Friday, May 7, 2021
May 7, 2021

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Vancouver woman’s journey from addiction included challenges due to COVID

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Nicholl Acosta-Alaspa of Vancouver walks at Recovery Cafe Clark County in Vancouver. Acosta-Alaspa has gone through the difficult process of recovery during the pandemic, which has been a lonelier, less stimulating time for most people.
Nicholl Acosta-Alaspa of Vancouver walks at Recovery Cafe Clark County in Vancouver. Acosta-Alaspa has gone through the difficult process of recovery during the pandemic, which has been a lonelier, less stimulating time for most people. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A Year of COVID

Editor’s note: Vancouver resident Nicholl Acosta-Alaspa, 40, has struggled with addiction since she was 12 years old. Acosta-Alaspa has now been in recovery from addiction for 15 months, starting her recovery process just a couple of months after the COVID-19 pandemic began. The following is an oral history, told from Acosta-Alaspa’s perspective, about how she navigated the early stages of recovery during a pandemic and how she’s using her experiences to help others in recovery.

I experienced a lot of abuse growing up, a lot of sexual, emotional, physical — all types of abuse you could experience. I grew up with an abusive father. My mother took us away from that and she moved us down here from Minnesota. I was a pretty angry kid. I didn’t understand why it took my mom so long to take us out of that situation, and I was worried we’d end up having to go back. I acted out, and I was angry.

•••

I was 12 years old the first time I got loaded. It was crank, back before crystal meth was around. My addiction lasted 28 years. That first time, it was like finally I wasn’t feeling that pain anymore that I had experienced throughout most of my life. It numbed me. It took away the feelings. It took away the memories, the past. It took me to a different place. That’s what I became addicted to — the fact that I could shut my emotions off by being loaded. Man, did that grab a hold of me.

•••

I’ve been in recovery for 15 months. Some people say “relapse is part of recovery.” I hate to say that, but I would get clean for a month, and I would relapse. I would get clean for four months or six months, and then I would relapse. But the fact is I never quit. I never gave up trying.

•••

My grandfather’s wife brought me to Celebrate Recovery. She was fighting against the things I believed about myself and trying to help me see that things were not as I was seeing them. She brought me to church and Celebrate Recovery, which is amazing. I like the way the program is run. It’s faith-based. They welcome all types of struggles. I moved into an apartment and out of my son’s house. I was still suffering a bit from fear and doubting myself like, “If I came into my own place, would I start spinning out of control?”

•••

It was scary when the pandemic first arrived. When I began going to the Celebrate Recovery group, I felt like that was my lifeline. When they started the restrictions and before Zoom came into effect, there was a pause there for a couple of months where many recovery resources weren’t available. I’m an imperfect human being. Being isolated here at my house, because I live alone with my dog, and not having created a complete recovery circle and support group at the beginning the pandemic, I had thoughts of reaching out to those old — I don’t want to say friendships, because people in addiction are not really your friends — but old places and things, I guess. I felt like they’d be available. Being on lockdown, it made me think, “Well, they’ll answer. They’ll come see me, even if there is a pandemic.” Which I’m glad I didn’t do. I was lucky to have those few people I could contact to say, “Hey, I’m feeling weak at the moment. I’m feeling alone. Can we video chat?”

•••

Now here I am, in recovery in my own apartment. I am joyous, and I am peaceful, and I am happy. I feel like the Lord has healed me and given me purpose. He led me to the Recovery Cafe, which is an amazing place. They have helped me achieve goals. My purpose is to reach those who are where I once was. To show them there’s hope, that change can happen. I am on my way to becoming a certified peer support counselor. I am a certified recovery coach already. I’m in awe every day of where my life is.

•••

It is about knowing, experiencing, feeling everything that those people out there who are lost are experiencing. I relate. I know that hopelessness. I know that dark place. I know about being alone. I know about the suffering of it all. I know so intimately that feeling of, “Life is never going to change. I’m going to die in this.” It doesn’t have to be that way. I have been brought out of that in such a drastic way. My heart aches for all those out there who do not know it’s possible, or they don’t believe their lives can change. I want to give back some of the goodness I have received. When I get paid for my job, I purchase things for the homeless and hand it out. I try to help people I run into or see on the side of the road be informed of things that are out there for them. It’s just fulfilling. It feeds my recovery. When you can help bring a smile to another person’s face, it’s the most fulfilling thing you can ever experience.

•••

Throughout all of this I have learned I’m strong, that I’m a survivor. That I’ve made it through hell and back. I’ve learned that I can celebrate even my failures and mistakes because I know they have purpose now. I have purpose. I have learned I am a kind and loving and caring individual and I’m not that hard person I thought I was. I’ve learned that I’m loved. I thought I was unlovable. I’ve learned I’m trustworthy and a women of integrity and that I’m honest. I’ve learned I’m a good person.

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