Saying no was just the beginning
A name like Star Rockers might sound hard to live up to. For Star (that's her real name by the way), it was hard. At a young age, she turned to drugs and alcohol to fit in. Sinking into a life of addiction and loneliness, she finally hit rock bottom when she thought about throwing herself out of her apartment window. Luckily, she got help instead. Learn how she found the path to health and what advice she has for all women and girls.
Can you tell us a little about your life as an addict?
Like most people, my drinking and drug use started as a way to fit in when I was in high school. I didn't think I was very interesting without drugs and alcohol. I was born with the name Star Rockers — it was a lot to live up to! I felt like I needed to be something special. And drugs made me feel like I was.
My disease progressed quickly and, before long, I had developed into a textbook addict who thought only of drinking and using drugs. Relationships meant very little to me. I had no boundaries. The things I did while I was drunk or high would haunt me when I would sober up, so in order to escape them I would have to get high again. I hated the person I was becoming, but I couldn't stop. And the people around me changed. When I first started using drugs, I had friends and we were young and it was fun — a way to rebel. But eventually I looked around and realized I was surrounded by people who weren't really friends at all. They knew nothing about me, and I knew nothing about them. We used one another to get drugs and that was it. This was a very dangerous time in my life.
What made you decide to seek help?
When I was 20 years old, I went to rehab because my parents wanted me to go and they said they wouldn't pay for college if I didn't. I loved college, partly because it was the place I got the best drugs, and I certainly didn't want to quit. One of my friends said to me, "All rehab will do is make you a professional drug addict." At the time I thought this sounded cool. So I agreed to go. It lasted a month and I started using again not long after I left [rehab].
Several years later I'd moved away from home to go to graduate school. And, away from the protective environment of a college campus, I fell into very serious drug use. Things were getting bad and no one was there to protect me.
The last day that I used I was on a few different drugs, some I took without knowing exactly what they were. My backpack had been stolen, along with the keys to my apartment. I'd been up all night and my landlord let me in the next morning. I laid in bed that day in the grips of paralyzing fear and paranoia. I was positive someone was going to come into my apartment and kill me. While I knew on one hand that this was an irrational fear, I was certain it was true. I also knew I was being paranoid because I was high. So the self-hatred, fear, and paranoia snowballed and I decided to throw myself out the window of my apartment. I was hiding under the bedcovers figuring out how I would do it when my friend called (who I'd been using with the night before) and asked me if I wanted to go to an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting the next day. At that point, I only had to hang on one day, to get to a meeting. I spent most of the day praying.
Since I'd been to AA meetings before, while I was in rehab, I knew what I was getting into. But this time I was doing it for myself instead of someone else.
What was the hardest thing about getting help?
The hardest part was sitting in a room with a bunch of people and talking about how my life was out of control. Also, being honest with myself, coming clean about all the bad things I'd done when I was high, and saying goodbye to alcohol and drugs — those were the hardest parts. I loved getting high. I was worried I'd never feel that good again. I was worried that the person I was without drugs wasn't a person worth being.
I also have obsessive compulsive disorder. I think a lot of addicts have an underlying mental illness, which is why we self-medicate. I was scared a lot. I was living alone in a city 2,000 miles from my family. So I drank to escape my obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior, which were really exacerbated by my anxiety. Now I've learned healthier ways of dealing with it. Once I was sober for a while, I found a good therapist and got at the heart of my real problem. Because the problem, ultimately, isn't alcohol. It's me, my anxiety, fear, and self-doubt. Alcohol and drugs were just one (very destructive) way that I dealt with my underlying problem.
Seeing a therapist and opening myself up for critical self-examination was very difficult. But it was worth it.
What is the most rewarding thing about being sober?
There are so many rewarding things about being sober it's difficult to pick just one. For starters, I have a home and a family and I feel safe. This feeling of love and safety was something I craved immensely while using drugs and alcohol, and I couldn't ever figure out how to get it. I felt so alone and so scared. But I didn't understand that my drinking and drug use were creating this problem. I thought I was destined to be alone and unloved. I also have an ability to love and an ability to trust that I didn't have before. And people trust me. I feel like I have an idea of how to be a good friend, which I never had before. When I wake up in the morning, I don't have to worry about how I'm going to feed the beast inside me. I get to do what I want and live how I want. It's like being let out of a mental or emotional prison. I feel free.
In addition to becoming drug and alcohol free, you started to get healthy in other ways. Tell us about that.
After I got sober, a friend of mine was still using heroin. I remember talking to him on the phone while I walked home from work one day. I lived in Seattle at the time, and I was walking from Pike Place Market up to 15th Avenue on Capitol Hill, which is a walk that goes through a few neighborhoods and is uphill the whole way. I got off the phone with my friend and thought about how tragic it was that he was so addicted and couldn't see what it was doing to him. The entire walk I'd been huffing and puffing and not able to breathe because I was a smoker. When I got to 15th Avenue, the top of the hill, I walked into a grocery store and bought a pack of cigarettes. Right then it hit me that I was still addicted and I was killing myself, just like my friend on heroin. So I quit. It took me a month to feel normal again, because I nearly went insane from withdrawal, but I quit cold turkey. Shortly after that I started dating the man who would become my husband. He was very active and a runner, not like anyone I'd ever dated before. It was really exciting for me to be with someone who had such a commitment to being healthy. He encouraged me to start running and I thank him for that all the time. It was a wonderful gift. It has helped keep me sober. I think it's important that if you want to stay sober for any length of time and make a serious commitment to it, you need to replace it with something healthy. Especially something that has a community, like the running community, so you can connect with people who are trying to do what you are doing. It makes all the difference in the world.
How is your life different now than how you used to live?
I got sober 8 years ago. I was young and single and spent a lot of time trying not to be alone. I hated being alone with myself. I hung out in bars, spent time with people who didn't appreciate me, and didn't know how to say no. I had no self-respect. I didn't like myself at all.
Now I'm married, I have a child, and I love it when I get a moment to myself! I feel like I wasted a lot of my time when I was using. I didn't know how to enjoy life. Now I strive to enjoy every day; to get out and greet the day, and to exercise and eat good food, and experience my life completely. It's as if someone finally woke me up — and I wake up a little more each day.
As addicts, do you think women or girls have different triggers than men or boys?
Everyone wants to be a success. Everyone wants to be loved. Everyone wants to escape pain, to feel good, and to feel as though they are important in the world. I think alcohol and drugs address these human needs for a lot of people. And at first, it works. Eventually, though, it stops working. For some, like me, it happens quickly. For other people it takes much longer. The real trouble begins when you realize it's a problem and you can't stop. Then I think the idea of "triggers" comes into play. Because you're trying not to do the thing that's hurting you, hurting the ones you love. But then something makes you feel like a failure. Or you feel unloved. Or you experience pain. And you want to give alcohol and drugs another chance to make you feel better, even though you know it probably won't work, you want to try again. Maybe this time you'll get it right, drink or use just enough to feel good again. It never works. I think men and women are triggered by these same basic needs that sometimes express themselves differently.
What kind of advice would you give someone looking for a new start?
First, I would say you don't have to do it alone. That phrase is a cliché because it's true. There are organizations and support groups out there that are filled with people who would love to help you accomplish whatever it is you want to do for yourself. People who are just like you or were just like you at one time. The most important thing when you start any self-improvement endeavor, whether it's to get sober or just get healthy, is to find a group of people that will support you. Try not to do everything at once. Just start with one thing. Take it slowly. Keep a journal. Write a blog! Be honest with yourself and accountable to a few other people. Put one foot in front of the other and go forward no matter how slowly. It also doesn't hurt to pray.
What is your motivation to stay on this path?
There is a history of alcohol abuse in my family. And one of my major motivations is to stop this disease from progressing any further among future generations. Perhaps, if I can stay sober and bring the truth of addiction out into the open, it will change something. Maybe it will keep someone else in my family from going down the same road. Or maybe it will help someone who is currently struggling.
It's taken me a long time to really be open about myself as a recovering addict. But once I started writing my blog it really clicked for me that I'm struggling with this every day. Maybe just being open about the struggle will help another person.
I also have a son and husband now, too. And neither of them has ever seen me drink. I want to keep it that way.
Content last reviewed May 01, 2010
Page last updated May 01, 2010