and lived a double life. I maintained the picture perfect life on the outside, but emotionally, I was dead. Grief swept in like a tidal wave and I was drowning. I remember waking up to indulge in my vices before I’d even kiss my son good morning.
Immediately, disassociation became a coping mechanism. Life became tolerable for a while. I stopped allowing myself to connect with my emotions. This method worked for a while, and then my mother passed away unexpectedly and I found myself overwhelmed with grief and unresolved resentments. Frantically searching for relief, I outsourced my avoidance. Drugs and alcohol became my first reprieve. I finally found the solution, complete oblivion. I spent 4 years of my life drowning out pain, anger, fear, even happiness. I traveled down a dark road, one that ultimately led to my demise. This spiraled out of control, until one day I was brought to my knees. Eventually, I found myself in handcuffs on the side of the road, in the small rural town I grew up in. Unaffected, I spent 3 days and 2 nights confined to a place I didn’t belong. Upon getting released, I was faced with the reality that everyone knew my secret. Everyone knew I wasn’t handling things so well, I wasn’t handling anything at all. I was numb. Relentlessly pursuing after things that never served me, credible force propelled me into facing my fears head-on.
Walking out of the local county jail, I felt complete apathy. My father finally came to my rescue. He offered me the gift of recovery. I attended a 30-day dual-diagnosis treatment center. At first, I was convinced I was entering the initiation into a cult. The idea that I would walk through the trauma I experienced, completely sober, was insane. I’m not like any of these people. Again, my comforting desire to be the isolated victim crept in. You see, drugs and alcohol were never the problem, I was. After weeks of intense group and individual therapy, I came to the realization that not only was I healing from my addiction but from undiagnosed PTSD and anxiety. This was the turning point in my journey to recovery from trauma.
At the root of it all, I was the scared little 5-year-old girl that never healed the trauma of her past. Without drugs and alcohol, my resources were severed. Aside from the common withdrawal symptoms, I found myself struggling to eat, sleep, process emotions, or engage in any sort of vulnerability. During one of our self-demolition sessions, I remember my therapist asking me “How much pain do you want to be in today? Only you can lay it down and start to heal.” No one ever validated my trauma, until that day. In recovery, many people speak of spiritual experiences and this was my first encounter. I remember sobbing and yelling throughout the remainder of our session, unloading years of guilt, shame, and unadulterated pain. I slowly started to welcome the idea that I had complete control over how much I truly wanted to recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind.
Today, I gravitate towards things that make me uncomfortable. I know that through discomfort comes adversity, but ultimately comes growth. I continue to seek ongoing therapy for my PTSD and I am actively involved in my local AA community. I stay connected to the women I’ve met in sobriety. Some days, they carry me when I cannot carry myself. Sharing my experiences with other women struggling with co-occurring disorders gives me hope. Pursuing the things that set my soul on fire has been my saving grace. I have finally found my purpose and this has been the driving force for me to continue the good fight.
For anyone struggling with addiction, trauma or any mental health disorder, take heart. There are unlimited resources waiting for you. I never imagined my life would be as amazing as it is today. Don’t give up, there’s always hope.
Tricia Moceo is an Outreach Specialist for Recovery Local, a local addiction/recovery based marketing company. She advocates long-term sobriety by writing for websites like https://journeypurebowlinggreen.com/, providing resources to recovering addicts and shedding light on the disease of addiction. Tricia is a single mother of two, actively involved in her local recovery community, and is passionate about helping other women find hope in seemingly hopeless situations.
As we see with Tricia’s story, hope is always there. No matter how lost you may find yourself, there are people and resources out there that want to guide you back to your purpose. This world has so much to offer, and we want to help you see the opportunity and potential that a sober life has to give. Scottsdale Recovery Center specializes in individualized treatment programs, focusing on the particular needs of each of our patients. Our methods, therapies, and treatment programs have benefited countless patients, and we pride ourselves in truly changing lives. Don’t hesitate to reach out: our doors are always open.
Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2007. Call 602-346-9142.