Story of Hope
By Erica Hernly
It was a cold, blustery day in December when I heard sirens blasting. Red and blue lights were flashing in my rearview mirror. I knew I was in serious trouble, and panic began to overwhelm me. I had been in jail before, for minor violations of probation. I went to jail again that night. Breaking the law finally caught up to me and my future was about to have some serious changes. What was my life coming to?
Addiction had captured my mind and my whole life. I had always felt different growing up, I continuously blamed myself for the events that affected the way I lived. Jumping from place to place, between parents and friends, my world was twisted. I turned to drugs and alcohol to be my best friend, to always make me feel better. I felt numb to the world and most of all to myself. I was in a fantasy of lies and I was swimming in my own self-doubt. Everything was about me and no one else had any impact on me.
While I was in the jail I had an abundance of time to think. I swore to myself that when I got out of there I was going to do something different, I was going to change. Shame and disgrace contaminated the thoughts rolling around in my head. When I was released a few days later, I went right back to what I knew. It was all I had known for the last six years, and it was comfortable. Nothing had changed except that I had even more legal trouble than before. The depressing part was that I had become somewhat accustomed to dealing with lawyers, courthouses and probations officers.
I continued down a path of destruction until I came in contact with the judge dealing with my case. “You must be in treatment by January first or you will be going to jail for 30 days” he informed me “and after those 30 days you will more than likely be sentenced to yet more jail time.”
“Yes sir, I understand,” I said to him in the most confident voice I could at that moment. I had a choice, and I had to make that choice within two weeks or it would be made for me. What the hell am I going to do? I thought to myself, I know this life is not worth living in jail, but I don’t know how to stop.
While I continued to use on a daily basis, I battled within myself. I was fighting with the devil and seemed to be on the losing side. I had to make a choice, I wanted the best for myself and the rest of my life, yet the drugs whispered something different. Drugs told me they would continuously be there for me, and that they would take away all my pain. How could I have gotten in so deep? Thoughts swirled around inside my fog-filled head. I’m plunging down a black hole toward that illusion of love I think I’ve found. My relationship with drugs had begun long before I grasped the idea of addiction.
I struggled for the next couple of weeks and then one day I made the decision to call and schedule an appointment to enter treatment. My nerves were flying high above my thoughts and confusion. I was a lost bird flying in the right direction, yet looking back at what I was leaving behind wondering if I was making the right decision. I had lied my way into treatment that day over the phone, yet I had no shame for doing it. It didn’t matter what the staff said I was required to do beforehand, I needed to be there. My life depended on it!
* * *
The day to enter treatment at Our Hope Association came…I woke up late and wanted to say forget it. The woman taking me to treatment was not going to let that happen. The door creaked open downstairs, then came a barreling scream. “Are you up Erica?”
“I’m coming” I yelled back to her. I really don’t want to get up. Maybe I don’t need this as much as I thought I did. My addiction was speaking to me, trying to change my mind. I jolted out of bed. I’m going and that’s the end of that! I grabbed the bags I already had packed and chucked them down the hallway. I rushed back to gather the rest of my belongings. What if I don’t like this place? What if the people there are crazy? What am I going to do? Thoughts pranced around in my head as I walked out the door into the cold, pure white snow that covered the ground. Here I go.
The ride there seemed as slow as molasses, although it only took ten minutes. We pulled up in front of the house. To me, Our Hope looked more like a vacation house than a rehab. Maybe this will be fun after all. Checking into the treatment center was surreal. I’m really doing this, three months of my life is signed away. It was time for this little girl to grow up.
I stuck it out through those three months and graduated from treatment at the end of March. I didn’t end up going to jail because I made an amazing decision to go to a women’s rehab. I met so many extraordinary women, and had some life changing experiences. I learned that my life is too short to throw it away using drugs and alcohol. The euphoria I got from the drugs could be achieved just by doing the right thing on a daily basis. For the first time in my life, I was able to deal with my feelings and talk about my problems. I felt unstoppable, like I could conquer the world.
Today I have meaningful relationships with family and close friends. I have developed a sense of who I am, what I like, and how to love inside myself. It has been over 4 ½ years since I was in treatment at Our Hope. The thought of how far I’ve come in that short period of time is overwhelmingly the most amazing feeling I’ve experienced thus far in my life. My whole outlook on life has changed. I’m in college studying criminal justice and back at Our Hope as an employee.
Life can be a whirlwind of events that can happen in the blink of an eye. Having fun can turn into life lessons very quickly. My life means more to me today than it did in the past. Addiction is a serious disease that a majority of the world just does not understand. Experiencing it is equivalent to living a double life. I don’t have to live my life like that today because I can be free from the chains of addiction. It took a definite scare in jail for me to do something different, but I made a choice one day that changed my life.
If you or a woman you love is struggling with addiction, reach out to Our Hope at (616)451-2039 or online at www.ourhopeassociation.org and get the help you need to begin taking healthy steps toward a life of sobriety.