Long-term brain damage caused by drugs may never heal, but emotional healing is another story. For those in rehab, emotional healing is achievable, but it takes time and patience. Even after putting an end to my methamphetamine abuse, I still struggled for years with the symptoms of PAWS (Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome): foggy memory, concentration troubles, blank thoughts, and empty stares. I felt broken. I felt like drugs stole my mind and memories from me. I was unable to think in a normal capacity. I am 3 years sober now, and my brain is finally showing signs of recovery, but I still struggle with self-doubt and confusion. I’ve done a lot of inner work, and through self-reflection, I’ve realized that drugs are not completely to blame for my after-effects, and I am not completely to blame for my drug abuse. While these realizations took years to reach, I still have a long way to go as I unpack the trauma that led me to drug abuse in the first place. Sobriety has given me the opportunity to focus on healing my past trauma, the very same that pushed me to rock bottom and encouraged the use of methamphetamines.
With the mental clarity that I’ve achieved through sobriety, I’ve realized that my issues came long before I even picked up a drug. It’s hard to be kind to myself after the years of struggling, and I certainly feel guilty, but the recovery process has helped me realize that healing, forgiveness, and redemption are all possible. It’s a process. I still struggle with the unhealthy coping mechanisms that helped me survive abuse and hardship throughout my childhood and adolescence, and while I’ve come a long way already, I still have so far to go. The first step I took towards my own recovery came through learning to identify the unhealthy thoughts and behaviors that I used to avoid conflict. Addicts are strong and resilient folks, and I know that I am, too, and that statement itself is a testament to the growth and healing that I have been able to achieve through rehabilitation programs.
It took me time to realize, but my drug abuse was a result of trauma caused by my cultural upbringing as a 1st generation Chinese man. My family is plagued with intergenerational trauma; pain and suffering that has been passed down for decades through my grandmother and mother. Growing up, I faced frequent abuse and conflict, which led to doubt and self-loathing. Trauma has a way of rewriting your brain into doubting your own realities and self-worth. For years I struggled with feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, which ultimately sent me down a path of addiction. I felt like I was expendable. Disposable. A waste of a person. I needed an escape from my own reality and that role was played by methamphetamines.
My own mother kicked me out of our home on Christmas Day and I was homeless with nowhere to go. I couch-surfed for a while but soon outstayed my welcome, even with fellow abusers and users. I crashed my car, survived, fixed it up, sold it, and was assaulted when I tried to buy another. I found temporary sanctuary with squatters in abandoned homes, but even then I was pushed away and kicked out into the cold. The cycle of exclusion continued, which only reinforced my thoughts of being unwanted and disposable.
Eventually, I made my way back to Oregon from Las Vegas and enrolled myself in the same treatment program I was in before. What changed this time? I had hit rock bottom. My family wanted nothing to do with me. I had no possessions, no money, and little clothing left. I was ready to change my life for the better. The 12-step treatment program helped me turn my life around and change my behaviors once and for all. I finally found hope and I am grateful for the new lease on life that rehab has given me. I now live a life that I never thought I would be lucky enough to have. I am a survivor.
It’s difficult to be open about my abuse, trauma, and drug use, but I’ve come to terms with it enough to share my story. I don’t want others to feel as alone as I did for all those years. Remember, you are not alone. You are loved. You are not a waste. Methamphetamine addictions can destroy lives, and I hope this helps those suffering with addictions to know that they are not alone and recovery from drug abuse is possible. Hang in there and stay strong. End the cycle.