By Aaron Emerson
The disease of addiction doesn’t discriminate.
Black or white, male or female, rich or poor, urban or rural. None of that matters when it comes to who addiction affects.
Trina Day is a prime example of this, as she grew up in a close, safe home. She describes her childhood as “the American dream family,” and they attended church on a regular basis.
So one can only imagine the impact a divorce had on her at the young age of 14. That’s when Trina started acting out, getting involved with different friends and experimenting with drugs and alcohol.
She ended up going down a dark road, full of jails and treatment centers, homelessness and desperation. It was a long journey for Trina, but she slowly put her life back together and just celebrated a year of sobriety last week.
It wasn’t easy, though, and she will be the first to admit she still has her struggles. But the life she has today is hard to imagine for someone who has been through so much.
After the divorce, which she said changed everything including her social status, she started seeing an older man and lost her virginity at 14 to a 24 year old. She started smoking weed and drinking alcohol occasionally.
“At that time, it was very fun and rebellious,” Trina said.
Bouncing back and forth between her mom and dad, living in in Williamston and Owosso, she got pregnant. She had a son, Seth, and went to an alternative high school, obtaining her diploma a year late.
Smoking and drinking a lot, she tried to change for Seth, but it didn’t last. Eventually she started drinking everyday, but was still handling her work and college responsibilities.
In her early and mid twenties, she started experimenting with prescription drugs. It started out with Adderall, an amphetamine supposed to treat ADHD. Then, working as a receptionist at a medical facility, a co-worker started providing her with Vicodin, an opioid painkiller.
From there, things got progressively worse. She moved on to stronger painkillers like Dilaudid, then got hooked up with a boyfriend who she later found out was doing heroin. Trina started asking him to try it, seeing how cheaper and more potent it was than the painkillers she was using.
The first time she asked him about the heroin, he told her “you don’t want to do this, it will take your soul.” He eventually gave in, though, and right after he injected her with heroin for the first time, she fell back onto a bed in a euphoric rush, saying “this is it. This is what I’ve been searching for.”
Her boyfriend eventually violated his parole and went on the run, and Trina’s life took a turn for the worst. She left her nice apartment, scrapped her car for $300 and started doing cocaine on top of the heroin.
Jobless, homeless, and in full fledge addiction, she turned to the streets. She made $100 to $500 a day panhandling. “At that point, I dove into heroin head first. I just did what it took to get it.”
Then, one day panhandling in Lansing, she met an older gentlemen driving a nice car who she fed a sad story to. She later found out he was a well known professor at Michigan State University who had written several books. Not telling him that she was using his money for drugs, he was giving her $1000 a week in cash, putting her up in motels and apartments and getting her cars.
With an easy supply of cash to feed her addiction, she was using a lot and diving deeper and deeper into misery. That’s when she started her journey of recovery, though it’s taken several attempts to obtain long term sobriety.
She checked into a treatment center in Jackson, then to the Lansing-based Glass House rehab after relapsing. After falling down again, she checked into RISE for a while, and then Holy Cross for six months. She kept relapsing, but never gave up, always choosing to give recovery another shot.
She had another child around that time. In and out of addiction, she felt it was best to give up her parental rights the day after she was beaten black and blue by a guy she had been hanging out with. Giving up her child was the hardest day of her life, but she truly felt like she was making a decision in the best interest of her child.
Back in hardcore addiction, something happened that changed her life and set her on the path to recovery: she was arrested for the first time. She got charged with three felonies – all related to drug use – and was thrown in jail. The court system didn’t seek to punish her, though, giving her a chance to get help instead.
She was put in Drug Court in East Lansing, a strict probation centered around therapy, 12 step attendance, drug testing and building a support system. Though she was given treatment-based probation instead of jail, she still wasn’t fully committed to recovery. That changed, though, when she relapsed on probation. She was sent to jail for 34 days and then to rehab at Sacred Heart. While in rehab, she detoxed from Methadone and took treatment serious.
She still wasn’t done, though. She relapsed one more time five days after leaving Sacred Heart. She decided to check herself back into RISE, a transitional sober living facility. Her best friend Luke was there and helped her navigate the system, helping her meet other sober friends and motivating her to take her recovery serious.
That’s when tragedy happened: Luke passed away unexpectedly. She was heart broken. Faced with the loss of her best friend in early sobriety, she battled down and for the first time in her life, chose to reach out for support instead of getting high to numb the pain.
A miracle happened. She stayed sober through it and started gaining confidence in her recovery. Then she started dating another guy in recovery. With a firm recovery foundation himself, Brian helped Trina see she was worth it.
“His recovery motivated me,” Trina said. “He sets boundaries and makes sure we don’t become co-dependent.”
Since then, Trina’s life has steadily improved. She graduated from RISE in June and even started working there to help other people in the same spot she was in just last year. She celebrated a year of sobriety on October 23 and is doing very well in Drug Court. She is a fantastic mother to Seth and is working towards a career.
She said taking her time to focus on herself in early recovery was one of the keys to staying sober this long.
“I took my time, I didn’t feel rushed. You have to work on the root causes,” Trina said. “Don’t just rush into getting a job and paying bills. They will always be there. You have to focus on yourself first.”
It’s been a long, crazy journey for Trina. She has one of the most incredible stories I’ve ever seen, not just because she got sober after a really serious addiction, but because of the fact she struggled so much to stay sober. She fell down and relapsed so many times, but never gave up. She is a miracle. She is going to help a lot of people along the way and has a bright future ahead of her.
If you get one thing from her story, just know that there is always hope. Never stop trying. Never give up. If Trina can find recovery after all she has been through, anyone can. There’s always hope!
-If you would like to share your story of recovery, contact Aaron at firstname.lastname@example.org.