From Peer Pressured Drug Addict to Helping Others Recover
Do you remember high school? I sure do. For many, high school is a time of experimentation and exploration. During this period, many feel intense pressure to “fit in” with the “in” crowd. Keisha Anderson was not any different from the norm. Growing up in Kentucky, Anderson was a self-proclaimed “people pleaser.” She hung out with people she thought were cool, and did whatever they did to “feel accepted.” Unfortunately, as the years flew by, she realized her experimentation and desire to “fit in,” was more than just a phase, it was a full blown addiction. Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anderson about her story and her journey to recovery. Anderson, now 27, works as an Alumni Coordinator at The Orchid Recovery Center and is incredibly grateful for having three years of sobriety under her belt.
As an adolescent, Anderson found herself dabbling in drugs and going to parties. Like many teens, she wanted to fit in, and the popular kids were doing it, so she did whatever she thought she needed to do to feel accepted. Still, despite her partying, everything seemed to be going according to plan. In fact, when Anderson graduated high school at the tender age of 18, she had a world of opportunities awaiting her. She had just been accepted to college on a full scholarship to study opera. However, by the end of that summer, Anderson’s drug use had become unmanageable. Soon, Anderson found herself in rehab for the first time in her life, and unfortunately it was not the last.
Over the course of six years, Anderson spiraled in and out of four treatment centers, several detoxes and a long term program before finally getting sober. When asked what her drug of choice was, Anderson explained it was anything she could get her hands on:
“My drug of choice was basically anything. I’ve done everything from drinking to pills and opiates. This last time it was heroin. I was addicted to that for like four years,” She said.
In the beginning, Anderson struggled with admitting she even had an addiction. Like many, she thought she was just a casual user because she “just did it on the weekends.” However, when she found herself doing anything to get high, she knew she needed to get help.
“I justified the crap out of it,” she said. “But it got to the point where I found myself wanting it more and more and more. And I had to do a lot more things, a lot more stealing and lying to get what I needed and that’s when that became a problem.”
When asked about her family, Anderson admits that her family was very co-dependent. Like many addicts, Anderson took advantage and manipulated them to get what she wanted. Anderson admits she was able to manipulate her mother “very well” throughout her addiction. However, when it got to the point that she was 24 years old and still struggling, her family decided they finally had enough.
“My family, they were very supportive every time I would get help. But this last time, they kinda washed their hands. They were like ‘Listen you’re 24 years old. You need to figure this out’,” Anderson said.
Fortunately, that was the push Anderson needed to take her recovery seriously. That, among other circumstances, was the turning point that led to her sobriety.
“When I realized that my money was gone, my car was gone, my house was gone, I had no family, I had no morals in life, something just had to change. I was homeless. I had to change,” she said reflecting on the darker years.
In time, Anderson was able to have success in her recovery. She went to treatment for the last time, and afterward stayed in a halfway house for ten months which she says finally transformed her outlook on recovery:
“I learned how to live a structured life. I learned how to be honest with myself. Just because I’m clean doesn’t mean I’m boring. I can still have fun in my recovery, and it’s been an interesting experience. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it. At the end of the day, I have myself, and I’m staying true to myself.”
Anderson went from feeling hopeless to finally obtaining the tools she needed to succeed and help others. Tools that she continues to use today…
So how do you find fun in recovery? What advice would you give to others struggling with that?
For me, it was suggested I hang out with people in recovery that wanted to stay clean, that wanted to live a new way of life. I had to be willing to change my behaviors and my way of thinking into a more open and positive outlook. We go out and have a lot of fun. I’ll go go-cart racing. I go to a lot of amusement parks. I go to Butterfly World, I go kayaking, I go on vacations and go camping and rafting a lot. I even go to spiritual retreats to open my mind spiritually and to have that stronger connection with a higher power so there’s a lot in recovery that you can do.
How does spirituality play a role in your life? What advice would you give to those in recovery struggling to find a higher power?
For me, spirituality is something greater than myself. With spirituality, it opens my mind to receive more love and give more love. With my spirituality, I find that it is not about me today. I’m learning how to be selfless and to be of service to other people. For those struggling with a higher power, I used to pray to my poster every night. My higher power…we all have a different perception of a higher power. There is no right or wrong way just as long as we believe that something greater than ourselves out there is keeping us alive and helping us maintain a healthy lifestyle and a new way of life.
What’s your least favorite stigma around addiction and what can we do to change that?
When people get certain amount a clean time or sobriety, they feel like they have it all, like that’s it, they’re done. But in reality recovery is an ongoing process. There is no finish line for me. I have to continue to be willing to grow from recovery so that I can stay clean
How has working in recovery helped you in your own personal journey?
It’s opened my eyes. I am now on the outside looking in. Now I see what my parents saw, like the standpoint and what I put them through. When I call the alumni and they’re not doing well, I feel like I am that parent on the outside looking in, pulling to help them.
Now that you have worked in recovery for a long time, when you see someone new in recovery, what guidance do you give them?
I give them my card and I tell them I am with the alumni department, you can call me. I am here for support. I know what it’s like to be lost. Sometimes we get scared and nervous and we don’t know where to turn. I also suggest that they go to meetings; they reach out to other people in the rooms for support because we can’t do this by ourselves. We need that support. We need that guidance and that love.
What words of wisdom or quotes do you use to stay on course in your recovery?
“One day at a time,” “I’m not perfect” and “Keep coming back and pray, pray, pray.”
Describe addiction in three words.
Dark, lonely, disgusting.
Describe sobriety in three words.
Beautiful, everlasting, hopeful.
Keisha Anderson’s story is a powerful lesson in learning how important it is to be true to yourself. Take control of your life and stop resorting to following others. Instead, learn how to overcome your addiction and live a sober life. If she can do it, anyone can. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please do not wait. Call toll-free 1-800-777-9588.
Author: Shernide Delva