True Story: Sarah

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Photo by Clint Spaulding, Patrick McMullan

I grew up on the Upper West Side and had a relatively uneventful and happy childhood. I attended Horace Mann and Spence before starting Bronx High School of Science. I had a clearly addictive personality – always organized, sometimes scheming, and hugely driven, coupled with a deep desire to be “cool” – not a great combination to begin with. I started down a dangerous path when I began smoking pot at age 12.

When, two years later, my father left our family and began a lengthy and destructive divorce process, my drug use escalated quickly. I used drugs as a way to escape, a way to numb the pain and, truth be told, I really loved it. I worked my way past pot to a whole illicit spectrum – hallucinogens, club drugs, crystal meth and even heroin. But my true love was cocaine. I developed a serious cocaine addiction. I could only keep it hidden for so long before my mother found out.

In November of my senior year I was sent to a detoxification program upstate where I was put in the adult treatment unit. My roommate was 12 years my senior. I didn’t belong there, but the hospital felt I had an “adult-size” addiction and should be kept away from the rest of the adolescents. In therapy groups, the adults talked about losing their homes, their spouses, and their children. I just wanted to get home in time to finish high school.

The hospital was the wrong place for me, but it did one great thing. The staff referred me to Phoenix House.  The IMPACT program was close to my home, and I could continue treatment while finishing high school. In all honesty, I went into the program with no intention of staying sober.  What kept me off drugs initially were the drug tests and house arrest. But, after my first month in the program, I saw a friend of mine overdose. I was terrified. I saw how easy it was to fall back into the cycle of addiction, and I committed myself to treatment and worked as hard as I could to put the addict life behind me.

Phoenix House taught me how to harness my energy for good, not for self-destruction. How to surround myself with people who were interested in progress and positivity and stay away from those who weren’t. How to deal with pain and difficult emotions and, most importantly, how to sustain a loving relationship with my mother, which I have to this day. In fact, she lives with my husband and me.

I have a husband who helps me be the best me I can be. I have over 17 years drug free and am fiercely proud of that, and protective of my sobriety. I continue to work on myself to be solid in my recovery and in my personal and professional growth. I have my family, my friends, my business, my puppy, and hopefully a family of my own in the next few years, and I owe so much of it to Phoenix House.

After I finished treatment, I graduated from Hunter College with a Bachelor’s degree and earned a Master’s degree in Social Work from Fordham University. I worked briefly in social work and human resources before striking out on my own. Six years ago, I launched my own small business. I keep a constant mantra of “progress not perfection” in my business life and my personal life, as well.

I would never have been able to have my life together enough to do any of this – and, frankly, may never have made it to see the 35th birthday I just celebrated – had it not been for Phoenix House.

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. 

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