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My Semicolon Tattoo & Recovery: How Depression Led to Addiction and Worse



rewrite your story with a semicolon

The following is a true story of pain and hope. Find the treatment you need to continue your story; whether that treatment is drug rehab, alcohol rehab, mental health counseling/meds or something else. It’s never too late to change the ending of your story.

Amy’s Story

What the Semicolon Means

Maybe you have seen it. The semicolon tattoo on someone’s wrist, behind their ear, or on their ankle. What does it mean anyway? How can one little ; mean so much to someone that they need to have it tattooed on their body?

If you struggle with substance abuse, you probably have at least one semicolon moment in your life. The time when it all could have ended in a period, but it didn’t. By choice or circumstance, your life continued.

Project Semicolon was started in 2013 to help those struggling with mental illness, suicide, addiction, and self-injury. It has grown quickly, and I see these tattoos everywhere. They are a great reminder that you are the author of your life, and you can change the ending of your story whenever you decide. My tattoo is just a little reminder that I control my destiny, that I never have to go the places I went before.

From Partying to Addiction

From the time I was old enough (maybe even not quite old enough), I was a partier. I loved going out dancing. The lights, the people, the music. That alone was almost like a drug to me. I got married young to someone I met in a nightclub. We drank and did party drugs. I didn’t HAVE to have any drugs. I never had withdrawal, and I wasn’t addicted.  I was able to tell myself everything was okay. My husband and I went out at least two nights a week. We always argued. Our relationship was pretty rocky. I finally realized that the partying was our most important issue. We always fought after we were drunk or high. We never had any money, so we fought about that, too. We would say we were going to stop, but we never did. After one year, we divorced. I was 20 years old and already divorced. Thank goodness we didn’t have any kids.

I Woke up in the Hospital

What should have stopped my partying, made it worse. I had the insight to realize my substance abuse caused some problems, but I didn’t have the willpower to do anything about it. After my divorce, I moved in with some roommates, and we always had people over. I was working a good job, so I was still able to make excuses for my behavior. I had battled depression my whole life. Now it was getting worse. I couldn’t sleep; I couldn’t wake up.  Always something. I started seeing a doctor who prescribed some medications. I still drank or did drugs whenever I wanted.  One night, after breaking up with my new boyfriend (yes, a rebound boyfriend), I took 28 sleeping pills. I laid down in my bed and went to sleep.

I woke up in the hospital.  My mom was there, and she was crying.  I said I was sorry, and she cried more. Until I said I was sorry, they thought maybe it was an accidental overdose.

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Josie's Sharpie Tattoos
Josie’s Sharpie Tattoos on Instagram

Drug and Alcohol Rehab

I felt guilty. I was eventually able to recover some memory; the ambulance driver sticking me with a needle and the nurse telling me if I didn’t swallow the charcoal, they would pump my stomach. Later I heard much more. My brother and some friends found me in bed and couldn’t wake me up. They tried to carry me to the shower and put me in, but couldn’t as I was dead weight.

The ambulance came.  My parents were called in the middle of the night. I wish that I had died, so I didn’t have to face everyone with the guilt and shame I had inside.

I spent two days in the hospital. The following week was spent in a crisis ward/detox center at my local hospital.  The next three months were spent in counseling and intensive outpatient group therapy. I was in therapy for 10 hours every week. I also had a psychiatrist for the first time in my life.

My Road to Recovery

I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. I went to all my appointments. I was living back at home, and I did what I was supposed to do. I always tried to do what was expected of me. At first, I didn’t think it would help, but as I kept working my program, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I was diagnosed with mental illness that had been left untreated my whole life. I was able to talk to people about the things we never talked about in my family. I saw that people did care about whether I was alive or dead. That ended up being the only suicide attempt in my life. I still had a long road ahead, with many ups and downs, but I never gave up again. That moment, when my life could have ended, it didn’t. It kept going and I was changed forever.

Are you on the wrong road? Is your sentence about to end? Don’t let it end. Place your semicolon. Reach out for help today and turn your ending into a new beginning.

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