Sober and Stronger

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| This is the 128th story of Our Life Logs |


I grew up in Peoria, Arizona in the 1990’s. I was a “surprise” to my parents because they were already in their mid-40s when I came along. My two brothers were much older than me. As the youngest and the only girl, I was doted on. My parents were very protective of me. In their eyes, I could do no wrong. Unfortunately, they could not protect me from myself.

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Me at age two.

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My body issues started at seven. I was heavier than my peers, which made me the target for bullies. Between bullies and the media perpetuating the unrealistic expectations of body image on me as a little girl, I began to hate my appearance. I was consistently conditioned to believe that my physical appearance didn’t reach societal standards. I wanted to be pretty like “Ariel” or “Barbie.” I wanted to be accepted, so I wove a fantasy of my ideal body. My quest for the “perfection” began with a TV screen.

The idea of purging came to me after I watched a teen television show. It showed a young teenager making herself throw up and then time lapsed to several months later to her being stick thin. I, of course being just a seven-year-old child, thought that I too could accomplish my body goals after making myself throw up.

I tried it, and within a matter of weeks I had developed an eating disorder. I grew to be stealthy about my purging. If I was in a restaurant, I would ask to go to the bathroom, do my duty, freshen up in the bathroom sink, and walk out as if nothing had happened. At home, I would wait until my parents were transfixed in front of the TV, oblivious. As the years passed, my eating disorder had grown with me, as had my bullies. I was still far away from my ideal body.

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At the age of nine, my family moved to California, and I hoped for a fresh start. I thought maybe the laid-back environment of my new home, Victorville, would cure me of my self-inflicted toxicity. Unfortunately, I soon learned the same cycles would repeat themselves. The California kids weren’t that different from Arizona kids. My weight remained something kids used to torment me.

Things took a darker turn at age 11. Some kids at school sent around a petition to our peers that encouraged me to commit suicide. It wasn’t enough to just hear about it. They put it in my locker, all five pages, filled with 85 signatures. The signatures echoed the dark thoughts brewing inside me, pushing me to the brink of my desolation.

I looked for a way to control the pain I was feeling, and I turned to self-harm. I cut myself. I took a razor to the inside of my wrists and up my arms. For the next four years, I did this every other day. To hide my scars, I frequently donned turtle necks or long sleeve sweaters, and plastered a smile on my face. My parents were struggling with their own issues and overlooked my strange behavior.

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My self-harm continued into high school. When I was 15, my family moved again, this time to the cool, beautiful, beach town of Camarillo, California. I hoped that maybe another fresh start would be waiting for me. I was wrong.

Things didn’t change. To cope with my pain, I started turning to drugs and alcohol. I would sneak out and do terrible things while my parents thoroughly believed I was an angel. I was rarely home, and I had my parents believing that I was doing extra credit work or community service. The facade hid the truth. I was surrounded by people who celebrated my eating disorder, introduced me to the mind-altering effects of cocaine and the deadliness of alcohol.

I was still at the mercy of bullies. However, the safe haven that drugs and alcohol gave me helped me cope with it better. The broken parts inside me were getting filled by the toxic addiction. I felt like I was finally “cool” and untouchable, someone I could be proud of.

Addiction is the scariest thing I have ever faced, and it hit me way too early in life. At the deep bottom of my heart, I longed for a change.

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Then, in September of 2011, my life changed forever. I was 17 and attending a Demi Lovato concert. Demi was someone I had always looked up to because she was so honest about everything. I wanted to emulate her, especially as a champion for sobriety. She came clean about her self-harm and eating disorders, and even the fact that she went to rehab. She wasn’t afraid. I wanted nothing more in life than to one day be as brave as her and come clean about all I’ve been through. On the other hand, I was terrified to be honest and deal with the possible repercussions. I feared that my parents would be mad at me for lying, and for not being the perfect child they always pegged me to be to their friends.

At Demi’s concert, I felt completely free of everything I had been going through. She was able to take my mind off my struggles, my fears, and my self-loathing that night. I was free. All the worries dissipated, drowned out by Demi’s powerful voice. I got lost in the music and all the inspirational things she was saying in between songs.

It wasn’t until her last song that I pushed myself to the smaller stage she had transferred over to. She and I made eye contact, and I threw my hands in the air in her direction, not even thinking about the cuts and scars I was revealing. After years of hiding them under long-sleeve shirts and sweaters, I raised my arms without fear. In that euphoric moment, I let go of my inhibitions.

Demi stared at my wrists. I immediately put my arms back to my sides, embarrassed. She grabbed ahold of me and put her face as close as she possibly could to mine and said, “You’re strong, you’re beautiful, and you can do this. Please get the help you need.”

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Me (left) with Demi Lovato (right).

I was in complete shock, and of course, I burst into tears. I didn’t understand how someone who didn’t even know me could have more faith in me than I had in myself. In that moment, I knew I had to make a change. I said goodbye to who I was and embraced who I could be.

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That night after the concert, I researched rehabilitation centers that I could go to without parental permission. I was ashamed of my behavior, and I knew I needed time to understand myself before anyone else could attempt to understand me. I used the money I saved over the past four years for my “college fund” and signed up for a 90-day treatment program in Malibu. I figured that staying by the ocean would help me think more clearly.

Rehab required a lot of toughness I wasn’t sure if I could possess.  I had no idea what rock bottom felt like or if I could pull myself out of it, and truthfully, I considered quitting many times. But I knew I had to do this for myself. This life belonged to no one else but me, and I was determined to make myself proud for a change.

Having made the decision, I convinced my parents that I was going to stay with a friend to help keep my grades up. My school allowed me to complete my classes online for those three months after I told my counselor that being in the presence of my peers was hurting me academically and personally.

Rehab helped keep me on track. I was put on a regimented diet and exercise routine. I learned to recite mantras that would help remind me of the road I had been on. I spent time in extensive therapy sessions confronting my broken soul and attempting to put the pieces back together. When facing my inner demons became too much, I focused on my school assignments and channeled my energy into my grades.

I experienced frequent bouts of anger when I realized that my go-to coping mechanisms were inaccessible to me. It was tough to break those old habits. It was a rollercoaster that I often questioned if I was strong enough to ride. But I made it.

In mid-December of 2011, I was successfully discharged from treatment. I drove home that day and immediately told my mom about my double life. I apologized profusely for my missteps. We cried. Though in the midst of tears, I felt a tremendous weight lifted off of me. To my surprise, my family was completely supportive and willing to aid my sobriety. I returned to school a month later with a new glow and confidence.

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Today, I’m 24 years old, almost six years sober and staying strong on my exercise and diet regimen. I know now that we are not our addiction and that true strength comes from being able to bounce back and remember who we can be. As they say,

“Being strong doesn’t mean you’ll never get hurt. It means even when you get hurt, you’ll never let it defeat you.”

Section Break

This is the story of Megan Dunn

Megan is a 24-year-old nanny and activist based in Camarillo, California. After years of being bullied about her appearance, Megan turned to toxic means to cope including self-harm, drugs, and alcohol. After an encounter with Demi Lovato at one of her concerts, Megan found the courage to get clean and get help which in turn helped her get life back on track. Megan has been going to Demi Lovato concerts and meet and greets ever since that first time in 2011. Though Demi has recently relapsed, Megan still feels inspired by her because she knows first-hand how difficult it can be to maintain sobriety with triggers all around. Megan has used her own sobriety to help others still battling addiction, stopping them from making the same mistakes she did. She is fighting each day to change the world and break the stigmas around addiction.

 

 

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This story first touched our hearts on July 16, 2018.

| Writer: Miranda Casanova | Editor: MJ; Kristen Petronio, Adam Savage|

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