Going into rehab when I was 19 was hands down the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life. My addiction started when I was around 17 and spiraled and spiraled out of control, as addictions always do. However, looking back, I'm so lucky my addiction started and ended when it did.
At 17, I was riddled with mental health struggles. Amid wrong diagnoses and an uphill battle trying to find the right physical and mental coping skills for me, I turned to every single outlet I could find, be it healthy or unhealthy, productive or destructive. At 17, I was living with my parents and finishing high school. I didn't know the true ins and outs of addiction — all I knew was what I felt and what I did. I didn't know who I was and I was looking for my identity in every single place but myself. I tried finding it in significant others, friends, various hobbies, and anything else I could grab on to. At 18, I thought I found what I really wanted to do and got my makeup artistry certification, swearing to never step foot on a university's campus. I made plan after plan to leave home and never look back, making a name for myself by my own hand and my hand alone. At 18, the world looked so much different for me than it did for most other 18-year-olds that I knew.
And then, at 19, I hit rock bottom.
At 19, I had hidden my addiction from everyone in my life so well, that even I found myself not believing it from time to time. That's why rehab at 19 was so shocking and confusing to everyone I knew. No one knew me as the liar that perfectly camouflaged my addiction. No one knew me as the drug user and abuser I kept under wraps for years. No one knew the mental and physical prison that I was trapped in until, at 19, it all came crashing down around me.
However, I know that if my world didn't crumble at 19, I would be still stuck in that addiction cycle at almost 23. From ages 17-19, I wasn't smart enough to know how to find someone who would give me the drugs that I wanted. I didn't have the freedom to go wherever and do whatever I wanted as long as I was driven by my addiction. Growing older in my addiction would have only made me smarter, and if I didn't get clean at 19, I never would have learned.
If I spent those middle years becoming "smarter" when it came to my addiction, I know I wouldn't be where I am now — a college senior, going to that same university campus I swore I would never step foot on.
I wouldn't be working at a job that I love. I wouldn't be communicating with my loved ones the way that I am. I wouldn't have the same optimistic outlook on life that I'm so blessed to have. I wouldn't be who I'm made to be.
Getting clean at 19 will forever be my greatest accomplishment and highest reward. I found the love and acceptance I craved from people who had the same struggles that I did. Some of my favorite memories were from NA meetings. Some of my best friendships have come out of rehab. The most monumental epiphanies I had about myself were in the same house where I spent day in and day out fighting for my sobriety.
If I didn't have to go through that at such a young age, I doubt I would be here to tell the story. As much as it's strange to say, I truly believe that addiction at 17 years old saved my life. It permanently took away critical moments, but, in the end, it gave me the best life I was created to live — healthy, clean, and thriving.