I had a wonderful childhood with a hard-working father and a loving and attentive mother. I have one brother two years my junior and we were very close growing up. We were a middle-class family in a beautiful neighborhood; the picture-perfect “normal” family.
I met and fell in love with a fella when I was 18. We married at 22 and started our family at 27. We had three beautiful boys. I began my nursing career in the ER the same year my first son was born. My husband began his career as a firefighter/paramedic at that time as well. That is the same year he began to change. The affairs started soon after.
Fast forward to 16 years after we met.
We were the picture-perfect “normal” family and I worked hard keeping up that facade as I slowly lost myself completely. I had become very good at pretending to be happy and always plastering a fake smile on my face. He had more than 30 affairs and I was at a loss and to the point where I could no longer find joy in anything. All I knew was that I was a good mom and a good nurse. Other than that, I had no idea who I was anymore. He asked me for a divorce in 2010 and I felt an incredible sense of relief.
The next couple of years I spent getting to know myself again and raising my boys alone because he was off to marriage number two. I slowly began to socialize for the first time in my adult life. Most of the friends I spent time with drank when we went out. Alcohol hadn’t been part of my life very much but it seemed that it was part of socializing, so I started to drink when I went out. It helped me relax and be more outgoing.
Then I started drinking wine at home. That quickly became a nightly thing. In one year’s time I was drinking every single night and I would do it when the boys were in bed. That’s when I noticed all the tears and buried emotions from years prior starting to surface. In 2014, my now ex-husband said he wanted to be more involved with the boys so we moved closer to him.
He was in a relationship with a girl who was awful to my kids. It was very difficult and I continued my nightly drinking to cope with the influx of chaos and having to deal with my boys emotions about the new change with their dad.
I was swimming in self-pity. I distinctly remember a conversation with my best friend when I told her something was wrong, that I felt dead inside and couldn’t figure out why. I had lost the ability to feel joy.
Soon after, I got sick and got a kidney stone. I was prescribed Norco for pain. It was the perfect storm. I was in a dark place and already using alcohol to numb the pain. It was a magic pill for me the answer to all my problems. It not only numbed the physical pain, but the emotional pain as well. I was hooked instantly.
Within three months I was buying them from a drug dealer and taking up to 50 a day. I reached a point when that wasn’t enough and I remember the very day I decided I was going to steal Dilaudid from the Pyxis Medstation at work.
You see, when you take medications from the Pyxis Medstation, you use your fingerprint to do so. At that point I had lost the ability to care. Most nights I prayed I wouldn’t wake up the next day. I felt there was nothing left for me. I’d been married and the marriage failed, I had kids, but they have a father that could raise them. I’d already had an amazing career. I was broken inside and I had now committed a crime and I truly didn’t care. The pull of the drugs was so intense that I continued on the path of destruction for weeks after that.
Until Easter. It was April 5, 2015. I was what I considered a high-functioning addict. No one knew what I was going through. But that day it was a combo of lack of sleep, too many pills and some alcohol. I blacked out, and the only memories I had the next morning were of my kids trying to wake me up. I continued to use for two more days and then made the best decision of my life. I called the nursing board and told them I was a drug addict and that I didn’t know how to stop. They put me in the diversion program and suspended my license.
April 8, 2015 is my sobriety date. I told my family I had a problem and they were devastated. It was like the fall of the golden child. I had to move in with my parents and detoxed on their bathroom floor with no meds; three days of pure hell. On the fourth day, I drove myself to an NA meeting.
Journey to Treatment
I had no money for treatment so I found a county facility that told me if I paid for three days a week of IOP then I could come five days a week. I sold my truck to pay for treatment and went five days a week for fourteen weeks. I walked into treatment paralyzed with guilt and shame. It was so heavy. Not only had I lied to my family and friends and lived a double life, but I was also accountable to the general public because I was an RN.
Within three days I realized that I had to own my story or I would never heal. I spent my time in treatment unraveling 39 years of my life and learning new behaviors and coping skills. I made a commitment to a life in recovery and continued growth and self-development.
Around four months sober, my storage unit was auctioned off because I couldn’t make the payments. I had no income at this time and was denied disability. I literally lost every material possession of my life including all of my kids belongings. At the time it was devastating, but I have an amazing sponsor that walked me through all the feels that came with that loss. I ended up being grateful that it was all gone. I was a new person. I was able to recognize my character defects and be accountable for everything in my life. The victim mentality was lifting.
I was watching an episode of “Intervention” one night and I saw a treatment center on the show that was close to me. I decided I would apply for a job there — I was still unable to work as an RN — so I applied for a weekend position in their detox program as support staff. They hired me and within a month, they asked me to take over the operations department. It was a huge load because it was a 110-bed inpatient residential facility. I excelled at it, and my self-worth began to rebuild.
Around the six-month sobriety point, I received a call from a detective and he said there was a warrant for my arrest. The hospital had charged me with diverting narcotics. He told me to put my name on the calendar at the courthouse and face the charges. I was terrified. But I did what he said. I had no money for an attorney and no idea what was about to happen.
I went to court alone and I found that they had charged me with 28 felonies. They assigned me a public defender. I had to appear in court several times, and each time I ran the risk of being locked up. I was facing six years in prison because of my charges.
The district attorney really wanted me in jail, but my public defender was able to get them to agree to a plea deal. Two felonies and 180 days of work release. I was accountable for what I had done, I never denied it. I knew taking these felonies would prevent me from ever working as a nurse again.
I accepted the plea with a 17b, which meant if I completed all my confinement and probation and paid all restitution and fines, that I could have my felonies dropped to misdemeanors. In lieu of doing work release they put me on 90 days of house arrest. The cost was substantial, but I had no choice.
The judge was very hard on me and allowed me only eight hours for work per day and no other free time. So my sons had to go live with their dad at that time, and he didn’t want them. I had to do a book and release and spent nine hours in a jail cell. I contemplated a lot that day. But ultimately I was grateful I was alive because I was on the fast track to death just a few months prior.
During the time on house arrest I grew a lot spiritually. I spent the time working on acceptance of how my life was unfolding. I made amends and learned to meditate. As difficult as it was to be away from my boys for the first time in my life, I had to accept the fact that it was the decisions I had made that got me to where I was. I was completely accountable for my role in my life. I made a commitment to myself that I would continue on a path of self-improvement and help others navigate the road to recovery.
I survived that 90 days of wearing an ankle monitor and got my boys back right away. Literally one day after my house arrest was complete, I was promoted in my job to program director. It was such a good feeling to have kept moving forward in life despite the circumstances.
When my sentence was complete, I then faced a investigation by the Board of Nursing despite the fact that I had been in their diversion program. It turns out that most nurses who admit to diverting narcotics are never charged. Most hospitals are understanding of addiction and support the nurse in getting help and finding recovery. My case was certainly quite the opposite.
I ultimately chose to surrender my nursing license and I was able to do so with grace. I held on to being a nurse for so long because it was such a huge part of my identity.
On August 23, 2017, my ex-husband found his way to an AA meeting. He had also been struggling with substance abuse. His sobriety has lead to us being able to successfully co-parent our children for the last year. He has a wonderful fiance that loves my boys and treats them like her own.
I recently left my position as program director and now have my own life coaching business. I specialize in working with medical professionals and first responders in sober recovery. I assist them in navigating the disciplinary process of their licensing board and help release the stigma associated with addiction and being a public servant.
I openly share my recovery story in hopes of helping others own their truth. Recovery is possible for anyone. Every moment offers us the chance to choose differently. Never lose hope.