- Friends & Family
After working in education for years, I decided that I wanted to spread the word that addiction does not discriminate and that it is a disease. So I partnered up with a company in the recovery industry to help others who would like to accept help.
My journey began with my own story. I still ask myself, “Honestly, how do you wake up one day and you are 49 years old and addicted to pain pills? How do you find yourself stealing money from your business, doctor shopping and knowing that the pills are number one, yet still doing it all anyway?”
That was me, but I couldn’t see a way out of it. Every time I tried to stop I could only last maybe three days. I just couldn’t do it; I would get flu symptoms and was eventually left with no energy. My anxiety would go through the roof and I would go back out and buy more pills. I was buying so many pills on the street that I really could have been charged. I was the dumbest drug attic that ever lived. I just wasn’t thinking about any of that. If I had known that heroin was an opiate I would have done it, but I was so stupid that I didn’t even know what it was.
People wonder how addicts end up on a heroin. The truth is that is doesn’t usually start with heroin– it starts with pain pills and when you can’t afford them anymore, then you turn to heroin. I spent so much money that I even sold things to the pawnshop, and that is not the woman that I am.
At some point, I felt like my family was starting to catch on and I just wanted to be done. It wasn’t even fun. There was no buzz; it was just something that I had to have to function just so I could get up and go to work. If I didn’t have any or if I knew I was almost out, I couldn’t do anything. I missed so many family events and so many opportunities to make wonderful memories because I knew I was going to be what the kids call “dope sick” if I didn’t take the pills.
So I decided to do it–one Friday I took everything I had and that was it. By Saturday evening, I was so sick. I just wanted to jump out of my body. My legs ached so badly with restless leg syndrome that I could not get comfortable for even one second. Tuesday, I called in sick. I really was sick. I was still telling my family that I had the flu.
When Wednesday came, my daughter came over and she would just not leave me alone. She kept asking me for over an hour what was going on but I couldn’t say it. It was the hardest thing that ever came out of my mouth when I finally broke down and told her that I was addicted to pain pills. She said, “Mom you need help,” and I agreed. So we found a treatment center in Florida and I decided to go right away.
I took a shower and walked out into my great room with my hair soaking wet to see my whole family there. You could see it on their faces that they were so scared but I felt free. The heaviness in my heart was gone. I didn’t know exactly what it meant to go to treatment, but I went. I got on the plane without taking anything, so I was definitely sick the whole way there.
When the plane landed, it was pouring rain and when I got to the treatment center there was a lot of culture shock as they went through all of my things and checked me for lesions. I went to detox and when I woke up the next morning they wanted to do bloodwork to see what kind of damage I had done to my body. I had never thought about that before. Then they took me to breakfast and there was this little part of me that was saying, “I don’t belong here,” but I did.
I’ve never really been a judgmental person but after that I know that I will never judge anybody until I’ve walked in their shoes. I was totally broken. I did everything they told me to do, because I wanted to get better. After a few weeks, I looked in the mirror and finally realized that I was looking better. I finally saw how bad I must have looked before. I started to understand how bad things had been.
It was excruciating to read the cards and letters that my family sent. I just didn’t feel worthy of all of their support. That was really when I decided to let go of my past. I wanted to be a better person. Even though I was just barely sober, I knew that I wasn’t going to hide this. I was going to turn my pain into purpose– but it wasn’t easy. I wasn’t used to sharing what was going on with me.
At one point, I ended up in the hospital because my heart was reacting severely to not having the pain pills. I was sharing a room with an 82-year-old woman who noticed that one of the instructions on my board said no opiates or benzos. I had been staring at that the whole time and now she was asking me why it was there. So I told her my whole story. That was the first time I ever shared it and when I was done she said, “Honey you can do this, it’s gonna be okay.” What an experience I had in the hospital, waiting to see what kind of damage I had done to myself and telling my most personal stuff to a stranger.
I had no idea when I started using. Back then, it was just for fun– just doing it recreationally on weekends. I had no idea where it would take me. When I got back to treatment, my therapist said I was going to have to talk about past traumas and get everything out if I didn’t want to go back out and use. I started really thinking about my life and I was having a hard time bringing up things that had happened in the past because I felt like I might be throwing somebody else under the bus.
Until then I didn’t realize that I needed to process things from the past. While it did feel good to get it out, it also made me feel like I would be leaving treatment as a broken woman. That’s when I started thinking about going to a sober home after treatment. It wasn’t something that I had considered until one of the other ladies in treatment asked if I wanted to go with her. I felt like I was probably too old for that. I mean I had a beautiful home of my own to go back to and I was having a lot of anxiety about my decision at first.
When another woman from the center relapsed after only 24 hours of returning home, I knew what I had to do. It was a total God moment. So I went to a sober home and I’m so glad that I did. There are so many memories and triggers when you go home but at the sober living home, there were meetings, real accountability and so much support. I was the team mom for ten girls and got to understand the younger stories and experiences, and shared struggles we all worked to overcome. I still stay in touch with some of them and it makes me so happy to know that they are still sober.
Now, I am a real advocate of sober homes. I wish that insurance companies would allow coverage for sober living. Thirty days just isn’t enough for most people. I probably would have stayed in Florida if I didn’t have a family but finally I just knew it was the right thing to go home. It wasn’t easy driving down all the same roads where I picked up in the past. It was always easy being around people, places and things from before.
People in my family drink, so that was an adjustment too. I didn’t want them to have to change for me but I also wanted them to understand if I had to leave sometimes and not take it personally. I had to set some boundaries and make some changes, but I was able to do things I never would have been able to do before. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life but it was the best thing.
I only had surface relationships with people when I was in addict mode. I didn’t really engage. Now my relationships have never been better. I’m honest. I’m real. I understand that it’s okay for me to use my voice and say what I need to say.
I went back to the school where I had worked and the principal there turned out to be my biggest fan. I started helping some of the teachers and it was just like magic. I started to feel like it was my calling to help people and recover out loud. I got my license to be an interventionist; I quit my old job and partnered with Palm Health Care so that I could give something back.
Giving back helps me stay sober and it makes me feel so good. There is nothing in the world like helping someone that you thought might die. If we don’t break the stigma, we miss the people that are hurting and need the help. We need to give them compassion. I want to recover out loud! I want to help.
The advice I have for others is this: There never seems to be a good time to go to treatment. Think about it. You can come up with every excuse in the book, but you’ll just have to say yes and do it. The bottom line is if you keep doing this, you are either going to be in an institution, jail, or you will die.
Nobody grows up saying “I want to be a drug addict,” but if you want to, you can change your life. You have to want it. Find your tribe. Latch on to sober support. Go to the meetings. I did 90 meetings in 90 days and every single time I went someone said something that I needed to hear. Be humble and really listen to what sober people with a lot of sober time say and then take their advice.