Nadine Machkovech is a certified recovery coach and educator in long-term recovery. As a scholar of addiction recovery, she helps to improve the recovery landscape for adolescents, especially young women, across the country. Read her full bio here.
Below is the full text of her TEDx Talk titled “The Secret to Being Enough” at TEDxFondduLac conference.
Listen to MP3 audio of this speech here:
When I was in high school, about to graduate early with high honors, instead of picking out a prom dress, or preparing for college, I was preparing for the end.
I was at one of the lowest, deepest and darkest points in my life, and I was ready to give up.
I was so ashamed of the person that I was becoming, and for the mistakes that I was making, that I couldn’t even look myself in the mirror anymore.
I remember, it was one night; I was sitting in my car, on the edge of the lake in my hometown. And through the uncontrollable sobbing tears and the music that I had blasted, while feeling so ashamed after another one-night stand and another hit of dope, that I wanted it to end.
It was either the drugs were going to take me, or I was going to end it all myself. I was so ashamed.
I was 17 years old and I was struggling with an opioid use disorder. For those of you who don’t know what opioids are, I encourage you to please become educated, because heroin and prescription pills are destroying our communities.
In fact, one out of three households today in America are being affected by the addiction crisis. And mine was one of them.
But it all started with a secret. A secret that I held on to for so long that eventually it made me sick.
But this secret wasn’t about my addiction. No, using for me was just a way to cope and mask the pain. My secret was so much deeper than that.
My secret was that I never felt good enough.
When I was five years old, my parents got divorced. And in a world where I should have been playing with dolls and watching cartoons, I was blaming myself for their divorce.
Was I not being a good enough daughter for them to stay together?
I grew up watching my parents’ struggle with their own addictions along with other family members. I even grew up having four older sisters.
And as you can imagine, I felt like I saw more and knew way more than I should have at such a young age.
By the time I got to middle school, the thoughts and worries around being good enough were all around me.
It was almost as if I was wearing a mask, because feeling good enough I started to place my own self-worth and value on things that really didn’t matter — things like what I looked like, what type of clothes I was wearing, what kind of house we lived in, and what kind of cars we drove.
I started wearing makeup at too young of an age and I started to worry about what others thought of me, especially boys. But I would go to school every day and I would put a fake smile on my face — wearing a mask, pretending to be somebody that I wasn’t, because I just wanted to fit in.
I thought that if I could just be like everyone else, then I wouldn’t feel so alone. When in fact, I started to feel lonelier than I did before.
What was it that I was searching for?
I mean I had great parents, they still loved me and took care of me. As any parent would be, they were still on my back about cleaning my room, doing the dishes, responding to their text messages which they still expect to this day.
I had great friends. I played sports. We had sleepovers and I even got good grades. But still I felt like something was missing.
I wanted to feel like there was greater meaning and purpose to my life — or as why I was even put here on this earth.
I was searching for a deeper meaning.
Is this life I am living enough? If so, then why am I still not enough? That’s why I started experimenting with drugs and alcohol at the age of 14.
I thought I found the perfect mask that would temporarily make me feel like I was good enough.
As I continued to use the thoughts around being good enough and the questions even around my existence started to vanish. I became addicted.
You see, I remember hearing the phrase “just say no” but it wasn’t just that easy. Once I found the perfect mask to hide behind, I continued to bury my pain and my secrets even deeper.