[Editor’s note: The following is part of an ongoing series to provide greater insight into the drug problem, its costs and cures, in Van Buren County. Here columnist Jackie Sikes explores the history of a recovering addict.]

“(There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays” is a popular song first recorded in 1954 and is commonly associated with the Christmas and holiday season. “Oh there's no place like home for the holidays. ‘Cause no matter how far away you roam, if you want to be happy in a million ways, for the holidays you can't beat home sweet home.” But what happens to those families that are torn apart by addictions?

This is a real life story about the days and months before Christmas and how Love and courage brought a family home for the holidays.

Her name is Lisa and her story isn't that different from many of those who have or are suffering from addiction but for Lisa and her two sons her happily ever after came just in time for the holidays.

“As a young girl all I ever wanted was to be the cool kid at school. To be accepted and popular but no matter how hard I tried it was not happening for me. In tenth grade I was on the spirit squad and the other girls on the squad were not nice to me. I felt rejected and I didn't like how I was being treated by them. I was hurt and angry so I got into drinking and smoking weed," Lisa said. 

Adolescence is a hard and challenging time in a young girl’s life and often the meanness from other girls is based on jealousy and their own insecurities that lead them to be ugly to others. The strong desire in us all to be loved and accepted is often met with resistance and emotional pain that often turns us to harmful solutions to ease our pain and sorrow. Teenagers enter high school as children, but they will graduate as young adults. This time period is full of growth and discovery but it's also an experimental time that means trying drugs and alcohol. Peer pressure and emotional strain are a few of the reasons why they turn to drugs and alcohol.

“As I got older I met this guy that did meth. He told me I was pretty and acted like I was special. He accepted me so I hooked up with him and within two months I was injecting meth. I didn't care. In my mind I was clean and not really doing anything wrong if I was not injecting. It was easier to take pills, they made me numb. Addicts think If you aren't doing a hard drug you're clean. You can drink and smoke and it's okay,” she said.

Lisa's insecurities about her self-worth were being fed with lies and false hopes that things were going to get better.

“Sometimes our thoughts are backed by so much insecurity that they create lies we believe,” Unknown.

Lisa was being set up for a long road of abuse and Drug addiction. It wasn't long before those pretty words turned into fits of rage and physical abuse.

“He told me that I wasn't pretty anymore, that everything was my fault. I don't know why I thought this was acceptable. I was not abused as a child. He just made me feel like it was all my fault. I made excuses for him. I guess I just wanted so badly to be loved and accepted. I was addicted to the men, addicted to the drugs, addicted to the attention and the fast money that the drugs provided me. If I walked away I wouldn't have anything and that scared me. When I wasn't with someone I'd drink. I had numerous jobs and I got older. I married a drug addict. At first it was just abusing prescription drugs but that just turned into more illegal drugs and alcohol. Then I got pregnant. I was angry that I had made it thirty years without this happening but I stopped using at four months into my pregnancy. I had my son, I loved him but I felt guilty that he was born so small and having some problems because of my usage. I convinced myself that it wasn't my fault and I started up again when he was just an infant. When my son was two years old DHS (Department of Human Services) came and tested me and took my son. When they took him, it took my heart right out of my chest. The next day I lost my job. I then did whatever I could to get my son back. I had help from friends. Then I had a really bad day. I woke up and couldn't even dress myself. The doctor gave me a prescription and I took it. I was too weak, so I started up again. I thought of ways that I could sneak and cheat a drug test for DHS. I was lucky and I got my son back. I had you stand up for me in court. I thought I was controlling it, [the addiction] that nobody knew I was using. I had good friends helping me and then I met someone who said he loved me, he gave me drugs and he said he wanted to help me. He was controlling, abusive and we got chased by the cops one day. I got caught and took the drug charges for him. I thought he loved me and was going to make things better. Three months later I ended up leaving my son for fear of doing jail time again. He promised me I'd get my son back and he'd keep me out of jail, so I left with him. I left my son, I left my family and friends and I ran. ”

For three years Lisa was on the run. She suffered from abuse, addiction and loneliness. She had another son and often found herself homeless and scared. They did what they had to do to survive, working odd jobs, hiding their identities and always looking behind themselves waiting to get caught, which they eventually did and were sent to jail.

Lisa: “The real turning point in my life was when I was put in jail this last time. I lost my son, I had a son I abandoned, I lost my rights, my freedom and I never want to be behind bars again. I never want to be away from my kids, my family, my real friends. When I got out of jail I couldn't believe how many people still loved me. It's an awesome feeling. I want to move forward because they love me so much. I was convinced that nobody cared about me, that was so wrong. I never want to be helpless, alone or homeless again. I lived on the streets with my son. I never want that to happen again.”

“Recovery begins at exactly that moment when you are completely broken to pieces and must surrender to unfamiliar and uncomfortable ways in order to be rebuilt into who you were meant to be,“ Unknown.

Addiction hurts the family and friends of the addict. They feel guilty and question why they didn't see it, what could they have done to prevent it? They are hurt that they didn't come to them for help. They are angry that they are doing this to themselves and to them. They are scared as to what will happen to their loved one and will they ever see them again.

People take drugs to be in control. They want to short-circuit any risk that they might take in life, any uncertainty, any anxiety. They just want to find the chemical route, the fast fix, that gets the final results. So all of your relationships suffer, no question about it.

“My life is heading in a good direction now. It's slow. It's hard for a convicted felon. It's hard to trust someone, it's challenging every day. I'm seeing someone but it's hard to not be paranoid. I have to learn to let the past go and keep moving towards the future. The people I have in my life are making me stronger. I'm in a good place with my kids. My one son lives two hours away and that's hard but we are working on this. I have my youngest son home with me and I'm taking and living my days one minute at a time. I appreciate what I have, even getting to do my own dishes. I'm a good Mom. I want to go back to school one day but I'm good working now and taking care of my boys. I'm gonna’ take my time. This is hard for a drug addict. Drug addicts don't want to wait. They want satisfaction now. I had to learn to slow down and enjoy life. So much has changed. I'm with my Dad and I'm helping him now. I know how much I've hurt everyone who loves me but I have to let it go. I have to drop the guilt. Everything that has happened to me is a life lesson. I have to learn from it because it got me to where I am today. The past has put me where I am now. My life is good now, I'm doing right now, so it's cool,” Lisa said.

“Rock bottom became solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” Unknown.

Destructive behavior and addiction is rooted in insecurity. To Lisa and to many others like her remember: You are good enough, smart enough, beautiful enough and strong enough. Believe it, live it and don't let insecurity ruin your life. Forgive your past, accept yourself, trust in yourself and look to the future with strength and commitment. It won't be easy, you might feel like giving up but you're not going to because you are strong. When you survive all the crap that an addiction puts you through you can survive recovery.

“Recovery is not for people who need it, it’s for people who want it,” Anonymous.

To the family and friends, addiction is a painful reality for many. People who suffer from addictions may feel hopeless or abandoned but they don’t have to. With the right attitude and support along the way, any addiction can be overcome.

“Starting today, I need to forget what’s gone, appreciate what still remains, and look forward to what’s coming next,” Constellations Recovery.

No matter how far you roam, if you want to be happy in a million ways, don't be ashamed of your story, it will inspire others and hopefully bring them home, sweet home, for the holidays and happily ever after.