‘You are not alone’: Poet and recovering addict shares her journey through weekly series

Over two years ago, a notebook was found on a bench near the James V. Brown Library in Williamsport. The book was full of poetry – detailing the highs and lows from a life of addiction. 

The book’s author remained a mystery and for two years it sat on a shelf. Over a month ago, the book was given to me. Upon reading through the poems I became fascinated with finding out who wrote it. 

Kelsey’s story

Kelsey Yost was born and raised in Williamsport. Her parents were drug addicts and alcoholics and from them Kelsey says she learned what not to do. From an early age she yearned for escape, spending as much time away from home as possible – with friends, at school or through sports. 

She was determined not to turn to drugs, like her parents, but eventually Kelsey found that the easiest form of escape was just that. As is the reality for many who turn to addiction, Kelsey had finally found a way to leave behind the harsh reality of her world. 

The death of her mother at age 12 was a confusing time for Kelsey. She remembers a sense of relief, in some ways understandable because of the strained and abusive relationship she had with her mother, but in other ways heartbreaking because Kelsey chose to cope with her mother’s death by distancing herself from every part of her. 

As the years went on, drugs and alcohol took control of Kelsey’s life – exacerbated by the death of her father some years later. 

Kelsey’s escape from the world now became the cause of more problems as she started to build a criminal record and eventually lost custody of her daughter. 

But even deep in the throws of addiction, it was poetry that helped Kelsey find clarity. A natural form of expression, the words came so easily to the page that Kelsey often didn’t even have to think as she was writing them down. 

She says it was her way of expressing how she is feeling, of making sense of the chaos in her mind. 

In 2018, while on probation, Kelsey was ordered to rehab. She had a few setbacks, but on Jan. 16, 2020, she celebrated one year clean from drugs and alcohol. While just years prior Kelsey could not have imagined a life without addiction, she now had reason to hope. 

“I have hope in life for something better than what I’m just given,” Kelsey says. “I have goals and hopes and desires for my life that I never had before.” 

It’s not easy, but at least it’s a feeling that’s lasting. And that’s something new for Kelsey. 

Partnering with On the PULSE

It was nearly four years since she had written the small book of poems that ended up in my hands. After finding some identifiers within the pages, and some internet sleuthing, I was able to find Kelsey and return her book to her. 

It was a pleasant realization to find that she is doing well and still very much in love with poetry. While before Kelsey used her poems as a way to understand her feelings, now she has a different goal. 

She wants to use her poems to help others understand what it is like to live with addiction. And for those who have similar struggles to Kelsey, she yearns to tell them, “You are not alone.” 

On the PULSE will publish one of Kelsey’s poems every Tuesday. The poems will not only show the struggles of addiction, but also the long and complicated journey of recovery. As Kelsey still struggles with her new reality and a whole new set of complications, she hopes to share the ups and downs with others in an effort to build unity and find support. 

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