Saving Face vs. Saving Life by Anna L

Is saving face worth losing a life to addiction? I got tired of saving face 14 years ago, I wanted to live. As an Asian American woman, it took a lot for me to come to a place where I am able to accept my past and not feel ashamed for it.

I started my drug use in high school not knowing where that road would lead. I just wanted something at the time that would help me feel comfortable in my own skin. At 16 years old I was gang-raped and discovered crystal meth would help to numb the emotional pain so that I could go on with life pretending nothing happened. I was a decent student and a junior golfer that played in tournaments nationally.  I was recruited for an athletic scholarship to play for the University of Southern California (USC). I lived a double life being the daughter that my parents could brag about while at the same time living day to day chasing my high so I could function.

My drug use continued and my life started to spiral out of control as I could no longer put on the mask. I lost my scholarship and my spot on the team due to my drug use. When I thought my life could not possibly get any worse, I experienced being carjacked, kidnapped, and raped for 5 days when I was 20 years old.  After this event, I no longer cared about myself or the world, I was completely broken and ashamed of who I had become. My family loved me, but did not know how to help me. They never imagined that I would become a person addicted to drugs and have to watch me killing myself slowly because I couldn’t stop using crystal meth. I lived out of my car, hurt the people who loved me, committed crimes to support my habit, and stayed in a drug-induced haze until I was offered meth withdrawal treatment.

The first couple times in treatment didn’t work for me, I wasn’t willing to let go of the one thing that numbed my pain. I ended up court-ordered again and thought I would beat the system this time around. My plan was to just comply until I was off probation, and then I could go back to blowing away my nightmares in a cloud of smoke. But something changed, someone reached out their hand and showed me that I didn’t have to do this alone, I could come out of the dark. I learned to cope with life without the use of drugs and immersed in the healing process, not only from drugs, but from depression, anxiety, and trauma. I finally found hope, forgiveness, and being comfortable in my own skin.

I have been free of drugs (including alcohol ) since July 21, 2005. A few years after treatment, I became a certified drug and alcohol counselor, went back to USC to graduate with my Master of Social Work, and currently working on my Doctorate of Social Work. The focus of my doctorate is to create a culturally responsive program to address Substance Use Disorders in Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).  It’s a hidden problem within AAPI communities that people try to hide because of the cultural norm of saving face. To me, my recovery is pursuing personal and spiritual growth, as well as being the hand that reaches out to people who are in that dark place I once was. I share my story in the hope that it gives voice and courage to other AAPI suffering from addiction to start their journey.

-Story submitted to Recovery Speakers by Anna L.

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