Coming to terms with loss is one very big thing.
Facing up to impending loss is another.
For Melyssa, it was the realisation that failure to change her lifestyle would mean losing the love of her life that was the final straw on the back of a destructive relationship with drugs and alcohol.
That magic moment, when, all things considered, we experience a moment of clarity, or urgency that gives us the strength to stop, take stock and truly work on getting clean and embracing our recovery.
There’s more to Melyssa than might immediately meet the eye. As her Instagram handle infers, she is far from being a “common addict”. What strikes me most about Melyssa is the burning honesty that punctuates everything she says. The frank acceptance of what has been – and the almost electric anticipation of what she is becoming.
Melyssa is fast paced, pragmatic and matter of fact. Qualities that she employs in every aspect of her life – her loves, her work and her recovery.
I’d like to thank Melyssa for our chat (you rock, girl) and hope you all appreciate her thoughts as much as I did!
Melyssa, hi… let’s start with finding out a little bit more about you… who you are? where are you? what you do? Stuff like that…
Hi David! I am a 26 year old recent college graduate (after a 4 year hiatus) recovering drug addict and alcoholic, dating a man 17 years older than me. The absolute love of my life (and nicknamed: Hot & Handy Dave), we have 3 beautiful children. I’m their step mama! I’m an absolute Sagittarius from New Jersey now living out in the country in Pennsylvania!
I run my own health and wellness business on social media (that helped me to lose 65 pounds after becoming sober!) and I also do advertising!
What brought you here? I mean, you must have some kind of “drinking/ drugging/ addiction story”… care to elaborate?
Oh my story is a good one!! I grew up, upper middle class outside of New York City.
I’ve travelled the world, went to private schools and a fancy college. I grew up not having to want for anything. I’ve always drank (my parents were raised in Europe where alcohol is not as stigmatised as it is in the U.S.) So alcohol was always around and wine was always had with dinner. I started drinking when I was around 13-14 sporadically. My parents had divorced and my maternal grandfather was gone. That’s tough for a preteen!
Fast forward to my junior year of college. I was a bartender and a cocktail waitress in my hometown and hooked up with a guy that I had totally fallen for (at least, that’s what I thought then!). He was fantastic at first. Then he had lost his job and went back to selling drugs. In large quantities. Not any drugs that I did so it didn’t bother me. But our life became about the party. Drinking and using every single day, all day. It was exciting. It was fun. The money kept coming in. We kept spending it.
We had a messy break up. Threats of court orders, the whole nine.
I was sad.
So I kept using more. And more, and more.
I kept packing on the weight.
I stopped taking care of myself.
I just partied. On non stop benders.
I ended up being with a new guy from out of state who was down in my area working. He decided that he was going to quit and move in with me. In my mother’s house. Yeah right. So we moved in and out of roach motels (bed bugs, murders, drug dealers, hookers, the whole bit). We slept in my car through the winter which made me unbelievably sick.
I finally just had enough and wanted to go back home after almost a year of living this way.
A few months later, I was being shipped off to Pennsylvania after getting a job at a fancy resort & spa. I moved in with my great aunt to help take care of her and mostly because I had nothing. I moved with just a duffle bag. She’s in her 80’s, I knew no one, I had no friends or other family around. (Minus her son’s ex-wife. She’s awesome. We always joke that we kept her in the divorce and got rid of him. He’s also an alcoholic and violent). I wasn’t drinking when I first moved. I wanted to try and take a break. But I ended up going to the bars anyways and meeting people.
In doing so, I also met the people that sell the drugs that I liked to do.
So it started spiralling again.
I lost that nice job. Honestly, it was fine with me. I hated it.
I bounced around working in a few bars and met some MORE people that were bad for me.
I stopped coming home. I was ashamed of myself. And it was easier to just stay where I was and keep using the next day.
I had just lost my grandmother last summer.
She was my condfidant. And also my biggest enabler.
But I loved her always.
That was really hard for me.
I had a bender the night before her funeral.
I went drunk to it the next day.
My great Aunt wanted to throw me out… I had just met Dave earlier that year in May, and was planning on putting my notice in at the bar when he asked me to just move in with him.
We’d been together about two weeks.
We’d figure it out.
We partied all summer. It was fun. But being in my own space and being able to do what I want, made me worse.
I finally made the decision to go back to college.
My first night back at home, I went out and got messed up.
I disappeared for two days.
My mom wanted to put me in the hospital, Dave wanted my shit packed and out of our house.
What was your drinking/ using/ addiction like at the point you decided to quit?
I was completely non-functioning. I had the epiphany. I was making decisions to improve my life but my addictions were holding me back. So I needed to quit.
…and the final straw, for you, was what, exactly?
Being in real, actual love.
That was the straw for me.
I was about to lose the person that meant the most to me. The one who’s soul speaks the same language as mine.
It was time.
Do you see yourself as being in recovery… If so, how? What do these words mean to you? If not… how so?
Oh absolutely! Someone said to me, “Well, you should change your insta name now that you’re clean”. Why? Once and addict, always an addict.
I still think about it every day. It’s still what I want to go back to when I’m stressed. It doesn’t just go away.
They mean the ongoing struggle to maintain life, to be perfectly honest. I should probably be dead. Like a diabetic has to actively work to maintain their life, I have to actively work to maintain my life.
The life that I almost threw away.
So, you stopped & changed your lifestyle (congratulations!)… how did you do that? How did you manage after you stopped? What did you do to motivate and maintain your abstinence? Any hints or tips, sources of inspiration for people seeking to do the same?
It was sooo tough! I used an app called Una to help me. That kept me accountable.
AA just wasn’t the place for me. I knew if I started back again, I’d lose everything. With that thought in mind, that’s what keeps me on the right path.
When I started my own business, I was working alongside an amazingly inspirational girl, Michelle, that ended up becoming my private life coach.
When you’re an addict, that’s your identity. If you asked me what my hobbies are? I couldn’t give you an actual answer. Because being the sober version of myself, I haven’t been in years. So I don’t even know what I enjoy or what I like to do.
I had zero self-confidence before I went into business for myself.
She’s been helping me to help myself become the confident and ‘unfuckwithable‘ person that I know I am.
We’ve made a ton of progress and it’s even gotten me to the point that I was confident enough in myself to apply for a new day job that was a total reach and I had zero experience in. And I got the job.
I still hustle for myself on the side, I always will!
Not drinking alcohol can be a very stigmatising thing… were you prepared for that? How did you deal with it? How did others around you deal with it?
At first, I was so totally shell shocked and just holed up in my house for the winter.
I cut everyone off for the most part. I was feeling super fragile and vulnerable. I no longer had my crutches to help me feel better.
My family was totally on board.
Dave was a huge supporter and behind me through the whole thing. He was, and still is super protective of me and making sure that no one makes me feel ostracised or outcast.
Since we pretty much became cave people last year, I did have a moment this past spring where I was upset that I don’t see anyone anymore and was convinced that it was because I had stopped drinking.
Truth be told, no one had seen us in so long that the majority of people honestly just forgot to invite us to stuff.
When they don’t see or hear from you, you go on the back burner.
It’s only natural!
Were you successful from day one? Any relapses (etc)? How did you cope, emotionally with all this?
Successful from day one!
I may have accidentally relapsed on vacation in July.
I ordered a Moscow Mule without the vodka.
I was unaware that some ginger beers contain alcohol.
So if it was a legitimate slip, it hasn’t negatively impacted my recovery whatsoever.
For coping, I write a lot of personal posts for my social media business.
For me, that’s like a journal (which I also do every day!) but a public journal.
Addiction is such an issue that I feel like it’s important to share my story in the hopes that it might help someone else.
You’ve been sober/ clean for a while now. Are there any manifest benefits in your life that not drinking/ using has afforded? What are they? Any advice for people reading this… heh, can we learn from any of your mistakes?
I’ve been sober since 9/7/2017… so a little over a year!
The benefits of living a sober life are unreal.
But DO NOT go at it alone.
For me, since I was feeling so low and lost after becoming sober, I started having wicked amounts of anxiety and it was literally driving me to the point of insanity.
That’s when I decided to take on a life coach. To help me get navigate my anxious thoughts.
Also make sure you talk to your doctors and be HONEST with them. I wasn’t with my doctor when I went in asking about mood stabilising medication.
I had not disclosed to her that I had a narcotics problem.
Low and behold, my anxiety medication made it worse. It made me feel like I was doing cocaine again. Jitters, confusion, grinding my teeth. I could bet money that I screwed up my receptors in my brain and those kinds of medications just do not work for me.
I decided to use an all natural stress relief from my wellness line and I absolutely love it.
It doesn’t have any of the negative effects from pharmaceuticals and it just helps to make me feel calm without feeling like a zombie.
That stuff is a serious life saver!
Contributing to a Recovery Blog is a big deal to some people – how come you wanted to be involved? How so…?
Like I said before, don’t go at it alone.
Some people are under the impression that if you shun an addict, it’ll force them to rock bottom and they’ll want to get help.
We feel alone and ashamed and different because we are addicts. When we have no support system, there’s no reason for us to want to change because, well, you shun us and we’re even more alone and sad. So why stop?
Contributing to this is a huge deal for me.
Because we need a community. We need to end the stigma surrounding addiction. We need to advocate for programs and ways that may not be “traditional” recovery methods.
We need to show that life after addiction is possible and that we’re all here as one community united under our disease.
We’re not bad people. We’re sick people that need help.
And finally… after all this – what’s next for Melissa? Plans? Goals? Fears? Pleasures?
Oh jeez, so many things!
I WILL be a 30 year old millionaire.
Not at all.
I have a successful business on my own, I have a wonderful day job in advertising that I do really well in.
I have a shit load of drive and determination.
After the millions in the bank?
Marry Hot and Handy Dave, build our dream house together (he’s a carpenter by trade and I am good at following directions, haha!) start a family, and go into business together flipping houses!
We have tons of stuff we want to do.
As of right yet, I have no fear, I am fearless.
We are all fearless.
We are recovering.
We do recover.
About our subject, Melissa.
Melyssa is a not-so-common addict, re-building her life in rural Pennsylvania with the loves of her life, Dave (the human) and Pork (the dog)! She is a business entrepreneur and fearsome recovery warrior, in no particular order!
You can follow Melyssa on Instagram.