Madeline’s Story

My name is Maddie Nicklas, and I am an addict. I’m 31 years old, and I’ve been clean since December 15, 2017. I was born in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. My childhood was anything but normal, and that just might depend on different perceptions of the word “normal.” My first memory as a child was finding my father passed out on the floor from drinking. Of course, I didn’t understand that. I was about two years old or younger at the time. Other memories around that age were of my parents fighting. My mother, who only wanted the best for me at that time, would put me in a room so I wouldn’t see them fight. As I was screaming and kicking the door, I remember feeling terrified. My mother got a divorce when I was two years old.

At the age of eight, I was diagnosed with ADD and put on medication from ages eight to 17. I struggled with anxiety and depression all through my years in school, constantly trying to fill a void within my soul. My father stopped coming around when I was three years old. I didn’t see him again until I was 19 years old. Missing that part of my family all those years, I looked to others to fill that void. Toxic and abusive relationships, pushing others away when I felt things were going well, feeling like I didn’t deserve good things, wondering why it was only me who felt different and why it had to be me without a father. What did I do wrong? In high school, I started experimenting with alcohol and drugs because it made me feel included, special, wanted, and powerful.

At age 19, I had oral surgery done, and I was prescribed opiates for the first time. It was off to the races from there. I was able to do my job better, keep up on the floor as a waitress. It was like finally, I feel untouchable and competent. That was until it completely drained me of anything good or any innocence still left inside of me. I got married and had a beautiful baby boy. As soon as I had him, about six months later, it was off again to the races. I couldn’t stop even though I wanted to. I needed it every day, even harder drugs.

I then became an IV drug user, something I never thought I would ever do. That was the day my light completely went out. I was lost, afraid, in, and out of jail. I thought if I could only have that last hit, it would be better. I never knew that there was a beautiful way of life out there called recovery. I didn’t feel worthy enough to believe anything good could happen. I knew that this was who I was going to be for the rest of my life. I just knew it.

I got a divorce, became homeless, lost my son to Child Protective Services, and was living couch to couch. I started using more and more, so I didn’t have to feel the pain of him gone. I couldn’t stop. The day I hit my knees in the 5×7 bathroom walls, I called my prison and asked, out loud, for God to help me stop. A week or two later, I ended up in the hospital diagnosed with endocarditis from the poison that I put into my body for those seven years. It almost killed me.

There I was afraid and terrified, having flashbacks and memories of how I felt as a child. I had feelings flowing through me that I haven’t felt in years. I was alone—just me, my thoughts, and excruciating pain from this deadly infection. I didn’t notice it then that God answer my prayer. Here’s my way to stop. I didn’t want to die. I was in the hospital for three months, and every day I was given Dilaudid for pain. I was fighting that desire to use it, but it was just too strong.

After the hospital, my uncle took me into his home, which was a blessing. I begged him to get me into treatment. He did, but I was kicked out of detox and treatment. Then there it was, the most painful yet beautiful feeling I’ve ever felt—the feeling of desperation. From that moment, I changed my people, places, and things. I had goals. I wanted to let go of my trauma and behaviors that weren’t serving me anymore, but I didn’t know how.

I started walking to meetings. No job, no home, no friends, no car, no self-love, and I still didn’t have my son yet. I started to make friends at the 12 step fellowship. I felt included, wanted, and understood. The same things I believed I felt when I would use, but this was real. This is what I prayed for. I never stopped going. Because of recovery, and from that day forward, I received custody of my son. He has a new mother now, a changed mother, a happy one, and one that is present. I became a certified peer support specialist professional through the Mississippi Department of Mental Health and worked at Mississippi Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center, where I was blessed and honored to help other people who have been through the same. I recently started working for Gulf Coast Mental Health at the Crossroads Recovery Center as a certified peer support specialist, and I am looking forward to helping people find the help and support they need to recover.

I have an amazing relationship with my family. I’ll also help raise my amazing other halves’ two children. I have a healthy and loving relationship with people in recovery. I have completely changed, and it’s all thanks and praise to God, the 12-step program, and my willingness to heal, grow, and prosper. If I can do this, anyone can. I love who I am today. Recovery has transformed me. It’s made me a better mother, a better partner, a better friend, a better daughter, a better employee, and just a better version of myself. As the saying goes, “when the pain of remaining the same is greater than the fear of change, then recovery is possible.” Healing from trauma and looking inside myself is the best thing I could have ever done. It isn’t easy, but it is worth it. I live my life today, practicing gratitude and spiritual principles to help me continue this process of recovery.

The views, information, and opinions expressed in this story are solely those of the subject(s) and do not necessarily represent any official policy or position of the Mississippi Department of Mental Health or any of the Stand Up, Mississippi campaign partners.

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