Janet’s Story – “She believed she could, so she did.”
I can’t breathe. My heart feels like it’s going to pound out of my chest. I feel the rising burn upon my face. I know without looking in a mirror, my makeup is running off. I feel the all too familiar beads of sweat on my upper lip. Oh God, now my nose is running. This is going to be a bad one. I feel as though a spotlight is shining down showcasing all of my imperfections. Surely everyone is staring. Surely everyone can see me struggling to maintain control. Someone asks me what I am shaking my head at. I pretend I don’t know what they are talking about. I barely acknowledge them as I can’t hear their conversation over the loud belittling voice in my head. A voice that for some reason is so loud – but only I can hear it screaming at me. Why me? Why now? Why can’t someone come to my rescue like in the movies?
Deep breath. (In through my nose, exhaling through my mouth.) If only I could just catch my breath. I excuse myself to use the bathroom. I have to get a hold of myself. I tell myself, “You can do this, Janice.” I have to remind myself of my purpose. I have a job to do and hopefully it will help others like me.
What I just described is the beginning of a panic attack. You see, I am a recurring addict who also suffers from mental health disorders. I am not sure which came first. That’s like asking the age-old question about the chicken and the egg. The answer is a moot point. They are both here now. I say a little prayer to God and hope I am able to do what is asked.
My name is Janet. I am 40 years old and have struggled with dual diagnosis most of my adult life. I, like many others, was skeptical upon hearing this. I mean, my drug use was just something I did for fun, wasn’t it? Well my fun times left me beaten down, battered and utterly alone. It left my mind bruised and broken. A toxic waste and a dangerous territory. My only friend was the constant voice commenting on my life, highlighting my failures and reminding me of my guilt and shame.
On September 8, 2015, my life became the property of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation. Although I was no longer in control of where I was allowed to go, I was in control of what I was going to do with my time while incarcerated.
I made a decision. I no longer wanted the insanity I called life. The only way I knew how to change it was to try to understand why I kept turning to drugs and alcohol. Since I was no longer willing or able to self-medicate, I decided to work on my mental health. I started counseling and was prescribed medications. I got involved in groups lead by other inmates like me who suffered with mental illness and addictions, but unlike me had lost their chance at life outside of prison. I knew I wanted something different, but I was also scared. It was one thing to do this while incarcerated, but how was I going to continue when I got out?
Fast forward a few years to March 20, 2017. I am granted my judicial release. I have my freedom, but little else. No home. No medication. No idea where or what I am going to do. Like an answered prayer from God, I am given the help of two agencies – Umadaop Hope Recovery and Coleman Professional Services. I no longer had to fight this battle on my own. Because of my early release, I had been given no medication when I left the Ohio Reformatory for Women. It’s the medication I had been taking for the previous two years and it is a medication with serious side effects if abruptly stopped. Thankfully, Recovery Court put into place a program so that I was whisked away by my recovery coach and taken straight to Coleman. Fortunately I am a long standing client of Coleman Professional Services. Unfortunately, at the time, I was known by Coleman staff for my erratic behavior, uncontrollable outbursts, my failure to comply and lastly, my continued drug use. Since 2006, Coleman has always been like a loving, tolerant parent. No matter how many times I refused the help so freely offered, I always looked for an easier, quicker route.
Yet, again and again, I ended back at Coleman and they never once turned me away. On that day, it was no different. Everyone from the offices came together to make sure I was taken care of. I got my meds that very day, assuring I would not go without. I was scheduled for a doctor’s appointment within a few days. My poor, poor counselor, on whom I always unleased the worst of myself was open and available. I must say she, is one of God’s very own. This past year, my life has been truly blessed beyond belief.
I finally have the life I have always aspired to. For without the help of Coleman, I would not have been able to accomplish the goals I set while incarcerated. One short year ago I owned nothing but the dreams I left prison with. But today I own my future. This very week will see me in my very own home and through the use of funds from Coleman, I should have my license in a few weeks… a valid license! I have not had one since June 2006!
I am the grandmother, mother and daughter my family needs me to be. By recognizing my mental health, I am able to continue to strengthen my recovery, too. As of April 8, 2018, I am 32 months clean. This is not to say that each and every day is fully perfect, but through the coping skills and medication I have come to have bad moments instead of bad days or weeks. Thanks to these skills, I am more often than not able to stop or reduce the amount of time a panic attack lasts. I am able to and more than willing to attend all groups and meetings. Today I chair my own 12 step group from 5 to 6 every Wednesday at Coleman. I will never forget my Coleman psychiatrist telling me, “There is no pill I can prescribe for you that is going to make you happy. You must allow yourself to feel discomfort by getting off the drugs and work on what makes you happy. You must take the medicine that is prescribed. I cannot do this for you.” My Coleman counselor said, “Janice, until you address your mental health, we cannot help you. I cannot come to your house every morning to make sure you take your medicine.”
Well today, no one has to tell me. I realize my mental health and medications are just as important to my recovery as attending AOD awareness, NA meetings and counseling. Being dual diagnosed is real and it’s important to treat them both. For without the chicken there is no egg and vice versa. Nothing in this world as of today is more important than staying clean and taking my medications. And for today, and for the rest of my life, I will always be grateful to the agencies that picked me up and never stopped, even on my worst days, helping me. Just as any loving, tolerant parent would never stop.