I grew up the oldest of three in a great family. My mom and dad both worked full time, and neither of them was an alcoholic or an addict. However, alcoholism ran in my extended family. When I was around heavy drinking, I thought to myself, “What a bunch of drunks,” and didn’t want to be like that. Little did I know I’d become just like them and probably a lot worse.
I considered myself a social drinker. I started drinking when I was 16 and tried alcohol at a school party. In college I drank a little more excessively, but I thought it was normal. When I started nursing school I limited my drinking mainly to the weekends and clubs and city life.
Then I graduated from nursing school, and a year later I got married and was introduced to a whole new world. I was pretty much naïve to hard drugs, but at 23 I found myself doing cocaine. What started out as maybe once every Friday night turned into every Wednesday and Friday, and then Wednesday and Friday and Saturday. That put a lot of stress on my marriage, and when I was 30, I separated and decided it just wasn’t going to work out.
I became clinically depressed. I tried to get help professionally and was put on antidepressants, went to a couple of counseling sessions but never really followed through on anything. When a family member introduced me to heroin, it just numbed everything else for me—made me forget all of the feelings of failure from my marriage, having to leave my job, my friends, having to move back home after being out of the house for almost 14 years. I was caught up in the whirlwind of using drugs and lying, cheating, stealing to get more. I really didn’t care about anyone or anything at that time, especially not myself.
A couple years later I had been to multiple detoxes and finally went on methadone when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. I went on methadone for four years until November of 2007, when my mom got sick with cancer and I knew I’d have to care for her and take her to daily treatments. I switched to Suboxone. My mom ended up dying in 2009, and I managed to stay off heroin but started taking Xanax and Klonopin along with Suboxone.
Then my brother, who was 27 at the time, killed himself. I started taking more of the Xanax to just numb my emotions away. I managed to stay away from the heroin and I was taking Suboxone as ordered, but I was also taking other things with it. I never did a twelve-step program or had any other supports. I was just existing day by day.
In 2011, I hit some black ice driving home from a nursing shift, rolled my car, and broke my hip. I was in the hospital and bed rest for two months. I lost my job, lost the place where I was living. That triggered a whole downward spiral for me, and I started using heroin again. The progression was awful. I picked up where I left off and got worse. I went to multiple detoxes between 2011 and January of 2013. I was arrested multiple times. I was put on probation. I was in jail over Christmas and New Year’s of this year and estranged from my children.
Finally I was just so beat down. I had just come out of a four day detox, and my obsession was so strong I started using immediately. My hospital gave me Phoenix House’s name as an in-network extended rehab. On April 17, I called Phoenix House in Keene, New Hampshire, in complete desperation.
I was very grateful to get into Phoenix House, but I wasn’t really ready to get clean because I would have to deal with my feelings and all the chaos I’d created. But after coming to Phoenix House, I learned so much about myself and my addiction. I never really put any work into developing any supports or coping mechanisms. My only coping mechanism was to numb my feelings away and just not feel them. This is the first time I’ve ever done an extended program, and I wish that I had done a program like it ten years ago.
The staff here has pushed me to deal with the underlying issues of why I turned to drugs and alcohol. This experience has just been amazing – it really saved my life. When my nursing license came up for renewal, the New Hampshire Board of Nursing reinstated it in full, with no restrictions. But my own feelings of self-respect and self-worth are the biggest gifts Phoenix House has given me. I have people I‘ve met through Phoenix House – staff members who have taken extra time and gone above and beyond to help me out—who believe in me and want to see me do well and succeed. People are willing to help me and believe in me and think that I’m worth it. That’s a feeling I haven’t had in a long time.
If you or a loved one needs help for a substance abuse issue, Phoenix House is here for you. Email us or call today at 1 888 671 9392.