| This is the 234th story of Our Life Logs |
Most living things remain what they were at birth, but the butterfly was once a caterpillar, and at the risk of waxing poetic, I believe everyone can become their own butterfly. I believe this because I did this.
I was born in 1981 and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, under what I thought was a normal way of life. Normal means something different for every individual, so it wasn’t until years later that I learned that my normal was anything but. I must have had maternal instincts from an early age, because when I wasn’t being victimized at the hands of my father, I was throwing myself in front of his rage to protect my baby sister from the same fate, no different than a Secret Service member sworn to catch a bullet for the president. Normal, right? Some fourth graders had fathers who would take them to ballgames and ice cream parlors back in the late 1980s. My sister and I had a father with a mean right hook, a man who actually, literally, would later appear on the television show Cops. It should be noted that my father never has and never will be an officer of the law, so you can guess how that starring role went.
I wasn’t a bad person as I grew up, but I was definitely a product of my environment. Many kids like to break the law as a rite of passage, and I was no different. Drinking, partying, doing things they don’t appreciate too much in proper society. I became a young mother, a baby having a baby, at 17, the only girl in my class to graduate with a one-year-old in tow. Euphoria is an adjective I would apply to this new role, as nothing can compare to holding your firstborn in your arms—no matter what age I was. Euphoria, sadly, is also an adjective that would soon apply to another part of my life that would demand as much time as my infant.
I became a nurse a few years after high school while having three other children, which was a difficult thing to manage. Going to Nursing School for three years while nursing infants was sort of ironic. All the while, my relationships with the three fathers of my children were never healthy. Still, I adored my children and loved those men for bringing my kids into my life. There is always a silver lining to these things. Nursing was a highlight of my life, as I had always considered myself to be an empath, and helping people was my thing. Helping others just as I had helped my sister. Trying in vain to help the father of three of my children stop his downward spiral, which I would be soon dragged into. Helping anyone and anything but myself. This was my downfall.
The opiate problem is a national crisis, and I live at its epicenter in Cincinnati, Ohio. Before it became a plague, a few people had to develop that first cough, and I was among them. Nice, being a trendsetter. I watched as the father of my children buried himself in this insanity as a mere bystander, until the day I decided that, if he was going to take this maddening trip to hell, I would do the same. I had to be by his side, and a little itch told me I had to know—just had to—what was so special about this drug that he would risk all, myself and his kids included, for a taste. So, after a few years of trying to help him get sober, at the age of 21, I foolishly took the plunge, and plunge I did for six years.
The high that comes from this demon is, at least at first, the feeling of everything and nothing simultaneously. It takes away the bad, such as my always-looming father, and makes the very present as close to heaven as I can mortally imagine. Maybe if that feeling had a shelf life of months or years, it wouldn’t be so dangerous. But the shelf life of this high is akin to the shelf life of an avocado, always needing to be replaced. It leads to nothing but destruction and chaos. Where most people consist of water and brain cells, I was made from the eternal chase and bad decisions. I had my last child while under the influence of this tragic decision at the age of 26. The things this drug drove me to are predictable, as crime in addicts is usually the same package of pathetic gaffes and follies.
My last attempt led me to a place where butterflies dare not flutter their wings—prison, just in time for my 27th birthday.
I lost my right to be a nurse instantly. I lost my children, though some would argue that I lost them the very first moment I allowed that venom into my system. I was an inmate number, not a person, but the four cold walls that encased my body weren’t prison; my self-created fall was the true prison of the worst kind, emotional and mental. It was a trying time. No one would bring my children to see me, which was good in hindsight, and the loneliness, despite being forced to live amongst other problem children who broke bad, was overbearing.
How does one go from life giver and saver to life drainer? It was a flawed course of life that I refused to accept. The people in my world would have been better off without the burden that was me. That was when I decided to take my life. This was also my epiphany.
Two years rotting away into a two-and-a-half-year sentence, so close to the end, deteriorating in a cell because I was an accomplice in a burglary that stole from innocents so that I could steal from myself by using.
This is where I believe that my second act, my Part Two, began.
The belief in a deity is an individual one, and it is up to the individual to either discover or disavow such a belief. As I sat alone in the dark that night, thinking of ways to end myself and my suffering, something happened. A voice, not my own, unfamiliar to any voice in my life, spoke to me.
You are going to be ok
A domino effect, a rush of blood surged through my body, each molecule tingling at the same time.
You are going to be ok
Now, put a psychiatrist and a priest in the same room and you’ll get two different versions of what happened. All I know is, in that moment, calm permeated throughout my every pore. And I knew that the voice was correct. I was going to be ok. I was, and forever will be, convinced that the voice came from God, and to this day it brings a tear to my eye. Though I had never been a Bible thumper, church to me was just a place that held festivals in the summer, so I am forever indebted to and stuck in that glorious moment—a miracle, if you want my candid opinion. From that moment on, I became a model inmate, the girl who emanated change and hope. I was, for the first time, high on my own volition, and inside those prison gates, I became truly free.
I was released early in 2010 on good behavior, and I released myself from anything to do with my prior existence. I was no longer able to nurse, but I earned the right to have the greatest gift outside of sobriety—my children, back with me. Things moved slowly at first, but crawling in the right direction is infinitely better than charging into the wrong direction. I developed a very close relationship with my grandmother, which was more of a sisterly bond given my old soul. I forgave those who maybe didn’t deserve it, but it was a step I needed to take. I began to see the beauty in things. Where dawn might have once brought anxiety from an all-night binge, the early morning imagery became the end result of God’s paintbrush. While a high cannot be replicated, my brain learned to produce dopamine in the most mundane tasks, whether taking my son to baseball practice or watching my daughter cheerlead. And the solitary of one’s mind cannot be overstated; to sleep, to simply sleep through a restful night, was a heaven of its own.
I started off with a modest waitress job with a new company, and eventually managed to secure a nice, secluded home for my clan. While I was making pennies on the dollar compared to my life before heroin, I felt like the richest person in the world. There is no price that compares to watching your children flourish and grow. My on-earth angels saw something in me, and I worked my way up from a mere waitress to a corporate manager with a thriving young company within a three-year span. I now know security and the value of a hard day’s work. My two older children have enrolled in college, a rarity in my family, and the younger ones are honor roll students and standout athletes. I would be lying if I said it was easy, being a single mother and managing all of this, but the lack of sleep physically is better than being asleep emotionally. I have forgiven those who have wronged me and most importantly, I have forgiven myself.
My home is a menagerie of characters who come and go so often that I don’t even lock the door. Family, friends, anyone looking for a few minutes of peace or conversation through their day know they are always welcomed. I possess empathy that never existed in Part One of my journey. In many ways, life only began after that voice spoke to me in my darkest hour. Very few people who have met me in recent years would believe my story, but such is the complexity of the human condition. Part Two looks more promising every day.
I am hardly a sage, but I know a few things to be true. If you’re ever alone with your thoughts and suddenly you hear a voice, just listen to it. It very well could be the voice to turn you into a butterfly.
This is the story of Amy M.
Amy lives and works in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she is flourishing both personally and professionally. Growing up, Amy protected her younger sister from the abuse of their father, and after leaving home she sought to help others by working as a nurse amidst an opiate epidemic. Unfortunately, Amy found herself swept under addiction’s wings, ending up in prison for theft. It was a still, small voice that begged her out of despair and into rebirth. Currently, Amy is seeking to retrieve her medical license to pursue nursing once more. Whether fostering puppies or caring for her giant dog and oversized lizard, she is a caretaker still. Movies, sledding on snow days, or swimming on hot days, Amy can be found finishing off her action-packed days with a scary movie or a never-ending game of Candy Crush in her purple-hued domain. Raising her five children in a home filled with love, peace, and lots and lots of candles, she is a living testament to redemption and the innate drive to change. Always one to lend a shoulder or an ear, Amy endures as a Sequoia tree for anyone who needs her rooted, strong presence to get them through any issues in their life. Beautiful inside and out, she truly is a butterfly.
This story first touched our hearts on December 21, 2018.