Jill’s Recovery Story

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Jill’s Recovery Story

“Waking and thinking ‘wow, I’m trapped. I’m trapped in my own body. I’m a prisoner in my own body and I don’t know how to get out.”

For Jill Perkins, the signs of addiction came early. As a teen hanging out and partying with friends, she recalls recognizing the difference in their recreational drug use and her own.

“I think the first time that I realized I had a problem with drugs was when I was about 17. I would go to raves and parties with my friends and while they were just doing a little bit to have fun, I felt like I couldn’t stop. I felt like I had to get more and more and more and more, and I would put myself in really precarious situations to do so.

It wasn’t long until the party was over and Jill felt as if she wasn’t measuring up to her peers who left the party lifestyle behind. Compounded with problems at home and poorly managed mental illness, she felt stuck and stagnant while others moved on without her.

“As it grew and I got older people started growing up without me. I realized I continued to do these things, and the worse that made me feel, the more I sought out that escape. It wasn’t a party, it wasn’t a good time, it was an escape. Because I was absolutely, profoundly depressed. And I still struggle with depression, for sure, but that’s not the coping mechanism for me today.”

Left feeling inadequate and dealing with low self-esteem, Jill forced herself to play the role she felt others expected of her. She recalls dreaming of being a scholar, artist, mother, and wife as a child, and so she built that life for herself, careful not to let anyone see beyond the mask of perfection.

“I think everyone thought I was fine. At that time in my life when it was the worst I wasn’t obviously being a delinquent. When I was trying to hide it as a mother and when I was trying to hide it as a sister and a daughter and wife, I think it looked like I had it together. I think I looked like Martha Stewart. That’s what I tried to do.”

“I just wanted to be perfect. The drugs I was doing allowed me to have the energy and patience to do those things that I feel like other people [were doing]. I kept mimicking the habits of adulthood and not necessarily really being there.”

Even so, the pressure of maintaining that image weighed heavily on her shoulders. She buried her own needs and emotions beneath the obligations of motherhood and marriage.

“I think inside I felt helpless. I felt out of control. I felt like a glass of water filled right to the edge and it is about to flow over. I felt like there was a constant maintenance for me to achieve even the slightest bit of joy. There’s fulfillment in being a mother but you can’t be friends with a three year old. I think my marriage was falling apart as well. I felt very alone and misunderstood, which is a lot of my fault from cutting everyone off. I felt like I had to be perfect. I felt like I was a ghost of my former self, like completely hollow. Even when I looked completely perfect I felt very sad.” 

As the illusion of perfection crumbled around her, Jill tried to claw herself out of the grips of substance abuse. Without the tools to cope with the underlying trauma or deal with her mental health, relapse wasn’t far behind.

“Four or five years ago I decided that I really wanted to stop. I had been stopping, or had stopped, for about three days. I felt terrible and it didn’t even dawn on me that there may be something wrong until I realized ‘maybe I feel bad because I haven’t dosed in a while,’ and then I did and I felt better. That’s when I really thought, ‘wow, I’m screwed. I don’t know what I’m going to do now.’

“I think that it started to go down hill when I realized that I didn’t have the emotional support to get into a situation where I could get clean safely and without the obligations of motherhood. With two small children it can be very taxing on your body to be withdrawing while you’re trying to change diapers and make food for your husband, etc.”

It wasn’t long before addiction led Jill to lose that which was most important to her: custody of her children.

“My rock bottom was losing my children. I have people coming to me saying ‘I can’t believe you of all people lost your kids’ because of that illusion that I’d created. My entire world was centered around motherhood, which is a good and a bad thing. I definitely value my children above everything in my life. They mean everything to me. I can’t imagine a deeper love than that of a mother to her children, and so losing them felt like the end of the world. It felt like ‘what’s the reason to keep going if you don’t have your children?’ I just love them so much and I felt like I had done this to them. They say ‘don’t let your storm get your children wet’ and I let that happen. I knew that the best thing that I could do for my children was to get clean. I wanted to say ‘no no no, let’s just sugar packet fix it and let’s keep moving’. The truth is that was the delusion I was telling myself.”

Finally forced to face the reality of addiction and its impact on her life and those around her, Jill made a decision. After years of burying her own needs and living like a ghost of herself, she chose to prioritize herself and her recovery so she could get back to what matters most. Determined as she was, Jill admits the beginning was rough.

“When I came to Harbor Village there was a lot of guilt that I’d internalized for so long and I felt ashamed of myself, I felt really sorry for myself. Kind of pathetic, really, but I have compassion for myself now. I think there’s a difference between feeling responsibility, acknowledging your part in things, taking accountability, and then just feeling sorry for yourself.

Reflecting on those early days of treatment, she says:

“These are the first genuine interactions I had with people in years where I wasn’t really high or living a lie. These people are seeing the most authentic version of myself, which was good and bad but also very humbling. It was very encouraging to see that other people had the same kind of problems as me and were just as flawed as me in other ways and that I wasn’t necessarily alone.

Beyond evidence-based, individualized treatment for all clients, Harbor Village also encourages community support among peers. Our judgement-free approach to care creates a safe space for living earnestly and honestly, including addressing those things in the past we are less than proud of.

“Realizing you’re not alone helps you realize your problems are never as important as you think they are. You don’t have to necessarily feel like they’re the end of the world. You don’t have to look back and say ‘I can not believe I’ve done this’ — other people have done that, too! Other people have done worse, and you will hear those stories in here. If you have done something you’re going to find somebody who has done that a thousand times. You see them and you have the compassion for them. I feel so much compassion for other addicts. When I see someone talking about that and they just talk about it like it’s fairly normal, especially if they have some time clean, I don’t sit there and think ‘oh wow, look at this hooligan, look at this delinquent.’ I think ‘wow, look at this amazing, strong human being’ and if we could just have that compassion for ourselves I think we’ll be able to make a lot more out of this.”

Today, Jill is sober and pursuing her dreams through higher education. She has also regained custody of her children and dedicated to making the best of this second chance.

“If I could look back and tell myself the thing I needed to hear when I was at my lowest, it would be that you are enough but that you need to get better. There’s nothing wrong with telling people that you need help and that you’re not an evil person. You’re not a monster. I felt like a monster. I had no self-esteem, so I would say that you are loved.” 

 

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