“If you start with one day and get two days, you can get somewhere. It is possible. As long as I keep doing that ‘just for today’ thing everyday, then my future’s looking pretty bright.”
My name’s Chelsea Dueitt. I’m a person in long-term recovery, which means I haven’t used drugs or alcohol since August 28, 2013. I’m a resident of Cecil County Maryland, but I haven’t always lived here. I’m originally from Mississippi, a little town called Leakesville. I moved away to get clean. I grew up in a pretty good household; my parents divorced when I was one. My mom and dad were never together…as I was growing up. I lived with my mom, and my dad moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. I like to think that my dad not being there hurt me growing up.
I did really well in school. I had straight A’s, A’s and B’s. Really active; I was a cheerleader, I played soccer, I was in the band. But I was really promiscuous through school, so I think that that was kind of my addiction starting to take root in some form. I didn’t actually pick up a drink or a drug or a cigarette until I was eighteen. I liked to hang out with the older crowd, so when I was eighteen I would date older guys and they would be able to drink so I would drink with them. I liked feeling important because I was hanging out with the older crowd.
My senior year I was homecoming queen. I was in my high school’s hall of fame. After I graduated in 2008 I went to junior college about an hour away from home and I got my first apartment. The first semester I flunked out because I couldn’t not drink. I drank every day. I smoked pot almost every day. Drinking and smoking pot made me feel confident, kind of, and important.
After my first year in junior college, I met a guy – he was like a high school crush – and we had kind of reconnected. He introduced me to crystal meth. That’s really when things got really bad. I was already flunking school, and already I didn’t really care about how I was doing in school and stuff, but when I tried crystal meth it was like a whole other demon. It became my life, to use that drug and get that drug. I loved it. I hate to say it like that, but I loved it when I used it. It gave me energy and it made me not hungry so I stayed small.
Gosh, so I was trying to maintain okay at school, and trying to use crystal meth successfully, and I wasn’t being successful at all. I moved back home. I was dating the guy that introduced me to crystal meth and I met another guy, and it ended up I was dating two guys at one time, trying to maintain my drug use. I ended up getting pregnant by the other guy and I had a son. I stopped using while I was pregnant; like it was nothing for me to stop using. I just stopped. [I] stopped smoking cigarettes, stopped drinking, [stopped] everything when I found out I was pregnant. That was a blessing. I don’t know how I did that but I did it.
I was waitressing, I was pregnant. I cut it off with the guy that introduced me to meth while I was pregnant, and I was with just my son’s father. I had my son, Rhett, and three months later I went right back to using. After I had him, I found an excuse to want to use. I was still waitressing, and I would get off of work and find a reason to go over to this guy that introduced me to crystal meth’s house to get high. Gosh, that was all she wrote for a good year and a half, I probably used every day. I was still with my son’s father, and still seeing the guy that introduced me to crystal meth, and I had already applied to go back to school. So I was a mom, trying to be a wife—me and my son’s daddy got married—trying to be a girlfriend to the drug provider and trying to work and be a productive member of society. It just wasn’t working. It was impossible.
Of course I got arrested at some point, not for the drugs but for drinking. I got arrested. My lowest point was using with my son in the house, using in front of my son. Not really caring. Just feeling like I had to have the drug or I would die. If I didn’t get the drug I would not be able to be around people, I would not be able to function without this drug. That was my lowest point.
My family found out. They had came to the place that I was waitressing and my mom had set her cell phone on the table. Crystal meth makes you so paranoid, so I freaked out over her cell phone being on the table. I thought that she was part of the FBI trying to get me. I can laugh about it today, but before when it first came out my family would just cry, because they thought that I was mentally crazy. They didn’t even think that I was using drugs, they thought that I had a mental disorder like schizophrenia. My family found out, and they took me to the hospital and they got an assessment done on me. As crazy as I was acting around them and the hospital, I was acting like I was that eighteen-year-old in high school again, acting like perfect and said everything that I needed to say to the doctor so that I would look normal. My family were just dumbfounded, “How is she doing this?” Man, I was so sick.
After the hospital episode, I went to Teen Challenge in Louisiana, and I stayed there for three days and left. I walked and left. I had listened to some scripture or something, that made me feel like I needed to leave so I left after three days. My family signed a writ out on me, which is kind of like a 302 up here. If I would not have went to treatment after that writ was signed, then I would have had to have gone to jail and to a mental institution. I ended up going to another treatment facility in Mobile, Alabama, called Home of Grace. It was an all-women’s facility, three months long. At first it was scary and I was mad. Just like when I was at Teen Challenge, I was mad. I felt like I could stop when I needed to stop; I didn’t feel like I needed treatment to get clean. I just wanted to get high. It’s not that I was addicted; I just wanted to get high because it felt good.
I was at Home of Grace, and I committed to stay for three months. It was better than a year at Teen Challenge. I was like, “I can do this. Three months.” I stayed, and I completed, and gosh… the first three weeks were hard and scary but after that the last two months… man, it was such an amazing experience. Spiritually I learnt so many things. I look back on that time and think that was one of the best times of my life, the three months I was in treatment. I never thought that I would say that. When I was in there, [I was] like “This sucks. It’s like you’re almost in jail but you’re not.”
I completed, graduated, got out and went right back to the same place that I was before. I was trying to be with my son’s father, and not talk to any of the people that I used drugs with. I didn’t go to meetings; there was no meetings in my area. I’m a member of a twelve-step fellowship, and they told me to go to meetings, they told me to get a sponsor, they told me to do an outpatient program. I didn’t do any of those things. I thought that I was kind of cured after I got out of treatment. I thought I was cured, you know? I went to treatment, I’m good.
I relapsed after three weeks. I relapsed after I got out of treatment. I tried to keep it a secret. At first, I was just dibbling and dabbling with it. Then after about a month, after dibbling-dabbling, I was full throttle, full-blown relapse. Using like I was before. Went right back… even worse than it was before. I was trying to [go to] school throughout all these periods of sobriety, and then when I would get started back at school I’d relapse, or when I thought I was doing okay I’d end up relapsing.
I stayed in active relapse for eight months until my family found out again. They just noticed the same things that they had noticed before. They gave me an ultimatum when they found out, “You can go to Teen Challenge and be away for a year, or you can move up north with your cousin to Delaware.” Looking back, I kind of wish I would’ve went back to treatment, because I know that there’s so much knowledge, you can learn so much in treatment. You’re giving yourself a break, and you’re not having to work or pay bills. You’re just giving yourself a break. I think that my God had a plan for me coming up north to Delaware. I live in Maryland now, but moving away was one of the best things that could have happened to me.
I moved and my cousin that I was living with said, “You know you need to go to meetings everyday. You need to get started in an outpatient program. After a month you need to get a job.” And I did that.
Since I’ve moved, my life has gradually got better and better and better. It’s unlike anything I could have ever imagined living in Mississippi. I wouldn’t talk bad about living in Mississippi because that’s my home and that’s my roots, but there’s so much more opportunity up here. There’s so much more places that will help you along your journey, people that understand. Living in Mississippi it’s more of a keep it quiet kind of thing; don’t talk about your problems, don’t talk about your addictions. Even so, more people down south see addiction as a moral failing and as a sin, rather than a mental disease. They don’t see it like that. People up north understand more and I needed that at that moment in time. When I was in Mississippi I couldn’t talk about my problems.
When I moved I got involved. I started going to twelve-step fellowship meetings. I got a sponsor, started working the steps. I have become a member of a recovery organization in my area that I’m very passionate about. I work with treatment facilities in Pennsylvania. I get to help people. I started out as a case manager, and transitioned over to alumni coordinator for six of the eight facilities owned by KD in Pennsylvania, which is really beyond my wildest dreams. It’s crazy when they first told me that I had this job. I was just like, “Me? After everything that I’ve done. I lied to so many people, I hurt so many people.” My son’s father, I hurt him, I played him. My family, I lied to them, I stole from them. There’s so many things that I did that I’m so sorry for now. It’s just unreal the way that things have played out. As long as I just keep doing what I need to do, like take suggestions from people that’s gone before me.
Today, I have visitation with my son. He gets to come up in the summers and I get to go down and see him. I don’t have him full time, but based off everything that I’ve done in the past it’s a blessing that I’m getting to have him in the summers. I used to get high with my kid being in the backseat of my car. That was me. That was how sick that I was. It’s crazy that I’m confident enough to talk about it today, because I know that I’m in a good place and I know that what recovery has done for me. It’s really a life beyond my wildest dreams. People say that, and when I first came around into recovery I would look at them kind of strange when they would say a life beyond their wildest dreams, but it really has been. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
I have a wonderful boyfriend today that’s also in recovery. We have an awesome life. He works a great program, and we get to do this together. That’s a whole other thing, being in a relationship with someone that’s in recovery. It’s unlike any other relationship that I’ve ever been in in my life. I get to help people, and I feel like I’ve really found my purpose. Before I found recovery I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, I didn’t know what I wanted to be. I would go to college and just say, “Yeah I’m just taking this right now. I want to be a news reporter. I want to be a teacher.” I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Since I’ve found recovery it’s almost like I feel like I have purpose in this work. I feel like I have a purpose in helping people and spreading the message of recovery and telling people that it is possible. It doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t get five years overnight. If you start with one day and get two days, you can get somewhere. It is possible.
I’m so excited about what’s going to come in the future. As long as I keep doing that ‘just for today’ thing everyday, then my future’s looking pretty bright.
Photographs taken near Chelsea’s home along the Chesapeake Bay in North East, Maryland.