I always felt I was an open book when it came to telling my own story of addiction. I never had a problem being honest and telling people about the struggles that dominated a large portion of my life. I’ve realized that it’s easier for me to speak face to face with someone about my story because I’m able to detach myself from the words as they leave my mouth. But as I sit here, after two years off of heroin, when I think or try to write about this I’m filled with such anxiety and panic. It consumes me in such a visceral way. So this is very hard for me, but because addiction is so inextricably intertwined with my own being, I feel compelled to talk about it.

I was raised by my mum and stepdad in Los Angeles. I spent every other weekend at my biological father’s house until I was eleven years old. He was incarcerated at that time and spent four years in jail before being deported to the Philippines (where he was born). My mum and stepdad provided me with a stable home-life. None of it made a difference though, because the weekends I spent with my father had introduced chaos into my life that would linger and alter me as a person. My father was an addict, mainly methamphetamines, but psychedelics, cocaine and alcohol were all present as well. Though he never used or drank when I was around, I still experienced what living with a drug addict was like through his dishevelled and dirty house, his erratic behaviour, odd sleep schedules, and all the strange “friends” that would enter his home. I should make a point of saying, that despite all of this, he was still my hero at the time. He’s the one that introduced me to punk, rap, electronica, all the music that would follow me into adolescence and shape me as a person. Not only did I love him very much, but I was fiercely protective of him. When he was incarcerated, I slowly started to fall apart.

I started smoking weed at age 13, drinking, and experimenting with pills by 15. At 16 I began using cocaine and meth…daily. By 17, my sweet, supportive, loving mum had sent me to rehab for my first time (against my will). I made it through the 90 day treatment and graduated from the program. Unfortunately, upon my 18th birthday and while still in after-care treatment, a friend gifted me a small balloon of heroin.

I had always been so completely uncomfortable in my own body like my soul wasn’t compatible with the physical being I had been provided. I sought out anything that could take me out of my body. And though many substances were able to do that for me, none made me feel as safe and comforted from the world as heroin’s warm blanket did. For eight years I struggled to evade its seductive embrace. Being a drug addict is a very isolating experience. I didn’t have my family, I had long since pushed them away. Just as no one wants to watch as someone they care about deteriorates, you don’t want anyone to bear witness as you become hopelessly lost in your addiction. So all that is left in the end is the drugs. And as things progressively get worse in your life, you need drugs more and more. The things I saw and experienced… Looking back, the thoughts still bring about a weirdly physical reaction. As if my body is trying desperately to reject the memories… Being robbed, totalled cars, blood stained-everything, arms covered in track marks, and nights in jail. I can’t think of a time that has ever been darker. I was self-medicating in order to treat my emotional disorder. And I was quite good at prescribing myself what I needed until I realized years of my life had escaped me and I woke up on my 26t birthday, December 26, 2016, dope-sick in my then boyfriend’s bed. Withering in pain, sweating profusely, mind spinning out of control… I picked up my phone and called my mum.

Two days later, on December 28th 2016, I arrived at a hospital in Pasadena California to medically detox. I have to admit that I’m not sure I’ll ever truly understand my reasoning to go to detox. There was no “ah-ha” moment. No real moment of clarity. Nothing terribly tragic had happened. I could have continued on using, surviving, but not truly living. Others in my detox unit all had these legitimate reasons to be there… They had kids, spouses, or ran into trouble with the law… But I had no real answer to give. At the time I was frightened by the absence of a reason, but now, I think it’s perfectly okay that I didn’t need something tragic to happen in order to make the decision to get clean. All that matters is somehow, something clicked that morning and I picked up my phone to ask for help. And I can’t tell you how glad I am that I did.

When I left, I began attending an outpatient rehab where I remained for months until I was able to find work and slowly evolve into some semblance of a human being. Now, two years later, I’m still discovering who I am without substances. Drugs were my identity for half my life and I sort of had to grieve the loss of that person so I could begin to build someone new from whatever good was leftover from her death. I feel a sense of freedom that I haven’t experienced since I was a child. I can travel, work, wake up, all without having to worry about getting my next fix. But drugs were only a temporary solution to the actual problem, my mental health. I still experience negative thought patterns, have difficulty with self-acceptance/love, and I struggle to keep my mind in the present. After all, it’s hard not to look back and judge myself for the decisions I made and everything I put those that care about me through, let alone what I put myself through. But over time, I’ve developed positive, productive, creative ways of coping with anything that burns to the surface of my mind. Reading, writing, weaving, painting, all of these things have now assumed the space that drugs once did as my new coping mechanisms. As I grow more into this new being, there’s so much I hope to accomplish and, the beautiful thing is, there’s absolutely nothing holding me back. I’m no longer a slave to my addiction. I’m free, I’m alive, and sometimes, I still can’t believe it.

Kaylyn Planes 1/4/18