My Story (told at 25 years old)

I think it’s important for me to start off by telling you that I don’t have a sad beginning. I didn’t grow up with a rough childhood, nor do I have a traumatizing back-story to explain why I was so determined to run away from myself. I have just learned over time that I have not always been right, and that maybe my brain was just wired in a way that I would have to grow to accept.

 Baby Megan: Before she knew what was ahead of her.

Baby Megan: Before she knew what was ahead of her.

Growing up I was an only child, and I often wonder if that had anything to do with the way I bottled everything up. I learned how to keep secrets from people from a very young age, and I am not here to blame my decisions on being an only child, but I would be lying if I said that it didn’t influence my behavior in a certain way. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, for being an only child has taught me how to be alone, and be at peace with that. Don’t get me wrong, I have also learned that it was never the monster in the closet I was afraid of, as much as it was the monster I had living in my own mind.

 Soccer always acted as an outlet for me. It was my first passion, and a huge chapter of my life. 

Soccer always acted as an outlet for me. It was my first passion, and a huge chapter of my life. 

I grew up being the child that excelled in sports, and it was embedded in me at an early age, that I was supposed to be a great athlete. I seemed to pick up easily on a handful of sports, and I was finding out quickly that I was on to something worth pursuing. Athletics was something that was spread throughout both sides of my family. It was as if I was inherently given some kind of gift, which I now had to find out which sport I was the best at. I am competitive by nature and passionate about everything that I do. Looking back now, I see why I followed my athletic journey into my collegiate career. Athletics was always meant to be a part of my story, but like most things in life, it was only meant to be a chapter.

 Signing Day! The day I officially became a soccer player for the University of Tampa.

Signing Day! The day I officially became a soccer player for the University of Tampa.

I am not sure when, or at what age, but at some point, I developed this feeling of invincibility. I had somehow tapped into a part of my brain that made me act on impulse, and without remorse for what may come of it. I had this kind of fearlessness that would, more times than not, lead me into trouble.

I started dabbling into drugs around the age of 14, and I guess I never really stopped. It was at this time in my life, that I discovered how much easier it was to get away with things when you didn’t have a sibling to tell on you.  As the years went on, the only thing that changed was the severity of the drug and the high that I would receive. Each drug was different, and I was immediately intrigued with the allure of them all. It was simply just a ‘phase,’ something that I would grow out of. I never once viewed it as a problem or anything that was out of hand. I got pretty good at justifying things as I got older. There was always a reason, or need, for why I would do the things that I do.

High school, for me, was filled with those necessary, teenage self-discovery kinds of life lessons: Forming relationships, creating friendships, attending house parties, pursuing athletics, and starting my first job. Basically a first for a lot of things; and in my case, a first for a handful of things I could have lived without. There were a handful of traits I had developed that I would bring with me to college, including my desire to want to fix people. For most of my high school experience, I had fallen in love with the star soccer player in my area, who would eventually go on to playing professionally. This relationship would mark the beginning to a very destructive path of love interests scattered throughout my story. My innate ability to want to fix people would continue to grow all throughout college.

 My idea of going out: Drinking until I pass out...in public places. In this case, the VIP booth of a dance club.

My idea of going out: Drinking until I pass out...in public places. In this case, the VIP booth of a dance club.

Freedom. That is what college was to me. I no longer had to be sneaky, and a curfew was something of the past. Although I was playing college soccer, I still managed to live my life as a ‘normal’ college student. I wouldn’t consider my freshman, or sophomore year anything out of the ordinary. Everyone around me was binge drinking, sleeping around, and living their life carelessly, so at what point was I supposed to acknowledge that my behavior might have been a problem? I was all too familiar with blackouts since those were something that started to occur during high school. For those of you that are not aware of what that means, a blackout happens when you drink enough to completely erase your memory, or better yet, a blackout doesn’t allow you to create any memories. It is, if you will, wasted time.

“My Story” doesn’t really start until my junior year of college. This is when my behavior became alarming to myself, and those around me, but this is not where my sobriety starts. Not even close.

 My 21st birthday was one for the books...or so I was told; I don't remember any of it. 

My 21st birthday was one for the books...or so I was told; I don't remember any of it. 

My junior year started out healthy. I lost my fake ID, and I decided that I wasn’t going to drink until I was of legal age. I had 8 months until my 21st birthday, and until that time, I had developed a new habit: weight training. I changed my life completely; still playing college soccer, working full time, as well as being a full-time student, I had now added weight lifting to my schedule, twice, sometimes even three times a day. It wasn’t long before it took over my life, and for lack of a better word, I was addicted. It was the first time in awhile that I felt more like myself. I was no longer drinking myself into oblivion, and I was doing something healthy for my body. It wasn’t a problem… until I made it one.

 On the left: 170 lbs. / On the right: 115 lbs.

On the left: 170 lbs. / On the right: 115 lbs.

Somewhere along my fitness journey, I had developed unhealthy eating habits, and I was over-training. The mirror had become my enemy, and no matter what I did, I never seemed to like what I looked like. My friends, coaches, and trainers were worried about me, but I had always insisted that I knew what I was doing. Quickly, it had become obvious that something wasn’t right. I started to look sick, and my athletic trainer even threatened to suspend me from playing soccer if I were to lose any more weight. I saw no harm in what I was doing because, to me, it was just working out. I started counting calories, and I had lost 50 pounds within two months. I was by no means ever overweight, but with my first two years of college including heavy drinking, and late night eating, there was weight to be lost.

To make everyone happy, I cut back on my training. This meant to remain in the shape that I was in, I would continue to monitor my eating and never consume more than 900 calories a day. I refused to gain back the weight I had worked so hard to lose, so I replaced my weight training addiction with another one: Adderall.

This drug made me productive, invincible, and ultimately limitless. I fell in love with it immediately, and I found myself always needing more. What I have learned from being an addict, is that even when you have enough of your drug of choice, you never really have enough of it. It wasn’t hard to find on a college campus, and there was always a student willing to make a profit off of another’s addiction. I found myself stealing from friends that were prescribed this drug, and there was very little I wouldn’t do to get my hands on it.

 The result of my amphetamine overdose - 2 Months in a boot!

The result of my amphetamine overdose - 2 Months in a boot!

After a 96-hour period of no sleep, I experienced a drug overdose that forced me to temporarily stop playing soccer due to a serious swelling in my leg, and ankle. My athletic trainer didn’t know what had caused it, and I couldn’t tell him. I was not prescribed Adderall, and admitting that I was abusing it would get me kicked off of the soccer team. That simple fact didn’t really matter, because due to my drug abuse, I, unfortunately, lost the motivation for soccer altogether. I was showing up late to practices, and one morning, I failed to show up at all. That was the final straw. I parted ways with my collegiate career, and I planned to be a ‘normal’ student come my senior year.

 This picture was taken on day 4 of no sleep.

This picture was taken on day 4 of no sleep.

In the midst of all of this, I had managed to fall in love with someone. From the beginning, we had a very complicated relationship. I had a drug addiction, a budding drinking problem, and a promiscuous lifestyle that put a serious strain on creating anything healthy. Over the course of the next two years, we would discover that we were meant to fall apart. This was something I wouldn’t grow to accept until the date of my sobriety, and it was a crutch for me to use as a means to numb a lot of my pain. I was always using the heartbreak to justify my drinking and drugging, and I never wanted to admit that my actions were the cause of everything good in my life coming to an end. The end of my junior year was the first time that I was willing to see that something had to change.

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My first wake up call happened in April of 2013. I woke up in jail, scared, drunk, and alone. I was arrested for DUI, and I had nearly blown a 0.3 BAC. For those of you that don’t know how high that is, at 0.5 they consider you to the point of death. I don’t remember anything from that night. I just remember calling my best friend instead of my parents, because I was too afraid to call them myself. I made her call them, and they came and picked up their only child from jail. No words were exchanged, and all I could do was cry. It was at this time that I realized something had to change. So I stopped abusing drugs, and I cleaned up my act… for the most part. This stint was a huge eye opener for my parents. They thought they knew the girl that they had raised, but because of my ability to lie, and put on a front, they never knew how bad things really were. I kept them in the dark because it was just better that way; it was easier.

 Just a typical (blacked out) day in the life.

Just a typical (blacked out) day in the life.

My senior year came pretty quickly, and this is when my drinking really started to take over. It had become something I was really good at. Blacking out was almost an everyday thing, and it seemed that I wasn’t able to drink without forgetting most of the night before. This is what my life became for the next two years. When I graduated college, I was working 60+ hours a week, and making enough to supply my drinking. I was either going from job to job, or bar to bar. My life entered into some sort of routine where all that mattered was making money and then drinking it away. At this point, I was a high functioning drinker, and I was still able to justify my actions to anyone who questioned them. I was able to sober up enough to do what I needed to do, and always ready to celebrate afterward. At this point, I still wasn’t convinced that I had an issue with drinking.

 This is an example of what Day 31 looked like: Me, passed out at the bar.

This is an example of what Day 31 looked like: Me, passed out at the bar.

To prove to myself and those around me that I didn’t have a problem, I would challenge myself to 30 days of no drinking; which I typically did with ease, but day 31 was a different kind of challenge that would lead to 3-day benders, and returning back to my old ways. Always finding myself in compromising positions, and places that I was unfamiliar with, I began to see that maybe I wasn’t making the best choices. In the last three months of my drinking, the recklessness got out of hand. One example is that I cracked my skull open, and my first reaction was to laugh about it. Just a normal day in the life, right? This life was no longer glamorous, and I was starting to see that my wants were becoming needs. I was no longer in control of my life or my actions.

At some point in my journey, I lost sight of who I was. Looking back now, I can honestly say that I didn’t drink to become someone else. I have always had a positive outlook on life, but my problem is that I held onto pain, and never figured out a way to let it out. So I numbed it. I used drinking and drugging to escape my 3 am type of thoughts from surfacing. I pushed it all down and kept living my life on autopilot. I was running away from all of the things that would inevitably catch up to me.

 This picture was once thought of as something hilarious to me. Looking back, I see now just how reckless I had been living my life.  

This picture was once thought of as something hilarious to me. Looking back, I see now just how reckless I had been living my life.  

It caught up to me in August of 2015, and it was the wake-up call that I almost didn’t wake up from. I attempted to end my life. I woke up in a house that I no longer lived in, passed out on an abandoned couch that was left behind by me and my roommates. My dad found me, and if it weren’t for his gut feeling he had about where I might be, who knows what the outcome to this story would be today. First and foremost, alcohol is a depressant, and if consumed in excess, and at the rate that I was drinking, your mental health can be gravely affected. I was tired of my life, and the way I had been living it. Always loving the wrong people, making terrible judgment calls, and ultimately, not being the person I was supposed to be. I was no longer happy, and during my last blackout, I thought I had come up with a good solution.

I spent the next couple days in a hospital bed, with multiple IV’s in my arms, while they did their best to drain out the bottle of pills I had put into my system. Although still hard to talk about, I think it is important that I am honest about this part of my journey, because this is the part that changed it all for me. The worst and most sobering part of this story was the questioning. “What were your intentions?” “Were you trying to harm yourself?” “What do you remember?” I was at a loss for words, and in that moment, my initial reaction was to lie; which is what I did. It wasn’t until a couple months after the event that I faced the reality of the situation and was willing to admit out loud what I had done to myself. I see now how selfish I was, and what damage that would have caused had I completed what I had set out to do the night of my final drink.

 Sobriety saved my life. When I made the choice to stop drinking & drugging, I was ultimately choosing to live MY life again, & be present for all that life has to offer.

Sobriety saved my life. When I made the choice to stop drinking & drugging, I was ultimately choosing to live MY life again, & be present for all that life has to offer.

Sobriety, for me, seemed to be my only choice. There was no going back because I don’t believe that there is a worse kind of rock bottom for me; and if there is, that is not something I am willing to find out. Every day has become a choice; a choice to be the best version of myself, and to not allow certain temptations, or triggers, to pull me back down the rabbit hole. I wake up every morning, and put one foot in front of the other, and find peace in the fact that I was given another day to make the most of my life. Sobriety has allowed me to see that I am NOT my circumstance, and I am NOT my past. I am who I choose to be NOW, and in the moment, because that is all we really have. 

 I am no longer afraid to speak my truth, and open up about the dark secrets I kept hidden for so long. I know I am not alone, and I hope you know that as well. 

I am no longer afraid to speak my truth, and open up about the dark secrets I kept hidden for so long. I know I am not alone, and I hope you know that as well. 

It has opened my eyes to the world that I wasn’t really a part of. I was merely just existing, but now I feel as though I am involved. I am able to rebuild relationships and mend the pain that I caused. I am able to forgive myself and forgive those that may have hurt me. I no longer hold any hate in my heart, and I continue to do my best to put out the best me into the world that I possibly can. I feel as though I now have a purpose, and a reason to keep moving forward. My sobriety is my favorite thing about me. It means that I know what I am capable of and that I am strong enough to overcome the demons that controlled me for so long. It means that I have finally shown up for my life; no longer allowing so many negative influences to deter my path. It means that I have found the light at the end of the dark tunnel I was traveling down for so long.

For anyone that reads my story, and resonates with any part of it, I hope you know that you are not alone; I hope you know that you are capable of saving yourself. Your past is just a part of your story, and this is just the beginning of mine.

You aren’t what has happened to you; you are what you have learned from it. Never forget that you are so much better than your worst day.

I love you,

Megan Lawrence