A Story of Hope from One of “Those People”

My name is Carla Copley and I am someone that lived most of her adult life as an addict. I hadn’t always been someone that was selfish, self-centered, and living in a fantasy world. You see, I was raised right here in Fort Gay WV, by the most loving, understanding parents that anyone could ever have. Every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday evening was dedicated to God and family. For generations, my family has sang Southern Gospel Music. So even when we were not in church, there was always gospel music playing or we were singing around the kitchen table. I played sports, sang in the school choir, and went to church. That was my life. That was my upbringing. By all accounts I should have never became an addict, right? Well, I wasn’t for the first 26 years of my life. I had never taken a drink of alcohol, used drugs of any kind, and I was very uneducated on addiction.

Carla Copley

After having my daughter in 2002, I was introduced to something that would quickly become my lover, best friend, physician, and ultimately the god of my reality. Please understand that this was not how I wanted to live my life and I most certainly did not wake up one day and decide that I wanted to be an addict. If I could have somehow looked into the future before that first pill and saw what was destined to happen to my life, I would have never taken it. It caught me off guard at a time in my life when I was vulnerable and naive. It took me to a place where I unknowingly found hopelessness, anxiety, anger, pain, hunger, fear and shame. I had replaced every good and positive thing in my life with prescription medications that controlled every aspect of me. Everything in my life including my child, my own flesh and blood, came second to the chase and the high. The crazy thing about drug addiction is that once it locks itself into your mind, you become stuck in a place where you see no way out. The thought of not having the drug that motivates you to get up every day was never an option. I couldn’t tell my family that I needed help because in my reality world I thought they saw me as the child that had it all together. They were Christians, so to me, keeping them unaware of my secret was the best way to handle things. Out of sight, out of mind sort of thing.

One would think that no mother could or should ever put something before their child. That your children and the health and the wellbeing of your children should always come first. I wish that was the rule of thumb that I lived by, but it wasn’t. For the first ten years of my daughter’s life she took care of me. I was so concerned with keeping the entire world away from my addiction I couldn’t see that the one that I loved the most saw me for who I really was. I would wake up to see her sitting cross-legged in the floor beside of me crying because I had been passed out for who knows how long. Not only did I sell, pawn and trade everything that I had ever had for my addiction, but I sold everything of hers. She never said a word. She loved me and that should have been enough for me to stop doing drugs, but it wasn’t. I know now that she was neglected and malnourished and I was not worthy enough to be her mother. You see I was selfish. Addiction had turned me into someone that I didn’t know. I couldn’t feel love unless it was in the form of a pill. I had turned away from God because the God that I was taught to believe in, was not the God that I saw in my life. I was taught to believe that God would never leave me or forsake me. Surely God could have stopped this addiction before it even started. So to me God had left me. My life was so unmanageable and I was delusional. But I still didn’t think I was one of “those people.”

The last four years of my addiction I was a single mother raising my daughter smack dab in the middle of the crazy, delusional world of addiction. To me, I had it all under control. My boss at the time was also my landlord. Well one day my work supervisor decided to give me a drug test. This floored me. How can they do this to me? I’m not one of “those people!” As a result of failing the drug test I lost my job, my home, and my child and found myself in the back of a police cruiser sitting in my Christian parents’ driveway… all in a matter of 24 hours! This should have been enough for me to realize that I had a problem, but it wasn’t. I was still mayor of crazy world and my god (my drug), was screaming that it wasn’t my fault and I didn’t have a problem with drugs! I thought everyone else was crazy and delusional because remember, I wasn’t one of “those people.”

I forgot to mention that my supervisor decided to call and tell my parents everything that showed up on my drug test. This took my crazy into overdrive. The next morning, the man that fired me called and told my parents that he was on the board of directors at Pathway’s Detox and that he could get me a bed. There was no way I was going to detox! I was certain if this were to happen I would surely die! I had lived 11yrs of my life in addiction. I had no idea how to function without drugs. The very thought of not having my drug was horrible and scared me to death. I did go to detox where I stayed fourteen days. After completing detox I went to Karen’s Place for residential treatment. I not only found my sobriety there, I found God. I discovered how to live by allowing God to lead me. He never left me, I left Him. I’m not hopeless anymore and I’m able to wake up and breath in God, not the drug that use to be my god. I am now on the other side of addiction and I have the opportunity to witness to others on a daily basis that are struggling with this horrible disease. God gave me my life back through Addiction Recovery Care. God is restoring relationships and today I have a home, my daughter, a ten year old stepdaughter, and a husband. I have a job with Addiction Recovery Care and after not singing for 11yrs I sing all over the area with my family in church. I sometimes have to pinch myself and have a hard time believing that this is my life. I have found HOPE and I found it because I was one of “those people”.

What was your “aha moment?”

After years of hiding behind my disease and keeping my secret, I thought that I would never be able to face my family or grace the steps of a church. While a student at Karen’s place, we visited a local church. This was very scary for me. I was having to face my demons of shame and guilt in a church full of family and friends. When we arrived, I saw that my parents and my daughter were there. My child couldn’t stop looking at me and crying and my heart was breaking. Someone ask me to sing a song with my parents. I was convinced they wouldn’t sing with their 37yr old drug addicted daughter that was with the rehab girls. Without hesitation, my parents stood and sang with me in front of the church. Once I realized they were willing to sing and they loved me anyway, my healing began and I received my aha moment.

Describe the feelings you experienced while in active addiction.

Feelings of hopelessness, anger, anxiety helplessness. I saw no way out. I was stuck.

What is the driving force that keeps you going when times get tough?

My relationship with the Lord. Staying involved in church, singing and sharing with others the freedom one receive

What advice do you have for the addict that is still struggling?

Believe in yourself. Fight every day to set goals of sobriety. There are organizations and people that want to help. Allowing others to help you in getting your life back. Find what works for you and your personal recovery and make it work.

What obstacles or roadblocks have you encountered along your recovery journey?

Others that are not able to understand addiction and addicts. Others not realizing that it is a disease and we need help.

What is something you want people who have never struggled with addiction to know?

While it is difficult to understand, we are real people and we didn’t wake up one day and decide this was how we wanted to live our lives. Many factors come into play and for myself my addiction began way before I took my first pill. Never give up hope. Love unconditionally and see us through understanding eyes.

What advice do you have for family members of person in active addiction?

Let go and let God. Show tough love and never give up hope on your loved one. Who you knew before their addiction is lost. They just need help to find their way home.

Closing thoughts?

Love Longer and Love Louder. As a society we need to do our part to help those in need. View addiction for exactly what it is. It’s a disease like cancer and real healing is there. Please help in the cure. Reach out to people. Find your peace and happiness and believe you or someone you love deserves it.

Carla Copley is a peer support specialist for Addiction Recovery Care. Carla performs outreach to those in addiction that are clients of needle exchanges in Eastern Kentucky. She can often be found ministering to individuals at a needle exchange, encouraging them to discover a better life through treatment and recovery. Carla completed the residential program at Karen’s Place and she leads the worship choir there today.