Don’t Worry, You’re Still Learning

Our minds are beautifully vast and limitless, filled with years of memories and collections of information. We, as human beings, were created to learn and to adapt. We were destined to know things. From the second we entered this world as screaming, crying babies, we learned how to eat. We learned who our mothers were, who was going to take care of us. We got older and we learned how to walk, speak, listen, read, write, count, etc. The list could go on and on about all of the various knowledge that we gain in a lifetime, but the basis always stays the same. We are creatures who thrive on experiences and we are evolving and learning every single day.

I, myself, am only twenty one years old. But I look back to when I was eighteen, only three years ago, and I am blown away by how different I was. In those three years, I learned how to really be an adult, how to be responsible as a sober person. Through painful experiences, I grew to stand up for myself, take care of my daughter, keep a job, take care of an apartment, and create a budget. I learned that the absolute best things in life don’t come easy. I came to understand that some things just can’t be changed. I realized why I should never settle for the things that don’t make me happy and I learned how to let go of the things that were holding me back.

And I am still learning, like everyone else. We are always learning. I will continue to make mistakes. I will continue to fall and I will continue to learn how to get back up again. And so will you. It doesn’t matter how old you are, whether you’re 15 or 102 years old. We are all still learning. Our experiences and the things that we learn throughout our lives are what make us who we are, and they shape us into who we’re becoming.

Do It Because You Have To

I remember that night so vividly. I hope that I never forget it, because forgetting means losing sight of where I’ve been & how far I’ve come. I was on my way to a year long rehab & I was terrified. My bags were packed neatly beside me, my little girl in the backseat, my mother driving. I remember the way my hands shook when I got out of the car, the cold winter air hitting my cheeks. I remember the sound of the snow underneath my boots & the way my daughter’s hand felt clamped tightly to mine as I approached the back door. The old brick building loomed over me. I wanted to go home. I can still hear my mother’s voice behind me, her lips breathing out words of freedom and “becoming a new me.”

The people there greeted me with smiles of hope & encouragement, the director of the program ushering us in as she introduced herself. I took a seat in her office & closed my eyes. I didn’t want to be there. I looked down at my little girl, mustering up the energy to smile at her. Her face was twisted into an uneasy stare. “I’ve let her down too many times, I need to do this for her. If not for me, then for her. I can’t be scared.” I told myself this over & over again until my lips stopped quivering.

After I had been checked in & every inch of my belongings had been searched, I was shown the room that I was supposed to be staying in. A staff member introduced me to the other women who were going to be in the program with me. Every part of my innermost being urged me to run away, but I had been running away for far too long. It needed to stop.

I was told to say my goodbyes to my daughter, that I was not going to see her for another two weeks. My knees began to buckle as I knelt down to her level. Nothing could have prepared me for the pain that came when the word goodbye left my lips. Nothing could have prepared me for the way her little face looked after she realized I was leaving again. But I had to do this. I had to stay at this place for a year & I had to stay sober. This was my last chance & it terrified the hell out of me. Her cries echoed behind me as I walked away. I walked away because if I didn’t, I would not have stayed.

Now I sit here typing this, almost three years later. I have my own apartment with a man that loves me unconditionally, has loved me despite all of my faults and wrongdoings, & his little boy. My daughter is sleeping peacefully in the next room & you have no idea how grateful I am. I got her back. I got my life back. That program that I dreaded, the one that I wanted nothing to do with, gave me a solid foundation on which I am now building my life. The people at the program that surrounded me on daily basis showed me God’s love in countless numbers of ways. Every single one of them were a blessing that changed my world forever.

I don’t ever regret going. Not anymore. It was painfully difficult. There were moments when I found my strength fading away. In the beginning of my recovery, I spent periods of time locked in a bathroom sobbing, scribbling my daughter’s name over & over again in a notebook. The dread & regret from all of the things I’ve done to her & my family came rushing into my body on days like that. And then the withdrawal set in. But I sat there & I took it. I let it flood in & drown me until I could no longer catch my breath. I would bite my lip and count down the days I had left until I would be with her fully, tears rolling down my cheeks.

Why did I do it? Because I had to. Because it was the only option left. I had burned all of my bridges and I was alone. I was alone & I was addicted to heroin & I didn’t want to be that person anymore. I was on the verge of losing my precious baby girl. I had caused too many people unbearable amounts of pain & I don’t think that they could have taken anymore of it.

The point of all of this is that you do the things that hurt you most because you have to. You do them for the people that you love. You suck it up & you walk through the darkness & the journey ends up changing you forever. But only if you let it.

Find Your Strength

My heart is well worn and well oiled, soaked in years of suffering, trauma & struggle. It has become overgrown; my love, passions & cravings spreading throughout my chest like 100 year old vines on an old Victorian mansion. It’s a forest of truth dying to get out, branches reaching up through my throat and pulling at my lips, begging me to say something that helps people.

But there are times, though, where fear burns like wildfires inside of my stomach. It wells up inside of my machine heart and stops the words from coming. It stops me, sometimes, from speaking the truth that people around me need to hear. And I know they need to hear it, because I was there at one point, inside a darkness that was seemingly never ending. But I can’t let the aching fear inside of me stop me from helping those that need it.

So I have found a strength. It has been etched deep inside of me for years, an unknown strength that I never imagined I could have. I summoned it up out of me like demons at an exorcism. And the best part about all of this is that you have this same strength inside of you, too. 

Who knew that our hearts, as intricately as they were made, could hold such deep feelings, deep purpose, and unimaginable hope? There are places inside of your soul that are just waiting to be discovered, strengths and possibilities that are dying to be unleashed. So what are you waiting for?

Unleash them.

Call me Crazy

I’m not really good at handling some emotions. I’m actually not entirely sure that a lot of us are. We, as individual human beings, are like a mixture of feelings and memories and tragedies and bones and organs and it’s just…it baffles me sometimes; how our layers of skin (despite how many we actually have, I believe we have like three of them) can hold it all in. It’s as if, perhaps metaphorically, we tighten and expand, we change and we adapt. And then, if people bottle all the things they are thinking and feeling up like I certainly do, we start to crack at the edges. And all of those feelings and memories and tragedies start to break through the surface until we feel lost. We don’t know what to do anymore, with all of it, and it terrifies us. So then we start to take these things out on other people, people that we love, people that are the closest to us, these other jumbles of skin and bones and organs and memories and tragedies and feelings. We take it out on them and then we feel regret. Am I wrong or alone on this?

Do I sound absolutely and completely nutso? I probably do.

But these are the things that go on inside of my mind, and I am trying to make some sense out of it all. My thoughts go on and on and on; they don’t stop, ever. Even when I’m dreaming, I’m dreaming about something I thought about during the day and then when I am awake, I’m thinking of what I dreamt about and the cycle continues.

I guess I no longer want to feel like I am alone. Because life is hard. I give out advice, and then I never take it. And in my opinion, the advice I give out is pretty damn good. I’m extraordinary at looking at other peoples’ lives and helping them out the best way that I can, but when I look into the mirror (especially late at night when my thoughts are keeping me awake) I can’t just say, “Nicole, go live your life. Smile and be happy. Let it go.” I guess it’s easier said than done.

But it is late, actually early because it is one in the morning, and I am trying to cope with the things rambling around in my mind, and I wanted to get it all out. So here, there it is.

Call me crazy if you want.

Person, Unknown.

Sometimes, when I find myself in places throughout this city where I used to stick needles into my arms, I start to get some extreme anxiety (as you can probably already imagine). All of the blood inside my body seems to rush to my head, my skin gets a really ugly shade of white, and my stomach starts to lurch. Not only that, but I feel as if someone is putting their big ugly hands around my throat and squeezing as hard as they possibly can. That’s what anxiety feels like to me, anyways. A more theatrical version of it though, I guess. It’s horrible.

Anyways, I was driving down this road and all of the buildings that were scattered beside it brought back memories of a life that I wish I could just forget. Vivid and horrible things that I had done started to rush like waves of guilt into my brain and I was completely consumed by it. It terrified me. Those big ugly hands started to squeeze tighter and tighter until I felt like I couldn’t breathe at all. I pulled my beige 2003 Saturn over to the side of the road, looked into the overhead mirror and kept telling myself what I always tell myself when it gets that bad. “If you can talk, you can breathe.” And then, of course, I started babbling out random things just to make sure I could talk and, to the people that were walking past my car, I probably looked like a crazed schizophrenic. But it helps me, so I really didn’t care. I took a breath of air into my lungs tried to get a hold of whatever peace I had left inside of me.

I finally calmed down.

I’m not entirely sure if I have PTSD or whatever other form of it there is. But I do know one thing. The girl in these memories or flashbacks or whatever I am having on these horrible but often occasions, regardless of whether I know that she is indeed me or not, doesn’t feel like me anymore. She feels like a completely different person. Like some other girl that looks like me and talks like me is stuffing her horrible recollections into my brain when I’m sleeping or something.

And I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.


Listen to Me & Take Heart

Life is hard, no one ever said that it was going to be easy. There are things that happen to us as human beings that can be difficult to bear. People that we love pass away unexpectedly, plans change in the blink of an eye, money continues to breed corruption, and we are sometimes forced to make unpleasant decisions that we never thought we would have to make. We lose track of time and our sight of what’s truly important gets blinded by the things that aren’t. We are all humans, living side by side on a planet that is so far from perfect. That’s what makes strength so beautiful; we can rise above it all. We can plaster a smile on our face and make the choice to be happy despite all of the darkness. We can find our own individual peace within all of the unrest and violence in this world. Rest in the fact that you are an imperfect creature, but that it’s all going to be okay.

Three years ago, I never thought hope was possible. I never thought I could change and I never saw the possibility and opportunity that was staring me right in the face. I looked into the mirror and saw a woman full of broken dreams; I had scars so deep, the pain that resulted from them sometimes rendered me emotionally paralyzed. I saw a woman that walked around absent of feeling. Her eyes were red and lifeless, her arms were full of needle marks, and her soul was full of despair. This woman was completely alone and her life seemed to have become meaningless.

Listen to me. You are never hopeless, you are never alone, and your life is the farthest thing from meaningless. You are a person, as broken as you are, and you matter. Every star and comet knows your name and there are parts of this world that are craving your footprints. You were put on this earth for a purpose, no matter how ridiculous that sounds. If you are ever struggling with something, there are people out there able to help you. When you feel absent of light, when you feel like you are on the edge and you’re about to fall, there will be someone there willing to catch you. Don’t lose heart.

Everything is going to be okay.