shameBack in September 2014, I wrote my story and shared it with everyone receiving my emails.  Then I posted it on my website to share with the world, to take ownership of who I was and how that has lead me to who I am today.  Then several months ago, my website got hacked and I lost two very important blogs, this being one of them.  I got my website problem fixed right away however, that data was lost…. It was like the universe was conspiring to force me to share my story of gaining self confidence in the most unusual way again…..

I struggled with putting it back out there, I didn’t post it for a long time.  In fact, I took a step back and tried to figure out who am I am where am I going. In my exploration I realized that it all leads back to that moment where I shared my story and this moment when I harness my courage, dig deep and share my heart and soul with you again.  In this blog share some of the most intimate and vulnerable parts of who I was and how I became me. This hasn’t been an easy process but it is time to put myself out there. Its time to honor myself and my story in a very honest and openhearted way.  I have learned that if you want to move forward in life you have to be willing to untie the shame, anger, sadness and blame from your past. You have to be willing to break free from the perceptions that keep you believing lies about yourself.  Only from sharing our story of struggle can we be free from the grip it has on us.  I have tried so hard to keep it contained but now it is time, time to release it back in the universe. Below is the exact email I sent out almost one year ago.

I have to be completely honest…..  I have been fooling you….

 

I want to share something that is extremely personal with you, my story.  This is the story of who I was and who I am.  Everything in my life has brought me to this moment and I feel that right now I have to share it with you.  This is scary for me because I haven’t shared it completely with you and I know right now it is time.

I had a pretty normal life growing up.  I am the oldest of four kids and was born to parents who were doing the best they could.  Things in life seemed to be great especially when we lived in Oregon.  I had friends and we were part of a larger community.  Then one day my parents decided it was time to pack up our family and move to Arizona.  I had just finished 3rd grade and was so upset but what choice did I have, I was a kid.

When we got to Arizona it was hard, we moved a lot.  On rare occasions, we didn’t have electricity, running water or hot water (this was especially hard in high school).  I never knew we were poor until I was a teenager however we would have been considered the working poor.

Since we moved a lot, even after we got to Arizona, it was hard to make friends, let alone maintain friends.  I also experienced harsh name calling because of my acne, things like “pizza face” and even remember a time in math class where a boy told me I stink.  People seemed so much different in Arizona and we didn’t seem connected to the community like we did in Oregon. All the while, I felt loved and accepted by my parents and they were doing the best they could.

Then things started happening my parents, they started having problems and eventually split up.  This was extremely hard for me because I was daddy’s little girl, we did everything together.  I wrote music and poetry because I wanted to be like him and it was something that kept our relationship strong. I used to sing with him and I loved just being with him.  So when my parents split, my world was shattered.  I was abandoned, lost, heartbroken and devasted.  How could he not only do this to my mother, how could he do this to ME, the one he loved so much, his daughter who shared his initials?

This abandonment by my father sent me into a tailspin, like an airplane that had lost control and is crashing to the ground.  Because I had been so close with him, I had a strained relationship with my mother, plus I was also 14 and struggling with who I was becoming in the world. Because of this trifecta of shit, my world literally blew up and I had no one there to help me make sense of it.  My mother tried but I was unable to let her in.

This trauma set my behaviors and choices on a self destructive path.  I started hanging out with the “bad” kids in school, ditching, having sex, drinking, eventually using drugs, methamphetamines to be exact (I am being honest so I just need to put it all out there) and became a high school drop out. In fact, I used methamphetamines for about 2 years from 16 to 18.  While in that lifestyle I had made some pretty bad choices, hung out with some pretty questionable people, I witnessed someone get shot, I was physically assaulted by a friend who was high, I was homeless and sometimes didn’t know where I would sleep and I was arrested for possession of drugs (a class 4 felony) at the age of 17 because my mother called the cops on me for having drugs in her home (now I thank her for doing the best she could to try to help me). I lived in this life because I was scared, I didn’t feel loved, good enough and I thought that I was damaged.

It wasn’t until I was about 18 that one day I realized that I didn’t want to be where I was anymore. I didn’t want to be using drugs and living the lifestyle of a drug addict.  As I look back, I remember people who were using drugs with me saying and asking “what are you doing here? you don’t belong here” or “you can’t use this drug or you can’t do drugs this was because you’re better than this.”  I remember initially thinking why are they saying this I am no better than them, here I am doing the same drugs as them. Yet, I also remember thinking right before I quit using, they are right, I am better than this, I am destined to do something better with my life, I don’t belong here.

So almost overnight, I quit using drugs with the support of my boyfriend at the time and my mother. I never went to AA because I had seen so many of my friends, go through AA and end up worse off.  They didn’t get rehabbed, they continued to use and got bigger habits.  In fact, I fundamentally loath and disagree with AA and their message.  I will never be and have never been able to say, I am a victim and powerless.  That just isn’t me.  I don’t believe I am a victim, or that I am powerless, or even that I am a drug addict.  I believe addiction is a choice.

I quit using drugs with my deep desire to choose a different path because the one I was on was causing me pain and suffering and I didn’t want to suffer.  As soon as I made that decision, my mother was my best advocate and supporter.  Along with my boyfriend at the time and a few close friends I had made after I made the decision to change my life. They helped me realize and see that I was worth so much more, that I deserved to have beautiful things happen in my life and that I wasn’t damaged or unlovable.  I was worthy of all the love in the world and that I hadn’t ruined my life.

Part of my healing process was learning how to trust myself again.  I was scared to death to be alone, as I had lost all my confidence in my ability to make choices that honored myself and kept me safe.  My healing process took lots of time and it didn’t happen overnight and it started when I began to make different choices. Not only did it include my choice to start martial arts and boxing training but it first started with the decision to go back to high school and I did.  I graduated with my high school diploma from a charter school that was connected with a community college with a 3.94 GPA, plus 60 college credits completed and if you can believe it, I was the Senior Address speaker for my high school class.   All this from the girl who was told by her former high school Asst Principle that she would be better off dropping out and getting a GED.  I received a scholarship to the community college to finish my education and the very next semester, I graduated with my Associates of Arts.  I then proceeded to get a Bachelors of Science in Psychology, a Masters in Criminal Justice and a Masters in Social work.

All the while, I never returned to a life of drug use, never have I been tempted by or experienced relapse.  Now some people have said I was lucky and maybe to some extent I was, Lord knows I had my guardian angels working triple time trying to keep me safe, however, I made a choice to take control of my life and take back my power instead of continuing to give it away.  I decided that if I wanted to live my fullest and most kick ass life, I had to be the one calling the shots.  I took ownership of all the choices and all the positions I put myself in and have come to where I am today. It has been a long hard road to accept this part of me.

For a long time, I haven’t talked about my battle with drug use because I was in so much shame around it.  In fact, up until recently many people who know me and have for years, are completely shocked when they hear my story. In the past, I actually felt pride in their shock when hearing that, because that meant I did it, I am not that person, I covered her up really good. However now I feel saddened that they don’t know me. They don’t know all the hardship, tragedy and struggle I had to face to get to the place I am today.  They don’t know me because I hadn’t allowed myself to know that part of me, I tucked her into a nice neat package and hid her down in my dungeon because I was ashamed of myself. I even got a tattoo coverup of a tattoo I had gotten during “that time in my life” and it symbolized protection and healing.  However on some level, I think it was to try to hid that part of my life from myself. Out of sight out of mind, you know what I mean?

But I don’t want to hid anymore, I want you to know me, the real me. The little girl who loves ballet, classical music, boxing and martial arts. The teenager who struggled with addiction, heartbreak, abandonment and who was a high school drop out.  The woman who made a choice to put her life on a different path and, regardless of her past experiences and actions, took ownership of what happened to her, the good, the bad and the ugly.  And the woman who honors ALL of who she was and who she is, so she can step proudly into her skin, without shame or guilt, and declare I am a bad ass confident woman and damn fucking proud of how far I have come in life!!

Hi, I am Amanda Brown and it is nice to meet you.  Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you.