Lindsay A’s Success Story of Overcoming Her 30 Years Addiction.
My name is Lindsay Ackerman and I am a recovering addict. Before I start telling you all about my life, let me begin with the fact that I lived all my life unaware of the fact that I had an addiction, and that I was an addict. I had no clue that the world of NA and recovery existed, I never had any understanding of anything and definitely did not have an understanding of who I was or the disease that I lived with for 30 years.
I was born In Cape Town in May, 1983, which makes me 32 years of age. My dad was an alcoholic, and that made our family time and home life unpleasant most of the time. Although we were and are still quite a dysfunctional family, I always got everything that I wanted and my parents stayed together and gave us the best that they could. I remember all the fights between my parents and always being stuck in the middle feeling like I had to choose a side. Apart from all the fighting when my dad drank, they loved us unconditionally and as a family love was the one constant that we always had among us to this day. I am the youngest of four children, I have 2 older sisters, Michelle (43), Meagan (41) and a brother Eugene (35). I went to pre-school at the age of 4 years and moved on to Sub A the following year. I was a year too young but they had the space for one more, and I will never forget going to my first day of school in a bright yellow dress. From a young age I displayed a natural talent in art and drawing. I was a sprinter from Sub A and was always on of the top athletes throughout my schooling up till Matric. I did long jump as well as javelin. I loved sports and art and it was my be all and end all. I attended Norman Henshilwood High School which was then a Model C school. I was part of the volleyball team, tennis 3rd team girls and continued my Athletics in 100m and 200m and long jump. Art was one of my main subjects and I attended Frank Joubert Art Centre, doing various subjects and chose ceramics for 3 yrs and I did history of Art. This was a big part of what made me truly happy and who I was and lost touch with later on in my life.
In my opinion I was not a problem child growing up but I was definitely naughty. I was always doing things that I was told not to do. I loved being involved with anything that was messy. I was a bit of a tom boy and always got into trouble for drawing pictures of cars with permanent markers on the walls, had a passion for cars from a young age as well. I was very close to my dad and brother and always wanted to be doing what they did. I absolutely hated being in dresses and my sisters always pretended that I was their live Barbie doll.
As a child of course I would not have known what the signs of being an addict was which are all very clear to me now that it was always present from small. I would go to birthday parties at the age of 5 yrs and would come home days later. Play time was never enough for me, I always had to make my parents fetch me when I was the last one left. I loved chocolate, I would go shopping with my mom and take chocolates when she wasn’t looking and hide them under my clothes, at the age of 3 or 4 yrs. A family holiday in Knysna my mom had to look after me because it was Easter and I had eaten all the chocolates that we had and got so sick I threw up all weekend and I was about 6 yrs of age. I had my first taste of alcohol at age 10, and my first cigarette at age 11. I experimented more with both in high school but it was more a social thing and it was the one thing that made me feel a bit rebellious. I was a prefect in Std.5 as well and Matric, I generally liked sticking to the rules because I hated being in trouble with authority.
I Matriculated in the year 2000, if it was left up to me I would have taken a gap year but my parents would not allow that. My dream career was to become a Graphic Designer and that was the prize I had my eye set on. I registered for an Access Course at Cape Technikon, which was an introductory to all the designs courses. I discovered that working with my hands was my gift. I paid great attention to detail and was a perfectionist. I fell in love with Interior Design and my career choice shifted. I kept my head down and worked hard, went to all my classes as tempting as the beach on a hot summers day was. I was always part of the popular crowd since primary school and I managed to hold on to me without being influenced by peer pressure, I was always teased for being boring or too good. At this point my sisters and brother had moved out and I was left alone with my parents. I had a part time job at McDonalds, I would go to tech and straight after on a Friday went to work and usually had the shift that ended at 1 am. This was my routine for about a year. I never enjoyed being at home and used my dad’s drinking as an escape to always be out. I was part of quite a close group of friends and we would go away on weekends quite a bit and this was when I had my first encounter with hard drugs, Ecstasy, and Coke. I always got really nervous when I would take them, fearing something bad would happen to me and my parents would find out. Our weekends away increased and I got more and more comfortable with using and enjoying the feeling.
2003, the year that every choice I made led me in the wrong direction and steered me completely off the path I had planned for myself. I had changed my part time job to a sales person in a retail store, and was earning some decent money. I would work weekends, go to tech and party all weekend, drinking was my absolute favorite and would often go to work on a Sunday morning still drunk and reeking of alcohol and sleeping it off in the stock room. I would always drink myself into such a state ensuring that I would have an embarrassing story to tell or needed to be told because I could not remember.
I was off to a party one Saturday night and we had some work to finish at tech, my friend had a glass pipe that I had never seen before. I was offered to have from it, I hesitated at first but had a hit. The best feeling that I ever had and I fell in love immediately with my worst nightmare, Crystal Meth. It gave me so much power, and I would just keep going for days, work, studying, partying and feeling fantastic without needing to sleep. Of course it also made me feel sober when I drank so I could drink more. I decided that making money was more important than having a career at this point. I left my studies and worked full time. Of course my parents were not happy with my decision but I stopped listening to anything they would tell me, because I knew better. Life was great, moved out the house because my dad was the problem and I couldn’t live with them anymore. Met a guy that was my dealer and this turned into a friendship. I stayed with a friend who used as well and while I was still in my partying phase of using and it was fun, she was at a different point to me, she would steal from me and eventually I was supporting us both because she gave up her job to stay at home and use as much as she could. I started using during the week, needed it to get up for work, overslept most mornings and was always needing to lie to get out of trouble at work. My life was completely unmanageable, and I was exhausted from all the chaos that I was so attracted to. I woke up one morning and called my Mom and asked her to please send me to Joburg to be by my sisters. I felt that when they all moved out of the house, I felt abandoned by them and nobody to look up to anymore. My Mom agreed and booked my ticket, I used and used and once again overslept for my flight that I just left all my luggage in Cape Town and got on the plane. I cried all the way and drank as much as I could and it was 8 am on a Sunday morning. I got to Joburg and I felt it was definitely the break that I needed, out of sight and out of mind. I had no access to drugs and knew nobody. My dealer that I had, decided to come to Joburg and contact me, told me he loved me and he can’t see himself living without me. I hesitated at first but he came up every weekend and we would hang out, this went on for 8 months and I found myself falling in love with him as well. It was a costly exercise and I decided that it was time I went back home to Cape Town, and I wanted to be with him. 2005 I was back in Cape Town and the relationship that was so special that we had in Joburg turned into everything but special. I started using again, I found myself being locked in rooms and cupboards while he went out cheating with other girls. I refused to leave because I was deeply in love so everything I chose to put myself through I used it as an excuse to use more. Everything just went from bad to completely messed up. So for the next 6 years the same cycle repeated itself, the cycle of being in a toxic relationship, changing jobs, moving back and forth between Joburg and Cape Town, and moving from my own place to always ending up back home because I could never afford the lifestyle I chose to live. Having money for my drugs came first and then my rent and food. I was using to live and I lived to use. I would open my eyes and have a hit, I used on every emotion, every event and for any and every reason. I was slowly sucking the life out of me and I blamed everything and everybody else. I felt so sorry for myself. Life was so unfair and I had no idea what I did wrong to deserve all that had happened to me. Playing the victim became an art that I mastered over years.
2010, I had finally moved on from my ex boyfriend, I got back together with one of my very first boyfriends who left me for his high school sweetheart, got married and divorced. We were at a party one night and I met someone else. I wasn’t looking for anything serious and I was tired of getting hurt. I decided to see them both and make a choice from there, they both found out about each other and forced me to decide, obviously I decided on the one who never left me for someone else before. He never used but we partied every weekend and even though I stopped using my drinking escalated and affected my work just as much as drugs did. I was happy trying to live a normal life but it wasn’t enough for me, I craved the chaos and found myself making excuses to be left on my own and started spending time with old using friends, found myself lying to him so that I could spend time using instead of meeting him for a braai at his friends or to watch the soccer game at a pub. My behavior changed and all we started doing was fight over absolutely everything. He broke up with me and even though I was not present in the relationship it was in me to hold on ever so tightly to something that was unhealthy. When I let go of him, he returned and it lasted for a few months, he left me for someone else that he is now married to and that was that.
2011, I changed direction in my career path and started working at BMW, using my break up as ammunition to start using full time again. I never ever gave myself a break from men, I met someone new, and every time I just chose someone more toxic than the last and I became more toxic. May 2012, I had run away from home with this guy and stayed at places I would never ever see myself even sitting at. I was back in the cycle of being late for work every day, not sleeping, and I eventually got myself in a situation where I was far away from home, never knew anybody around me, I resigned at work because I just messed up everything and it was attracting too much attention to my life I was living. He started physically abusing me as soon as I was in a position of having no power, I found out that he was married and had a daughter. I made one bad choice after the other. He wanted to see his daughter and I let him use the BMW that was given to me for 2 weeks to get me around. He switched his phone off and returned 4 days later, during this time I came to learn that he was a very dangerous person that was part of a gang. During those 4 days I never ate a thing, I never slept a wink and all I did was use and use more. I was skin and bones and felt sick, the only options I had was drown myself or take an overdose of pills. I do believe that my Higher Power was present at those times. All I wanted to do was die, my family never knew where I was, nobody did, and I was around very dangerous people. He returned after I made some calls to his leader and threatened that I would go to the police and he had gotten one of his guys to bring him and my car back. The next day I took a walk in the area and it got dark and I just felt like running as far and as fast as I could. I returned to the house and he was waiting for me, he looked for any word that I said wrong to attack me, he threw a screwdriver at me and once again my Higher Power was with me, the plastic end hit me in my neck, swollen neck and face wet from crying. I made a plan to call my aunt and tell her where I was to fetch me. He had stolen everything from me, and I had nothing left. She fetched me the next day and my sisters booked me a ticket to Joburg once again.
10th August 2012, I was on a plane with nothing but a gym bag filled with random dirty clothes that I had with me. I was broken, mind, body and soul. I landed and they were so grateful to see me alive. I left my Dad in Cape Town crying because he thought I was dead when I disappeared. I never showered for 4 days when I got there, all I did was sleep and wake up to have some water and maybe something to eat. My nephew kept asking my sister what was wrong with me. After a week they forced me into a bath and took me to buy new clothes. I started fighting with them to let me go back to Cape Town, the insanity of wanting to go back to what I had thankfully escaped. I drank every day and would be drunk by the time they would come home from work, I refused to look for a job. They tossed me from one sister to the other because I was too much for them. They refused to let me go back to Cape Town so I refused to do anything but drink every day. I became aggressive with all of them, and they just wanted to reach out and help me. After threatening my sister with a knife, I made the choice to tell her everything about my drug using and where I was and my life for the past 10 years. She immediately wanted me to go to rehab and I managed to manipulate my other sister into talking her out of it. End of 2012, she had a friend that knew someone who had a treatment center, and I went along to meet Dan Wolf and have a look at Houghton House. I paid no attention and wasn’t interested at all, I merely went along because that is what she asked me to do. At this point I was still in denial in seeing that I had a problem. I convince them all that I will stay clean on my own and do my best to make a change. It was going to be easy because I was in Joburg, I had no car and no friends. After 3 months I made peace with the fact that I was here to stay and they bought me new clothes instead of letting me go back to Cape Town. Eventually they let me go home for 3 days to pack up all my things. I landed and had a friend waiting for me which I arranged and the first thing I did was have a hit and got as high as I could in those 3 days. I packed up all my boxes and arranged for someone to have it sent down by truck, and was able to have a utensil to smoke from and a gram of crystal put into my boxes and when it arrived. I couldn’t wait to get high. I got a job as soon as I started looking at Hyundai, selling cars again. I now had a car and started earning really well. 3 months later, I met up with 2 friends that moved here from CT as well for the same reasons and we missioned to get a dealer and my sisters were away for 2 weeks and all I did was get high. I started chatting to an old friend who now lives in the UK and we became very close because I had nothing else to do and I was lonely, and I was able to get into a toxic relationship over skype. He came to visit and it was a complete disaster, Feb 2013, this was such a bad choice, I used this as my excuse to use every day again and now I had found my own dealer and was getting to know my way around. I preferred using on my own and was taken to a casino one day and sat and played a bit and saw this as a great place to be, I could sit and drink alone and have my drugs and I didn’t need to have friends to do this because so many people sat alone at casino’s. Making a lot of money, no responsibility this became my thing, straight from work picked up my drugs, went to the casino and stayed there till my sister would call asking me where I was. Started becoming addicted to the machines and was using up to R10 000 a time especially on a Saturday after work, I had more time during the day to be away from home. I was getting out of control, Gambling all my money away, drinking and using every day, same pattern back in full force, over sleeping for work, became aggressive and defensive to everybody protecting my using with my life. My sisters had enough of me and both threw me out the house, I was living in my car, not showering on some days because I had nowhere to go, waited for them to go to work so that I could change in front of their house. Met a guy at the casino, and it was convenient for me at the time because I could crash at his place and he gambled as well. Almost exactly a year later, I found myself in a situation yet again I overslept for work and got there after 12, they said I should go home, I left and went to the dealer and spent the rest of my day getting high at the casino, I was addicted to drugs, men, gambling and chaos. Anything that filled the void I always felt. I took the next day off and went for an interview and planned on resigning that Friday.
Let’s just say my Higher Power never lets me down, My boss at that time, refused to let me resign and asked me if I wanted help, I sat for 2 hours in his office denying that I had a problem, eventually the word I now have come to know, I surrendered, I couldn’t do it anymore, the lies, the manipulation, the fighting, the chaos and the repetitive cycle that brought me nothing but trouble. I promised him I would go home and tell my sisters, I lied, I went straight to the dealer and bought my last 2 grams and used the entire weekend and went home on the Monday and told my sisters that I need to go to rehab. I agreed to let work help me through the process. The rehab that work suggested was horrible and I refused to stay there, it seemed like a prison and I remembered Houghton House that we had a look at the year before. I begged my sister to let me go there instead, she arranged everything while I needed to sleep. On the 5th of August 2013 I stopped drinking and using drugs. On the 7th of August 2013 I checked in at Houghton House Primary Care.
This is where I feel my life started all over again. I did for a while question what did I get myself into. I thought I was going to sleep and detox, but they let me sleep for my first day, after that it was getting up at 7, making my own bed and following a strict timetable and set of rules. Apart from that, I had to get use to strangers, touching me and hugging me, and groups, having no choice but to reveal information about myself. It took me a while to get use to this but I was OK, I entered into a whole new world and I had a lot to learn. Admitting that I was powerless over drugs and alcohol and I could never drink again was the hardest to accept. I found out during my 6 weeks in Primary Care that I was pregnant and had to have an abortion. It was quite a traumatic experience that I still sometimes think of but it was a decision that was best for me at the time. I had to learn to look after myself first let alone be responsible for another human being.
I followed all suggestions, I went over to The Gap and stayed there for next 3 months. This is where the real work began, I never really liked step work much but we had to do it. Doing my step 4 brought about a lot of emotions that I buried during my 10 years of using. Dealing with myself was the hardest part of recovery for me and I still battle to sit with myself and sit with emotions. I then moved onto the halfway house for another 6 months and things started to improve more and more. I continued counselling sessions, I was in After Care for 3 months and did Relapse Prevention for another 3 months after that. I was able to to start working on relationships that I destroyed with my family by never being present. I started learning to deal with life on life’s terms and that I can’t always get my way, and when I don’t I need to use the tools that I was taught in treatment to get me through just for today. I moved back home to my eldest sister in May 2014 and since then I have changed jobs, been in a relationship that ended in November, found out my dad has cancer, dealing with them all one day at a time and some days, one minute at a time and as every day that I stay clean I am greatful. I still go to my counseling session every second week, I chair a meeting at The Gap every Thursday, doing service brings me great pleasure and helps me so much. I have sponsee’s that add so much to my recovery, and a sponsor that has become a very close friend. I do meetings every week, I love stepwork now, it’s the heart of my program and where I am able to have a look at myself from within and work on the changes I need to make. It is a program of action and when I quietly live my every day doing what I must, I am serene. I am greatful that I can face all these challenges that life has to offer with a sober mind and some days are really tough but I have a really awesome support system that are always available to help me however I need. I have just entered into my 3rd year of recovery and I feel I have also started a new phase, Learning to love myself and see my worth, something I have never been able to do. I am becoming more aware of myself and my surroundings, I don’t always get it right but it’s a learning experience that is worth every step you take.
Living life in recovery has been by far the greatest thing that has ever happened to me, and one day at a time gets me closer to being the person I am meant to be. The saying is so true, my worst day now, is by far better than my best days using.