I am an addict and my name is Jen. I want to share my story with the hope that it can help just one person find hope because when I was out there all I desperately wanted was to know that someone understood. Here is my story. I am the fourth of 9 children, always surrounded by people, but felt alone since the day I can remember. I so vividly remember not even feeling a part of my own family. I felt like I didn’t fit in at school or anywhere for that matter. I felt sad, depressed and lonely quite often. I would soon find what at the time I considered a blessing would be a destructive curse. My memory has suffered from my addiction so I can’t remember specifically when I took my first drink but what I will never forget is how it made me feel. Literally from the first sip of alcohol, I felt a calm, peaceful feeling, and a sort of bubbly, happy, high. I never wanted it to leave me. I felt happy, and funny and that this was the answer to my problems. That was a lie. From that first drink my goal in life became doing this as often as possible. Partying took over. I started working in bars and it was perfect because the people in them loved to drink like me. Eventually I was introduced to cocaine in that environment, which I loved because it kept the party going. My life revolved around drinking, drugs, bars, and parties. Nothing mattered, all I wanted was to escape who I was and I was willing to do whatever it took to do it. I eventually landed in my first rehab at 19 years old, which my parents put me in, so it didn’t faze me. I heard nothing at that rehab. My behavior started to get very reckless. I was drinking and driving, getting in fights, and getting arrested. I didn’t care about myself or anyone else and had no regard for the law. I would black out from drinking and had no clue what I would do once I started. Then came opiates, the beginning of a downward spiral that would take me to deep, dark places I never imagined I would be. It started with a few Vicodin I got after a dental procedure. Like alcohol, after the very first pill I thought I discovered the way I wanted to feel for the rest of my life, I just had no idea what I was in for. I quickly moved on to oxytocin, which led to doctor shopping and stealing and forging prescriptions which led to my arrest and my first 30 day incarceration. Someone finally came along that convinced me that the doctors and prescriptions were too much work and money and I should try heroin. I injected it from the first time. I also learned fast what being “ill” and “dope sick” was and any addict can attest that you will go to any lengths to avoid that. I was becoming so miserable. I decided I should move to Baltimore city to be closer to the drugs and action. I was arrested many times. If you didn’t benefit me in some way I had no time for you. My life was using and finding ways and means to get more. I had one prayer, “God, please don’t let me wake up tomorrow.” I became homeless, in and out of rehabs, jails and institutions. Last count of the number of detox, hospitals and rehabs I was in I stopped at 36. Eventually at one of those rehabs I met some fellow addicts and we decided it would be a great idea to hang out when we left. That decision led to my conviction in 2004 of armed robbery after robbing pharmacies for drugs. I spent 3 and a half years at MCIW, the prison for women in Md. Within 6 months of my release I was getting high again, I had no solution. I continued to use and ended up getting married and pregnant. I would love to say that being pregnant kept me clean but sadly it did not. I just got on a legal firm of drugs, methadone. I started talking Xanax with it to increase my high. I would live to regret it. When I entered John Hopkins Bayview hospital to have my daughter it didn’t even occur to me that I would not be leaving that hospital with my little girl, that cps would step in and I wouldn’t have my daughter back for a very long time. In fact she would live for 2 and a half years with total strangers in a foster home in Baltimore. I had a warrant for my arrest for violating probation and was convinced i would be sent back to prison so naturally I did the only thing I knew how to do, continued to get high. A year later on my daughters first birthday that warrant caught up to me and I was arrested. I was on 135 mg of methadone and a benzodiazepine habit and would go into a horrible, potentially fatal detox for two months where I was sent out of the detention center to a locked in psych hospital it got so bad. I finally went to court and that day my entire life would take a turn I never saw coming, I was given a second chance, my judge sentenced me to a long term rehab instead of prison. I didn’t know what to expect when I got there but I knew I was one hundred percent ready and willing to stop the madness that was my life. I did whatever I was told. I started to go to groups. I continued to go to 12 step meetings there and actually listened to the stories of other alcoholics and addicts who found a solution in a higher power and the 12 steps. They suggested I get a sponsor, take suggestions and start working the steps, I listened. I started getting one hour a week visits with my daughter and working really hard to get her back, the visits eventually turned into whole weekends. The people in the program kept telling me to just have faith and do the next right thing. I spent almost a year in that rehab and wish I could say I left there with my daughter back in my custody but that didn’t happen, my higher power felt I needed a little more work. I went to a women’s recovery house where I continued to work with a sponsor, work the steps of alcoholics anonymous, and do everything they suggested. I had court on a Monday for my daughter, where there was a chance she could be given up for adoption because she had been in foster care longer than normal. I was so afraid because I was still living in a recovery house and couldn’t have her there so I had nowhere to live with her. On the Friday before court I got the call that the Advocates program accepted me and that if they gave me my daughter I would have housing for her. The call that would forever change my life because when I went to court 3 days later I got custody of my little girl. There is no reason I should even be here today with some of the reckless, dangerous, stupid things I’ve done in active addiction. I never felt I deserved anything much less finding a way Up and Out of that life through my higher power and a 12 step program, but the fact that I’m still here and able to tell this story is solid proof that the program works. Today, after a brief relapse, I have been clean since January 10, 2016. I have a sponsor and continue to work the steps with her. My daughter is 6 years old. She is beautiful, healthy and the light of my life. I am no longer involved in the criminal justice system and haven’t been since my probation ended two years ago. I have amazing people in my life and am able to be a good mother, friend, sister, daughter and aunt. I have an apartment of my own. I am employed and a productive member of my community. Most important, I have a beautiful life, am so grateful and truly humble because I alone do not deserve it. When I was released from prison I considered myself free but I’ve found out that want the case. Through my higher power, and the love and fellowship of alcoholics anonymous, I can now, finally, say I am free.