Tips for Starting a New Life Chapter
This post is in partnership with Total Wireless, who has partnered with PEOPLE.com to highlight inspiring “Second Acts of Confidence.” For more info on an opportunity to be featured in a sponsored story on PEOPLE.com, make sure to check out the bottom of this post.
It’s been eight years since I was released from a nine month stint in jail, and nine since I finally put down the drugs and alcohol that put me there. I’ve shared about my addiction many times and even have a whole section dedicated to it, but I haven’t really touched on what was needed to start anew — totally fresh and from the beginning at 27 years old.
I had been on the path to becoming a pharmacist when everything imploded on me. I was in my third year of an education that furthered the only employment I ever held when I was arrested for stealing narcotics from that job. My world became darker before I made the decision to put in the work to fix the life I managed to destroy, and in addition to escalating my drug use and losing my job, I was also expelled from graduate school.
I spent nine months in jail as a result of my decisions, and upon release I was left with a school I couldn’t attend, a profession I was legally mandated to stay away from, and a shiny new criminal record. Any plans I had for how my life was to turn out quickly vanished and I found myself feeling lost. I needed to find my way again at almost 30 years old.
I’m not going to lie — this was very hard period in my life. It would have been far easier to return to drugs and alcohol in the face of the amount of stress and uncertainty I had, especially because those emotions were ones I would have used to escape from a year earlier. I had to rebuild trust, work on improving myself, and face constant rejection from potential employers who looked only at a background check.
I know I’m not unique in encountering hardship and needing to start over, so I want to share with you some of the things that helped me continue on the path to where I am today.
Take it one day at a time
The thought of starting a whole new life was incredibly daunting. Trying to imagine finding a job, paying back bills that had gone to collections, finding a place to live, and many more was overwhelming. The same way that I approached recovery was how I approached starting this new chapter — one day at a time.
Don’t focus on forever, just focus on what you can do today to help move you forward. For me, it was applying to a certain number of jobs a day. I called the collection agencies one at a time to find out how to start the process of repayment. I did one thing at a time until slowly life starting coming back together.
One thing that differed in my time post-jail was the amount of people I knew. I attended 12-step meetings daily and let myself be known. I had learned in rehab to ask for help and although it was terrifying, I met so many people that cared about me and wanted nothing but the best for me in recovery. Those new connections were critical in keeping me clean and helping me find a new path in life.
Stay in contact
It’s one thing to meet people and socialize in the moment. It’s another to stay in contact with those people when things get tough. A 12-step meeting or a coffee date is an hour out of the day, and the other 23 can be hard when you’re trying to figure out a new way to live. In order to make it through tough times (and there were plenty), I HAD to reach out.
In such a digital age, it’s so easy to communicate with others. Using an affordable and reliable cell phone service like Total Wireless can be a lifesaver. During my toughest times when budget was tight, a wireless provider like Total Wireless would have allowed me to pay for only what I needed. They offer phones for as low as $19.99 or the option to pay in very low monthly installments for the newest phones on the market – with no contract. Back then, I was somehow finding $7 or $8 a day to spend on cigarettes, so I could have easily afforded something as critical as a phone to stay connected during a time when I needed it the most. When starting over, every penny counts and this is a great option for making essential communication easy.
Change your environment
One thing you learn in recovery is to avoid the people, places, and things that made up your using environment. For me, this meant I couldn’t go back to where I grew up or to Baltimore until I was better established in my recovery. I couldn’t stay at home and isolate because that’s how I lived before. I had to use those connections I made and spend as much time with others as I could. I moved in with my sister. By changing things for the better, I was less tempted to revert back to my life before.
Keep moving forward
Any big life change is hard. If you had told me that this is what my life would be almost ten years ago, I don’t think I would have believed it. I learned that progress is never a linear path, so there will be tough times AND great times on the journey to a new life. When the tough times come, it’s tempting to want to give up in lieu of what seems easier, but you have to know that it will get better. As I have emphasized multiple times on here, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel, but you have to keep walking through it.
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, Total Wireless has partnered with PEOPLE.com to celebrate individuals who are finding the confidence to embark on a second act even in the face of adversity — their “Second Act with Confidence.” To nominate yourself or someone you know, head HERE . Three stories will be selected to be featured in a sponsored article on PEOPLE.com.
Nomination Rules: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends at 11:59 pm ET on 8/22/19. Open to residents of 50 U.S. & D.C., 21+. Subject to full official rules available here. Sponsor: Meredith Corporation.