I grew up in a nice neighborhood, I went to private school, I graduated from college…but guess what? Addiction doesn’t discriminate. I had a lot of opportunities, but I also made a lot of bad choices. I had already been dabbling in drugs when I discovered heroin about five years ago. I became addicted very quickly, and I ended up moving to Washington, D.C., just to be closer to that fast-paced, drug-influenced lifestyle. I had a good job teaching kindergarten, but I lost it – and everything else I valued – because of my heroin addiction.
Between outpatient treatment, going to a clinic for methadone, and living in a sober home, I thought I was doing everything I could to get clean—but I relapsed anyway. I was six months pregnant at the time. My counselor at the outpatient facility suggested inpatient treatment at Phoenix House, and I agreed. I couldn’t risk another relapse, and I didn’t want to put my baby in harm’s way again.
My experience in Phoenix House’s Mother and Child program has been great. I was very fortunate to find a treatment provider that accepted me while I was pregnant, and the best part is that I’ve never once felt judged here. When I arrived, I was so ashamed to admit that I was pregnant and still used drugs. I felt so much deep shame. I assumed everyone here would hate me for the bad choices I had made, and I even thought the counselors would look down on me. I was wrong. Nobody judged me; instead, they welcomed me and offered to help me deal with this disease.
At Phoenix House, I have learned a lot about my addiction and why I started using in the first place. Before this program, nobody had ever taken the time to help me look at the root of my problems. Now, I know that addiction is a disease and I’m prepared to fight it. I have a new knowledge base about addiction and about interacting with people. I’ve learned simple, valuable things: personal responsibility, how to show respect for my counselors and peers, how to get up and go to bed at the same time each day, how to function as a normal human being. These little things are all important in recovery, and they all relate to how you’re going to stay clean when you leave treatment. There’s also a major focus on relapse prevention here, and that’s the most important thing. When I complete treatment, I’m going to get a sponsor and stay in touch with the women I’ve met here—they’re my sober support network, and that’s priceless.
My daughter, Olivia, was born two months ago. I brought her back to Phoenix House from the hospital, and we bonded immediately. She’s taught me so much about myself, and the program has taught me how to be a mom. I’m glad I get to spend a lot of time with Olivia these days, and grateful that I didn’t have to give her to my mom or a friend because I wasn’t able to care for her. The Mother and Child program allows me to live with Olivia and still focus on my own treatment. It’s also great that there are so many other mothers here who are going through the same process.
The biggest change I’ve noticed since I started treatment is my relationship with my family. It’s been an amazing transformation. A month ago, my mom came to visit me, and she was so surprised by how I’d changed – I take care of myself now, I stand up straighter, I look people in the eye – my mom had tears in her eyes, and she told me how proud she was. My family truly believes that this time, it’s going to be different; this time, I’m staying clean. Their faith in me makes me feel so much stronger, like I can accomplish anything.
When I leave Phoenix House, I’m going to go back to supported living. I know I’m not ready to live alone yet, and I’m not going to risk another relapse. The program here has helped me develop job skills, so my goal is to get a part-time job and get back into the routine of being at work. My long-term goal is to go back to school get an MA, maybe in counseling. I feel like my opportunities are endless now, and I’ve got a sense of hope that I never had before.