The Story of Trina Day: A Recovering Miracle

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 aaronemerson09@gmail.com.

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Day 152

By Aaron Emerson

I just hit the five month mark two days ago. Five months. Five months without a sip of beer, a pill or shot, even a puff of weed smoke. In the grand scheme of life, five months is nothing, but for me, it’s a damn miracle.

Just about a year ago I was at a point in my life where I just wanted to die. I didn’t want to commit suicide but I also wasn’t scared of dying from an overdose or getting killed in a botched drug deal or something. Man, oh man, it seems like a different life than how I’m living today.

On Sunday, I was hit with an Aaron Emerson recovery trifecta. I celebrated five months, my beloved Lions beat the Packers, and I got a raise at work. Yes, a fucking raise.

I’m 27 years old and have never gotten a raise at work. Truth be told, I haven’t ever truly held a job for more than a few months without my boss noticing signs that something was off. But today, my place of employment actually values me. Isn’t that crazy?

I don’t say all that to brag or to boast, saying “look at me! Look at how good I am doing!” I say it to perhaps spark a glimmer of hope within somebody else who happens to be walking the same path that I was just last year.

See, I got off heroin a few years ago and stayed off of it for over a year. My life improved vastly and I started this process of using my writings to spread hope and raise awareness. But I wasn’t truly getting down to the root causes of my alcoholism and addiction. I would go to a meeting once or twice a week and did some therapy, but that’s about it. I had a recovery coach, Phil Pavona, who did his part in saving my life and helped show me that recovery could be fun. But at that point in my life, I considered myself more of a drug addict than an alcoholic.

That was my downfall. Granted, I wasn’t drinking during that year of abstinence. But I eventually had a beer at a wedding, giving into peer pressure and rationalizing in my head “well, it’s just a beer. It’s not heroin.”  That beer ended up taking me down a road that almost led to death again.

I had to admit and accept that I can not control the use of any mind or mood altering chemicals. When I put alcohol or drugs into my body, something changes in my brain. I lose all control and don’t stop until I am faced with severe consequences. It was hard, but today I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I have people in my life guiding me, showing me how they did it and teaching me how powerful prayer is.

Just know that this is a lifetime thing. I will never be cured or be able to drink or drug in moderation. But I have fun today, I am grateful today, I have real friends today, and I am proud of myself today.

One thing I have always put in my blogs is that if you are alive, hope is alive. It is so fucking true! Don’t ever give up. No matter how hard things may seem, there are people out there who care about you. Surround yourself with people who love you. Take life one day at a time. Reach out when shit gets hard. You can do this and have a happy life. I promise.

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My Worst Day Clean Is Better Than My Best Day High

By John Mullin

“My worst day clean is better than my best day high.”

Such a cliché, I know. I never really understood what people meant when I use to hear that. I would think to myself “Yeah it sounds good but, I’ve had some pretty great days being high,” I thought anyways.
It wasn’t until this time in recovery I gave more thought to that saying. Yes, I did have some good times using, but every time I used it always involved some feeling of regret and shame in one way or another. I either had to do some hurtful act to someone in order to get my drugs, or I would get high wishing I didn’t have to exist in a life that revolved around getting a fix just to function throughout the day.
Beating myself up mentally, feeling like such a failure in life because I was a heroin addict in heavy active addiction. No self worth, covering up my track marks – that, over time, went from small dimples to craters – in fear of people judging me if they saw them. No true friends to hang around because they knew being around me meant potentially being taken advantage of. The lies, the oh-so many lies, way too many lies to even keep up with. Often getting caught in lies and getting upset with the person who catches you in a lie because it foiled your plan to get more dope. Shooting up then counting down the hours until you knew you would be sick again trying to figure out a means to prolong the inevitable sickness.
I know for me the amount of money I had made no difference. Sure, I could go cop enough dope to last me a couple days, but it seemed the more I had the more I needed to do at one time to even feel it. And my three day supply would dwindle down to nothing in a matter of hours. Then I was back on the phone calling my dealer complaining about the quality and begging for a front since I just spent all my money with him earlier that day. Great times huh?
Voicemails from the landlord saying how they need the rent since it’s two weeks late and you still owe a little bit from the past month. Prior to that you were homeless for a long stretch, sleeping under bridges in the dead of winter because you couldn’t get your dope in time to get to the shelter before it closes. The lowest you’ve ever felt in your entire life: you would think you wouldn’t allow yourself to return to that point. When you were blessed with the opportunity of having your own house and stable enough employment to secure your basic needs, why would you risk losing it all? Because you are an ADDICT. Your addict brain will convince you of anything to ensure that you stay sick. The disease of addiction is exactly what they say it is: Cunning, Baffling and Powerful.
I know today even if everything else in my life fails and falls apart, I can at least say I am clean, and for someone like me that is a win that trumps any and everything else. I know I won’t wake up the following day plotting and scheming on the ones I truly love and who truly love me to get another one, telling myself the lie addicts tell themselves over and over: “I just need one last one.” I’ve had my “last one” many, many times and it always concluded the same result, one more after that. This isn’t my first time in recovery, nor the longest amount of clean time I’ve had in my using career, but it is my first time in recovery where I truly wanted it. It takes what it takes and for me it took finally putting the shovel down and start climbing out of the hole I dug for myself. After numerous times relapsing I realized the bottom of that hole gets deeper and deeper. Today I am grateful to be able to just live in the moment and do the next right thing and put my trust in my higher power that he’s got me right where I need to be and everything I need will come in due time.
John Mullin is 27 years old from Lansing, Michigan. He’s a recovering addict who is finding himself after using heroin his entire adult life. He is a writer who enjoys writing poetry, lyrics and journaling. He wants to start making music again.


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Day 121

By Aaron Emerson

121 days without taking any type of drug or sip of alcohol. Four months. The longest my mind and body has gone without mood altering substances in years. I did stay sober for a year before; I even published a book full of my thoughts during that year. But this is different. There’s something deeper.

Deep is a place I don’t like to explore. But deep is where I must travel if I want to find recovery and peace. It’s said there are places in the ocean that humans haven’t explored. A depth so dark and frightening nobody can reach. The deeper you go, the more the pressure multiplies, crushing you.

How fitting. Things are better than they’ve ever been. There are days I feel complete. Sometimes – especially in the morning when I pray – I feel such an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I can hardly believe it. Huh? Aaron Emerson? This can’t be me.

On the contrary, some moments I need guidance. A nudge. Someone to tell me how to live life to simplicity. I need balance. I can’t get too confident but also need to prevent myself from getting down on myself. The latter is a challenge, when there is so much fresh guilt.

Some days my thoughts are scattered. This morning I was cheerful, happy to be sober and free from the bondage of addiction. An hour later, my mind wandered to my best friend Andrew, who died from an overdose this year. He was with me the first time I met my daughter. I missed her birth and the first year of her life, serving a year in jail. When I got out and had the opportunity to meet Melody, I was so nervous I asked him to go with me. He did. I still find it hard to accept he no longer wanders this earth.

I can truly feel God working in my life. Things are happening I can’t explain. The people who are placed in my life have zero to do with coincidence. They aren’t just simple supporting characters in a story, though they do more than their share of supporting.

I am sober today. I am in recovery today. I have amazing people in my life today. Just several months ago I was on the brink of suicide. I thought about it every day. I thought this world would be better off not having to deal with my thievery, addiction, lies and misery. Today, though, I have something to offer. I have a story and I’m sharing it. I am living today. Into the dark, deep sea I travel. It’s scary here, but nothing is too much for God.

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The Night Narcan Saved My Life

By Aaron Emerson

Ah, the good ol’ Narcan debate. If you follow any addiction blogs or websites, you have probably seen the arguments. On one side of the spectrum, Narcan saves lives. On the other, well, Narcan simply enables addicts to keep pushing the limits of more and more opiates, knowing a dose of Naloxone is in the medicine cabinet.

Me? I’m extremely passionate about this topic. Narcan literally saved my life. So when I see people arguing that expanded access to Narcan is just a crutch to enable addicts, I cringe. I take it personal, like my life wasn’t worth saving that frightening, cold night.

It started out as just a regular evening in the life of a heroin addict. You know, some cocaine in the afternoon and a shot of heroin at night to come down. I was in full blown addiction and I didn’t care about anything other than my next fix. But that night turned out to be different; I would instead only care about whether or not I would take my next breath.

After I took that shot of heroin, I immediately knew something was wrong. My heart started beating faster than it had ever beat. I started taking deep breaths, telling myself to calm down and not overthink. But then my heartbeat immediately reversed and I started feeling it slow down rapidly. Within 30 seconds, I was starting to fade in and out of consciousness and I stumbled out of my room to get help.

I came out and begged my mom to call the ambulance. I knew what was happening. The mixture of cocaine and heroin was too much for my system. I started panicking and almost crying. However, even that became a struggle. As I heard my parents begging 911 to send someone ASAP, I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer and I passed out against the wall.

Inside, my last thoughts were full of fear. I knew this was it. All of the warnings of overdose and mixing drugs hit me all at the same time. I started begging God to save me. But then I remembered all the misery I was living in and I just gave up, accepting the reality that not existing anymore would be easier. Those were my last thoughts: glad for the pain to finally be over.

I woke up in an ambulance. And instead of waking up thankful to be alive, I immediately felt instant withdrawal. It was the worst withdrawal I had ever experienced in my life, like all of my dope sick episodes combined into one horrid, intense, devastating, painful experience. I was freezing cold, my body was shaking violently, it felt like an army of ants was crawling all over me, my stomach was turned inside out and I felt the most dreadful feeling of my entire life.

The EMT workers made it worse. They treated the experience like a stroll through the local park. And really, it probably was. They deal with overdoses every night. They are probably so far detached from trauma that taking a junkie to the hospital after an overdose is nothing to them. But it made it all the more worse, as my body was throwing itself against the sides of the ambulance, heaving uncontrollably, while they were just sitting there with a cold, plain expression on their face.

So there dispels the myth that opiate addicts have no problem doing too much dope because Narcan is always available. Hell no! Any heroin addict will tell you that Narcan is the LAST thing they want. The instant withdrawal it puts you in is worse than any heroin withdrawal. It is pure misery. I would never, ever want to be hit with a dose of Narcan again. I would actually beg anyone who tried to hit me with it to throw that shit away, because I’d rather take the risk of overdose than ever have to feel that withdrawal again.

The bottom line, though, is that if it wasn’t for that Narcan the Ingham County deputy hit me with that night, I wouldn’t be alive. The doctors at the hospital told me that if the deputy got there a minute or two later I probably wouldn’t have made it. My heart was shutting down. Cocaine is an upper that speeds up heart rate, while heroin is a downer that slows it down. So doing too much of both in the same time frame puts the heart in an almost impossible situation.

The Narcan was able to take the opiates out of my system, which allowed the hospital to monitor my stimulant levels until the cocaine exited my system.

I can not begin to explain how grateful I am for those police officers rushing to my aide. They got there before the ambulance and immediately hit me with Narcan. Legislation passed a few years ago allowed police officers to carry Narcan for those exact situations, because they often get to overdose scenes before EMTs. My parents said the Ingham County deputies treated the situation perfectly. They were courteous to them, showed concern and months later they even followed up to see how I was doing.

I ended up going to jail for a probation violation several months after all that happened. I got called out of my cell for a visit. When I walked out into the jail hallway, there stood an Ingham County deputy. All he said was that he remembered me from visiting my house on several occasions and heard I was in jail, waiting to go to rehab. He just wanted to offer encouragement and wish me well in rehab. He gave me his number and said I could call him if I ever needed someone to talk to. I was confused. Why would a random cop want to come visit me in jail? He deals with criminals all day, what was so special about me?

Once he left, the deputy working my jail unit asked me if I knew who he was. I said no, I don’t really remember ever seeing him. She said “he saved your life. He was the officer who Narcan’d you when you overdosed.” I gasped in shock. I was absolutely stunned. I didn’t remember him because I went unconscious before the cops arrived. What shocked me the most was the fact that he didn’t even tell me that he was the one who saved me. He didn’t want to take credit for just doing his job. But to me, he is a hero. He is the reason I am in recovery today, happier than I’ve ever been.

As I’m sitting out in my living room watching the Tigers, my daughter is at the kitchen table coloring, talking to herself like a seven year old. I am content. I am at peace. I just got a job in Mason and I am 83 days sober. I’m a good father today. I can’t help but think about that deputy, stopping to visit me at the jail. The guy who saved my life and didn’t even want to take credit. How courageous, gracious and humble. A true hero.

That is the story of how a widely debated drug, Naloxone, also called Narcan, saved my life. It is also the story of how expanded access to the drug and a heroic cop allowed a hopeless heroin addict to get his life together and build a new one. Yeah, Narcan enables addicts. It enables addicts to fucking live.

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