In my social working class there is a student who was a Marine, and he’s been going on and on about that and how he wants to help fellow veterans. This week, we had to actually help people find resources in their area and then report back to the class what happened…

“I dealt with an older gentleman who seemed down on his luck. His clothes were worn, he was not clean, and he smelled of alcohol. He had no drive or motivation and all he talked about was how much beer is. It seemed like he had no good in him and actually liked being who he is. I cringed. 

I could sense already that I was formulating plans in my head as a homeless. I would have drive to buy myself a home, this man doesn’t seem like that at all. I felt little to nothing for him. I care about others, especially veterans, but all signs show me that this man is nothing but a disappointment. I only care for those who seem like they try in life and show respect.”

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Some of you might already know this, but some might not. I have no problem talking about it now, since it was a big part of my childhood and who I am today. For most of my life, my dad was a drug addict and an alcoholic.

I was 17 when he got sober for the last time and so far, it’s stuck. He’s a great dad and in the process of completely turning his own life around, he’s dedicated himself to helping others do the same. He spends almost all of his time working with addicts as a sober coach and companion, counseling people incarcerated for drug and alcohol crimes, and writing on the subject of recovery and rebirth. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of all the volunteer work he does for people in his community. (Fundraising, social media, working on documentaries about addiction, etc etc.)

This is a 5 minute clip from a speech my dad gave recently about the lifestyle and mindset changes needed to succeed in recovery. I think it’s really great and inspiring for anyone, not just addicts. It’d mean a lot to me if you watched it.

Thank you. <3

I have told many lies over the years. Some big, some small. Some against myself, some against others. They weighed me down like an anchor. They ate me up inside and caused a great deal of self loathing.

I am reconciling these lies and it is life changing. I have gone to many people and admitted the truth and asked for forgiveness and will continue to do so. Some lies I can only reconcile with myself and my higher power and I am doing that too.

My eyes are open and I see that freeing myself from my past is the only hope there is for a future.

~ Lena Slaughter

Let Me Tell You All A Story.. (You All Should Read This)

Once upon a time, I was a drug addict.

Now that’s one way to start off a story huh? Well it’s true. Once upon a time, I was a drug addict. People, you might look at me or my picture and say, “no way, she’s just a kid.” Well guess what, I am just a kid (even though I am technically an adult), but I was a drug addict, and it happened when technically I was a kid. People nowadays skip over the word “teenager,” and keep saying kid until you turn 18 and are technically called an adult. Even when you are 18, you still have people who will call you kid. But yeah, I guess that is what I am. But I never actually felt that way. I had to grow up and mature fast when I was a kid. I have a trouble finder of a brother and I had all this pressure from my parents about being the “good kid” and not fucking up the way he did. That pressure went on from when I was really little, and it still continues to this day. And even though I have been the good kid and followed my parents’ wishes, they still didn’t pay any attention to me, and focused it all on my brother.

I sound like a spoiled white kid, huh? Well first off, I’m not white so that doesn’t count, and second, if you were in my shoes, it would suck too.

But that pressure all took its toll whenever I was at the beginning of my junior year of high school. My parents and I were on the brink of major blowout; we had been arguing almost every day whenever I would get home from school. Either I wasn’t good enough or I wasn’t doing something right, that’s where the argument would always lead up. I would tell my friends but they really didn’t believe me because they met my parents and “they were such good people” (according to them). Well my parents are obviously very good at putting on a show, because they really aren’t such good people. I’ve seen and experienced much better, I might add.

It felt like I didn’t have my friends to turn to; it seemed I had no one to turn to. My friends were oblivious and my other best friend Katie was across the state for school. She was always the one I turned to when the going got rough. I remember one time she invited me over after having a blowout with my brother because he stole money off me and for some crazy reason, my parents took his side. Anyway, I was ranting about it, pacing even, while Katie sat on the sofa drinking a Mountain Dew, and I got so heated I punched a hole in her wall. We spent the rest of the night drinking together and bullshit talking about growing up in Rochester together. We talked about her brothers Mike and Nick and Nick’s new girl Becky, a Rochester girl. We talked about school and college and what we were doing with the rest of our lives. Those were the best times of my life. A beer in my hand, laying on the floor with my best friend, staring up at the ceiling and thinking and bullshitting about what fucking crazy shit was going to happen in our life. Those were the days, and I wish I had them back. Oh, and after our amazing night together, we fixed the wall the next morning (easy fix actually).

But when Katie was in college, I didn’t have her. I called her, but she would be busy with class or homework, but she didn’t forget me. She even left me a voicemail one time saying “I won’t forget you and will be home soon. Then we’ll drink and punch more holes in the walls.” Sometimes you just need a voicemail like that in your inbox. But she wasn’t there… and I couldn’t wait. I needed her, but obviously she wouldn’t be back to see me yet.

So I turned to something else: drugs.

I didn’t think it was a big deal. I would just take a few prescription pain-killers. No biggie. I already was a smoker and that hasn’t given me too many problems, so the pain-killers wouldn’t be a big deal. I was so sure of it. So I did it, I popped them in my mouth. It seems like I instantly felt better, I felt good, and I felt less stressed. I felt like I was supernatural and invincible. So as the days went on, I took more out of what I know now was desperation. I kept taking them until one day I was in gym and I running and suddenly was catching my breath against the wall, next thing you knew, I was on my knees trying to breathe. My friend Elizabeth came over and tried to help me out in any way she would, but I was practically chocking on thin air. I was out of breath, my head was pounding, and I instantly ran to the bathroom and started throwing up everything. My lunch, the pills, everything. I was out of it, and I was done.

I signed myself up for rehab secretly over Easter break. It wasn’t an all-day thing or something I had to be locked up in. It was more of an AAA type meeting, but it was every night for three weeks. So I signed myself up and eventually came out with a new sobriety to me. However, that sobriety didn’t last long. Katie transferred colleges for her spring semester to CCBC. She wanted to be closer to home and near her friends and family and her new boyfriend. That was great for me, I had my best friend back. But in a way I didn’t. Her new boyfriend (I prefer to go nameless on this one) had gotten Katie hooked on drugs, which I finally found out a month after she got home. It was February now and I told her to go to rehab, she was way worse than I was and was hooked on heroin, which is much worse than prescription pain-killers. I drove her to rehab, and she checked in willingly. She spent almost the entire month in there, and while in there she broke up with the fucked up boyfriend (who I still want to kill) and I came to visit her at least once a week. I didn’t let any of my other friends in on this information. Katie is my childhood best friend, and my friends then (and still now) are my friends I met in high school, so they had no idea who Katie was, and I wasn’t willing to share my best friend. It’s selfish, but in a way, she was my only tether to Rochester, all our other Rochy friends moved away or had gone to jail.

Katie’s rehab was finally up, and she signed herself out, even though she should’ve stayed at least one more week. We had finally entered March and I was in the midst of some really hard junior year work. March was a tough month, because we had a lot of snow days in February so we had a ton of stuff to make up. I was busy with that, but I still talked to Katie and made sure she was all good. However, on March 5th, all wasn’t good. I got the called I was hoping I’d never get my entire life.

March 5th was going to be a great day in school. I was excited for Physics, and that never happens. We were presenting our inventions and my group of Kayla, Dona, Haley and me were going to knock it out of the ballpark. We were so ready. First I had Honors U.S. History with my favorite teacher, Mr. MC. I had to present my project on the great photographer Robert Capa. I thought my presentation was good, and right after I finished, Mr. MC’s phone started to ring. He picked it up and said, “Good thing you got your presentation done with Krieger, because they want you down at the office.” I replied asking if I should take my stuff down, and he said no, since I just had a phone call. I shrugged my shoulders and went down to the office. Mrs. Allinder handed me the phone and said, “It’s your uncle Nick? You don’t have an early dismissal do you?” I said no, because she was right, I didn’t. And I knew what Uncle Nick meant. It was Katie’s brother Nick.

About two seconds later, I hung up the phone. My naturally tan skin went straight to pale and my head was pounding. The phone started ringing again so I picked it up and handed it to Mrs. Allinder. Nick told Mrs. Allinder that he was coming to the high school to sign me out, and Mrs. Allinder, judging by my appearance, just let it happen. So I went back to Mr. MC’s class, quietly walked in and sat down and listened to the rest of Joey’s presentation. Then I got up when he was done and gave my pass to MC. I was silent, simply just laying the pass on his desk. He knew something was up, he and I always joke around with each other but there were no jokes this time. He knew something was up and our eyes met and he raised an eyebrow at me. I just turned around and made my way back to my seat. So I sat there and Matthew’s presentation went by and the bell rang. Right when the bell rang the phone rang again, more than likely Allinder telling Mr. MC I was being dismissed early, so he swiftly went to go get the phone. After a few “um-hms” he hung up the phone. “Everyone’s dismissed,” he said and everyone started to leave. “Except Krieger.” I turned around slowly and he said, “The office called you down, your ride is here. I thought you drive?” “I do,” I responded. “Hang on,” he said walking towards me. “Something’s up, what is it? Is everything okay, Krieger?”

That was it. I was done. I came undone. I can barely even remember if that was what triggered it but it happened, and it felt like puddles were surrounding me. I was crying. Like really crying. Actually, hysterically sobbing. I still feel bad for Mr. MC because all the man did was ask me if everything was okay and I probably scared the shit out of him by dropping all my books and just bursting into hysterical tears. I was a mess, and my face was red from crying and my nose was now runny. But that didn’t matter to Mr. MC. He put his arm around me and kind of side hugged me. Then I put my arms around him and started to cry harder than I just had. Then he put his arms around me too, hugging me now, and just didn’t say anything. Then after about a good solid three minutes, I began to pull away a bit and then I told him, “Katie’s dead.” “Who’s Katie?” was all he said. “My best friend. She’s gone, and it’s all my fault.” He continued to tell me it wasn’t my fault and he kept trying to console me. Finally he said, “I don’t have a class next period so how about when everyone gets into their classrooms, I walk you down to the office.” I nodded and after the second bell rang, I walked down to the office, side-by-side with Mr. MC. When we got into the office, Nick was sitting there and I instantly went to hug him and he hugged me back. According to Nick, he looked at Mr. MC and mouthed the words “Thank you” to him. I haven’t asked Mr. MC about it yet.

But anyway the next couple of days went by slowly and then Katie’s funeral was upon us. I was chosen as one of the people to speak and I was nervous. Sure this was my best friend, but there was so much to say, so I didn’t know what to say. But somehow, with the help of Mike (Katie’s other brother) I figured out what to say and I did it. As Katie’s casket was lowered into the earth on the actual funeral procession day, Nick, Becky, Mike and I stood there and cried. Becky ended up leaving the three of us Rochester kids there to cry and say goodbye to our friend and sister. My family didn’t show up, so I was a part of Katie’s family today.

I went back to school and was still numb and quite. People knew something was up, because I was the girl that would make jokes, laugh and be the typical class clown. But I wasn’t doing any of that. I was solemn and quiet, which was nothing like who I was. However, that’s not even how things got bad. A week after Katie died I got into a fight with one of my friends and I left school early again, because I didn’t want to deal with any of that bullshit that day. So I went home. And that’s where the worst happened. I took them again. The pills. I relapsed. After being sober since October, I had fucked it all up and took a pill. I was in tears on my bathroom floor and realized what I had just done. I didn’t have anyone there to comfort me. The only person that could’ve comforted me in a time like that was Katie, and she wasn’t even on this earth anymore. I was truly alone.

I signed myself up for that AAA type rehab I did before. I told my counselor everything: Katie’s death, her funeral, the fight with my friend, and the relapse. She said everyone makes mistakes and that all of the stuff going in my life going downhill all at once is a huge contributing factor. So I stuck through the rehab again. Both rehab visits I had, might I add, I didn’t tell anyone besides Katie, Nick, Mike, and Becky. I didn’t tell my closest friends Abby, Renee, or Tiffany. I didn’t tell my parents, I pretty much just told them I was going to mock trial practice (even though I quit mock trial in the beginning of the season, but they didn’t know that). I swiftly went by it without telling anyone, and it worked, because nobody suspected a thing. Some people to this day don’t even know of it.

But now we fast forward to today, June 3rd, 2015. I’m sitting in my room sick, and just daydreaming (while writing this at the same time, I’m that good) about how in two days I will be graduating high school. Katie and I always had this dream of going to college together. When she first started school, she was in Philadelphia, and I had plans on going to Cleveland. She and I played rock, paper, scissors and I won, so she would transfer to Cleveland State with me. Now I’m 18, and in August I’ll be going to California University of Pennsylvania. Katie was one of the reasons I didn’t want to go to CSU anymore. It would’ve been too weird to go to that college without my best friend with me. I kind of felt like Cal U was my best option, a new start, but that didn’t mean I was leaving my best friend behind.

But now I am officially one year clean too! I celebrated my sobriety anniversary about three weeks after I paid Katie a visit on her one year anniversary. I go to her spot at least once a month, but I’m going to make it twice a month in summer, hopefully. But also updates on the other people. Nick and Becky got married and I was one of Becky’s bridesmaids. It was awesome and they even paid a little tribute to Katie in the wedding, which was that lilies were around everywhere and they were Becky’s bouquet. That was Katie’s favorite flower. Mike is a different story though, he and Nick didn’t really get along in the last two years of Katie’s life. There were some bad communications and some immaturity on Mike’s part, so they kind of never talked. However, when Katie was in rehab they reunited for Katie’s sake and whenever she died, the three of us were stuck like glue. Then I went to rehab and Mike and Nick decided to not talk. Nick invited Mike to his wedding but Mike declined saying he had better stuff to do. However, I can’t be one of those people that says “how could they not get along? They’re brothers.” My brother and I are completely estranged by my doing, so I have no room to talk. But Mike just got a new job, so things are starting to look up for the guy. Nick, his daughter (from a previous relationship), and Becky are all settled into their new house and they have me over a lot. What’s really special though, is that Nick and Mike both agreed to be civil when they come to graduation. I begged them both to be there, and I know if Katie was alive, she would’ve been there and would’ve dragged Mike and Nick by their ears to the graduation.

But graduation. I didn’t think I would ever hear those words. I never thought that I would be graduation. If I would’ve taken one more pill that one day, I probably wouldn’t be graduating. This is all sudden and big for me. I hear kids say, “Oh this is no big deal,” well for me it is, because I didn’t think I was going to make it to this point. The graduation thing is exciting, although I really don’t want to walk or anything because my parents aren’t even going to be there. But Mrs. T (my ex-boyfriend William’s [who actually happens to be one of my best friends] mum) is kind of forcing me, and now Nick is too.

I think the best part is that I’m finally clean though. I had to go through some really tough shit to get to the point where I’m at right now, but I finally got there. For once I think things are starting to look up for me. And trust me when I say that I haven’t been able to say that in a long time. It’s weird to think that I’m graduating high school and continuing this next chapter without my best friend. But in a way, she’s still there. I still have her necklace and bracelet and I even have her cap and gown from her own graduation at Ambridge. If I went to Ambridge or if Hopewell had the same colors as Ambridge, you bet that I’d be wearing her cap and gown that day. But that necklace and bracelet is going on. And if anyone does ask, it is my best friends but she wasn’t able to make it today. I’ll be seeing her someday soon though.

It kills me that she isn’t here. There have been times when I thought ending my own life would be the best option so we could both be happy up above. Maybe they have a college in heaven we both could go to. I’m sure they would have rolling admission so it wouldn’t be too late to apply. But then I think of a couple of people: my best friends Christine, Abby, Tiffany, and Ashley. Then there’s Nick, Becky, and Mike. Our group dwindled down to four, so what would they do if it dwindled down to three? Then I think of Mr. MC and what he told me whenever Katie died, “You have to keep your head up, Krieger.” Believe it or not, that truly does go a long way. I think of all those people and then I think of my parents. Sure we don’t get along and haven’t for a while now, but no matter what, I will always love them. Could I really do that to them? Then I think of my other friends, Ashton, William, Jon, Josh, Dean, Dalton, Elizabeth, Mark, Karli, Rachel, Nicole, Joey, Grace, Sarah, and others. How would they feel when during the summer before we go to college, they have to come to my funeral? Then I realize, it isn’t worth it. I’ll see her soon, but I have to be patient for a little while longer.

I can’t begin to tell you how good it feels to be clean though. I earned the trust back of some pretty important people and can now share my story. When I said I never told anybody about my rehab, Katie, or when I relapsed, that was true. During July though I told them everything. Sure they were shocked and hurt that I didn’t tell them, but they forgave me on the spot. They knew it was some deep and personal shit and that I had a right to not tell anybody what happened. Other people’s reactions weren’t the same, but that meant that they truly didn’t support me. If you truly support me, you would have at least still wanted to be a friend. You didn’t necessarily have to forgive me on the spot, believe me I understand that shit takes time. I learned that the hard way. That William guy I told you about? I broke up with him because of my relapse and me almost relapsing again (thankfully I didn’t but I still went back to the AAA meetings to make sure my head was on straight and that I wouldn’t fuck up). I had to break up with him, because he was 15 and I didn’t want him involved with that shit. I was 17 and had been through it, but he had never (and I hope he never has to) go through any of that shit. I broke up with him, not out of selfishness, but out of me being scared of getting him into something really bad. But almost a year later, I made it up to him by telling him the truth and he took some time but forgave me. We almost got back together but we didn’t. And you know what? I’m happy we didn’t, because I think we’re pretty great with where we are right now.

Forgiveness, I realized, is truly all that matters. When you have somebody forgive you, you feel like you are important and loved. When I had my friends forgive me, I was relieved, happy, and emotional. I needed them in my life. Soon I’ll be going to college and there really is no one I know up there. I need my friends back home for moral support, and what is friendship without trust and forgiveness. I’m lucky to have good people like them in my life. I truly don’t know where I would be without them.

So I guess I could wrap this up by saying that this truly is not just my story. I think it’s mine and Katie’s story. Sure she’s not here to help tell it with me, but she’s here because I put her here on paper. Even if you’re gone, you aren’t forgotten, and that was the whole point I wrote this. I had been struggling with whether I wanted to write this or not. When I realized a few weeks ago that I wanted to write this, I texted Nick and asked for his permission. He said if I didn’t write this he would kill me. He has a point, I believe, and so does Nick, that this needs to be heard. Like I said, this isn’t just my story, and it’s not all about me (the beginning probably made it seem like that, but every story needs some background doesn’t it?). It’s about the friendship of two girls and one going away and the other one trying to figure out how to cope with her absence.

I’m not going to lie to you, I’m not fully healed and I don’t think I ever will be. You can’t just ever forget something like this, even though people told me I should try and do it. But it can’t happen, and to the people who say it can happen, you guys are fucking nuts and that’s saying it nicely. I will never forget my Katie and hopefully she hasn’t forgotten me up there. I’m  truly going to need her on Friday when I walk down to receive my diploma, look in the stands, and see that she’s not there. It doesn’t feel real that she won’t be there. It won’t feel anytime. And although it won’t feel real and I’ll never forget Katie, I can’t keep living in the past. And by that, I don’t mean I’m not going to look on the times Katie had and try to erase them, that’s just stupid because those times were some of the best in my life. I mean in in the way that I can’t keep blaming myself for her death. Was I in her apartment the night before she died and could’ve figured out something was up? Possibly, but I didn’t, and I can’t keep dwelling on that. I can’t keep blaming myself or anyone or anything. I just have to let that part be.

I don’t believe in the saying that everything happens for a reason. I’ve lost too many people, all important to me and a lot of them at a young age, to be that naïve and think that. However, I do believe that Katie was ready. She had a rough life, and it got worse whenever she uncovered the drugs. Now I can rest easy knowing that she is in peace in heaven and one day I’ll be able to experience that peace too. In conclusion, this story wasn’t for me, it wasn’t for my friends, my parents, college or anything. It was for two things. #1 was it was for Katie and it always will be for her. Katie, I love you and will never forget you. You were my past, you’re now my present, and one day in the future, I will see you again. #2 was that it is for everyone who takes the time to read this. Like I mentioned, this isn’t just my story. It’s mine and Katie’s. It’s not just a depressing story. It’s a story about trying to cope and finally overcoming the depression and anguish and realizing that you have to keep living your life. This was to get Katie’s story out and have people know who she was. She was smart, caring, beautiful, amazing, and just an all-around good person.

One final thing people. Go to your best friend’s house, buy a case of beer or soda, and lay on the floor with said best friend and just bullshit about life and whatever else you want to bullshit about. That was mine and Katie’s favorite thing to do. We would watch a movie, get bored with that movie, and then just drink and lay on the floor, with our heads next to each other and just bullshit about life and where we wanted to see our lives going in the next few years. I can’t do that anymore, because doing that with someone would feel like abandoning Katie, but sometimes, I go to Katie’s old apartment (which Mike now lives in) and I just lay on the floor with a can of mountain dew (Katie’s favorite soda) and just stare up at the ceiling. I did this the other day. I looked up at the ceiling, laying on the carpet and said, “Well Katie I did it. I passed high school and am graduating. It’ll be weird without you though. Katie? Did I do alright?”

And I swear I heard her say, “Yeah, you did good.” She was never good at English.