Alyssa Johnston, VOA Alaska's front office receptionist, had a long journey to recovery. But she never gave up, and now she's able to share the best moments of her life with her daughter.

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Stories of Recovery | Alyssa Johnston

I started my problems very young. I was an alcoholic from when I was 11 and partied non-stop. Every time I was drunk and surrounded by the wrong people, I would try new things—if you had it, I tried it. And it progressed quickly. I was 14 years old, smoking heroin and meth. By 15, I was slamming dirty needles in my arm. It all happened so fast.

I remember many traumatizing things I have been through because of it. I have PTSD, depression, and anxiety still to this day. I have to practice self-care every day and see a therapist to help me get through it all.

I was so sick and lost. I let people take advantage of me, use me, abuse me. Sometimes I was forced to do terrible, unspeakable things. Sometimes the devil inside of me would just convince me to do things or act in certain nasty ways. I was in a dark place every single time I landed myself back in the streets. Every time I wasn’t sleeping or nodding out, I was wishing I was dead.

After a couple years of that, I finally went to treatment in California. It was amazing and changed everything for me. I graduated after six months of rehab and decided to live a little longer in state with my best friend.

When I came back to Alaska to visit my family for Christmas, I was arrested due to an outstanding warrant from when I had previously I left state. After my release, I wasn’t allowed to go back to California until my case was closed. In that time, I became pregnant with my miracle Christmas baby, Amira. I stayed sober my whole pregnancy. But when she was around five months old, I relapsed. I was feeling so ashamed and depressed. I thought there was no coming back that time.

If it wasn’t for my amazing, supportive family helping me I would have been doomed and I might have lost my daughter. I was such a weak, hopeless, ugly person inside and out. I treated my family and friends like dirt. Overdoses, being dope sick and dealing with withdrawal, stealing, lying, domestic violence, sexual abuse, or deaths. All because of drugs.

I do not miss this life at all.

I planned to do a 10-day detox in Los Angeles and make it back in time for Amira’s 1st birthday. The morning of my flight I woke up to my older sister pounding on my car window. I had gone and got my last fix and was hoping I wouldn’t wake up. But my sister’s voice brought me back.

I was drenched in sweat because I’d left my heat on, doors locked, and windows up. I was scared. I almost didn’t go, but eventually got myself on the airplane. I completed the detox and made it back for Amira’s birthday—SOBER!

But a couple months later, I fell again. This time it was by far the worst. I only weighed under 100 pounds at this point. And again, I ended up back in treatment through Set Free Alaska at Valley Oaks. This detox was hard. I had horrible night terrors and panic attacks for a month straight and wanted to leave so many times, but I was not about to let my baby grow up with a drug addict for a mother, or have anyone else be labeled as her guardian except me. So, I fought!

Amira moved into treatment with me and our relationship flourished. Five months later I graduated a whole new person. A beautiful person. A woman of God. A real mother. I was alive again. I was my true authentic self and so was my daughter.

I have overcome so many things since then. My sobriety date is 6/16/18 and I’m still going strong. I now work at VOA Alaska, and work with nothing but amazing, positive people! I am with my daughter every single day and night. We love each other more than any other love in this world you could ever possibly imagine.

I would be so lost without Amira and she will forever be my hero. All I strive for is to be a better mother every day, make sure her and I are both happy, and make sure I raise her based off of my experience and knowledge, to make sure her heart is always pure, full of love and respect, with a brain full of ambition, strength and wisdom, and a spirit full of positivity and faith.

So together, we are doing just that. It’s my turn to be her hero. I have a family and support and that’s all I really need. They are my home, because home is where the heart is.

Getting clean is NOT impossible, not like it may feel in the moment of it all. You can do anything you put your mind to. Just like how we chase that next high or the next fix—choose to chase success instead, and never look back. Choose happiness. Choose to live, not just exist. It is possible! You only need to have faith and lean on your support network. Humble yourself and let people in. There is support all around you no matter where you go.

I am 24 now. What a long 10 years of ups and downs it has been. Everyone has the strength inside of them. You can’t give up, no matter how bad you want to. Look up. I’m glad I got several chances at life and am now crushing it. I’m so grateful for my life today.

Are you ready to begin your recovery journey or help others begin theirs? Learn how at voaak.org/recovery.

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