My name is Mandy Bays, and I’m an addict. I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined myself growing up to be an addict. I don’t think any of us ever had hopes and dreams of one day being an addict.

God has a way of working things out, and that is just what He did for me. Addiction does not discriminate. It doesn’t care where you come from, what you have, what kind of life you have. It affects all of us from all walks of life the very same.

I am just one of the countless recovering addicts in the world, and this is my story. I am an addict who comes from two loving parents who do not suffer from the disease of addiction. My parents worked hard when I was growing up to give me and my sister a good life. We weren’t rich, but we weren’t poor either. We had what we needed, and we never went without.

I am not a child of divorce. I was not abused as a child. My childhood was normal. I remember when I was a kid that I was always scared of getting into trouble. I was always the good kid — the kid who didn’t get in fights. I was the kid who listened. In school, I was shy and quiet. I kept to myself a lot. I spent a lot of time reading and playing outside. Getting in trouble was just something I didn’t do.

By the time I was a teen-ager, it was still pretty much the same for me. I didn’t do drugs. I didn’t party. I didn’t want to do anything that would cause me to be in trouble. Crazy looking back now coming from that to what I went through to what my life is today.

My addiction started with a broken bone, a doctor, and a prescription for pain meds. My addiction ended with meth, felonies, and a 10-year prison sentence. I remember taking that first pain pill when I got them filled and the way it made me feel. It made me happy. It made my heart beat faster. It made me feel energized. It made me come out of my shyness. I knew I shouldn’t feel all those things, and I knew it wasn’t normal, but I liked it. It made me feel different. It was a feeling I realized that I loved.

I soon began to run out of the pills earlier and earlier every month. I caught myself taking one and already having it planned out in my head when I would take another one. I learned first-hand how sick I felt when I didn’t have them. I thought I was good at hiding the fact that I took more than I was supposed to. Everyone knew, I just thought they didn’t. In the beginning I didn’t think I was an addict. I mean, I was getting them from the doctor, and I wasn’t buying them from people, so it wasn’t illegal. How could anyone even think I was a drug addict? I would justify it to make myself feel better.

But that only worked for so long. I remember the doctor didn’t write them for me. I wasn’t expecting it. I remember thinking how will I ever make it? I had been on them for so long, and it just ended abruptly. That is when I first bought them from someone. I struggled with pain pills on and off for a few years. At this time, I wasn’t using it because I was in pain anymore. I was using because I liked the way it made me feel. It wasn’t long before I began using other drugs. Any and all. I didn’t have a preference. I remember when I used meth for the first time. It was an instant love. I knew I had found everything I had ever wanted at that moment. I let meth take over everything in my life, me included. Meth took over me.

My addiction to meth took me places I never imagined I’d go. I did things I never thought I would. I became someone I never thought I would be. My addiction to meth was the most toxic relationship I have ever had. I loved it so much and hated it so much all at the same time. My thoughts were on getting and using. It became my focus and my obsession. Meth became the love of my life. And just as quickly as I had fallen in love with it, I began to hate it, too. It had made me become a shell of a person. I was hollow.

I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. The morals and values I had had all my life were gone. My work ethic, gone. My family, gone. They kicked me out, and I couldn’t even be mad at them for not wanting to have me around. This was the beginning of the end for me. I remember sitting out on the sidewalk at some apartments I had been staying in, and I had this overwhelming feeling that I was going to die within the week. And I was okay with it. I don’t know what exactly made me think this, but the feeling was so overwhelming, and I just knew it was going to happen, and I was ready for it.

I knew if I died, I wouldn’t have to be a worry for my parents anymore. That I wouldn’t have to worry about doing things I never ever wanted to anymore, and I wouldn’t be this stranger that I didn’t know anymore. But, God had other plans.

Three days later, at those same apartments, I was arrested. I remember being in the police car, just kind of letting out a sigh of relief and thinking that it was finally over. I remember telling myself everything would be okay, and that I would now be able to eat, and go to sleep. Those were things that I literally could not remember the last time I had done. I wish I could say that this was when I stopped using and got clean, but it wasn’t.

There were still a few more bumps in the road for me, and a few more felonies before I finally reached my rock bottom. And that rock bottom came on March 26, 2017. At this time, I had already been incarcerated for over a year on my 10-year sentence, and I was still getting high. Still not caring one bit what would happen to me. And it hit me. And it hit me hard. I remember using that day and as soon as I did, I felt so much disappointment and anger at myself. I thought if I can’t stay clean here in this jail, how will I ever be able to manage not to use it once I am out in the real world again?

I decided that day that meth had taken everything from me, including my freedom, and I was not going to let it take anything else ever again. My clean date is March 27, 2017. That was the day God gave me life again. I was incarcerated until May 28, 2019. Since being released, God has made so many things possible.

God saw fit for me to get my license back. He saw fit for me to become certified as a Kentucky Peer Support Specialist. He saw fit for me to be able to buy myself a car. And He saw fit for me to get hired as a Peer Support Specialist at a treatment center. God saw fit for me to help others like me. And that is a beautiful thing. I love working in recovery. I love seeing God work in other’s lives. I love seeing the hope that people get in their eyes when they see recovery is possible. God does so much for me daily. He truly gave me life on March 27, 2017.

If you’re struggling, reach out. There is no shame in needing help. There are people out there that are willing to help anyway possible. There are so many options for treatment today. You are not alone, and you don’t have to fight this battle alone. I’m grateful to be able to share my story. This is all a God thing. He lines everything up just like it is supposed to happen. Nothing happens by mistake.