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I was molested at the age of five by a carer’s teenage son. From that moment on, some of my emotional development stopped and a void opened up in my heart. I spent most of my life trying to fill that space trying to achieve some kind of perfectionism, which for several years manifested itself in eating disorders. Then I discovered opiate pain relievers after they were prescribed after surgery for a labral tear in the right hip. From the first time I took them, my first thought was “THIS is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life”. It was perfect. I found perfection in a feeling.

Opiates gave me euphoria and energy. They helped me move on with my life. I could do everything; be the perfect mother, the perfect wife, the perfect cook with a perfect home. But it was horrible because after a few months they stopped working and I had to take more and more just to feel normal.

Dana Knowles pictured with her husband and three children.

Eventually, an even worse cycle began. To avoid the terrible opiate withdrawal symptoms (hot/cold sweats, nausea, flu symptoms, body aches, insomnia, paranoia, stomach ache, diarrhea, and leg cramps), I would drink alcohol. It didn’t take me long to discover that alcohol could numb all of these symptoms. If my children had nowhere to be after 5pm; I would start drinking in the evening when I ran out of opiates. That pendulum cycle went back and forth for almost a year. I could stop all substances for a few days, but the opiate withdrawal would be so severe that I would go back to drinking.

After three months of treatment, I learned to deal with my trauma and process the things that trigger me. But I knew I had to find a way to maintain my sobriety and live my life. I discovered that there is no single way to recover from addiction. There are many solutions. I found mine in a practice called transcendental meditation. It’s my main form of self-care. It allows me to release stress and decompress my nervous system every day so that I can adapt to the demands and changes of life.

I also no longer use the words “self-improvement”; instead, I use the word “evolution.” “Improvement” implies that this is all a linear process and it is not. It took me three times in rehab to finally “get” sobriety. What I realized is that it has nothing to do with staying sober. It has to do with getting my mind right because I no longer need drugs and alcohol to cope with life.

Now I put myself first, even before my three children, because if I’m not healthy, I can’t take care of them. Now I laugh louder. i love myself more i listen better I rest more. I no longer try to have it all, do it all, or be it all. It’s just me and whether it’s too much or not enough for people is up to them.

Since coming out of treatment in 2016, I’ve had 20 friends die of overdose after relapse and two commit suicide. I often ask myself, “Why not me?” Part of the reason I’m no longer anonymous is because of them. I want my friends who have passed to know wherever they are that I speak for them To me, their deaths are not in vain. I know they tried.

Another reason I’m no longer anonymous is because I want all introverts, dreamers, sensitives, people with depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, or any other mental health issue to hear and see me, so they can hear and see . themselves and not be afraid to ask for help.

Dana Knowles is a multimedia reporter at Rocky Mountain PBS and can be reached at danaknowles@rmpbs.org.

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Source: Rocky Mountain PBS reporter shares her story of addiction and recovery

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