• Katie

You Can Lose Your Balance

Updated: Sep 24, 2019

I’m gonna’ be honest here, y’all: I’m not even sure where to start. I’m having a hard time. When Goddessté was first born, it was born from the idea that J and I had both been through so much darkness, so many earth-shaking, heart-shattering times in our lives, and we always made it out. We wanted to share those parts of our past so that we could maybe help others who may be fighting through similar battles today – we felt like it was sort of our duty to do so. Then, we had all the ideas for the different features, and we got so deeply excited about them that they kind of took center stage. You see, we want so badly to be a company that encourages women to come together, to link arms & do life together. We want to be a movement for the female friendship. We want the bitchy, stereotypical girl-against-girl drama to end. And we LOVE the idea of women nominating other women for the features, because, in that way, you guys can actively participate in empowering and uplifting one another. Doing two features a week, and staying on top of consistent, relevant content for all the other days of the week takes a lot in and of itself. So, we dropped the ball. We haven’t let you guys in. We haven’t told you any of our stories. We have been asking you guys to get vulnerable and share your stories, but we have not returned the favor and done the same. And the thing is: we know that we have powerful stories – we have both quite literally survived some truly insane stuff, stuff that a lot of people have gone up against and not made it out. But we did. And we believe the reason there, the purpose there, lies here with you, with Goddessté. We are SUPPOSED to be sharing these parts of ourselves with you.

Before I jump in, because as I write this, I’m still not sure where my jumping off point will be, I would like to get honest about something else. I’m having a hard time just in general when it comes to this beautiful business that I love so much. We are new, and the brand itself is new. It isn’t popular (yet), and the vast majority of people still haven’t even heard of us. We know that success doesn’t come over night, and it wasn’t ever about the money, but money is something that is required to run any business, and we aren’t really making any (right now, anyway). Sales have sort of come to a halt. So, I’ve been pretty fearful. We have poured ourselves into this thing, and we both just love it so much. We love what it stands for, and we believe in it with all that we are and have. There has been an ongoing war being waged in my head that centers around a whole lot of “what if,” by which I mean there are these constant nagging questions about what we will do, what I will do, if it gets to the point that this business continues to just cost more and more money without making any money. Being a business-owner is hard. It’s really scary, and emotionally-trying. You’re not just taking on a lot of unknown – you’re basically just hanging out in the land of unknown ALL THE TIME. And everyone we’ve talked to, all the research we’ve done, it all says that you don’t see success, you don’t see money and profits, until at least one, usually two, years in. Okay. But… where does the money come from in the meantime? And these probably aren’t things I should be sharing with our community. It’s probably not the norm, but J and I have never been ones to do things “normally,” and we made a promise in the beginning to be authentic, to be honest. We intend to keep that promise.

On top of all of that, the people who had requested the extension time in order to review our trademark application, they have now filed an actual opposition to our trademark. That means we are going to have to partake in a USPTO trial, or we risk losing our trademark altogether. And you guys know what trials mean: attorneys. Attorneys are expensive – everyone knows that. And, as I mentioned, we aren’t really selling at the moment. But here we are, faced with a choice that isn’t really a choice at all. If we don’t want to lose our trademark, we have to hire an attorney, someone who knows the ins and outs of the patent and trademark world. I guess what I’m trying to say is: I’m scared. I’ve never been here before, and I’m scared.

Still, in the face of all of this, I haven’t ever once doubted our purpose in all of this. I still firmly believe that this is what we have been called to do, and I still intend on doing exactly that. I’m not one to back down from a fight, nor is Jessica, no matter how much fear we may or may not be feeling.

So…I guess, maybe I’ll talk a little bit about fear, and maybe I can eventually work my way through this stuff in the process. Here goes:

Fear is something with which I’m all too familiar. I know the face of fear, all its details, all its bumps and curves and wrinkles. You see, I’m a recovering addict. I lived, or survived, in active addiction for over a decade. Fear became so familiar to me that it lay down with me at night and woke up next to me in the morning. It clothed me, it covered me, it directed me. Essentially, it drove me.

It's National Recovery Month, and let me start by saying that I have a disease. I’m gonna “say it louder for the people in the back:” I HAVE A DISEASE. This is not a life I chose, because it isn’t a life ANYONE would choose. I was prescribed narcotic pain medicine for several legitimate pain diseases (seven pelvic pain diseases and two in my back). I was also prescribed this same type of medication in high school, when I had my tonsils removed and when I had my wisdom teeth removed. When I first took this medicine, it was “doctor’s orders.” Did I LOVE it from the very first time? You bet. Did I have any idea, even an inkling, as to what that meant for me, for my future? Absolutely not – not even close. The disease of addiction, whether it be to drugs or alcohol (or any of the countless other things to which the human brain can become hopelessly addicted, like video games, gambling, sex, etc.), is a very real thing. It has been studied and picked apart, tirelessly. They have actually seen the way certain parts of the brain light up and respond. They’ve studied the neuropathways and neurotransmitters in the brains of addicts and non-addicts, and the differences are real. If you are someone who believes addiction is not a disease, I urge you to read through this with an open mind. After you’re done, ask yourself if this sounds like stuff someone would willingly put themselves through just to “feel good.” I’m here to tell you that the feeling good is just the beginning. It’s the hook. But, once we activate the disease, the allergy within ourselves, our brain is no longer ours alone. From that point forward, we are forced to share our brain with a darkness that words can’t describe because its power is simply inexplicable. If you’re one of those people who has already made up your mind that, even though the medical world and its experts have recognized this as a chronic, fatal, progressive disease for over half a century, it’s really just bad people making bad choices, then this blog isn’t for you. It’s that simple. You may want to leave now.

And, please, if you ARE someone who is of the opinion that it isn’t a disease and you choose to go on reading, refrain from making hateful comments. You’re certainly entitled to your opinion about my past and about me, but I, however, am not interested in hearing them if they’re negative. You see, I’ve long since made my peace with my past. I believe there was a reason that I went through every single thing, the situations that were of my own making and otherwise. I went through it so I could make it out and do exactly what I’m doing now. It’s fine if that’s not for you. It’s even fine if you disagree with me, but this is my blog and any hateful comments will be removed. Plus, unless you’re highly educated and experienced on the matter, it’s probably best that you don’t attempt to start a debate with me, because I am both. And I’m a third thing: I’m passionate, deeply passionate, about this subject matter. Anyone who knows me can tell you, when I’m passionate about something, I’m not likely to roll over and play dead. So…to the haters: you’ve been warned.

I remember when I first realized I was physically addicted to opiates. I woke up for work one day, and I happened to not have any of the pills that had become not only a constant in my life, but also a necessity, mentally speaking anyway (and, I was soon to find out that they were also a physical necessity, too). There was no way I was going to work on this particular day. My muscles were aching throughout my entire body – my legs felt like I had been doing literally nothing but squats for the past 24 hours. I was consumed with cold sweats, chills, and then surges of insane heat, and it just continued to cycle back through exactly like that. Freezing one second, BURNING up the next, and the sweating was just a constant. My stomach was cramping, and let’s just say it was VERY upset and leave it at that. I was dry heaving. I was yawning so intensely that I would gag at the end of each yawn. My eyes were watering. My nose was running. I was sneezing. My hands were shaking like I had taken on three pots of coffee just for kicks. I desperately wanted to lie down because my body felt so, so tired, but I couldn’t lie down because I couldn’t lie still. Not to mention, just feeling the sheets from my bed on my skin made me want to scream, and I mean SCREAM. No, I certainly wasn’t going to work. I clearly had the flu.

I called in and informed them that I was very unwell, that I thought I had the flu, and that I needed to go to the doctor. I was supposed to stop by my dealer’s apartment on my way to work, so like the loyal customer that I was, I called him to let him know I couldn’t come. I told him I had called in to work and that I was going to try to lie back down and rest. He listened, then laughed, and then he said, “Girl, you ain’t sick, and you don’t have the flu. I got what you need. Come on over.” I got SO mad. I was infuriated. I knew what he was implying. I promptly told him that I wasn’t an addict, that I didn’t NEED his pills. He persisted though, and I of course ended up going over – he was, after all, offering the pills to me because he knew I was sick (and probably to prove what he knew was true – that I was absolutely physically dependent on these tiny blue pills). I was already mentally hooked and absolutely not about to turn down free pills. Still, on the drive there, I felt sure that he was wrong – that I would still be sick but maybe the pills would at least help me feel a little better – maybe I could rest. Looking back, I know that I was just scared to face that reality as a potential truth. Over the years, I perfected the art of lying to myself – it’s what made lying to everyone else easier. This drive there was basically just me having what would become a very familiar conversation with myself wherein I served myself the best manipulation a brain could offer. I wasn’t addicted. I had it all under control. I could stop whenever I wanted to stop. I wasn’t an “addict.” I wasn’t because I couldn’t be. Not me. Right?

Well, you know the rest. He was right, I was terribly wrong. It worked. It worked like magic...

I was 100%. I was better than 100%. I was even in a good mood, until it hit me what this meant. I will never forget that day. I will never forget that drive home – the shame, the agony, the frantic fear circling around and around in my head. And, my god, the loneliness. Who could I tell? It felt like I couldn’t tell anyone, although I know, now, I was very wrong. Loneliness like that is the kind that kills. It suffocates you. It throws you deep down a very dark, black hole, and when you look up, you’re suddenly so far down that there is no light there on the other end to guide you out. Zero. Zilch. Nada. There is no clear “next move” because you just can’t see a damn thing.

What did this mean for me? How had I gotten here? How was I going to be sure that that never happened again (the withdrawals)? I now had to strategically plan – I had to plan every detail, every aspect of my life. I had to be sure that I always had those tiny blue pills, and not just a few. I required kind of a lot, and that requisite only grew as time passed. I had no way of knowing what future I was walking into – no way of knowing that it would lead me to be in a very physically & emotionally abusive relationship for years, that it would make me do things that I would have never done – things that would absolutely dress me in shame, day in and day out, for a VERY long time. I had no way of knowing that I had become a slave to those tiny blue pills – my entire life, everything in it, was soon to be completely controlled by those tiny…blue…pills. I would lie, manipulate, neglect responsibilities, cheat, steal, break SEVERAL laws, and, even worse, break several beautiful hearts. I would become a different person living a very different life, and I would have to keep that life and that person secret. I would have to still somehow maintain the person I was supposed to be and appear to be living the life I was supposed to be living. After all, people were watching.

I went home that day, with that realization fresh on my heart, making my stomach plummet and tighten, plummet and tighten, plummet and tighten... I walked into my apartment, hit my knees, and sobbed. It’s almost as if I DID know what was coming. But I didn’t – I couldn’t have known. All I knew was I was terrified, that I had lost control of my own life – and that I had zero idea how to get it back. I knew, of course, that rehab was a thing and that the 12-step program was a thing, but I couldn’t be honest enough with myself at the time to know that I needed it THEN, not later. It would be around five years before I finally made my way there. Let’s fast forward to that part, or to the year preceding my first stint in treatment.

You have to understand, I thought I was going to be able to control it. Up until this point, I had never met a problem or situation that I couldn’t think my way out of. But that’s the thing about addiction – it doesn’t care how smart you are (or think you are). It doesn’t care how much money you have, what God you serve, what color your skin is, what your background is, how good of a person you are or heart you have, and it certainly doesn’t care what your dreams are (or were). None of that matters. I’m a very good example that none of that matters. I had a wonderful family, home upbringing. I have incredibly supportive parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. As a matter of fact, I owe my life today, in many ways, to my parents. I also happened to have an insanely amazing group of friends who loved me so deeply and who were absolutely family to me. These friends started to see the warning signs, but I was particularly gifted at hiding my symptoms and at manipulation. By the time they noticed, it was too late. I was no longer in control, and the only thing left to do was to shut them out instead of bringing them into the world I had unwittingly entered. They loved me, and they tried reaching out. Jessica is one who tried reaching out. She was familiar with the signs, but I will let her tell her story as to how and why. She loved me, and she was scared. And she wasn’t alone. I had so many really GOOD friends. None of that mattered. I pushed them away, I lied to them. I couldn’t let them in. I had to pretend that I was fine. In reality, the hands of addiction were already so tight around my neck and its grip was growing tighter and tighter with every passing second. Pretending you’re fine when you’re really drowning in your own fear and shame gets exhausting. So, so exhausting.

If we’re fast-forwarding, we are leaving out a lot that will just have to be for another day, another time. In 2012, still very much addicted, I found out I was pregnant. Talk about fear. This was a BIG shocker because I had several doctors tell me that I would never have children, not to mention that by this point, the opiate use was so bad that I had stopped having periods. It had been at least a year since I had had a regular cycle. And, then…suddenly, here I was, pregnant with an actual life inside of me, and dreadfully sick. I couldn’t do anything but vomit all day long. This turned out to be a trend in all of my pregnancies. It was this insane sickness that made me realize maybe, just maybe, I should take a pregnancy test. I know now, years later, that that child growing inside of me would save my life. I believe whole-heartedly that Jude was sent to me for that reason – to save my life. My sweet Jude Boy, my miracle baby. There is a lot about my story that is ugly, but Jude is one of the main parts of my story where this beautiful, incandescent light enters in and takes over. “There, but for the grace of God…”

So, I was pregnant with the man I referenced earlier, my dealer. We had been together for years at this point, and he had also become my abuser. I still have scars he gave me, physical scars and otherwise. There are tiny bumps on my head – I call them “my pebbles,” because they feel like tiny little pebbles that have been embedded just beneath my scalp. They’re still very sensitive to touch. They were put there by his pounding fist that wore big, gold rings. His favorite place to hit me was my head, the thing that carried the part I valued most about myself, my brain. He hit me there more frequently because you can’t see bruises and scars on someone’s head underneath all the hair. He would tell me, “White bitches bruise too easily.” I have since had tests done on my head – the doctors say I am fine – permanently concussed, but fine. When I finally got clean, I started to notice that my pupils were often different sizes, and it turns out that this is usually the sign of some pretty serious brain damage. Thankfully, all of my tests came back okay. Had they had the ability to run those same tests on my soul, on my spirit, the results would have been vastly different. Those were nowhere remotely near “fine.”

He didn’t hit me while I was pregnant, nor did he hit me for some time after Jude was born. During the pregnancy, the life I lived was bleak, to say the least. We had used through all of the profit he was making as a dealer – having me as a girlfriend proved to be expensive, or my habit was anyway. He knew, too, that he had to keep me doped up to keep me around. Over the years, he did exactly that, until I became convinced that I needed him. On a few occasions, I decided I had had enough and tried to leave, but he’d just back me into a corner and beat the good sense out of me. In a very sick way, I began to not mind the beatings as much because I knew he would eventually feel guilty for what he had done to me and come bearing peace offerings: again, the tiny blue pills. So, we had used through the profit. We had no money. We lived in a house in a very bad part of town – I am choosing not to say the city specifics here because there is still a part of me that fears him finding me, and those specifics aren’t important. It was a house that was cold and dark. The floors were caving in, so you were constantly standing on uneven ground. There was no doubt mold growing everywhere. There were bullets lodged in the walls from drive-bys in some rooms. It was not a place a mother wants to “nest” in anticipation of her child’s arrival. We slept on blow-up mattresses and cots. There were many days when all we could afford to eat were the nachos at the gas station around the corner, where we would walk in the middle of winter. These were dark days, indeed.

I remember running over to the corner where I would go to throw up when the urge hit fast and strong. There was a big, circular trash can in that corner with a ladder propped up against the wall just behind it. It helped me get through the vomiting if I picked something on which to focus, visually. I’ll never forget this because my eyes would always unwillingly go straight to the sticker on the ladder that read, “You can lose your balance.“ I’d stand there, hunched over, vomiting my literal insides up, because there was rarely much food in there to vomit up, and think of what my life and become. I’d read that sticker over and over, and think, “No kidding.” It was a warning. It was put there as a warning of a very certain kind, and it found me as a different warning altogether. I was physically and mentally sicker than I had ever been, more miserable than I had ever been, and more scared than I had ever been. I had lost my balance. I had lost it, entirely.

I was about to be a mother and I had nothing. How was I supposed to be someone’s everything? How was I supposed to teach a child about love when I couldn’t love myself? How was I supposed to teach a child anything for that matter? I would think of my own mother, and the immediate relief I would get just being in her presence, and I would wonder how I was ever going to be that for someone else. I’d think of my own mother, lie there on my cot, and sob.

I was a child about to have a child. I named Jude for the song “Hey, Jude,” by The Beatles, my lifelong favorite band. Paul McCartney wrote the song for Julian Lennon, John Lennon’s son, and the song is essentially all about seeking happiness. The “her” that is referenced over and over in the song is, in fact, happiness. That’s what I wanted for my Jude Boy, and so there was never any doubt that that would be his name.

I remember being back in that cold, dark house, lying on the cot, just utterly wrapped in fear about being a mother. I wasn’t religious at the time – I wouldn’t say I am today either, at least not in the organized religion sense, but I am deeply spiritual. And I know that my creator, my higher power, showed up for me more times than I deserved because I had purposes to fulfill. Anyway, that night, literally covered and wrapped in fear, something inside of me, deep down inside of me, reached out to God, or The Universe, or whatever – my SOUL was calling out, desperately. I needed to know something was there, that I wasn’t in this alone. I knew that, alone, I’d just continue to make a mess of my life and the life of my unborn child. I will never, ever forget what happened next. I was overwhelmed with this feeling, this CERTAINTY, that everything was okay. I’m talking about the peace that surpasses understanding that you always hear about. I had that peace. It was so clear to me – and I KNEW right there, in that miserable environment, that everything was going to be okay. It was like hearing the words, “Hey – chill out. I’ve got this. I’ve got YOU.” And I could breathe again.

My mom had been driving out of town to get me and take me back to Tuscaloosa with her to my doctor’s appointments. My parents are the saints in my story. Time and time again, they’re the heroes. A couple of months before Jude was born, I thankfully made the sound decision to move back home to Tuscaloosa, with my parents. I needed to be cared for all over again, like a child.

And then he was born. This little perfect baby, pure and sweet and precious and so loving. This child just exudes love and joy and happiness, still to this day. I had been given THE biggest gift I had ever received when I deserved it the least. God works in funny ways like that – I have a lifetime of stories that prove exactly that. Somehow, in my broken, shameful, darkest state, God looked at me and thought, “I know just what she needs.” My higher power looked at me, in all my ugly, and decided to entrust me with the most precious little angel baby ever.

Back home with my parents, I started to learn to be a mother, under the tutelage of my own mother, a woman who was absolutely put on this earth to be a mom. I mean, she is absolutely a mother through and through. She has always been my biggest fan, supporter, encourager, and lover. I can’t imagine what she and my dad went through, watching me self-destruct from the outside and not being able to stop it, fix it, or save me. Saving myself, as I would later learn, had to come from me. That’s just the way it works. Now, that isn’t to say that my parents, and many other amazing people, didn’t have a LOT, and I mean A LOT, to do with it – they absolutely did. Still, until I got on board the save-Katie train, their efforts, all of it, would be for naught. I had to get on board. I had to “suit up and show up,” as they say in AA. I had to make the decision that there was a lot deeply wrong within me, and then I had to humble myself and allow God the space in which to work on me.

But I wasn’t there yet. Having Jude was not enough to break me from the chains of addition. I know how awful that sounds, but anyone who has done proper research into the way addiction and alcoholism affects the brain can tell you that it becomes an instinct to us. It takes SO much HARD work to break away from that mess. It is absolutely doable – you just have to have the right tools, and you’ve got to really want it. I did not yet have those tools. I was even still in contact with the “father,” although I hesitate to call him that because he never did any of the things that a father should do. My husband now has been in our lives since Jude was about 18-months-old, and HE is the only father or dad that Jude has ever known. HE is Jude’s “Daddy,” and he deserves that title. The love and bond they share is so incredibly beautiful and it has been one of the great blessings of my life to have been able to watch it evolve and grow. Anyway, like I said, I was still in contact with…let’s just call him Mick, because that’s literally just the first name that popped into my head and I refuse to call him Jude’s “dad,” due to the simple, irrefutable fact that he isn’t. So, I would still see Mick from time to time. It was about a 45-minute drive. As long as he was in my life, there would be no healing for me. The last day I saw him went something like this:

I went “on a lunch break” up to see him. He had not put his hands on me in a while at this point, but that was about to change. I said the wrong thing, and he was easily triggered. I remember he got up without making a sound, and he didn’t even seem particularly angry. He walked out of the room, and when he returned, he was carrying a belt. I knew what was coming next. It started. The beating was bad this time. I remember I was wearing a necklace that had belonged to my great-grandmother, a true angel in my life, and he ripped it off of my neck, breaking it with his bare hands. I normally didn’t do a whole lot of fighting back – he was much bigger and stronger than I, and it would have honestly been wasted energy. But, that day, I fought back. I flew into a rage when I saw the necklace come off of my neck into his hands, and I threw myself at him. This did nothing but, I’m sure, anger him further, although I do remember seeing a glimmer of surprise and shock in his dark, empty eyes. Those eyes. When he snapped, the eyes were the give-away. Suddenly, there would be just hate, rage, and darkness there behind his eyes, and the person whom I had known would be gone, completely out of reach.

I also fought back this time because I felt sure that this would be the time that he killed me. I kept thinking, “This is it. He’s gonna’ do it this time. I’ll never see Jude again.” I couldn’t think of anything but Jude. Again, there in that same house, in that same room, I reached out from deep within my soul, and I prayed – I called out for help. I just wanted to get out of there alive so that I could go home to Jude. In the prayer, that’s exactly what I said.

“God – if you’re there, and I really need you to be there – if you get me out of this so that I can get back to Jude and be the mother that he deserves, I won’t ever come back here. I won’t ever see this man again.” A few seconds later, he stumbled a bit to the side. He was twelve years my senior – he was out of shape and winded from the beating he’d been giving me. I saw my shot. I darted past him, running as fast as my legs would carry me, through to the other side of the house, out the door, and into my car. I was out. I was free. And I was driving at least 100 mph down a pretty main road in this city. I still look back and wonder how I wasn’t stopped by a police officer. They tended to target white women in this part of town as being suspicious anyway – I had been pulled over in this same area, more time than once, solely for the color of my skin. Yet, here I was, literally flying, and I made it out.

I stopped at a CVS before I went back home, back to work. I walked in, blood literally dripping down my legs, tears streaming down my face, and shaking uncontrollably all over. I purchased bandages and rubbing alcohol, things of that nature with which to clean myself. I can still feel the shame I felt, as I walked through that store, my head hanging low. I tried to avoid the stares; I didn’t want to look anyone in the eyes – I couldn’t bear to see their looks of pity or confusion. The shame that comes with being a victim of physical abuse is very real. There’s the whole “I deserve this” mentality. Then, there is this desperate feeling of not being worthy, not being good enough, because if someone can do these things to you, then you mustn’t be. If someone could come at me, belt in hand, hearing my voice begging him not to, and still go in full force, lashing out at any place on my body that he could land the belt, because any place would do, then there must be something deeply wrong and ugly within me. I remember one time he was angry at me and threw an actual Burger King chicken sandwich at me – it hit me in the side of the face so hard that it made my ears ring. Another time, he took one look at me after waking from a nap and being angered that I had been merely sitting on the couch next to him as he slept, talking to a guy friend of his who had stopped by, that right there in front of his friend, he just threw his drink right in my face and pushed me backward. This sort of thing may not sound as bad as a bloody lip or nose, and I had my fair share of those, but there was something so degrading about having him just hurl food at me, like a dog. Years of that sort of treatment, with little to no provocation, will scramble your brain right on up. You feel so unworthy of anything good. You feel like you deserve what you’re getting because you’ve allowed yourself to make such an utter mess of your life. Of course, none of that was true. I was very sick and in a very sick situation, and my abuser was also very sick. He was also an addict, and whenever he didn’t have his drugs, he’d get angry and I’d be there. That combination usually ended in a beating for me. It wasn’t ever that I deserved it. It wasn’t even that I did anything to antagonize him. I was just in the wrong place with the wrong person at the wrong time.

But, in addition to the normal thoughts of shame that you hear about when it comes to victims of abuse, I also had thoughts that went something like this: “How did I get here? How did this become my life? This was NOT supposed to be my life.” And I was right. It wasn’t. Anyone who knew me before would tell you the same. As I mentioned earlier, I come from a good family, a well-respected family in my town. I was raised to be a good, kind, loving person, and I think that I embodied those things well, even at my lowest point. In high school, I was friends with everyone. I was happy, social, even magnetic. I have always been a very free-spirit, and maybe that’s even partially why I ended up in so many absolutely insane situations – I’m curious and free, a natural combination for someone who likes to experiment with drugs. I just didn’t know, because I couldn’t have known, that there was an actual disease inside of me, one that is stronger than anything I had ever known, a disease so strong that it is as natural as my brain telling my heart to beat. Those partying days in high school and college, those days that were supposed to be just a phase, just a few wild, carefree years, were actually laying the groundwork for me to be absolutely trapped and enslaved by a life of drugs and crime.

In college, even with all the partying (and there was a lot), I still graduated in four years with two degrees (History & English) and with my choice of minors because I qualified for several but could only choose one due to my double-major. I did all this and still graduated in the top 10% of my class from Alabama. I was a regular on the Dean’s List each semester. My life looked like it was destined for greatness from the outside, but on the inside, I was only comfortable in my own skin when I was high. I needed to be high, and I knew that from the first time I felt the effects of an opiate in high school. So, as I was walking through that CVS that day, my head was so loud with thoughts of “This was not supposed to be my life,” that I honestly can’t say I remember much more about the experience. I know I checked out and got the things to clean myself up, because I ended up using them before going home and changing into something that hid the things I needed to be hidden and going about my day. I had gotten really good at compartmentalizing the traumas I had suffered. I used the drugs to keep me numb to the emotions. I was so focused on leading my double-life, and that kept me busy enough, mentally, that I didn’t have to think much about it. I would do this enough that, eventually, it felt like those things happened to someone else. I would just detach. And, at night, when it was quiet and I was lying in bed, my brain was so overcome with fear and hopelessness that I didn’t have time to focus on the trauma then either.

Every night, I would lie down, determined that tomorrow would be different. Tomorrow would be the day that I started to use less. And then I would get around to the thoughts of knowing that I was lying to myself. Then came the fear – fear that this was what my life would be like from that point forward, a life controlled by drugs and my need for them. A life full of days spent figuring out how to get the drugs, how to hide it all, chasing the next hit, the next shot. I knew that people went to rehab and that it even worked for some people, but I was too far gone. I would wake up in withdrawals sat 5 AM, literally sick as a dog and needing drugs. At the end, I couldn’t go more than four to six hours without getting sick, my body’s signal to me that it was time for more. By the end, I had moved past the tiny blue pills, onto drugs that were much more taboo. My methods for using were much more taboo as well.

I could go on and on, but since this has already turned into something longer than what most people will read anyway, I’ll end with this. This helps me. This reminds me of the amazing strength I do have within me. I made it through THAT. I fought through some seriously tough shit, and it took years of fighting, of people believing in me and me letting them down, and then starting over… again. I’m so thankful to those people. My parents, my family, my friends, my husband – my god, my sweet husband. I love that man more than I ever thought possible. His faith in me and love for me quite literally changed me from the inside out. He taught me love by showing me love. He made me whole again through love. Love and forgiveness. Love is THAT powerful. Forgiveness is that powerful.

And you know what else is that powerful? Me. I am. I put the work in. I had a LOT of help, yes. Were it not for my parents; a few close friends; the AA home group I found; the people there at that home group; the book from which they teach, known endearingly as “The Big Book,” that taught me about myself and why I was the way I was, felt the way I felt, and did the things I did; and, of course, my God, I’d have never made it. Never. Addiction certainly kills more people than not.

But I put the work in. I was willing to get really uncomfortable, in every way imaginable, and I did that. If you’re someone who is struggling with any of the things I’ve written about here, you have that strength within you, too. And I am offering myself to be one of the people who believes in you. I’m not perfect – no one is. But I am strong, and I am worthy. I am a damn good mother today to my four beautiful angel children. I am a damn good wife to my husband, who is my best friend. Speaking of best friends, I am a damn good one of those, too. Just ask Jessica, the other half of Goddessté. She’ll tell you the same. We do life together – we love each other, and we are always there for each other. I am a present daughter, sister, and aunt. I love my family and my friends, my tribe, my people. I love them with all that I am. And I am PROUD of the woman that I am today. I am proud of this company that we have built, and I am proud that I have the courage (and the support system) to tell my story, as dark as parts of it get. I’m proud that I have friends, like Jessica, who have stories just as crazy and sometimes dark as my own, and who also have the courage to do the same when it comes to sharing their stories.

We know that there is so much power in sharing our stories, and we know our stories need to be heard. If one woman can read this and see how beautiful my life is today and thinks to herself, “If she can get out and build a beautiful life with people she loves, then I can too,” then my purpose here has been realized. If that person is you, kiss the darkness and the pain goodbye. Thank them for the role they played in your life and the lessons they gave you, and then send that shit on its way!

And this is why we started Goddessté – we started it with the hope that we’d be able to help women. We started it because these issues are killing women, literally and metaphorically, and no one is talking about it – not enough people anyway. We started it because we believe that every dark period in our life was given to us, specifically. We were chosen to go through these things because we were strong enough to make it out on the other side and use the experience to help others find their way out. What a beautiful, but difficult, mission we’ve been given. We are honored. And, yeah, we still get scared. But, like I said in the beginning, we don’t shy away from fear. We will not crawl into a hole and hope it passes. We will do what we’ve always done, we will pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, and prepare for battle. And, as we reach down for our boot straps, we will deliver to the darkness our sweetest kiss of death, and we will turn to face the sun.

"Here comes the sun..."

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