How I kicked drugs without going into rehab

Kristy Ehrlich Image copyright Kristy Ehrlich

"If you are out there and struggling please know that you can always move forward and change." This was the conclusion of Kristy Ehrlich's strongly worded and very personal Imgur post. Striking photos of her transformation from a user of methamphetamine - also known as crystal meth - to a sober accountancy student and mother has been viewed more than 400,000 times.

Thirty-one-year-old Ehrlich from California posted the photo gallery of her recovery to mark the 10 year anniversary of her sobriety. She wrote that in sharing the images, and her very personal story, she was letting go of the tag of "ex-addict".

"People say: 'Well, once an addict always an addict,' and I get that. I see it and have felt it in me," Ehrlich told BBC Trending, "I have meditated and explored that thought and I disagree. I am not 'in recovery'. I am recovered. I am a whole new better person and I will never look back."

Image copyright Kristy Ehrlich
Image caption "This was two years before I quit. I weighed about 100 pounds. I stole from my friends for drugs. I stole from my family for drugs. I lied. Cheated. Hurt very good people. It was a very hard time."

But her outlook wasn't always so positive. She had begun using crystal meth, a Class A drug estimated to be used by more than 20 million people worldwide, as a teenager.

Ehrlich says she was introduced to crystal meth by an older man who was her boyfriend. She describes him as "a very bad man".

Image copyright Kristy Ehrlich
Image caption Six months before Ehrlich gave up drugs

At the age of 21, after seven years of drug use, Ehrlich reached crisis point.

"One day I woke up. I called my mum crying. I said that I was lost and I didn't know what to do. She very bluntly said: 'Look in the mirror Kristy, look at what you have become and when you see that you will know why you are where you are.' I did. I looked into that mirror that morning and cried. I was skinny. Ugly. Unhappy. I was nothing. I was just a waste of space."

The next couple of years of getting clean were full of ups and downs. With the help of her stepfather, Ehrlich locked herself away in a hotel room for a week. That was the first step. The next was getting a pet - Rockdog.

Image copyright Kristy Ehrlich
Image caption Ehrlich credits Rockdog with her sobriety

Ehrlich told BBC Trending that she then gave away all of her belongings "except for a small bag that I carried on my back". She, Rockdog and a boyfriend decided to hitchhike through the US.

"I was four weeks sober when I put my thumb out and took that first ride. It was amazing. It was beautiful. It was scary. It was terrifying. It was perfect.

We travelled and met people and lived in the woods, in bushes in parks, and on city streets. It was glorious. It was real. I cried often and fell in love with myself."

Image copyright Kristy Ehrlich
Image caption "This was one year sober, when I was hitchhiking. It was so frustrating because I still looked like a druggie but I wasn't. People thought I was and it hurt."

Today she is married, has a four-year-old daughter, and is on course to collect a degree in accountancy.

Ehrlich says that social media plays a key role in her sobriety.

"It's hard to tell friends and family about your issues. But online you can seek help anonymously if you want and that is huge. I was brought into a drug rehab group on Facebook and I gave my insights there. A lot of people are hurting in the world, drugs are everywhere, in every town. There is so much judgement in the face-to-face world, sometimes it helps to find a caring internet soul to spill your heart out to."

Image copyright Kristy Ehrlich
Image caption Kristy Ehrlich, her husband and child

And what are Ehrlich's top tips for sobriety?

"Leave. Leave the town you are in. If you can't leave then stop going to the same places you always go to. Stop seeing the same people you always see. If they are real friends and family trust that they will be there in a year or so when you are able to be around.

Find something to do with your hands. 'No dummy!' worked for me. Snapping your fingers and tapping your chest saying, 'No dummy!'

I really want people to know that they can do it without help. I didn't have much help. I did it because I believed in myself because at one point in my life no-one did."

Blog by Megha Mohan

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