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I could have easily never revisited my addiction.

I could have lived the rest of my life and never unlocked that door again.

Except, it was beckoning me. Calling my name from the crack at the bottom, that little space where you can only see the blackness inside the room as a sliver of dark. I had taken the key to that secret room and tucked it away. I have a hard time getting rid of things, so I didn’t throw it away but simply stuffed it somewhere. “You never know when you might need this again,” I said to the key. I held onto it in a little box hidden somewhere in the very back of all my things. I knew the day would come, and I would have to pull that key out and open that door.

And here it is. That room is getting ready to be cleared out. I need to make space for new “things.”

I could have easily gone on living my life. Here I am: Rachel Version 2.0, the latest and greatest update. I could have easily gone and lived my entire life under the illusion that Rachel 1.0 never existed. I live 3,000 miles away from the original edition of myself. Nobody here would have ever known. What if somebody found me out? What if somebody found out there was an earlier version?

I decided to go ahead and publish Rachel 1.0 for the world to see.

My old self most certainly doesn’t define who I am, but I also can’t turn my back on the files that are part of my makeup. In my quiet moments, I wonder who I would be had I not ever picked up a substance. I wonder who I would be if I had walked down that other street I saw, instead of the road I chose to follow.

I had to face the reality long ago that, as hard as I wished my past away, it wouldn’t leave me. No matter how hard I squinted my eyes and shook my fists at the air and prayed to God, it wasn’t going to magically disappear.

I was an addict. I can’t change that. 

I recently celebrated seven years of sobriety. I celebrate seven years of the new and improved version of myself.

When my son was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Prader Willi Syndrome, I was devastated. I quickly got busy learning how to care for him and do all that I could to improve his life. I know how I can do that! I can find a cure. I can raise money. I can start a Facebook Fan Page. I can get on OprahI can. I can. I can.

I was convinced that I now knew what my purpose was in life. I am here to be an advocate for my son. No, wait, I am here to be an advocate for all those who can’t advocate for themselves.

That is where I lived for the past four years.

As the darkness began to creep out from under that locked door, I began to question my purpose again. What if my purpose is more than advocating for PWS and Autism? What if my purpose is to reveal that it is possible to survive addiction, shame, guilt, and loss?

I started to unlock that door and ever so slowly decided to let other people look inside. Some of the things in there are not pretty to look at, but the shock eventually wears off.

I thought to myself, “How many mothers out there are surviving addiction. How many fathers? How many people out there are looking for something, anything, to hold onto as they pull themselves up from the bottom of the well?”

I realized that it is possible that I have more than one purpose here on earth. I have more than one opportunity to throw that rope down and use all that I have to pull it up inch by inch for somebody else.

I spent the last seven years of my life hiding the shame, the guilt, the truth behind a locked door. I spent seven years pretending that an entire “room” of my life didn’t exist.

I would never have thought seven years ago that I would be the woman I am today. I never would have thought that I could love myself enough or forgive myself enough to be the woman I am now.

I AM A MOTHER

I AM A YOGA TEACHER AND STUDIO OWNER

I AM A WRITER

I AM A FRIEND

I AM A WARRIOR

I am all of these things despite the glitches that ran in my first version. There is always possibility in life. Even when you are in the midst of a dark night of the soul, there are lights shining all around. You have to open your eyes wide enough to see them. I am here to be a light for others. I am here to help shine on the path of forgiveness for others as it was done for me.

My sister Jennifer Pastiloff, who is also a writer for Positively Positive, does this exercise in her Manifestation Workshops where you speak your “I am-ness.”

I am speaking mine now.

What is yours? Despite all your hidden rooms and old versions of yourself, who are you now? Speak it! Tell us below.


Rachel Pastiloff is an author, yoga teacher, amateur chef, special needs advocate, and mother living in Atlanta, GA with her husband and two sons. In 2009, Rachel’s oldest son was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Prader-Willi Syndrome, with a diagnosis of autism to follow. The diagnosis was traumatic and forever altered the course of her life. Rachel has made it her mission to educate the world about children who have special needs and their parents and caregivers. For more on Rachel visit her blog or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.