My name is Renee and the title of my story is H.O.P.E. To me H.O.P.E means Hold On Pain Ends. My childhood memories are a bit sporadic and not very pleasant. My parents did drugs openly in front of me and my father was very abusive. I don’t believe I have any cherished childhood memories, at least none that I can recall.

My parents were divorced when I was 4 years old and from the ages of 4 to 8 it was just my mom and me. I was her sidekick going everywhere she went, to parties, bars, concerts. There were always lots of drugs. As I got older I began realizing there was something different about the way we lived. “What goes on here stays here” was the golden rule.

When I was 8 years old my mom got remarried and had my little brother. It was at this point I was pushed aside and not paid much attention to. I was left alone a lot. Sometimes not hearing or seeing from anybody for days. I would call my dad just hoping he would pick up the phone but he never did, or he was just too busy. Nobody seemed to want me.

When I was 12 years old I had to go live with my dad because my mom was getting a divorce. My dad was very abusive towards me physically, emotionally and sexually. I could never do anything right. “You’re just like your mother, you will never amount to anything, you’re fat, you’re stupid”. Those words resonated so deeply within me I can still hear them.

I hated myself and began to withdraw from the world. I became so depressed I would lay in bed and cry myself to sleep. I just couldn’t understand why nobody wanted me, why nobody loved me. It got to the point where I didn’t want to live anymore. I swallowed a bottle of tranquilizers and a bottle of muscle relaxers only to wake up on a hospital gurney believing I really was a failure, I couldn’t even kill myself.

After that I began searching for something to give me hope. I started drinking alcohol, smoking pot, snorting cocaine and sneaking out to be with boys. I remember one particular morning I had just snuck back into the house and received a call from my mom. She asked me to come help her unpack and set up her new apartment. I declined and told her I was too tired. An hour later she was tapping me on the shoulder handing me a straw. I looked over at a little line she had laid out on my desk. Thinking it was cocaine, I laughed and told her “That little line was not going to wake me up”. I stood up and snorted the line. The second that line hit the inside of my nose my knees hit the floor. It burnt so bad, it felt like my head was on fire. Tears were pouring out of my eyes. I looked up at her “What was that!?” I screamed. I will never forget that smile as she said “Just wait, you’ll see”. Within minutes I was wired for sound. Everything became vibrant and alive. I felt a euphoria I had never felt. I could take the whole world on and at the very moment I knew I had found my true love. I was 13 years old and had just snorted my first line of crystal meth.

Five years into my love affair I was a complete mess. I weighed 82 lbs., I hated life, and I hated the world and was left feeling more empty and hopeless than I had ever felt. I knew I had to quit so I began yet another quest for hope.

I did get off the meth, got married, had my first child, but was always searching for something to bring me up. I took prescribed diet pills, Ritalin, any kind of stimulant, legally prescribed of course.

It wasn’t long after I got married that I had discovered I married my dad, well a man just like my dad. He was an alcoholic and very abusive. From the outside looking in you would never have guessed the horror that was going on inside. We had a nice home, nice cars and money in the account. I decided that I was not going to endure this pain for the rest of my life. I began nursing school thinking that would be my ticket out. I could be independent and support my three kids, but the closer I got to graduating the more abusive my husband became. I remember one particularly brutal evening him standing over me kicking me. “If it’s the last thing I do I will make sure you never graduate!” he screamed at me.  I dropped out with having only 4 classes left to get my bachelor’s degree in Nursing.

Feeling more despair than ever I began numbing myself with a buffet of diet pill and cocaine. In 2012 I ran back into my true love Crystal Meth. This time I was not only using it, I was manufacturing it.

It didn’t take long before I began accumulating a lot of charges in several counties. When it was all said and done the State of Georgia was wanting me to serve a 10 year prison sentence. It was only by the grace of God I was able to enter into Shane’s Crib, a Woman’s Discipleship/Recovery Center. Going through that program was the hardest thing I had ever done. I walked in broken and hopeless. Everything I knew how to do or be was wrong. I was disobedient, I lied, I manipulated and stayed in trouble throughout the whole program. I needed to be reprogrammed. I was in need of some serious pruning. I can stand here today and say I am thankful for what I went through. It was there where God did a miracle in my life.

I am now a person in long term recovery. What that means to me is that I have not used crystal meth in 8 years 1 month. Being in long term recovery has afforded me the opportunity to create a life I once could only dream about. I can set goals and actually achieve them now.  I am a good mother who is present physically, mentally and emotionally. I can provide words of wisdom to my 32 year old daughter who wanted nothing more for most of her life. Sometimes even unsolicited words of wisdom. I am able to support and encourage my 29 year old son who after taking a detour in life and was following my destructive ways, is now an answered prayer and recovery himself. I was given another chance to be a mother to my youngest son and provide him with a healthy mom and environment instead of him having to raise himself. He has joined the Army and I am so proud of him. I am a fantastic Nana who gets to help create “cherished” memories with her grandchildren. I am the Program Coordinator for the Wayne County Recovery Coalition and a Certified Peer Specialist-AD (CARES). I am currently completing the work experience hours needed to become a Certified Addiction Counselor.

My goal today is to support, educate and advocate for those who desire recovery. I may not be able to change the world but I can help change the world of one person. I have been able to be a part of creating a new Recovery Community Organization in Wayne County. Recovery happens in communities and I want to make sure we have a community to support people who want recovery.

If I can leave you with three things from my story today it would be:

  1. Children are great imitators so give them examples of something worth imitating.
  2. Recovery is never a box that’s checked. It’s ongoing, there are multiple pathways and it can be a lot of fun (especially if your community is supporting you in it!).
  3. Recovery is no longer the exception, it’s the expectation. So live your recovery out loud!

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