Almost two years later, I can’t imagine a better place for Malina to have been born because Malina was born in Broward House.
As addicts, we get addicted to falling and getting back up. Not so much about a relapsing but falling in life. I did just that; I fell. As an addict, when you get clean, you don't remember where you came from. You don't remember the pain, the chaos, the lies, and the pain that you caused your family. You don't remember any of that because you just go right back to the same old pattern.
At the same time, I was trying to balance my volunteer work and college. Little aches, pains and issues popped up in the relationship because not only did I have undiagnosed ADHD, but he had no sympathy for that. Essentially, he just saw me as being annoying and excluded me from things. I thought there was something wrong with me. It just set the tone for how everybody treated me in that relationship. He wasn't forthcoming enough to just say, ‘Hey, this isn't working out. I don't want to hurt you and I don't want to be hurt. Let's just call it quits.’ It was kind of both of our stubbornness that led to a lot of heartache on my end.
My first story was written I think about a month into starting treatment. I was still very lost. I was still very broken. I had hope, I definitely had hope. I think that's one of the first things that I had coming to Broward House. I feel like the world kind of picks at you a bit sometimes in life. It just got to the point that I was picking on myself. I didn't want to live. I really didn't. I had gone from college student, family favorite; I was grandma's favorite, to such depression, darkness, misery, chaos, constantly taking others hostage with me into my misery and active addiction. It was bad. I manipulated it for a long time. The worst part is that even after being diagnosed with HIV, I created a whole story as to how I got it. I knew exactly how I got it. I got it from my meth hook-up and just a random relapse. That was the beginning of my worst run and my last one. A few weeks before getting to Broward House, I had actually attempted suicide. I was exhausted. I was tired. I was ready to give up. At the time, it was a lot easier to give up and end it all then to work a program or even do any work period especially while transitioning. My best friend did a bit of an intervention on me, and she helped me wake up and realize that I didn't want to die. I just wanted that part of me to die. That I needed to be reborn.
The staff here, the support just all around; I had hope. I also had a lot to learn and a lot of work ahead of me. I tried my best to stay in my lane, which wasn't always so easy. I'm really loving, and I like to get along with everyone. I always knew what was going on and as much as I did try to stay in my lane, I felt like it was a parallel process for all of us, only we all had individual stories. It was remarkable how we all affected each other and helped each other in staying clean. I met Dr. J. when I was being assessed for treatment at Broward House. I remember specifically what she said, “Stop taking care of everyone. Let me take care of you now. If you can’t love yourself right now. It's okay. Let me love you.” That was so profound for me to hear from this lady who I just met. She was so sweet, and I was in a very sensitive place. I had used so many drugs that I felt lethargic when it came to spirituality, but I could feel she really cared. Everyone here taught me a lesson. I had individual connections with clients as well as with the therapists and everyone had an impact in my life. The truth is that I think I started by learning and understanding that I needed a spiritual foundation. The groups here impacted my life, the people who came impacted my life.
My counselor Heather showed me a Brene Brown Ted Talk about vulnerability and shame. It struck me because I lived in shame, I lived in guilt, everything about me, everything that held me back was guilt and shame. From wanting to transition to not being able to speak about my HIV, about my drug use, about my childhood abuse, all of it had guilt and shame. When I told my first story, I remember during the interview, I literally took my hair off right in front of the person interviewing me and told her that I needed to walk out of this office vulnerable and that I would find strength through it.
Hair and my appearance were such a big thing being in treatment and beginning my transition. I just really had to not care so much about that and worry more about my recovery. So, by removing my hair I allowed everyone in this place to see me for who I was. That was the turning point. After that, there was no shame. There was nothing that could hold me back. Once I let go of my guilt and my shame, I flew. I was open. I was willing and no one could stop me. I slowly realized Broward House was giving me something that money, sex and men could never give me. And it wasn't just any knowledge. It was hope. It was reason to just move forward.
In my past I lived in pain. I lived constantly remembering and lingering about my trauma and I realized that if I needed, if I wanted to be reborn, if I really wanted to live this new life, I needed to let go of my trauma. I needed to put it behind me and just focus on this new person. Something that I share now with my clients is from a conversation I had with my roommate when I was staying at Broward House. I said to him,” why do you always have to fight with me? You're never on my team.” He said and I will never forget this, “I'm not on your team because I'm on the team of the Malina you want to be not the Malina you are today. When the opportunity fell in my lap to work for Broward House, to be able to provide services for incoming clients and newly diagnosed HIV patients and people like me I couldn’t believe it. You're telling me that I have an opportunity to make a difference in the world, by just guiding others like me, by just telling them and helping them to better their life, just by sharing my story. If you would've told me that a few years ago, I would have laughed. I would have said, you know, I'm not an example to live by. But things have changed.
Today's a remarkable day. I wake up in gratitude. I wake up remembering my dreams. I wake up and I've really embraced who I am. I love that, that everything has changed. I love that I can breathe. I love that I can help the newcomer. I hope that I can make a difference in the community.