Demi: You Are Not Alone - A message from a former addict

When I heard of the news that Demi Lovato had overdosed, immediately, I stopped and paused and a heaviness came over me. Why, you might ask? My name is Jeanne Albaugh and I am a recovering alcoholic/addict and I also suffer from co-occurring mental disorders. 

When you feel there’s no hope

I understand the darkness of mental illness and addiction for the most part run hand-in-hand. 

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I don’t know what’s worse, to have a physical disease or to suffer from the silent killer of mental illness/addiction You're in so much pain in your head and the voices and thoughts won’t stop screaming but no one can hear you. There are no scars that can be seen but you're dying. The pain is unbearable. You can’t run or hide from it. It’s like a shallow. You try to escape, you try running but your mind goes with you. You run to drugs and pain killers, anything that might numb or alleviate the pain until the thoughts of suicide seem to be the only answer or the only way to escape. You run but you can’t hide. I’ve been there many times. I attempted suicide several times. I was put in institutions and I even went to jail. Addiction took me places I never thought I would go: jails, institution, the death of the loss of one's soul and at times, the loss of the will to live.

Alcohol and drugs were my solutions to my problems and they worked until they stopped working. The addiction turned on me and took over my life. It was as if my brain had been invaded or taken over by some dark source that led me to self-destruct. 

Alcohol and drugs are a means to escape. They lie to us and they lie for us. 

Alcoholism. "Ism" stands for I, Self and Me. It’s a selfish disease but yet when you're in it you can’t see the pain and destruction it’s causing yourself or your family and friends. 

It takes everything from you. It’s like a thief in the night. Because it’s so cunning, baffling and powerful. Whether you use alcohol or drugs, the addiction whispers softly in our heads. "I’ll help you escape. Just one. I’m the answer. I'll take all your pain away."  Yet, In reality the addiction is what is keeping us in the pain. Many people like Demi have died from believing the lies addiction whispers, too ashamed to talk about what’s really going on. Addiction sells us the lie that we can have just one. One is too many and a thousand is never enough. Not for this addict. 

Homeless and hopeless to CEO of Showering Love

I lost it all due to my mental illness and addictions. I lost the life I once dreamt of having. I once had the big house and fancy cars, but I lost myself and I lost my 4 sons. My mental illness that I had tried so hard to keep a bay wasn't going away. That’s when addiction took over my life. I lived to use and I used to live. I became homeless for 10 years. I had lost all hope. 

Finally, the day arrived and I reached out for help. I got involved in a 12-step program and I got a sponsor. It was nice to know I wasn’t alone and other people understood. I saw several therapists for different issues and I was prescribed medication for my racing thoughts. 

I was ready to take suggestions and go to any lengths. I didn’t want to ever feel that deep dark sadness, loneliness or hopelessness again. Today, I have tools. I work my program. On days when life has shown up full force, I pick up the phone and I talk about it. I've learned I’m only as sick as my secrets and secrets will keep me sick. I got honest and I allowed myself to be vulnerable with people. I had to learn to trust someone. I was able to be for the first time to be honest with myself. 

Amazing Life

Today, I have an amazing life. I have a life beyond my wildest dreams. I’m married. I have all of my sons in my life and my grandkids. I’ve found a new freedom and a new happiness. But, I don’t do this alone. 

Today I am the CEO of a nonprofit organization called Showering Love. We restore dignity and hope to to those experiencing homelessness, beginning with mobile showers which opens doors to jobs, housing, financial security and self-sufficiency. This organization is my way of giving back to a community I understand from having lived it.

We must stop the stigma and talk about mental illness and addiction. This disease is killing more people then all the wars put together. Speak up and speak out if you or someone you love is struggling with mental illness or an addiction. 

Together we are stronger!

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Jeanne Albaugh is a native Floridian and the mother of four amazing sons. She likes to ride her Harley for fun. Jeanne shared her story in our Fort Lauderdale This Is My Brave this past April because she wanted to use it as an example of turning a life around and to give a positive example for others. Jeanne is the Founder and President of the non-profit organization, Showering Love in South Florida which provides showers for the homeless in a municipal bus that was retrofitted with showers and laundry facilities.