When Mareesa was 13, she tried alcohol for the first time. Coping and struggling with a death in her family, Mareesa asked a family friend to bring over some vodka. Her first experience drinking escalated as quickly as it began. “The first time I drank I wound up getting alcohol poisoning and vomiting multiple times in my sleep,” she says, along with a near sexual-assault and a blackout.
That same year, Mareesa tried marijuana for the first time with her friends and at 16, tried cocaine for the first time. “That was really the first time that I started to experience cravings the most.” A year later, at 17, Mareesa started using Prescription Opiates. “I just liked being able to tune stuff out,” she says. She began dating someone who was medically prescribed these pills and together, they would use them.
Mareesa was also 17 when she tried Heroin for the first time, with the same boyfriend. “I hadn’t really planned on using Heroin, but I just said, ‘What could happen?’”
Mareesa knew she was reaching a point where her addiction was going to become all-consuming. “I always told myself I wasn’t going to go down that path, because of my parents, both of them were drug addicts.”
But once she began really using the Heroin, Mareesa’s life began to go down, and go down fast. Enrolled in college at 17, she was using Heroin in addition to other substances, such as opiates and methamphetamine. During her first year in college, she failed every single class. Her relationships with friends and family also began to suffer. “I put myself before any of them, always.”
Mareesa would get violent, hitting and throwing things at people she loved, but she couldn’t stop. “I really didn’t like who I saw when I looked in the mirror.” Since she was on probation, it was recommended that Mareesa go to 12-Step meetings. Feeling “chained” to meth, Mareesa was interested in going to the meetings to see what they could offer her. She knew deep down that she wanted to get clean, but her boyfriend that she was using with wanted no part of a sober life.
Prior to being put on probation, Mareesa was arrested via a warrant out for her arrest. She and her boyfriend were put in to different jails. She finally decided to stop fighting the hold that her addiction had over her and bravely told the correctional officer that was questioning her that she was an addict that she needed help. She was allowed to use the phone at the precinct to call her family and arrange plans to seek treatment when she was released in the morning. “I would not take that back,” says Mareesa.
At 19, she went through detox and entered a 90 day sober living program where she stayed for 3 months. Mareesa was able to stay sober for 2/2.5 years until she relapsed by starting to drink again. The consequences were bad and eventually, finding herself with someone who was using meth, she used it again. “I wound up feeling the same remorse, really, from using that, and I finally got honest with my family and everybody.”
She hit her lowest low two days after using meth again, in which she took an entire bottle of Valium in hopes of not waking up. “I was just thinking I’m done, you know, I’m over this.”
Mareesa woke up in a dual-diagnosis psychiatric hospital in which she detoxed and went back in to 12-step meetings. She moved out to Tucson, AZ and went to a 90 day sober living program, as she had family and a strong support system already out there.
Today, Mareesa is 2 years sober.
The best change? “I get to be present in everyday life.”
Today, Mareesa is happily working and staying strong in the everyday journey of recovery. “I’m employable today, I’m able to keep a job, I developed a work ethic, I show up to work, and that’s a beautiful thing, that I’m dependable today.”
Mareesa knows that getting clean and admitting that you need help (as she was able to do through speaking to her correctional officer) isn’t easy. “I understand it’s so scary to ask for help but, really, people just want to see you live and enjoy living, and being alive.”
One of the more difficult things for Mareesa throughout her recovery was trying to navigate through all of the intense, and at times, conflicting, emotions that come with addiction and getting clean. But she firmly believes that “there are ways to cope with life, and cope with your emotions.”
12-Step programs work best for Mareesa. “Anyone can get sober. And [people that can help you] will all be waiting there for you when you make that choice.”
Mareesa’s advice to anyone who’s ready to get sober? “Don’t give up, because that’s what [addiction] wants you to do. The person you become when you’re on dope or when you’re drinking is not you, you know, there’s another person down underneath all that that’s missing and that your loved ones would want to see. And I’m able to be that person today and you can too, and if I did it, so can you.”