An memoir by Cayla Hanes
I am a 30-year-old woman who resides in Byesville, Ohio. I have a 10-year-old daughter and am currently employed as a house manager in a sober living home. My employer is Guernsey Alcohol and Drug Services. I am currently awaiting my certification as an Ohio Peer Recovery Supporter. In the very near future I plan to earn a degree in Chemical Dependency Counseling. I am a member of Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholic Anonymous.
Starting with my childhood, I was a very good student. I always excelled in school without much effort. It always came naturally to me. I was the middle child between two brothers. My older brother, Chad, was nine years older so we weren’t particularly close. My younger brother, Joey, was only a year and a half behind me. We were thick as thieves. As a child, I thought my life was fairly normal. My parents lived together. We ate dinner as a family at the table each night. We had chores and school responsibilities. All of us kids were active in sports.
When I was 10 or 11 years old, my older brother moved out and distanced himself from the family. Shortly after that, my parents divorced. My father was an alcoholic and drug addict, but I didn’t know that for many years. My brother and I struggled with the divorce. I threw myself into school though and used it as a band-aid. The following year, my younger brother and I went to my father’s home for Christmas. He wasn’t home. We didn’t see or hear from him much in the next 15 years.
I didn’t realize it then, but the absence of my father in my life was a game changer. I tried very hard to be an over achiever. I was a perfectionist. I played three varsity sports and was very active in many extracurricular activities. I did these things to stay busy and because I felt that I was expected to do them. They served as an emotional barrier though. I was good at not allowing myself to feel.
In school, I was a chameleon. I had a couple close friends, but I could get along with all the cliques. I was always on the outskirts of each group. I could fit in, but I never felt like I truly belonged. I didn’t feel at home with other people. This absence of acceptance played a key role in my later drug use.
I graduated 19Th in my class and had a full scholarship to a local community college. I had been accepted into the radiology department. I was well on my way. I didn’t even take the summer off. I started my college classes the same month I graduated high school. That summer, my best friend’s father passed away. I was with her during the funeral ceremony and the week following. Her absentee mother came to the funeral and she offered to take us to a cabin for the weekend. While there, I met her friend. He was an older man, 36. I was 18.
I was flattered when he showed interest in me. I had never received much male attention in school. I felt special that an older man thought I was worth something. His past was damaged, and I disregarded that completely. I looked upon him with rose colored glasses. Our relationship quickly progressed and very soon I was living with him. At first, I thought it was great. He helped me with gas money and treated me well. He drank and smoke, but I didn’t. And it didn’t matter to me that he did. Soon, I realized he was on harder drugs. He was taking me with him while he purchased cocaine. At first, I thought he was selling it. It seemed glamorous to me. I caught him smoking it. I fought with him for months about it. I begged him to stop. I thought if I could be a better girlfriend, that he’d quit for me. That’s not the way addiction works.
About 6 months into our relationship, he began abusing me. His abuse was physical and mental in nature. Later, it was sexual abuse. He did the kinds of things to me that I hope no other female ever experiences. He destroyed every part of me as a woman. I had no self-esteem, self-confidence, or self-worth. I began to get curious about his drug use. I finally wanted to try it. I was changed from the first time. I believe I was an addict long before I ever used. Once I started smoking crack, I couldn’t stop. His habit fed my habit. It was very progressive for me. Within a matter of months, I was using against my will. When I had the power to stop, I didn’t want to. When I wanted to stop, I didn’t have the power to.
For the next year or so, we used very heavily. We began committing petty thefts at retail stores to feed our addiction. This caused me to go to jail in several different counties. Eventually, we began to commit crime on a larger scale. We broke into a Kmart in West Virginia and stole $219,000 worth of jewelry. We smoked crack for several days straight. Immediately following that weekend, I discovered I was pregnant. I was 19 years old.
I wish that I could say I had this beautiful, perfect pregnancy. I wish I could say that being pregnant was enough to change my life. It wasn’t. I loved my baby from the moment I knew it was a life, but no human power can relieve me of my addiction. I continued using. I wanted to go to rehab. My daughter’s father told me absolutely not. He said that if I left for any reason, I wouldn’t be welcome back. And the sad, broken, defeated little girl inside of me, yearning for the male attention I never received from my father, stayed. She stayed. She used. She died a little more each day.
At 7 months pregnant, my Higher Power intervened and did for me what I could not do for myself. I got indicted for that jewelry case and placed in a maximum-security jail deep in West Virginia. I was held there for 42 days. I was clean. I was eating properly, I was being taken to the OBGYN regularly. At 8 and a half months pregnant, I had a court hearing. I was facing 14-60 years in prison. My mother came, with custody papers. I had to sign my unborn daughter over to her at this time, because if I had her in another state, Children Services could very well take her and put her in the system. The rest of my heart broke. The judge saw fit at my court hearing to reduce my bail. I got released that same day. My healthy baby girl was born 11 days later.
I moved back home to my mother’s house and I immediately got a job in a nursing home. I worked hard, and quickly got an apartment for my child and I. I re-applied to college and got accepted into the nursing program. I started my first class on my daughter, Randi’s, first birthday. The insidious past seemed to be left behind, just a shadow from a former life. I excelled in the program. I was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, which is the equivalent of National Honor Society, on a college level. I maintained living clean for 27 months. Then, Randi’s dad made parole.
I had the very best intentions when I took Randi to see her father. I just wanted to bridge the gap and give them a relationship. His manipulation began on the first day. I succumbed to it. For reasons unknown, even to myself, I let him back in my life. I felt obligated to give her a nuclear family. Three weeks after his release, I was using again. It didn’t start off slowly, either. My addiction took over with a vengeance, so did his abuse.
During the next several months, I continued going to nursing school. Several times I went to school with sunglasses on to hide the black eyes or to camouflage the broken facial bones. I somehow graduated in October of 2010. In January of 2011, my probation officer revoked me for being around the father of my child and a couple misdemeanor drug paraphernalia charges. I lost my coveted nursing license and I had to do the remainder of my suspended sentence for the jewelry case. I served 9 consecutive months. I didn’t see my child the entire time. While I was there, I started making goals. With all of my heart, I intended to get out and be a good mother and stay clean. I meant every promise I made. Addiction doesn’t care about promises though.
I repeated the same hopeless cycle for awhile once I got home. I accumulated several warrants in multiple counties. I finally got picked up and served time in five counties. I bounced from jail to jail for a few months until all of my legal obligations were fulfilled. I was tired. I was hopeless. I surrendered.
For the next few years, I stayed clean. I wasn’t involved in working a program or treatment though. I was simply ‘white-knuckle’ abstaining. I worked as a manger for a few years at Taco Bell. I got a nice apartment. I was a conscious mother. I wasn’t happy though. The drugs and alcohol had been my solution to my problems. I used them to feel relief. I used them to replicate happiness. I used them to feel a part of. Without them, I was on constant edge.
I unexpectedly lost my job in January of 2015. I immediately panicked and made a very bad decision out of fear. I didn’t want to lose my apartment or not be able to take care of my child, so I decided to sell weed. I thought it would be a low- key situation until I got back on my feet. That quickly led me to distributing heroin and meth. I was a good drug dealer, if there is a such a thing. I had a head for business. I beat out my competitor’s. I had higher quality dope and I served people well.
At this time, I became involved with a man named, Lawrence. He was the love I’d been looking for my whole life. He was absolutely gorgeous, sweet, funny, and protective. Him being so protective quickly won me over. I’d never experienced that before. I’d only experienced abandonment and abuse. He constantly asked me to stop selling drugs, but I refused. We both began using meth together. I quickly rose in the ranks of the underworld. I had enough money and dope to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. In the end, I was selling a pound of meth a week.
In June, 2016, I was involved in a raid at an associate’s residence. I was jailed for 18 days on a Felony 5 Aggravated Possession of a Controlled Substance. I was living in pure delusion at this point in my life. After those 18 days, I went to my mother’s house to retrieve my child. My mother refused to give her to me, and I exploded. I threatened my mother’s house and her life. I felt entitled to do so. My mother put a restraining order on me. I could no longer see my child.
At this point, any type of hold I had on reality broke. I went harder in the street. I sold more drugs. I used more drugs. I involved myself in very dangerous, sometimes violent situations. In July, 2016, I caught another felony, Improper Handling of a Firearm in a Motor Vehicle. I got indicted for the first charge in August and placed on pretrial release. I had to check in with a probation officer weekly.
Lawrence was on parole when we met. In August, he had gone to jail for a parole hold. He was granted a furlough for medical reasons. He came home on a Wednesday afternoon and proposed to me. In my drug induced delusion, I thought it was romantic and immediately accepted. We were married two days later. On the following Monday, he was sent to prison for five months. I was given a urinalysis at my check-in. I failed and was put back in jail. I was in and out of jail for the next couple months.
In October, 2015, my own residence got raided. It was a terrifying experience that gave me nightmares. My home, and everything in it, was destroyed. I was taken to jail and found to be in possession of methamphetamines. I accumulated another two charges, Conveyance of a Drug into a Detention Center and another Aggravated Possession of a Controlled Substance. I sat in jail 90 days and was released once again in December. My husband and I could finally be together.
I tried to get and stay clean. I went to an outpatient treatment center and signed up for counseling and a drug treatment group. It wasn’t helping. I continued to use. I remember sitting and crying because I didn’t want to use, but I knew without a doubt I was going to get high. My relationship with my husband spiraled out of control. We didn’t trust each other. The only time we were connected was during sex or using. It wasn’t enough. He left me in March. The following day, I failed another drug screen and was sent back to jail. While in jail this time, I found out he got another woman pregnant. That was the rock bottom I so desperately needed. All of my designs, motives, and ideas had finally run out. This was, ironically, the first victory in my road to recovery.
While in the county jail, I met a woman I will forever be grateful to. I was broken and destroyed. I had a heart filled with hate. She began to do Bible Studies with me. I had grown up in church, but somewhere along the way I had separated myself from Him. She began to tell me to pray for those people that I hated. I didn’t want to. I didn’t feel that they deserved my prayers. I did it anyways, because I had no ideas left. As I began to pray for those people, my resentments diminished. I had a spiritual awakening. I felt hope for the first time in a long time.
The judge released me a few months later on house arrest. By the grace of God, my mother welcomed me into her home once again. I attended two 12-step meetings per week, attended Intensive Outpatient Programming four days per week, and took my daughter to church every Sunday. I stayed clean 6 months.
On August 31, 2016, I got devastating news. A dear friend had been brutally murdered. It broke my heart. The next morning was my sentencing for my four felonies. The judge gave me an amazing opportunity to go to a lockdown treatment center and be on probation. He sentenced me to 40 months in prison and suspended the sentence. I walked out of that courtroom and immediately used the death of my friend as an excuse to get high. I used for the next 3 weeks, until my bed date on September 27th, 2016. That is my current, and hopefully last, clean date. Today, I celebrate 14 months.
I completed the four-month program on January 31st. On February 1st, I was in an NA meeting in my hometown. I knew I had to fill my time with recovery and people that weren’t using anymore. When I walked into that church, I saw a dear friend that I had went to high school with. He was clean, healthy, and smiling. I was in awe. I had known him 18 years and never thought I’d see the day he was clean. I asked him what he did and he told me he had gotten a sponsor and worked the 12 steps. I was happy for him, but I didn’t think it would work for me. For the next couple months, I just tried to stay busy. I went to as many meetings as possible and got a job. I wasn’t happy though. I couldn’t feel emotions normally. I couldn’t feel intimacy with my daughter. I tried.
I finally decided to get a sponsor of my own and work the steps. What did I have to lose? The steps were simple. My sponsor was amazing. She told me one of the promises of a 12-step program was that my desire to use and the obsession of the mind would be removed. I thought she was crazy. I assumed, that even in 30 years, I’d fantasize and obsess over using. Thankfully, she shared with me a program that had been freely shared with her. She took me through the steps.
I like to tell everyone about the steps one by one, because there is a lot of misconception out there. Before I worked the steps, I was intimidated and fearful of them. I’d heard of them, but never knew what they actually were.
Step One, “We admitted we were powerless over addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable”. My history with drugs proved to me that I was powerless. I couldn’t stop permanently. I couldn’t control or manage my use. I used against my will. My experience proves this time and time again. It also says that our lives had become unmanageable. I thought going to jail was unmanageability. That was a consequence. The unmanageability in my life was that I couldn’t have normal, healthy relationships. I couldn’t control my emotions. I couldn’t feel intimacy with my own child. I couldn’t live life on life’s terms. Admitting these facts was a surrender. It allowed me to humble myself and begin my recovery.
Step Two, “We came to believe that a Power Greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” This step was easy for me. I had always believed in God. I knew my own power couldn’t restore me to sanity. My own power had me selling and using drugs. I knew that my addiction was more powerful than myself. All this step states, is that we become willing to believe that we are not God. Many people use the program or the group as their Higher Power. Many use karma, nature, or just doing the next right thing.
Step Three, “We made a decision to turn our will and out lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” This step was a little more difficult. It was hard for me to surrender all of my life over, but I followed my sponsor’s suggestion and humbly, on my knees, offered myself to my Higher Power. I asked for His guidance in my life. I have to repeat this full prayer every morning and a shortened version several times throughout the day.
Step Four, “We made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves.” My sponsor instructed me to write out all the people and institutions I was resentful at and why. I couldn’t wait to do that! I knew exactly who I was mad at and why. Then we sat down and went over them. She showed me what part of myself was affected by each situation. She showed me where I had been wrong and reacted out of fear. I had to admit my own fault at this point. This step allowed some healing to start. I then wrote up a fears list and a sane and sound sex ideal. I prayed, in earnest, for each of the people I was resentful at. I prayed for God to remove my fears. I also prayed to be able to live up to my own sane and sound sex ideal. Over time, my fears were alleviated and my resentments were lessened.
Step Five, “We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” This step was very difficult. I knew what I had done wrong over the years. God knew what I’d done, but to admit it out loud to another person was terrifying. I told her anyway. This step opened me up to building trusting relationships again. My sponsor told me of her own failings and related to me. It made me trust in her as a person. Once I released all those negative, guilt filled, shameful things I’d done. I could finally breathe with ease for the first time in a very long time.
Step 6, “We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” During my Fifth Step, my sponsor was writing in her notebook. She then handed me the paper. It contained a list of character defects. I was judgmental, intolerant, unforgiving, unloving, manipulative, dishonest, too ambitious, gossiping, angry, and many others. I knew some of them. Others, I was surprised by. This step came easy for me. Once I saw these lesser qualities listed in black and white, they weren’t deniable. I absolutely wanted to let go of them.
Step Seven, “We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.” I was sent home to pray for each of these character defects to be removed. It didn’t happen all at once. I still have many, but today, I am mindful of them. I catch them sooner and correct them. I don’t live my life expressing my negative traits.
Step Eight, “We made a list of persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.” I sat down with her and I began to write the list of people I had hurt. This list doesn’t just include my active drug use. It’s all inclusive, over my entire lifespan. I owe amends to my family for the pain I caused them. I owe amends to the community for selling drugs. I owe amends to stores for stealing from there. I owe amends to people I fought with. I also owe amends to creditors for outstanding financial obligations.
Step Nine, “We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” First, my sponsor taught me how to make proper amends. I must go to the people I’ve harmed and apologize to them for my behavior (stating the exact harm). Then I ask them what I can do to repair the situation. I ask them how it made them feel and let them tell me. Lastly, I fulfill their amends. This step is not easy, but it is life changing. It taught me about forgiveness. All of my amends have been well received and it showed me that people can be forgiving and loving. It allowed me to finally forgive myself. Some of the amends I have are lifelong. I don’t know the amount of money I’ve stolen from stores, so I make living amends by paying it forward. I give to charities and live successfully today.
Step Ten, “We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.” Each night I review my day objectively. Was I selfish, self-seeking, resentful? If I catch these thoughts cropping up throughout my day, I immediately ask my Higher Power to remove them. I, then, call someone and talk to them about it. It removes the power from the thoughts. This step also states to make amends immediately if I’m wrong. Because I’m mindful of my actions today, I don’t have to make a lot of amends, but I do when necessary. I keep my side of the street cleaned up.
Step Eleven, “We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.’ Meditation just means to listen. I pray each morning and each night for God’s will. Then I sit silently and listen for his answer. I get intuitive thoughts about how I should carry that out each day. I am by no mean’s perfect at this. It is definitely a skill that requires practice and patience.
Step Twelve, “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, to practice these principles in all of our affairs.” There are many ways to practice this step. I sponsor other struggling women and try to share with them my experience in recovery. I speak at 12 step meetings. I have spoken publicly about my struggles and my successes with recovery. I advocate for other addicts. I make sure that I welcome newcomers to the meetings. I make them feel welcome and a part of. I make sure people have rides to and from the meeting. This step is all about service work. It is my responsibility to carry the message of recovery to those still sick. I have to give what was given to me. The second half of this step states that we must practice these principles in all of our affairs. To me, that means I have to be kind and loving at work with my co-workers and clients. I have to treat my family nicely at home. I have to be open and tolerant to people in everyday society. I gauge my spiritual well-being on these factors. It’s easy to do these things one hour a day at a meeting, but what about the other twenty-three hours a day?
Today, my life is beautiful. I have an amazing support system. I’ve built up a family of recovering addicts around me. Never in my life have I ever met such a group of supportive, inspiring people. They love me because of one struggle we all had in common. Our differences don’t matter. We unconditionally love each other.
The relationships I’ve rebuilt through the amends process with my family are better than they were before I ever picked up a drug or drink. I am proud of the person I am today, and so are they. I’m not ashamed of my past anymore. I know that my experience will help another. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to a local high school student body for Drug Awareness week. I also spoke at a larger event to inspire hope into the community. I get to be an example of what recovery can be.
The drug and alcohol outpatient treatment facility I went to successfully terminated me this summer. They turned around and offered me a job two months later. I am now gratefully employed as the house manager of their first sober living home.
Today, I am honest in all that I do. I can remember my past and feel pride I that I don’t live there anymore. I can use my experience to help other addicts and offer them hope. Today, I am grateful to be a daughter that my mother doesn’t have to worry about anymore. I am grateful that I can be a friend that others can trust. I am grateful to be a mother that my daughter can be proud of. I am grateful to know the difference between living and existing. Today, I can be me.
*This essay is a part of an online series called the “Addiction Chronicles” written by addicts and the family members of addicts. If you’d like to write and have your essay/art published on our website, please send it AdvocateRecovery@yahoo.com or send it in a private message to our Facebook page. We have no problems with anonymous submissions if you wish to remain private but still would like to have your story heard.