I had the pleasure to sit and chat with Adrianna, a graduate of Saint John’s Program for Real Change, and soon came to realize that she is an incredible example of how to overcome adversity through perseverance and faith.
My first thought, upon hearing her story, was that it would have been easy for Adrianna to give up. A full-blown addict by 17, she has since lived through four stints at rehab, homelessness, a Stage 3 cancer diagnosis, and losing custody of her children, but she did not lose faith. Adrianna told me that with the help of Saint John’s and her faith, she has created a life that is far better than anything she could have ever imagined.
A Struggle With Substance Use Disorder
Like so many who struggle with the disease of addiction, for as long as she can remember, Adrianna never felt like she was good enough. Even though she seemed to have it all on the outside – smart, ambitious, athletic, and a natural leader – she says that she still always felt different. “Addiction is about self-loathing,” she says. “We feel like we aren’t free to be our true selves, so we numb our feelings with drugs and alcohol.”
Like a tornado that sweeps through an unsuspecting town, leaving nothing but destruction in its wake, addiction eventually levels anything and everything in its path. The tallest buildings, the brightest lights, the most promising of beginnings – nothing can withstand its dark, ravaging power.
Unfortunately, Adrianna was no exception. Adrianna started smoking pot at 12 years old, which quickly progressed to crack, and then meth. For most of her adult life, she struggled with the disconnect between her outward persona and her inner demons.
“Addiction’s ultimate goal is to take you out,” she stated matter-of-factly. After high school, she became addicted to alcohol, as well as drugs, and while she managed to get clean a few times, she was never able to stay sober for long. Even having kids (now aged 20, 18 and 5) didn’t slow the progress of her addiction. She would use, stop at some point during her pregnancy, and then pick up again shortly after giving birth. At her lowest, she stopped caring about anything other than getting drunk or high.
The person who was once so concerned with how the world perceived her was now reduced to a cautionary tale – the embodiment of wasted potential. Adrianna and I talked about how those of us who have experienced addiction can sink to depths we never thought were possible. Adrianna lost promising jobs, homes, as well as the custody of her children for a time – all due to addiction. But, as she now helps to remind others, addiction may cause you to do awful things, but addiction is not who you are.
An Endless Cycle
Adrianna’s story was an endless cycle of using, going to rehab, trying to put her life back together, and then – poof! – another relapse. Each time, the life she had carefully rebuilt fell apart a bit faster than the time before and she found herself falling to even deeper depths of despair.
But, Adrianna says calmly, “The last time was . . . different. I knew that although I might have one more relapse in me, I did not have one more recovery. If I fell down again, I didn’t think I was going to be able to get back up.” That realization shook her to her core.
Adrianna’s Real Change
Adrianna vividly remembers the moment when – standing in the shower at Saint John’s – she broke down and sobbed. Feeling beaten and hopeless, she decided at that moment to pray for help: “Get me through this, God, and I will honor you for the rest of my life,” she vowed through a steady stream of water and tears. “Show me how I can serve you.”
Looking at Adrianna, you would never guess she is a former addict: She glows from the inside out. In our weekly Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings at Saint John’s, I learn that people have told her that she has a real gift for helping and inspiring others. They ask her if she had ever contemplating being a Drug and Alcohol Counselor.
Her initial thought: Why would anyone listen to someone like me, someone who has failed so many times in my own recovery? Of course, she came to the same conclusion as everyone else: Why wouldn’t they? Who better to understand an addict’s struggles and show them that redemption and recovery are truly possible?
Adrianna was soon enrolled in classes to do just that. She is now a certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor with 14 months of sobriety. Saint John’s Program for Real Change helped give her the tools that she needed to build a successful life from the broken wreckage of her addiction.
Today, Adrianna is proud to say that she has regained custody of her youngest son, has an apartment, a car, a job that she loves, and has emerged from the darkness of her past and into the light of day.
“Everything about my life now is so different from the life I had before,” she says. She enjoys spending time with sober friends, going to the gym and play dates, shopping with her kids, and speaking publicly about her journey.
The best part, Adrianna shares, is that now she has the opportunity to pay it forward. “Everything that I went through was a catalyst for becoming the person I am now,” she says.
If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies.Anonymous
Like a beautiful butterfly, the woman who sat before me is a woman transformed. It’s abundantly clear that she now knows how to fly – and her future is filled with beautiful and limitless possibilities.
This post was written by guest writer Anna Sobon, Saint John’s Program for Real Change volunteer.