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STORIES OF HOPE

STORIES OF HOPE

Read our testimonies. Gain encouragement.

My name is Kristin Varner I am a woman in long term recovery since September 2, 2005.  My story begins very similar to other stories you may have heard.  I grew up in New Cumberland to a very good Middle-Class Family.  My parents have been married for almost 40 years and I have one sister and one brother.  I was given everything I ever needed.  I went to Trinity High School and played soccer there on a competitive level.    The one thing that was missing from my childhood was an ongoing conversation about the dangers of drugs and alcohol for someone like me.  I say “like me” because I was most likely genetically primed for addiction since birth.  Alcoholism and drug addiction run deep in my family.  My great grandfather lost his arm and leg because he passed out drunk on train track and was ran over by a train.  An uncle from the other side of my family died from alcoholism in his sleep in his early 30’s but it was blamed diabetes.  I could go on and on but I’m sure you get the picture.  When I tried alcohol for the first time, at the age of 15, it was like a switch had been turned on that I did not know how to turn off.  I loved the feeling that I was receiving and all I wanted was more.  I didn’t turn into a daily user at first, but it wasn’t long until I deep into a full-blown addiction and had no ability to stop using.  I managed to graduate Shippensburg University in 2001 by the age of 21. I graduated with a degree and a daily drinking habit which included blacking out on consistent basis.  After I graduated, I was introduced to other drugs, particularly my drug of choice, which is cocaine.  It doesn’t really matter what drug I listed as my drug of choice though, I was just trying to numb the sadness and depression I felt.  The more I used, the more depressed I got.  I felt hopeless and thought my life was a complete mess.  I remember asking myself “how did I get here”.  Family and friends would tell me to stop and ask me when I was going to get my life together.   I started experiencing moments of homelessness and unemployment.  I would need to move in to my parents’ house on and off for a few years.  I had no savings, I had wrecked my car multiple times, I had stopped taking care of myself, I ruined relationships with loved ones and was tens of thousands of dollars in debt.  I tried rehabs, outpatients, medication etc.   I was convinced nothing worked.  In September 2005, I was approaching the age of 27 and my parents had enough of me.  They kicked me out for good but also provided me with a resource; treatment.  I ended up in treatment, again, convinced it wasn’t going to work.    

 

Something beyond me happened.  In the past, I had used the same thinking I used when I got into treatment, to get out of treatment.  I learned how to start following direction, and to do everything suggested to me (not just what I wanted to do).  I went to a halfway house and spent a total of 6 month in treatment.  I was exposed to 12 step fellowships and got a sponsor.  By the time I had 9 months in recovery, I found out I was pregnant.  I had a strong enough foundation in recovery that I knew that my baby and I were going to be Ok.  I was engaged to her father by the time my baby was 6months old and we had another child 18 months later.  Through the process of recovery, I was able to buy a house, become employed at The RASE Project, raise two children and improve my relationships with those I love.  I thought that being in recovery meant that I would never have problems again.  I was wrong.  While my kids were both under the age of 5, their father relapsed. It was one of the scariest times of my life, wondering how I would survive.  My instinct wasn’t to use a drug, instead it was to become even more involved in my own personal recovery.  I raised those two kids for 6 years as a single mother.  Looking back on those times, I realized that I became the woman I was always meant to be.  I relied on the grace of my Higher Power, my family and the support system I had built in the 12-step fellowship.   I’ve been employed with the RASE Project since 2007 and through my job, I get to connect with other recovering individuals on a daily basis.    I remarried a few years ago and have another child.  Our beautiful family is what I live for.  Life is good today.  If I would have received everything I asked for in recovery and my addiction, I’m not sure where I would be.  Instead, I received everything I needed, and my life is beautiful

Kristin Varner

I became pregnant with my 5th child and was still doing dope at 4 months pregnant. I was also homeless..refused to go to a shelter, so I was actually living on the streets. I dont believe in abortion, but my addiction led me to schedule an appointment for an abortion....2 days before my scheduled appointment, I woke up with a different mindset and thought to myself WHAT IN THE HELL AM I DOING?? I canceled my appointment and thankfully delivered a beautiful baby boy with no complications.My oldest two children's father/husband had just been recently murdered

During my addiction, I chose dope over all my children up until the day I said ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. On my own and by my choice, I went to rehab and moved to Greensboro where it was located. Best decision I ever made. Now I have been clean for 1.5 years. I have all 5 of my children in my life and I couldnt even fathom ever going back to that lifestyle. Do I have cravings? Of course single day. But I'm strong enough to not let it control me. I hope by sharing this, it can give maybe just one person some hope ❤

Tabatha Caskay

I was a good kid that had a wonderful family. I was outgoing and fun spirited. I had my first drink when I was about 16 and began to binge drink. From this point until 19 the only substances I had used was weed occasionally and alcohol. At 19 I began doing cocaine here and there. And honestly after that I was on a whole new kick of being experimental. I was in college and wanted to indulge in all the freedoms.Well at 21, I snorted what I thought to be coke and was China white heroin. After that first time I could not think of anything else for 2 weeks. I began my mission to find heroin and secretly use it to feel free. What my brain wasn't allowing me to think was I was entering hell for the next 9 years. I failed out of school 3 times. I isolated myself. I prostitued...I stole...I lied. I missed family members funerals. I lost relationships. Physically lost friends and almost my ex husband. I stole from cancer patients their medicine. I was homeless and broken. I went from a good quality daughter friend and lover to a lost misguided child with no morals or values.I watched my ex husband od in front of me and all I could think was, can this be over so I could use.That is who I was.A shell of a human. I signed myself into treatment when I was 29 because I didn't know when the last time I truly smiled. I was broken. I have been clean ever since which is now over 5 years. I would never want to go back there because the emptiness was all consuming. it has been work to get here but I wouldnt trade all my bad days now for 1 of those days. The sickness and depression were real but my thoughts were not. Don't be tricked into thinking you're not worth it. you are! always. You're fucking beautiful and you deserve to have a life that gives you that! 
 

Stephania Stockley

I came into this world a warm, affectionate child who loved everyone he came in contact with and who got so much joy from just being around people. I know this because my sister, who is 10 years older than me told me not that long ago that she loved her little brother so much because when she came home to visit I was the only one who showed her any love or affection. I did not stay that way long though. My father was abusive. The physical abuse was one thing but I was a sensitive kid and it was the verbal abuse that hurt me the most. And what still affects me to this day. And my mom was so cold and emotionless. She would turn away when I tried to hug or kiss her. She would also punish me by having me sit in a chair all day waiting for my dad to get home to beat me.

Over the years I changed a great deal. I became more and more withdrawn, less outgoing, less affectionate and loving. By the time I was in high school I would spend all my time hiding in my room, becoming more and more isolated. When I turned 17 I moved away to college and never went back.

I never really stopped isolating however. And I certainly never learned how to socialize or open up to anyone. I suffered greatly from depression, social anxiety and low self esteem. Even when I got married and had kids. What happened then I think was an inevitable coincidence. I had a significant injury that required surgery. And my depression was at an all time high. So when I was given narcotics to treat my physical pain I ended up unknowingly treating my depression. I didn’t want to feel anymore and the drugs made me numb. That lead to a solid decade of numbing my feelings with whatever I could to just have a moments peace where I couldn’t feel the depression, and mental anguish that comes with totally hating and being disgusted with yourself. I tried to kill myself three times over those years. The desire to kill myself never really went away. I lost my family, my home, many jobs and cars. Every relationship. I can remember walking around town on busy streets and realizing I had been muttering please hit me to every car I heard behind me. And I had been doing it for miles. I was an empty shell of a human being. Then I found a 12 step program that worked for me. I didn’t know it then but that started me on a journey that began to totally rebuild me and return me to sanity. I suddenly had men in my life that cared about me and set an example I never had before. They taught me how to truly live. I remember the moment I met my first sponsor and how he saved my life every day for a year. My program is beautiful, life changing, and simple program. One that has begun the process of bringing the loving, affectionate, little boy back out of that broken husk of a man. A program that has taught me how to live, how to be a man, how to start to like myself. And it has showed me, proven to me that the simplest of jestures and just a few honest, heartfelt words can be the only thing that keeps an addict, at his darkest hour, from picking up that drug. I never knew when that message or moment was coming for me, but I sure knew when it did. Today, I am a proud of my recovery. A recovering addict. I not only no longer want to die, but for the first time in my life I truly want to live.

Frank Tillinghast

I'm a blackout binge drinker. Always have been since I took my first drink when I was 18. I had no major identifiable traumas to speak of or bad quality of life growing up. Why was I continuing to live a life of suffering and endangering myself and others on a daily basis? There seemed to be no clear reason. I was arrested once for a DUI, which happened when I was 22. I brushed it off as a mistake and remained blind to my problem. I am very lucky to have not gotten caught a second time and very grateful I never caused any bodily harm to others in the 12 years I was drunk. There were many times both things could have easily happened - and my story would have included having gone to prison. I'm so so grateful and shocked that I did not have that experience, and feel a lot of compassion for those who have because it easily could have been me.

My friends began dying in 2008. One of my best friends passed away from a heroin overdose in 2012 - even before she passed I began desperately trying to understand the hold that particular substance has on all these intelligent, beautiful souls I know and love. When a friend of mine passed in 2015 of alcoholism/depression it took a year or so, but I finally came to terms with my own problems with addiction/alcohol abuse issues.

Through therapy and finding a recovery program I identify with and speaks to me in a way I find relatable I have been able to identify the reasons for my continuous addictive behaviors. (A major one is that I had undiagnosed ADHD and self-medicated with alcohol. I feel ADHD is a widely misunderstood brain chemistry and I'm curious the statistics on how many addicts have that type of brain.)

I don't know if anyone can ever fully understand why so many of us deal with these addictions that can lead us to such dark places, but understanding my own struggles has helped me wrapped my head around the very real struggle it is for so many.

September 19th, 2016 is my sobriety date. It really is one day at a time and each day can bring a lot of hope if I take it in small increments. I'm very grateful for each day. Recovery is possible!

Nikki Freeman

recovery is possible!