‘Throughout my life I have learned that finding true happiness within yourself is key. With finding happiness, you can heal your mind, body and soul. Take time each day to do something that makes you happy.’ -DL
27-year-old Kamloopsian, Dana Lee, has been battling an undiagnosed illness for her entire adult life. Though her friends and family have always been a healthy support system for her, there were times where Dana used drugs as a dangerous coping tool to numb the sadness and frustration that came with her illness.
Here she tells her story, hoping to let others who are living with chronic pain and illness know they are not battling alone. Her story illuminates the link between illness and addiction.
“I was your typical teenager. I liked to go to parties on the weekends. I smoked cigarettes and drank beer, and wasn’t into the drug scene. When I turned 20 that all changed when I moved to a new city and the fun began! All of the typical party drugs became my best friend and I fell in love with them. During this time, my illness (that started when I was just 19) began to change. I experienced a range of symptoms that no one could figure out.
After spending almost two years away from home, I was hitting the point where the party wasn’t a party anymore. I was becoming frustrated with not knowing why I was sick, and soon that turned into a lifestyle. I moved back home and stopped using drugs for about four months, again, until my symptoms changed.
At this point I did not realize I was self medicating. I was using cocaine and drinking to do normal tasks like cleaning my room and doing chores. I did not like being sober. Being in my head with all my thoughts and feeling sad from being sick was not an option for me.
I was seeing doctor after doctor, getting test after test done, all the while drowning my sorrows with booze and cocaine. I drank until I fell asleep most nights because of the sheer sadness and anger I felt; no one could tell me why I was experiencing such an array of symptoms. I had lost yet another job. At this point I felt like I was going crazy.”
Dana’s illness and subsequent substance abuse kept progressing until, in February 2017, she went to rehab with the firm insistence of her parents. She completed a 28 day program and left feeling alive and, in her words, ‘over confident’. She relapsed two months later.
“During this time, again my illness was changing and progressing. With no answers, I would stay clean and sober for a month here, a couple weeks there, three months here. I was trying new drugs, I was lying to every single person I new. I didn’t even recognize myself.
I was seeing more doctors during this time and becoming more frustrated. I’ll never forget the day one doctor told me it was all in my head; I went home and got so hammered I fell flat on my face on someone’s driveway.
Since I was a small child I had been dealing with strange illness after strange illness. And now it was taking over my whole being. I hated myself. I felt scared, angry, sad, all the emotions. But I never let myself feel the happiness I knew was out there. Drugs and alcohol were ruining my life, and I knew if I didn’t make a serious change, I would probably die.”
Dana’s last relapse ended on December 23, 2017. She drank and used for four days straight, then detoxed over the holidays. She knows December 26 as her ‘sober date’.
“I realized that my illness wasn’t going anywhere but I did have control over my substance abuse. I had the strength in me all along to stop, but I wasn’t ready. I also had to come to terms with the fact that I was hurting myself the most. For so long I was worrying about everyone else and how they felt, never fully listening to my own being and doing what I needed to heal.
Once I allowed myself to take a step back and assess my life, I knew that I had to start taking responsibility for my actions. I stopped playing the ‘why me?’ card, and told myself I was better than that. I did a lot of shameful things during my addiction, things that weren’t really me. Today, I take all of the negative I experienced, turn it to a positive, and learn from it.”
Dana is still battling her illness and still without any answers. She is unable to work or even properly take care of herself. She gets around with a wheelchair and/or a cane. She suffers from chronic pain. Yet despite this she claims she is the best version of herself. She is currently helping a few fellow recovering addicts and hopes one day to become an addictions counsellor. She is soon to be doing a regular vlog to talk about addictions, living with chronic pain, and the use of medical marijuana as opposed to taking opioids.
“I know who I am for the first time in my life. I look at the beautiful things in life everyday. I have become so strong mentally. I have become very in touch with my spiritual side, and that in itself has helped me heal. I strive to help others. I am very passionate about showing people how to take care of their minds, bodies, and souls.
Medical marijuana has saved my life and I want to spread my story on that.”
‘To anyone who is still stuck in the cycle of addiction, do not be afraid to reach out. Ask for help, be honest with someone. If you can bring yourself to admitting you need guidance, you are stronger than you know. Admitting we have a problem is the first step to recovery. But we must figure out why, why are we putting ourselves through this? What small changes can we make to make each day just a little bit brighter? We do recover. And we are not alone.’ -DL