Committing to sobriety involves relapses, facing regrets, repairing relationships, sometimes dealing with mental health issues, and staying connected to support. It is hard work, but it also means no more days spent using, not eating and trying to figure out how to get money to live on from scrap metaling, begging for change or selling drugs.
This is the story, Crystal shared on her outpatient recovery experience at MiraVista Behavioral Health Center in hope of educating and helping others.
Her teenage years were comfortable, but “went the wrong way” in terms of experimenting with substances and decisions made. She began selling the prescription medications given in her 20s for pain and anxiety and eventually transitioned to heroin for a better high and, because the illegal drug was cheaper and more accessible.
Nausea and vomiting can result from addiction and in her 30s she decided she “didn’t want to wake up sick anymore” and got help. Adherence to treatment was interrupted with relapses during which jail time was served for selling illegal drugs.
Despite all that, she did “get clean” through medication-assisted treatment, as well as individual and group counseling.
“Being in recovery was going great until some really bad things happened, including the death of two close relatives three years ago,” she said. “My world was just spinning. I felt my whole life was being destroyed and I turned back to drugs but, within weeks, I found they did not make me happy and I needed help again.”
Her treatment continued at MiraVista Behavioral Health Center that opened 19 months ago and she says she no longer feels “the pull of drugs.” She supplements her clean lifestyle with daily walks and the rituals and practices of her faith.
“I had another close relative die about a year ago,” she said. “I didn’t relapse and I didn’t even think about it. The individual and group counseling at MiraVista has been so important to me in staying clean and I have stayed committed, too, to the life I want to live without drugs through the spiritual and social activities of my parish.”
She added that she tells others to “do what you are passionate about to stay clean every day, and if that is hiking, go hiking.”
“Change is scary no matter what that change is,” she said. “People think it is hell doing drugs and, yes, but not to the people doing it because they don’t know anything else and that was true for me. I would sit in parking lots for hours waiting for drug dealers, dodging cops constantly. That was not scary, that was life. Now, it is terrifying and I never want to go back to that again.”
She praised MiraVista’s outpatient addiction services for their one-stop array of supports and called its methadone program the “best option” for opioid use disorder and the staff “as very good people who care how you are doing.”
“The medication does stop you from using – it is not about getting high, that is false information,” she said. “The therapeutic talk side is where you get your head right.”
She added the importance of counseling is to have someone “who is willing to listen to meet you where you are at and who nudges you in the right direction without telling you what to do.”
“MiraVista has counselors like that as well as peer groups where members can learn from each other,” she said. “We are all there and have gotten clean in different ways, but we all have been through serious trauma whether that came first or after our addiction and have dealt with that, too, in different ways.”
Asked what she would tell young people headed down a path of substance use today, “Get help quickly because once you get in the habit, it is very difficult to get out of and it will consume you and the way it ends is jail or death most of the time.”
She added she was 16 when she first attended a funeral for another 16-year-old who died of an overdose and has lost many friends since to heroin overdoses or to “fentanyl being mixed into their cocaine.”
“The funerals haven’t stopped,” she said. “More outreach, even through fliers hung where users go, might help even one addict say, ‘I’ll give this treatment program a try.’ People don’t want to be this way. It is what they know.”
She added, “Breaking the cycle is the hardest part.”
“I want to do things to help other people now, to help my community, help my family,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to go down the same path. I don’t want anyone at 40 years, or 36 years deciding now is that time to change my life. I want people to do that early on so they can still have a good relationship with their children instead of waiting until their children are grown. I want people to have a good life while they can.”
So, too, does MiraVista.