Story 18/25 Survivor: Amanda Staller
“I have played many roles in my life. It was easier to be an actress than myself. I was whomever anybody needed me to be, and in the process, I lost myself.”
I had a good view of the tree from the trailer window, and had stared at it many times over the past year. It had strong, thick limbs, and I often thought how perfect it was. In the sunshine, it sometimes seemed to glow with life, which is a strange thing to recall, as I was planning to use it that day to kill myself. I knew there was a length of rope in the shed, and that all I needed to do was somehow throw the rope over the tree’s limbs, attach one end to the tree trunk, and make some sort of noose out of the other end of the rope. I’m not entirely clear about how I planned to do this; all I remember is that I was broken, sore, and exhausted. In fact, my exhaustion that morning was so complete, and so inescapable, I knew for certain there was no way I could get that rope over the tree, try as I might. But, I was determined to finally escape forever the indescribable pain and defeat after a lifetime of chasing my next high, my next trip into oblivion. So, I thought that if I couldn’t get the rope over the tree, I would just lie down and freeze to death.
It’s difficult to explain when it all began, and how, and why I ended up in that trailer after twenty-nine years of drug addiction, prostitution, and incarceration. No single incident from these years stands out as particularly important or any different than what I routinely did: seek cocaine, herion, and basically anything to keep me almost completely high at all times. I would do anything for a fix, and I did start to prostitute myself during this time. I also had three children during my addiction, and I gave each of them up to my mother, as I could not take care of myself, let alone children. This was “normal” life for me from a young age, but I knew it had to end; I just did not know how to end it, except for the immediate solution I sought that morning.
As I stood looking at the tree and the rope, I realized the impossibility and futility of it all. It was a grey and dark day, and I felt a wave of despair and overwhelming weakness overcome me. I just wanted out of the pain of my life. All was dark, in me and my surroundings, as I stood, contemplating death; but… in the midst of this darkness, the clouds above parted just enough to let a small bit of sunlight through. I dropped the rope, and began walking towards the light that shone through the haze, towards the nearest town. I hitchhiked to my friend’s house – This was the beginning of the end.
“When we deny our stories they define us, when we own our stories we get to write the ending”
Today, I am a recovered addict who works with women in addiction and incarceration: a service career I owe to both my experience, and to the strength I had to complete a Diploma in Addictions and Community Service Work. I am a marathon runner. I am a published author. I am independent, strong-willed, and relentless in my devotion to helping others. I live each day in the present…. I am a Survior.
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